When Gurwinder Gill, Herdeep Singh and Navjinder Singh heard that people were making money from Chitta powder, they wanted a piece of the pie, but these boys went for another form of chitta – Baby Formula.
Amid a national baby formula shortage in Australia , a Melbourne crime syndicate allegedly stole $900,000 worth of formula tins from storage centres across the city in less than three months, a court has heard.
Police allege Gurwinder Gill, Herdeep Singh and Navjinder Singh were part of a group that robbed 15 sites that stored baby formula between June 8 and August 30.
Two of the three men on Thursday appeared before Melbourne Magistrates Court, which released charge sheets that allege centres from Point Cook to Springvale were robbed of formula and vitamins for babies.
It is not known what the men did with the products, however it is understood that in some cases they used a forklift to move pallets of formula onto a truck.
Among the charges was the alleged theft of $160,000 of formula from a Mount Waverley storage centre on August 30, $100,000 worth stolen from a Preston venue on July 25 and $90,000 of stock from a Point Cook building on June 8. Police believe about $900,000 of formula and vitamins was stolen across all the burglaries.
Mr Gill, 36, and Herdeep Singh, 21, appeared before the court on Thursday and were remanded in custody, but deputy chief magistrate Jelena Popovic issued a warrant for Navjinder Singh’s arrest when the 24-year-old failed to appear while on bail.
Ms Popovic refused to grant Mr Gill bail after she was told of his continued involvement in the syndicate despite being arrested in July and charged with burglary and theft charges and possessing heroin.
Senior Constable Melissa Leeds said Mr Gill committed burglaries while on bail and that although he had been co-operative with police, there was a risk he would offend if released.
“I would have concerns with him falling in with the same associates and falling into the same offending again,” Senior Constable Leeds said.
Mr Gill’s wife, Kamal, tried to help her “loving, caring” husband with his heroin addiction, the court heard, including getting him medical treatment and having his parents come from India.
“We were supporting him and all of us were just at him to stop taking drugs. Maybe our approach wasn’t right,” Ms Gill said as she became upset and her husband dropped his head in the dock.
Ms Popovic told her: “You shouldn’t blame yourself.”
Defence counsel Michelle Goldberg said Mr Gill was drug free and was keen to rehabilitate himself.
But Ms Popovic, in refusing bail, said Mr Gill “had the chance” to get help while he was on bail, but had lied and minimised his problems to a treating doctor.
“There is no doubt in my mind Mr Gill will be receiving a lengthy term of imprisonment,” she said.
Prosecutor Jelena Malobabic opposed bail on the grounds Mr Gill’s alleged crimes were serious and prolonged, and that he had continued offending even though his family was trying to help him.
Mr Gill, who ran a cleaning business from his Ardeer home, faces more than 30 charges including burglary, theft, dealing with the proceeds of crime, offending while on bail and possessing heroin. He is due to return to court in January.
Herdeep Singh, of Newport, is set to contest charges of burglary, theft and drug possession charges at a hearing in February.
Navjinder Singh, of St Albans, is charged with burglary and theft offences, as well as failing to comply with his bail conditions, stealing a van and possessing an unregistered handgun.
Many retailers have placed limits on the amount of baby formula people can buy in one transaction due to the high demand for the products.