SINGAPORE: A business associate of a company director accused of giving bribes to a former general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) told a district court on Wednesday (Nov 7) that he was instructed to keep records of receipts "unclear" to prevent government officials from finding out easily about them.
These expenses were incurred when company director Omar Chia Sin Lan brought former AMKTC general manager Victor Wong Chee Meng to karaoke lounges, the court heard, on day four of the corruption trial.
Chia, 63, was the director and major shareholder of two firms - 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise - that tendered for and performed repair and redecoration works for town councils including AMKTC.
On Wednesday, his business associate Tay Eng Chuan took the stand as the prosecution's witness.
Mr Tay, along with Chia, allegedly paid for the S$1,600 monthly salary of Wong's daughter-in-law. Chia also allegedly used Mr Tay's credit card to make payment when he took Wong out for entertainment.
When presented with records of receipts and bills by Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue, Mr Tay described them as a record of incoming monies and expenses for 19-NS2.
Mr Tay, who is a shareholder of 19-NS2, told the court that Chia would give him bills for beer and for "hanging flowers". This translated term from Chinese refers to the act of adorning hostesses with garlands that cost upwards of S$100.
Speaking through a Mandarin interpreter, Mr Tay said: "I would tally the sum together and give the money to (Chia), it would be summarised and added into these records."
CHIA ASKED ME TO DESTROY RECEIPTS: WITNESS
When asked where the receipts for these bills are, Mr Tay said most of them were lost, because "Chia told me not to keep these receipts in case anything happens in future".
Elaborating, he said: "Chia would say - do not keep the receipts of the expenses incurred in the drinks and hanging of flowers, and to destroy them."
On top of this, Mr Tay said he was instructed by Chia to make unclear remarks in the records for the expenses. For example, sometimes he wrote "F", sometimes he wrote "Friend", and he was told not to use the same markings.
Asked why, Mr Tay said: "This is Chia's idea. It's just in case one fine day government officials come checking, they will not be able to find out easily the expenses incurred for hanging of flowers and entertainment."
The prosecutor brought Mr Tay through one such bill for S$3,700, for a record made on May 18, 2015. It was recorded with the letters "FV".
Mr Tay told the court that this bill was incurred when Chia brought Wong to a karaoke lounge to "hang flower".
He told the court that F stood for "flower", and V for "Victor", which refers to Wong.
Wong is accused of receiving some S$107,000 in bribes from Chia between December 2014 and September 2016 to advance the business interests of Chia's companies with AMKTC.
Chia allegedly claimed reimbursement from his two companies for the bribes he gave to Wong. 19-ANC and 19-NS2 were awarded tenders and contracts by AMKTC which amounted to millions of dollars.
GIRLS AT KARAOKE LOUNGE "VERY FRIENDLY" WITH WONG
Mr Tay also told the court that he went to a karaoke lounge with Wong twice - in 2015 and 2016, both around the Chinese New Year period in February, to toss yusheng or raw fish for the occasion.
On the first occasion, he said Wong asked him to go to Jalan Sultan to pick up his distant relative.
This turned out to be Xu Hongmei, Wong's mistress. During dinner, Mr Tay observed that Wong was "very concerned for her and often took fish and meat dishes for her".
When they arrived at the karaoke lounge, he noticed that Ms Xu was "very familiar with the surroundings".
"At the KTV, when we reached upstairs, the hostesses were very friendly towards Victor Wong and they called him affectionately 'Huang zhong', which means General Manager Wong," said Mr Tay.
This made him think that it was not Wong's first time at the lounge. While singing and drinking there, Wong hugged, kissed and touched Ms Xu in front of everyone, Mr Tay said. This led him to guess that she was his mistress and not his distant relative.
Chia also hugged and talked to a woman there, Mr Tay added.
At the second outing in 2016, Ms Xu was not there, and Mr Tay noticed that the hostesses called Chia "director xie", which again led him to believe that Wong and Chia patronised the place regularly.
"What were Chia and Wong doing at the KTV?" asked the prosecutor.
"Drink beer, hug women," answered Mr Tay.
"I was singing," Mr Tay replied. He said he stayed there for about one-and-a-half to two hours, and that both men remained behind when Mr Tay left.
Earlier in the day, the prosecution withdrew one charge each against Wong and Chia from the original list of 55 each.
These charges both relate to an alleged bribe of a hotel stay worth S$35 at Fragrance Hotel in March 2016, which Chia offered to Wong.
The trial resumes on Thursday with Mr Tay on the stand.