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Homesingapore'Just borrowing from the rich': Elderly woman with 50 years' crime streak...

'Just borrowing from the rich': Elderly woman with 50 years' crime streak jailed again for theft

SINGAPORE: An adept thief who has been in and out of jail for the past 50 years struck again, filching tourists’ wallets in Singapore.

Ng Kim Swee, a 75-year-old Malaysian woman, was sentenced to four years’ jail on Wednesday (Nov 1) after pleading guilty to three charges of theft.

Another two charges were considered in sentencing.

In mitigation, the woman said her gambler husband had abandoned her, leaving her to fend for herself and her children.

She also said she felt that she was “just borrowing from the rich” to help her own dire situation.

The court heard that Ng was a serial thief whose modus operandi was to look for a target with an open handbag in crowded stores.

She would check for observers and closed-circuit television cameras before positioning herself out of the cameras’ line of sight.

She would pretend to browse items next to her target before using her other hand to retrieve the target’s wallet.

In this way, Ng targeted a 65-year-old Indonesian tourist who was at Takashimaya Shopping Centre on Feb 1.

The victim, whose handbag was unzipped, was at St Leaven Bakery at the shopping centre.

Ng stood next to the victim, picked up a packet of bread in one hand, and pulled out the victim’s wallet with the other.

The wallet contained cards and cash of S$2,000 (US$1,460) and 3 million rupiah (US$188).

Ng also stole a Gucci wallet containing S$1,500 from a 44-year-old Singaporean woman at Louis Vuitton at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands on Jan 22.

Ng was charged and placed on court bail for these offences, but reoffended.

She targeted a 48-year-old South Korean woman who was holidaying in Singapore on Feb 15. 

The victim was at a store in Bugis Village with her handbag unzipped when Ng stole her wallet, which contained US$750 and S$85.

While still in the store, Ng realised that the wallet was of little value, so she discarded the wallet in a different aisle of the store and kept only the money.

Because of this, Ng was charged again and her bail was revoked before a higher bail amount was offered to her.

She reoffended again in April by stealing from a different stranger and was eventually remanded.

Nine statements were taken from Ng in investigations and she lied in each one, claiming that she had not stolen anything even after being shown CCTV footage.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jeremy Bin said Ng had been convicted of theft and house-breaking offences in Malaysia in 1977, 1985, 1987, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019.

She received jail terms for most of these offences.

She also has several convictions in Singapore for theft, from as early as 1971.

Her latest sentence in Singapore was a term of 10 years’ preventive detention in 2004 for theft.

Mr Bin said Ng has been offending for 50 years, “almost exclusively committing theft and other property offences”.

Between 2014, when she was released from her 10-year term of preventive detention and her latest offences, Ng was convicted at least four more times for property offences in Malaysia.

She demonstrated “recalcitrance at every opportunity”, said Mr Bin.

The prosecution would be “amply justified to seek a longer term of preventive detention”, but sought four to six years’ jail given Ng’s advanced age and out of leniency to her, he said.


Defence lawyer Wasiur Rehman said his client’s reason to do this was “for survival”.

He said what triggered the offences was that she saw the misery that her son was living in.

This son was temporarily in a wheelchair as he had been “standing too long washing dishes to make ends meet”, said the lawyer.

Ng added in her own mitigation via an interpreter that she came from a very, very unfortunate family background.

“The husband has abandoned her and neglected care for the children. The husband has never maintained her, leaving her to fend for herself and for her children,” said the interpreter.

The money that she had earned was used to feed his gambling habit and to visit prostitutes, he added.

He said Ng had repeatedly denied the offences and lied because she was “very afraid of being sentenced to jail once again”.

He said she was very sorry and vowed not to re-offend again.

“She had no choice but to do all these things as she was desperate,” said the interpreter. “She feels that she was just borrowing from the rich to help her in her dire situation. She’s aware that she has criminal antecedents, but she vows that this will be her final time.”

The judge told her that he hoped this would really be her last time offending.

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