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Guilt-stricken thief returns to Singapore to surrender 14 years after absconding to Malaysia, gets jail


SINGAPORE: In 2003, after his accomplices for housebreaking and theft had been arrested, a man fled to Malaysia and remained there at large for 14 years.

Haron Ismail, 62, returned to Singapore to surrender himself in 2017 and was sentenced to four years and nine months' jail for his crimes on Friday (Jan 14).

He told the court that he had "no peace of mind" in Malaysia and that "the guilt has been disturbing me".

Haron pleaded guilty to three charges of housebreaking to commit theft and housebreaking by night to commit theft, with another three charges considered in sentencing.

The court heard that Haron was associated with two co-accused men Abdul Karim Mohamed and Rusli Awang.

On Nov 24, 2002, the three men went to Yen San building in 268 Orchard Road to break into offices and steal cash.

Abdul Karim stole a safe containing cash of S$20,000 from an office there, while Haron waited at the getaway van in the car park and Rusli looked out for police or guards.

They drove away with the loot and split it. The victim lodged a report, but the cash was not recovered and no restitution was made.

On Jan 5, 2003, the three men went to the Adelphi Building in 1 Coleman Street intending to break into offices and steal cash.

Abdul Karim prised open a door to an office with a chisel and stole one safe valued at S$500, foreign currencies worth about S$10,000 and two gold coins worth S$2,000.

Haron waited at the getaway van at the loading and unloading area while Rusli acted as a look-out at the guard post. They later drove away with the stolen loot, and the director of the unnamed firm lodged a police report subsequently. No restitution was made.

On Apr 29, 2003, the trio re-enacted their crimes at Great World City, with Haron waiting at the getaway van and Rusli looking out while Abdul Karim broke into an office to steal S$127.25 and some documents.

Abdul Karim and Rusli were later arrested. Knowing this, Haron fled to Malaysia in May 2003 and did not return to Singapore, in order to evade arrest.

However, On Jul 3, 2017, he came back and surrendered at Woodlands Checkpoint. He was arrested and released on police bail a day later.

The prosecutor asked for between four years and nine months' jail and six years' jail for Haron. Of this, she asked for three to six months' jail in lieu of caning, as Haron is above 50 and cannot be caned.

Rusli had been sentenced in 2003 to six years' jail, while Abdul Karim received 12 years' preventive detention and the maximum 24 strokes of the cane.

The prosecutor said the main aggravating factor for Haron was that he absconded to evade police arrest and returned only 14 years later.

He returned only when he was well beyond 50 - he was 58 in 2017 - and 12 strokes of the cane should have been imposed, she said.

In mitigation, the unrepresented Haron said he had "no peace of mind in Malaysia".

"The guilt has been disturbing me," he said. "So I decided to return to Singapore to surrender."

He said he was 62 and had heart problems and diabetes. For the past four-and-a-half years while awaiting his case to come to court, he had upgraded himself by taking security and taxi licences, he said.

"Your honour, I beg for leniency," he said.

For housebreaking by night to commit theft, he could have been jailed between two and 14 years and caned.

For housebreaking to commit theft, he could have been jailed up to 10 years and caned. However, he did not receive caning due to his age.

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