Man burnt stolen Budget 2020 grocery vouchers as offering to late wife

Singaporeans living in one- and two-room Housing Board flats were eligible for the vouchers.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Upset he had not received grocery vouchers mailed to needy Singaporeans in October last year, he stole them from his neighbour's letterboxes.

When he did receive his own set of vouchers days later, Alvin Law Choon Huat, 47, kept the ones he had stolen. He used some of them to buy groceries and a vacuum cleaner, and burnt the rest as an offering to his late wife.

Yesterday, Law was jailed for a month for stealing four sets of vouchers worth $600.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of theft, with two other charges taken into consideration by District Judge Edgar Foo.

This is believed to be the first case of Budget 2020 grocery vouchers thefts dealt with in court.

Law, who was unemployed at the time of his offence, learnt about the vouchers in early October last year.

Singaporeans living in one- and two-room Housing Board flats were eligible for the vouchers, which were sent by mail in a set of 15 worth a total of $150.

When Law did not find any in his letterbox, he felt it was unfair and decided to check other letterboxes in his Marine Terrace neighbourhood.

He targeted letterboxes that were not secured or damaged, took sealed envelopes containing the vouchers and opened them at home.

He used at least 10 of the stolen vouchers at two supermarkets between Oct 11 and 13. This was caught on CCTV.

Law was nabbed on Oct 29. No restitution has been made.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim said Law's offences caused significant harm to the intended recipients of the vouchers who were deprived of financial help, and to the Government, who had to subsidise the cost.

Law, who did not have a lawyer, said he did not know what to do with the stolen vouchers once he got his own, and thought he would be arrested if he took them to the police.

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He asked to defer his sentence until Feb 15, adding that there was no one to take care of his teenage daughter.

In November last year, Second Minister for Finance Indranee Rajah told Parliament that 55 arrests were made over stolen grocery vouchers.

As of Oct 28 last year, less than 0.2 per cent, or 229 sets, of the grocery vouchers mailed out to 150,000 Singaporeans were reported stolen.

A second tranche of vouchers were given out last month, this time directly to the homes of recipients.

For theft, Law could have been jailed for up to three years, fined, or both.

This article was first published in The New PaperPermission required for reproduction.