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Singapore man gets death penalty for 4.5kg of cannabis he said was for research

South China Morning Post

Wednesday 03 Apr 2024

Seet Poh Jing, formerly a property sales agent with Huttons Asia, was arrested in 2018 after 4,509.2g of cannabis mixture was found in his car

He had developed a fascination with cannabis, his lawyers argued, and was interested in the cultivation and potential uses of cannabidiol

A former property agent in Singapore was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty for trafficking cannabis after a judge rejected his defence that the drugs were for research and development.

In his judgment issued on Tuesday, Judge of the Appellate Division, Justice See Kee Oon, laid down the reasons for convicting Seet Poh Jing on one charge of having no less than 4,509.2g of cannabis mixture for trafficking.

Seet, formerly a property sales agent with Huttons Asia, had been arrested on June 28, 2018. Five blocks of vegetable matter were seized from a car to which he had led Central Narcotics Bureau officers.

The blocks were analysed to contain no less than 4,509.2g of cannabis mixture, which Seet referred to as “weed”.

Two mobile phones belonging to Seet were sent for forensic examination and found to contain mass-sent messages advertising the drug.

Seet, then 28, pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries the mandatory death penalty. He was represented by lawyers from Andre Jumabhoy LLC and Sterling Law Corporation.

Seet’s lawyers argued that their client had wanted to use the drugs for research and development rather than for trafficking.

Seet developed a fascination with cannabis, his lawyers argued. Beyond consuming it, Seet was interested in the cultivation and potential uses of cannabidiol, an ingredient derived from cannabis.

To that effect, Seet began consulting contacts over the possibility of starting a cannabis-related business.

The defence also relied on a psychiatric report that Seet had been suffering from a “drug-induced hypomanic episode” which contributed to what they described as his “reckless and impulsive behaviour” to carry out “grandiose plans to set up a cannabis business” by extracting cannabidiol oil.

The prosecution contended that Seet’s defence was a mere afterthought and was inconsistent with other evidence. It also argued that Seet did not fulfil the diagnostic requirement for substance-induced hypomanic disorder.

Justice See found that Seet had failed to prove the defence of research, which he described as a “concocted afterthought”.

The judge referred to statements that Seet had provided to the authorities after his arrest, pointing out that none had mentioned research. The idea of research was only raised as a defence during trial.

Justice See also referred to a portion of Seet’s statement – recorded a day after his arrest – where the accused said the cannabis mixture was meant to help “damaged” friends who “need help and sense of belonging and also to give them a sense of security”.

His statement continued: “Also to help them get back on track in life. The cannabis is also meant for disposal, at anytime. At the same time, it is also a way of funding activities which will eventually help those friends to get a place in the society.”

Seet testified at trial that the word “funding” had been mistakenly recorded and was meant to be “finding”. Justice See dismissed this argument, noting that Seet had been invited to amend the statement but had declined.

In a statement recorded a month later, Seet detailed the pricing strategy for his sale of weed, which he had said depended on his friends’ financial abilities, but did not mention research, noted Justice See.

In a later statement, Seet tweaked his defence, claiming that the drugs were for his own consumption.

“Despite Seet’s effusive claims of enthusiasm about his new research and development business venture, Seet evidently did not possess the know-how and had no plans to extract cannabidiol from the drugs,” Justice See said.

“The defence paints a vivid picture of Seet as a fervent cannabis enthusiast. According to the defence, Seet had developed a fascination with cannabis which went beyond simply smoking it. His interests extended to the cultivation and the multiple uses and/or benefits of cannabidiol.

He noted that Seet had believed it was only a matter of time before cannabis was legalised in Singapore. Seet had also been in touch with contacts about business ventures overseas.

However, discussions were vague and were dependent on Singapore legalising Cannabis, noted the judge.

Seet had even approached senior lawyer Kertar Singh, whom he knew through his sister, for advice.

Seet had hoped that Kertar could help with legal matters related to the cultivation of cannabis in Singapore and asked the lawyer to arrange an appointment with the authorities on the matter.

Kertar instead advised him against it. The lawyer gave evidence that he told Seet it was “virtually impossible” to start a cafe serving cannabis here and for him “take it out of his head”. He declined to help Seet, adding that writing to the authorities would be a “futile exercise”.

“In my view, Seet’s evidence does suggest that he was a cannabis enthusiast. Not only was he an enthusiastic cannabis consumer, he was keen to explore the prospect of starting a cannabis-related business in Singapore,” said Justice See.

That said, the judge highlighted that Seet’s plans were “vague, nebulous and ultimately undeveloped”.

“Given the range of scattershot and unfocused ideas that Seet had … and the fact that some of his ideas did not even have anything to do with Singapore, I find it difficult to believe that Seet had any concrete ideas or plans for the research and development (including the production and/or extraction) of cannabidiol in Singapore that he could work with and was ready to act on, much less specifically in relation to the drugs.

“Any such ideas or plans existed only within his imagination. Nothing had translated beyond mere talk into action.”

The judge also rejected the argument that Seet suffered from hypomania, agreeing with the prosecution that psychiatric diagnosis in that aspect rested on “inconsistent self-reported information” from Seet.

This article was first published by CNA




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