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Swedish man jailed for trying to help Syrians travel illegally out of Singapore

Swedish man jailed for trying to help Syrians travel illegally out of Singapore

Travellers arriving at the immigration hall in Changi Airport Terminal 2. (File photo: TODAY)

SINGAPORE: A Swedish man engaged in a conspiracy to help two Syrian men travel illegally out of Singapore to Germany and Sweden was jailed for four months on Wednesday (Jun 26).

Suliman Karim, 27, was from Syria but is now a Swedish national. According to his defence lawyer Eric Tin, Karim managed to leave Syria for Sweden with his mother in 2007, but his brother was left behind.

While Karim was in Sweden last year, he met a man known only as Abu Jihad, who offered him the opportunity to get his brother from Syria to Sweden in return for "favours" to be carried out in Singapore. 

Karim accepted and flew to Singapore at least three times to carry out Abu's instructions. The details of the previous trips were not revealed in court, but Karim entered Singapore on Mar 25 this year, staying in a hotel Abu had arranged for him.

Throughout the trip, he kept in contact with Abu via secure messaging app Viber.

Three days after arriving in Singapore, Karim received flight booking details for two flights other than his own return flight - one from Singapore to Berlin, and another from Singapore to Stockholm, transiting in Zurich.


Both the additional flight bookings were in Karim's name, and on Mar 28, he went to Terminal 2 of Changi Airport, where he checked in for the flights and printed the boarding passes using his own Swedish passport.

He then went to the Terminal 2 Departure Transit area and met two Syrian men on Abu's instructions: Sewar Mirza Abdalla and Omar Mohammad Hussein, who are his co-accused.

The two men were transiting in Singapore on Abu's instructions, as Abu had been paid US$5,000 to arrange illegal transport for them from Syria to Germany and Sweden respectively.

Karim first signalled Sewar to follow him to the toilet, where he placed the boarding pass for the flight to Berlin on the basin, when no one else was around.

He talked Sewar through how to board the plane, giving him instructions on how to read the flight number and timing, and how to reach the appropriate boarding gate.

Sewar had been given a counterfeit Greek passport bearing Karim's name which he was to take the Berlin-bound flight with.

Court documents did not specify what the arrangements for the other Syrian man were.


Before the three men could take their flights out of Singapore, they were apprehended by Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers.

A case of a Swedish man and two Syrian nationals in possession of false Greek and Belgian passports had been referred to ICA's Special Investigation Branch for investigations.

The prosecution did not indicate how ICA got wind of the crimes, or whether the Syrian men were refugees.

Karim pleaded guilty to one charge of being party to a criminal conspiracy to commit cheating by personation, with another two similar charges taken into consideration.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Victoria Ting asked for four months' jail, which was the same sentence requested by defence counsel Tin.

Mr Tin in his client's mitigation plea said Karim's role was "limited to collecting and handing the boarding passes" to the two Syrian men, with "nothing sophisticated or complicated in what he did".

He said Karim worked as a supermarket supervisor in Sweden where he lived with his mother and girlfriend, and came to this plight as he wanted to bring his older brother to Sweden as their mother was worried about his safety.


The lawyer said Karim was not a member of any transnational migrant syndicate, and that there was no "terrorism element in this case".

"Karim has been in remand since 30 March 2019 due to his inability to get a Singaporean bailor," said the defence counsel. "His sojourn through our rigorous criminal justice process from arrest to investigations to remand to court appearances has served as a sobering lesson to him."

He said his client had been "made use of" by Abu, who exploited his strong desire to get his brother out of Syria.

"This is a sad case of a man who brought legal trouble to himself in a foreign land while trying to help a blood brother out of a war-torn country to whom both belong," said the lawyer.

For being party to a criminal conspiracy to cheat by personation, Karim could have been jailed for up to five years, fined, or both.

Sewar was sentenced to eight months' jail after being convicted earlier this month, while Omar was served a letter of warning in April this year, and had his charge withdrawn.

Source: CNA/ll(hm)


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