A Hong Kong resident facing extradition for his alleged links to terrorism and a prison break in India was on Thursday found not guilty of handling HK$3 million (US$382,000) worth of stolen goods in the city.
Ramanjit Singh, also known as Romi, 29, smiled and shook his head as soon as district judge Eddie Yip Chor-man declared he and his flatmate Dilpreet Singh, 24, had been acquitted. Their co-defendant, Gursewak Singh, 25, was found guilty.
The case was the second unsuccessful prosecution in Hong Kong of the alleged fugitive. On June 26 prosecutors withdrew a robbery charge over a heist involving more than 450 million Japanese yen (US$4.04 million).
But the Indian-born Ramanjit remains in custody ahead of his next extradition hearing at Eastern Court on September 13. No further charges are pending against him in local courts, and if Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor gives the green light, extradition proceedings will continue.
The Post revealed in February that he was an alleged fugitive on an international wanted list for the allegations Indian authorities had made against him.
These included aiding and abetting others to escape jail custody and conspiring with others to assist escape from jail. He is also accused of possessing a firearm and funding potential terrorist activities.
His court appearances in Hong Kong sparked intense security measures after the allegations abroad surfaced, with a fleet of heavily armed police vehicles escorting him from prison custody each time.
On Thursday, District Court heard how police had found Ramanjit and Dilpreet in Tai Kok Tsui “in very close proximity” to Gursewak, who was towing a red suitcase stolen from a businessman 27 minutes earlier on March 12 last year.
The group scrambled upon seeing the officers, who then gave chase.
Police immediately recovered the red suitcase, and later found on a nearby building staircase a silver suitcase also reported stolen from the robbery.
Inside the red case was US$104,700 and €50,000 (US$58,400) in cash, while the silver one contained US$219,900 belonging to Yogesh Kumar Dholwani.
Gursewak was arrested at the scene. Dilpreet and Ramanjit were arrested later.
None of the three defendants had their DNA or fingerprints on the two suitcases.
The court heard that Ramanjit told investigators he did not know anything about Gursewak.
The judge concluded after trial that all the prosecution witnesses were “credible and reliable”.
He was certain that Dilpreet and Ramanjit were the two men chased by officers that morning.
But Yip also noted there was no evidence showing they were aware of Gursewak towing the red suitcase.
He also found that the position on the street of Dilpreet and Ramanjit did not suggest they were part of a convoy in control of the suitcases.
However, the judge questioned why Gursewak had fled when he could have stood “perfectly at ease” as a passer-by holding a random suitcase.
“The consequence of running away was counterproductive,” the judge said. “I’m satisfied there was no innocent reason for [his] flight.”
Gursewak will be sentenced on September 18, pending background reports.
Throughout the Thursday hearing, Ramanjit was seen talking and laughing with his flatmate in the dock, while a Punjabi interpreter translated the English verdict under the watchful eye of five correctional services officers in bulletproof vests.
Indian authorities served a provisional warrant for Ramanjit’s arrest in June, and formally made the request for his surrender on August 22.
Hong Kong government counsel are awaiting the go-ahead from Lam to proceed.