Viet gang held over shoplifting women's wear worth $26,000

Assistant Commissioner of Police Tan Tin Wee (fourth from left) and officers who helped bust the syndicate with the stolen goods. The police described it as the largest shop theft case, in terms of value and volume, that they have come across in rece
Assistant Commissioner of Police Tan Tin Wee (fourth from left) and officers who helped bust the syndicate with the stolen goods. The police described it as the largest shop theft case, in terms of value and volume, that they have come across in recent years.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Police arrested four Vietnamese nationals on Sunday for the suspected theft of 868 items from major clothing stores across Singapore, in the biggest case to date involving a shoplifting syndicate.

The two men and two women, aged between 26 and 31, are accused of stealing about $26,000 worth of women's clothing, including undergarments.

At a press conference yesterday, police described it as the largest shop theft case, in terms of value and volume, that they have come across in recent years.

The syndicate members had packed the items into tinfoil-lined paper bags to walk past the shops' anti-theft sensors undetected.

Based on closed-circuit television camera footage, the four did this multiple times at each shop. They were also seen carrying luggage bags in security footage which led police to suspect it was not a simple case of shop theft.

Checks are now being made to narrow down the period during which the four started their stealing spree.

Officers from Bedok Police Division arrested them in Chin Swee Road just over 24 hours after a police report was lodged on Saturday by the manager of a retail store in Pasir Ris Close.

Police said there were 529 bras among the items recovered. Several luggage bags, pliers and hangers were also seized.

Although such syndicates typically send stolen items in parcels back to the country they operate from, police believe the four Vietnamese could have planned to use the luggage bags to transport the stolen items out of Singapore before selling them.

The commander of Bedok Police Division, Assistant Commissioner of Police Tan Tin Wee, said the case "illustrates the close partnership between the police and retailers in fighting crime".

"The police will not tolerate foreign crime syndicates looking to operate here. Those found doing so will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The suspects are set to be charged in court today with theft in dwelling with common intention. If convicted, they face up to seven years in jail and a fine.

From January to June this year, there were 1,718 cases of shop theft reported. The crime has been on a downward trend in recent years. Last year, there were 3,800 cases of shop theft, a decrease from 3,919 cases in 2016 and 3,940 in 2015.

Even so, the police reminded retailers to remain vigilant against shop thieves and to adopt measures which include CCTV cameras at entrances and exits to capture the facial features of shoppers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2018, with the headline 'Viet gang held over shoplifting women's wear worth $26,000'. Print Edition | Subscribe