S'porean cash smugglers 'meat' their match

ADELAIDE • Two Singaporeans busted in Australia for trying to leave the country with illegal cash of about A$520,000 (S$566,000) had tried to throw off airport sniffer dogs with steaks and chops stuffed in their suitcases.

Ryan Marc Pereira and Edward Choi Gou Hang, both 34, were caught red-handed at Adelaide Airport on Dec 4 last year, when a sniffer dog by the name of Utana approached one of them in the check-in area.

Suspicious, police searched their belongings and found A$270,000 alongside T-bone steaks in one bag and A$250,000 concealed beside a tray of lamb chops in another, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported.

They were arrested and charged with dealing with money suspected of being proceeds of crime.

Pereira was yesterday sentenced to 14 months behind bars but was ordered to serve only nine months of his term. Choi received 12 months' jail in the ruling, but will serve only six months.

The duo claimed that they had planned to take the meat home for consumption, according to South Australia-based news outlet The Advertiser. But district court judge Geraldine Davison yesterday did not buy the men's story.

"You have been caught not only red-handed with the money in the suitcases, but also having attempted to disguise the smell of the money from the detection dogs by the purchase and placement of meat in your suitcases," she was quoted as saying by The Advertiser.

The two men initially told police that they had won the money on the gambling tables after flying in from Singapore on Dec 2. But they later dropped their story and could not explain where the money came from.

Choi's lawyers argued that Pereira was the mastermind in the scheme, while Choi was merely a "mule". Pereira, a father of two whom the judge said had committed similar crimes in previous trips from Singapore to Adelaide, admitted that the cash could be proceeds of crime.

Based on time already served in custody, Pereira will be released on Sept 4 and Choi on June 4, according to AAP. They will be deported upon release.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'S'porean cash smugglers 'meat' their match'. Print Edition | Subscribe