SEREMBAN: A businessman has claimed trial to a charge of criminal breach of trust after he failed to return the statue of a deity handed to him for repairs more than three years ago.
Datuk M. Natarajen, 39, pleaded not guilty after the charge was read to him before judge Diana Md Razali at the Sessions Court here on Wednesday (Oct 6).
He allegedly committed the offence between April and May 2018 at Kuil Sri Balathandayuthabani in Rantau near here.
According to the charge, the temple committee reportedly entrusted him with a statue of Lord Murugan for repair works but he failed to return it.
The accused, who was also a member of the temple committee, was said to have returned a statue which looked similar to the original.
He was charged under Section 406 of the Penal Code which provides a jail term of up to 10 years and whipping, and a fine, upon conviction.
Deputy public prosecutor Christhoper Enteri Anak Mawan then asked the court to set bail at RM200,000, saying that the statue had an estimated value of RM2.7mil.
However, lead counsel for the accused, M. Manoharan, asked for RM5,000 bail, saying that the charge was related to the theft of a statue made out of stone.
"The accused, who is a well-known Datuk, had also cooperated with police all this while.
"Also, the complainant is not anyone from the temple committee but his younger sister," he said.
A high bail, he said, would be tantamount to punishing the accused whose business had also been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Diana then fixed bail at RM20,000 with one surety.
The accused was also asked to surrender his passport to the court and told to report to the nearest police station every month.
She set Nov 10 for next mention.
Manoharan was assisted by S. Karthigesan and A.R. Thamayanthy.