FOUR gang members who brazenly robbed three Indian nationals of more than $1 million in 2012 were sentenced to around 10 years' jail each and ordered to be given the maximum 24 strokes of the cane yesterday.
They had claimed trial - unlike taxi driver and police reservist Mohammad Ansari Abdul Hussain, 36, who is now serving eight years and a 12-stroke sentence.
District Judge Low Wee Ping said what was most significant and most ironic was that Ansari, the leader and "chief planner" of the gang robbery, decided to plead guilty and turn prosecution witness.
He said accused persons have the right and are entitled to claim trial and are not being punished for doing so.
"The court doesn't regard an offender who claimed trial or the fact that the offender claimed trial to be an aggravating factor."
He sentenced music teacher Magesan Ramasamy, 36, to 10 years and six months; Mohamed Faizal Ajmalhan, 32, to 10 years and four months; and construction workers Arunachalam Lakshmanan, 37, and Chinnaya Antony Samy, 38, to 10 years each, plus 24 strokes for each of them.
Apart from gang robbery, Magesan and Faizal were also found guilty of three counts of impersonating a police officer after a 29-day trial.
The robbers forced their way into the rooms of three businessmen at a lodging house in Dunlop Street on Sept 10, 2012.
After demanding their passports, the fake cops restrained the victims and their guests with flexi-cuffs and ordered them to sit or kneel, before taking about $1.27 million from them.
Indian nationals Arunachalam and Chinnaya, who had provided the rest of the gang with information about the victims, kept a lookout in the street. They believed the victims were carrying out illegal money remittance business.
Yesterday, the two men also pleaded guilty to one charge of robbery and another of attempted robbery. Together with Faizal, Ansari and Magesan, they had tried to rob cash from Mr Mohamed Arif Mohideen, a 64-year-old dispatch rider-cum-salesman, along Cecil Street on Sept 5 that year.
Mr Arif, who worked for a moneychanger, was walking out of RHB Bank with foreign currency he had exchanged when one of the gang members pulled his sling bag. He fell to the ground and two gang members tried to remove his bag without success.
Earlier on Aug 13, the two Indian nationals had robbed moneychanger employee Mohamed Eunos Mohammad Salleh, 66, of $74,730 along Beach Road. They had committed the robbery with Faizal and Ansari.
Pressing for a stiff sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Crystal Tan and Assistant Public Prosecutor Lim Yu Hui argued that the amount robbed appeared to be the highest ever taken in a gang robbery case.
Almost $900,000 of the money was recovered, leaving a large sum of $374,871 still unaccounted for.
The prosecutors said the gang robbery was premeditated and carefully calculated, and the preparations were highly meticulous.
Each of the four played equally important roles in the gang robbery, they said.
Gang robbery is punishable with up to 20 years in jail and at least 12 strokes of the cane.
The maximum penalty for robbery is 10 years' jail with no fewer than six strokes of the cane.