SINGAPORE: A former general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) was sentenced to jail on Wednesday (Nov 20) along with a company director who had bribed him for contracts.
Victor Wong Chee Meng, 59, was sentenced to 27 months' jail while 64-year-old Chia Sin Lan, whose two companies provided construction services to town councils, received 21 months' jail.
The two companies 19-ANC and 19-NS2 were fined S$75,000 each. Wong also has to pay a penalty of about S$23,300 by May 2020 for gratification received including a discount for a car and entertainment expenses.
District Judge John Ng said Wong's corrupt acts "were particularly reprehensible" as he knew the town council's code of conduct, which he reminded his employees of.
"Instead of giving a good example ... he had acted hypocritically," said the judge. "He has committed a grave mistake by succumbing to corruption and falling from grace. He must now face the consequences of his actions."
Both men pleaded guilty in March this year after several weeks of trial, with Wong admitting to receiving more than S$86,000 in bribes from Chia between December 2014 and September 2016.
The bulk of this was in entertainment expenses for a sum of S$34,000 - Chia would take Wong out for entertainment at KTV lounges, massage parlours and restaurants.
Wong, who was also an employee at CPG Facilities Management, the managing agent of AMKTC at the time, also received a S$13,500 discount on a car purchase. His China mistress Xu Hongmei, whom he met at a KTV lounge, also received remittances of S$27,800 from Chia.
Because of the steady stream of bribes, Wong became "beholden" to Chia, and was induced into advancing the business contracts of Chia's firms, 19-ANC and 19-NS2 with AMKTC.
The companies were awarded more projects by AMKTC in 2015 than in 2014, during the period when Wong was being bribed, said the prosecution.
The increase continued in 2016, when 19-ANC was awarded Invitations to Quote worth about S$121,000, up from S$9,800 in 2014.
Wong admitted that he felt obligated to Chia's companies after receiving bribes from their director, and wanted to help them using his authority at work.
His intervention ranged from highlighting the unsatisfactory track record of vendors competing against Chia's firms for tenders to overtly recommending Chia's firms.
The judge said on Wednesday that this was not a case of "outright bribes" like other corruption cases, but involves one where a giver of bribes cultivates the receiver, with mutual benefits in mind.
Wong had worked his way up to general manager at the town council, a position that imbued him with certain powers, said the judge.
"A person occupying this senior position carried with him the perceived ability to grant favours to contractors," Judge Ng added.
He said Wong had "allowed himself to be cultivated by a contractor", beginning with a request for the car purchase discount, and a request for Chia to help finance the renovation of Wong's mistress' home in China.
As a result of the bribes, "Wong became beholden to Chia and the two companies".
ABSOLUTE PROBITY DEMANDED OF ALL TOWN COUNCIL EMPLOYEES: JUDGE
The judge agreed with the prosecution's submission that "absolute probity is demanded of all officers and employees of town councils", given the sheer amount of resources managed by town councils and the "extent to which town councils impact upon the private lives of a majority of Singaporeans".
However, he noted that this was Wong's first brush with the law.
He turned to Chia and said he agreed with the prosecution that there had been clear premeditation on his part "in the way he went about cultivating Wong in order to further the business interests of his companies".
He also agreed that Chia had taken steps to conceal his bribes, using an intermediary to transfer money to China and a handwritten ledger.
But the judge disagreed with the prosecution that Chia's companies had obtained their contracts illegally, saying these had been awarded through open tenders.
The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said in a statement after the hearing that Singapore adopts a strict zero-tolerance approach towards corruption.
"Any person who is convicted of a corruption offence can be fined up to S$100,000 or sentenced to imprisonment of up to five years or to both," said CPIB.
"As this case involves gratification received in relation to Government contracts, Wong and Chia were subjected to the enhanced maximum penalty of a fine of up to S$100,000 or to imprisonment of up to seven years or both, and were sentenced accordingly."
A spokesperson for the town council told CNA after the hearing that all staff members are personally responsible for ensuring that they comply with the code of conduct.
"Integrity and transparency are key to building trust with residents in the management of the town council," she said.
"We actively engage staff through meetings and talks on integrity and transparency matters. Staff and town councillors must also declare their interests in shareholdings, directorships and contracts as part and parcel of our administration."