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Illegal taxi drivers should get jail terms

THE public transport watchdog has said fines are not a sufficient deterrent for those driving unlicensed cabs and prison sentences should be considered for the worst offenders.

The Shanghai Traffic Law Enforcement Team told Shanghai Daily yesterday that detention should be considered for those running illegal cab businesses.

"We need stronger backing from the law," said official Wu Runyuan.

Currently, the maximum fine for driving an unlicensed taxi is 50,000 yuan (US$7,315). Illegal cabs, mostly second-hand cars, sell for about 10,000 yuan or less.

Many of those caught driving unlicensed cabs have their vehicles impounded but never try to retrieve them because the vehicle is worth far less than the fine they have to pay for the car's return, Wu said.

He cited a case from January in which watchdog investigators found five cars with identical license plates inside a parking lot in Minhang District. The plate initials, BX, identified the cars as authorized for a self-employed taxi business. As the authority has stopped issuing such permits, they have soared in value and now change hands for 400,000 yuan on private exchange markets.

The watchdog found the owner of the original private taxi permit had made four copies and rented out all five plates to friends and relatives so they could run illegal cabs. All five cars were impounded, but the owner never showed up to pay the 50,000 yuan penalty to get his cars back. Many cases ended this way, said Wu.

By evading taxes and insurance, an illegal taxi could save 12,000 yuan a month compared to a legal cab.


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