Tourist jailed 10 days for assaulting taxi driver

Mexican Jonathan Nunez Gonzalez admitted to slapping taxi driver Lee Eng Kuan, 51, and punching him on his chest once at The Westin Singapore at 3.41am on Jan 15 this year.
Mexican Jonathan Nunez Gonzalez admitted to slapping taxi driver Lee Eng Kuan, 51, and punching him on his chest once at The Westin Singapore at 3.41am on Jan 15 this year.ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A tourist had thought a taxi driver had taken him and his wife for a ride early one morning when they were driven to the wrong hotel.

Mexican Jonathan Nunez Gonzalez, 35, then working as a chief strategy officer in a company in Malaysia, admitted to slapping taxi driver Lee Eng Kuan, 51, and punching him on his chest once at The Westin Singapore at 3.41am on Jan 15 this year.

Gonzalez was jailed for 10 days on Tuesday (May 30).

Investigations showed that at about 3am that day, Gonzalez and his wife boarded Mr Lee's taxi along Neil Road and said they wanted to go to The Westin Hotel.

Mr Lee misunderstood this and thought that they were referring to Swissotel the Stamford Hotel at Stamford Road as it was previously known as the Westin Stamford Hotel.

The couple were, however, referring to The Westin Singapore which is at Marina View near the Marina Bay Financial Centre.

When the cabby arrived at the wrong location, Gonzalez's wife used a map on her cellphone to guide the cabby to the right destination. She and Mr Lee began quarrelling.

Gonzalez then told Mr Lee to stop the taxi 50m to 100m from the hotel as he felt that the victim had "disrespected'' his wife when the victim raised his voice at her.

He alighted and asked the victim to come out of the taxi. Gonzalez then opened the victim's driver door and slapped him. Mr Lee got out of the cab and both continued their argument.

Gonzalez then punched Mr Lee on the chest, causing him to fall backwards. The couple then left the scene.

After the incident, Mr Lee was treated for numbness over his left cheek and a small abrasion over the left upper lip, and he was given three days' medical leave.

Defence lawyer Anand Nalachandran said his client had compensated $2,000 to the victim. He said the taxi driver took almost twice as long and drove his client and his wife to the wrong location, giving rise to their valid suspicion that the taxi driver was exploiting the tourists' unfamiliarity with the locality to inflate the fare.

He said Gonzalez admits losing control of his emotions during that momentary lapse in judgment and the ensuing argument.

Seeking a fine or alternatively, a short jail sentence, Mr Nalachandran said his client had suffered emotionally and financially after being unable to return to work. He has since lost his job.

Gonzalez could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $5,000 for causing hurt.