SINGAPORE: While waiting for his car's petrol tank to be filled at a station in Johor, the driver of a Singapore-registered gold BMW 320i switched his licence plates to that registered to a Hyundai car before speeding on a Malaysian highway.
The incident on May 18 has prompted an investigation by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which told The Straits Times that the owner of the Hyundai vehicle has filed a report with the authority.
It happened at around 7.30am at a Petron station in Gelang Patah, Johor, about a 10-minute drive from the Tuas Checkpoint.
The male driver was seen switching the original licence plate SLX27E to one bearing the registration number SKD2777C.
A check on the LTA's One Motoring website showed that the other number belongs to a Hyundai Elantra.
The BMW was caught speeding on a Malaysian highway about an hour after switching the plates. But the RM150 summonses was issued to the Hyundai vehicle instead.
John (not his real name), who witnessed the incident, told The Straits Times: "There were many Singapore cars at the petrol station that morning. And this driver was changing his car plate so openly. Many of us were shocked at what we saw.
"The (BMW) driver was so arrogant and a very bad example for Singaporeans. What if he had got into an accident in Malaysia and someone had been injured or killed? His insurer could contest his claims."
The licence plate-switching act was caught on video by another Singaporean driver who posted screengrabs on Facebook that same afternoon.
Facebook page SG Road Vigilante also carried the post, which went viral.
Netizens then posted screengrabs from Malaysia's e-payment portal showing two outstanding speeding summonses issued to the Hyundai car - one last July and another on May 18 this year.
"This thing has gone viral. If nothing is done, people might start copying the BMW driver and change to a different vehicle number plate when driving in Malaysia," said John, who managed to snap a photo of the BMW travelling on the North-South Expressway while bearing the other car plate number.
Johor police deputy chief Mohd Kamaruddin Md Din said he has not come across any case of Singaporeans changing their vehicle number plates in Malaysia.
"So far, we don't have such cases against Singaporean drivers. If it is true, we want this irresponsible act to be stopped. We will not hesitate to take stern action," Datuk Mohd Kamaruddin told The Straits Times.
Under Malaysia's Road Transport Act, if a car is found with a vehicle number plate that does not belong to it, the offender could be fined up to RM5,000 and jailed for up to a year. The vehicle could also be seized.
Tampering with the registration plate is an offence in Singapore, said lawyer Chia Boon Teck from law firm Chia Wong.
"Although the Singapore-registered car bearing a false Singapore number plate was driven outside Singapore, if as a result of the forged car number plate, another driver in Singapore is penalised for offences not committed by him, there may be enough nexus for this scenario to fall within 'exhibiting forged or imitation number plate' under the Road Traffic Act, or 'cheating' under the Penal Code," he added.
In Singapore, the penalty for displaying a forged number plate is a fine of up to $5,000 and/or jail of up to a year.
A check on Malaysia's e-payment portal showed that the summonses issued to the Hyundai car number plate were no longer visible on May 20. The BMW, sporting its original plate, was seen heading into Singapore that same day.