Man admits to providing unlawful carpooling services during Covid-19 circuit breaker

SINGAPORE – In the first case of its kind, a man has been convicted of providing unlawful carpooling services during the circuit breaker last year.

Ng Chiang Huat, 54, was caught after he picked up two “passengers” who turned out to be Land Transport Authority (LTA) officers.

Singapore had imposed the circuit breaker between April 7 and June 1 last year to curb the growing number of Covid-19 cases then.

Ng on Monday (Feb 15) pleaded guilty to one count each of using his car as a public service vehicle without a proper licence to do so, and an offence under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Ti-Ting and LTA prosecutor Ng Jun Kai stated in court documents that at the time of the offences, Ng was a sales representative for a wholesale trading firm.

The Singaporean was also a member of the “Covid-19 Lockdown SGHitch” chat group on messaging platform Telegram.

On April 23 last year, he posted a message in the group stating: “Driver looking for pax.”

DPP Lee said: “A prospective passenger by the name of ‘Decha’ responded to the accused’s post, and at about 9.56am, the accused accepted the carpooling request to ferry the said passenger from Block 430 Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4 to Plaza Singapura for a fare of $12.”

A man and a woman later boarded Ng’s car at around 10.20am.

Ng was transporting the pair to their destination when an LTA enforcement officer stopped the vehicle along Handy Road near the shopping mall about 25 minutes later.

When questioned, Ng lied to the man, claiming that the pair were his relatives.

The DPP added: “(The officer) asked the accused for the names of the passengers.

“As the accused was unable to provide the exact names of the passengers, the accused then admitted… that the two passengers in his vehicle were not his relatives, and that he was ferrying them in exchange for a fare.”

On Monday, the prosecutors urged the court to sentence Ng to at least a week’s jail, a fine of $1,800 and disqualify him from driving for a year.

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They said: “By advertising his carpooling services, the accused had flouted his intention and willingness to disregard the circuit breaker measures.”

The administrators of the chat group have also been issued warnings, the court heard.

Defence lawyer Ramachandran Shiever Subramaniam told the court that his client is remorseful and regrets his actions. Ng will be sentenced on March 12.

First-time offenders convicted of an offence under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000.

Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $20,000.

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