SINGAPORE – A 28-year-old Singaporean man helped provide criminals with cars that had been modified to be “untraceable”.
Tan Wen Jie, a final-year accountancy student at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, was sentenced to 26 months and two weeks’ jail on Friday (April 16).
He is appealing against the sentence.
He pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to cheat the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Singapore Customs, and was convicted on three cheating charges and three charges of false declarations relating to the export of the cars.
Another nine similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
At least six other criminal cases involved the use of the phantom cars, including a case of aggravated unlicensed money-lending-related harassment.
In September 2018, Tan conspired with Lee Wui Liang, 35, to profit from selling and renting deregistered cars.
Tan bought cars with certificates of entitlement close to expiry and resold them.
Lee modified the cars by grinding off the chassis and engine numbers at quiet carparks, replacing each car’s licence plate with a cloned licence plate, and replacing the in-vehicle unit with that of another registered vehicle.
The registration number on the cloned licence plate would be that of an existing registered car of similar colour, make and model.
Tan sourced the replacement in-vehicle units and cloned licence plates.
The modified cars were then sold and rented out on Carousell, and through a middle man on a “no questions asked” basis.
There were no checks on whether the buyer was even legally allowed to drive.
The cars included two BMWs, a Mitsubishi Lancer EX, a Honda Stream, a Honda Civic, a Honda Jazz and a Mazda 6.
Tan also facilitated the preparation of documents that would make the vehicles appear to have been exported or about to be exported.
The documents were then submitted to the LTA and Customs.
But Tan was caught after the police managed to trace one of the modified cars used in the unlicensed money-lending-related harassment case.
Extensive investigations eventually led to the arrests of Tan, Lee and the others involved in their enterprise.
Lee’s case is still before the courts. He faces a total of 77 charges.
On Friday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Siu Ming urged the court to jail Tan for 30 months and two weeks.
In mitigation, Tan’s lawyer, Mr Tan Beng Swee, said his client was a year shy of completing his studies, and asked the court for a jail sentence of between 12 and 18 months instead.
He added that the accused made a paltry sum from the enterprise, and would have to pay a heavy price for his reckless conduct.
District Judge Marvin Bay said a deterrent sentence was needed.
“These vehicles constitute a phantom population of cars using our public roads, outside of the regulatory and inspection regime of the LTA,” he said.
“(There is) enormous potential for knock-on consequences in civil and criminal liabilities if these vehicles, which were supposedly deregistered and exported, are involved in accidents or used to commit crimes.”
Tan intends to appeal against the sentence, and is currently out on $20,000 bail.
For each cheating charge, he could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

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