Woman jailed for conspiring with ex-director of NTU subsidiary to cheat university

Woman jailed for conspiring with ex-director of NTU subsidiary to cheat university

File photo of Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
File photo of Nanyang Technological University (NTU Singapore). (Photo: Alif Amsyar)

SINGAPORE: A woman was sentenced to jail for one year and five months on Monday (Nov 18) for conspiring with a former director of a subsidiary of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to cheat the university and its entities of S$191,000.

Louise Lai, 43, pleaded guilty to five charges mostly of abetment of cheating, with another 10 charges taken into consideration.

The court heard that Lai and co-accused Viktor Cheng Choong Hung were previously colleagues at the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS).

Cheng later moved on from IPOS and held several jobs at three NTU subsidiaries: Director at  NTU's innovation and enterprise arm NTUitive, director of business and operations at the Institute of Media Innovation (IMI), and chief executive officer at Techbiz Xccelerator (TBX).

In July 2014, Lai - on Cheng's suggestion - set up consultancy firm I-Knowhow to provide IT, knowledge management and market research services. She was listed as its director.

In reality, Cheng had control over I-Knowhow in that he sourced for projects for the company and made business decisions concerning it.

The two agreed to use this company to tender for projects from the three NTU subsidiaries that Cheng helmed. 

Lai knew that there was a conflict of interest, so the pair agreed that Cheng should not be registered as director, shareholder, or have any official connection with I-Knowhow.

The firm's only business dealings were for the NTU-related projects that Cheng sourced for it.

The offences occurred between August 2014 and March 2016.

EX-DIRECTOR RECRUITED NTU STUDENT TO DO THE WORK

On one occasion, Cheng instructed Lai to use I-Knowhow's letterhead to prepare a quotation and bid for a job by IMI.

IMI accepted I-Knowhow's S$36,000 quotation and engaged it as a vendor.

Instead of fulfilling the services, the pair recruited a freelancer to do so.

This individual, Carmen Lu Jiawen, had previously been interviewed by Cheng for a job vacancy at TBX after her final year presentation as a student at NTU.

While doing the I-Knowhow work, Ms Lu was under the impression that it was for TBX.

However, her salary was later paid by I-Knowhow, instead of by TBX.

FREELANCE CONSULTANT

On another occasion in January 2016, NTU hired Lai in her personal capacity as a freelance consultant for a six-month project at S$6,500 a month.

After two months, Lai "felt dissatisfied as she felt that the work carried out by her was more than the scope of services stated on the service agreement".

She told NTU that she needed someone to assist her, and gave the particulars of a Wong Chee Leong as the person to help her. 

Wong was Lai's husband and was not involved in the project, nor did Lai intend for him to be.

She arranged for a contract to be signed between NTU and her husband.

The contract stated that Wong would receive S$5,000 per month for six months for work rendered.

Wong signed the agreement even though he was unable to read it as it was in English.

In all, NTU and the involved subsidiaries paid S$191,000 in relation to Lai's cheating charges, with no restitution made to date, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Victoria Ting.

For each count of abetment of cheating, Lai could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Cheng's case is pending.

Source: CNA/ll(aj)

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