MOSCOW, Russia -- "Do you want us to put him in jail?"
That was the last question that Diego Saez, a journalist from Chile on duty at the Confederations Cup in Russia, was asked by a police officer.
On Thursday, the 38-year-old Saez landed at Domodedovo airport, tired and exhausted after two overnight connecting flights. Going online and checking the currency exchange rates were the last things he wanted to do at that moment. He withdrew some money from an ATM, got in the official airport taxi and passed the driver his hotel's address in Moscow's downtown, a roughly 30-mile journey that should take no more than 45-50 minutes on an average day.
"When we arrived, he first said it's 37,000 rubles [approx. $640] then when I started counting the banknotes, the price raised to 40,000 [$700]," Saez said on Sunday night. "'It's a night rate,' he explained. So, I gave him 50,000 [$865] including tips, but at that very moment received a message from my colleague, who said he'd paid 5,000 [$86] for a similar ride."
It was too late by then, though. The driver insisted on the fare and refused to give anything back. Even though, a typical price for a similar journey is 10 times less than what Saez eventually paid.
Prudently, Saez managed to take two photos -- one of the driver and the other of his car's number plate -- before asking a hotel receptionist to call the police.
Russia's image has fallen in the world's eyes over the past few years. In order to not let it fall even further, the country is doing its best to prevent even the smallest incidents that could attract negative publicity. Therefore, a phone call that would probably be ignored put the police on high alert. A few minutes later, a police car arrived and took the journalist to the station, asking him for details for a good few hours.
"'I don't wanna stay in Russia anymore' -- that was the only thing I could think to say at that moment," Saez said. "Luckily, the next day I was asked to come to the same police station and see if the driver they'd detained was the same driver who ripped me off. It was him."
At some point over the minutes that followed Saez, who works for Radio ADN in Chile, was asked a question he'd never thought he'd be asked.
"The police officer asked me if I want them to put the taxi driver in jail [a fraud conviction could result in up to two years in jail]. I didn't think twice. 'No,' I said, 'I just want my money back.'"
But what happened after that amazed not just the scammer and the policemen; it surprised all who heard the story. After getting his 50,000 rubles back Saez, to disbelief of all who were present, gave 5,000 rubles in return.
"He earned it by getting me to the hotel," Saez explained, generously handing the bill to the offender before shaking his hand and leaving.
Saez felt it made sense. "Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.' It's something that I wouldn't even argue with."