SINGAPORE - A Thai national who secured a job in Singapore to harass debtors on behalf of a loan shark was sentenced to 21 months' jail and six strokes of the cane on Wednesday (Nov 23).
Changchai Suriya, 33, pleaded guilty to two of five counts of committing acts to annoy flat occupants and causing damage to their property in August.
A district court heard that while overseas, Suriya was looking for a job through a forum called Singtip, where advertisements were put up to recruit people for jobs in Singapore.
He contacted a man called Ah Fei, and agreed to come to Singapore to work.
On Aug 11, Suriya reached Singapore and met Ah Fei at Golden Mile Complex. Ah Fei told him that the job entailed shaming people who owed him money. Suriya's job was to splash paint, use bicycle locks to lock the house and set fire to the premises.
Four days later, Ah Fei provided him with an address to set fire to.
At 2.15am that day, Suriya took a taxi to a block of flats in Marine Terrace. He defaced the second level wall beside the unit by using an indelible red marker to write the details of the debtor and setting fire to the unit by pouring Zippo fuel and lighting it.
He then used his mobile phone to take a picture of the acts of harassment to send to Ah Fei. A neighbour called the police.
Before this, Suriya had gone to a block at Tampines Street 42 and splashed black paint at the door of a unit, locked the main gate with a bicycle lock and defaced the third level wall beside the unit with loan shark graffiti.
It turned out that neither the victim nor his family members owed money to any loan sharks. He had moved in just one month earlier.
Suriya was arrested the next day. Police seized gloves, bicycle locks, black paint cans and red markers, among other things, from him.
The remaining three charges were taken into consideration.
For his harassment acts, he was paid $100.
Suriya, whose sentence was backdated to Aug 18, could have been jailed for up to five years, fined between $5,000 and $50,000, and given up to six strokes of the cane on each charge.