COURTS

Cabbie banned for cheating officer posing as tourist out of HK$500

Cabbie ordered to do 100 hours' community work for theft and overcharging

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2012, 3:42am

A cabbie who cheated a police officer, posing as a Putonghua-speaking visitor, out of HK$500 was ordered yesterday to perform 100 hours of community service.

Hon So-man, 49, was also banned from driving a taxi for six months.

Hon had earlier pleaded guilty to theft and overcharging. He also admitted failing to display his taxi driver's licence in the car while driving and was fined HK$200.

The cabbie was arrested in a police operation in Tsim Sha Tsui earlier this month.

He failed to use the mileage meter, instead charging the undercover woman officer HK$80 for a route that would normally cost less than HK$30. He also insisted she had given him a HK$100 banknote when in fact he received a HK$500 note. He then drove off with the HK$500 without giving her the change.

In Kowloon City Court, Magistrate Abu Bakar bin Wahab said Hon's act had marred Hong Kong's reputation as a tourist city. "The sentence has to be severe enough to reflect public outrage," Wahab said.

It was not acceptable for a driver of public transport to display dishonest conduct, such as taking a detour, cheating passengers over a fare or refusing a hire, the magistrate said.

Hon said he was deeply remorseful and promised not to reoffend.

On September 11, Hon was approached by the policewoman to take her to a destination that took 10 minutes to reach. He told her he would charge HK$80.

At the destination, she handed over a HK$500 banknote. He got out to help her move her luggage but when she demanded change, he said he had received only HK$100 and refused to give change. He then drove off.

Hon was intercepted by police, who found the HK$500 note and his licence in his waist pouch.

Police earlier said that they received nine complaints about taxi drivers' illegal conduct in the past three months that targeted mainland tourists.

Kwan Yuk-wah, chairman of the Urban Taxi Drivers Association Joint Committee, said the sentence was not a strong deterrent and feared that more "black sheep" would target mainland visitors during the National Day "golden week" holiday starting this weekend.

He said the industry had seen an increase in malpractice as many young people had joined as taxi drivers recently, wanting to make a quick buck. Veteran drivers had committed crimes to cover rising costs, he said.