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  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 1:56pm
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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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22

This article is now closed to comments

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!
clk2828
Why is SCMP filtering comments? Is there no freedom of speech anymore here?
mercedes2233
There should be some rule to protect taxi drivers from difficult passengers. Maybe in HK payment should be made in HKD so these negotiations needn't occur. Strange that the magistrate didn't let the driver compensate for the loss. The plaintiffs are still out of their goods.
chaz_hen
If he were a tycoon like LKS, he would have gotten a 1 day sentence - commuted, walked to his Rolls by the judge, and granted another monopoly by the HK government.
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.
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.
grouperm
I think the actual question should be why didn't he drive them to one of those ubiquitious ATMs around the city. The added fare would have been the proper handling (and justification) for their not having the correct currency.
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.
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.

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