Fined for driving Ferrari with false number plates

Eugene Chong Jiajun was sentenced to two weeks' imprisonment by a district court in April for displaying fake number plates.
Eugene Chong Jiajun was sentenced to two weeks' imprisonment by a district court in April for displaying fake number plates. PHOTO: ST GRAPHIC

A 25-year-old businessman rented a Ferrari, purportedly to live out his fantasy of driving a flashy sports car.

Eugene Chong Jiajun also specially ordered two false number plates, which he stuck over the existing ones using adhesive tape.

He almost had to go to jail for this - he was sentenced to two weeks' imprisonment by a district court in April for displaying fake number plates. But, yesterday, he was spared jail after the High Court allowed his appeal and imposed the maximum $5,000 fine.

Chong was driving a rented yellow Ferrari 360 Modena F1 when he was stopped by a Land Transport Authority officer for a check on the evening of March 19, 2013.

The number plates on the Ferrari showed SQ1H, which was registered to a silver Mercedes Benz E200 belonging to someone else.

Chong did not know the owner of the number. He had picked it out from a website of special car plate numbers. In April, he pleaded guilty to a charge of displaying false registration number plates, which carries a maximum fine of $5,000 and jail of up to a year. He appealed against his two weeks' jail sentence.

His lawyer Patrick Chin argued that jail was not warranted as the district judge had failed to consider Chong's motivation and was wrong to impose a deterrent sentence.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Lin Yinbing argued that Chong's reasons for driving with false plates were feeble and unsubstantiated. The alleged motivations should not distract the court from the fact that he had practised deceit, she said.

She also pointed out the potential harm. Traffic violations will not be detected because speed cameras are not equipped to pick out false number plates, she said.

And if a car with such plates is involved in a crime or accident, the owner of the actual car would be implicated and have to go through the inconvenience of the investigation process, she added.

Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon acknowledged the potential harm of false plates, but said Chong's motivations seemed innocent and there was no unlawful intention.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2015, with the headline 'Fined for driving Ferrari with false number plates'. Print Edition | Subscribe