SINGAPORE: A syringe seized from Ler Teck Siang, a doctor defending himself in a trial for drug offences, was for administering insulin to his patients.
This was a claim Ler, 37, had given to Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers who questioned him after he was arrested at a hotel in March last year.
Ler, who performed his own cross-examination on the officers who took the witness stand for the prosecution on Friday (May 31), is contesting two charges: One for administering methamphetamine to a customer Sim Eng Chee in a hotel room on Feb 26 last year, and another for possessing drug utensils.
The former head of the Ministry of Health's National Public Health Unit is accused of using his medical skills to provide "slamming services", or administrating controlled drugs by injection to consumers.
At the time of his alleged drug-related offences, Ler was facing criminal proceedings for abetting his partner Mikhy Farrera Brochez to cheat the Ministry of Manpower so Brochez could work in Singapore.
The syringe in question was found in Ler's bag after he was arrested along with Sim at a second hotel - the Conrad Centennial Singapore - on Mar 2 last year after hotel staff found drug-related items in Sim's room.
The syringe was seized from Ler along with two straws and a bottle, while two packets of crystalline substances later found to be meth were seized from Sim.
LER SAID SYRINGE WAS TO INJECT INSULIN: CNB OFFICER
Several CNB officers took the stand on Friday, the second day of the drug trial, and described what happened on Mar 2 last year when Ler was arrested.
Staff Sergeant Goh Bai Lin told the court that Ler was asked what he intended to use the items found in his bag for.
"Ler Teck Siang told us that the syringe was used to inject insulin for his patients," said Staff Sgt Goh.
"So at this point, some way along the line, he did mention to us he's a doctor, that's why he said this syringe is used to inject insulin for his patients."
He said Ler did not say anything much about the empty bottle or the straw.
Ler, who was corrected by the judge several times on the proper way of conducting a cross-examination, questioned Staff Sgt Goh about how the syringe was determined to be "used", and how he observed that it was empty.
There was a word on the syringe, said Ler, and Staff Sgt Goh said he could make out the word "insulin".
"Would you agree the manufacturer of the syringe intended it to be used for insulin?" asked Ler.
The prosecution objected, saying Staff Sgt Goh was not a manufacturer of syringes, and the judge agreed that it was not a fair question.
LER DID NOT COOPERATE, SAID HE HAD CIVIL RIGHTS: CNB OFFICER
Ler then asked the CNB officer why he had said that Ler was "uncooperative".
"When I wanted to check on your properties, you actually did not cooperate, so you asked me, you said that you have your civil rights," answered Staff Sgt Goh. "So unlike what Sim Eng Chee did, he just let (another officer) search without objecting."
Ler asked: "Would you agree that everybody is entitled to civil rights?"
"I have no comment on that question," said the CNB officer.
The prosecution objected to this question, and District Judge Christopher Goh asked Ler: "Are you saying that you were uncooperative because you had no idea that he was a CNB officer?"
Ler replied: "I'm saying they had not verified their identity."
Staff Sgt Goh said he was wearing his pass on a lanyard around his neck, and that he and his colleagues had identified themselves as being from CNB and shown their pass.
"Was I at any point in time refusing to hand my bag over to you?" asked Ler.
The CNB officer said he recalled Ler stopping him from searching Ler's bag, saying that he had his civil rights.
He then explained that he had powers as a CNB officer to place a subject under arrest for suspected consumption or possession of a controlled drug, as well as the power to search Ler's bag.
"So why didn't you go ahead and search my bag?" said Ler.
"Because we have to listen to what you have to say," said Staff Sgt Goh. "I mean, you had something to say. We wanted to hear what you had to say to us."
Another CNB officer, Sergeant Irene Choi, told the court that Ler was "uncooperative" even though he replied to questions asked.
"We sensed he doubted our power ... and he mentioned his civil rights as well," she said. "He was evasive (to our questions) as he did not give a clear answer as to what are the items for."
Ler said he was "not entirely forthcoming" with his answers, as he knew there would be statement-taking.
"That's not a proper question to put," said the judge.
The trial is set to continue in July.
If found guilty of administering meth to Sim, he could be jailed for up to 10 years, fined a maximum of S$20,000, or both.
For possessing drug utensils, he can be jailed for three years, fined a maximum S$10,000 or both.