Asia

Drug runner who escaped gallows sues A-G, deputy A-Gs and prosecutors to seek damages

SINGAPORE – Lawyer M. Ravi has filed a civil suit against the Attorney-General (A-G), two Deputy A-Gs and five prosecutors on behalf of a Malaysian drug runner who was spared the death penalty last month by the Court of Appeal.

Gobi Avedian, 32, who was instead given 15 years’ jail and 10 strokes of the cane, is seeking unspecified damages from the defendants.

In court papers, Gobi alleged that the defendants had “abused their powers and acted in bad faith by improperly performing a legal act which resulted in harm to the plaintiff”.

He also alleged that the defendants had “breached their fundamental duties to assist in the administration of justice”.

Nine defendants are named in the suit: the office of the A-G, current A-G Lucien Wong, Deputy A-Gs Hri Kumar Nair and Lionel Yee, deputy chief prosecutor Mohamed Faizal Mohamed Abdul Kadir, and prosecutors Tan Zhongshan, Nicholas Wuan, Chin Jincheng and Chong Kee En.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) confirmed to The Straits Times that it has been served the court papers.

“The claims are without merit and we will defend them vigorously,” said the spokesman.

The Court of Appeal’s decision last month was the result of a change in legal position in 2019 on the doctrine of wilful blindness, as well as a change in the prosecution’s case against Gobi at the trial and at the appeal.

Wilful blindness is a legal term for the mental state of a person who suspects the truth but deliberately refuses to investigate further.

Gobi was originally charged with the importation of 40.22g of heroin, after he was caught at Woodlands Checkpoint on Dec 11, 2014.

He first avoided the death penalty in 2017 after the High Court found that he did not know the nature of the drugs he was carrying and convicted him of a lesser charge.

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In 2018, the apex court allowed the prosecution’s appeal and convicted Gobi of the original capital charge.

In 2019, in a separate case, Nigerian Adili Chibuike Ejike was spared the gallows upon appeal because he was found not to have known about the presence of drugs in his suitcase.

In Adili’s case, the Court of Appeal held that wilful blindness is not relevant in considering whether the presumption of possession has been rebutted.

Gobi, who was represented by Mr Ravi, then asked the apex court to review its 2018 decision.

Mr Ravi argued that the ruling in Adili’s case should be extended to the presumption of knowledge of the nature of the drugs, which was the legal issue in Gobi’s case.

The apex court agreed and quashed Gobi’s conviction on the capital charge. The court also held that the different cases run by the prosecution were prejudicial to Gobi.

After the judgment on Oct 19, Mr Ravi said in a video interview with alternative news site The Online Citizen (TOC) that prosecutors had been “overzealous”.

On the same day, the AGC rebutted his claims, saying that the Court of Appeal explicitly pointed out that its decision to convict Gobi was correct at the time it was made.

The AGC demanded that Mr Ravi apologise and retract his comments. He did neither.

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On Oct 23, the AGC said it had filed a disciplinary complaint to the Law Society against Mr Ravi for possible professional misconduct.

It added that the Court of Appeal made no finding that the prosecution had acted in bad faith and that Mr Ravi’s allegations were “false, misleading, and unfairly and illegitimately discredit AGC”.

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