SINGAPORE: To fund his illegal over-staying in Singapore, a Bangladeshi man hatched an elaborate plot to rob a pawn shop, including the donning of a pink turban, creating his own fake weapons and shaving off his facial hair in his escape.
However, 30-year-old Sheikh Md Razan failed to pull off the robbery of ValueMax Pawnshop in Boon Lay in July last year.
The immigration offender was sentenced to three-and-a-half-years' jail and 18 strokes of the cane on Monday (Sep 30) for five charges including attempted armed robbery, exhibiting imitation arms and overstaying in Singapore.
Another five charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
ORIGINALLY ARRESTED FOR SUSPECTED CRIMES, RELEASED ON SPECIAL PASS
The court heard that Sheikh had been arrested at Changi Airport on Feb 13, 2017, while leaving Singapore.
He was found with cash, phones and jewellery on him that police suspected were related to crimes.
He was remanded and later released with a two-year conditional warning for the offences, and issued a special pass from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) for him to stay in Singapore pending an inquiry on how the items were to be disposed of.
Instead of reporting to ICA to renew his pass every two weeks, Sheikh overstayed in Singapore since Dec 9, 2017, for more than 200 days.
While he was here, he worked illegally to sustain himself, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Chua, and arranged for someone in his home country to forge work permits for him under different names.
With the fake permits, he got a job as an odd job worker and later a part-time painter and handyman, but could not support himself and relied on his family in Bangladesh, who sent him money.
NOT ENOUGH MONEY, DECIDED TO ROB
"Sometime before Jul 26, 2018, the accused decided that he had to rob in order to solve his financial problems," said the prosecutor.
Sheikh decided to target jewellery shops, believing they had fewer security features and guards than banks did.
He also decided to disguise himself with a turban, as he has observed that his Sikh roommate's face was partially covered when he wore his headdress.
He also thought that he could throw the police off his trail by disguising himself as a member of a different ethnic group, the court heard.
In preparation for the robbery, Sheikh bought clothing, spectacles and materials to make turbans from Bugis and Arab Street, before asking his Sikh roommate to help him tie a turban.
He made his own fake bomb belt and gun with components from a battery-operated toy dog, as well as a metal pipe and tape.
Armed with the fake weapons and a chopper with a 21cm-long blade, Sheikh set out to commit robbery with his disguise, a shaving blade and a change of clothing in his backpack.
HE SETTLED ON BOON LAY VALUEMAX PAWN SHOP
He travelled to a few places around Singapore with the turban on, looking for a suitable shop to rob before settling on the ValueMax shop at 301 Boon Lay Way.
He equipped himself with the fake bomb belt, fake gun and chopper under a blazer and waited for customers to leave before entering the pawn shop and demanding money from the workers.
Sheikh declared that he had a bomb, flashing it at two of the four employees there, and threw a drawstring bag through the metal bars separating him and the workers.
He ordered them to place money and jewellery inside the bag, before flashing his fake gun.
The staff members either hid, snuck away, or stood frozen in fear, and Sheikh realised he was not going to succeed in his attempt.
He removed the fake bomb belt from his waist and placed it on the counter before fleeing the scene.
There was about S$72,000 in cash and S$15.5 million worth of jewellery in the pawn shop that day, said the prosecution.
ALARMED ONLOOKERS GATHER, POLICE ARRIVE
After Sheikh left, the branch manager grabbed the bomb belt from the counter, ran out of the shop and threw it several metres away towards an open space, thinking it was real.
He then ran into the nearby Boon Lay MRT station to call for help.
"By the time the police arrived, a large crowd of alarmed onlookers had gathered," said the prosecutor.
Police created a large cordon and had two MRT exits closed, along with all exits at Jurong Point mall closest to the fake bomb belt.
Various officers were dispatched to the scene including those from the bomb explosive branch, who checked the fake bomb belt.
"After an operation that lasted close to two hours, the police ascertained that the bomb belt did not contain explosives and seized the dismantled components," said the prosecutor.
ARRESTED AFTER FIVE-DAY MANHUNT
Meanwhile, Sheikh was on the run. He discarded the fake gun and chopper, shaved off his beard and moustache, changed his clothes and took four different buses and a taxi to shake the police off his tail.
He was arrested at Sultan Mosque on Aug 1, 2018, after a five-day islandwide police manhunt.
The prosecution had pushed for the sentence that was eventually meted out, saying the attempted robbery was "brazen, highly premeditated and caused immense public disquiet".
Defence lawyer Siraj Shaik Aziz, who was representing Sheikh under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, had agreed with the total sentence asked for by the prosecution, but differed in the specific sentence for the attempted armed robbery charge.
He pointed out that Sheikh had not managed to rob anyone, and did not damage the pawn shop nor had any accomplices in his attempt.
He is unlikely to reoffend, said the lawyer, as he will be deported after he serves his sentence.
Sheikh is determined to turn over a new leaf and restart his life in Bangladesh, said the lawyer, and is deeply ashamed to have disappointed his family.
District Judge Teo Guan Kee agreed with the prosecution that Sheikh's attempted robbery displayed "a high level of planning".
For attempted armed robbery, he could have been jailed between two and seven years and given at least 12 strokes of the cane.
For exhibiting an imitation firearm when committing robbery, he could have been jailed for up to 10 years and given at least three strokes of the cane.