SINGAPORE - Police have arrested four Vietnamese nationals for 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 on Monday (Sept 17), police described it as the largest value and volume of shop theft that they have come across in recent years.
The syndicate members had packed the items into tin foil-lined paper bags to walk past the shops' anti-theft sensors undetected.
Based on closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, the four did this multiple times at each shop. They can also be seen carrying luggage bags in the 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 when the four started their stealing spree.
Officers from Bedok Police Division arrested them along Chin Swee Road on Sunday (Sept 16) just over24 hours of a police report lodged by the manager of a retail store in Pasir Ris Close.
Of the items recovered, police said there were 529 bras. 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 items out of Singapore before selling the stolen items.
Commander of Bedok Police Division, Assistant Commissioner of Police Tan Tin Wee, said: "This 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 will be charged in court on Tuesday with theft in dwelling with common intention.
If convicted they can face up to seven years' jail and a fine.
From January to June this year, there were 1,718 cases of shop theft reported.
The crime had 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, 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.