Tunisian facing drug charges jumps bail

  Agence France Presse
February 23, 2005

A TUNISIAN facing drug trafficking charges in Singapore failed to appear in court on Wednesday, Feb 23, authorities said, the second time in three months a foreigner has jumped bail in the city-state.

Guiga Lyes Ben Laroussi, 35, was due to appear in the Subordinate Court to give his plea over 16 charges in relation to possessing 25.2 grams of cocaine following a series of high-profile raids on Singapore's social elite last October.

Laroussi, formerly a marketing manager for a local restaurant, faced 24 years in jail and 20 strokes of the cane under a plea bargain arrangement he was considering.

Judge F.G. Remedios issued a warrant for Laroussi's arrest and said his bail fee of S$280,000 (US$170,000) had been forfeited.

A spokeswoman for the Central Narcotics Bureau said police would enlist the help of Interpol to help track down Laroussi. The Tunisian's passport had been confiscated as part of his bail conditions.

Defence counsel Subhas Anandan said in court that Laroussi had been uncontactable for the past two days despite repeated attempts to reach him.

However he told reporters outside court that he was surprised that Laroussi had skipped bail.

"It's funny we're not getting any response. Looking at his past conduct during pre-trial conferences and even office appointments, he's always been punctual," Anandan told reporters.

"During our last meeting on Thursday, he was quite normal. No weeping, crying, no drama whatsover."

Sri Lankan artist Jeremy Mahen Chanmugam, 30, who faced lesser charges of cocaine possession stemming from the same series of raids in October, has also skipped bail and is wanted by Singapore police.

Chanmugam missed two court hearings in December and January and is believed to have left for Sri Lanka to escape sentencing, according to local media reports.

Chanmugam, who was also represented by Anandan, was granted bail and allowed to keep his passport after he successfully sought permission to receive medical treatment for depression in Australia.