SINGAPORE: The former chief priest of Sri Mariamman Temple, the oldest Hindu temple in the country, received a six-year jail sentence on May 30 (Tuesday) for having repeatedly pawned ceremonial jewellery, earning more than $2 million in the process.
The 39-year-old Kandasamy pleaded guilty to two charges of criminal breach of trust by dishonest misappropriation and two charges of transferring criminal proceeds out of the country, with six other charges considered in his sentence.
Kandasamy had been able to carry out his misdeeds for nearly five years and may have gotten away with his offences had the pandemic not thrown off regular audits, which caused his actions to be revealed.
From December 2013 until his resignation on Mar 30, 2020, Kandasamy was employed by the Hindu Endowments Board, first as an assistant to the chief priest and then in his predecessor’s position.
The trusted position he was given meant he could take the jewellery from the safe in the holy sanctum of the temple whenever he wanted to.
Kandasamy could therefore take the jewellery and pawn it but bring it back in time for scheduled audits. He did this regularly between 2016 and 2020, with pawn shops giving him a total of $2,328,760 during this period, of which $141,000 was remitted to India. The rest was put in his account in Singapore.
But early in the Covid-19 pandemic, external audits were delayed. These resumed after June 2020, and Kandasamy claimed to have left the key to the safe in India when he had visited family members.
But as the audit pushed through, the former chief priest had no choice but to own up to his misdeeds to the staff who would do the audit.
Kandasamy raised $521,000 by borrowing money from friends and was able to buy back all 17 pieces of jewellery in two pawn shops.
He resigned from his post, and a police report was filed against him. /TISG