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Man jailed for stealing other passengers’ belongings on Singapore-bound Cambodia Airways flight in front of police officers

The Chinese national, who had worked as a businessman in Cambodia for 4 years, caught the attention of Singapore officers with his suspicious behaviour.

Hands in prison and overhead luggage on a plane collaging, illustrating a story on a Chinese national being jailed seven months for stealing from other passengers on a Cambodia Airways flight.
Chinese national Yi Huaichun was jailed seven months for stealing from other passengers on a Cambodia Airways flight. (Photos: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — After boarding a plane and putting belongings in the overhead locker, most passengers remain seated for the rest of the flight, tuning in to the in-flight entertainment or taking a short nap, trusting that their belongings will stay safe.

However, on 15 December 2023, a passenger on a Cambodia Airways plane bound for Singapore took advantage of such sleeping passengers and looked through their belongings for items to steal, unaware that his every move was being watched by a police officer.

Chinese national Yi Huaichun was jailed for seven months on Tuesday (30 Jan) after pleading guilty to one charge of theft under the Tokyo Convention Act.

Suspicious behaviour drew the attention of police officers on the plane

According to CNA, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Lee Jun Long was seated near Yi on the plane and saw him acting suspiciously.

The 45-year-old Yi, who had worked as a businessman for four years in Cambodia, opened the overhead compartment above his seat, but not without ensuring that the passengers nearby were asleep.

He then removed a haversack and took it to an empty seat at the back of the plane to rummage through. Not finding anything to pocket, he returned the bag and took a second bag and repeated the same actions.

This was when Lee decided to alert the two other fellow officers who were on the same flight of Yi’s behaviour. Yi then stole a third bag while the trio had their eyes on him, and brought it to an empty seat at the front of the plane to go through. Inside the leather bag were two wallets with $250 cash, three bank cards and two laptops.

When approached by Lee, Yi first claimed that the leather bag was his, before admitting that it didn’t belong to him and that he had forgotten where his bag was. Despite that claim, when asked to produce his passport, Yi headed to retrieve it from his bag that was placed above his seat.

Yi was arrested at Changi Airport after the plane landed and charged in court the next day.

Offence hard to detect, could impact Singapore's reputation: DPP

CNA reported that Deputy Public Prosecutor Dan Pan told the court, "The accused was not able to explain why he was now able to find his bag, which contradicted his earlier explanation that he was searching for his bag as he could not remember where it was.”

He also said that Yi’s plea of guilt could not be seen as remorse as Yi had been caught red-handed with overwhelming evidence against him, and he had been uncooperative during investigations.

Pan argued for seven to eight months’ jail for Yi as the offence was premeditated, and that victims in such cases were highly vulnerable as they cannot keep constant watch of their belongings.

He also added that such offences are hard to detect and would impact Singapore’s reputation as a safe country.

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