Man jailed for stealing S$120k from passenger in one of the worst theft cases on flight

SINGAPORE: In one of the worst cases of theft onboard a plane, a man who stole cash worth about S$120,000 from a fellow passenger onboard a Singapore Airlines flight was sentenced to 30 months’ jail on Friday (June 21).

Chinese national Peng Hui, 54, pleaded guilty to four charges, including one for theft and one for bringing into Singapore cash over the legal limit without a declaration.

Deputy public prosecutors Eric Hu and Tung Shou Pin said the victim was a Singaporean jeweller who had gone to Bangkok and Hong Kong for two trade fairs.

He left Hong Kong on March 5, 2024, for Singapore on SQ899, and had in his backpack the sales proceeds from the fairs – US$131,100 (S$177,300) and HK$122,000 (S$21,200) in cash, as well as cash in other currencies with a total value of about $20,000.

He placed the bag in the overhead compartment that was just behind his seat, with the zipped compartment that held the cash left unlocked.

The prosecution said Peng, who was on the same flight, targeted the jeweller because he was carrying a large sum of cash, but court documents did not state how he knew that the backpack contained cash.

During the flight, Peng surreptitiously removed US$80,000 and HK$70,000 from the bag.

After landing at Changi Airport, Peng carried cash in various currencies totalling about $125,000 without declaring the sum to the authorities.

Those entering Singapore carrying a total value of physical currency exceeding $20,000 are required by law to submit a full and accurate report to the police.

Knowing from experience that casinos can change foreign currencies into chips, Peng went to the Marina Bay Sands casino and changed US$30,000 into chips and used them to gamble.

He later cashed out his chips and received about $42,400. This money indirectly represented his benefits from his theft, said the prosecution.

Peng then visited two remittance companies in People’s Park Complex and placed orders to remit various sums to his wife and brother in China.

He returned to the casino and changed another US$40,000 into chips, which again indirectly represented his benefits from his theft offence.

After another round of gambling, he cashed out his chips and received $51,400.

The victim realised that a large amount of cash was missing from his bag while he was in his office about three hours after he returned to Singapore. He rushed to the airport police post and made a report.

Peng was identified and arrested on March 6, 2024, at about 3am after intensive police investigations that required extensive trawling of security camera footage, use of intelligence resources and an ambush operation.

The prosecution said none of the remittance orders were fulfilled, as the police were able to stop the money from being sent to China.

The prosecution asked the court to sentence Peng to between 32 and 37 months’ jail, highlighting the need to punish him for daring to steal such a large sum and laundering it.

They said: “(The) immense stolen sum not only characterises this case as one of the worst-ever thefts onboard aircraft but also attracted substantial public outcry.

“Accordingly, the sentence must not only adequately punish the audacious theft but also deter would-be thieves from targeting Singapore-controlled aircraft.” - The Straits Times/ANN

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Singapore , theft , flight , SIA , court


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