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  • Sep 18, 2014
  • Updated: 1:55pm
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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

XYZ
Dear Grouperm, I don't think there is anything racialist about my comment and that was certainly not my intention, but if I have offended you in any way, I sincerely apology. BTW, I am Norwegian.
XYZ
Gee, I don't think there's anything racialist about my comments and I certainly didn't intend to cause offense but, if I have done so, I apologize sincerely. By the way, I am Norwegian.
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?
boondeiyan
Your first few sentences give me a lot of trouble. What does your race have anything to do with this? Why do you identify yourself as an expatriate after 14 years in HK that presumably qualifies you for permanent residence? And after all that time, what on earth are you doing living on Wellington Street?? I'm unable to summon up any sympathy for your ignorance of why taxi drivers might ignore people near Lan Kwai Fong/SoHo at 3AM [hint: search the SCMP site for "Wong Chi-ming" AND "Kelsey Mudd"].
XYZ
No doubt with the benefit of hindsight he would follow your advice and call the police. In the heat of the moment, however, the red mist descended and he lost his rag.
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.
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.
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.

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