SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): The couple, allegedly involved in a luxury goods scam related to undelivered items worth $32 million, were hauled to court on Friday afternoon (Aug 12).
Pi Jiapeng, 26, and his wife, Thai national Pansuk Siriwipa, 27, were each handed two charges of cheating and an additional charge of leaving Singapore illegally.
The court heard the duo were accused of being involved in a conspiracy between January and June to cheat customers of Tradenation and Trade Luxury.
The pair allegedly duped victims into believing they would be sold watches without any intention to deliver the items, the court heard.
The couple appeared together in court via video link and had their charges read to them.
Pi, who spoke in English, wore a dark green T-shirt, while Pansuk, who wore a black top, spoke through a Thai interpreter.
Pi told the court it was not right for them to leave Singapore illegally.
He said they were facing a lot of pressure at that point in time and have received many death threats.
He added: "It is our mistake to make that decision. We are really very sorry about the trouble brought to the ICA (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority).
"We will do our best with the SPF (Singapore Police Force) and investigations from now on."
District Judge Brenda Tan remanded the pair for a week, agreeing with the prosecution that Pi and Pansuk were proven flight risks.
The duo, who were unrepresented, each faces up to 10 years' jail and fine for each count of cheating.
For fleeing the country without presenting a passport, they can be jailed for up to six months and fined.
Pi and Pansuk had allegedly collected payments for luxury items - mostly watches - worth at least $32 million, before fleeing the country on July 4 without delivering the goods.
At least 180 reports have been lodged since June against the couple, who were wanted by the police and Interpol, the police had said on July 19.
The police had said on Thursday it received information on Wednesday from the Royal Thai Police that the couple were believed to be staying at a hotel in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
They were arrested at a budget hotel in Skudai, a 20-minute drive from the Causeway.
With the help of the Malaysian police, the couple were located on Thursday and handed over to the Singapore Police Force the same day.
Two Malaysian men - Mohamed Alias, 40, and Mohd Fazli Abdul Rahman, 38 - were earlier charged with allegedly assisting the couple to flee Singapore.