Australian Drug Mule Hang In Changi Prison

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Caleb Van Tuong Nguyen, a 25-year old Australian national, was executed in Changi Prison at 6:07 am and was officially reported as dead at 7:17 am. Drug trafficking carries a mandatory death sentence under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, and despite pleas for clemency from the Australian government (Prime Minister John Howard and former prime minister Bob Hawke), Amnesty International, the Holy See (Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessor Pope John Paul II), as well as other individuals and groups before his execution. On 12 December 2002, after he was caught in Changi Airport while on transit in Singapore between Ho Chi Minh City and Melbourne, Mr. Nguyen confessed to have in his possession 396 grams of heroin, more than 26 times the amount of heroin that mandates a death sentence under the Misuse of Drugs Act (Illegal traffic, import or export of Heroin of more than 15 grams). The Singaporean High Court sentenced Nguyen to death for this crime on 20 March 2004. After the execution, Nguyen’s body was released to his family about four hours after he was hanged. Nguyen’s body was taken to the Marymount Chapel of the Good Shepherd’s Convent in 790 Upper Thomson Road Singapore for a private memorial service at 1 pm.

Background: Mr. Nguyen claimed that he was carrying the drugs in a bid to pay off debts amounting to approximately A$20,000 to A$25,000 that he owed and to repay legal fees his twin brother Khoa, a former heroin addict. In addition to his own financial troubles, Nguyen said he tried to help pay his twin brother’s debt of A$12,000. His twin brother’s loan had to be repaid by the end of the 2002. Nguyen could afford to repay only A$4000, the interest on the loan. In November 2002, while deep in debt, Mr. Nguyen contacted a Chinese man named “Tan”, who told him to travel to Sydney to meet a Vietnamese man named “Sun”. Sun proposed that he would repay Nguyen’s loans if Nguyen transported packages from Cambodia back to Melbourne via Singapore. The man said the packages contained “white”, which Nguyen understood to be heroin. He reached Phnom Penh at midday on 3 December 2002 after leaving Sydney in the evening of the previous day. Nguyen was instructed to stay in Phnom Penh until 10 December. However on 8 December, he decided to fly to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. On 11 December after he returned to Phnom Penh, he was taken to the garage, where he was then instructed on how to crush heroin bricks and to strap the powdered drug packages to his body. The rest of the day was spent crushing and packaging the drugs in his hotel room. He checked out of the hotel the next day and went to the airport. On boarding his flight to Melbourne after a four hour stopover at Singapore Changi Airport, he triggered a metal detector. A package of heroin from Cambodia was found strapped to his body. After the first package was discovered, Nguyen informed the airport official about a second package in his luggage.

Update: His family returned to Melbourne with his body on 4 December 2005. A mass was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne on 7 December 2005. Victorian MPs Geoff Hilton and Richard Wynne attended the service and were criticised as it appeared to give support to a convicted drug trafficker.

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