By Wan Ting Koh and Amir Hussain
SINGAPORE — A Singaporean man who gave Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s son Li Yipeng a ride in a car and filmed him was sentenced to a $900 fine on Thursday (14 November) for the offence of using a mobile phone while driving.
Andrew Sim Kay Yong, 32, admitted to recording PM Lee’s 37-year-old eldest son in the car leased by Sim on four occasions between 3.54pm and 4.04pm on 15 March this year after offering him a ride. Sim was also banned from driving for eight months.
During the drive from Esplanade to Rochalie Drive, Sim held his phone in one hand to record four clips of Li while holding onto the steering wheel with another hand. The act amounts to a breach of the Road Traffic Act, which prohibits the use of mobile communication devices while a motorist is driving.
The charge sheet states that Sim was driving a Toyota Estima and using a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge mobile phone to record Li.
The prosecution told the court that Sim had spotted Li at a taxi stand at Esplanade Mall at about 3.48pm. Recognising Li as PM Lee’s son, Sim pulled up his car to the taxi stand and offered Li a ride. Li initially refused but eventually entered Sim’s car. He sat at the rear passenger seat.
Li asked to be taken to Rochalie Drive. As Sim was driving, he aimed his handphone over his left shoulder at Li. His act of recording Li “lessened his ability to control the vehicle and diminished his concentration on the road”, said the prosecution. Sim took four videos, each of which was less than a minute long.
In the recordings, Sim asked Li about his name and background.
In one 54-second clip, Sim can be seen adjusting a camera to focus on his passenger. Among the questions Sim asked were, “So your dad is the Prime Minister of Singapore? You don’t have a driver with you?”
In another clip, Li is heard telling the driver, “I don’t feel comfortable telling you about my current home life… I just don’t think it’s appropriate.”
Sim also asked Li, “Have you seen your uncle recently Lee Hsien Yang?” to which the reply was “No”.
The videos were circulated over WhatsApp and posted on Facebook over 16 and 17 March.
Li alighted at 295 Tanglin Road at about 4.08pm.
A statement by the Singapore Police Force issued on 17 March stated that the videos were taken without Li’s knowledge or permission. The police added that the driver had repeatedly asked Li to confirm his identity, residential address and security arrangements for him.
The nature of the man’s questions to Li – about his identity, residential address and security arrangements – raised “serious security concerns, given Mr Li’s background”.
In a second statement on the incident issued shortly after the first, the police revealed that the man had previously been convicted of taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent in 2014. Yahoo News Singapore understands that the man was also previously given a warning for theft and had a police report lodged against him for criminal intimidation at some point.
On Thursday, the prosecution mentioned a number of Sim’s traffic offences between August 2006 and April 2018 including careless driving, illegal U-turn, failure to wear a seatbelt, speeding and beating a red light - most of them were compounded.
The prosecution sought for a fine of $1,000 and a disqualification period of eight months for Sim.
During mitigation, Josephus Tan, lawyer for Sim, said his client had offered the ride to Li as an “act of a good Samaritan”. But District Judge Lorraine Ho replied, “I’m not so sure that is an act of a good Samaritan.”
Tan continued by saying that Sim sent the video to his close group of friends, who then uploaded it. The video went viral but Sim did not intend to upload it, the lawyer added.
In response, the judge said, “I’m sure if he sent it to his friends, he can’t be sure they won’t circulate it.”
Tan asked for a $800 fine and a ban of five months for Sim.