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Man stole copper wires from mall to finance wife’s chemotherapy

SINGAPORE — At his wits’ end because his wife’s chemotherapy bills were taking a toll on his finances, a technician stole earth cables fixed to the ceiling of Golden Landmark Shopping Centre in 2006 to sell. The law caught up with Muhammad Resat Ahmad last year, and he pleaded guilty on Tuesday (March 7) to two counts of dishonest misappropriation of property.

SINGAPORE — At his wits’ end because his wife’s chemotherapy bills were taking a toll on his finances, a technician stole earth cables fixed to the ceiling of Golden Landmark Shopping Centre in 2006 to sell. The law caught up with Muhammad Resat Ahmad last year, and he pleaded guilty on Tuesday (March 7) to two counts of dishonest misappropriation of property.

Three other charges of a similar nature will be taken into consideration when he is sentenced on April 7.

The 64-year-old, now unemployed, has not been sentenced as both sides are arguing over the function and costs of the wires.

The court heard that Resat, who worked as a technician for Golden Landmark for 23 years until he was arrested last year, was given access to the electrical service and riser rooms in the building. Between February and April 2004, and between July and September 2006, he and a colleague cut the cable wires in the ceiling with a saw. They then slit open the cables’ insulation covering, removed the copper wires, and sold them at a metal-scrap shop.

The two men split the proceeds, which totalled about S$6,000, equally between them, the court was told.

Last May, an engineer hired by Far East Organisation, the building’s landlord, saw that earth cables, transformers and switch cables were missing, and told the police.

Calling for a sentence of three to four months’ jail, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chew Xin Ying argued that the offences were premeditated and committed over a period of time. She added that Resat had abused the high level of trust placed in him.

DPP Chew also said that the stolen earth cables were meant as circuit-breakers to protect the building in the event of current spikes, such as when lightning strikes. It was fortunate that nothing hazardous happened over the years, the prosecution said.

Defence lawyer Ashwin Ganapathy disagreed, saying that Resat’s loot comprised cables that were no longer in use or bound for replacement.

Mr Ganapathy also objected to the prosecution’s suggestion that the cost of recovering the wires could be as high as S$70,000, arguing that this was not the amount in the Statement of Facts agreed upon by both sides.

Pleading for a sentence of less than three weeks, Mr Ganapathy said that Resat had resorted to crime due to “extenuating circumstances”.

Sometime in 2003, Resat’s wife was diagnosed with endometrial cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy.

Resat, who was then drawing a monthly salary of S$1,210 and also had to provide for his two schoolgoing children, was unable to get help from relatives and friends, and thus forced to default on his utility bills.

Resat would steal “whenever he was financially desperate”, such as when he struggled to pay his wife’s medical bills or his children’s school fees, Mr Ganapathy said.“While (Resat) knew what he was doing was contrary to the law, he could not let his wife’s condition deteriorate,” the lawyer said, adding that Resat had pleaded guilty and co-operated with the authorities during investigations.

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