A taxi driver who posed as a policeman and tied up three Indian nationals at a lodging house in Little India to rob them of more than $1 million was sentenced to eight years' jail and the minimum 12 strokes on Wednesday. Mohammad Ansari Abdul Hussain, 34, was the first in a gang of five to be convicted of last September's brazen robbery.
He pleaded guilty last month to the gang robbery of $917,657 from Mr Gulam Hussain Jalaludeen, 32, and impersonating a public servant. Seven other charges, including the robbery of a moneychanger at Beach Road, were considered during his sentencing.
The total amount taken was $1.3 million, of which $899,320 has been recovered. Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani told the court that Ansari and his friend, Magesan Ramasamy, 34, were facing financial problems.
During one of their meetings last year, they decided to rob moneychangers or those in the remittance business to solve their money problems.
The plan was for Ansari , Magesan and Mohamed Faizal Ajmalhan, 30, to wear police uniforms, while Arunachalam Lakshmanan, 34, and Chinnaya Antony Samy, 35, positioned themselves outside the two-storey lodging house at Dunlop Street.
The uniforms were provided by Ansari, a police reservist. On the morning of Sept 10, the three fake policemen forced their way into the premises, claiming they were conducting a check.
They went from room to room tying up the occupants with cable ties and taking $286,044, $917,657 and $70,000 from the three Indian nationals there. The robbers even left with a cash counting machine.
The trio escaped in a car with stolen number plates and drove to a multi-storey carpark in Upper Boon Keng Road, where they changed out of their police uniforms.
Then they went to Ansari's flat and divided the loot. Pressing for a stiff sentence. DPP Vaswani said the case was rife with aggravating factors, including how the gang carefully planned the robbery. He said Ansari "played an active role in this lawlessness".
District Judge Lim Keng Yeow agreed, noting the meticulous preparations and the way the gang carefully picked their victims. "The entire operation was designed and executed with a high level of sophistication and apparent professionalism far unlike a simple street gang robbery offence committed on the spur of the moment by immature novices," he said.
The fact that the accused pretended to be police officers was also highlighted as a critical aggravating factor by the judge. The cases against Ansari's four accomplices are pending.
The maximum penalty for gang robbery is 20 years' jail and caning. For falsely impersonating a public servant, the maximum punishment is two years' jail and a fine.
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