SINGAPORE: A man who formerly headed three subsidiaries of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is accused of cheating the school in a case involving more than S$231,000, by approving dealings with other companies despite conflicts of interest.
Viktor Cheng Choong Hung, 56, claimed trial on Monday (Sep 14) for 43 charges, mostly of cheating, conspiring to cheat NTU and its subsidiaries, and concealing criminal proceeds between 2014 and 2016.
At the time of the offences, Cheng was a director of Infocom Technology at NTUitive, a director of business and operations at the Institute of Media Innovation (IMI) and the chief executive officer of Techbiz Xccelerator (TBX).
All three firms were subsidiaries of NTU geared at commercialising various technologies researched by the university.
Due to his position, companies that he was interested in or had control over were barred from dealing with NTUitive, IMI or TBX unless NTU was aware of the conflict of interest and had approved of the dealings.
According to the prosecution's opening statement at the trial, Cheng used different methods to carry out the offences.
First, he approved IMI's awarding of contracts valued at S$18,000 and S$10,000 to the firm I-Knowhow, which his co-accused Louise Lai Pei Hsien headed as director. Cheng himself had control of I-Knowhow as he sourced for projects and business decisions for the firm.
Cheng then arranged for I-Knowhow to hire an NTU graduate Carmen Lu Jiawen, after she had attended an interview with him for a position at TBX.
Cheng allegedly informed Lai of various contracts and asked her to submit quotations to IMI under I-Knowhow's name, which he approved in his capacity at IMI. Lai would later submit tax invoices that concealed Cheng's interests in I-Knowhow.
Cheng then instructed Lai to transfer most of the sums received from IMI by I-Knowhow to a bank account. The account was under the name of a China national but really belonged to Cheng.
Another way that Cheng allegedly cheated NTU was through his acquaintance, Fung Kwok Pan, who was the director of the company Voidworks.
Cheng used both I-Knowhow and Voidworks to secure projects outsourced by the three NTU subsidiaries he headed. When the projects were secured, he would assign work to various researchers or engineers working under him at two of the NTU subsidiaries instead of having I-Knowhow or Voidworks complete it.
When the NTU graduate, Lu, resigned from TBX in June 2015, Cheng allegedly told her to keep working part-time at TBX while he kept up the ruse that she was still working full-time.
He then got Lu to transfer her monthly salary of S$3,500 for three months to a bank account that belonged to him.
The offences led to S$231,000 being deposited into the bank accounts of I-Knowhow, Voidworks and Lu.
Cheng is accused of concealing these criminal proceeds by causing Lai, Lu and Fung to transfer the amounts to his bank account and by ensuring that the transfers were supported by documentation that concealed his wrongdoing.
WITNESSES LINED UP FOR THE TRIAL
Deputy Public Prosecutors Victoria Ting and Thiam Jia Min intend to call various witnesses over the trial, including NTU researchers and engineers who worked on the projects that had supposedly been outsourced but were assigned to them, NTU's finance personnel, Lu and investigation officers.
Cheng is represented by lawyers from Peter Low & Choo.
If found guilty of cheating, he could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined per charge. If convicted of concealing criminal proceeds, he could be jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to S$500,000 or both per charge.
His co-accused Lai was jailed for a year and five months in November last year for her role in the case.
A spokesperson for NTU told CNA at Cheng's charging that he was no longer with the university and had left in June 2016.
NTU reported the matter to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in August 2016 as soon as it found out about the alleged wrongdoing, said the spokesperson.
He said the university was unable to comment as the matter was undergoing court proceedings.