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Ex-Maris Stella High Principal pleads guilty to misappropriating funds

Anthony Tan Kim Hock admitted to misappropriating $66,950.50 between 2004 and 2009, and will be sentenced later this week.

SINGAPORE: Former Maris Stella High Principal Anthony Tan Kim Hock today (May 19) pleaded guilty to nine charges of misappropriating school funds.

He admitted to misappropriating funds amounting to S$66,950.50 between 2004 and 2009. 

The court heard that when the 67-year-old was Principal of the school, he made frequent business trips to China for official networking and scholars' recruitment trips, and to London, Bangkok and Hong Kong for conferences.

Between June 2004 and May 2009, Tan brought along a friend whom he met in church, Mr Peter Lim, to accompany him for some of these trips. 

Tan directed the school to pay for Mr Lim's overseas expenses, which included airfare and accommodation, from out of the School Management Committee (SMC) fund. 

The SMC fund come from donations and fund-raising activities by Maris Stella High. 

Tan introduced Mr Lim as his nephew in the course of these trips, but investigations showed they were not related. Mr Lim was also neither a school nor Ministry of Education staff, and did not have an official role on trips.

There were also instances when some parents made donations to the school out of gratitude that their children had secured a place, but Tan would deposit the money into his bank account, the court heard.

One instance of this was in January 2005 when a Thai national donated S$10,000, and it happened again in December 2006 when an Indonesian national donated S$10,000. 

Tan also allowed a badminton coach to use school premises to coach his own students, in return for a monthly donation.

While Tan acknowledged there was no practice of renting out the school premises, he said the school needed funds to take care of the retired Marist Brothers as well as for maintenance and miscellaneous expenses. 

From January to December 2007,  he collected cheques totalling S$4,800 from the coach and deposited them into his own account. 

The offences came to light when the Commercial Affairs Department received an anonymous complaint in September 2009. 

Tan was charged with 21 counts of criminal breach of trust in late 2011, and had already been sentenced to five months' jail for one charge of dishonestly misappropriating S$67,679.05 in school funds. 

He had appealed against the conviction and sentence but the appeal was dismissed by the High Court in February this year. 

The other 11 charges will be taken into consideration. 

These include charges of Tan directing the school to pay for Mr Lim's tennis coaching accreditation programme, professional tennis registry renewal and for an advanced open diving course on Pulau Tioman. 

As of last Friday (May 16), Tan has made full restitution of the misappropriated funds. 

In his submission, the Deputy Public Prosecutor highlighted that the misappropriations occurred over a period of more than five years. 

He said they had gone undetected for so long as the SMC and school staff had trusted Tan. 

In his mitigation plea, Tan's lawyer, Mr Peter Low, highlighted the former Principal's contributions to the school, including leading it to win many awards. 

Tan is scheduled to be sentenced this Friday.

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