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Ex-MFA protocol chief pleads guilty to falsifying claims

Former Foreign Affairs Ministry protocol chief Lim Cheng Hoe has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of falsifying claims related to the purchase of pineapple tarts and bottles of wine, amounting to about S$35,000.

SINGAPORE: The former chief of protocol with the Foreign Affairs Ministry has been convicted of 10 counts of falsifying claims involving the purchase of pineapple tarts and bottles of wine amounting to about S$35,000.

Lim Cheng Hoe also admitted to 50 counts of cheating totalling some S$54,000, which would be taken into consideration for sentencing purposes.

The 61-year-old had submitted false expense claims between February 2008 and May 2012.

He made claims for more than 10,000 boxes of pineapple tarts when only 2,200 boxes were used as gifts to foreign officials.

For some of the claims, Lim did not buy or use any of the pineapple tarts as gifts to foreign officials during his official overseas trips.

Lim became familiar with the shopkeepers selling the pineapple tarts and had asked them for blank receipts which he filled up himself.

The shopkeepers acceded to his request as they thought Lim had felt that their handwriting was not clear.

As for the bottles of wine, Lim used genuine receipts but he purchased more bottles than he had planned to bring on his official overseas trips.

He made claims for 248 bottles of wine but had bought only 89.

In its submissions, the prosecution called for a sentence of 18 months, stating several aggravating factors.

Prosecutor Kelvin Kow said Lim's actions have not only "offended the sensibilities of the public" but also cast a negative light on public servants.

He said while Lim has made full restitution, he has brought disrepute to the ministry.

Mr Kow stressed that Lim made false claims 60 times over a prolonged period of four years, which indicate his pre-meditation.

But defence lawyer Mr Philip Fong argued that Lim had maintained a stellar record at work until now.

He cited glowing testimonies from Lim's friends and colleagues and added that the country's ties with other nations have not been affected.

Mr Fong also argued that Lim did not commit the offences to profit from them but to overcome "red tape".

He said his client did so in order to "do his job better".

The defence said Lim is diabetic and urged the court to impose a sentence of eight to 10 months.

District Judge Eddy Tham will sentence Lim on Thursday.

The maximum punishment for cheating by inflating claims as a public servant is a 10-year jail term and a fine for each charge. 

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