Sim Lim Square's ex-shop owner Jover Chew slapped with 26 charges
Jover Chew's hawker mother raises $40,000 bail
He became a villain when a video, of a Vietnamese tourist who was in tears and went down on his knees at his shop, went viral.
Yesterday, Jover Chew Chiew Loon left his hawker mother in tears after she raised $40,000 to bail him out of remand.
Chew, 33, and four of his employees were charged in court for a string of cheating offences at the now-defunct Mobile Air, his former shop at Sim Lim Square.
Chew faces 26 charges, including one count of criminal intimidation, one count of cheating and dishonestly inducing a delivery of property, and 24 counts of abetment by conspiracy to commit cheating with others.
It was a vastly different Chew who emerged from court yesterday.
When The New Paper approached him, he showed none of the aggression or arrogance that angered netizens.
"I don't wish to comment on anything," he said softly in Mandarin. "Thank you."
He did not flee or hide from the glare of the media. Instead, he headed straight for a smoking corner and lit what was probably his first cigarette since he was arrested and put in remand on Wednesday.
Earlier, his mother, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Chew, was accompanied to court by an unidentified elderly man. She was reticent to reporters and would only confirm that she was posting bail for her son. She added that she was not clear about whether Chew intends to plead guilty.
When asked about how she managed to raise the $40,000 to post bail, the gaunt woman kept quiet and walked away but started tearing.
It was only when Chew was released at about 3.30pm that she showed signs of relief.
As Chew was reunited with his mother, he gave her a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder before they made their way out of court and parted ways, with Chew heading alone to the smoker's corner.
For the past five months, Chew has been living off his mother, reported evening daily Lianhe Wanbao.
Mrs Chew, who is in her 60s, said her son would sometimes help out at her ngoh hiang, or pork roll, stall but she advised him against it.
"I tell him not to help out. It's not that I am afraid of how others would see us but I don't want to bring up the past," she told Wanbao.
Relatives also advised Chew to lie low and not to go back to selling mobile phones.
An avid angler, Chew has been spending his free time fishing. He recently took home a 5kg garoupa and shared it with neighbours, said Mrs Chew.
On Wednesday, when mother and son were having breakfast together, Chew received a call for him to report to the police station at 3pm.
Mrs Chew thought nothing of it then as her son has been assisting in investigations since the start of the year.
But a text from Chew that same afternoon made her panic. He would have to be in remand for 48 hours, he told her.
Her eyes brimmed with tears as she related the series of events that led to Chew's arrest. She told Wanbao: "I thought he would come home like he usually did after helping in the investigation.
"He even joked with the policeman over the phone. I didn't think anything was wrong."
She added that even though her son is not charged with an offence as serious as murder, she is still extremely worried.
On Wednesday, Chew and four of his employees were arrested. He turned up in court yesterday in a police car, head bowed.
Following the incident with the Vietnamese tourist, personal details and pictures of Chew were put up online by outraged netizens.
Other tenants in the electronics mall blamed him for the thinning crowds.
I don't wish to comment on anything. Thank you.
- Jover Chew
CHEW AND 4 WORKERS CHEATED 25 PEOPLE
IN COURT: Lim Hong Ching (top) and Lim Zhi Wei Kelvin (above), two of Chew’s four workers being charged. - TNP PHOTOS: CHOO CHWEE HUA
Four of Jover Chew Chiew Loon's employees were charged in court yesterday for cheating offences in Sim Lim Square between January and October last year.
According to the charges tendered, 25 victims were enticed to buy mobile devices at a certain price.
But when money changed hands, they were told they had to pay extra for services such as in-house warranties. The amount involved in these cases came up to $14,449.
Chew, 33, faces 26 charges, including one count of criminal intimidation, one count of cheating and dishonestly inducing a delivery of property, and 24 counts of abetment by conspiracy to commit cheating with others.
His employee Lim Hong Ching, 33, who claimed to have bought over Mobile Air from Chew and renamed it HJ Mobile, was charged with two counts of cheating.
Also charged were Koh Guan Seng, 38, who faces 15 counts of cheating. Kam Kok Keong, 31, faces eight counts of cheating and Lim Zhi Wei Kelvin, 32, faces one count of cheating. All except Chew indicated that they would plead guilty.
All four are expected to appear in court on June 19.
Chew, who is out on $40,000 bail, is expected to return to court on June 25.He faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine if he is found guilty.
Sim Lim Square sees dwindling sales
Back in its heyday a decade ago, computer software retailer Software Discount Store would see waves of people streaming in and out of its shop at Sim Lim Square.
Today, shoppers are so few and far between that shopkeeper Albert Choo can watch his TV drama at the store for hours uninterrupted.
Mr Choo, 58, told The New Paper: "Human traffic is very slow now."
In the 12 years that he has been at Sim Lim Square, "business has never been this bad," he said.
Such is the plight of many shops at Sim Lim Square and People's Park Complex. The reputation of both malls has taken a big hit following a spate of incidents involving errant retailers last November.
Among them was Jover Chew Chiew Loon, the owner of the now-defunct Mobile Air who was charged in court yesterday.
But although the going has not been too good for retailers at Sim Lim Square and People's Park Complex, shoppers' impressions may be changing. Recent figures from the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) suggest that things are on the mend for the malls.
Mr Seah Seng Choon, Case's executive director, told TNP: "Consumer complaints against retailers at both malls received by Case from February to April this year were few and isolated."
This is a far cry from the 106 complaints Case received against retailers in Sim Lim Square and the 156 complaints - the highest for a mall here - filed against shops in People's Park Complex between January and November last year.
But retailers TNP spoke to on Thursday said the low numbers are more indicative of declining business than improved customer satisfaction.
Mr Choo said: "Sales are down after what happened last year. After paying the rent, there's not much left."
Mr Amal Roy, 48, who runs computer repair shop Trade Techniques at Sim Lim Square, agreed.
"I've been here for 16 years and business this year is definitely the worst. I can only count on loyal customers these days."
Mr Sean Chia, a spokesman for Sim Lim Square, said: "The feedback I've received from tenants is that footfall is slowing.
"Sales are also down by around 60 per cent."
Retailers at People's Park Complex are also affected.
A saleswoman at Million Cosmetics, who wanted to be known only as Miss Tan, 50, estimated that business has gone down by at least 50 per cent compared to last year.
"We depend a lot on tourists, but they're not coming here anymore after all the bad publicity," she said.
A worker from Robann, a bags and accessories shop, who wanted to be known only as Miss Liu, said in Mandarin: "There used to be so many tourists, but now, the walkways are so empty that you can play bowling here.
"With all the blacklisted tenants, it's an inside joke that this place (which is known as Pearl's Centre in Mandarin) should now be called Black Pearl."