Grab driver jailed after refusing to return $30k mistakenly transferred to him by company

FILE PHOTO: Reuters/Edgar Su

SINGAPORE — A finance associate at ride-hailing company Grab mistakenly transferred more than $30,000 in funds meant for a vendor to a Grab driver.

However the Grab driver, Wong Siew Wai, refused to return the money and disappeared instead. He ended up using more than half of the money on personal needs.

Wong, 54, was jailed three months on Thursday (23 May) on one count of dishonestly removing property belonging to Grab. He pleaded guilty to the charge on 24 April.

Mistaken transfer of payment to vendor

On 21 August last year, the Grab finance associate made a payment of $33,678.25 on behalf of the ride hailing company to a vendor, Wow! Gadgets. However, he mistakenly transferred the amount to the POSB savings account of Wong, who was providing freelance limousine services under Grab.

The associate realised that he made the wrong transfer only on 30 August, after the vendor pointed out that the beneficiary on the payment advice was wrong.

He alerted his colleagues, who contacted Wong twice on 30 August and 31 August. Grab requested a return of the money, but Wong refused and became uncontactable after.

Spent at least $23k of the money

Wong claimed that he called POSB to ask if the bank would take any action against an account owner who refused to return money erroneously transferred to his account. He said the bank staff told him no action would be taken.

Between 31 August and 25 October, he let the money be deducted from his GIRO in order to pay for bills.

He made bank transfers and top-ups to his cash card and McDonald's debit card. He also paid for his son's school fees, and made a cash withdrawal of $8,300. In total, he spent at least $23,094.86 of the money.

Report lodged in October

A regional finance controller with Grab Rentals lodged a police report on 24 October. Wong was subsequently interviewed by the police on 25 October, and admitted to the offence.

He claimed that he was in financial straits and decided to spend the money instead of returning it to Grab, according to Deputy Public Prosecutor Claire Poh. He has since restituted $12,000 of the money to Grab.

For dishonestly removing property, Wong could have been jailed up to three years, or fined, or both.

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