SINGAPORE: Even as authorities are proposing stiffer penalties for individuals who pretend to be the driver in traffic violations, there are those who are willing to take the risk, offering themselves as scapegoats on online marketplaces, in exchange for cash.
CNA found at least six listings on Carousell hawking these illegal services - with one dated as far back as three years ago.
At a going rate of S$100 per demerit point, those with traffic violations like speeding or running a red light can try to buy their way out of trouble.
HOW IT WORKS
Sellers CNA spoke to said both parties would meet face-to-face to pay the traffic fines – which can be done either online, or at an AXS machine. The seller would then key in their licence details, and claim to be driving the vehicle at the point of the violation.
The traffic offender would then pay the fine and pay the seller S$100 for each demerit point incurred.
This means if a person was slapped with a S$200 fine and six demerit points – it would cost him S$800 to have a clean traffic record.
Drivers are allowed to chalk up a maximum of 24 demerit points within two years before having their licence suspended.
Most sellers CNA spoke to were only willing to offer a portion of their demerit points for sale, with one drawing the line at offences that require a court hearing.
For some who were prepared to have their licence suspended, these illicit transactions could net them up to S$2,400.
“A lot of people in Singapore (have) a driving licence but no car … I offer you S$2,400 every two years, you want (sic)?” said one seller, who also claimed to have “a lot of friends” who are willing to take the blame for a stranger.
He also admitted to having made four such transactions in the past two years without getting caught.
“It’s only between you and me,” he said.
Another seller claimed he had sold six of his demerit points just a week ago, saying “nobody is going to check”.
Criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said there should be more checks in place to detect those pretending to be an offending driver.
“(One way) is to have CCTVs at AXS stations, like those at ATM machines, to verify the identity of the person in due course,” he said.
“Another possibility could be to allow such fines – where demerit points are recorded – to be paid only at the Neighbourhood Police Post where the person attending should be made to sign a declaration that the particulars are true and correct,” he added.
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Mr Singh emphasised that offenders are unable to outrun the law, adding that such cases are currently dealt with under the offence of giving false information to the police.
The punishment could also be harsher for those who benefit financially from such illegal dealings.
“Coming forward to accept to take the blame for another person in return for financial gain is an aggravating factor, and that is why you bring it to within the upper reaches of the scale of punishment,” said Mr Singh.
“Already, within the context of helping a family member out of love and affection or out of desperation because the husband may need the licence to drive a taxi or Grab car, it's bad enough. Can you imagine if this kind of thing is transacted for money, financial gain?” he added.
In response to CNA’s queries, Vice President of Operations at Carousell Su Lin Tan said listings that encourage illegal activity are not allowed on its marketplace, and added that they have since been taken down.
“We have issued the sellers a formal warning and informed them of why their listings were removed … Carousell will continue to further work with the relevant authorities, as well as step up on our detection efforts with both automated and manual moderation, to keep our marketplace safe,” Ms Tan said.
The police said that they are aware of such online advertisements, and warned that such activities may constitute an offence.
For third parties who pretend to be the offending driver, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced on Monday that it will create an offence for false representation.
Offenders could be jailed for up to a year, fined up to S$10,000, or both.