Getaway van driver in extortion bid gets 4 weeks' jail, 2 years' driving ban

A man who knowingly drove his friend to a location to extort money from a teenager was sentenced to four weeks' jail and disqualified from driving for two years.

The court heard that as the police moved in to nab the pair, Nitesh Naidu Raj Kumar Naidu, 24, tried to evade capture, embarking on a dangerous high-speed chase before the police stopped the pursuit in the interest of public safety.

Naidu's friend and mastermind of the extortion plot, Naveenthiran Thevathas, 21, was sentenced last July to four years and two months' jail with three strokes of the cane.

Naveenthiran had got hold of a mobile phone belonging to an 18-year-old girl from a mutual friend in January last year.

While reading her messages, he discovered two videos of her having sex with a 17-year-old boy, and decided on a plan of extortion.

On Valentine's Day, he sent one of the videos to the boy, and demanded $50,000, knowing he came from a well-to-do family.

If his victim did not accede to his demand, Naveenthiran threatened to post the video on social media and send it to his father.

The teenager made a police report that day, and an operation to arrest the accused was hatched.

The next day, the boy told Naveenthiran that he had managed to raise $8,000.

Naveenthiran then called Naidu, who drove his van to collect the money. It was Naidu who suggested meeting the victim in Hillcrest Road, which Naveenthiran accepted.

The teenager was then told to place the money at a specific fire hydrant at the location.

Shortly after the pair had retrieved the money, Naidu led the police on a high-speed pursuit lasting about 13 minutes before the police lost sight of his van on the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) towards the Bukit Timah Expressway.

During the pursuit, Naidu drove dangerously and sped along several roads, including Watten Drive, Watten Park, Watten Estate Road, Dunearn Road, Adam Road and the PIE, "without having any regard for the other road users", said Deputy Public Prosecutor Shen Wanqin.

Naidu's driving behaviour caused "numerous road users behind the van to brake abruptly in order to avoid a collision", she added.

Even after the police repeatedly signalled for Naidu to stop, he did not do so and instead ignored a few traffic lights during the pursuit, the court heard.

The police then decided to stop the pursuit in the interest of safety, because of the high speed at which the van was travelling.

Both men were eventually arrested after they parked the van near Block 339 Woodlands Avenue 1. Marked notes amounting to $2,000 in $50 denominations were seized from the van.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2019, with the headline 'Getaway van driver in extortion bid gets 4 weeks' jail, 2 years' driving ban'. Print Edition | Subscribe