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Former Pasir Ris senior constituency manager cheated Residents' Committee vice-chairman of cash, gets jail

Former Pasir Ris senior constituency manager cheated Residents' Committee vice-chairman of cash, gets jail

Screengrab from Google Street View of Pasir Ris Zone 8.

SINGAPORE: A senior constituency manager at the Residents' Committees (RCs) of two zones in Pasir Ris reused payment vouchers from one of his zones to claim cash from the vice-chairman of the other zone.

He lied to the vice-chairman of Pasir Ris Zone 8 that he had used his own money to pay vendors and wanted reimbursement, and received four cheques amounting to S$5,919.27 for invoices already paid for by Pasir Ris Zone 7. 

For his crimes, 37-year-old Li Xuanwei was sentenced on Thursday (Jul 16) to 12 weeks' jail. He pleaded guilty to two counts of cheating, with another two charges taken into consideration.

He is no longer with the RC.

The court heard that Li joined the People's Association in March 2008 as a constituency manager, and later became a senior constituency manager at the RCs of Pasir Ris Zone 7 and Zone 8.

In October 2015, the Housing and Development Board (HDB), along with Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council and its RCs embarked on a neighbourhood renewal programme to improve amenities in its precincts.

This programme was fully funded by the Government and implemented by the town council, the court heard.

As the programme required the support of at least 75 per cent of the residents, the RCs of Pasir Ris Zones 7 and 8 were tasked with organising an event to explain the programme to residents and garner their votes.

Li was tasked to organise a one-day event on Mar 3, 2018. He engaged the vendors, prepared payment vouchers and cheques with supporting documents, and presented them to the RC chairman of Pasir Ris Zone 7.

After the chairman signed the cheques, Li made payments to the vendors. However, he reused these payment vouchers with supporting invoices and receipts and made fraudulent claims from the RC vice-chairman of Zone 8, Mr Rajeev Divakaran Nair.

He deceived Mr Rajeev into believing that he had used his own cash to pay the vendors and so needed reimbursement.

He tricked Mr Rajeev at Pasir Ris Zone 8 RC on Apr 19, 2018, claiming that he had paid S$504 for sculpting balloons and S$1,016 for bags. Mr Rajeev believed him and gave him a sum of S$1,521.

A few months later on Jul 4, 2018, Li again cheated Mr Rajeev by saying he had paid S$2,199 for unspecified expenses for the programme, and received this sum as a "reimbursement".

FRAUD UNCOVERED AFTER AUDIT

The fraud was uncovered by the constituency director of Pasir Ris East Constituency Office in August 2018 after an internal audit was conducted of the accounts.

He confronted Li, who admitted to cheating Pasir Ris Zone 8 by recycling invoices that had already been paid by Pasir Ris Zone 7.

Li made full restitution to Pasir Ris Zone 8 on Aug 10, 2018, and the constituency director lodged a police report later that year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Yen Seow sought at least 15 weeks' jail, noting that Li had committed "premeditated offences against a public institution".

He said the RC exists for the public good and serves to promote the welfare of its residents, relying on "limited public funds to deliver its mission".

"The accused played a critical role in safeguarding and ensuring the judicious use of these funds," said Mr Tan. "Despite knowing this, the accused saw it fit to abuse his longstanding position of trust and authority in the RC by diverting $5,919.27 of such public funds to himself."

In doing so, Li defrauded not only the chairman and vice-chairman of the RC, but also all the residents under the RC’s purview, said Mr Tan. 

"Such dishonest conduct strikes at the heart of the RC’s mission and tarnishes the good reputation of other officers in a similar capacity as the accused," he added.

Such crimes are difficult to detect, as shown by the fact that four such scams went undetected for about five months, said the prosecutor.

He noted that Li had pleaded guilty. For each charge of cheating, Li could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

When contacted by CNA, the People's Association said the case has concluded and it has no further comments.

Source: CNA/ll(mi)

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