Singapore: Car dealer admits flouting Covid-19 law by holding 150-car meetup, going on high-speed joyride while on bail

Yeo Jing Cheng's white Volkswagen Jetta (right) speeding on the KPE on May 16, 2020, at a time when the circuit breaker restrictions on activities and movement were in place. Other vehicles in the convoy are pictured in the left-hand image. — Screengrab
Yeo Jing Cheng's white Volkswagen Jetta (right) speeding on the KPE on May 16, 2020, at a time when the circuit breaker restrictions on activities and movement were in place. Other vehicles in the convoy are pictured in the left-hand image. — Screengrab

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SINGAPORE — Car dealer Yeo Jing Cheng, 31, organised a meetup of street car owners that drew more than 150 vehicles to a carpark in East Coast Park on March 28 last year before they set off in convoy across Singapore.

The mass gathering came one day after the Government had banned non-essential gatherings of more than 10 individuals to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Then on May 16, after Yeo had already been charged over his part in this illegal gathering, he joined another group of drivers to take a joyride around Singapore, at a time when the circuit breaker was in force, further restricting gathering and activities.

Yeo was filmed speeding with at least eight other cars.

Today, Yeo pleaded guilty to four charges, including an offence under the Infectious Diseases (Measures to Prevent Spread of Covid-19) Regulations 2020, which came into force on March 27 last year, a day before his street car event.

The fourth charge related to his attempt to obstruct the course of justice.

The afternoon after the joyride, Yeo removed his white Volkswagen Jetta’s GT-wing spoiler — an accessory that is fitted to the boot lid — after seeing that a video of a convoy that he was part of had been uploaded onto the “SG Road Vigilante” Facebook page.

When a police officer asked him about his involvement that night, he denied knowing any of the drivers and said that the white car captured on video was not his, adding that his car’s GT-wing spoiler had been removed “long ago”.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Stephanie Koh is seeking five weeks’ jail, a S$5,000 fine and a two-year driving ban for Yeo, while Yeo’s lawyer Luke Anton Netto is asking for just a S$10,000 fine, and a driving ban of six months.

Netto argued that Yeo’s culpability in organising the street cars meetup is low as no one had responded to his invitation and he had no idea that more than 10 individuals would turn up.

“Cancelling the event would be erring on the side of caution because he had no knowledge of who is going to be there,” he said, adding that the turnout for his previous invitations had been nowhere near this big.

In suggesting the short driving ban, Netto said that not being able to drive would “severely impact (Yeo’s) career” since he won’t be able to bring his customers on test drives or drive the cars to meet his potential buyers. “He wishes to focus on his career,” he added.

But DPP Koh insisted that Yeo’s culpability is high as he was the organiser of an “open event” that could be attended by anybody and had no qualms about his invitation being forwarded and shared beyond the group chats that he had sent it to.

She pointed out that he had also told members of his group chat to exit the group and delete his invitation for the street cars meetup from the chat, Facebook and other social media platforms to avoid liability.

She also stressed that Yeo reoffended while on bail.

‘Any cars are welcomed’

The court heard that Yeo organised the gathering of drivers, which started at 11pm on March 28, because he wanted to network for his car dealing business.

He started organising the event earlier that month by designing a digital poster invitation and sending it to two car enthusiast chat groups a few days before the event.

The invitation stated that “any cars are welcomed” and that they would move off from East Coast Park at midnight with the route to be disclosed only on the night itself.

On the day of the event, more than 150 cars showed up, by Yeo’s own estimate.

Yeo then disseminated information to the drivers for them to drive in a convoy to a petrol kiosk at Jalan Buroh, in the western part of Singapore.

While at Jalan Buroh, he heard from other drivers that there was another gathering taking place at Tuas and joined that convoy as well.

By 12.30am on March 29, his car was parked along with some others along the road at Tuas South Boulevard, where a few drivers participated in an illegal street race.

Traffic police officers got wind of illegal street racing and illegally modified cars at about 2am and arrived to find more than 100 cars parked along the road, with their drivers and passengers mingling with each other.

Everyone started attempting to drive off upon seeing the police, but the traffic police quickly blocked the roads and Yeo was among those who was stopped for further questioning.

Yeo was charged on April 9 that year.

But when he was out on bail, he reoffended a month later.

When chatting with two friends at a coffee shop in Woodlands at around 11pm on May 15, he heard that some others would be going “rounding”, that is taking part in a joy ride, and he asked another friend along.

A group of at least 11 cars were part of the convoy that night when they drove along four expressways, including the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) and the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE).

Investigations revealed that the group was driving above the speed limit of 80km/h along an 11km stretch of the MCE and KPE tunnel until they exited into the Tampines Expressway.

Yeo will return to court on May 25 to be sentenced.

He could be jailed for up to six months and fined up to S$10,000 for flouting the Covid-19 related regulations.

For driving at a speed that was dangerous to the public, he could be jailed for up to 12 months, fined up to S$5,000, or both. He could also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for life or for such period as the court may think fit.

For obstructing the course of justice, he could be jailed for up to seven years, fined, or both. — TODAY

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