SINGAPORE – A man gave at least $800 in bribes to an airport check-in worker so that he 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 where he bought gold in Singapore to send to Chennai, India. The gold is sold there.
To avoid excess baggage charges, the 37-year-old approached airport check-in worker Patel Hiteshkumar Chandubhai and asked him to under-report the weight of bags belonging to passengers who were transporting the gold on Gopal’s behalf.
He promised to reward Patel, who agreed to help him.
On Friday (Sept 20), Gopal pleaded guilty to a corruption charge. He had committed the offence on at least 10 occasions between January and October 2016.
He is now out on bail of $5,000 and will be sentenced on Sept 23.
The Indian national is the fourth person to be convicted this year over bribes given to customer service associates at Changi Airport.
On Friday, Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh said that Gopal and Patel knew each other through mutual friends. The court heard that Gopal would not use a courier service for his gold business.
The DPP added: “(He) would instead look for passengers travelling to Chennai – whether his friends or strangers – and ask if they were willing to carry gold to Chennai to pass to his relatives there.
“The accused’s relatives would then give these passengers a sum of money.
“The accused would go to Changi Airport between 15 and 20 times a month to look for passengers who were willing to carry gold for him to Chennai.”
In January 2016, he 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.
DPP Koh has urged District Judge John Ng to sentence Gopal to eight weeks’ jail, adding: “Singapore has developed a hard-won reputation as a country that has no tolerance for corrupt activity.
“Any corrupt activity that takes place within the context of the air travel industry therefore threatens to severely undermine the reputation and national interests of Singapore.”
Three customer service associates had earlier admitted to unlawfully accepting bribes.
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. Each man was also ordered to pay between $500 and $800 in penalties.
Gerizim is a Singaporean while the other two are also Indian nationals.
The cases involving Gerizim and Ayyadurai were not linked to Gopal’s matter.
Offenders convicted of corruption can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.