Check-in worker jailed for accepting bribes at airport

Patel Hiteshkumar Chandubhai, who was sentenced to eight weeks in jail, was also ordered to pay an $800 penalty over a corruption charge.
Patel Hiteshkumar Chandubhai, who was sentenced to eight weeks in jail, was also ordered to pay an $800 penalty over a corruption charge. ST FILE PHOTO

An airport check-in worker accepted at least $800 in bribes in exchange for under-reporting the weight of bags belonging to passengers on Tigerair flights.

Indian national Patel Hiteshkumar Chandubhai, 37, who worked for logistics service provider UBTS between January 2015 and November 2016, was sentenced yesterday to eight weeks in jail. District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan also ordered him to pay an $800 penalty over a corruption charge.

According to court documents, Patel had taken the money from Gopal Krishna Raju, also 37, whose case is still pending.

Patel is the third man to be dealt with in court in the past few days for accepting bribes while working as a customer service associate at Changi Airport. Ayyadurai Karunanithi, 47, an Indian national who also worked for UBTS, was jailed for nine weeks and ordered to pay a penalty of $500 last Friday.

Singaporean Gerizim Kirubai Raj Deved, 35, who worked for Sats Asia-Pacific Star, was sentenced to seven weeks in jail and ordered to pay $630 as a penalty last Friday.

The company is a Sats subsidiary and it provides ground-handling as well as in-flight catering services to low-cost carriers in Singapore.

Yesterday, the court heard that Patel knew Gopal, an Indian national, through mutual friends.

 
 

Deputy Public Prosecutor Navin Naidu said Gopal ran a side business in which he bought gold in Singapore before sending it to Chennai in India to be sold there.

Gopal would not use a courier service, but would allegedly look for passengers travelling to Chennai and ask if they were willing to carry gold to the Indian city to pass to his relatives, who would then pay them. He allegedly went to Changi Airport up to 20 times a month to look for willing passengers.

In January 2016, Gopal allegedly offered to give Patel cash and meals in exchange for under-reporting the weight of the bags belonging to such passengers. Patel agreed to help him and accepted the bribes from January to October 2016.

The offences came to light after The New Paper published a report last July on a baggage-touting syndicate operating at Changi Airport.

The DPP, who urged the court to sentence Patel, who was unrepresented in court, to eight weeks in jail and to pay an $800 penalty, said any corrupt activity in the air travel industry threatens Singapore's reputation and national interests.

Offenders convicted of corruption can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2019, with the headline 'Check-in worker jailed for accepting bribes at airport'. Print Edition | Subscribe