Man jailed for assaulting cabby fined after retrial

A relieved Arne Corneliussen said he was thankful to the two eyewitnesses for coming forward. He was fined $2,000.
A relieved Arne Corneliussen said he was thankful to the two eyewitnesses for coming forward. He was fined $2,000.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Charge was amended to causing hurt after two eyewitnesses said cabby attacked first

A Norwegian who was sentenced to 10 weeks' jail for assaulting a cabby - and had served slightly more than half of it - was yesterday fined $2,000 after a retrial.

The case of Arne Corneliussen, 51, was sent for a new trial after two eyewitnesses gave new evidence that taxi driver Chan Chuan Heng, 47, had attacked him first.

Corneliussen, a Singapore permanent resident, had earlier pleaded guilty to hurting Chan at about 1am on Sept 22 , 2014, at Boat Quay by grabbing Chan's neck from behind and choking him. He had also paid Chan $30,000 in compensation.

Yesterday, a visibly relieved Corneliussen told reporters he is glad "there's closure for the case".

"We all make mistakes and sometimes the learning curve is hard, but you have to get back up on your feet and move on with your life," said the former programme management director with multinational logistics company DHL.

He lost his job after he was charged and moved to Batam with his Indonesian wife. Jobless since then and with his savings depleted, he said he intends to find work.

After he was sentenced in April last year, two Singaporean men who read a report on the case and had witnessed the altercation between Chan and Corneliussen came forward to say that the taxi driver was actually the aggressor.

In May, the High Court sent the case back to the State Courts for a retrial. Corneliussen's charge was amended to causing hurt by wrapping his arm around Chan's neck.

His 51/2 weeks behind bars, Corneliussen said, was hard as he could not contact his family. He has a son, 27, and a daughter, 23, who are both in Norway.

"It was good that the witnesses came forward and gave me a bit of new hope," he said. "A lot of people wouldn't have done it. It was very nice of them and I'm very thankful that they did."

Fullerton Hotel valet Mohamed Ayub Shaik Dawood, 55, and personal driver Roslan Zainal, 45, had testified that they were waiting for a taxi when they saw Corneliussen and Chan.

They overheard Corneliussen saying loudly to the cabby: "Why so expensive? You cheat me?"

Chan had replied, "F*** off ... f*** you" and punched him on his head.

Corneliussen also told the court that Chan had tried to charge him a flat rate of $45 to take him to his Upper East Coast home.

Asked about his feelings towards Chan, Corneliussen said: "I just want to move on. I don't hold any grudges against anyone."

He said he had not considered a civil suit against Chan. The latter has since been charged with causing hurt and lying to the police. His case is at a pre-trial stage.

Yesterday, District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim said the four witnesses who testified during the two-day trial in December gave consistent evidence that Corneliussen had pinned Chan down. Three also said he had wrapped his arm around the cabby's neck.

The judge added that he "must have been in pain as the accused had exerted a very strong force during the wrapping of his neck and from the sounds he was making", described as "argh, argh" by two witnesses.

The judge also said that as Corneliussen was unable to remember details of the incident, he could not claim that arresting the cabby was his intention - not when he had chased Chan thrice, pinned him to the ground and wrapped his arms around the latter's neck with such force that three men found it hard to pull him away.

If what Corneliussen wanted was Chan's particulars, he could have noted the taxi's licence plate number or called for the police and waited by the taxi, she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2016, with the headline 'Man jailed for assaulting cabby fined after retrial'. Print Edition | Subscribe