Fare row cabbie arrested after allegedly dumping passengers' valuables in nullah at Tin Shui Wai
Police divers carry out search after passengers' bags of valuables are allegedly ditched in nullah
Police frogmen searched a nullah for sunken "treasure" yesterday after a dispute over a taxi fare allegedly caused a cabbie to go off the deep end.
The 34-year-old driver picked up two passengers at Chek Lap Kok airport shortly after 2am on Tuesday for the 40-kilometre journey to the Lok Ma Chau border crossing.
The passengers were laden with HK$60,000 of cameras and wine, which they put in the boot. But when they arrived at their destination, they asked to pay the HK$290 fare in yuan.
Police said the angry driver insisted on a one-to-one exchange rate, but his passengers, one of whom was from the mainland, disagreed.
So the cabbie allegedly then drove off without the money, but with their bags still in the boot.
Border district police chief inspector Tony Chan Chi-ho said the driver dumped the bags into the nullah near his home at Tin Heng Estate in Tin Shui Wai. He was arrested on suspicion of theft on Thursday and, according to Chan, said he did not intend to steal anything and had not even opened the bags. He was later released on bail.
A search for the luggage was launched in the drainage channel, but by last night it had proved fruitless. It was not clear if it would resume today.
One of the passengers, who lives in Shenzhen, said in a television interview yesterday that he had been left "very frightened and angry" by the incident.
"I thought Hong Kong was safer than the mainland. I never thought this kind of thing would happen in Hong Kong," he said, adding that he was so distraught he could not sleep for two nights. "I told the driver that even if he accepted 90 yuan (HK$113) to HK$100, he would still be in profit."
He said he would be more careful when he took taxi again in Hong Kong and would definitely avoid putting his valuable belongings in the boot.
The police said they were concerned about the alleged theft.
They appealed to passengers to take note of taxi drivers' details and the licence plate just in case.
Meanwhile, two other cabbies were arrested on Friday for not charging fares according to the meter in a police operation.
Five drivers were also given penalty tickets for refusing hires.
In one case, a police officer posing as a passenger boarded a taxi in Central and said he wanted to go to Yau Ma Tei.
The cabbie told him it would cost HK$200 and was arrested when the taxi got to Yau Ma Tei.