High Court rules JPJ negligent in cloned Toyota Vellfire case, awards owner RM139k in damages – paultan.org

The High Court delivered a landmark ruling yesterday in finding the road transport department (JPJ) negligent in not maintaining accurate vehicle registration records, Free Malaysia Today reported.

This case was brought by Dr Hema Thiyagu, who bought the vehicle, a 2013 Toyota Vellfire, not knowing it was a cloned vehicle. In May last year, Hema sued the Penang JPJ director, the JPJ director-general and the federal government, after the department seized the vehicle 10 months after she purchased it. The JPJ said its chassis and engine numbers had been tampered with.

Hema claimed in her suit filed that the JPJ failed to explain how the tampering was not detected when she registered the vehicle, and her lawyer K. Simon Murali submitted that the JPJ was negligent in allowing the vehicle’s chassis and engine numbers to be registered to a different vehicle.

Further submission by Murali claimed that, based on testimony from witnesses from the JPJ, there was no evidence that the previous owner of the Vellfire was present during the transfer of ownership in Ipoh, Perak, despite this being a legal requirement, the report wrote.

The stolen vehicle was then illegally registered and had changed hands several times before it was purchased by his client, who did not know its status.

The JPJ said in its defence that Hema’s vehicle was cloned and had been reported stolen in Labu, Negeri Sembilan in 2019, while its chassis and engine numbers had been from another vehicle in Johor. This Johor-registered vehicle had been owned by an insurer after an accident in 2018, and it was auctioned the following year.

A subsequent buyer, when trying to change the ownership to his name, found the vehicle was “already registered”, the JPJ said in its defence statement, according to the report. The department said it was not obliged to inspect the vehicles before registering them as these duties lay with Puspakom, saying that its registration process was based only on required documents and therfore was not legally obliged to tell Hema why her vehicle was seized.

Justice Anand Ponnudurai said the JPJ director-general has a responsibility to maintain an accurate vehicle register, especially of cars flagged as cloned, and said the department should have seized the vehicle upon discovering it was cloned. The judge said that Hema was unaware she had bought a cloned vehicle and because there were multiple previous owners, there was no suspicion in her case.

“JPJ had evidence as early as December 6, 2019, eight months before Hema bought the vehicle, suggesting that the Vellfire may be cloned, but did nothing,” and as a result, the Penang JPJ director and the JPJ director-general had breached their statutory duties, Anand said.

The judge awarded Hema RM139,000 in damages and RM10,000 in costs, which are to be paid by the federal government, which was named as the third defendant. In this case, senior federal counsel Muhammad Sinti represented JPJ and the federal government.

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