German duo arrested over train vandalism

A vandalised SMRT train at Bishan Depot.

Two German nationals have been arrested for allegedly vandalising an SMRT train in Bishan Depot earlier this month.

The men, both 21, were nabbed by Malaysian police at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6pm on Thursday, and extradited to Singapore yesterday.

They are expected to be charged today with trespassing as well as vandalism, which carries a sentence of up to three years in jail or a maximum fine of $2,000, and a mandatory three to eight strokes of the cane.

The vandalism was detected on the morning of Nov 8, before the train entered service.

The police are still investigating how the two men, first-time visitors to Singapore, allegedly gained access to Bishan Depot to spray graffiti on a train. There was speculation that it had been an inside job after sources said no intrusion was detected, but the latest revelation raises fresh questions about security at SMRT's train depots.

This is the third breach at Bishan Depot since 2011, with two happening this year, despite improvements such as reinforced steel fences and intrusion detection systems. The depot at Changi was also breached in May 2010.

Yesterday, both SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said they would work with relevant parties to enhance the security of the transport network, but did not elaborate further.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chair Cedric Foo stressed the seriousness of such lapses. "LTA and SMRT must learn from these episodes to improve security, including possibly a multi- layer defence approach," he added.

Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Tan Chye Hee, the Criminal Investigation Department director, said at a briefing yesterday that the two Germans entered Singapore on Nov 4. They flew off on Nov 8 - the same day SMRT discovered the graffiti, which was made up of crude words and symbols of multiple colours scrawled across two train doors.

Preliminary investigations established that the men travelled to Bangkok at one point, and help from the Royal Thai Police was sought to trace them.

The Royal Malaysia Police later arrested the duo at the airport on Thursday evening before they boarded a plane to Australia.

SAC Tan said the pair were on a visa that allowed them to work and travel in Australia, but declined to specify which part of the country they were going to.

Based on their current passports, the men were visiting Singapore for the first time earlier this month, SAC Tan added.

He also said there was nothing to suggest the duo were responsible for the previous vandalism incident at Bishan Depot in May. But the police will look into this possibility, he added.

This article was first published on Nov 22, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.