Thu, Jun 14, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Australian jumps bail in Singapore


An Australian man who faces a possible 20 years in a Singapore jail for allegedly trafficking marijuana has jumped bail, authorities said on Tuesday.

Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Michael Karras, 38, accused of trafficking in 495g of the drug, a Central Narcotics Bureau spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity because of department policy.

Karras, a musician reportedly from the city of Adelaide, failed to appear in court on May 9 for a pretrial hearing, his lawyer S.S. Dhillon said by telephone.

Karras' mother had provided the S$100,000 (US$64,950) needed to bail him out after his Jan. 9 arrest, Dhillon said.

Dhillon said the last time he saw his client was about a week before the hearing.

"I have not heard any news from him," Dhillon said, adding he did not know if Karras had fled the country.

Karras was arrested after anti-narcotics officers searched an eastern Singapore apartment the Australian shared with a 28-year-old Singaporean man, Ngo Pee Lin, who was also subsequently charged.

If found guilty of trafficking, both men face a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail and 15 strokes of the cane.

Singapore's execution of convicted Australian heroin trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van in December 2005 drew outrage from Australia's government and raised international appeals for the tightly controlled city-state to end the mandatory death penalty it imposes for some drug offenses.

Nguyen was arrested at Singapore's Changi Airport in 2002 while flying from Cambodia to the southern Australian city of Melbourne with 396g of heroin strapped to his back and in his carry-on luggage.

Singapore has some of the world's toughest drug laws, including death penalty for anyone caught with more than 15g of heroin or more than 500g of marijuana.

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