SINGAPORE - The couple allegedly linked to a scam involving luxury bags and watches worth $32 million were arrested at a budget hotel in Skudai, a 20-minute drive from the Causeway.
Plainclothes Malaysian police officers caught Pi Jiapeng, 26, and his wife, Thai national Pansuk Siriwipa, 27, by surprise as the pair were about to check into the BookMe Hotel in Johor Bahru at about 11pm on Wednesday (Aug 10).
A staff member from the hotel told The Straits Times: "The couple were not staying at the hotel. They were checking in when the police came for them.
"It all happened very fast and they were taken away within five minutes."
A screengrab off the hotel's closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera system showed two police officers standing next to the couple as they sat on a bench at the hotel lobby.
Checks showed the hotel, which has 34 rooms, charges $25 for a night for its deluxe queen room.
The staff member told ST that the hotel management is aware that police were there on Wednesday night.
The couple returned to Singapore under police escort on Thursday to face charges of criminal conspiracy to commit cheating and illegal departure from Singapore.
Pi and Pansuk were seen in casual clothing at about 6.15pm at the Woodlands Checkpoint, flanked by Singapore police officers carrying two black bags believed to contain the couple's belongings.
At least 180 reports have been lodged since June against the couple after they allegedly failed to deliver luxury watches and bags.
Victims claimed that they had given the couple advance payments for the items. They include one man who paid $280,000 for two Rolex watches and a Patek Philippe watch.
Pi and Pansuk were called up by the Singapore Police Force (SPF), with Pi given bail on June 28 while Pansuk's passport was impounded on June 30.
The couple became uncontactable and fled Singapore on July 4, and a warrant of arrest was subsequently issued against the duo on July 16.
An Interpol red notice was later issued against the two.
SPF said they had received information on Wednesday from the Royal Thai Police indicating the couple may be staying in a Johor Bahru hotel.
"The SPF immediately sought the assistance of the Royal Malaysia Police to locate the couple," said SPF.
"The warrant of arrest was executed by the Royal Malaysia Police in Johor Bahru on Aug 11."
The couple appeared in court on Friday afternoon via video link as their charges were read to them.
Pi and Pansuk were each handed three charges – two for cheating and one charge of leaving Singapore illegally.
They had allegedly duped victims into believing they would be sold watches and luxury handbags, but without any intention to deliver the items, the court heard.
District Judge Brenda Tan remanded the pair for a week as they were proven flight risks.
Two Malaysians have been charged for helping them flee the country.
Pi and Pansuk each face up to 10 years’ jail and fine for each count of cheating.
For fleeing the country without presenting a passport, they can be jailed for up to six months and fined.