Tourist duo jailed for $500k office burglary

After gambling away their cash at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino, two Vietnamese tourists came up with a plot to recoup their losses that some would think was bananas: to break into a fruit store.

Yet Nguyen Van Nhat, 23, and Ngo Quang Phuoc, 35, did just that, cutting through a safe to steal half a million dollars in cash.

Yesterday, the pair were jailed for 41/2 years each after pleading guilty to a charge of housebreaking at night to commit theft.

They caught a bus to Singapore from Malaysia on New Year's Day and checked into a Geylang hotel. The next evening, they lost a "significant amount of money" at the MBS casino, a district court heard.

Two days later, Nhat took Phuoc to Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre to show him the wholesale company where he used to work as a packer, Loh Ee Seng Trading Company.

The next morning, Phuoc suggested they steal money, and Nhat told him that he had seen his old boss keep cash in the second-floor office. They agreed that Phuoc would break in to steal it while Nhat acted as a lookout.

At about 12.40am on Jan 5, Phuoc entered from the rooftop after removing a ventilation fan. He then climbed a ladder and went through a window into the office.

Using an electric grinder, a screwdriver, safety goggles and a safety helmet, he spent nearly two hours cutting and hacking at a safe box.

He left with four bags of money. They were so heavy he had to leave one bag behind, the court heard.

After splitting the loot, the duo booked hotel rooms at MBS, then went on a shopping spree. They were nabbed in their rooms after the store owner reported a break-in. They could have been jailed for up to 14 years and fined.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Tourist duo jailed for $500k office burglary'. Print Edition | Subscribe