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  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 12:44am
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Hong Kong taxi driver gets 10 weeks in jail for driving off with passengers' luggage

Man who threw passengers' bags into drain after disagreement over fare will spend 10 weeks behind bars as warning to other cabbies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 6:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 September, 2013, 8:51am
 

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A taxi driver was yesterday sentenced to 10 weeks in jail for throwing his passengers' luggage into a drain after a dispute over the fare last month.

Fung Kim-wai, 34, had earlier pleaded guilty to theft at Fanling Court.

Magistrate Bernadette Woo Huey Fang rejected Fung's offer to compensate his passengers for the loss of their goods, worth HK$60,830, and sentenced him to immediate imprisonment.

She said Fung had damaged Hong Kong's reputation, and that a heavy punishment was necessary as a warning to other taxi drivers in the city.

The incident took place on August 20 around 1am, when the two 35-year-old passengers boarded Fung's taxi at Chek Lap Kok airport and asked to go to Lok Ma Chau.

When they arrived at the destination, the passengers wanted to pay the HK$290 fare in yuan, and a dispute arose over the exchange rate. Fung wanted a one-to-one exchange rate, but the pair disagreed.

The passengers then went to retrieve their luggage from the boot of the taxi, but Fung drove off with it.

When he reached Tin Shui Wai, he threw the bags into a nullah. The luggage contained 10 handbags worth about HK$35,900; two bottles of wine; a camera; a BMW car key worth HK$10,000; a mobile phone charger; and some clothes.

The tourists reported the matter to the police and he was arrested that day. Police divers conducted a search of the water catchment on August 24, but failed to find the bags.

Barrister Yeung Shak-nung said in mitigation that Fung had committed the crime in the "recklessness of the moment" and that he regretted his actions.

The lost property was not found at his home, proving he had not stolen it, Yeung said.

The barrister added that Fung had not thought the luggage would be so valuable, as people usually kept their valuables with them, but the magistrate did not accept this as mitigation.

Yeung described Fung as an honest person. He had been a taxi driver for 10 years and had never stolen anything from his passengers, the barrister said.

Taxi Dealers and Owners Association president Ng Kwan-sing said a severe punishment was appropriate to discourage other cabbies from committing similar offences.

Describing Fung's actions as "irrational and very stupid", Ng called on taxi drivers to maintain good manners and to avoid conflicts with passengers when discussing fare exchange rates.

One of the passengers, Yu Yuanhang, who lives in Shenzhen, said in a telephone interview with Cable TV: "If he's really willing to correct his mistake, I'll forgive him."

 

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This article is now closed to comments

shafinhk
In my opinion a sentence of two weeks with an order to pay back the money to the victims within 30 days or face further sentence of 6 months should be appropriate.
I am not sure if this taxi driver has children or not. if he has children then it is not good for them to live apart from father for 6 weeks. They are punished without doing any crime.
I also believe that this is the time government and taxi association should have to think seriously about introducing VISA (credit ) cards to avoid future incidents. This is electronic world people do not carry cash and it is normal now NOT to carry cash. Taxi Association can also install OCTOPUS cards machine in all taxis.
I will say that Taxi association is also partially blamable/responsible for this incident because they failed to update the taxis in line with world level. i.e. No CCTV cameras, NO Credit card facility, no Octopus card facility.
We live in Asia's world city. and we don't have advance taxi standards. Police, courts and continue policing taxi drovers will not bring change. we have to upgrade our system to bring a change. we need to bring change in thinking to have a real change.
liukuei
I've had several fits of, not road rage, but mainlander rage myself. I don't mean I drive taxis, but that a certain common type of mainlanders -argumentative, ignorant, queue-jumping, pushy- sets off my temper, and I don't think i'm alone. My sympathies to the driver. I probably would have done the same if not tried to beat some sense into them. Not only pay in RMB, but demand one-to-one?; i'm fuming already.
cwfisher2
As a white expatriate living in hong kong over 14 years I struggle to summon up sympathy for a hong kong taxi driver.... Last Friday I watched over 25 empty taxis pass up passengers in front of my house on wellington street between 2 am and 3 am.
However the last few sentences give me a lot of trouble - especially "When they arrived at their destination, the pair discussed paying the HK$290 fare in yuan, but argued with Fung over the rate of exchange". Hong Kong currency is Hong Kong dollars. Nothing can excuse driving off with passengers' luggage. However, why didn't he just call the police when they evaded paying the fare in the legal tender of the realm?
impala
The taxi driver is in the wrong, no doubt. He should at the very least receive a fine + compensate the passengers for the loss. A conditional (jail) sentence would also seem appropriate, to deter him from mishandling a dispute like this.

But 10 weeks in jail for throwing somebody's luggage in a pond seems excessive. Very excessive even given the circumstances, in which the taxi driver was obviously angered by the passenger's refusal to pay him in regular Hong Kong currency.
ninacheung
Hmm the tossed luggage was never found? So there is only the passengers word as "proof" of what was inside and how valuable it was? On other hand, how does not finding the luggage in the taxi driver's home prove he did not steal it? He could have stashed the bags somewhere else exactly for the reason of not bringing incriminating evidence to his home. However, he has the right to be presumed innocent to theft unless evidence to the contrary is found. Lastly, the official currency in Hong Kong is HKD; surely a driver has the right to expect to be paid in HKD, unless something else was agreed BEFORE starting the journey. - Overall I get the impression the magistrate wanted to kiss (rich) mainland a**.
ejmciii
If they wanted to pay in Yuan they should have told him when they got in the car. Yuan is NOT the currency of HK. The driver's reaction here was not proper but neither was it proper for the customer to spring unilaterally the payment terms on the driver after he had provided the service. If I wanted to pay in Singapore dollars or US dollars, I should tell the driver ahead of time so he can decide if that is ok. It is still a contract. We are not their slaves.
Dai Muff
You can travel out of Hong Kong for weeks or months, and you always come back with the trepidation that your first cab driver is likely to be a jerk and really bring you back to HK reality with a bump. Both sides deserved what they got.
chaz_hen
As was questioned when the story first broke...maybe one reason they were so eager to go 1-to-1 (in the dark wee hours) was that their money was FAKE? I'm sure a HK cabbie would not have had his infra red lights and special machines to detect the fake bills and with the forgeries being so good these days, it really would take an expert to discern.
hodfords
My heart goes out to the taxi driver. Unruly and disrespectful mainlanders obviously pushed this guy to the edge.
Without knowing the full facts; I can only speculate that the unruly mainlanders asked the taxi driver to take them to the airport - upon arrival they probably made known that they didn't have Hong Kong Dollars and instead forced the driver to accept their ill-gotten Renmenbi and at the exchange rate that they determined. The taxi driver probably did not want to accept Renmenbi nor did he want to accept the rate of exchange proposed.
I think the mainlanders should have been sued for theft too; because they rendered a service (transport from A to B) from the taxi driver and did not pay the amount that they owed; so they stole that journey from the taxi driver.
The psychology of mainlanders is interesting; because most of them made their money scamming people they constantly think that others will scam them so they inherently distrust everyone they deal with.
clk2828
The taxi driver is still uneducatedly stupid even though he unluckily meets fuzzy mainlanders. The truth is HKD is not one to one exchange rate and there's no point arguing for a 1 to 1 exchange. Secondly, he could have drove the luggage to a nearby police station and report the incident and let the police force deal with the mainlanders. It's technically not legal to use non-HKD currency in HK and the police will have their way to penalise the mainland offenders. By doing this stupid act, it really damages HK reputation and divides the Chinese nation. HK people should set a good example to the world and also let the rest of the Chinese provinces learn from our polite manners that we are expected to have!

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