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The Straits Times
Nov 22, 2023
A group of foreign students conspired to steal over $1,700 worth of apparel from retail store Uniqlo by removing the items’ price tags.
The price tags contained radio-frequency identification (RFID), and by removing it, they contrived to steal the items without setting off the store’s security alarm.
They then bought tote bags at the self-checkout area, stuffed the apparel into the bags, and pretended they had paid for all of their items.
On Nov 22, four in the group that were caught – Indian nationals Shihora Ridham Mukeshbhai, 20, Hun Smit Ashokbhai, 21, Kuvadiya Milan Ghansyambhai, 26, and Chauhan Ruchi Sanjaykumar, 25 – were sentenced to between 40 and 65 days’ jail.
The four shoplifters were on student passes in Singapore. They studied at different schools but lived together in the same flat.
The youngest, Ridham, pleaded guilty to one count of theft in dwelling and another count of attempting to commit a similar crime. He was dealt the heaviest sentence.
The other three admitted to one count of theft in dwelling or attempted theft each. Other similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Maximilian Chew told the court that one of the shoplifting incidents happened on Oct 12 at the Uniqlo outlet in Orchard Central.
Three other Indian nationals, identified in court documents as Bhavik, 24, Vishal, 23, and Darshan, 22, were also in on the conspiracy. Bhavik and Vishal planned to steal from the outlet and roped the rest into the plan.
The group went to the store at around 6pm that day. After picking out the apparel and removing the price tags, they went to the self-checkout area and bought three tote bags at $3.90 each to keep the apparel.
The group left at around 7.30pm. They stole 64 pieces of apparel worth $1,788 in total.
Ruchi and Ridham, along with Bhavik and three other Indian nationals – Shivam, 27, Jay, 26, and Mili, 27 – went to the same Uniqlo outlet four days later.
They repeated the same process of shoplifting, but a store security officer noticed them hurriedly packing the apparel into the tote bags at the self-checkout area and asked for a receipt as proof of payment.
Ridham lied that the receipt was with their friend who was elsewhere and walked away. Shivam, who was with him, also walked away quickly, leaving behind the apparel in the tote bags.
They almost got away with 72 items with a total value of $2,271.
A sales assistant later lodged a police report. Police arrested them after trawling through closed-circuit television camera footage.
By this time, Bhavik, Vishal, Darshan and Mili had already left Singapore.
DPP Chew said the offences were planned and premeditated, adding that the items stolen were worth a significant sum of money. He noted that the accused persons did not make any restitution.
All four shoplifters, who attended the hearings via video-link while in remand, pointed their fingers at Bhavik and said he was the mastermind.
Milan and Hun Smit claimed Bhavik threatened that if they did not follow his instructions, he would increase their room rental or evict them, leaving them with nowhere to go.
But they admitted they knew they were committing an offence.
Two other female Indian nationals in the group, Brahmbhatt Komal Chetankumar and Christian Arpita Arvindbhai, both 27, were also scheduled to plead guilty on Nov 22 to the shoplifting offence.
However, they blamed Bhavik and claimed they did not have any intention to steal.
District Judge Teoh Ai Lin rejected their plea of guilt and scheduled their cases for a pre-trial conference on Nov 30.