Man jailed 18 months for $120k theft on flight, largest amount this year

SINGAPORE - A Chinese national was jailed for 18 months on Tuesday after stealing almost $120,000 from a fellow passenger on a plane.

Zhou Haiyou, 41, pleaded guilty to theft on a Tiger Airways flight from Macau to Singapore on Oct 24. The loot, which comprised $104,000 and HK$86,000 ($14,137.30) in cash, was the largest sum stolen in seven cases dealt with this year.

The court heard that around 9.05pm that night, Zhou took a hand carry bag belonging to compatriot Hu Jingang, 51, from the overhead compartment while the businessman was sleeping.

After returning to his seat, Zhou took money at random from the bag, which contained $360,000 and HK$105,000 ($17,260), as he did not want it to be obvious that cash had been removed. He hid the loot in the seat pocket in front of him and replaced the bag.

But Mr Hu later grew suspicious after inspecting the bag and noticing it was not fully zipped. He told the cabin crew what had happened and Zhou was arrested.

On Tuesday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Yvonne Poon called for a nine-month jail term, saying there was a continuing need to deter such offences from happening. She pointed out how, among other things, the sum Zhou took had been considerable.

It was by the "sheerest fortune" that his actions had not gone undetected, Ms Poon added.

District Judge Christopher Goh sentenced Zhou to 18 months' prison - twice the length asked for by the prosecution.

Sentences for the six other cases to be dealt with this year have ranged from eight to 22 months in jail.

Zhou could have been jailed for up to three years and fined.