‘Our mistake’ to flee Singapore: Couple accused of cheating in Tradenation luxury goods scam charged
Pi Jiapeng said it was "not right" for him and his wife Siriwipa Pansuk to have fled Singapore, adding that they faced "a lot of death threats and pressure".
SINGAPORE: The couple at the centre of an alleged multi-million-dollar luxury goods scam were charged in court on Friday (Aug 12), a day after they were handed over to Singapore police following their arrest in Malaysia.
Singaporean Pi Jiapeng, 26, and his wife, 27-year-old Thai national Siriwipa Pansuk, had been on the run for five weeks.
They each face three charges, of which two are for conspiracy to cheat.
Pi and Pansuk are accused of cheating customers of Tradenation between May 28, 2021 and Jun 27 this year by deceiving them into paying for luxury watches that they did not intend to deliver.
They are also accused of cheating customers of Tradeluxury into buying luxury handbags between Jan 15 and Jun 27.
The remaining charge is for illegally leaving Singapore via Tuas Checkpoint on Jul 4.
The pair appeared in a district court via video link from remand. Pi was dressed in a green shirt, while Pansuk wore a black dress.
When the judge asked if they had anything to say, Pi said it was "not right" for them to have fled the country.
"It's due to the pressure that we face during that point of time. Me and my wife are facing a lot of death threats and pressure," he said.
"It is our mistake to take that decision and we are really very sorry about the trouble."
He added that they would "do our best" to work with the police in their investigations.
Through a Thai interpreter, Pansuk said: "I know that I have done something wrong. I will cooperate with the police officers for the investigation."
Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh described the two cheating charges as "holding charges", adding that investigations were still at an early stage.
This is because the couple absconded, and because time was needed to investigate the more than 180 police reports made, he said.
The judge granted the prosecution's request for the pair not to be offered bail as they were "proven" flight risks, and to be remanded for further investigations.
They will return to court next week. Pi and Pansuk are both currently unrepresented.
At least three scam victims turned up at the State Courts to attend the hearing.
One victim said it was a "relief" that the couple has been charged, but another said there is still the question of where their money is. Both men did not want to be identified.
While some media reports said the total value of the undelivered luxury goods was S$32 million, CNA understands that victims who made police reports have not received products worth at least S$20 million as of Jul 17.
Pi was first arrested in June on suspicion of cheating. His passport was impounded and he was released on bail. Pansuk also surrendered her passport to the police and was assisting with investigations.
The couple subsequently became uncontactable and fled Singapore via Tuas Checkpoint on Jul 4. They hid in the container compartment of a Malaysia-registered lorry.
Two men charged with helping the couple flee Singapore - Malaysians Mohamad Fazli Abdul Rahman, 38, and Mohamed Alias, 40 - have said that they intend to plead guilty.
After Pi and Pansuk fled, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) issued a warrant of arrest for them and both were also listed on Interpol's red notice website.
On Wednesday, SPF received information from the Royal Thai Police that the pair may be staying in a hotel in Johor Bahru, and sought assistance from the Royal Malaysia Police to locate them.
Pi and Pansuk were arrested and handed over to SPF at Woodlands Checkpoint on Thursday evening.
The punishment for cheating is a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine.
The penalty for leaving Singapore without presenting a passport is up to six months' jail and a fine of up to S$1,000.