Baggage handlers who stole from luggage have damaged travel confidence: judge

TWO airport baggage handlers stole jewellery worth about $9,500 from the luggage of passengers in Changi Airport, in an act that the presiding judge in the case said had damaged the confidence travellers have in Singapore.

"You had been entrusted to ensure that the luggage be kept safely but you breached this trust," said District Judge Liew Thiam Leng on Tuesday. He then jailed Nagas Arumugam, 57, and and Geyabalan K. Ramiah, 53, to eight months in jail and six months in jail, respectively for the offences committed in 2010 and 2011.

Both are appealing against conviction and sentence and are out on bail of $15,000. They had been convicted of committing theft after a 12-day trial last year. Two accomplices had pleaded guilty and were jailed between nine weeks and 11 weeks.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhong Zewei had asked for a stiffer sentence for Nagas as he had exploited his position as team leader of the baggage handlers at the budget terminal in Changi Airport to mastermind the thefts. He added that the group had specifically targeted flights to India as they knew that the passengers' luggage would usually contain gold jewellery and other valuables. The loot was then pawned off and the proceeds split between them.

khush@sph.com.sg