Nagaenthran a/l K. Dharmalingam, a Malaysian Indian, was executed by hanging yesterday (April 27, 2022) at Changi Prison in Singapore following a 2010 conviction for importing not less than 42.72 grammes (1.5 ounces) of diamorphine (pure heroin).
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore, Nagaenthran was arrested in April 2009 while crossing a checkpoint from Malaysia to Singapore. At the time, authorities said he was carrying a packet weighing 454.8 grammes strapped to his thigh. Upon analysis, the granular substance was found to contain not less than 42.72 grammes of pure heroin.
What Nagaenthran may not have known at the time was that Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act provided for the death penalty if the amount of diamorphine imported is more than 15 grammes. Regarding this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “the amount of diamorphine imported by Nagaenthran was almost three times the threshold for the applicability of the death penalty” and, accordingly he was initially sentenced to death by hanging on November 22, 2010.
Although Nagaenthran appealed his death sentence, the first appeal was dismissed on July 27, 2011.
Suddenly, a twist of fate appeared emerge in Nagaenthran’s favour in 2012 when Singapore amended its laws to remove the mandatory death penalty for certain drug trafficking offences. However, the court would have to first consider whether the trafficker substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities or if the trafficker suffered from an abnormality of mind which substantially impaired his mental responsibility.
Nagaenthran then applied for re-sentencing on the basis that he was mentally impaired. It was also claimed that he was under duress by a criminal mastermind who forced him to carry the heroin, assaulted him and threatened to kill his girlfriend.
After hearing expert evidence from four different psychiatric and psychological experts, the Singapore High Court found that, while Nagaenthran was of borderline intellectual functioning, the court was of the view that he did not suffer from mild intellectual disability. Ultimately, the Singapore High Court found that Nagaenthran knew what he was doing and upheld the sentence of death.
The Court of Appeal later affirmed the High Court’s decision and said that it was satisfied that Nagaenthran clearly understood the nature of his acts. It noted that Nagaenthran knew that it was unlawful for him to be transporting drugs, and hence attempted to conceal the bundle of drugs by strapping it to his left thigh and then wearing a large pair of trousers over it. He undertook the criminal endeavour in order to pay off his debts, and hoped to receive a further sum of money upon successful delivery. The Court of Appeal found that Nagaenthran’s actions “evidenced a deliberate, purposeful and calculated decision”, “in the hope that the endeavour would pay off, despite the obvious risks”. It said that this was “the working of a criminal mind, weighing the risks and countervailing benefits associated with the criminal conduct in question”. Nagaenthran considered the risks, balanced it against the reward he had hoped he would get, and decided to take the risk.
On April 25, 2022, following international attention from human rights activists and others, Nagaenthran and his mother brought an application seeking to delay his execution while they attempted to file applications to set aside the decisions against Nagaenthran. Singapore authorities found this application to be of no merit and was mere obstruction. Nagaenthran was executed two days later after his petition for clemency also failed.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Singapore maintains that, throughout the process, Nagaenthran was accorded full due process under the law and had access to legal counsel.