In-flight thefts taking off

In-flight thefts taking off

SINGAPORE - Another man has pleaded guilty to stealing on board a plane, adding to a significant trend over the past two years.

Last year, 36 people were arrested for the crime; the number is 26 for this year so far.

When The New Paper first broke the story on in-flight theft in May last year, 18 reports had already been received by the police.

Last Friday, the court heard that Yue Liangfu, 32, was on board a SilkAir flight from Singapore to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh last month when he opened the overhead compartment and took an elderly passenger's trolley bag to his seat two rows away.

Yue rummaged through the 69-year-old Cambodian man's bag before placing it back overhead.

He pleaded guilty to stealing the bag on July 12 and was due to be sentenced yesterday.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Krystle Chiang, who previously sought three months' jail for the man, asked for 12 months' jail.

The highest jail term for such an offence has been three months.

The significant rise in the number of such cases in the last two years suggests that court sentences have not sufficiently deterred these cases, she argued.

Police have assessed there is one or more organised crime syndicates targeting Singaporecontrolled aircraft, with offenders likely to be working in pairs and targeting cash.

The most recent case was reported last Wednesday.

A male suspect was seen taking a victim's sling bag from the overhead compartment while the victim was sleeping.

The victim later found 1,500 yuan (S$310) missing. But the suspect had left Singapore and could not be arrested.

DPP Chiang noted that such offences are hard to detect and prosecute as witnesses and offenders often leave the country easily soon after arriving in Singapore.

"This explains the fact that the conviction figures are significantly lower than the arrest figures, which are in turn lower than the number of cases reported," she said.

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