Iron ore broker jailed for assaulting taxi drivers while drunk

SINGAPORE - A drunk iron ore futures broker twice pushed a taxi driver who had asked for the fare to be paid and assaulted three other cabbies who later intervened.

All this took place in a 45-minute stretch in the early hours of April 26 last year after Australian Benjamin Luke Taylor refused to pay the fare and walked some 2km along Bras Basah Road, Middle Road and Beach Road.

On Thursday (Feb 1), District Judge Luke Tan sentenced Taylor, 34, to six weeks' jail after he admitted to two counts of causing hurt to his taxi driver Steven Ong Han Boon, 54, and 46-year-old Lim Poh Heng, who had intervened in Beach Road.

Four other charges, including one under the Liquor Control Act, were considered in sentencing Taylor, who turned up for his court appearance in a suit.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Claire Poh told the court that Taylor had arrived in Singapore two days before the incident on a business trip. On April 26, he flagged down Mr Ong's taxi near 313@Somerset in Orchard Road at about 4.50am, after having earlier consumed five pints of beer.

Although he was asked repeatedly, he did not tell the driver where he wanted to go. Mr Ong continued driving until he hit Bras Basah Road, outside the Singapore Art Museum. The driver then told Taylor he could not take him any further and asked for the fare.

But Taylor left without paying.

Mr Ong followed him to a hotel in Queen Street and stopped him from going up a lift. Taylor actually had a room at the Fullerton Hotel.

When he walked out of the hotel, Mr Ong continued to tail him to Middle Road. Cabby Asurappulege Wilfred Neville Dharmasena, who learnt from Mr Ong that Taylor had not paid the fare, then joined in.

Taylor warned them to leave and suddenly punched Mr Dharmasena, 38, on his face, leaving him with a cut on the right cheek.

The two men continued to follow Taylor and he hit Mr Dharmasena again. At the traffic light, Mr Ong tried to restrain Taylor but the broker struggled and pushed Mr Ong, who fell, getting scratches on his legs.

Mr Lim, who was driving his taxi along Middle Road, spotted Mr Ong running after Taylor and alighted from his taxi. After being told of the incident by Mr Ong, he returned to his cab and drove in Taylor's direction.

At the intersection of Tan Quee Lan Street and Beach Road, he alighted from his taxi again and told Taylor to stop.

Taylor uttered something before pushing Mr Lim on the chest. He then punched Mr Lim on his left cheek, and tried to get into his cab. Mr Lim beat him to it and locked the doors.

Taylor also took a swing at another cabby who had intervened. The 47-year-old driver managed to dodge the blow but hurt his ankle in the process.

The Australian was eventually arrested by police in Beach Road at about 5.40am. A blood sample was later taken from him and found to be almost 1½ times the blood/alcohol legal limit.

Taylor's lawyer Gino Hardial Singh said his client's offences were one-off and completely out of character.

A successful senior iron ore broker, counsel said Taylor's clients are mainly financial institutions and asset management companies. These include investment banks, mining companies, steel companies and hedge funds which all trade SGX-listed iron ore futures.

Counsel sought a fine or a community-based sentencing and said his client's employers have plans to relocate him to Singapore after the birth of his firstborn in April. A jail sentence would throw his young family into a state of disarray, resulting in dire consequences, he said.

He added that his client had paid compensation of $394.

Taylor could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $5,000 on each charge.