Unable to pay loans, Cheers franchisee steals $300,000 from own store
Cheers franchisee $100,000 in debt
As a franchisee of a Cheers minimart store, it was in Azahar Salleh's interest to ensure the business did well.
Yet, he was caught stealing from the store.
Yesterday, Azahar, 41, pleaded guilty to dishonestly misappropriating more than $300,000 from the daily sales proceeds and inventory over a four-month period from his Cheers store in Choa Chu Kang.
The court was told that he entered into a franchise agreement with Cheers Holdings in May 2012, which licensed him to occupy and operate the store for seven years.
When the store was handed to him, it was stocked with inventory of a cost value of $100,000.
He had to maintain a "net worth" of $100,000 with Cheers Holdings and he paid $20,000 as a "net worth deposit" at the start of the agreement.
Part of his 49 per cent share of the monthly profit would go towards maintaining the net worth until it reached $100,000, after which he would receive his entire share of the monthly profit.
When a stocktake was done at his store in November 2012, there was a shortfall of $8,000 in merchandise and the amount was deducted from his monthly profit, he claimed.
For the next seven months, Azahar said, he did not have any income and was forced to take legal and illegal loans, which snowballed to $100,000.
Unable to repay the loans, he resorted to misappropriating the store's inventory around June 2014.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Suhas Malhotra said that when customers bought items at the store, Azahar did not record the sale in the cash register and kept the money instead.
From September that year, Azahar did not hand over all sales proceeds to Cheers Holdings.
When Cheers Holdings conducted a detailed check of Azahar's store on Oct 8, 2014, it discovered that he had misappropriated almost $150,000 in phone cards, $5,000 in URA parking coupons and CashCards and more than $70,000 worth of cigarettes from June to Oct 2, 2014.
Between Sept 11 and Oct 1, 2014, Azahar also misappropriated close to $117,000 in daily sales proceeds and around $13,000 in miscellaneous merchandise.
Roughly $40,000 of Azahar's monthly profits were withheld by Cheers Holdings.
Yesterday, Azahar's lawyer, Mr Gino Hardial Singh, asked the court for an extension in the order for his client to make restitution.
Azahar's next court appearance is on May 10.
For criminal breach of trust, he can be jailed up to seven years or fined or both.