Mon, Jun 21, 2010
Swiss man in MRT graffiti case set to enter plea

By Idayu Suparto

SINGAPORE, June 21, 2010 (AFP) - A Swiss software consultant is expected to plead guilty to spray-painting a Singapore metro train with graffiti, an offence punishable by caning, court sources and local media said Monday.

Oliver Fricker, 32, appeared in court wearing a white shirt and striped blue tie, ignoring reporters' questions as he walked into the building for a brief pre-trial session prior to entering his plea on Thursday.

Fricker's lawyer Derek Kang did not comment on what plea they will enter but judicial sources familiar with such cases said the Swiss man is expected to enter a guilty plea in the hope of getting a more lenient sentence.

Singapore considers the intrusion a serious offence because its MRT transport system is believed to be the target of Islamic extremists in Southeast Asia, and the graffiti incident exposed security lapses.

The city-state is a close US ally often visited by American troops.

Fricker is out on bail of $100,000 and his passport has been impounded after prosecutors called him a flight risk.

Vandalism is punishable by up to three years' jail or a maximum fine of $2,000, plus three to eight strokes of a wooden cane, a punishment dating from British colonial rule.

In addition to the vandalism charge, Fricker faces two years' jail or a fine of 1,000 dollars, or both, for trespassing into a protected area.

Fricker's employer, Zurich-based Comit AG, which specialises in software for the financial industry, confirmed he had been suspended pending the outcome of the trial. He was about to return to Swizerland when he was arrested.

"He will be suspended until the court has made the decision, and after that we will decide how we will go forward," Comit AG's head of communications Christoph Oggenfuss told AFP.

Singapore has launched a global manhunt for Briton Lloyd Dane Alexander, believed to be Fricker's accomplice in the case.

A warrant of arrest was issued on June 8 and INTERPOL member countries were alerted to provide information on Alexander, who fled the country before a police report was filed.

Local media speculated that Alexander could have fled to Hong Kong.

Authorities believe Alexander and Fricker cut their way into the depot, a restricted zone surrounded by fences and topped with barbed wire, forcing metro operator SMRT to apologise for a "serious" security lapse.

SMRT said its staff mistook the graffiti for an elaborate advertisement, allowing the defaced train to ply its route for two days before it was investigated.

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