Man to be Hanged in Singapore for Importing About Two Pounds of Pot

A man who imported one kilogram of cannabis (about 2.2 pounds) from Malaysia into Singapore in 2018 is set to hang after his appeal against the conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Apex Court on Tuesday, October 12.

Channel News Asia reports that Singaporean Omar Yacob Bamadhaj, 41, was sentenced to death in February after being convicted of one count of importing cannabis into Singapore. Bamadhaj was caught smuggling three bundles containing at least one kilogram of cannabis.

The country’s zero-tolerance policy for drugs has led to the hangings of hundreds of people, including dozens of foreigners. 

During a routine border checkpoint at Woodlands Checkpoint late in the night on July 12, 2018, police discovered the bundles Bamadhaj was carrying. His father drove the vehicle, but was found to be unaware of the cannabis bundles.

The Alleged Crime

Bamadhaj agreed to smuggle the cannabis—a Class A drug in Singapore—two days earlier on July 10, 2018 and collected three bundles wrapped in newspapers a day later near a mosque. Bamadhaj allegedly obtained the packages from two friends, Din and Latif. Bamadhaj first said that he agreed to deliver the packages and then said he did not know what they contained.

When asked why there were differences in his accounts, Bamadhaj reportedly replied, “I said that because I was not at the right state of mind. I was feeling high from the stick I had smoked with Din. High to me is like being semi-conscious.”

On Tuesday, Bamadhaj’s lawyer Hassan Esa Almenoar said there was reasonable doubt as to whether Bamadhaj imported the drugs knowingly or not, and said it was “difficult to conclude that he planned all this”.

Bamadhaj argued that the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers had coerced him into admitting to the crime, threatening him, saying, “If you refuse to admit to this, I will throw both you and your father to be hanged.”

Tourists who smoke pot may be in for a bit of culture clash if they choose to visit Singapore—a famously intolerant country with penalties for drugs reaching up to death by hanging. Singapore applies corporal and capital punishments to foreigners—going beyond what other drug-free countries do.

In  2016, when a Nigerian named Chijioke Obioha was hanged in Singapore for possession of 2.6 kilograms of pot.

Singapore and Cannabis

Some countries in Asia are exceptionally intolerant when it comes to drugs. In 2014, Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee did six months of hard time in jail after being busted with 100 grams of cannabis in China. But Singapore’s punishments for drugs make China’s punishments look like a cake walk.

In Singapore, you can be jailed for failing to flush the toilet. Business Insider published an article in 2012, entitled “How to Travel in Singapore Without Getting Caned.” It listed other serious Singaporean “offenses” including selling gum or sipping water on a train. Or standing too close to a child. One graffiti vandal, Mas Selamat bin Kastari, for instance, was slapped with “a terror plot” for political stencil graffiti.

Singapore is one of the worst places on the planet to get caught with pot. Singapore courts can dish out the death penalty to anyone caught with over 500 grams of cannabis—around 1,000 joints. 

Singapore also does hesitate to punish foreigners if they are caught with drugs, unlike other drug-free nations such as Saudi Arabia or China. In those countries, a foreigner caught with drugs would most likely be deported instead.

Singapore doesn’t even need evidence of drug possession to jail a foreigner. Singapore might be the world’s only country that will require drug tests to foreign nationals and then arrest anyone who fails the test.

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Former Cop Pleads Guilty to Accepting $14K in Bribes in Pot Trafficking Case

One corrupt police officer in California who pleaded guilty to accepting bribes spun a web of lies and deception worthy of a Breaking Bad episode.

On September 7, Rudolph Petersen, 34, pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge for accepting at least $14,000 in cash from a drug trafficker in exchange for escorting massive shipments of pot and other drugs, and searching a police database to supply the trafficker information on suspected snitches, according to  a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Petersen, who served as a Montebello Police Department for about four years, solicited and received several large-sum cash bribes from an alleged gang member and drug trafficker, according to his plea agreement. Prosecutors say Petersen admitted to taking a total of $14,000 in cash bribes since 2018—mostly for transporting a U-Haul filled with weed and sniffing out people suspected of cooperating with other police.

Peterson was the guy on the inside, who had access to sensitive information about plea deals and the individuals involved.

Federal prosecutors say a drug trafficker, identified only as “co-schemer 2,” told Petersen he’d be placed “on his payroll” during a dinner in 2018, and gave him $500 through a middle man. 

“Three months later, Petersen—who was armed and wearing a security guard uniform that resembled an official police uniform—successfully escorted a white U-Haul truck containing what Petersen believed was illegally grown marijuana from Fontana to a location off California State Route 60 near Rowland Heights,” the report reads. “Petersen returned to the residence of Co-Schemer 2, who gave him a paper bag filled with $10,000 in cash. Petersen admitted to escorting at least one additional drug shipment for Co-Schemer 2.”

Petersen also admitted to escorting at least one other drug shipment, prosecutors said.

Additionally, Petersen fessed up to using a law enforcement database to collect information on an individual whom Co-Schemer 2 called a “snitch” who had allegedly helped law enforcement intercept a cocaine shipment. 

For a bribery charge of $500-1,000 per database search, Petersen delivered information about the “snitch” individual to Co-Schemer 2, plus information on others suspected of snitching as well.

Police say that in September 2020, Co-Schemer 2 paid Petersen $1,000 to determine if tracking devices found on vehicles that he and another co-schemer used were planted by a state or federal law enforcement investigation. Petersen admitted to accepting at least $14,000 in bribes.

United States District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. scheduled a sentencing hearing for January 11, 2022, when Petersen will face a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Homeland Security Investigations investigated this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Ian V. Yanniello of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering and Racketeering Section is prosecuting this case.

More Alleged Bribes in Central California’s Cannabis Industry

Unfortunately, Petersen’s case isn’t alone in the central California area when it comes to corruption from law enforcement and other people in power, such as public officials.

In February 2019, The FBI investigated whether public officials in Sacramento, California accepted bribes in return for favorable treatment for applicants for licenses to operate cannabis businesses in the city.

Sacramento officials investigated how cannabis business owner Garib Karapetyan and his associates have been able to amass eight licenses to operate dispensaries in the city—one-third of the number of retailers. 

One of Karapetyan’s partners, Ukrainian businessmen Andrey Kukushkin, was one of four men indicted by federal prosecutors for involvement in a scheme.

Even former President Donald Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was implicated at some point in the case. Two other men indicted in the case, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are also associates of Rudy Giuliani.

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Oregon Marijuana Smuggler Charged in Contract Murder Plot

Federal prosecutors in Portland have charged an alleged marijuana smuggler in a plot to hire a hitman to murder a business associate. According to a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday, 68-year-old John Tobe Larson attempted to hire a hitman to kill a business associate who owed him approximately $75,000 from marijuana trafficking deals.

Larson allegedly paid the supposed contract killer, who was actually an undercover agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Explosives, $10,000 that had been raised from a pot smuggling run to St. Louis. Larson had been introduced to the undercover agent in May through a confidential police informant who had become aware of Larson’s wish to kill the associate. Another $10,000 was promised once Larson received photographic evidence that the body of the victim had been dumped at sea.

Cellmates Conspire to Smuggle Weed

Larson and the potential victim had been cellmates in federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon while Larson was serving a sentence there for a marijuana distribution conviction. During that time, the pair hatched a plan to smuggle cannabis to other areas of the country in Larson’s private airplane and return to Oregon with the cash.

At a meeting with the undercover agent at a hotel in Grants Pass, Oregon in June that was recorded by law enforcement, Larson said that he needed the associate “to disappear” because he had “moved a bunch of loads for him and he never paid me,’’ according to court documents.

Larson told the undercover agent that once the murder had been committed, he wanted the body to be dumped in the ocean so that “lice and crabs” would eat the body and “the teeth are in sediments at the bottom of the ocean,” according to the criminal complaint.

“I have been in this business for over fifty years, this is not my first rodeo,” Larson reportedly told the federal agent posing as a hitman.

Larson offered to provide the name of the intended victim, a “burner” cell phone, and a $10,000 down payment. The remaining $10,000 would be paid after the contract had been executed.

Defendant is Convicted Pot Smuggler

Larson was sentenced to five years in federal prison after being convicted of running a $2 million per year marijuana cultivation operation in the Fairbanks, Alaska area. According to court papers filed in that case, Larson had been growing cannabis for 20 years, smuggling approximately ten pounds of marijuana per week in duffel bags to other areas via his Cessna 170B, bringing in $4,000 per pound for the harvest.

Larson made his first court appearance in the current case on Monday on charges of using interstate commerce to commit murder-for-hire. He did not enter a plea and is being held without bail. Efforts to contact Larson’s attorney, public defender Clayton Lance, were unsuccessful, according to media reports.

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Nearly Four Tons of Marijuana Discovered in Shipment of Jalapeños

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized nearly four tons of marijuana last week in a package from Mexico to the United States. Packed among the contraband? A shipment of jalapeños.

The bust came Thursday, when the CBP said a 37-year-old Mexican man entered the Otay Mesa port of entry near the border between San Diego and Tijuana.

The man entered the port “driving a tractor pulling a trailer with cargo manifested as jalapeño peppers,” according to a press release from the CBP. The CBP officer at the cargo facility then referred the truck for a secondary inspection.

After the driver pulled up to the dock, a canine unit was alerted to the shipment of peppers, prompting other CBP officers to further inspect the cargo. From there, the officers “discovered a leafy-green like substance that field-tested positive for the properties of marijuana,” according to the press release.

Amid the pallets of jalapeños, officers discovered more than 300 large wrapped packages of marijuana that weighed 7,560 pounds and was valued at $2.3 million.

“I am proud of the officers for seizing this significant marijuana load,” Otay Mesa Port Director Rosa Hernandez said in the press release.  “Not only did they prevent the drugs from reaching our community, they also prevented millions of dollars of potential profit from making it into the hands of  a transnational criminal organization.”

The Customs and Border Protection said it seized the truck and marijuana. There was no mention in the press release of the driver’s status. 

Marijuana seizures have long been common at the U.S.-Mexico border — and at the Otay Mesa cargo facility, where just two days prior to the jalapeño ruse, the CBP said officers seized 10,642 pounds of pot that arrived in a shipment of plastic auto parts.

The United States has more than 300 ports of entry, where CBP officers are tasked with inspecting incoming cargo, as well as screening foreign visitors and returning American citizens.

For the 2019 fiscal year to date, which includes the period between October 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019, the CBP says its office of field operations has seized 226,928 pounds of marijuana, 81,889 pounds of cocaine, 53,849 pounds of methamphetamines, 3,924 pounds of heroin and 2,096 pounds of fentanyl in nationwide drug seizures.

The office of field operations seized 300,289 pounds of marijuana in the fiscal year 2018, down from 366,627 pounds in 2017 and 516,122 pounds in 2016.

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Coast Guard Busts Submarine Carrying Over $500 Million Worth of Cocaine, Weed

A video of a drug bust released Thursday by the United States Coast Guard looks like a scene out of a Hollywood action movie

The footage shows members of the Coast Guard in pursuit of a semi-submarine—a vessel that was partially underwater, and partially exposed—that had been barreling through the eastern Pacific Ocean while carrying more than 17,000 pounds of cocaine.

“Stop your ship!” a member of the coast guard can be heard yelling in the minute-long footage, as his vessel bears down on the semi-submarine.

Midway through the video is when things get particularly dramatic. With the Coast Guard ship practically touching the target, a member of the crew eventually leaps atop the semi-submersible vessel, which is known as a “narco-sub.” As waves crash against him, the coast guardsman pounds on the top of the vessel before an individual, whose face was obscured by the Coast Guard, emerges from the submarine’s hatch.

The events documented in the video occurred on June 18. It was just one of 14 drug raids over the two months by the Coast Guard, as the U.S. ramps up its efforts to stop smugglers traversing from Central and South America. Since May, the Coast Guard says that it has confiscated roughly $569 million worth of cocaine and marijuana. Vice President Mike Pence was at the Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado on Thursday as 39,000 pounds of cocaine and 933 pounds of marijuana were taken off the island. In addition, 55 accused smugglers were taken into custody. 

Cracking down on drugs brought into the United States has been a top priority for the Trump administration, which has advocated hardline immigration and border security policies.

On Thursday, Pence saluted the Coast Guard for seizing $3.6 billion worth of illegal drugs and detaining more than 400 smugglers already this year.

“The courageous service of the [U.S. Coast Guard] is saving lives!” Pence said on Twitter.

He added in a subsequent tweet: “The drugs that are brought across our border bring billions in healthcare expenses, crime & the loss of thousands of Americans lives. The challenges & threats the [U.S. Coast Guard] face underscore why President [Trump] & our administration are determined to SECURE our border!”

The vessel shown in the footage released on Thursday was carrying five individuals, according to CNN. Such semi-submersible vessels are far from commonplace in the world of smugglers, due to their exorbitant costs. But when they are deployed, they can be exceedingly difficult for the Coast Guard to track — unless they’re spotted by an aircraft.

“They blend in,” Lt. Commander Stephen Brickey told CNN. “Most of the vessel is underwater, so it’s hard to pick out. They’re painted blue. They match the water.”

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