Singaporean driver fined $2,600 for switching car licence plate in Malaysia

Tan Hock Lai was fined after being caught switching the licence plate on his vehicle at a petrol station in Johor Baru. PHOTO: FRANCIS LIEW
Tan Hock Lai pleaded guilty in court in Johor Baru on July 8, 2019. PHOTO: SIN CHEW DAILY

A Singaporean man who was seen switching vehicle licence plates on his gold BMW 320i in May this year has been fined RM8,000 (S$2,620).

Tan Hock Lai, 44, pleaded guilty in court in Johor Baru on Monday (July 8).

The incident took place at around 7.30am on May 18 at a petrol station in Gelang Patah, Johor, about a 10-minute drive from the Tuas Checkpoint.

He switched his original licence plate SLX27E to one bearing the registration number SKD2777C, which is registered to a Hyundai Elantra.

The act was captured on video by another Singaporean driver, who posted screengrabs on Facebook that same afternoon. Facebook page SG Road Vigilante also carried the post, which went viral.

Tan's BMW was caught speeding on a Malaysian highway around an hour after he was seen switching licence plates, but the RM150 summons was issued to the Hyundai vehicle instead.

Tan was found to have violated Section 108(3)(f) of Malaysia's Road Transport Act 1987.

According to the Act, offenders face a fine of at least RM5,000 and not more than RM20,000, or a jail term of not less than a year and not exceeding five years, or both.

According to Malaysian Chinese-language newspaper China Press, Tan admitted to the charge when it was read out in court.

Pleading for leniency, Tan said that he had been unemployed since January this year and had been under a lot of stress. He submitted his medical reports in court, China Press reported.

In Parliament on Monday, MP Darryl David (Ang Mo Kio GRC) asked what actions can be taken against Singaporean drivers who change their car licence plates when they enter Malaysia, especially when their actions have adverse effects on other Singaporean drivers whose licence plates have been copied.

In a written response, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that whether the act of swapping licence plates outside Singapore is an offence depends on the facts of the case.

The penalty for displaying a forged number plate in Singapore is a fine of up to $5,000, jail of up to a year, or both.

"We would be happy to share information, to the extent permitted by our laws, with our foreign counterparts to assist with investigations into any other possible offences under foreign laws," Mr Khaw said.

Mr Yee Chia Hsing (Chua Chu Kang GRC) also asked about the number of drivers who have been fined in Singapore for displaying an incorrect car registration number over the past three years.

In his written reply, Mr Khaw said that between 2017 and 2018, six people were convicted of displaying false number plates. Three of them were jailed between four to nine weeks, while the other three were fined.

The Land Transport Authority said it is investigating.

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