Indian chief priest charged with breach of trust in Singapore

Gurdip Singh
·2-min read

Singapore, Feb 16 (PTI) A 37-year-old Indian chief priest in Singapore was on Tuesday charged with committing criminal breach of trust in pawning ceremonial jewellery worth more than Singapore dollars 2 million from the country’s oldest Hindu temple.

Kandasamy Senapathi was given five charges of criminal breach of trust as an employee and five counts under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, Channel News Asia reported.

Kandasamy, 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, rolling the cash, the report said.

The pawn value of the jewellery amounted to more than Singapore dollars 2 million (USD 1.5 million), the prosecutor told the court.

Kandasamy allegedly transferred more than Singapore dollars 141,000 (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 in order 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 police said in August last year that they were investigating Kandasamy after gold ornaments under his custody went missing.

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 Singapore dollars 80,000 (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 Singapore dollars 100,000 (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 Singapore dollars 500,000 (USD 377,672) or both. PTI GS MRJ MRJ