Former chief priest of Sri Mariamman Temple charged with criminal breach of trust in S$2 million jewellery case
SINGAPORE: The former chief priest of Singapore's oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Mariamman Temple, was charged in court on Tuesday (Feb 16) with committing criminal breach of trust of ceremonial jewellery with a pawn value of more than S$2 million.
Kandasamy Senapathi, 37, was given five charges of criminal breach of trust as an employee and five counts under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.
Kandasamy is accused of taking gold ceremonial ornaments from the temple and pawning them repeatedly to shops between 2016 and 2020, rolling the cash.
The pawn value of the jewellery amounted to more than S$2 million, the prosecutor told the court.
Kandasamy, an Indian national, allegedly transferred more than S$141,000 in criminal proceeds out of the country.
Kandasamy's purported modus operandi was to take the jewellery, pawn them off and redeem them when he had the money in order to return the items to the temple, the court heard.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, he was unable to raise funds to redeem the items in time for some ceremonies, his lawyer said.
Kandasamy has since redeemed the pawned items and returned all the jewellery to the temple.
The police said in August last year that they were investigating Kandasamy after gold ornaments under his custody went missing.
The Sri Mariamman Temple, located in South Bridge Road, said in a statement at the time that gold prayer ornaments were kept under the custody of the chief priest in the inner sanctum of the temple.
Regular audits are done to ensure that the gold ornaments are physically accounted for, said the temple.
Kandasamy was terminated from his post as soon as the temple discovered the loss, said the Hindu Endowments Board on Wednesday in response to queries from CNA.
Kandasamy's lawyer asked for a lower bail amount, saying that his client, who is currently staying in a room in the temple, is a foreigner and is unable to raise a high amount of bail. He said Kandasamy had "spoken to some people" who were prepared to bail him out for S$80,000.
The prosecutor objected, saying that the accused poses a flight risk as he has no community or familial ties in Singapore and faces a maximum of 15 years' jail for criminal breach of trust.
The judge fixed bail at S$100,000, saying that it was an appropriate amount for "very serious offences" allegedly committed while he was in a position of trust.
Kandasamy will return to court next month. If convicted of criminal breach of trust while employed as a servant, he can be jailed for up to 15 years and fined. For removing criminal proceeds from Singapore's jurisdiction, he could be jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to S$500,000, or both.