Monday 24 November 2014

Two Germans who vandalised MRT train in Bishan depot get 9 months, 3 strokes each

German vandals get 9 months, 3 strokes
Duo express remorse, but DPP stresses seriousness of depot breach
By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 Mar 2015

THE two German men who in November sneaked into the SMRT Bishan depot through a drain and vandalised a train, have been sentenced to nine months in jail and three strokes of the cane.

Andreas Von Knorre, 22, and 21-year-old Elton Hinz both pleaded guilty and yesterday told the court, in English, of their remorse, swearing never to repeat their "stupid" mistake.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh stressed the seriousness of their offences, which took "thorough, meticulous, deliberate and elaborate" planning.

"They have defaced a train involved in the provision of public services," he said. "They have breached the security of a protected place, thereby giving rise to concerns about the security of our public transport system."

SMRT also told The Straits Times that the graffiti meant that the affected train had to be taken off service for nine days, affecting over 200,000 commuter trips.

Mr Koh called for a punishment that would warn would-be train vandals that the courts here would not stand for such a flagrant breach of the law.

The incident was the second security breach at the Bishan depot and the fourth case of train vandalism in 4½ years.

The two men received the minimum three strokes of the cane for the vandalism, but a German embassy spokesman, while urging citizens to adhere to the law when visiting here, said that its government "is opposed to corporal punishment anywhere in the world, including in Singapore".

The sentencing was reported by several European news sites, including the BBC and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. The deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, Mr Phil Robertson, criticised the sentence, telling Reuters that caning is "a blatant disregard for international human rights standards".

* Same standards for everyone, says AGC of caning

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal ruled in a separate case involving a drug trafficker that caning of prisoners is not torture and is constitutional.

Swiss expatriate Oliver Fricker was the last person found guilty of vandalising a train after he broke into SMRT's Changi installation in May 2010 with an accomplice, who remains at large. He was jailed for seven months and given three strokes of the cane.

Von Knorre and Hinz, who arrived here from Australia on Nov 4, admitted to entering the Bishan depot on Nov 7 and 8 and spraying graffiti on a train cabin on Nov 8. The charge of entering the place on Nov 6 was considered.

Mr Koh highlighted how the duo spent almost 45 minutes on their "handiwork", and even took photographs in front of the vandalised train. Judge Liew Thiam Leng, who backdated their sentences to Nov 22, noted that the offences were quite well planned, premeditated and difficult to detect.

SMRT had to spend $6,500 on cleaning the train and another $7,150 to supervise the operation.

The duo's lawyer, Mr Christopher Bridges, said his clients had learnt their lesson and tried to pay the cleaning charges of $6,500, although SMRT rejected the offer.

"This is the darkest episode of my entire life," Von Knorre told the court. "I want to apologise to the state of Singapore for my stupid mistake."

Hinz said: "Definitely I promise you I will never do it again. I want to not only apologise to you, but also to my family because of the shame and situation I have put them into."

German duo face two more charges of entering Bishan SMRT depot
By Elena Chong, The Straits Times, 28 Nov 2014

The two Germans accused of trespassing and vandalising an SMRT train at Bishan depot earlier this month were charged with two more counts of entering a protected place without authorisation on Friday.

Andreas Von Knorre and Elton Hinz, both 21, are said to have entered the depot in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 on Nov 6 at 2.43am and the next day at about 2.20am.

They have been charged with entering the depot on Nov 8 at 2.48am and using indelible spray paint to spray graffiti on the left exterior cabin of the train.

Mr Christopher Bridges is representing the pair.

He is overseas and a fellow lawyer John Abraham mentioned the case on his behalf.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh told the court that the pair face charges with serious consequences.

"They are both foreigners and on social visit passes... no ties, no assets in Singapore and are assessed as flight risk,'' he said.

Bail of $100,000 in one surety or $50,000 in two sureties is offered.

Mr Koh said their passports will remain with the police and that the bailors have to be Singaporeans. Mr Abraham said he understood from Mr Bridges that the pair are likely to "take a certain course'", meaning to plead guilty.

A pre-trial conference is fixed for Dec 17. If convicted of vandalism, they could be fined up to $2,000 or jailed for up to three years plus three to eight strokes of the cane each. The maximum punishment for entering a protected place is a $1,000 fine and two years on each charge.

The incident at the Bishan Depot on Nov 8 was the fourth case of vandalism at SMRT's depots since 2010, and the second this year.

2 Germans charged with vandalism
By Samantha Boh, The Sunday Times, 23 Nov 2014

Andreas Von Knorre and Elton Hinz, two German 21-year-olds accused of vandalising an SMRT train at Bishan Depot, arrived in separate cars at the State Court yesterday to be charged.

Both tried to ignore a phalanx of photographers- Hinz kept his eyes down while Von Knorre looked straight ahead.

In court, the charges of vandalism and trespass were read to them separately in German through a translator.

Von Knorre, dressed in a red T-shirt and black shorts, seemed distracted, peering to his right a couple of times. Hinz, who was charged after him, was in a printed T-shirt and jeans, and was seen nodding as he listened.

If found guilty, both face the possibility of going to jail or being fined, but vandalism carries mandatory caning of three to eight strokes.

The two men will be remanded at Tanglin Police Division for a week.

The incident at the Bishan Depot on Nov 8 was the fourth case of vandalism at SMRT's depots since 2010, and the second this year.

In the early hours of Nov 8, a train was discovered spray-painted in various colours.

The two suspects are believed to have left Singapore for an unspecified destination the same day. They were later located in Bangkok by the Thai police and subsequently arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last Thursday by the Malaysian authorities. They were extradited to Singapore on Friday.

Three spray-paint can nozzles were found on the men who are believed to be working in Australia. Twelve spray paint cans and a single yellow glove were found near the vandalism scene.

The men's cellphones, laptops and cameras have been seized for investigations.

They will next appear at the State Court on Friday.

Forensics, close collaboration with foreign agencies helped in nabbing suspects
By Amir Hussain, The Straits Times, 22 Nov 2014

THREE spray-paint can nozzles were found on the two German men who have been arrested for allegedly vandalising a train at SMRT's Bishan Depot on Nov 8.

Police officers also seized their mobile phones, laptops and cameras for investigation purposes, after nabbing them at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, twelve spray- paint cans and a single yellow glove were found in the vicinity of SMRT's Bishan Depot.

Senior Assistant Commissioner for Police Tan Chye Hee, the Criminal Investigation Department director, revealed these details at a briefing yesterday.

The German duo, both 21, were caught two weeks after they fled Singapore on Nov 8.

SAC Tan said the case was not an easy one to crack. Officers had "worked tirelessly around the clock to pursue all available leads", he said.

"It was really a combination of investigation skills, intelligence, forensics and close collaboration with our foreign law enforcement counterparts," SAC Tan said.

Forensic investigations included the matching of fingerprints and DNA, as well as the paint found in the cans with that on the train to establish the link to the scene.

The duo's exact travel patterns are still unknown - police could not confirm which countries they had visited in the two-week period.

Asked if the men were caught for spraying graffiti elsewhere, SAC Tan said that the police would look into this area.

"The suspects had displayed a blatant disregard of the law in Singapore. Police do not tolerate such brazen criminal acts," he added.

The men were extradited to Singapore yesterday morning. They are expected to be charged today with vandalism and with trespassing into a protected place.

If convicted of vandalism, the men face up to three years' jail or a fine of up to $2,000, and between three and eight strokes of the cane.

If convicted of trespassing into a protected area, they face two years in jail or a fine of $1,000, or both.

Depot breach: SMRT vows to strengthen security measures
By Amir Hussain, The Straits Times, 22 Nov 2014

TRANSPORT operator SMRT yesterday vowed to strengthen all its security measures, even as it assists the police with investigations into the latest trespassing incident at its Bishan Depot.

On Thursday, two German men, both 21, were arrested for allegedly making their way into the depot and spray-painting graffiti on a train on Nov 8.

How they managed to sneak in remains a mystery, but it was the fourth incident of vandalism at SMRT's depots since 2010.

Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan, who is on the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Transport, told The Straits Times yesterday that the repeated breaches were worrying.

"While the arrests in the latest incident give some comfort, it would be better if we can make sure that people can't just break in and do anything at the train depot," he said. "Today we have young people doing vandalism, tomorrow it may be someone else with a more dangerous intent."

MP Vikram Nair, who sits on the GPC for Home Affairs and Law, expects the police to look into how the latest security lapse occurred at what is "obviously a sensitive installation".

Transport GPC member Ang Hin Kee said it was too early to start pointing fingers and recommending changes, before investigations are completed. "Knowing the cause of the breach may provide some clue as to what needs to be done," he said.

The first depot breach occurred at SMRT's Changi installation in May 2010, when two vandals cut through the wire fence and spray-painted graffiti on one side of a train. Swiss national Oliver Fricker was given seven months' jail and three strokes of the cane, while Briton Lloyd Dane Alexander remains at large.

Then in August 2011, a hole was cut in the wire fence at Bishan Depot, and the words "Jet Setter's" spray-painted on a train. No one has been caught yet.

Since those incidents, for which it was fined $250,000 in total, SMRT had put in intrusion detection systems, increased patrols and switched its security contractor twice, going with Evtec in place of Ademco in 2010, and then hiring Certis Cisco in 2012.

Yet in May this year, a train was found in Bishan Depot with large surfaces of a carriage smeared in red, with smudges of white and green. Six months later, another train was vandalised.

"We are mindful of public concern... We have in place a set of measures such as interior and exterior checks of trains to detect any suspicious object or activity," said SMRT vice-president Patrick Nathan. He added: "SMRT is working with the relevant agencies to strengthen all security measures in place."

German duo arrested over train vandalism
By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 22 Nov 2014

TWO German nationals have been arrested for allegedly vandalising an SMRT train in Bishan Depot earlier this month.

The men, both 21, were nabbed by Malaysian police at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 6pm on Thursday, and extradited to Singapore yesterday.

They are expected to be charged today with trespassing as well as vandalism, which carries a sentence of up to three years in jail or a maximum fine of $2,000, and a mandatoryC three to eight strokes of the cane.

The vandalism was detected on the morning of Nov 8, before the train entered service.

The police are still investigating how the two men, first-time visitors to Singapore, allegedly gained access to Bishan Depot to spray graffiti on a train. There was speculation that it had been an inside job after sources said no intrusion was detected, but the latest revelation raises fresh questions about security at SMRT's train depots.

This is the third breach at Bishan Depot since 2011, with two happening this year, despite improvements such as reinforced steel fences and intrusion detection systems. The depot at Changi was also breached in May 2010.

Yesterday, both SMRT and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said they would work with relevant parties to enhance the security of the transport network, but did not elaborate further.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chair Cedric Foo stressed the seriousness of such lapses. "LTA and SMRT must learn from these episodes to improve security, including possibly a multi- layer defence approach," he added.

Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Tan Chye Hee, the Criminal Investigation Department director, said at a briefing yesterday that the two Germans entered Singapore on Nov 4. They flew off on Nov 8 - the same day SMRT discovered the graffiti, which was made up of crude words and symbols of multiple colours scrawled across two train doors.

Preliminary investigations established that the men travelled to Bangkok at one point, and help from the Royal Thai Police was sought to trace them.

The Royal Malaysia Police later arrested the duo at the airport on Thursday evening before they boarded a plane to Australia.

SAC Tan said the pair were on a visa that allowed them to work and travel in Australia, but declined to specify which part of the country they were going to.

Based on their current passports, the men were visiting Singapore for the first time earlier this month, SAC Tan added.

He also said there was nothing to suggest the duo were responsible for the previous vandalism incident at Bishan Depot in May. But the police will look into this possibility, he added.

SMRT train in Bishan Depot found vandalised
Graffiti spray-painted on train's exterior; no intrusion was detected at depot
By Carolyn Khew, The Sunday Times, 9 Nov 2014

For the fourth time in four years and the second time this year alone, police were called to an SMRT depot yesterday to investigate a case of possible vandalism.

This time, the graffiti is believed to been spray-painted in various colours on the outside of a train at Bishan Depot. It was discovered yesterday morning before the train started service.

Police officers went to the Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 premises after receiving a call at about 6.40am. In the afternoon, the police confirmed they were investigating a case of vandalism and that investigations were ongoing.

The transport operator has been fined a total of $250,000 in the past for security breaches at its depots, which are high-security areas.

The Sunday Times understands that no intrusion was detected at the Bishan Depot yesterday. This means that although the premises have an electronic Fence Intrusion Detection System, it was not triggered, suggesting that the culprits did not break through the fence.

Confirming the incident, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said SMRT discovered the graffiti before the train left the depot to start service. An LTA spokesman said the authority "takes a serious view of the incident" and is working with the police and SMRT on the investigations.

SMRT's vice-president of corporate information and communications, Mr Patrick Nathan, said the transport operator was investigating the incident and assisting the police. He declined to comment further.

When The Sunday Times visited the depot yesterday afternoon, there was a police vehicle and three police officers stationed near the entrance. However, the media were not allowed in.

Since 2010, SMRT has had to deal with repeated vandalism incidents at the Bishan and Changi depots.

In May 2010, two vandals cut through the fence of SMRT's Changi depot and spray-painted graffiti on one side of a train. One of them, Swiss national Oliver Fricker, was given seven months' jail and three strokes of the cane, while his accomplice, Briton Lloyd Dane Alexander, remains at large.

Then, in August 2011, a hole was cut in the fence at the Bishan depot and the words "Jet Setter's" were spray-painted on one of the trains.

On May 5 this year, a red scrawl was discovered on a train before it left the Bishan depot for service. The police took fingerprints of SMRT staff working on the morning the train was found vandalised. Investigations for that incident are still ongoing.

After the second incident in 2011, SMRT faced strong criticism from politicians and the public. The train operator attributed the second incident to a security lapse, which took place due to human error.

It was reported in September this year that a new Fence Intrusion Detection System had been put in place at SMRT's Ulu Pandan, Bishan and Changi depots.

More lights and surveillance cameras were also installed to enable security staff to pinpoint the exact location of an intrusion and capture it on video.

MP Seng Han Thong, who is deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, expressed concern yesterday over the latest incident at Bishan Depot.

"Some members of the public may think that Bishan Depot is an easy target," he said.

"I really hope that SMRT and LTA will review and enhance the system so that it does not happen again."

Every breach of security is a show of vulnerability
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2014

THE recent vandalism of an SMRT train that resulted in the arrest of two German men is worrying several quarters in the Government. And rightly so.

Not only was it the fourth such case in four years but, like the first three, it also involved trains that were parked in highly protected depots.

In fact, after the first two incidents in 2010 and 2011, SMRT installed a sophisticated intrusion-detection system, and roped in security contractors to patrol its depots.

Yet, two more incidents took place - in May and earlier this month. The latter was alleged to have been the work of two 21-year-old Germans, first-time visitors who had entered the country only a couple of days before the incident.

Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan, who is on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said the repeated security breaches were worrying.

"Today we have young people doing vandalism, tomorrow it may be someone else with a more dangerous intent," he said, echoing the sentiment of other parliamentarians.

As far removed as vandalism seems to be from sinister acts such as terrorism, the fear is not unwarranted.

Images of mangled steel and bodies in the aftermath of bomb attacks on rail lines in Moscow, Mumbai, London and Madrid between 2004 and 2010 are still vivid in people's minds.

The Madrid incident - where 10 coordinated explosions killed 191 and injured more than 1,800 commuters on March 11, 2004 - is especially chilling. Several of the bombs that went off were planted on trains while they were in stations.

According to the US National Transportation Security Center of Excellence's 2012 annual report, attacks on transit systems have been "extensive".

From Sept 11, 2001 to 2011, the centre noted that there had been close to 2,000 attacks resulting in more than 3,900 deaths and more than 14,000 injuries.

These attacks were also far more lethal than bombs onboard aircraft. On average, each transit attack resulted in 3.3 deaths - compared with two for aviation attacks.

The stark difference may be attributable to the nature of mass transit. A packed 10-car subway train can carry more than 2,000 people during rush hour, compared with about 850 that an Airbus A-380 carries.

While one may argue that there is practically no chance of survival in an airborne attack, the devastation of bombs going off on a train at a crowded platform - or in tunnels, where explosive forces are amplified - cannot be underestimated. The porous nature of a transit system also makes security far more daunting. In Singapore, more than two million train rides take place a day, with commuters using close to 300 entrances and exits across 100 or so stations.

And as our rail network doubles in length by 2030 to 360km, so too would ridership.

The stringent screenings air travellers are subjected to cannot be applied to transit systems, as they would render mass rapid transit far less rapid and hence inefficient.

It is perhaps for that reason that terrorists are targeting them. As observers have pointed out, tightened security at airports may also have made transit networks more viable targets.

Security expert Brian Michael Jenkins noted in a blog for American think-tank Rand earlier this year that terrorists having moved towards softer targets "can be interpreted as an indirect indicator that security works". "Criminals exploit the absence of security," Mr Jenkins wrote. "Increasing security drives them away."

That does not explain SMRT's four cases of intrusion and vandalism, despite its slew of security measures.

Local security experts were at a loss when asked to comment on the cases. Did the first incident in 2010, which attracted international media attention not so much for the crime but the punishment, throw down the gauntlet to the community of vandals?

No one knows. How the two Germans were able to enter a highly secured depot without breaking and entering also remains a mystery. As do the exact circumstances that led to their arrests.

For SMRT and the Government, the incident is a source of embarrassment. What is harder to swallow, though, is how it once again demonstrated the vulnerability of the transit system.

That Singapore also had a spate of other very public security breaches dating back to the high-profile escape of Mas Selamat Kastari in 2008 holds no comfort.

If these non-professionals - including a 28-year-old Malaysian teacher who drove past the Woodlands Checkpoint and into the premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - could breach security measures with seemingly so little effort, what chance do we have against highly trained and motivated terrorists?

That may not be an entirely fair assessment. While it is easy to notice lapses, it is harder to quantify the overall effectiveness of security systems.

Mr Jenkins noted: "It is difficult to count things that don't occur. Many criticise security as being 'just for show'. However, illusion is an important component of security."

Metros in many major cities face the scourge of vandals. In Melbourne, an average of 35 trains are defaced each month by vandals, who sometimes damage brakes and signalling systems.

Even metros in orderly Japan are not spared. In recent years, vandals have targeted trains in eight cities across the country.

Singapore's four cases over four years thus do not appear to be alarming. Still, it would be foolhardy not to deal seriously with every security breach that comes to light.

SMRT pinpoints Bishan depot’s drains, canals as vulnerable spots
By Kenneth Cheng, TODAY, 5 Dec 2014

Following a string of security breaches at its Bishan depot, SMRT yesterday identified drains and canals running underneath the facility as points presenting security vulnerabilities.

In a media statement, the public transport operator said it had been working with the authorities to “urgently address the identified points of vulnerability to further safeguard the depot and its transport assets, while keeping in mind the pertinent drainage considerations”.

Responding to media queries, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said following the latest incident on Nov 8,it had initiated and carried out detailed surveys of the Bishan depot, together with SMRT and other government agencies. “SMRT will be taking action to improve its security measures to cover the network of drains that runs underneath the depot,” LTA said.

In all, there are three outlet drains — two of which are covered — that run through the 30ha depot, national water agency PUB said, adding that the entrance and exit points of the covered drains are outside the depot. The open drain is fenced out from the depot premises, it said.

The Bishan depot has been hit by three security breaches in the past three years. In August 2011, the words Jet Setter’s were found spray-painted on a train. It was discovered that the facility’s fence had been cut and additional security features were implemented to reinforce the depot’s 6.5km-long fenced perimeter.

On May 5 this year, graffiti was found on the exterior of a train before it moved out of the depot to begin its service. Investigations for this incident are still ongoing.

In the most recent breach last month, two German nationals have been arrested and are facing charges. They allegedly entered the depot without authorisation on Nov 6,7 and 8. It has not been established how they entered the facility. The pair allegedly spray-painted graffiti on the left exterior cabin of an SMRT train at the depot.

Security measures were ramped up further after the May incident. In that case and the incident last month, the fences were not breached.

When contacted, SMRT declined to comment on whether investigations into these cases revealed that the alleged vandals had entered the depot through the canals and drains.

On last month’s incident, SMRT said in its statement: “We are currently assisting the police in their investigations and, as the incident is before the courts, we will not be able to make further comments until the official investigation is completed.”

SMRT said the original open design of the Bishan depot “poses a number of unique challenges because of its size and full visibility from adjacent buildings”.

It added that it shares the public’s concern and anxiety over the security breaches. “Beyond train depots, there are extensive track lines and station infrastructure that must be protected,” SMRT said. “Millions of commuters use the network each day and there is a need to balance security imperatives with the efficiency of the public transport network.”

It said that, with national security agencies, it would develop an “effective strategy that encompasses deterrence, vigilance and swift response (to) prevailing threats”.


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