SINGAPORE – For a hawker stall helper, it was a golden opportunity to earn hundreds of dollars: Act as a courier by wearing more than $200,000 worth of jewellery on a flight to India.
But when 33-year-old Muhammad Hajali Sahul Hameed and his cousin got through passport checks at Changi Airport, they turned back, re-entered Singapore and sold off most of the gold chains they were meant to carry.
The Singaporean was sentenced to 18 months in jail on Monday (March 12) after he pleaded guilty to misappropriating the jewellery.
His cousin – store keeper and part-time delivery driver Abdul Aziz Abdul Hameed, 33 – and another alleged accomplice will appear in court on Thursday.
The court heard that in July last year, Muhammad Hajali agreed to help a casual acquaintance, who was a courier agent, carry out a one-time job by taking 16 gold chains and two gold bangles to a buyer in Mumbai. They were worth a total of $218,400.
The Singaporean was told that he would receive $600 in commission and that his flight and accommodation would be paid for by the buyer.
Muhammad Hajali agreed to take on the job with Abdul Aziz and they met the courier agent and seller of the jewellery at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on July 3. They were briefed on the assignment and each was given a black plastic bag filled with some of the jewellery.
According to court documents, the seller – Mr Kannaian Praksam, 43, an Indian national who is the director of Jothi’s Gold Jewellery in Singapore – had instructed them to wear the gold bangles on their arms, the big gold chains around their waists, and place the small gold chains inside their pockets.
The duo were also told that upon arrival at Mumbai Airport, the buyer’s representative would approach them.
Mr Praksam and the courier agent left after passing the two men $400 and watching them clear immigration. The remaining $200 was to be paid when they returned to Singapore.
However, the men did not board the plane and instead planned to sell the jewellery and share the earnings. They re-entered Singapore and paid $1,750 in tax after declaring the jewellery to Customs.
The next day, Muhammad Hajali asked his relative Muhamud Sidhik Shahul Hameed, 43, a private-hire car driver, to help sell the jewellery. He sold 14 small gold chains to two buyers for a total of $75,766, with the help of two middle men.
The proceeds were split. The middle men received $5,466, Muhamud Sidhik received $10,000 and Abdul Aziz pocketed $17,800.
Muhammad Hajali kept the remaining $42,500, and used some of it to pay off personal debts.
He and Abdul Aziz were arrested on July 5 after Mr Praksam made a police report when he discovered that the duo had not boarded the plane.
In mitigation, Muhammad Hajali said he had backed out of the job as he did not feel comfortable wearing the jewellery. He is out on bail of $20,000 and will start his sentence on April 11.
He told the court that he had recently married and wanted to spend more time with his wife and son.
Abdul Aziz and Muhamud Sidhik have been charged and will appear before the courts on Thursday.