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An Indian priest in Singapore was charged with committing criminal breach of trust by pawning ceremonial jewellery worth more than 2 million Singapore dollars (SGD), from the country's oldest Hindu temple on Tuesday.
Kandasamy Senapathi, (37), the chief priest at the Sri Mariamman Temple, is accused of taking gold ceremonial ornaments from the temple and pawning them repeatedly to shops between 2016 and 2020.
Kandasamy allegedly transferred more than 141,000 Singapore dollars (USD 106,503) in criminal proceeds out of the country. Kandasamy's purported modus operandi was to take the jewellery, pawn them off and redeem them when he had the money to return the items to the temple, the court heard.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, he was unable to raise funds to redeem the items in time for some ceremonies, his lawyer said.
Kandasamy has since redeemed the pawned items and returned all the jewellery to the temple.
The Sri Mariamman Temple, located on South Bridge Road within the central business district, said in a statement at the time that gold prayer ornaments were kept under the custody of the chief priest in the inner sanctum of the temple.
Regular audits are done to ensure that the gold ornaments are physically accounted for, said the temple.
Kandasamy's lawyer asked for a lower bail amount, saying that his client, who is currently staying in a room in the temple, is a foreigner and is unable to raise a high amount for bail.
He said Kandasamy had "spoken to some people" who were prepared to bail him out for 80,000 Singapore dollars (USD 60,427).
The prosecutor objected, saying the accused poses a flight risk as he has no community or familial ties in Singapore and faces a maximum of 15 years' jail for criminal breach of trust.
The judge fixed bail at 100,000 Singapore dollars (USD 755,34) saying that it was an appropriate amount for "very serious offences" allegedly committed while he was in a position of trust.
Kandasamy will return to the court next month. If convicted of criminal breach of trust while employed as a servant, he can be jailed for up to 15 years and fined.
For removing criminal proceeds from Singapore's jurisdiction, he could be jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to 500,000 Singapore dollars (USD 377,672) or both. (PTI)