betty July 8, 2022

SINGAPORE – A man facing a capital charge for trafficking 27 packets of heroin claimed in his defence that the drugs in the heaviest packet were for his personal consumption.

If Chong Hoon Cheong had succeeded in his consumption defence, he would have avoided the gallows, as the amount of heroin in the other packets was under the 15g legal threshold for the imposition of the mandatory death penalty.

On Tuesday (July 5), the Court of Appeal rejected Chong’s consumption defence and upheld his death sentence imposed by the High Court last year.

Chong, who is now 61, was arrested on Dec 8, 2015, at his rented room in Hamilton Road in Jalan Besar.

He was charged with trafficking 27 packets of granular and powdery substances weighing a total of 848.69g, which were analysed and found to contain a total of 25.01g of pure heroin.

He claimed that a packet containing 448.7g of a brown granular substance – found to contain not less than 14.08g of pure heroin – was for his own consumption.

On Tuesday, the apex court noted that Chong’s reported rate of heroin consumption “implausibly and dramatically increased” from the time of his arrest in 2015 to his trial in 2020.

In December 2015, Chong told Central Narcotics Bureau officers that he consumed about 4g of heroin each day.

A few weeks earlier, he told a doctor that he took 5g to 6g a day.

During his trial in 2020, Chong initially testified in March that he took 16g to 20g of heroin a day.

Towards the end of the trial, in November that year, he claimed that he consumed between 20g to 25g of heroin a day – approaching five to six times his original claim.

“There is no explanation for this rapidly inflating account of his rate of consumption, which inevitably means that it will be viewed with considerable doubt,” said the Court of Appeal in its written judgment.

The apex court agreed with the lower court that while Chong is not expected to recall his consumption rates with scientific precision, what was concerning is that his alleged consumption rate increased fivefold over the course of the investigation and trial.

“That significant discrepancy was unaccounted for at the trial below, and remains unaccounted for before us,” said the judgment written by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.