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Judicial CP - July 2004

Corpun file 13698

Straits Times, Singapore, 5 July 2004

Snakehead responsible for 80% of JB-S'pore people smuggling caught

After charging customers $2,000 a head for 'transport', Tay - who has a phobia of water - would force them to swim over

By Ben Nadarajan

TO HIS neighbours in Johor Baru, Tay Boon Hua was a successful businessman in the export trade.

From high life to jail and the cane for Ah Chai, whom the judge said showed no mercy to vulnerable foreigners.

He owned a brand-new BMW, had a chauffeur, lived in a two-storey terrace house and was married with two children.

Often seen in floral or batik shirts, 45-year-old Tay walked with the typical swagger of a big-time towkay.

But his mask was ripped off two months ago, in a breakthrough arrest that revealed he was the brains behind JB's largest human-smuggling syndicate, controlling 80 per cent of the market.

Last month, a Singapore court sentenced him to a five-year jail term and 20 strokes of the cane for being a 'snakehead' or leader of a human smuggling syndicate.

Tay's life on the wrong side of the law ended on May 6, when Malaysian police stormed his home in Jalan Sultanah Aminah and bundled him, in handcuffs, into a police car.

The swim to Singapore was portrayed as easy, when in fact it meant covering 2km in strong currents. -- AZIZ HUSSIN

His end was brought on by the very methods he used, which were as notorious as they were unscrupulous.

His promise to 'provide transport' was 'kept' by just handing the would-be illegal immigrants life jackets or tyres to keep them afloat, before forcing them to swim from Malaysia's southern coastline to Singapore's northern shore.

Since 1997, Tay, known among his customers as Ah Chai, is said to have tried to sneak 1,000 illegal immigrants into Singapore via the sea.

But for the first three years, he was just a runner for a human-smuggling syndicate.

Seeing how lucrative the business could be, he decided to go it alone in 2000.


DID Singapore's courts have the authority to try Tay Boon Hua here?

After all, the 45-year-old Malaysian had hatched his plots in Johor Baru and his transactions were all conducted in Malaysia. He had never committed a crime in Singapore - a usual requirement for a person to be tried in a Singapore court.

The circumstances led Senior District Judge Richard Magnus to spend a good part of the grounds for his decision on explaining why the courts here had jurisdiction.

Although the conspiracy was conceived in Malaysia, the judge said, it was 'continued and carried to fruition' in Singapore when the illegal immigrants were brought in.

Tay did not commit the offence until his henchmen entered Singapore to drop off the illegal immigrants.

'Each offence of abetment by conspiracy could not be fully constituted until it was completed in Singapore by acts of the co-conspirators,' the judge said.

The ruling brought smiles to Singapore Police Coast Guard's chief investigating officer Chong Choo Ha, who said: 'Other snakeheads now know that they are not safe from us even if they are operating outside Singapore.'

Where Ah Chai's 'customers' caught this year come from

Myanmar - 31
China - 10
Nepal - 10
Bangladesh - 5

Number of illegal immigrants arrested by Police Coast Guard

2000: 307
2001: 123
2002: 49
2003: 133
2004 (Jan-May): 85

He began by hiring boatmen to ferry the illegal immigrants into Singapore under the cover of darkness. But when too many were caught and convicted, the boat method became too expensive and risky.

So Ah Chai tricked those who came to him into believing that the Singapore shore was very near and easy to swim to. In fact, they had to swim more than 2km and battle strong currents and cold water to reach Singapore.

Those reluctant to take the plunge were shoved into the water, pointed in a general direction and left to fend for themselves.

At rates of about $2,000 per customer, he made millions, and the irony is that Ah Chai has a phobia of water.

However, his inhumane treatment of his clients came back to haunt him. Those plucked out of the sea by Singapore's Police Coast Guard (PCG) patrol boats spilled the beans on him. He was linked to about two-thirds of the 85 illegal immigrants caught at sea in the first five months of this year.

Boatmen caught during their forays into Singapore also squealed.

The PCG fed the information to the Malaysian police, providing them with a detailed description of the elusive snakehead, where he stayed, phone numbers he used and his usual haunts.

After his arrest, the PCG obtained a court order to extradite Ah Chai to Singapore to face charges - the first time such a move was taken against a 'snakehead' from JB.

In the past, information was too scanty to pinpoint the snakehead's location, said PCG commander, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jerry See.

Senior District Judge Richard Magnus, who sentenced Tay, said he had put the illegal immigrants through 'exceptional risks' by making them swim over.

'There was certainly no mercy shown... and there was aggravation in the fact that the accused took advantage of victims who are foreigners and therefore vulnerable.'

Since his arrest, the late-night activities at sea are almost at a standstill, said the PCG's chief investigating officer Chong Choo Ha.

'Before this, motorised sampans hovered just off Singapore waters practically every night, either trying to find a chance to dash into Singapore waters or spying on us.

'But since we caught Ah Chai, there is hardly anything moving out there.'

Corpun file 13701

Straits Times, Singapore, 9 July 2004

7 years' jail, caning for robbers who landed on Tekong

Deterrent sentence imposed on trio who sparked big manhunt when they fled to island after armed robberies in Malaysia

By Chong Chee Kin

THE three armed robbers who set off a massive manhunt in March, when they landed on Pulau Tekong, were all jailed for seven years yesterday and ordered to be caned 12 strokes.

(From left to right) Mohamad Hassan Awang, Moh Gunawan Hendro and Herman.

In sentencing them, Senior District Judge Richard Magnus said they were no 'ordinary domestic criminals' and had 'displayed an alarming bravado'.

Rejecting their pleas for leniency, he said the robbers had 'violated our borders callously'.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Lee Cheow Han and Wayne Koh told the court that Mohamad Hassan Awang, 26, a Malaysian, and two Indonesians, Moh Gunawan Hendro, 25, and Herman, 23, committed two robberies in Malaysia and fled the country on March 18.

They stole a motorised sampan and headed for Batam, Indonesia, but they were pursued by Malaysian police and that made them change course.

They landed on Pulau Tekong, which is used for military training, at about 8.45am, split up and took cover in the forested area after Gunawan handed over a pistol in a pouch to Herman.

Herman took out the gun and buried it in the south-eastern part of the island.

Alerted by Malaysian police, more than 1,200 Singapore policemen and soldiers descended on Pulau Tekong to flush out the robbers.

They found Gunawan hiding in the bushes the very next day. A day later, Hassan and Herman were arrested.

Yesterday, DPP Lee urged the court to impose a sentence that reflected the severity of the offences committed by the three as they had fled here to evade capture by the Malaysian police and had a pistol and four bullets with them.

The court should also send a 'strong signal' to all criminals, foreign and local, that such offences will not be tolerated, he said.

The judge agreed. The court must send a strong deterrent signal that 'there is no safe haven in Singapore for criminals'.

He noted that Gunawan did not throw the pistol into the sea though he had enough time to do so. That, said the judge, suggested that the robbers had 'every intention to use it'.

Gunawan, Hassan and Herman pleaded for a light sentence, saying they were first offenders and remorseful.

But the judge said that there was no merit in their pleas.

'The arms offences committed ... are by their nature so serious and, on the facts of the case, so connected to the robberies committed in Malaysia, that this court will attach no weight to the fact that the three are first offenders.'

Corpun file 13723

The New Paper, Singapore, 9 July 2004

Only those found fit can be caned: Judge

Spare the 12 strokes, pleads robber

Caning could cause death, warns doctor
No reason to stop caning, argues Prisons Department. Takes case to Court of Appeal

By Dawn Chia

THE pain of the cane will have to wait.

Because it has to be decided whether the caning can cause much more harm than intended to a robber with a rare disease called Marfan Syndrome.

In a worst case scenario, caning could cause a sudden surge in blood pressure.

An artery to the heart could rupture and death could be instantaneous.

Tan Eng Chye's condition was discovered when he enlisted for National Service in 2000, and it resulted in him being medically downgraded and placed in a service vocation.

In a rare ruling, the High Court has put the caning sentence on hold and granted Tan's request for a special inquiry of his case.

Tan, 23, was convicted of robbery and sentenced to jail and caning last October.

Doctors warned that he could die, face complications of the blood vessels, dislocation of joints, or injury to his eyes, if caned.

In an unusual move, Tan went to the High Court to apply for a 'judicial review' to set aside the 12-stroke caning sentence, which is mandatory for those convicted of robbery.

The Prisons Department, represented by the Attorney-General's Chambers, argued there was no reason why he shouldn't be caned.

When the case came before the High Court, Justice Kan Ting Chiu ruled that Tan's case deserved a closer study and spared him the cane for now.

Dissatisfied with this ruling, the prison authorities have taken their case to the Court of Appeal, where a hearing is pending.

Tan is currently serving a jail term of four years and six months.

In his judgment, Justice Kan noted that Tan had told the district court before sentencing that he suffered from Marfan Syndrome, a condition which affects the heart, eyes and other parts of the body.

The district judge then postponed sentencing and asked for a medical report on whether Tan was fit for caning.

Dr Ooi Poh Hin, the medical officer from Queenstown Remand Prison who examined him in October, wrote: 'He is fit for caning.'

But the doctor did not state if he had referred to Tan's Marfan Syndrome.

The judge went to the Internet to find out more about the condition on his own. His research showed that the syndrome could seriously affect a person's health.

Despite this, the judge still handed down the caning sentence as there was 'nothing in the materials' which showed that the accused was so affected.

Tan then went for further medical assessments by three independent doctors - Dr Paul Ho, a general practitioner, Dr Lim Tock Han, head of the Department of Ophthalmology at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and Dr C Sivathasan, a consultant cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon.

All three agreed that Tan's condition was serious.

Dr Sivathasan said 'the act of caning can cause a sudden surge in blood pressure resulting in a potentially life-threatening occurrence of aortic dissection'.

In other words, caning could bring on a rise in blood pressure, rupture the main artery to the heart, and he could die.

The government lawyers still objected to Tan's application for a judicial review and argued that he should not be allowed to proceed further in his legal action.

But Justice Kan said Tan's case 'was not groundless, hopeless, misguided, trivial or a waste of time'.

On the efforts of the district judge in conducting his own research, he said: 'The district judge's initiative is commendable, but it is not a substitute for a proper medical report because he still did not get answers...

'I feel the district judge should have asked for another examination and report.

'If there were doubts whether the applicant should be caned, they could not have been removed by Dr Ooi's report or the information obtained from the Internet.'

He added the law had made it mandatory for certain categories of offenders, such as robbers, to be caned for their crimes.

'But the law is not without compassion, and it provides that before anyone is caned, he is to undergo medical examination to ensure that he will not suffer serious unintended injuries.

'Only those found to be fit to undergo caning will be caned. For those who are found not suitable, the sentence of caning is not to be carried out.'

On Tan's case, he said all the man wanted was to seek a proper medical examination to be done before his caning.

'I do not think that the applicant wants the reports (of his three doctors) to be the basis for exempting him from caning...

'The reports were submitted to show that there is a serious question whether he should be caned, which should be addressed properly before caning is administered,' Justice Kan said.

He then ruled Tan could proceed with a full review of his case.

When contacted, Ms Tan Gee Tuan, Tan's lawyer, would only confirm that her client has not been caned yet.

A Prisons spokesman declined to discuss the case.

Copyright 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 13741

Straits Times, Singapore, 15 July 2004

Jail, caning for 4 in fatal Jurong Superbowl brawl

FOUR men were jailed and ordered to be caned yesterday for an attack that left debt collector Wong Han Wah dead outside Jurong Superbowl last August.

Mr Wong, 33, was set upon when he went to the defence of a 25-year-old, who was being attacked by a group of motorcyclists.

Yesterday, four of the nine people charged with rioting and rioting with dangerous weapons on Aug 10 last year were sentenced.

They were Muhammad Firdaus Rohami, 19; Shafie Mohamed, 24; Muhammad Fazli Mohamad Shah, 20; and Jamali Mohamad Yunus, 24.

Firdaus, the only one to have attacked Mr Wong, was jailed three years and 11 months, and ordered to be caned nine strokes.

Fazli and Jamali were each jailed three years and two months, and ordered to be caned six strokes.

Shafie, who also admitted to failing to report for a urine test, was jailed three years and 10 months, and ordered to be caned eight strokes.

Of the remaining five, four have been charged and will be dealt with later.

The fifth is Hashim Tawil, 28, who will be sentenced today after he admitted yesterday to being part of the group of assailants.

The court heard how Mr Wong died after being bludgeoned on the face and head.

He had been struck with metal poles and plastic chairs. One attacker even flung a 15kg metal bollard at his face.

He was struck down when he leapt to the aid of Mr Chen Yong Wah, 25, who was a stranger to him.

The bikers who attacked him had been milling outside Jurong Superbowl in Yuan Ching Road, to watch an illegal motorcycle race.

The assault was sparked off after a heated exchange of words between the bikers and Mr Wong and Mr Chen.

Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 13762

The New Paper, Singapore, 21 July 2004

Jail and cane them ... says one union leader

Errant bosses who don't pay their workers


By Sim Chi Yin

JAIL them and cane them.

That's how one union leader thinks employers who don't pay their workers should be dealt with.

Mr Foo Kok Kiong, president of the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union (Batu), told The New Paper that current penalties for errant employers are too light.

Although the Employment Act states that first time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for up to six months, no employer has been jailed for not paying up, he said. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) confirmed this last night.

Mr Foo (right) said: 'The fine has no deterrent effect. Employers laugh at it. They say it's cheaper to pay the fine than to pay their workers.

'We should cane them and jail them. Then, this wouldn't happen.'

He was adding his voice to the furore raised by the case of construction firm Wan Soon, which owes 200 migrant workers - who were not paid for six months - wages of between $600 and $3,500.

Another group of about 120 workers went home with a fraction of what they are owed, plus a promise by the company to remit the rest later, in a deal brokered by the MOM.

Last week, some local workers also claimed they are owed wages by Wan Soon, which faces more than 30 lawsuits filed by creditors, involving about $6 million.

Mr Foo said of the workers' plight: 'The authorities should have looked into the case long ago. Why did they wait till so much salary was owed for so long?'

Wan Soon's workers are not union members but Batu secretary Jennie Yeo has been helping with MOM's mediation at the workers' dormitory, she said.

She added that Batu would help absorb the $3 per head cost of lodging a complaint with the Labour Court, should the workers have to take their fight for wages beyond MOM's mediation.

Batu has 22,000 workers as members, one fifth of whom are migrant workers, from China, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Madam Yeo, who regularly helps solve salary dispute cases within Batu, suggested that a separate government authority be set up to handle salary claims of migrant workers who are not unionised.


Mrs Bridget Lew, who runs the Madonna Grotto, a shelter for migrant workers, said of the labour movement's suggestions: 'The MOM should have a dedicated department for migrants' salary disputes and it should also take care of domestic workers, who are not covered by the Employment Act.'

She is also in favour of stiffer penalties, but not caning. 'Employers should be taken to task. Migrant workers are very vulnerable - they often keep silent for a long time because they fear being sent home.'

Corpun file 13776

Straits Times, Singapore, 27 July 2004

He stabbed man fatally over 'staring' incident

Assailant had chased down his victim with a beer bottle and knife. He is given 10 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane

By Elena Chong

WHAT began as a 'staring' incident at a People's Park Complex provision shop ended with Mr Chan Shin Shoong being stabbed four times in the neck and shoulder.

Kitchen assistant Chaw Aiang Wah, 27, stabbed his victim four times.

At about 11.30pm on Oct 24 last year, the 23-year-old was buying a drink in the shop when he collided with Chaw Aiang Wah, who was talking to his girlfriend on his mobile phone.

The men, both Malaysians working here as kitchen assistants, faced off for a moment.

Soon after that, Chaw, 27, was in the lift lobby, about to go up to the flat he shared with his girlfriend.

But Mr Chan, still around with a friend, called him over and demanded to know why Chaw stared at him earlier.

Chaw tried to say it was a small matter not worth fighting over, especially as both of them were on work permits.

Mr Chan would not be mollified.

Then his friend, Mr Ho Yuen Weng, spotted the handle of a knife in the plastic bag Chaw was carrying. He urged Mr Chan to leave.

But as the two friends were walking away, Chaw asked if they had no guts. Mr Chan walked over again.

This time, Chaw pulled a knife as well as a small bottle of beer from his bag, then chased Mr Chan along Park Crescent towards Eu Tong Sen Street. It was a tragically brief pursuit.

A horrified Mr Ho, 20m away, saw Chaw crouching over and plunging his knife into Mr Chan's neck a number of times. He saw his friend try to ward off the blows with his hands.

By yelling 'Mata lai liao' (Hokkien for 'the police have come') Mr Ho frightened Chaw away. But Mr Chan died from his neck wounds two days later.

On Oct 28, Chaw - who had fled to Johor Baru and had been warded for leg injuries - gave himself up.

Yesterday, Judicial Commissioner V.K. Rajah sentenced him to 10 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane for culpable homicide.

His assigned lawyer, Mr Cheong Aik Chye, had said Chaw felt belittled and inflamed by Mr Chan's taunts and vulgar language over a small incident. Chaw was neither violent nor vicious, but had acted in a rage, he said.

However, the judge agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Nor'ashikin Samdin, who asked for a strong message that such outbursts of violence would not be tolerated.

Chaw's actions, she added, were excessive and needlessly brutal. Having felled Mr Chan with a blow to his head using a beer bottle, he had then stabbed his victim four times in the neck and shoulder region.

Said Judicial Commissioner Rajah: 'The deceased had taken flight despite his initial aggression. Inexplicably and most unfortunately, you deliberately chose to run into trouble and court tragedy.'

Calling staring incidents 'usually the consequence of a heady brew' that included drink, drugs and 'face', he warned those involved to expect the law, in turn, to be 'staring back'.

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