Fear for son's safety stopped moneychanger from fighting robbers

According to Mr Ali, he was in his car when men with ski masks forced the door open and took off with the cash which had been kept in the car's boot.
According to Mr Ali, he was in his car when men with ski masks forced the door open and took off with the cash which had been kept in the car's boot.PHOTO: SHIN MIN

Moneychanger robbed of $600k recounts ordeal

The victim of a brazen robbery in Aljunied Crescent on Wednesday said he would have fought back, but feared for his three-year-old son who was sleeping next to him in the car.

The 35-year-old moneychanger, Mr Ali, was robbed of more than $600,000 in cash by five men wearing ski masks in the open-air carpark at Block 110 just before 1am. The money was in the boot of his Hyundai car.

Recounting the "traumatic" experience, he told The Straits Times yesterday: "I wasn't worried for my life, but my son's. What if one of them does something to him?"

Mr Ali, who did not want his full name disclosed as he feared for his security, had collected the foreign currency from Changi Airport that night. He took his son along because the boy had been "disturbing" his mother, a teacher, and did not let her sleep.

And because the couple have to get up early for work, Mr Ali would sometimes leave his son at his father-in-law's home overnight. That was the plan on Wednesday.

When he arrived at his father-in-law's block, he parked in a handicap lot in an open-air carpark while waiting for his son to be picked up.

That was when he saw a Proton car with five men inside approach. "I tried to drive away, but the car blocked me. When I saw three men in masks alight the car, I knew something was very wrong," he said.

One of them was carrying a metal rod.

"I immediately locked the car door but they smashed my window. They punched me and tried to pull me out of the car."

The robbers forced the door open and eventually took off with more than $600,000 in cash.

Mr Ali, whose outlet is at The Arcade in Raffles Place, said he has been spending the last two days helping with police investigations. "I've been in Singapore for 10 years and I've never heard of something like that happening here. I'm very shocked it has happened to me. I'm very sad about it," said the Singapore permanent resident, who is from India.

He declined, "for safety reasons", to give details on why he was carrying such a large amount of money.

A 26-year-old relative who lives at Block 110 said that the incident has left the family distressed. They had been sleeping until they heard loud noises coming from downstairs.

Declining to give her name, she said: "We are all very stressed, these people must have been tracking us. We are so terrified that we cannot sleep at night. Even the three-year-old would say 'police' when he's sleeping."

Police investigations into the robbery are ongoing.

Moneychangers whom The Straits Times spoke to said that it is quite rare to carry such a large amount of cash around.

Mr Mansoor Ali, who works in Lucky Plaza, said: "We usually don't carry such a large amount at one go, maybe just $10,000 or $20,000. Even if we buy the currency, we go only to nearby places or banks."

Mr A. Haffan, a manager of a moneychanging outlet at The Arcade, said some moneychangers are wholesalers who sell currencies to other businesses, and these people carry more money around.

But he added: "Most of the wholesalers normally engage the services of Certis Cisco officers, because it's a very large amount of money to be carrying on your own."

limyihan@sph.com.sg