Sister of Maserati driver who dragged police officer asks for car to be returned to repay loans
SINGAPORE: The sister of a Maserati driver who stands to lose his car to the state over his repeat driving offence pleaded with the court on Wednesday (Jan 25) to have the vehicle returned.
Lee Cheng Yan's sister told the district court that she and her elderly parents have been paying for Lee's hefty legal fees and supporting his four-year-old twin daughters in Japan on the understanding that they would be repaid with the car proceeds.
Lee, 39, is currently serving a total sentence of about six years and eight months.
He has two lifetime driving bans - one meted out to him for a 2017 incident where he dragged a police officer who was trapped in his Maserati door along the road. The second was given in 2022 for offences including reoffending by driving while banned and again evading the police.
Wednesday's hearing was for the forfeiture of the Maserati which was used in the 2017 offence.
According to the Road Traffic Act, if a repeat offender uses a vehicle he owns to commit certain offences, the public prosecutor can apply for the vehicle to be forfeited under certain circumstances and the court must order it.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Timotheus Koh asked for the case to be adjourned for four weeks for two reasons: First, for Lee's family to prepare any submissions, and second, for the prosecution to perform checks on whether any credit companies are linked to the purchase of the Maserati.
The cost of the Maserati and its value now are both figures that are unascertained.
Lee, who appeared in person in a purple prison jumpsuit and blue mask, did not want to address the court directly.
Instead, he spoke through an interpreter, first to ask if he was suspended or disqualified at the time of the 2017 offence.
He was told that he was disqualified and was driving while under disqualification when he dragged the police officer with his Maserati.
He said he hoped to be given a chance to claim his car back.
SISTER ADDRESSES COURT
Lee's sister then stood up to address the court. She held a bundle of documents and said she actually did not need the adjournment and was prepared.
"I wish to state upfront that my family and I do not condone my brother's wrongdoings," she told District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam.
"In fact, as family members, our lives have been the most badly affected by his irresponsible actions," she continued. "My mother and I have been financially supporting his four-year-old twin daughters in Japan, and my oldest brother who turns 42 this year is intellectually disabled and is unable to care for himself."
She explained that her brother took large loans from his parents to pay for his "very hefty legal fees" for the previous trial and other legal matters.
"That was with the understanding that he wishes to pay them the moment the car is released. In other words, what he did is pledge the car to repay the loans he had taken from his parents," she said.
She said her 76-year-old father took a loan from his "one and only life insurance" and is unable to repay the loan to date. He has been paying interest to the insurance company, she said.
Lee's sister continued to say that her mother pawned her jewellery to loan her son a large sum of money.
"In addition, my mom and I have been paying for his children's expenses all this while," said Lee's sister.
"So while my brother legally owns the vehicle, the fact that he has pledged the proceeds of the vehicle to return my parents the money, essentially we can argue - that makes my parents the de facto owners of the vehicle," she said.
She added that when her brother was first convicted in 2001 - also for driving while under disqualification - he was not even 18 and had not gone to army.
"A mistake is still a mistake, he has done wrong and by law according to the provision stated the court has every right to forfeit the vehicle," said Lee's sister. "But what we are trying to put across is the first conviction was when he's not even 18 ... it's a little harsh to take that into consideration."
The judge asked if the term "pledge" was used casually or legally, and asked if the family would be seeking legal advice.
Lee's sister said they had no documents to prove the "pledge" as the transfer of ownership of the vehicle could not take place while the vehicle was impounded.
She added that they did not intend to seek further legal advice.
"I fail to see the correlation between personal loans given by your parents to your brother to help him out," said the judge.
"And this vehicle, I'm not sure what its market value is, or how much we can obtain for it."
She adjourned the forfeiture hearing to Feb 27.
Lee's sister declined to speak to the media.