Third man jailed for accepting bribes in exchange for under-reporting weight of bags at airport

Indian national Patel Hiteshkumar Chandubhai was also ordered to pay an $800 penalty after he pleaded guilty to a corruption charge.
Indian national Patel Hiteshkumar Chandubhai was also ordered to pay an $800 penalty after he pleaded guilty to a corruption charge.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - 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 on Monday (April 29) to eight weeks' jail.

District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan also ordered him to pay an $800 penalty after he pleaded guilty to a corruption charge.

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

Patel was the third man to be dealt with in court in the last 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' 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.

 
 

On Monday, 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 back to Chennai to be sold there.

Gopal would not use a courier service, but would allegedly look for passengers travelling to Chennai - whether his friends or strangers - and ask if they were willing to carry gold to Chennai to pass to his relatives there, who would then pay these passengers.

DPP Naidu also told the court that Gopal would go to Changi Airport up to 20 times a month to look for these 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, who was unrepresented in court, 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 to eight weeks' jail and to give him a penalty of $800, said any corrupt activity in the air travel industry threatens Singapore's reputation and national interests.

He added: "The harm in this case, however, goes far beyond the lost excess baggage fees. Instead, there is potential detriment to confidence in the administration of public services in Singapore, the reputation of a well-known key strategic industry, and even to air safety."

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