Prosecution calls for more than 4 years' jail for ex-AMKTC general manager and director who bribed him
SINGAPORE: The prosecution on Wednesday (Jun 26) called for more than four years' jail for a former general manager at Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) and the company director who bribed him for contracts.
Saying that the corruption eroded "confidence in the essential constitution of town councils", Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue asked for at least four years and eight months' jail for Victor Wong Chee Meng and at least four years and two months' jail for Omar Chia Sin Lan.
On top of this, the prosecution sought a penalty order of about S$23,000 for Wong and a maximum S$100,000 fine for each of Chia's two companies involved in the case - 19-ANC and 19-NS2 - which provided construction services to town councils around Singapore.
Wong, 59, had taken 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 an employee at CPG Facilities Management, the managing agent at AMKTC, 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 about S$27,800 from Chia.
GREAT DEAL OF PUBLIC DISQUIET CAUSED BY CORRUPTION: PROSECUTION
Referring to a 2017 Parliamentary debate, the prosecutor said town councils serve more than 3.2 million residents, and collectively manage more than S$1.6 billion worth of public and residents’ monies, and "absolute probity is demanded of all officers and employees of town councils".
"Seen in this context, the conduct of Victor Wong (as general manager and secretary of AMKTC) and Omar Chia in embarking on the course of conduct of corruption through cultivation causes a great deal of public disquiet," said the prosecutor.
"This is because of its propensity to erode the belief and trust in town councils, public institutions which are entrusted by Parliament to administer public funds in an accountable manner."
The former AMKTC general manager 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.
In return for the steady stream of bribes, 64-year-old Chia received contracts for his two companies 19-NS2 and 19-ANC, for works with AMKTC.
Wong's intervention ranged from highlighting the unsatisfactory track record of vendors competing against Chia's firms for tenders to overtly recommending Chia's firms.
The companies were awarded more projects by AMKTC in 2015 than in 2014, during the period when Wong was being bribed, said the prosecution.
"TAINTED" CONTRACTS WORTH S$9.8 MILLION: PROSECUTOR
In total, 19-ANC and 19-NS2 were awarded "tainted" contracts worth S$9.8 million during the period when Wong was being bribed, the prosecution said. However, Wong's lawyer Melanie Ho said there was no correlation between the bribes and the tenders due to the timing and that it was not "cause and effect".
According to the prosecution, the increase in contracts continued in 2016, when 19-ANC was awarded Invitations to Quote (ITQs) worth about S$121,000 - up from S$9,800 in 2014. However, Ms Ho pointed out that both 19-ANC and 19-NS2 were awarded zero tenders in 2016.
The prosecution also presented to the court an email Wong had sent to all staff of AMKTC in January 2015, reminding them of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau's message of anti-corruption.
In his email, Wong reminded town council employees of the "fast facts" in CPIB's message: That anyone who offers, accepts, or obtains a bribe can be jailed for up to five years, fined up to S$100,000, or both.
"In summary, do not be tempted by a one-time quick-riches (sic)," wrote Wong in his email. "Once and the first time you are corrupted, it will be very difficult to shirk off the next rounds because the contractor already have control over your fate."
DEFENCE ASKING FOR LESS THAN A QUARTER OF THE SENTENCE PUSHED BY PROSECUTION
Defence lawyers for both Wong and Chia asked for less than a quarter of the sentences pushed for by the prosecution.
Ms Ho asked for 11 to 14 months' jail for Wong and a penalty of about S$1,500, while Chia's defence lawyer Michael Loh asked for six months' jail for Chia and for the firms to be fined $10,000.
Ms Ho said "there was never any compromise" of Wong's duty to the town council, and that there was "no exploitation". She said her client did not actively seek the bribes and that he "never denied that he did wrong".
Both men had pleaded guilty in March this year after several weeks of trial. Wong had claimed trial only because there were numerous charges that were undated and he "could not agree with something that he didn't even know whether he did", said Ms Ho, pointing out that close to half of the original 55 charges were withdrawn.
She said the two men were friends and Wong spent more than S$16,000 of his own money in the entertainment sessions.
Chia's lawyer Michael Loh said the case was unusual and that Chia's companies were, like any other company, successful at times in their bids for contracts and unsuccessful at others, despite the bribes.
He added that the two accused men had an "overriding relationship" of friendship that was not purely for financial advantage.
Loh said AMKTC "has not lost a single cent at all" and it received "quality work" for what it paid for.
"AMKTC’s system has no loopholes and cannot be overridden by any single officer. This robust and incorruptible system is known throughout the industry," he added.
District Judge John Ng adjourned the sentencing to Aug 23 in order for him to calibrate the sentences.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that the prosecution is seeking a penalty order of S$50,000 for Victor Wong, based on court documents. The AGC has clarified that the amount should be S$23,000.