Two airport check-in workers jailed for accepting bribes to waive excess baggage fees

Ayyadurai Karunanithi (left) and Gerizim Kirubai Raj Deved are no longer working for the firms and the men who allegedly passed them the bribes are still at large.
Ayyadurai Karunanithi (left) and Gerizim Kirubai Raj Deved are no longer working for the firms and the men who allegedly passed them the bribes are still at large.PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two airport check-in workers have been jailed for accepting bribes totalling more than $1,000 for under-reporting the weight of passengers' bags.

Indian national Ayyadurai Karunanithi, a customer service associate for logistics service provider UBTS, received between $500 and $600 in total from a man known only as Muthu Raju.

Ayyadurai, a 47-year-old Singapore permanent resident, was jailed for nine weeks and ordered to pay a penalty of $500 on Friday (April 26) after pleading guilty to a corruption charge.

Singaporean Gerizim Kirubai Raj Deved, 35, who admitted to a similar offence, was sentenced to seven weeks' jail and ordered to pay $630.

While working as a customer service associate for Sats Asia Pacific Star, which provides ground-handling and in-flight catering services to low-cost carriers in Singapore, Gerizim received at least $630 from Indian national Gajendran Ramesh.

Gerizim and Ayyadurai are no longer working for the firms and the men who allegedly passed them the bribes are still at large.

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh said that Ayyadurai served Mr Muthu at the Scoot check-in counter at Changi Airport at around 8pm on April 12 last year and found out that his bag was overweight by 5kg. As a result, Mr Muthu was supposed to pay $20 per kg for the excess weight.

The DPP said: "Muthu told the accused that he could not repackage the baggage as it contained electronic items, and asked him to help waive the excess baggage charges. The accused agreed to do so on this occasion as he felt sympathy for Muthu."

 
 

About an hour later, Mr Muthu waited for Ayyadurai outside the Sats office and slipped $30 into his pocket. From then on, Ayyadurai received bribes from Mr Muthu in exchange for performing similar favours for people including the latter's friends.

Between April 12 and May 30 last year, Ayyadurai would under-report the weight of their bags approximately twice a week, on a total of 12 to 15 occasions.

Separately, Mr Gajendran approached Gerizim in January last year and asked him to under-report the weight of his bags in exchange for cash.

From then until last July, Gerizim received at least $630 from the Indian national.

The court heard that the offences came to light after The New Paper published a report last July on a baggage-touting syndicate operating at Changi Airport, whereby passengers would be asked if they wanted their excess baggage waived in return for cash.

DPP Koh said: "Should such corruption become endemic, there is also a risk of serious potential harm in air safety. It is for good reason that airlines charge fees for excess baggage weight in order to encourage passengers to purchase baggage allowance in advance.

"This ensures that the airline will be aware, well in advance of the flight, of the likely baggage load on the plane, which ensures proper planning for the purposes of air safety."

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