Actor sublets rented car which goes missing - it later turns up in drug case
Suria actor Nick Mikhail Razak sublet rented car to third party, who later went missing
Last September, he posted an advertisement on online classifieds site Gumtree Singapore to rent out his car, a Toyota Mark X.
Mr Augustin Teo, 25, had an offer from another party but decided to rent it to Mr Nick Mikhail Razak because of his status as a well-known Suria actor.
Mr Teo, who works in the food and beverage industry, handed the car to Mr Nick Mikhail in September last year, in an agreement to rent the car to him for a year from October, for $1,600 a month.
The latter also paid a deposit of $1,600 upfront.
The car went missing this year and both parties told The New Paper that it had been impounded by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) for investigations in a drug-related case.
From last November to June this year, Mr Teo travelled overseas for work, leaving his 55-year-old mother, Madam Connie Cheow, to liaise directly with Mr Nick Mikhail, 36, on matters related to his car.
During this time, Mr Teo claimed that Mr Nick Mikhail was tardy in replying to her calls and text messages each time he was late in making payments.
When asked, Mr Nick Mikhail said: "I was busy filming and might have missed some calls. If I paid late, it was only a matter of a few days or a week, but I still paid."
Payment was due on the first of every month.
Sometimes, Mr Teo claimed, payment was delayed by a week although Mr Nick Mikhail eventually paid up and had never defaulted on payment.
Frustrated with the communication between them, Madam Cheow knocked on the door of Mr Nick Mikhail's flat to confront him in February.
Acting on her son's instructions, she wanted him to return the car to the family by Feb 15.
"We were desperate and we wanted to know the condition of the car," Mr Teo, a father of one, told TNP on Tuesday.
Mr Nick Mikhail was not home at that time, but his helper called him and passed the telephone to Madam Cheow.
Mr Teo claimed Mr Nick Mikhail told Madam Cheow that he wanted to continue using the car.
Frustrated, she left the premises and left it at that.
A month later, Mr Teo said Mr Nick Mikhail finally admitted to Madam Cheow via SMS that he had sublet the vehicle to a third party and that the man was missing.
Mr Nick Mikhail confirmed this when asked by TNP and said he was at Ang Mo Kio at that time, trying to track down the man he had sublet Mr Teo's car to. (See report onfacing page.)
That was when Mr Teo's mum decided to file a police report at Punggol Neighbourhood Police Centre, accompanied by Mr Teo's cousin.
By coincidence, they bumped into Mr Nick Mikhail, who also wanted to file a police report.
Mr Teo said: "My mum said that she did not raise her voice at him. My cousin had asked him how he could do such a thing.
"They spoke about how to settle the matter and find the man. With no conclusion, they left it at that."
The same month, Mr Teo said that Mr Nick Mikhail gave Madam Cheow the number and the name of a woman who insisted that she had no clue where her boyfriend - the third-party who had rented the car from Mr Nick Mikhail - was.
Since the car was missing, Mr Nick Mikhail also stopped the monthly payments.
"If the car remains missing for years, it doesn't make sense for me to continue paying monthly instalments," he told TNP.
The woman gave his mother a second number, which Mr Teo rang when he returned to Singapore in June.
That was when he was hit by the truth.
"Imagine my shock in June when I came back and received a call from my car's insurance company, Aviva, that the car had been involved in an accident, but the accident report was not forwarded.
"I became nervous and wondered what had happened. I sent Nick a text message, but no reply," he said.
"I also called the number that was given to my mother in March.
"It was an investigating officer from CNB who told me that my car was badly damaged and was involved in a drug case. Windscreen and windows smashed, seats have been removed. I then gave a statement to them," he said.
Upset by all that happened, Mr Teo posted what happened on Facebook. The post went viral.
It was an investigating officer from CNB who told me that my car was badly damaged and was involved in a drug case. Wind-screen and windows smashed, seats have been removed.
- Mr Augustin Teo
I decided that it wouldn't be worth it if I was paying for a car that I would use only five to six times. So I sublet the car to someone via Gumtree Singapore at the same price.
- Suria actor Nick Mikhail Razak
My biggest mistake was subletting the car
He regularly rented cars for his personal use on Gumtree Singapore.
When he saw the advertisement posted by Mr Augustin Teo, 25, on the site last year, he agreed to the cost and terms and rented the car.
In January, Mr Nick Mikhail Razak, who stars in Suria drama P.I.Z., decided to sublet the rented car to a man as he was tied up with work commitments in Batam, Bali, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru.
"I decided that it wouldn't be worth it if I was paying for a car that I would use only five to six times. So I sublet the car to someone via Gumtree Singapore at the same price. That was my biggest mistake," Mr Nick Mikhail, 36, told TNP on Tuesday.
The father of one did not inform Mr Teo and his accountant mother, Madam Connie Cheow, 55, about the subletting arrangement, as it was on a short-term basis.
"I mainly liaised with the man's girlfriend as he was busy at that time. Nothing struck me as fishy. They looked well-off and they paid the instalments on times. I, in turn, paid Augustin's mother each month. Then, (the man) disappeared on me in late February or early March. Even his girlfriend did not know where he was," he said.
Worried, he decided to track the couple down for about a week in Ang Mo Kio, but did not succeed.
He gave up in March, decided to come clean with Madam Cheow via SMS and filed a police report at Punggol Neighbourhood Police Centre. That was where he bumped into Madam Cheow and her nephew who were there to file a report against him for losing the car.
Mr Nick Mikhail won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Drama Series award at this year's Pesta Perdana,
He denied that he "disappeared", explaining that he was always in contact with Madam Cheow and that she had all his particulars.
But he did admit he had a missed call from Mr Teo in June, who had been trying to reach him after he found out from the insurance company that the car was involved in an accident.
In June, Mr Nick Mikhail received a call from Central Narcotics Bureau informing him that the car was in their possession as it had been linked to a drug-related case.
He was also called in for a statement.
"When I heard that, my heart sank. I was so shocked. Nobody thought this would happen," he said.
In response to Mr Teo's recent Facebook post, Mr Nick Mikhail also retaliated with Facebook posts with his side of the story.
On Monday, he made another police report, accusing Mr Teo of defamation and cyberbullying.
Is it legal to sublet a rental car?
Is renting out your private car illegal?
Lawyers The New Paper spoke to said that this is a grey area.
"Even when it comes to the owner renting out his own car, it is dicey. It is dependent on the permission given or agreement drawn up by the relevant authorities," Mr Rajan Supramaniam of Hilborne Law LLC said.
Lawyer Han Wah Teng said: "In the first place, it all boils down to whether proper licences are necessary for the owner to rent his car."
As to whether subletting a rental car is legal, Mr Han said: "If licenses are necessary to rent out a car and the owner doesn't have them, then that act is illegal. And it will be illegal down the line."
Mr Rajan said: "It depends if the owner is aware of it."
Said Mr Han: "It may affect the rights of the owner and user if the transaction was illegal."