SINGAPORE – A man was sentenced on Monday (Sept 23) to eight weeks’ jail for giving at least $800 in bribes to an airport check-in worker so that the latter would under-report the weight of travellers’ bags on Tigerair flights.

Gopal Krishna Raju, who was a manager in a food processing firm, ran a side business in which gold was transported from Singapore to Chennai before the valuables were sold in India.

The Indian national had asked airport check-in worker Patel Hiteshkumar Chandubhai to under-report the weight of bags belonging to passengers who were transporting the gold on Gopal’s behalf. Patel was then rewarded for his help.

In sentencing Gopal, District Judge John Ng noted that the offence had taken place over 10 months and stressed that it is important to protect Changi Airport’s reputation.

Gopal, 37, pleaded guilty last Friday to a corruption charge. He had committed the offence on at least 10 occasions between January and October 2016.

He was the fourth person to be dealt with in court this year over bribes given to customer service associates at the airport.

Gopal was, however, the first offender who had given the bribes. The three customer service associates had unlawfully accepted them.

Besides Patel, 37, the two others are Gerizim Kirubai Raj Deved, 35, and Ayyadurai Karunanithi, 47.

Gerizim is a former Sats Asia-Pacific Star employee, while Patel and Ayyadurai worked for logistics service provider UBTS.

They were each sentenced in April to between seven and nine weeks’ jail, and also ordered to pay between $500 and $800 in penalties.

Gerizim is a Singaporean while the other two are Indian nationals. The cases involving Gerizim and Ayyadurai were not linked to Gopal’s matter.

Gopal and Patel knew each other through mutual friends. The court heard that Gopal would not use a courier service for his gold business.

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh had said that Gopal would look for passengers – either his friends or strangers – travelling to Chennai and asked them if they would carry gold to pass to his relatives there, who would then give them a sum of money.

In January 2016, Gopal asked for Patel’s help to under-report the weight of such passengers’ bags and the airport check-in worker agreed to assist him in exchange for bribes.

The offences came to light after The New Paper published a report in July last year on a baggage-touting syndicate operating at Changi Airport.

The four men were later charged in court in April this year.

Defence lawyer Nirmal Singh had earlier pleaded for his client to be given a high fine.

Mr Singh added: “The amount involved was a paltry sum of $800. The under-reporting did not exceed more than 2kg on any one occasion and the customer service associate had the discretion to waive the excess luggage weight.”

Offenders convicted of corruption can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.