Exclusive: The Temasek Review Talks to Alan Shadrake
British Author Alan Shadrake of “Once a Jolly Hangman”, was arrested on the 18th of July 2010 in Singapore, and subsequently detained for approximately two days.
With respect, to his ongoing trial in The Singapore’s High Court, we will refrain from discussing his case and book in depth, as that would be a contempt of court and adversely affect his ongoing trial.
Currently a resident of adjacent Malaysia, he was, charged to have “cast doubt on the impartiality and independence of the judiciary” with the charge being (Scandalizing the Judiciary).
TR: Alan, how have you been holding up?
Alan: (Laughs) I am getting by.
TR: In the interest of a fair and balanced interview, we would like to ask, were your intentions for writing the Book (Once a Jolly Hangman) to scandalize the judiciary of Singapore or was it purely investigative journalism, which expanded into a book?
I got into this book by chance. I’d been invited by the Singapore Tourism Board to write some travel articles for a publication in California. I had been living in various parts of the US for 20 years and as a Permanent Resident, I could have become a citizen. When I arrived in March 2002 as a guest, I learned of two murders involving a British millionaire Mike McCrea. It was known as The Orchard Towers murders. McCrea had fled to Australia with his girlfriend Audrey Ong. She alone returned to Singapore. Seeing as how Australia cannot extradite anyone to any country where they might face the death penalty. A long legal battle ensued and Singapore had to promise not to hang him if found guilty.
Around the same time an Australian citizen, Nguyen Van Tuong, was hanged for drug trafficking. The difference in penalty here stood out like a sore thumb to me. If the death penalty did not come into the picture there would be no need to make these “ad hoc” arrangements as to who should live or who should die in such cases.
My (surprise) interview with the hangman which went around the world, further peeked my interest and I decided to look into many old and recent trials which ended on the gallows – and the unusual cases where it didn’t. I quickly came to an understanding that different punishments were perhaps meeted out to similar crimes. And more often than not, simple mules, often young, immature and vulnerable girls and boys were the ones who ended up being hanged – not the sophisticated adults that had lured them into trafficking.
It occurred to me that no visible efforts were being made to catch the king pins. In particular the cases of Julia Bohl, who helped run a lucrative drugs ring in Singapore, and Guiga Lyes Ben Laroussi, who ran an even bigger operation which became known as The High Society Cocaine Circle. Guiga amazingly escaped the long arm of Singapore’s Law, all this before being allowed bail while facing a maximum 30 year jail sentence. He managed to get his passport back and return home to Tunisia. Despite being put on Interpol’s website for the past 5 years, it appears that no effort has been made to bring him back for trial. Quite a different story to that of the Romanian diplomat who allegedly killed a Singaporean in a drunk driving accident. Laroussi had been destroying lives in Singapore for years! It gave me a very strong impression that cases which should have had the same strong verdict and Mandatory Punishment were differing greatly.
Read more here.