SINGAPORE — A lawyer who turned to drugs after suffering an episode of major depressive disorder was sentenced to a year and nine months’ jail on Monday (12 October).
Mark Tan Teik Yu’s illness had been triggered by a breakdown in his marriage in 2012 when he found out that his wife was having an affair, despite changing law firms - which resulted in a pay cut - in an effort to spend more time with her.
The 42-year-old began taking methamphetamine and nimetazepam with a friend, Iman Hakiki Azhari, from 2012.
Tan, formerly employed at law firm Denton Rodyck, pleaded guilty on 17 August this year to having not less than 8.78g of methamphetamine in his possession at Woodlands Checkpoint, possessing a packet of the same drug in his flat, consuming methamphetamine, possessing drug utensils for drug consumption, and possessing 50 peach-coloured tablets and 50 light peach-coloured tablets containing nimetazepam at Woodlands Checkpoint.
In his sentencing remarks, District Judge (DJ) Jasvender Kaur noted that Tan had turned to drugs in part due to personal circumstances.
Tan had experienced emotional turmoil worsened by divorce proceedings - which commenced in mid-2013 - and his financial situation.
His personal circumstances affected his mood. Tan became distant, aloof and uninterested in his work, and took frequent medical leave.
He lost his job at Dentons Rodyck in September 2017 after being told to resign. Untreated, Tan’s depressive symptoms worsened and he turned to binging on alcohol. When that gradually lost its effectiveness, Tan turned to methamphetamine, which he found calming.
In 2018, Tan came to know that his wife had remarried, which triggered painful memories, resulting in him relapsing into drug consumption.
Busted at the checkpoint
Tan was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint on 17 March 2018 when an AETOS officer who searched his vehicle found a grey pouch in the area behind the driver’s seat, which contained a glass tube and an improvised glass apparatus commonly used to consume methamphetamine.
An Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Task Force officer who also searched the car found four straws and other utensils wrapped in newspaper at the back of the car. Tan admitted that he used these to consume methamphetamine, which is a Class A controlled drug in the First Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA).
Upon further inspection, a red packet containing 10 slabs of tablets and a crystalline substance was unearthed. All 100 tablets were analysed to contain nimetazepam, which is a Class C controlled drug in the First Schedule to the MDA. These had been purchased in Malaysia at Iman’s request, with Tan agreeing to deliver the drugs to Singapore for a price of $750.
A second packet of crystalline substance was also found in a spectacle case in the back netting of the car. Both the packets of crystalline substances were sealed in bags and sent for analysis, where they were found to contain methamphetamine.
The first packet was found to contain not less than 7.13g of methamphetamine, while the second contained no less than 1.65g of the same drug. Tan admitted to buying the methamphetamine for his own consumption.
After he was arrested, Tan was brought to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) office where he provided two bottles of urine samples. Both contained methamphetamine.
Tan later admitted to consuming the drug at the residence of the individual whom he had purchased the drugs from. He did so to feel alert and awake in order to drive back to Singapore, according to the prosecution.
CNB officers raided Tan’s house the next day and found more drugs in the drawer of his bedside table. This was found to contain no less than 4.39g of methamphetamine. Tan said that he intended to consume the drug himself.
This was noted by DJ Kaur, who commented that the amount of drugs were small and meant for personal consumption.
The judge also took into consideration that Tan had spent many hours in therapy for depression and drug use and that a doctor had noted that Tan is unlikely to relapse.
Tan has since remarried and is a managing director at his own law firm. After the hearing, an emotional Tan was seen hugging his wife and other friends and family, around 15 of whom had packed the court room.
For possessing drug utensils for consumption, Tan may be jailed up to three years or fined up to $10,000 fine, or both. For each of the other four charges, he faces a jail term of up to 10 years or a maximum fine of $20,000, or both.
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