Chinese businessman jailed for theft on Tigerair

SINGAPORE - A businessman who stole a laptop bag from a fellow airline passenger was jailed for nine months on Thursday - now the minimum sentence for such an offence.

Businessman Li Xiangyang, 44, is the second man this week to be given the sentence. He pleaded guilty to theft on board the Tigerair flight from Guangzhou to Singapore on July 5.

A district court heard that the victim, Mr Peh Boon Chong, 43, had placed the laptop bag containing his computer and credit cards in the overhead compartment above his seat. When the plane was about 30 minutes away from landing, he got up to retrieve the bag but could not find it.

He told flight attendant Siti Zahidah, 28, who then searched all the overhead compartments. She found it nine rows behind where the victim was seated.

When she asked around, a tour guide from China told her that he saw Li step out onto the aisle and take the laptop bag from the overhead compartment. Li had then moved it towards the last row.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ruth Teng said there was no reason for Li, from Jiangxi province, to have done that. Furthermore, his allocated seat was towards the front and not the back of the aircraft.

Li said he was sorry and could lose his job if the jail term was too long.

On Tuesday, a Chinese national from Henan province, Yue Liangfu, 32, was jailed for nine months for stealing a bag from another passenger on board a SilkAir flight from Singapore to Phnom Penh in June.

Senior District Judge See Kee Oon had said then that statistics showed an alarming rise in the number of reported cases. There were 43 last year, and 35 for the first 6½ months of this year.

Sentences passed in similar cases dealt with this year have generally ranged from six to 12 weeks.

Judge See said such crimes were easy to commit but hard to detect. The maximum penalty is three years and a fine.

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