SINGAPORE — Even after he had been charged with organising a gathering in March last year when social distancing measures were in place, a car dealer later met a group of motorists for a joyride around Singapore during the circuit breaker period.
Yeo Jing Cheng, a 31-year-old Singaporean, pleaded guilty on Thursday (15 April) to one charge each of gathering with more than 10 individuals on 28 March 2020, dangerous driving, gathering with others not from his household during the circuit breaker period, and obstructing justice after he was investigated for speeding. Two other charges of a similar nature will be considered for sentencing.
On 24 March 2020, the Singapore government announced measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 including the prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 individuals for non-essential purposes. The circuit breaker was in effect from 7 April until 1 June last year with stricter measures.
Invited motorists to meet despite ban on large gatherings
In March last year, Yeo, 31, organised a gathering of drivers in order to network. He designed a poster for an open invitation to a street cars meet-up on 28 March at the carpark near East Coast Park's (ECP) McDonald's outlet. He stated in the poster that any car was welcome and that the group would move off from ECP at 12am, with the destination to be disseminated by Yeo that night.
A few days before the event, Yeo sent the invitation to his WhatsApp group chats, which further circulated it.
On the night of 28 March last year, at least 150 cars attended the event, with their drivers and passengers mingling.
Yeo later disseminated the plan to drive to Jalan Buroh. While at Jalan Buroh, Yeo heard about another gathering at Tuas and joined the convoy that was driving there.
More than 10 drivers converged at Tuas South Boulevard in the wee hours of 29 March last year, with a few participating in illegal street racing. The police later got wind of the illegal gathering and arrived on scene at 2.30am, where they saw more than 100 cars on the road.
Upon seeing the police, the participants ran back to their vehicles to flee but the police blocked off the roads. Yeo was one of those stopped at the roadblock.
He later posted on Facebook to thank the participants for coming and told members of his chat groups to exit the groups and delete the invitation. Yeo also deleted the application that he used to create the poster from his handphone.
Yeo was charged over this incident on 9 April, with his case widely reported in the media.
However, he went on to reoffend during the circuit breaker period.
Met individuals for joy ride around Singapore during CB
On 15 May last year, Yeo met other individuals at a coffeeshop in Woodlands at night. He chatted with his acquaintances and decided to go "rounding" – referring to a joyride – around Singapore. He called others and told them to meet him for the purpose.
Around midnight on 16 May, eight others met up with Yeo and the nine cars drove in a convoy. They drove to a McDonald’s outlet at West Coast Highway where at least two more cars joined. From there, the group of at least 11 cars drove along the AYE, MCE, and KPE and then exited into the TPE.
The cars sped along an 11km stretch of the MCE and KPE tunnel in excess of the 80kmh speed limit and across more than one lane. Yeo drove at around 100kmh.
A caller reported to the police that he or she had encountered 15 vehicles driving at more than 150kmh in a tunnel, almost causing an accident.
The convoy was captured by an in-car camera and uploaded to the Facebook group SG Road Vigilante.
When Yeo discovered his car was captured in the video, he removed a GT wing spoiler – a feature on the boot of his car – from his car, in order to avoid identification.
Two days later, when he recorded his statement with the Traffic Police, he denied knowing any of the drivers in the video. He was asked specifically if the white car belonged to him but he denied ownership, claiming that his GT wing spoiler had been removed long ago.
He admitted that he had been driving the white car in a further statement, and that he had removed the GT wing spoiler to avoid identification.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Koh sought a jail term of five weeks and a fine of $5,000, along with a driving ban of two years. The defence sought a $10,000 fine and a six-month driving ban.
In mitigation, lawyer Luke Anton Netto said that his client had not been aware how many people would attend the event, as none of the parties had responded to him in the group chat, apart from a few individuals close to Yeo. Yeo had also not been aware if the poster was forwarded to other group chats.
The lawyer also asked for a shorter period of disqualification, as his client's career would be severely impacted if he was unable to take cars for test drives or deliver them to clients for viewing. Yeo would be limited to showroom business only, he added.
Yeo will return to court for sentencing on 25 May.
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