Man gets five years and eight months for misappropriating watches worth $1.3m and pawning them

SINGAPORE - A senior supervisor of a duty-free shop in Changi Airport misappropriated $1.3 million worth of luxury watches and pawned them for $493,000, a district court heard.

To cover his tracks, Tan Wei Shen, 32, would indicate in the shop's stock-count list that the watches had been sent to the service centre for repairs.

He committed 38 offences, including one of criminal breach of trust (CBT) as a servant, when he was employed by Shilla Travel Retail at the Maison De Chromus shop at the Terminal 3 Departure Transit between December 2015 and June 2016.

On Monday (Oct 9), he was sentenced to five years and eight months in jail after admitting to one CBT of 46 watches and six charges under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act. The remaining 32 charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Vikneswaran Kumaran said Tan misappropriated the 46 watches comprising one Chopard, 16 Jaeger-LeCoultre, six IWC, three Piaget, 12 Breguet and eight Blancpain models over the six-month period.

Investigations showed that some time in May 2016, Tan converted a misappropriated Jaeger-LeCoultre watch by handing it to a representative of Bedok Pawnshop and received $25,000 for it.

Shilla discovered a shortfall of watches during its stock checks in December 2015 and April 2016.

When queried, Tan lied that the watches had been sent for servicing. Shilla trusted his account and no further verification was conducted with the service centres.

In June 2016, a retail manager of the shop became suspicious when he discovered a shortfall of Breguet watches. He checked the stock list, which indicated that Tan had sent the watches for servicing.

He then checked with the service centre and discovered that none had been sent for servicing.

When he confronted Tan on June 17, 2016, Tan admitted to misappropriating the watches and was arrested the same day.

Tan said he had spent most of the money on gambling.

A total of 45 watches were recovered from Sin Lian Pawnshop in New Upper Changi Road and Bedok Pawnshop in Bedok North Street 1.

Tan's lawyer K. Jayakumar Naidu said in mitigation that his client had initially misplaced some watches which he was supposed to send for repair. In order not to let the management know, Tan borrowed from friends and his father took loans from loan sharks.

Tan, he said, continued to take watches from the shop, and used the money he received to redeem them every month.

The lawyer said Tan was deeply remorseful for his "selfish actions", had learnt a bitter lesson, and would not repeat them.

Tan could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined for criminal breach of trust as a servant; and fined up to $500,000 and/or jailed for up to 10 years for each of the other offences.