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  • Apr 20, 2014
  • Updated: 10:28am
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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

whymak
I agree with the readers that those cheap, arrogant tourists deserve their loss. But this is not to be mistaken as their hate mainland reason, which is self-destructive and many times more despicable than the bad behavior of some tourists.
The judge has spoken; whether the sentence is appropriate is no longer the point unless the taxi driver wants to file an appeal. If Margaret Ng, Martin Lee and Audrey Eu preach what they believe, they should offer their pro bono service. Where are they?
By their demonstrated sentiments, the hateful readers in this column deserve no right to live in this civilized city governed by common law - now guaranteed by one country two systems. We will be much relieved if these bad eggs leave HK and seek greener pastures elsewhere.
The cab driver could have refused to accept renminbi, which is not Hong Kong's legal tender. He didn't. Instead he unwittingly entered into a negotiation, which the tourists obliged, in order to milk an exiguous profit out of the tourists. When failed to have his way, he committed an act of vandalism and petty larceny.
If I were the presiding magistrate, I would take the cab driver's remorse into consideration and perhaps hand down a more lenient sentence.
The irrational hateful sentiment displayed by many readers here is a Hong Kong shame.
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.
robdingwall
If they had a key for a BMW that was worth HK$10,000 alone - NOTE: a key! what the hell were they doing arguing over a few dollars!
caractacus
One supposes that if the passengers were not mainlanders the comments would not be so sympathetic to the taxi driver. Whatever the altercation, he could have taken the RMB at an exchange rate which ensured him a profit. Instead he allowed his filthy temper full reign and stole the luggage. If he did it to YOU, no doubt you would be calling for little short of the death penalty.
clk2828
Why is SCMP filtering comments? Is there no freedom of speech anymore here?
chaz_hen
Well, it's not like SCMP is located in a free country.
And I noticed that my statement - referring that if "Super" tycoon LKS did something similar, he'd get a one day suspended sentence - is no longer here.
Must be a rabid 50 center running around hitting the "report" button.
lausyman
@chaz_hen, your comment is on page 1. Its still there
chaz_hen
They truly are not investing much in quality software here as far as updates, page screens, etc. Thanks.
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.
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**.

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