- An ex-senior team leader at NTUC FairPrice sought and received bribes from seafood suppliers for about eight years
- The accused, Andrew Lim Kian Kok, also recruited his subordinate See Hock Lam in the scheme
- They obtained at least S$523,000 (US$393,400) from the suppliers, in exchange for ordering more goods from them on behalf of the supermarket
- On Friday (March 31), Lim was sentenced to jail and a penalty, while See's sentencing was adjourned
SINGAPORE: For a period of about eight years from 2013, Andrew Lim Kian Kok, then a senior team leader at NTUC FairPrice, asked for bribes from fish suppliers in exchange for him procuring more fish and seafood from them on behalf of the supermarket chain.
Lim, 48, also recruited his subordinate See Hock Lam, 70, in his scheme and both corruptly obtained at least S$523,000 (US$393,400) from the suppliers, splitting the ill-gotten gains between the two of them.
On Friday (March 31), both Singaporeans pleaded guilty to their offences at a state court.
Lim was sentenced to four years and five months’ jail, and a penalty of nearly S$290,000 after pleading guilty to two counts of corruptly obtaining gratification and 10 counts of abetment by conspiracy of corruptly obtaining gratification.
Another 22 charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
An additional 580 days’ imprisonment will be imposed if Lim does not pay the penalty.
During sentencing, District Judge Kow Keng Siong told the court that Lim's actions had the potential to “directly undermine” NTUC FairPrice’s mission as a social enterprise, as it puts into question whether the goods offered were of the best value.
In the same hearing, See also pleaded guilty to 10 counts of abetment by conspiracy of corruptly obtaining gratification, with 21 similar charges to be taken into consideration during sentencing.
See, who was unrepresented, asked for his sentence to be deferred should he be given a jail sentence.
As his bailor was not present, District Judge Kow Keng Siong adjourned his case for sentencing to Apr 10.
The court heard that Lim was employed at NTUC FairPrice from 2007 to end 2020, and was promoted to senior team leader from July 2013.
Lim was tasked to purchase fresh fish and seafood from suppliers at Jurong Fishery Port to be supplied to all the supermarket’s outlets.
He had the discretion to determine which supplier to purchase from and the quantity to buy, though the price was already fixed between NTUC and the suppliers, court documents stated.
His subordinate, See, began working for NTUC FairPrice in 1997 and was a team leader who reported to Lim at the time.
Sometime after Lim was promoted to senior leader, he approached See with an offer to make more money and told him his plans, said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tan Pei Wei.
He asked See to support him in obtaining payments from suppliers, such as by approaching suppliers that See was more familiar with for the payments.
This was done so that See “would not complain to NTUC FairPrice about this arrangement”, said DPP Tan.
“See agreed as he had a gambling habit and wanted to earn money,” she added.
The duo then approached several suppliers for the bribes from 2013 to 2020, and monthly cash payments were made to them ranging from about S$500 to over S$2,000 per supplier to either of them each time.
In return, the two accused ordered larger quantities of fish and seafood from the suppliers.
According to court documents, the amount Lim obtained was at least S$289,843.10. As for See, the amount was S$261,500.
The court then heard that Lim surrendered S$180,000 to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Branch (CPIB) after investigations commenced.
All suppliers related to the case have been charged, except for two people, Tay Wee Chew and Lim Gim Heng, according to court documents.
Tay, who was a sales and operations manager at Pearl Fresh, was given a conditional stern warning. Lim Gim Heng, a shop sales assistant at Chip Hong (Pin Sin) Fishery departed Singapore on Jan 30, 2020 and has not returned since.
PROSECUTION AND DEFENCE’S CASES
DPP Tan sought a global sentence of 54 to 64 months’ imprisonment for Lim with a penalty of S$289,843.10. Such a fine would equal the amount of personal benefit that Lim received from his crimes.
His act caused potential harm to NTUC FairPrice and its customers, as the goods purchased “may not have been the best available”, she added.
In Lim's mitigation plea, his defence lawyers Sng Kheng Huat and Rajwin Singh Sandhu from Sng & Company sought a lower sentence of 32 months' jail, adding that their client has demonstrated remorse by pleading guilty and voluntarily submitted S$180,000 to the authorities.
For See, DPP Tan sought a slightly lower sentence of 46 to 54 months’ imprisonment and a penalty of S$261,500.
In his plea for leniency, See, who was unrepresented and spoke to the court via a Chinese interpreter, said he was remorseful, of advanced age and had cooperated with authorities.
He also asked for a deferment of jail sentence, should he be given one, to early April as he needed to settle his personal affairs, including buying medication for his wife.
In sentencing Lim, District Judge Kow said Lim did not set a good example as a senior team leader and had instead recruited See to “pervert” their joint responsibilities.
Each count of the corruption offences attracts a fine of not more than S$100,000, a jail sentence of up to five years, or both.
This story was originally published in TODAY.