SINGAPORE, Aug 12 — The couple who allegedly swindled more than S$20 million from luxury goods buyers in a high-profile case was hauled to court today, a day after being arrested in Johor Baru and taken back to Singapore.

Singaporean Pi Jiapeng, 26, and his Thai wife Pansuk Siriwipa, 27, each face three charges — two counts of conspiring to cheat and one count of illegal departure from Singapore.

The couple has been accused of scamming victims who made advance payments for luxury watches and bags. The pair then purportedly failed to deliver the goods.

Arrest warrants and Interpol red notices were issued against them after at least 180 police reports were lodged against the two companies they were behind, Tradenation and Tradeluxury, since June.

Court documents stated that both were allegedly party to a criminal conspiracy to cheat Tradenation customers from May 28 last year to June 27 this year, by deceiving them into giving payment for luxury watches.

They also purportedly conspired to cheat Tradeluxury customers over luxury handbags from Jan 15 to June 27 this year.

Both appeared in the State Courts today through video-link, with an interpreter reading the charges to Pansuk in Thai. They were refused bail after a judge agreed with the prosecution that they were flight risks.

Media reports had previously pegged the swindled amount at about S$32 million. Court documents currently do not list any specific monetary sums but Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) David Koh told the court that the total sums across the police reports amounted to more than S$20 million.

Pi, who was born in Fujian province in China, was initially arrested in Singapore on June 27. He had his passport impounded and was released on bail of S$15,000 the next day, pending the completion of investigations.

Pansuk was assisting the police with investigations and surrendered her passport to officers on June 30. Both later could not be contacted.

They then allegedly fled the country by hiding in the container compartment of a Malaysia-registered lorry, which went through Tuas Checkpoint on July 4.

Five weeks passed before the Royal Thai Police informed the Singapore Police Force that Pi and Pansuk may have been putting up in a hotel across the Causeway in Johor Baru, Malaysia.

The Singapore police then sought the Royal Malaysia Police's help to locate them. The couple was arrested by Malaysian police on Thursday and handed over to the police here.

Two Malaysian men — Mohamad Fazli Abdul Rahman, 38, and lorry driver Mohamed Alias, 40 — have already been charged with conspiring to arrange for the couple to be smuggled out of Singapore.

The men recently indicated that they wish to plead guilty. They have been remanded here due to the high risk that they could also flee the country.

No bail

Today, DPP Koh applied for no bail to be granted to Pi and Pansuk because of the "seriousness of the offences and the risk of flight".

He also applied for the couple to be remanded at Central Police Division for further investigations. He told District Judge Brenda Tan that time was needed given the scale of the case.

He also noted that investigations are at a relatively early stage because Pi and Pansuk essentially absconded, and time was needed to take statements from them.

The offences that they have been charged with are non-bailable ones as well, the DPP said.

In response, Pi said it was “not right for us to escape the country without any legal ways”.

“It’s due to the pressure we faced at that point of time, me and my wife were facing a lot of death threats and pressure. Of course it’s not an excuse, it is our mistake... We are clearly very sorry for the trouble we brought to the ICA (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority).

“We will do our best with the SPF and the investigations from now on,” he added.

Pansuk said through an interpreter that she understood why they were not offered bail. She added that she knew she had done something wrong, and that she would cooperate with the police.

They will return to court on Aug 19, after the judge agreed with DPP Koh that they proven to be a flight risk and should not be released on bail. Under the Immigration Act, anyone who illegally leaves Singapore or abets the offence faces at least six months’ and up to two years’ jail and may also be fined up to S$6,000.

Any abetment of offences in Singapore, even if committed outside the country, is punishable under the law here.

Those convicted of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each offence. — TODAY