SINGAPORE — Wanting to help a childhood friend who had been charged in court for housebreaking, a man stood bail for him, but had part of his bail sum forfeited when his friend failed to appear in court.
Despite that, Chia Wei Poh, 32, still gave Lim Wei Kiat, 31, a place to stay even though Lim was wanted by the authorities. He even helped Lim hide in a suitcase for an hour while police officers searched his residence.
Lim was eventually discovered in the suitcase and was unable to walk due to the numbness in his legs. He was hospitalised for a week.
Chia, a Singaporean, was jailed for a year and five months on Monday (2 August), after he pleaded guilty to one charge of harbouring an offender, and one count of abetting to commit housebreaking by helping Lim to break into more houses even after Lim had been charged. He acted as Lim's chauffeur on his housebreaking sprees.
Chia previously ran a delivery services provider and was forced to terminate the business due to the impact of COVID-19. He is now a Grab Food rider earning about $1,800 to $2,000 per month.
Lim was sentenced to four years and six months’ jail and four strokes of the cane on 17 July last year.
Chia was Lim's bailor
Lim broke into a house at night on 12 September 2018. He was arrested and released for the offence on court bail on 12 October 2018. Chia stood bail for him with a sum of $15,000.
Although Lim was due to attend court on 6 December 2018, he failed to do so and a warrant of arrest was issued for him. As a result of the no-show, Chia was asked to attend a show cause hearing and $5,000 of his bail was forfeited.
Months after missing a court hearing, Lim contacted Chia for a place to stay in April 2019. Lim told Chia that he would work as a deliveryman to help pay back the forfeited sum, and said that he had a newborn son. Lim further claimed that he had to pay off his credit card debts.
Taking pity on him, Chia decided to let Lim stay at his rented flat despite knowing that he was a fugitive.
In June 2019, Lim told Chia that he wanted to break into more houses as he was in need of cash. On 22 June 2019, Chia helped to drive Lim to a meeting with another person, whom Lim claimed knew of which places to break into. The person suggested to Lim a unit on the second floor which belonged to an illegal bookmaker who might have $300,000 in cash, and another unit in Jalan Binchang which supposedly had expensive watches.
On 23 June 2019, Lim sought Chia’s help to drive him to Mustafa Centre to buy housebreaking equipment. Lim bought a crowbar, screwdriver and a balaclava facemark.
The next day, Chia drove Lim to V3 Club at Boat Quay, as Lim wanted to break into his former workplace. Chia dropped him off at 3am and Lim climbed into an unlocked window using the air conditioning compressors. He broke into the office of the club with the crowbar.
Lim stole $25 from the cash register and broke open a safe, which turned out empty. He crept down to the first floor to break open a cash register, but found a bartender asleep there. He later met Chia at his car and got rid of his housebreaking equipment by throwing them out of the car.
The bartender discovered the offence the next day after viewing CCTV footage. Chia has since made restitution of $2,500 to the club, including for damage caused to its property.
Lim targeted two more houses
On 24 June 2019, Lim sought Chia’s help to buy an extendable ladder to break into another unit.
At about 1am on 25 June, Chia drove Lim to the unit and waited as Lim placed the ladder near a kitchen window. However, Lim aborted this plan after hearing someone arguing in the unit. They went to the next unit at Jalan Binchang but decided against breaking in as it was unsafe.
Lim was traced to Chia’s flat and police showed up later that evening. Lim and Chia spotted the police at the ground floor. Lim wanted to climb down from the balcony by tying some bedsheets to the railing, but Chia persuaded him against doing so as he was afraid Lim would fall and kill himself.
Chia untied the bedsheet and helped Lim hide in a suitcase while police officers banged on the door. Chia then placed some items on top of the suitcase to hide it. Another tenant and Chia opened the door just before the police broke it down, and Chia denied that Lim was present.
He later confessed that Lim was in the suitcase and Lim was discovered inside it about an hour later.
“He suffered numbness in the legs and was unable to walk, he was warded in Changi General Hospital for a week,“ Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chong Kee En told the court.
DPP Chong sought at least 18 months’ jail for Chia, whom he noted had been sentenced to two years' jail in 2014 for breaking into the very same club with Lim.
However, he took into consideration that Chia had only been involved by driving Lim around and did not gain any financial benefit.
Chia's lawyer Anil Singh Sandhu sought a jail term of 15 months. He told the court that Lim, whom Chia knew since he was 15, had begged for help. Chia allowed Lim's young family to stay with him rent-free.
"Lim promised to turn over a new leaf and turn himself over to the authorities once he had paid off his wife’s credit card debts...and his wife was able to start working.
"Chia appreciated that Lim was teetering on the edges, financially desperate and in an emotionally fragile state. Chia knew that if he turned Lim in to the authorities immediately, Lim’s infant son and wife would be rendered homeless," said Anil.
As such, Chia could not bring himself to cause the young family's break-up, the lawyer added.
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