Seminal decision on presumption of possession by the Court of Appeal

Misuse of Drugs Act – Presumption of Possession

1. Introduction

In brief, Mr Adili Chibuike Ejike (“Adili”) travelled to Singapore from Nigeria, with a small suitcase of which was later found to contain drugs.

Mr Adili claimed that an acquaintance in Nigeria had agreed to give him financial assistance provided that Mr Adili delivered the suitcase together with some cash to an unspecified person in Singapore.

2. Background

At all times, Mr Adili maintained that he did not know the packages of methamphetamine were in the suitcase. In 2017, he was charged.

Mr Adili charge read

on the 13th day of November 2011, at or about 8.25 p.m., at Changi Airport Terminal 3, Arrival Hall, Singapore, did import into Singapore a controlled drug specified in Class “A” of the First Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap. 185, 2008 Rev. Ed)(“the MDA”), to wit, two (2) packets containing crystalline substance which was analysed and found to contain not less than 1,961 grams of methamphetamine, without authorisation under the MDA (of) the Regulations made thereunder, and [he had] thereby committed an offence under section 7 and punishable under section 33 of the MDA, or [he] may alternatively be liable to be punished under section 33B of the MDA.

Section 18 of the Misuse of Drugs Act may be invoked if there is no evidence of actual knowledge of the methamphetamine.

Section 18 of the MDA read

Presumption of possession and knowledge of controlled drugs

18.—(1) Any person who is proved to have had in his possession or custody or under his control —
(a) anything containing a controlled drug;
(b) the keys of anything containing a controlled drug;
(c) the keys of any place or premises or any part thereof in which a controlled drug is found; or
(d) a document of title relating to a controlled drug or any other document intended for the delivery of a controlled drug,
shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have had that drug in his possession.

(2) Any person who is proved or presumed to have had a controlled drug in his possession shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have known the nature of that drug.

(3) The presumptions provided for in this section shall not be rebutted by proof that the accused never had physical possession of the controlled drug.

(4) Where one of 2 or more persons with the knowledge and consent of the rest has any controlled drug in his possession, it shall be deemed to be in the possession of each and all of them.

On appeal, he was acquitted of drug trafficking after the Court of Appeal found that he had not known that there were drugs in his suitcase.

3. Eugene comments in The Straits Times

Eugene Thuraisingam shares his thoughts on the Court of Appeal’s recent decision acquitting the accused in Adili Chibuike Ejike v Public Prosecutor.