Singapore Sentences Drug Trafficking “Mastermind” Punithan Genasan To Death Via Zoom Video Call

Singapore sentenced a man to death through a Zoom video call on Friday (15 May).

37-year-old Malaysian Punithan Genasan received his sentence, issued due to his role in a heroin transaction back in 2011.

The extraordinary circumstances due to Covid-19 means criminal cases are being handled via video conferencing, but this is the first time Singapore is sentencing someone to death this way.

Man sentenced to death for role in drug trafficking

In the 2011 case, Punithan played a role in introducing 2 couriers to each other, then facilitating the transfer of drugs between the 2 of them into Singapore.

One of the 2 couriers, V. Shanmugam Veloo, was sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane, while the other Mohd Suief Ismail, was given a death sentence.

The Straits Times reported that Punithan offered Shanmugam S$2,300 (RM7,000) a month to drive into Singapore and meet Suief.

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The 2 couriers were arrested soon after Punithan made the order to Shanmugam to drive heroin packets into Singapore.

The courts haven’t set the date of execution yet. It can sometimes take years for prisoners on death row to be executed.

Sentence issued by video call due to “safety” concerns

Reuters reports that the Supreme Court decided on delivering the death sentence via a video conference on Zoom “for the safety of all involved” in the case.

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Even as the courts continue to handle proceedings, social distancing was made possible via video calls.

However, this is the first time the courts have issued a death sentence through Zoom.

These are extraordinary times though, meanings things thought unimaginable before Covid-19 are now a reality.

Lawyer says no issues with using Zoom for death penalty

Peter Fernando, who represents Punithan as his lawyer, told Reuters that he had no issues with the manner of sentencing.

He said the purpose of the call was “only to receive the judge’s verdict… and no other legal arguments were presented”.

Mr Fernando said his client plans to appeal the sentence.

Zoom has made the news for “Zoombombers”, where people entered the virtual classrooms of students and “bombarded” them with pornography.

Despite these privacy concerns, Zoom is still used at the Supreme Court, among other workplaces.

Controversy over usage of death penalty by Zoom

Some disagree with the usage of Zoom for such purposes, with Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch calling the method “even more” cruel and inhumane.

They also protest the usage of the death sentence to punish drug traffickers, arguing that the deterrence doesn’t make the sentence any less harrowing.

However, Singapore has steadfastly maintained its usage, arguing that the high trafficking of drugs in the region means it cannot relax its stance on the death penalty.

Featured image adapted from Google Maps.