SINGAPORE: One of the masterminds in a series of car insurance claim scams that tricked insurers into paying out about S$125,500 for fabricated car accidents was jailed for two years and seven months on Monday (Sep 14).
Tay Boon Hian, 46, pleaded guilty to three charges of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat, with eight other charges taken into consideration.
His lawyer argued that a "discount" should be given as the offences were committed in 2008, and he was detained only last year after being initially released without charges.
The court heard that Tay was then an owner of a car leasing firm and an operator of another. He supplied cars from BM Car Leasing for staged traffic accidents with which he and his co-masterminds made fraudulent insurance claims.
The other men included his then-employee Kenneth Wong Chong Wee, who helped plan and assist in providing vehicles for the staging of the "accidents". Wong also recruited a "phantom driver", while another man Ng Chong Khai helped to stage the accidents and refer repair jobs to a workshop for a commission.
The group also roped in a stuntman, Lim Yang Peow, who intentionally rear-ended one vehicle against another to create damages on the cars.
The four men, including Tay, conspired in 2008 to cheat insurance companies by using vehicles from Tay's companies to stage accidents.
They would position the vehicles in a line at remote locations before the stuntman collided them into each other, and refer the vehicles to a workshop for repairs.
They later recruited individuals to submit their details and report their particulars as drivers and passengers in the fabricated traffic accidents in order to deceive insurance companies into giving them payouts.
Tay provided the vehicles used in the accidents and roped Wong into the conspiracy. Tay adrove around the area for the setups to make sure no other vehicles came near the staged accident site and also posed as a passenger in one of the three fake accidents he was involved in.
The fraudulent claims from the three accidents amounted to S$157,086, with insurers making payouts of S$125,481 as they believed they were genuine.
Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh asked for two years and nine months' jail, saying that there is a need to deter such offences as motor insurance scams are difficult to detect.
"There is a pressing public interest to deter motor insurance fraud to keep a lid on increasing insurance premiums and to protect the wider public from having to suffer financially," he said.
THERE SHOULD BE A DISCOUNT FOR THE DELAY: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Kalidass Murugaiyan said there should be "a small discount" for his client, as the case is being heard only 12 years after the offences.
He said that Tay went to the police station to give his statements in 2011 and there was "no issue of bail", as he was free to travel.
He went to China and Indonesia for business before returning to Singapore in 2014 to renew his passport, and was only detained in 2019 when he came back to Singapore.
"The police have not gone to the house or given any letters to family members inquiring after his whereabouts," claimed Mr Kalidass.
"I would add also ... when the wheels of justice move a little slower, it does have an effect on the person's life."
The prosecutor explained that the case was "a complex matter" involving multiple people and connected to a broader syndicate.
"As such a sequential approach was taken to pursue cases where the accused confessed, before using them as prosecution witnesses against others," he said.
He said that by the time it came to Tay, he had left the country and the investigating officer discovered it only when she sent a letter to his registered address and later discovered through screenings that he had left the jurisdiction.
Mr Koh maintained that there was "no inordinate delay". He said the time that passed was "necessary" for investigations into the "very complex" case to be completed.
The judge said it was "unfortunate" that Tay was charged more than 10 years after the offences were committed.
"During this time, he kept on the right side of the law and did not commit any offences in between," she said. However, she added that she could not ignore the large amount involved and the fact that Tay did not make any restitution.
The other masterminds in the case were sentenced earlier. Wong pleaded guilty in 2016, and was given two years and seven months' jail, while Ng pleaded guilty in 2017, and was jailed for two-and-a-half years. Lim was jailed for three years after pleading guilty in 2017.
For each charge of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat, Tay could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.