Grab driver’s act of greed at Changi Airport leaves family stranded without passports, valuables
SINGAPORE — After his passengers left a bag containing passports, cash and other valuables in his car after they alighted at Changi Airport, a 48-year-old Grab driver acted as if nothing had happened.
SINGAPORE — After his passengers left a bag containing passports, cash and other valuables in his car when they alighted at Changi Airport, a 48-year-old Grab driver acted as if nothing had happened.
Christopher Chan Fook Choy even lied to the ride-hailing firm about the bag — then kept the cash and phone, and dumped the passports and other identifying items in a rubbish chute.
In doing so, Chan derailed the plans of a Malaysian family heading home to New Zealand, where they were living, on the morning of Jan 29 this year. They incurred hefty costs as they were unable to board their flight, and needed replacement passports.
Chan, who pleaded guilty in the State Courts on Tuesday (June 25) to one charge of dishonest misappropriation of movable property, was sentenced to three weeks’ jail.
He was also ordered to compensate his victims S$7,762 — representing the cost they suffered in replacing the passports and other documents. He was granted a request to pay in instalments as he could not afford to pay the full sum upfront.
The misplaced black backpack contained six passports, three identification cards, two birth certificates, one marriage certificate, RM500 in cash, a stash of Australian and New Zealand currencies and a mobile phone. The items were worth some S$1,050 in all.
They belonged to Ms Ngui How Ing, 46, who was in Singapore for a holiday with her family and travelling in the Grab car with her husband and two children.
A frenzied Ms Ngui, who discovered to her horror that she did not have the bag five minutes after she alighted, called Grab before lodging a report with the police.
Stranded without their passports, she and her family had to forfeit their air tickets, and rushed back to the place they had been staying, in Bukit Pasoh Road in Tanjong Pagar, to search for the bag.
Meantime, Chan had found the bag but decided not to return it, and lied when contacted by Grab, by saying he did not find any backpack.
The court heard that investigations revealed that Chan found the bag lying on the floor of his car’s rear passenger seat at about 8am — about 10 minutes after Ms Ngui realised her bag was missing.
He took the money and phone from the bag, and threw all other vital identification documents in it down his flat’s central rubbish chute to avoid detection.
State Prosecuting Officer Raj Kishore Rai said: “Out of greed, the accused dishonestly misappropriated all the cash in the backpack and proceeded to exchange the foreign currencies at a money changer at Jurong East Mall. He received S$850 in return.”
Chan was however caught some four months later, at 11.40am on May 13.
Court documents did not state how the police managed to track him down, only that he was found with a black backpack, a grey Vodafone Smart Ultra handphone belonging to the victim, and some loose coins amounting to $21.10 New Zealand dollars and $39.30 Australian dollars.
A sum of S$850, which Chan had obtained after exchanging the foreign currencies with a moneychanger, was also seized. The rest of the contents in the backpack were not recovered.
Chan’s actions in January had caused the Malaysian family much trouble.
They had to fly back to Malaysia to apply for new documents to replace their lost passports, identification cards, birth certificates and marriage certificate.
They also had to return to Singapore to get new copies of their residency visas to travel back to New Zealand. The process to replace the lost documents cost S$7,762, and Ms Ngui could leave Singapore for New Zealand only about three weeks later on Feb 20.
Chan could have been jailed for up to two years, fined or received both a jail term and a fine.
In response to queries from TODAY, a Grab spokesman said that in cases where a passenger leaves behind belongings in the vehicle, its drivers are required to inform Grab within four hours of discovery, and return the belongings to the passenger or to the Grab Drivers Centre within 48 hours of discovery.
"We do not condone dishonest acts and will suspend or terminate driver-partners who are found guilty," the spokesman added.