Swiss man pleads guilty to spraying graffiti on Singapore subway car, may be caned

By Alex Kennedy, AP
Friday, June 25, 2010

Swiss pleads guilty to spraying Singapore graffiti

SINGAPORE — A Swiss man pleaded guilty Friday to spray-painting graffiti on a Singapore subway car and could be caned as punishment.

Oliver Fricker, 32, pleaded guilty to one count each of vandalism and trespassing for breaking into a train depot and drawing graffiti on a subway car on May 16. Prosecutors dropped a second vandalism charge but submitted it to the judge for consideration in Fricker’s sentencing, which is scheduled for later Friday.

Fricker and his lawyer, Derek Kang, did not speak to reporters at the courthouse.

Vandalism in Singapore carries a fine of up to 2,000 Singapore dollars ($1,437) or up to three years in jail, in addition to three to eight strokes of a cane.

Singapore caned American teenager Michael Fey for vandalism in 1994 — ignoring pleas for leniency by then-President Bill Clinton — in a case that drew international attention to the country’s harsh punishments.

Singapore reiterated a ban on the sale of chewing gum this year and announced a crackdown on littering last month. The city-state has one of the lowest violent crime rates and highest standards of living in the world.

Prosecutors said Fricker, who is free on SG$100,000 ($72,000) bail, committed the crimes with Lloyd Dane Alexander, a British national who is at large. Police issued an arrest warrant for Alexander, 29, earlier this month, and prosecutors said he fled to Hong Kong last month.

Fricker, who has worked in Singapore as an information technology consultant since 2008, and Alexander cut through a security fence and caused about SG$11,000 of damage by painting ‘McKoy Banos’ on a train car, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said their version of events was revealed through police investigations, but didn’t specify how Fricker was identified.

Singapore’s subway operator, SMRT Corp, apologized earlier this month for the incident, which led local media to question the city-state’s preparedness against possible terrorist attacks.

SMRT said it has beefed up security at train depots by adding razor wire to perimeter fences, more cameras and foot patrols by guards. SMRT didn’t report the incident to police for two days because staff thought the brightly colored graffiti was an advertisement.

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