SINGAPORE, Jan 28 — Despite being given a lifetime driving ban, Lee Cheng Yan went back behind the wheel and sparked a pursuit by the traffic police who nabbed him three days later after an extensive manhunt.
Lee, who has a chequered driving history dating back to 2001, had already made headlines for dragging a traffic police officer for more than 100m with his Maserati car in 2017.
For that and multiple other offences, including remote gambling and taking bribes to procure confidential customer details, the 38-year-old was yesterday (January 27) jailed one year, nine months and 16 weeks.
He was also once more disqualified from holding all classes of driving licences for life and ordered to pay a penalty of S$1,000 (RM3,095) to disgorge the bribes he received.
This newest jail term came on top of Lee’s earlier sentence of a S$3,700 fine and jail term of four years and seven months, which he is now serving.
The bespectacled Singaporean appeared in court via video-link with a shaved head.
Failing breathalyser test
For his latest offence, the court heard that Lee was out on bail pending an appeal against his conviction and sentence for dragging and severely injuring the traffic policeman. He eventually lost that appeal.
He drove a BMW car, which his friend had rented in February and March last year, along car park service roads in the Upper Boon Keng area. He was caught on closed-circuit television footage.
In the wee hours of March 12 last year, traffic police officers stopped him and an unidentified female passenger at a roadblock along MacPherson Road.
After Lee failed a breathalyser test, the officers asked for his personal details but he sped off instead. The officers gave chase for about 2.4km before losing sight of Lee’s car when he abruptly turned left into Tai Seng Avenue in the Upper Paya Lebar area.
During the pursuit, Lee drove in a dangerous manner such as speeding at 140km/h and beating two red lights.
When he had shaken off the officers, Lee abandoned the vehicle and fled from the scene. He was apprehended three days later.
Investigations revealed that he had gone to watch a movie in Bishan with a friend and then dropped her off at her home. He then drove to meet the unidentified female passenger at the Lavender Street area and had drinks with her.
Separately, in 2017, Lee offered to help his acquaintance — Philbert Lim Zong Xian, now aged 34 — retrieve the addresses of people who purportedly owed Lim money.
Lee said that he had contacts who could find out the addresses of these people and could help Lim get this information for S$350 a number.
Between January and April 2017, Lim purportedly paid him S$1,000 in bribes for this purpose.
Lee asked one of his contacts for help in retrieving customer details from telecommunications company Singtel using customers’ mobile phone numbers. The contact was Kelvin Foo Cheek Ann, a retail consultant at Telecom Equipment, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singtel.
He also offered Foo S$20 for each number that Foo checked.
When Foo accepted the offer and sent Lee the addresses, Lee handed them to Lim. The subscribers then reported instances of harassment such as calls, text messages, and people showing up at their homes demanding money to be returned to various people.
Foo was jailed 18 weeks in January last year, while Lim's case is pending before the courts.
Aside from this, Lee acted as an agent and punter for online soccer betting and online lotteries. He had several accounts from various sources and friends, while his friends also placed bets with him.
He pestered one such acquaintance to open a soccer betting account, but when the other man did not use it after some time, Lee pushed him into placing a few soccer bets.
‘Recalcitrant and persistent offender’
In their sentencing submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Timotheus Koh and Senthilkumaran Sabapathy called Lee a “recalcitrant and persistent offender” with “complete disregard for the law”.
Lee had pleaded guilty to 15 charges with another 54 charges taken into consideration for sentencing. Ten of these charges related to him driving while under the lifetime ban, the prosecution noted.
The other charges fell under the Remote Gambling Act, Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, Prevention of Corruption Act and Protection from Harassment Act.
“The sheer multiplicity and variety of the accused’s offences also point to the need for deterrence and retribution,” the DPPs said.
In mitigation, Lee’s defence counsel Jeremy Pereira from Withers KhattarWong said that they made no excuses for what he had done and it was a “situation where he was digging a deeper hole for himself as it went on”.
Pereira told the court that he had been hired when Lee was re-arrested for his newest driving offences and remanded.
“It kind of… sobered him. He was really forced to look at what he had done… From that point onwards, he recognised that he had to bear full responsibility for his actions without further excuses,” the lawyer added.
Pereira further argued that Lee had learned his lesson and that being in prison had been a “sobering experience”.
Lee's family is “living with the consequences of his mistakes”, with his wife and children having moved to Japan, the lawyer said.
District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam told the court that while it was heartening that Lee appears contrite, this could “easily be said to be one of the worst types of offending behaviour that the court has seen in recent times”.
“The sentence must reflect the severity of his offences,” the judge added. ― TODAY