A Malaysian who escaped the gallows after he was cleared of drug charges by the Court of Appeal in Singapore last year, has finally walked out a free man last week, Tuesday (2 March).
The Penangnite made headlines recently after a Singapore Court of Appeal acquitted him of drug trafficking charges. Beh Chew Boo, 38, was released after judges dismissed a bid by prosecutors to proceed with the trial of four other non-capital charges against him.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justice Steven Chong decided that the prosecution was not permitted to reinstate the charges and ordered Beh to be released. Beh, who was sentenced to death in Jan last year, was acquitted by the Court of Appeal on 13 Oct after the prosecution was unable to prove the charge of importation against him.
His lawyer Wong Siew Hong said Beh’s case was easily the first in Singapore where someone sentenced to death for trafficking drugs was acquitted on appeal.
In an interview with FMT, Beh shares what really happened that lead to the events of that fateful day when he was caught with drugs.
“That October day was the longest day of my life. And the 53 months in prison was life-changing,” Beh said while explaining that ever since he dropped out of school at 13, he’d always earned a living from doing odd jobs.
In 2014, he moved to Johor Bahru and found employment as a driver, ferrying fresh produce across the Causeway. At one time, he also sold durians in Singapore. Then came a better paying job as a mover with a reputable Singaporean company.
At 34, he was living in Skudai, travelling daily to work, and saving every penny he could. He recalls his life then as being good.
Sometime in October 2016, Beh and his 33-year-old girlfriend planned an outing to Singapore. He said he also planned to meet a friend to return a power bank he had borrowed a few days earlier. Since his motorcycle had broken down, the couple used his car, driving from Skudai to his friend’s house in Johor Bahru.
To save costs, he parked his car and borrowed his friend’s motorcycle for the trip into Singapore. He remembers feeling pleased that he would save a bundle as it cost only S$4 in toll for a motorcycle compared to S$35 by car.
He crossed the Causeway and stopped for a regular check by Singapore Customs. However, things took an ugly turn when the officer on duty found nearly 500g of methamphetamines in crystalline form, sorted into four smaller bundles on the motorcycle.
The street value of the drugs was estimated at S$89,000. Shocked, Beh and his girlfriend denied any knowledge of it.
Turns out, the motorbike that they borrowed from his friend contained the drugs and to make things worst, his friend had previously been caught with drugs and charged with possession of drug-related utensils.
When in Changi Prison, Beh said, life was tough but he made an effort to put up a brave front.
“But in my heart, I felt sunken, sad. I forced myself to feel happy because others on death row somehow managed to look happy too… When I walked out of prison, I could not believe I was free. Then when I got my phone, I felt truly free. I want to forget this ever happened. And I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” Beh said.
The same month that he was caught, Beh was subsequently slapped with five charges of importing different types of drugs into Singapore, but in July 2019 he was tried on the sole capital charge for importing methamphetamine.
After he was convicted and handed the death sentence, the prosecution then withdrew the other four charges. But despite his acquittal for importing methamphetamine, Beh continued to be held in custody pending a decision on the four charges related to 1,650 tablets found inside a plastic bag in his possession.
Skip to 2021, he is now finally a free man. Today (11 March), Beh has returned to Penang to be reunited with his family.