Taxi driver identified as robber 7 years after his crime, based on his DNA

Chia Hwa Beng was jailed for 33 months and fined $30,000, after he pleaded guilty to one charge each of robbery and assisting an unlicensed moneylender.
Chia Hwa Beng was jailed for 33 months and fined $30,000, after he pleaded guilty to one charge each of robbery and assisting an unlicensed moneylender. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A man who was high on drugs and desperate to clear his debts armed himself with a knife and robbed a woman at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Orchard Road in August 2008, a court heard.

Chia Hwa Beng cut himself accidentally on the wrist while fleeing from the scene of crime and left traces of his blood on the floor.

For seven years, however, Chia was not identified as the culprit behind the crime - until police took his DNA sample in May last year.

On Friday (Nov 11), Chia, now 50, was jailed for 33 months and fined $30,000, after he pleaded guilty to one charge each of robbery and assisting an unlicensed moneylender.

Chia, who was at first charged with armed robbery, escaped the mandatory six strokes of the cane for his lesser charge as he is above 50. Male offenders above this age cannot be caned.

A district court heard that the robbery victim, a 58-year-old woman, accompanied her mother-in-law for an appointment at a cardiology clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital on Aug 18, 2008.

At about 4pm, the victim left the clinic to use the toilet.

"At that time, Chia had consumed "ganja" (a street name for cannabis), and he was feeling desperate as he had large debts and his creditor was harassing him," said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Chong Yong.

"When he saw the victim enter the female toilet on the 11th floor, he formed the intention to rob her and thus followed her into the female toilet and waited outside the cubicle she had entered," said DPP Chong.

When she opened the door, Chia pushed her and demanded she hand over her belongings .

The victim pretended to faint, hoping that someone else would enter the toilet and help her, the court heard.

As she lay on the toilet floor, Chia pulled at her handbag, but the woman resisted.

She then saw Chia holding a 13cm long stainless steel blade.

Fearful, she gave him her $3,000 Rolex watch.

Chia also demanded she hand over her diamond ring. Just then, a nurse entered the toilet.

Panicking, he snatched the woman's handbag containing $1,650 in cash, among other things, and fled in a cab. The total value of the items he took was $5,580. He did not get the ring.

The court also heard that in April 2014, Chia's vocational taxi driver's license was suspended for three months.

He picked up gambling and would go on casinos on the ship three to four times a week to gamble, said DPP Chong.

He took loans from several loansharks in order to feed his gambling habit and racked up debts.

Two months later, he agreed to help a loanshark carry out fund transfers using his bank account. In return, the loanshark would reduce the interest rate on Chia's $5,000 loan, from 25 per cent to 10 per cent.

Between June and August that year, Chia allowed the loanshark to deposit money into his bank account, and would transfer it to other bank accounts as instructed.

The punishment for robbery is between two and 10 years' jail, with at least six strokes of the cane; and for assisting an unlicensed moneylender, for a first conviction, a fine of between $30,000 and $300,000, and jail of up to four years.