2 airport baggage handlers jailed for stealing jewellery

SINGAPORE - Traveller confidence in Singapore had been damaged by two airport baggage handlers who stole jewellery from the luggage of passengers, a judge said on Tuesday.

"You had been entrusted to ensure that the luggage (would) be kept safely but you breached this trust," District Judge Liew Thiam Leng told the pair.

He then jailed Nagas Arumugam, 57, for eight months and Geyabalan K. Ramiah, 53, for six months.

The two men are appealing against both the conviction and sentence and are out on bail of $15,000 each. They had been convicted of committing theft after a 12-day trial last year.

Two accomplices had pleaded guilty and were jailed last year for between nine weeks and 11 weeks.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhong Zewei had asked for a stiffer sentence for Nagas as he had exploited his position as team leader of the baggage handlers at the Budget Terminal in Changi Airport to mastermind the thefts.

He had added that the group targeted flights to India as they knew the passengers' baggage would usually contain gold jewellery and other valuables. The loot was pawned and the proceeds split between them.

Nagas and Geyabalan were involved in stealing about $9,500 worth of jewellery.

At the end of the trial, Nagas was convicted of four theft charges but acquitted of five charges of assisting in pawning the stolen jewellery.

Geyabalan was also convicted of four theft charges. He was acquitted of four other thefts.

Pleading for a lenient sentence, defence counsel Sunil Sudheesan told the court that Nagas was sacked after his arrest in September 2011 and now works as a driver, earning $1,200 a month. Mr K. Mathialahan, acting for Geyabalan, said his client now works as a "helper" in a transport company but did not divulge the salary.

On each charge of theft, they could have been jailed for up to three years and fined.


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