Singapore, May 30, 2023 (PPI-OT): A 39-year-old Indian chief priest of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple was sentenced to six years in jail for pawning over SGD 2 million (USD 1.5 million) of ceremonial jewellery repeatedly from a prominent temple. Kandasamy Senapathi was employed by the Hindu Endowments Board as a priest at Sri Mariamman Temple in the downtown Chinatown district from December 2013 until he resigned on March 30, 2020. He pleaded guilty to two charges of criminal breach of trust by dishonest misappropriation and two charges of transferring criminal proceeds out of the country, Channel News Asia reported. Another six charges were considered in sentencing, it said.
Senapathi, an Indian national, was caught when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, throwing the regular audit timing off and revealing the missing jewellery. In 2014, he was entrusted with the keys and combination number code to the safe in the temple’s holy sanctum, which contained 255 pieces of gold jewellery owned by the temple, with a book value of about SGD 1.1 million. Senapathi began pawning pieces of the jewellery in 2016, taking them to pawn shops and later redeeming them by using money he obtained from pawning other pieces of temple jewellery. In 2016 alone, Senapathi pawned 66 pieces of gold jewellery from the temple on 172 occasions, the report said. He continued this practice between 2016 and 2020, redeeming all the jewellery and returning it to the temple without anyone knowing whenever an audit was scheduled. Once the audit was completed, he would pawn the jewellery again to return the borrowed money.
Senapathi got SGD 2,328,760 from pawn shops between 2016 to 2020, of which he deposited some into his bank account and remitted about SGD 141,000 to India. In March 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore, the temple had to delay an external audit because of the “circuit breaker” measures forbidding non-essential activity in the country. During the June 2020 audit, Senapathi told a member of the temple finance team he did not have the key to the safe and said he had likely left the key in India while visiting family. However, when the staff member insisted that the audit be done, Senapathi eventually confessed that he had taken the jewellery for pawning.
In the end, all the jewellery was returned to the temple, and the temple suffered no loss, the prosecutor said. The member of the temple’s finance team later filed a police report. Senapathi resigned from his post as he felt guilty for pawning the temple’s jewellery, added the prosecutor, who asked for seven years’ jail, pointing to the high pawn value of the jewellery involved.
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