SINGAPORE: A man who broke a COVID-19 law and committed traffic offences in leaving his house to provide carpooling services during the “circuit breaker” was given three days’ jail, a S$1,800 fine and a one-year driving ban on Friday (Mar 12).
Ng Chiang Huat, 53, pleaded guilty to three charges of leaving his house without reasonable excuse to provide carpooling services via the SGHitch Telegram group in April 2020, and for driving without a required insurance policy and a valid public service vehicle licence.
Ng was a sales representative when he posted a message on the Telegram group chat – which had been renamed COVID-19 Lockdown SGHitch – on the morning of Apr 23, 2020.
He wrote “Driver looking for Pax”, with a pick-up point in Choa Chu Kang and a drop-off in the city area. A person responded to Ng and he accepted the request to ferry them from Block 430 Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4 to Plaza Singapura for S$12.
At about 10.20am, a man and a woman boarded Ng’s car and paid him S$12 via PayNow upon getting into the vehicle.
When they were along Handy Road, a Land Transport Authority (LTA) enforcement officer stopped Ng’s vehicle. Ng lied and claimed his passengers were his relatives, but was unable to give their names.
The passengers turned out to be LTA officers. Ng later admitted that he had been ferrying them for a fee.
The prosecution had called for at least a week’s jail, a fine of S$1,800 and a one-year driving ban, noting that the administrators of the Telegram chat group had added a heading: “IMPORTANT NOTICE CARPOOLING (IS) NOW ILLEGAL DURING COVID-19”.
There was widespread media publicity that carpooling services were prohibited from Apr 16, 2020, said the prosecution, but Ng persisted in advertising his services seven days after they were banned.
Ng could have been jailed up to six months, fined up to S$10,000, or both for breaking COVID-19 laws.