Man jailed 18 months for stealing gold he was tasked to carry to India

For a hawker stall helper, it was a golden opportunity to earn hundreds of dollars: Be a courier and take more than $200,000 worth of jewellery on a flight to India.

But after 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 carrying.

The Singaporean was sentenced to 18 months in jail yesterday after he pleaded guilty to misappropriating the jewellery.

His cousin - storekeeper 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 an acquaintance, a courier agent, take 16 gold chains and two gold bangles - worth $218,400 in total - to a buyer in Mumbai.

He would receive a $600 commission and his flight and accommodation would be paid for.

Muhammad Hajali took the job with Abdul Aziz and they met the courier agent and jewellery seller at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on July 3.

According to court documents, the seller - Mr Kannaian Praksam, 43, an Indian national who is the director of Jothi's Gold Jewellery in Singapore - instructed the duo to wear the gold bangles on their arms, the big gold chains around their waists, and place the small gold chains inside their pockets.

Mr Praksam and the courier agent left after watching them clear immigration. But the men did not board the plane. They re-entered Singapore, paying $1,750 in tax after declaring the jewellery to Customs.

The next day, Muhammad Hajali asked a 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 $75,766 with the help of two middlemen.

The middlemen received $5,466, Muhamud Sidhik received $10,000 and Abdul Aziz pocketed $17,800. Muhammad Hajali kept the remaining $42,500.

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.