Man on plane charged with stealing $23,000 in cash from fellow passengers

Scoot planes on the tarmac at Singapore's Changi Airport.

Scoot planes on the tarmac at Singapore’s Changi Airport.Edgar Su/ReutersCNN — 

A man has been charged with theft after allegedly stealing more than $23,000 in cash from three fellow passengers while on a budget flight from Vietnam to Singapore.

The man was named in court charge sheets as Zhang Xiuqiang, a 52-year-old Chinese national who had been on board a flight operated by Scoot, the budget wing of Singapore Airlines. An airline spokesperson told CNN that it “was aware of an incident” that occurred on board a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore on December 16.

“Our cabin crew was alerted by a passenger to a suspected theft in the cabin and activated the Airport Police Division,” the spokesperson said. “The involved passengers were escorted off the aircraft by airport authorities for further investigation, and disembarkation proceeded as usual for the rest of our passengers.”

According to charge sheets read out in court and carried by Singapore public broadcaster Channel NewsAsia, Zhang allegedly stole from three separate passengers. He reportedly took 3 million Vietnamese dong ($123) from a passenger’s backpack, and 510 million Vietnamese dong ($20,950) and a 50 Singapore dollar note ($38) from a black messenger bag belonging to another.

He also allegedly took $1,000 and 930 Singapore dollars ($700) from an envelope found in a gray bag belonging to a third passenger.

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Cabin theft constitutes a federal crime in many countries and is more common than most travelers think. Hong Kong police in October warned of a spike in thefts on inbound airplanes after discovering a crime syndicate that stole credit cards from passengers. In 2019, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways announced a crackdown on petty theft of inflight supplies on board its planes by its cabin crew.

Meanwhile, a man was arrested in Taiwan in September for allegedly stealing cash from another passenger’s carry-on luggage on a flight from Tokyo to Taipei.

Zhang has been remanded for police investigations. If convicted of theft, he could face up to three years’ jail, a fine, or both per charge.

Scoot said it was unable to provide further details about the case but has warned crew and passengers to remain vigilant on board.

“Our operating crew are trained to be vigilant and alert authorities of any suspicious behavior on board our flights,” it said in the statement. “We also advise our customers to safeguard their valuables at all times.”

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