A farmer from China who pinched a bag from a fellow Singapore Airlines passenger was jailed for a year yesterday.
Jiang Zhijun, 32, pleaded guilty to stealing Mr Pascal Blanchet's trolley bag while on a flight from Singapore to Surabaya, Indonesia, at 8.45am on March 25.
He also admitted trying to steal another bag from businessman Krishnan Suppaiah, 40, earlier.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Dwayne Lum told the court that 40 minutes after take-off, Jiang opened the overhead compartment and tried to steal Mr Suppaiah's black trolley bag, but was spotted by the Singaporean who took his luggage back.
Jiang returned to his seat but about 15 minutes later, Mr Suppaiah saw him walking up and down the aisle before taking another black trolley bag from an overhead compartment and carrying it into a toilet.
Mr Suppaiah alerted two cabin crew members, who found that the bag belonging to Mr Blanchet - a 48-year-old French national - was missing.
They went to confront Jiang but he refused to open the toilet door.
About 20 minutes later, he opened it slightly and a stewardess stopped him from closing it again by putting her hand through the gap. She and her colleague managed to get in and retrieve the bag.
The pilot reported the matter to the Indonesian authorities who denied him entry into the country, and he was flown back to Singapore where he was arrested.
District Judge Low Wee Ping told the Henan native that the offences he had committed were quite despicable.
"Once we could travel in a plane, assured that our luggage was safe. Now, because of you and similar offenders, our in-flight belongings are no longer safe," he said.
"The courts have been imposing deterrent sentences, yet you continue to commit these offences."
Jiang, whose sentence was backdated to his remand on March 27, asked for leniency, saying he realised his wrong-doing.
He said his mother was ill, and there was no one to look after his two children.
He could have been jailed for up to three years and fined for theft.
For attempted theft, he could have been jailed for up to 18 months and fined.
This article was published on May 16 in The Straits Times.
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