Maserati hit-and-run driver given lifetime ban drove again, led police on car chase

Maserati driver Lee Cheng Yan arriving at State Courts on 24 November 2017. Photo: Hannah Teoh/Yahoo News Singapore
Maserati driver Lee Cheng Yan arriving at State Courts on 24 November 2017. Photo: Hannah Teoh/Yahoo News Singapore

SINGAPORE — A Maserati driver who had been banned from driving for life received more jail time on Thursday (27 January) after he led the traffic police on a car chase while driving under disqualification.

Lee Cheng Yan had driven into and fled a police roadblock after failing a breathalyser test.

Lee, 38, triggered a three-day police manhunt before he was arrested.

Lee was originally sentenced to four year and seven months’ jail, a fine of $3,700 and a lifetime driving ban on 28 July 2020. The offences involved Lee dragging a police officer more than 100 metres while trying to escape. At the time, Lee had blamed his offences on a phantom driver by the name of “Kelvin”, who was never produced in court.

He was placed on bail pending an appeal of his jail sentence until his High Court case on 5 March 2021, although his driving ban took effect from 28 July 2020. He reoffended while awaiting his appeal.

For the fresh offences he admitted on Thursday, Lee was given another 21 months and 16 weeks’ jail and a penalty of $1,000. He was also given a second lifetime ban from driving. He pleaded guilty to 15 charges, including driving while under disqualification, evading a roadblock, and corruptly receiving gratification, while another 54 charges were considered for his sentencing.

Lee, who appeared in court via videolink, looked noticeably thinner than his previous hearings.

Fled traffic police barricade

When he was given his first lifetime ban, Lee had told the judge that he understood the disqualification. Despite that, he drove a BMW car rented by his friend.

On 13 February 2021, he drove the BMW along a service road of Block 18 Upper Boon Keng Road and was captured by CCTV cameras with his driver’s window wound down.

On 1 March 2021, he was again filmed around the same area parking his car and alighting from the driver’s seat.

On 11 March 2021, Lee had driven the rental BMW to watch a movie at Bishan with the friend who rented the car. He dropped her off at her home around midnight before meeting a woman identified as Joy for drinks at the Lavender area.

He left Lavender in the BMW with Joy in the early hours of 12 March 2021.

As he was driving along MacPherson Road towards the direction of Airport Road with Joy around 3.59am, Lee was stopped by a traffic police officer at a roadblock.

The officer conducted a routine breathalyser test on Lee, which he failed. The officer then signalled for the barricade of the roadblock to be closed and asked for Lee’s personal details.

Instead of giving his details, Lee suddenly drove off. Two officers chased him on motorcycles.

While fleeing, Lee drove at 140 kmh on a road which had a speed limit of 50kmh. He beat two red lights while heading towards the Kallang–Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE).

The pursuit lasted for some 2.4km before the officers lost sight of the car as it turned abruptly into Tai Seng Avenue. Lee abandoned the BMW at Tai Seng Industrial Estate carpark and CCTV captured him fleeing the scene.

“The accused was apprehended three days later, on 15 March 2021, after an extensive manhunt by the police,” Deputy Public Prosecutor Senthilkumaran Sabapathy said.

Apart from his traffic offences, Lee admitted to handing over the contacts of debtors to a consultant who worked at a Singtel shop by the name of Kelvin Foo. It is uncertain if Kelvin Foo is the same phantom driver Lee mentioned in his previous court hearings.

Lee handed over the contacts at the behest of a Philbert Lim, who wanted the addresses of these subscribers in order to recover debts. Lim gave Lee $1,000 between January and April 2017 for his help.

Foo accessed the computer system with the subscribers’ details and passed them to Lee. These subscribers later reported instances of harassment at their homes.

Lee was also dealt with for remote gambling offences, as he acted as an agent and punter for football betting and online lottery between August 2015 and September 2017.

In February 2017, Lee sent bets totalling $38,000 to forecast the result of football matches.

On 11 July 2017, Lee threatened a person who owed him money from online football betting. He sent a message to the person threatening to splash paint on the person’s home.

The prosecution sought at least 25 months’ jail for Lee, citing Lee’s “complete disregard for the law”.

Lee’s lawyer Jeremy Pereira said that his client’s behaviour had not been “normal”. The lawyer, who took the case a month before Lee’s High Court appeal, said that Lee learned his lesson from the time he was re-arrested.

“Even though he committed those offences while already previously sentenced, the problem was that he hadn’t started a sentence yet at that point in time. The punishment hadn’t hit yet,” said Pereira.

“It sobered him, he was really forced to look at what he had done and it was a sobering experience in fact from that point onwards he recognised that he had to bear full responsibility for his actions without further excuses,” the lawyer said.

Lee did not make excuses or the same defences that he had run in his previous court hearings, he added.

”He is genuinely remorseful and contrite. I know there may be difficulty believing whether or not he means what he says, but what can be observed is… (his) conduct has completely changed.”

The lawyer told District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam that Lee’s family was “living with the consequences” of his mistakes. His wife and children are in Japan.

DJ Ponnampalam said that while it was “heartening” to hear that Lee appears to have insight into his behaviour, she had to look at the nature and number of offences.

“This can easily be said to be one of the worst types of offending behaviour that the court has seen in recent times and the sentence must reflect severity of offences,” she said.

Lee’s fresh sentence will commence after he completes his current sentence.

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