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StanChart robber David Roach sentenced to jail in Singapore 5 years after high-profile bank heist and escape

StanChart robber David Roach sentenced to jail in Singapore 5 years after high-profile bank heist and escape

David Roach stole more than S$30,000 from a Standard Chartered bank branch in Holland Village. (Photo: Singapore Police Force)

SINGAPORE: A man who robbed the Standard Chartered branch in Holland Village of S$30,450 before fleeing the country five years ago was sentenced by a Singapore court on Wednesday (Jul 7). 

Canadian David James Roach, 31, was given five years' jail and six strokes of the cane. He pleaded guilty to one charge of robbery and a second charge of transferring the criminal proceeds out of Singapore.

The sentence came exactly five years after Roach robbed the bank on Jul 7, 2016, by handing over a note to a pregnant bank teller and placing his hand in a black sling bag on the counter, pretending it was a gun.

The court heard that Roach entered Singapore on a social visit pass on Jun 29 that year in what was his first visit to the country. He had been travelling to various countries before that, his lawyer Anand Nalachandran told the court.

After arriving in Singapore, he hatched a plan to rob a bank. He made reconnaissance trips to the targeted bank to familiarise himself with the environment and facilitate a smooth exit. He also selected a specific outfit to be used only for the robbery so he could dispose of it to evade detection.

Roach stayed at three different hostels in the Chinatown area before the day of the robbery. 

On Jul 7, 2016, he left his hostel wearing dark jeans, a shirt and slippers and carrying a black haversack. Before entering the bank at Holland Avenue, he put on a grey sweater that he had bought at Bugis Junction for the robbery, a black cap and changed his slippers to shoes.

He took out a black sling bag from his haversack and entered the bank with it.

Roach approached the victim's counter at about 11am, placed his sling bag on the countertop and handed her a piece of paper that read: "This is a robbery. I have a gun in my bag."

The woman read the note and looked at Roach, who put his hand into his bag to give the impression that he had a weapon. 

Closed-circuit television footage played in court on Wednesday showed Roach with his hand in his black bag on the counter, pointed towards the woman. There were other people in the bank at the time, including a colleague who was on the victim's left.

Roach told the victim not to give him S$2 or S$5 notes. She believed that he had a gun and gave him cash of S$30,450 in an envelope, but also pressed the panic button to call for help.

After Roach left, the victim stood up and shouted that Roach was a robber. Two of her colleagues gave chase but could not catch up with him.

Roach changed his attire and took a taxi back to his hostel where he discarded the envelope and kept the cash. He went to Changi Airport, where he bought an AirAsia ticket for Bangkok and left at about 2.40pm.

READ: Manhunt for Standard Chartered bank robber at Holland Village

The Standard Chartered Bank branch at Holland Village sealed off amid a police investigation after a robbery on Jul 7, 2016. (Photo: Alicia Tantriady)

Thai authorities told Singapore police a few days later that they had detained Roach and charged him for carrying cash worth more than US$20,000 into Thailand.

He was given other charges in Thailand for bringing in Singapore currency, which are restricted goods in the country, as well as converting the currency into Thai baht.

READ: StanChart robbery suspect looks 'relaxed', healthy at Thai detention centre: Officials

He pleaded guilty in Thailand and was sentenced to 14 months' jail. He was released on Jan 10, 2018, and was taken to the United Kingdom en route to Canada a day later. 

Roach was detained while transiting through Britain as the Singapore Police Force had put in an arrest request.

After several failed attempts to resist extradition, Roach was handed over to the Singapore Police Force. This was after Singapore authorities agreed to a request from the UK not to cane Roach if he was found guilty.

The UK would not have extradited Roach otherwise, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a joint statement on Wednesday night. 

"This is because the UK’s extradition laws would prohibit the extradition of Roach to Singapore in the absence of such an assurance," the agencies said. 

"This assurance given to the UK is in recognition of the differing views that countries have on corporal punishment and does not affect Singapore’s long-held view that such punishment does not constitute torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or contravene international law."

The statement added: "The assurance was given solely to secure Roach’s extradition to Singapore to face justice for his crimes."

While the punishment for robbery includes mandatory caning, "the Singapore Government is working through the necessary procedures to fulfil the assurance given to the UK Government", said the agencies. 

David Roach was extradited to Singapore from the UK on Mar 16, 2020. (Photo: Singapore Police Force)

READ: StanChart robbery: Singapore agrees to UK request to not cane suspect if found guilty

He was charged in court in March 2020 and has been in remand for more than a year.

PROSECUTION ASKED FOR 6 YEARS' JAIL, 9 STROKES 

Deputy Public Prosecutor Marcus Foo asked for six years' jail and nine strokes of the cane, calling the case "a brazen act of robbery". The accused was "entirely unremorseful by virtue of repeatedly challenging extradition proceedings", he added.

He objected to the defence's request to consider the time Roach had spent in custody in other jurisdictions, saying that a signal must be sent to those who want to abscond in hope of evading justice. He also pointed to aggravating factors in Roach's case, including his "precisely orchestrated plan".

Defence lawyer Mr Nalachandran asked instead for four years' jail and the mandatory minimum of six strokes of the cane. He said Roach was having a major depressive episode at the time of the offences and presented an email from his travelling companion describing the state Roach was in before he came to Singapore from Thailand and before that, Nepal.

He argued against the prosecutor's submissions that Roach had specifically targeted Singapore, saying that Roach had travelled for about a year before the offences to multiple countries.

While acknowledging that no causal link was found between Roach's condition and the offences, the lawyer urged the court to consider the contributory link his depression had.

"We are saying the state of mind he was in at the time prevented him from understanding what his options were," said Mr Nalachandran. "The clearer and simpler solution if he needed money was to ask for help or to work, but that didn't occur to him."

The lawyer added that no physical harm was caused to anyone and that Roach did not have the intention to physically hurt or harm anyone.

He also said Roach did not make any restitution not because he did not want to but because Thailand has seized the cash. The bank's losses were covered by insurance, he added.

HE WAS AFRAID TO BE EXTRADITED: DEFENCE

Mr Nalachandran said the fact that Roach challenged his extradition to Singapore from the United Kingdom did not mean he is not remorseful.

"He was contemplating at that point in time what could have been 20 years in prison, and based on information he received about prison conditions, he was afraid. He didn't think he would survive, and in fact, at that point of his remand in the UK, he attempted to harm himself," he said.

Mr Nalachandran said his client looks back and regrets the decisions he made. He has spent five years in custody since and urged the court to consider his "unique mitigating factors".

A FUGITIVE FROM OUR LAWS: JUDGE

District Judge Luke Tan said it is clear that Roach committed daylight robbery "in a brazen, yet calculated and targeted manner".

He was "a fugitive from our laws" for five years, and while he did not actually have a gun at the time, the victim did not know that.

"Placing his hand in a bag that would purportedly have contained a lethal weapon placed on the counter mere metres from the victim's body ... carries a menacing message," said Judge Tan.

"The threat to the victim's life and limb was a real and immediate one. The victim was traumatised and suffered psychological harm as a result of the accused's actions."

The victim felt fearful for some time after. She would sit in a room all by herself and cry for about three weeks, the court heard.

Whenever she is reminded of the case, she feels uneasy and becomes scared again, the court heard. 

"Not a single cent was recovered nor restitution made," said the judge. "While counsel argued this was not possible because the money was seized and the loss ... was borne by insurers, this does not mean that no loss has been suffered. In this case, rather than the bank, it's the insurer that suffered the short end of the straw."

He said Roach's depressive episode should not be seen to have much of an impact on his culpability and hence his sentence, and that his actions showed that the robbery was clearly deliberate and not committed on impulse.

The judge backdated the jail term to the date of Roach's remand in Singapore in March 2020.

For robbery, Roach could have been sentenced to between two and 10 years' jail and at least six strokes of the cane.

For taking his criminal proceeds out of the country, he could have been jailed up to 10 years, fined up to S$500,000, or both.

Source: CNA/ll(cy)

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