AMKTC corruption case: Both sides appeal, prosecution seeks to increase the jail terms

AMKTC corruption case: Both sides appeal, prosecution seeks to increase the jail terms

Wong Chee Meng and Chia Sin Lan
Former Ang Mo Kio Town Council general manager Wong Chee Meng and company director Chia Sin Lan. (Photos: Najeer Yusof/TODAY)

SINGAPORE: Both sides of a corruption case involving a former Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) general manager and a construction company director appealed on Tuesday (May 19) against the sentences.

The prosecution sought to increase the imprisonment terms, while the two convicted men asked for shorter jail terms. 

After a three-hour-long hearing via Zoom video conference, the Chief Justice reserved his judgment, which will be delivered at a later date. 

Former AMKTC general manager Victor Wong Chee Meng, 60, had been sentenced to 27 months' jail while company director Chia Sin Lan, 65, was given 21 months' jail.

The prosecution sought in its appeals for these to be increased to 48 months' jail for Wong and 44 months' imprisonment for Chia.

The pair had pleaded guilty midway into a trial, with Wong admitting to receiving more than S$86,000 in bribes from Chia between December 2014 and September 2016.

Most of this was in entertainment expenses of about S$34,000, with Chia taking Wong out to KTV lounges, massage parlours and restaurants.

In return, Chia's two companies 19-ANC and 19-NS2 were awarded more town council projects by Wong's overt recommendation, or highlighting of their competitors' unsatisfactory track records.

The two companies were fined S$75,000 each for their roles, and Wong was ordered in November to pay a penalty of about S$23,000 by May 2020 for bribes, which included a car discount and entertainment expenses.

READ: AMKTC trial: Pair accused of corruption spent 'over S$4,000' on entertainment in one night

"NO MERIT IN THE MEN'S APPEALS": PROSECUTION

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue said there was "no merit" in the two men's appeals, as the sentences they received were not manifestly excessive.

"On the contrary, the sentences are manifestly inadequate and do not reflect the overall criminality of the accused persons," said Mr Jiang.

In pushing for heavier sentences, he pointed out a list of factors, including that Wong was not just the general manager of the town council, but also its secretary.

His actions compromised the protocols and processes in the town council and exposed it to potential disruption of public services, said the prosecutor.

The district judge who imposed the sentences did not take into account several aggravating factors, including "the grave public disquiet and extent to which integrity and confidence in the scheme of town councils had been undermined as a result of the corruption", asserted Mr Jiang.

READ: Jail for former AMKTC general manager and director he took bribes from

He argued that the lower court judge had placed "excessive weight" on the mitigating factors specific to each man, and suggested a sentencing framework for corresponding corruption offences.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, as well as both sets of defence lawyers, had issues with the suggested framework.

"NO HARM WAS CAUSED": DEFENCE

Wong's lawyers Melanie Ho, Tang Shangwei and Janie Hui of WongPartnership argued that the suggested framework was "illogical" and could potentially result in injustice.

READ: AMKTC trial: Director accused of bribery threatened to report me to CPIB, says witness

Ms Ho asked for a total sentence of 11 to 14 months' jail for Wong, down from his current term of 27 months, referring to several previous cases as sentencing precedents for comparison.

She cited Wong's guilty plea, exemplary career and his full cooperation with the authorities, and that this was his first brush with the law.

Lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam, Chooi Jing Yen and Hamza Malik asked for a year's jail for Chia, instead of the current 21 months.

Mr Thuraisingam said that "no harm was caused" in this case, which he said was not a case of "pure premeditated cultivation, but rather one where the line between friends and work became blurred and crossed into illegal means".

READ: AMKTC trial: Former GM’s mistress repaid half of an alleged S$20,000 bribe, says defence

Any person who is convicted of a corruption offence can be fined up to S$100,000 or be sentenced to imprisonment of up to five years, or to both, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau previously said. 

As this case involved gratification received in relation to Government contracts, Wong and Chia could have been given the enhanced maximum penalty of a fine of up to S$100,000, imprisonment of up to seven years, or both.

Source: CNA/ll(mi)

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