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Ex-baggage handlers acquitted of theft due to unreliable evidence

Two former baggage handlers were acquitted Wednesday (Sep 3) by the High Court. The Judicial Commissioner said the trial judge had placed undue weight on the “unreliable and inadequate” evidence of their supposed accomplice and prosecution witness.

SINGAPORE: Two former baggage handlers convicted of stealing jewellery from passengers on India-bound flights were acquitted Wednesday (Sep 3) by the High Court.

In overturning the convictions of Mr Nagas Arumugam, 57, and Mr Geyabalan K Ramiah, 56, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon said the trial judge had placed undue weight on the “unreliable and inadequate” evidence of their supposed accomplice and prosecution witness Selvakumar Kanniappan.

The two men, who worked for Asia-Pacific Star, a subsidiary of SATS, were sentenced by the State Courts in January for theft. At the time, the prosecution said the men had targeted flights to India as they knew the baggage would usually contain gold and other valuables.

Mr Nagas — who was known as the “skipper” of the team — was sentenced to eight months’ jail, while Mr Geyabalan was sentenced to six months’ jail. Selvakumar and another man said to have been their accomplice, Ashley Francis, were earlier convicted and jailed between nine and 11 weeks for the offences committed in 2010 and 2011.

On Wednesday, defence lawyers cited inconsistencies in Selvakumar’s evidence. For instance, he had pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing Indian rupees for which no other accused persons were involved, yet had insisted the thefts could only be committed with the other accomplices, said Mr Nagas’ lawyers, Mr Subhas Anandan, Mr Sunil Sudheesan and Ms Diana Ngiam.

Mr Geyabalan’s lawyer K Mathialahan argued that the trial judge had not duly considered the possibility that others could have committed the theft.

Both men told reporters after their acquittal that they wanted their former jobs back. Mr Geyabalan said he is now doing contract cleaning work. Mr Nagas, a part-time driver, said he had borrowed from relatives to pay his legal bills and that the three-year case had embarrassed his family. 

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