SINGAPORE - After three failed attempts to get a batch of imported power-assisted bicycles (PABs) approved by the authorities, the director of an e-bicycle shop ran into financial trouble.
So he decided to forge the approval seals.
Chen Dihua, 35, found a manufacturer on e-commerce site Alibaba.com which could make the approval seals - blue locks bearing a marking, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) logo and a serial number - and fixed them onto 38 PABs which were sold for about $1,200 each.
He confessed to the LTA in August 2017 and was sentenced to 13 weeks' jail on Tuesday (Feb 23).
Deputy Public Prosecutor Goh Yong Ngee and LTA prosecutor Ng Jun Kai told the court the forgery undermined LTA's approval system, which ensured that PABs are legal and safe for use. "The forgery would effectively render the approval system otiose," said DPP Goh.
He added that the buyers of the 38 unapproved devices had to be tracked down by the authorities and granted exceptional approval, "otherwise, each customer would have to forfeit the PAB they had just purchased."
The court heard that PABs must meet technical requirements to obtain LTA's approval, including a maximum power output, maximum motor assistance speed and weight.
Once the sellers obtained approval, PAB sellers can send the devices to an LTA-authorised inspection centre to have the seals fixed onto the devices.
In November 2015, the authority announced that it would revise the requirements for PABs and that approved devices would be given an orange lock.
Chen, the director of Wheel Power Technology, which sold, among other things, PABs in Bedok, knew about the changes but placed an order for a shipment which met only the previous requirements.
Between March 2016 and June 2017, his applications to have the imported PABs approved were rejected because the documents submitted were incomplete, supporting documents were missing, and the PABs could travel over 30kmh, among other reasons.
While awaiting LTA approval, Chen ran into cash-flow problems and then turned to the manufacturer to make the forged blue locks and fixed them onto the PABs in the Wheel Power Technology shop.
Chen's lawyer, Mr Riko Isaac, from Tembusu Law said that his client's actions were "borne out of impulse because of the financial desperation he faced".
But, in sentencing, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan agreed with the prosecution that financial desperation was not a relevant mitigating factor.