Malaysian man escapes death row in Singapore after judge acquits him of trafficking

The Woodlands Checkpoint. Image: Vinny Wu
The Woodlands Checkpoint. Image: Vinny Wu

A Malaysian man on Singapore’s death row no longer faces execution after his conviction for drug trafficking was overturned yesterday following four years behind bars.

Beh Chew Boo, 38, was sentenced to death in January, four years after he was accused of smuggling at least 499 grams of methamphetamines into the country. Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and appeal judges Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong decided in his favor, ruling there was insufficient evidence that Beh was aware the drugs were in the motorcycle when he rode into the country.

Beh’s fingerprints were not on the drug packages, but the authorities instead found DNA belonging to his friend, Lew Shyang Huei. They also rapped the prosecution’s decision at trial not to call on Lew to testify.

Finding Beh’s version of events “not inherently incredible” given the evidence, the judges said in their ruling that prosecutors failed to discharge their duties by not calling him.

Prosecutors may revive four other drug-related charges that had been dismissed earlier. He will remain in jail until then. 

According to court documents, Beh was stopped at the Woodlands Checkpoint in October 2016 while riding into Singapore with his then girlfriend. Police found the drugs in a blue plastic bag kept in the seat’s storage compartment, which Beh denied knowledge of. Beh said that he had entered Singapore to deliver a power bank to a friend. 

Beh described Lew as his “very good friend” who had loaned the motorcycle to him on many occasions. 

Lew was arrested in Singapore in 2018 and is serving a jail term for bringing in drugs and drug paraphernalia. In Singapore, people who smuggle drugs in or out face importation charges while those who have intent to distribute face trafficking charges. 

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