Jail for man who threw Molotov cocktail into house compound on loan shark's behalf

Chan Suan Guan leaving the State Courts on Jan 3, 2022. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A man who had borrowed more than $30,000 from unlicensed moneylenders decided to work for one of them and flung a Molotov cocktail into the garden of a house where a debtor lived.

The aunt of an occupant managed to extinguish the flames with water from a garden hose, and the police arrested delivery driver Chan Suan Guan three days later.

In an unrelated incident, Chan, now 24, also caused a motorcyclist's death while driving a van last year.

The Singaporean was on Thursday (Feb 3) sentenced to a year and 11 months in jail, three strokes of the cane and a fine of $63,000.

He was also disqualified from holding or obtaining all classes of driving licences for eight years from his date of release.

Chan will spend an additional seven weeks behind bars if he is unable to pay the fine.

He had pleaded guilty to three charges linked to loan shark-related activities.

He also admitted to one count each of causing the motorcyclist's death by driving "without due care and attention" and an offence under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act.

In late 2017, Chan, who was facing financial difficulties, took loans from unlicensed moneylenders.

One of them later offered him a job to harass debtors by acts such as setting fire to their homes for a salary of $1,000. The court heard that Chan accepted the offer.

An unlicensed moneylender, known only as "Kimberly", also told Chan that he could "offset" his debts if he handed over his bank accounts so that they could be used for her loan-sharking business.

She offered to offset $250 weekly per bank account until Chan cleared his debt.

On Dec 5, 2019, he met one of her runners in Paya Lebar and gave the latter his ATM card linked to a bank account as well as its personal identification number.

Chan committed a similar offence in Bendemeer Road on April 1, 2020.

On April 25 that year, Chan received instructions from an unknown unlicensed moneylender to carry out harassment by fire at a house in the Yio Chu Kang area.

He then left his home without reasonable excuse during the circuit breaker period to commit the offence.

Singapore imposed a circuit breaker between April 7 and June 1, 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim said: "When he reached the residence, the accused placed the debtor note underneath the gate and took out a lighter and ignited tissue papers which he had stuffed into the glass bottle of thinner, thus improvising a Molotov cocktail.

"He then threw the Molotov cocktail into the garden at the first floor of the residence. This led to a fire breaking out on the grass patch in the garden of the residence. The accused recorded a video of this and left."

A woman who was living in the house saw the fire and alerted her family members. Her aunt then extinguished the flames with water from a garden hose.

On Thursday, District Judge Marvin Bay said that using a Molotov cocktail was the "most serious level of moneylender harassment" due to the high potential of harm that could be caused.

Separately, Chan was driving a van along the Pan-Island Expressway some time before 5.20am on Jan 2 last year when he failed to control the vehicle.

It hit a 39-year-old man who was at a road shoulder with his stationary motorcycle. A paramedic later pronounced him dead at the scene.

The court heard that it was raining at the time of the accident and the road was wet.

Chan's bail was set at $25,000 on Thursday and he was ordered to surrender himself at the State Courts on Feb 17 to begin his sentence.

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