Friday, June 25, 2010

Swiss Foreign Talent Vandalised MRT Trains

Yet another highly educated foreigner in our helm caught practising his twisted talents in the wrong place.
SINGAPORE (AFP) - – A Swiss business consultant was charged in court Saturday with breaking into a Singapore metro depot and spray-painting graffiti on a train, offences punishable by jail and caning.

SINGAPORE - He pleaded guilty but asked, through his lawyer, not to be given a "punitive custodial sentence". He claimed that he was "cajoled" into committing the offences of breaking into the SMRT Changi Deport and vandalising two train carriages.

But Swiss IT consultant Oliver Fricker (picture) - whom the court heard went on a three-day holiday with his alleged accomplice, Dane Alexander Lloyd, after committing the offences - failed to convince District Judge See Kee Oon that a deterrent sentence was not in order.

Finding that Fricker, 32, had displayed a "calculated criminal conduct", Judge See sentenced him to five months' jail and three strokes of the cane.

The sentence was handed down about six hours after Fricker pleaded guilty, around noon, to charges of vandalism and entering a protected place. A third charge stating that he had committed an act of vandalism by cutting the fence of the depot was taken into consideration.

Judge See agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharon Lim who said Fricker had committed "a very serious offence" - and that the whole incident had "alarmed the general public" and "shaken their confidence in the security of protected places".

DPP Lim told the court that Lloyd - who remains at large - used a wire cutter to cut a hole in a fence surrounding the depot.

He and Fricker then slipped into the protected area, each carrying a bag of spray paint. Fricker spray-painted the word "McKoy" on the left side of the train, while Lloyd spray-painted the word "Banos" next to it. McKoy Banos is believed to be the names of two persons who have vandalised trains elsewhere.

Lloyd then took photographs of the vandalised train carriages and both of them left the depot through the hole in the fence.

They flagged a taxi and went to Boat Quay before ending up at Fricker's apartment at Sail@Marina Bay. Lloyd showed Fricker the photographs he had taken, before they went to sleep.

The next day, the pair left for Hong Kong for a holiday, the court heard. Fricker returned three days later, while Lloyd, 29, decided to stay on in Hong Kong.

Fricker was arrested on May 25. Singapore police have issued a warrant for Lloyd's arrest.

On Friday, as the sentence was being read out, Fricker, brows furrowed, stood straight in the dock and looked at the judge, his expression unchanged throughout the proceedings.

In mitigation, Fricker's lawyer, Mr Derek Kang, told Judge See that there was no need for a punitive custodial sentence, and that Fricker was "cajoled" by Lloyd into committing the offence.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Mr Kang said both he and Fricker felt the sentence was too "high" and would be appealing.

For vandalism, Fricker could have been sentenced to three years' jail, fined a maximum of $2,000 and given at least three strokes of the cane.

And for entering a protected place, he could have been sentenced to a maximum of two years' jail and fined up to $1,000.

Singaporeans interviewed by Media-Corp gave mixed reactions to Fricker's sentencing. Of the 10 people interviewed, about half felt that the sentence was too harsh, while the others felt it was appropriate.

Boutique assistant Joseph Wee, 25, who felt the sentence was fair, said: "This is Singapore, we must keep our reputation as a country which is clean and safe to live in."

However, bank officer Mark Sim thought a jail term and a fine would have been more appropriate.

Mr Christoph Oggenfuss, head of marketing and communications at Swiss company Comit AG, where Fricker is employed, noted that this is a "private matter", and "Mr Fricker will stay suspended until he returns to Switzerland".

In the Swiss city of Zurich, several people interviewed by Weekend Today felt that Fricker's sentence was harsh but agreed that one has to abide by the laws of a country one is in.

Economist Felix Kaufmann described caning as being "unusual" in Switzerland. "I think the punishment as a whole - the caning and imprisonment - is unacceptable," said Mr Kaufmann, 38.

While student Christina Frick, 21, believes that the punishment "is not correct", she added that Fricker knew "vandalism is against the law".

Teacher Mrs Verena Dutzi, 52, said: "If you go to another country, you have to be informed of the rules and accept the rules and customs of the country." Additional reporting by Venessa Lee in Zurich
Oliver Fricker, 32, was charged with committing trespass and vandalism in mid-May, and a district judge who described him as a flight risk set bail at 100,000 Singapore dollars (71,000 US). His passport was also impounded.

A worried-looking Fricker told the judge he needed a lawyer and asked that his bail be lowered to 40,000 dollars.

But the judge cut him short and rejected the bail request, stressing the seriousness of the offence.

The official charge sheet said Fricker, who was arrested on May 25, was with a Briton identified as Lloyd Dane Alexander when he broke into the suburban depot, a restricted zone surrounded by fences topped with barbed wire.

It was unclear why Alexander was not charged along with Fricker, and police had no immediate information on the Briton's whereabouts.

The charge sheet said Fricker and Alexander vandalised public property when they cut through a fence and spray-painted two carriages.

A police spokesman described Fricker as a company consultant.

A man by that name is listed in the business networking website Xing as a senior consultant in Singapore in the information-technology field.

Vandalism is punishable by up to three years' jail or a maximum fine of 2,000 Singapore dollars (1,424 US), plus three to eight strokes of a wooden cane, a punishment dating from British colonial rule in Singapore.

An American teenager, Michael Fay, garnered global headlines in 1994 when he was jailed and caned in Singapore after he was found guilty of vandalising several cars. Fay was caned despite a US appeal for clemency.

Prosecutors, arguing for the high bail amount, said Fricker had been due to leave for Switzerland two days after his arrest.

The Swiss embassy is providing consular support to Fricker but says it will not interfere in the trial.

The break-in, believed to have taken place before dawn on May 17, was not immediately detected and the train plied its route in full view of commuters, one of whom filmed it and posted a clip on video-sharing site Youtube.

The train has been scrubbed clean but the clip can still be viewed online.
What if it is not just Graffiti, but Bombs???
The MRT graffiti saga which rocked the entire nation took another twist yesterday when it was revealed that SMRT took more than 48 hours to lodge a police report.

A Swiss FT was hauled up to Court yesterday for trepassing into a MRT depot at Changi and vandalizing one of the trains by spraying graffiti on one side of the carriage.

It also transpired that he had an accomplice with him Briton McKoy Banos who has since left Singapore.

The security breach allegedly took place on 16 May 2010, but a police report was made only on 19 May 2010 which contradicts an official statement by SMRT that it “reported the breach to the police immediately when it was discovered.”

When queried by the Straits Times, SMRT Head of Security Mr Choy Kin Chong declined to comment on the time lapse, saying that “more security staff had been deployed to increase patrol at its depots.”

Singapore’s biggest security lapse since the dramatic escape of famed terrorist Mas Selamat Kasteri two years ago drew widespread concerns from both law-makers and Singaporeans who wondered what the consequences might be had the vandals been terrorists instead.

GPC chairman for Home Affairs and Law, Mr Alvin Yeo was quick to jump to the defence of the Swiss FT:

“MRT trains are potential soft targets. I dare say that the suspects probably did it in the spirit of fun and adventure and not for something more sinister. But this could have been something more harmful than just graffiti,” he was quoted as saying in the Straits Times.

Netizens were equally flabbergasted at how SMRT could allow the security breach to go unnoticed for so long.

Eddie Chin commented:

“This is a real security concern. If someone can sneak into an MRT depot and spend a sizeable amount of time spraying the graffiti, he would have enough time to plant bombs on many different trains. I wonder what our Minister for Home Affairs going to say about this, that he’s doing a harmless prank so it’s ok?”

Salihin added:

“Worse of all is that SMRT actually deployed the vandalized train with the huge graffiti. Let’s not ask how they actually secure their depots when their staff cant even notice a huge graffiti on their train.”

There are no immediate comments from the Home Affairs Ministry or its Minister Wong Kan Seng yet.

Maybe they are keeping a distance as far as possible from the incident out of fears of re-igniting Singaporeans’ memories of Mas Selamat.

Swiss national charged with vandalising SMRT train
By Lynda Hong
SINGAPORE: A 33-year-old Swiss national has been charged with trespassing into an MRT depot and vandalising a SMRT train.

Oliver Fricker appeared in Court Saturday morning to face the charges.

He is accused of trespassing into Changi depot on late night of May 16 and early hours of May 17 this year.

He also faces two charges on vandalising an MRT train by spraying paint, and damaging public property by cutting a wired fence belonging to LTA.

Fricker has been offered a bail of $100,000.

He said in Court that he cannot afford the amount and asked it to be lowered to $40,000. But the judge said that his is a serious offence, and therefore kept the $100,000 bail.

His case will be heard again in two weeks' time on June 21.

Another man, a Brit named Lloyd Dane Alexander, is also allegedly involved in the offence. It is not known if he is still in Singapore. Police are still investigating.

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