A 39 year-old Indian priest at Singapore's oldest Hindu temple was jailed for six years on Tuesday for repeatedly pawning jewellery worth over )(Singaporean) $1 million that was used to adorn temple deities, a media report said.
Kandasamy Senapathi of Sri Mariamman Temple in South Bridge Road made over (Singaporean) $2.3 million in total by pawning temple jewellery for over five years, The Straits Times reported.
He pleaded guilty to two charges of criminal breach of trust by an employee and two counts of removing the benefits of his criminal activities from the jurisdiction.
According to the report, six similar charges were taken into consideration during the Indian national's sentencing.
Kandasamy was employed by the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) in December 2013 and was promoted to chief priest at the temple in July 2018, Deputy Public Prosecutor Janice See told the court.
In 2014, he was entrusted with the keys and number code to the safe in the temple's holy sanctum, which contained about 255 pieces of gold jewellery valued at about (Singaporean) $1.1 million.
From 2016 to 2020, Kandasamy pawned 66 pieces of the jewellery over 172 occasions and received a total amount of (Singaporean) $2,328,760.
He deposited a portion of the money into his personal bank account and remitted (Singaporean) $141,054.90 to India.
His activities went undetected as he was able to borrow sufficient money to redeem the pawned jewellery whenever he knew an audit was being scheduled, The Times reported.
Once the audit was completed, he would pawn the temple's jewellery again to return the money borrowed.
In June 2020, Kandasamy told a member of the temple's finance team who was arranging for a routine external audit that it was likely that he had left the key to the safe in India when he went there to visit his family.
Realising that the audit will proceed as planned, Kandasamy confessed on July 2, 2020, to pawning the jewellery, and a police report was lodged on July 29, 2020.
All 66 pieces of jewellery he pawned have since been returned to the temple, which suffered no loss, and Kandasamy is no longer with the HEB.
Describing his client's action as a "stupid venture", Kandasamy's lawyer told the court that he wanted to help some friends in India, including one whose mother was suffering from cancer, as well as some schools back home.