German exec gets 10 days' jail for punching taxi driver

SINGAPORE - A German national who punched a taxi driver in the forehead was ticked off by a judge for his "deplorable"' conduct from start to finish.

District Judge Lim Tse Haw said a fine would not be appropriate for Michael Fritsch, 38, whose conduct in the incident was "nothing short of deplorable".

First, he said the 38-year-old head of business operations Asia Pacific region of T-Systems Singapore tried to cut queue and used his high income to try and justify his act of offering the taxi driver double what he earned.

"When the taxi driver refused to do so, you sat in the taxi. You refused to get out."

Judge Lim said even when the taxi driver finally agreed to ferry him, Fritsch made things difficult for him, leaving the driver with no choice but to call the police.

The judge found hardly any mitigating factors in the case, but noted his guilty plea, albeit late, his letter of apology and compensation to the taxi driver.

"I am of the view that the starting point for such a case is an imprisonment term of four weeks, but I am bringing down the prison term. I hope you have learnt your lesson in this incident and never ever to resort to violence against anyone, let alone a public transport worker. I am of the view that the custodial threshold has been crossed," he said.

He sentenced Fritsch to 10 days' jail for punching Mr Low Chong Peng, 52, leaving the cab driver with a swelling on his forehead.

The incident took place inside Mr Low' s cab along Kim Seng Road at 4.33am on May 17, 2015.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Lu Jia said Fritsch and his friend had had many glasses of beer by the time they left Zouk at Jiak Kim Street around 4am. Along Kim Seng Road, a couple approached Mr Low's cab which was in the queue for passengers. But before they could board it, Fritsch entered the car while his friend stood outside.

Fritsch told Mr Low to take him to Balestier. The driver refused and told him to get out of the car, saying that the couple had got to his taxi before him.

"The accused then replied that the victim should fetch him as he pays $40,000 in taxes to the Singapore government every year and he should therefore have the first priority,'' said DPP Teo.

Fritsch refused to get out of his vehicle and when Mr Low finally agreed to take him to his destination, Fritsch refused to give him the details. When Mr Low turned around to inform the German that he was calling the police, Fritsch punched him before alighting.

Fritsch was arrested five days later.

Last month, he paid Mr Low $1,675 in compensation and handed over a letter of apology.

The maximum punishment for causing hurt is two years' jail and a $5,000 fine.