SINGAPORE: A 46-year-old former deputy group director with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) pleaded guilty on Thursday (Aug 26) to seven charges of taking S$1.24 million in bribes in the form of loans to advance the business interests of contractors and subcontractors.
Henry Foo Yung Thye - who appeared in court on Thursday wearing a white polo T-shirt - was previously a deputy group director overseeing the construction of the Thomson-East Coast and Cross Island lines for the LTA.
Twenty-nine other charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing.
The prosecution noted the accused had received a total of S$1.24 million in corrupt gratification. Of this amount, Foo repaid S$83,750, leaving a balance of S$1,156,250.
Court documents showed that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) had in October 2018 received an anonymous complaint that Foo had been soliciting loans from subcontractors involved with projects under his charge.
CPIB also received further information that Foo had requested for financial help from the director of China Railway Tunnel Group to pay off his outstanding personal debts.
CPIB’s investigations revealed that Foo had corruptly obtained bribes in the form of loans from contractors and subcontractors to advance their business interests with LTA.
In total, these companies had about S$815 million worth of contracts with LTA which Foo oversaw.
Foo felt beholden to these parties because of the money he had received, and sought to advance their business interests by providing assistance to them, the prosecution argued.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Victoria Ting sought a jail term of six years and three months for Foo, describing his case as “the most significant case of public sector corruption” in recent times, pointing to the number of givers and vendor companies implicated, as well as the amounts given.
Foo’s culpability was enhanced by his actively and repeatedly seeking monetary gratification, said the prosecutor.
She noted that most, if not all, of the contractors had initially rejected Foo’s requests, agreeing only after he made repeated subsequent demands.
The prosecutor also pointed to Foo’s abuse of power, noting his positions as chairman of the LTA’s tender evaluation committee and member of the tender steering committee, as well as his role as project director for various projects.
Foo had given advice as well as overtly disclosed confidential information to companies, said Ms Ting, adding that his acts had damaged LTA’s credibility. This could lead to third-party companies being prejudiced against LTA, as well as public concern over the soundness of projects undertaken by the agency, she added.
In his mitigation Foo’s lawyer Lim Ker Sheon called for the accused to be given no more than three years and 10 months.
He argued that the system of checks and balances put into place by LTA meant Foo had “little ability to influence tender outcomes”, and that this was something the contractors were aware of.
It was an undisputed fact that Foo’s acts had had no influence on tender outcomes, Mr Lim said. He added that there was no monetary loss to LTA, and that the only harm came from the release of confidential information as well as the contractors having an insider at the agency.
Mr Lim - who is representing Foo pro bono and informed the court that they had known each other since they were children - noted his client had acknowledged he intended to plead guilty when proceedings began.
He pointed also to the degree of Foo’s cooperation with police investigations, noting he had freely admitted to all the loans he had taken.
An evaluation by the Institute of Mental Health found Foo to have a pathological gambling disorder, with Mr Lim saying this meant he would borrow money from anyone he felt close to to support his habit.
Foo’s chances of reoffending were “practically nil”, while his chance of rehabilitation was high, the defence argued.
Ms Ting however countered that the sensitivity of Foo’s role in the tender evaluation committee meant he was prohibited from speaking to tenderers regarding the contracts they were bidding for prior to their being awarded - something that the givers were aware of.
Contractors were worried that Foo would make things difficult for them if his demands were not met, the prosecutor argued.
Foo will appear in court again on Sep 2 for sentencing.
Six other individuals and one company have also been charged in relation to Foo’s offences.
In May this year, two men - Daewoo Engineering and Construction project director Kim Young-gyu and project manager Ro Sung-young - were each sentenced to eight months jail for conspiring to bribe Foo with S$30,000.
Anyone convicted of corruption can be fined up to S$100,000, jailed for up to five years or both.
The maximum imprisonment term for each offence of corruption can be increased to seven years if it is in relation to a matter or contract with the Government or a public body, or a subcontract to execute work comprised in such a contract.