Scion of Metro store family on trial for conspiring to traffic drugs

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SINGAPORE: When Ong Jenn left his Metro Holdings office at noon on Oct 31, 2014 to meet his regular drug dealer at a taxi stand nearby, he had no idea he was delivering himself to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

Ong, 41, was arrested and S$2,000 in cash, meant to pay for a supply of cannabis, was seized by CNB officers.

Ong is the grandson of Ong Tjoe Kim, the founder of Singapore’s iconic Metro department stores, and the son of its former group managing director, Jopie Ong, who helmed the company for more than 40 years until his death last year.

Metro’s latest annual report lists Ong Jenn as a “substantial shareholder”.

In a statement taken after his arrest, Ong candidly admitted he was supposed to meet his dealer, “Mike”, to buy two blocks of weed for S$2,000.

He also admitted he was a habitual drug user. “I smoke weed every day,” Ong told CNB officer Senior Staff Sergeant Jeffrey Lim.

Though Ong admitted he bought weed from “Mike” – whose real name is Mohamad Ismail Abdul Majid – “more than 15 times”, he insisted the drugs were for his personal consumption.

At the opening of his trial on Friday (Feb 3), Ong denied conspiring with Ismail to traffic in a Class A controlled drug.

Ong faces a total of eight drugs charges under the Misuse of Drugs Act. The current trial will deal with two of those charges, with the remaining six stood down. The two charges relate to 92.68 grams of cannabis and 385.1 grams of cannabis mixture, which deputy public prosecutors Ong Luan Tze and Michelle Lu say Ong and Ismail conspired to traffic.

The sting operation resulting in Ong’s arrest in 2014 was set in motion the day before, when Ismail was arrested along Jurong Port Road on suspicion of drug abuse and trafficking. Two bundles of drugs were found in his backpack.

Ismail told CNB officer Senior Staff Sergeant Wilson Low that one of the two bundles was meant for someone known to him as “Yo”. He gave the officer “Yo’s” mobile number, which SSSgt Low then traced to Ong.

SSSgt Low instructed Ismail to message Ong, and when Ong replied, the officer pretended to be the drug dealer and set up a meeting with Ong at Ngee Ann City to pass him the cannabis.

When Ong appeared, he was placed under arrest.

Ismail was sentenced to 22 years’ jail and 18 strokes of the cane in September 2015, after he pleaded guilty to three drugs charges with another four taken into consideration.

“NO EVIDENCE” ONG TRAFFICKED DRUGS: DEFENCE

Ong’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, argued there is no evidence to support the claim that Ong had conspired with Ismail to traffic drugs.

Questioning SSI Adam Ismail, who investigated both Ong and Ismail, Mr Tan asked if he found any evidence showing that there was an agreement between Ong and Ismail to sell to third parties, or for Ismail to give Ong a share of his profits from peddling drugs.

SSI Adam said there was none.

Mr Tan also questioned why Ong’s charges had been amended at least twice in nine months, despite there being no new evidence against him.

Ong was first accused of “instigating” Ismail to traffic drugs, before the charge was amended to state that Ong had “intentionally aided” in the trafficking of cannabis.

“If the transaction involved (only Ismail and Ong), and Ismail was the one trafficking, what was Ong supposed to have abetted him in?” Mr Tan asked. SSI Adam had agreed there was no evidence of any third party being involved.

“If Ong is abetting Ismail to traffic the drugs by buying them (for his own consumption), he would effectively be trafficking the drugs to himself. Is that your case?” Mr Tan asked.

“Yes”, SSI Adam answered.

If convicted of conspiring to traffic a Class A controlled drug, Ong faces at least five years’ jail and five strokes of the cane.

The trial will resume on Feb 20, when Ismail will testify against Ong.

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