Singapore money changers urged to hire guards after rare robberies

Members of the public helping the man whose clothes were covered in blood at Raffles Green in the financial district on Nov 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF LEON LEE
Members of the public helping the man whose clothes were covered in blood at Raffles Green in the financial district on Nov 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF LEON LEE

SINGAPORE (AFP) - An industry group representing money changers in Singapore on Tuesday urged members to hire armed guards when transporting large sums of money, after two rare robberies in a city-state seen as one of the world's safest places.

Mr Mohamed Rafeeq, secretary of the 150-member Money Changers Association Singapore, said the body has asked its members to hire guards from Certis Cisco, Singapore's biggest private armed security provider.

"People suddenly seem to think money changers in Singapore are easy targets because we move large amounts of money," Mr Rafeeq told AFP.

"We are asking our members to take extra precautions by hiring Certis Cisco guards and also going in pairs when transporting money."

Two high-profile robberies in the low-crime city-state this month stunned Singaporeans, who are unused to such brazen crimes.

Three men - two Malaysians and a Singapore permanent resident - have been charged with attacking a money changer and robbing him of S$600,000 worth of currencies on Nov 5.

In a separate case, an Indonesian man has been charged with stabbing a compatriot in Singapore's banking district on Nov 14 in an alleged robbery.

The second incident, which left a trail of blood from the wounded man, stunned a lunchtime crowd at Raffles Place, where major bank offices as well as large-scale money changers are located.

It is not known if the Indonesian victim is a money-changer, but he was carrying multiple Asian currencies as well as cheques in a sling bag.

Mr Rafeeq said money changers in Singapore usually do not hire armed escorts when transporting currencies, in order to save costs.

Armed escorts can cost S$150 an hour, he said.

"Still, we tell our members to value life first. That's most important," he added.

Singapore, a regional financial hub, is known for its tough stance on crime. It retains the death penalty as punishment for serious offences while judicial caning can be imposed for some crimes including robbery.

The city-state's overall crime rate fell to a 30-year-low in 2013, with 549 criminal cases per 100,000 people, according to official data.

Armed robbery in Singapore is punishable by a minimum of two years in jail and at least 12 strokes of the cane.