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Ex-manager gets jail for conspiring to cheat facilities arm of Surbana Jurong Group in S$1 million case

Ex-manager gets jail for conspiring to cheat facilities arm of Surbana Jurong Group in S$1 million case

File photo of a gavel. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: A then-manager at the facilities arm of Surbana Jurong Group conspired with two others to cheat his company, in a case that spanned seven years and involved more than S$1 million.

Former SMM principal facilities manager Ong Kah Heng, 60, was on Monday (Aug 17) sentenced to four months' jail for one count of cheating with abetment.

He had conspired with two subcontractors working for his company to have them appear to be carrying out works on paper, even though he arranged for the works to be done himself, taking a cut from the eventual profits.

Ong, who intends to appeal the sentence, obtained at least S$20,112 from the scheme, which he repaid SMM after entering into a settlement agreement.

Since December 2000, Ong worked for SMM, a company that tendered for maintenance contracts with its clients and acted as managing agent on the sites under the contracts, ensuring that mechanical and electrical installations were satisfactorily maintained.

SMM contracted out the works to registered sub-contractors, who produced certificates of completion to acknowledge a finished job and receive payment.

One of its clients was the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), and one of the sites was Paya Lebar Airbase, which Ong was posted to in 2005, overseeing maintenance of the site.

He began asking the workers performing works there to help out with outstanding jobs, paying them cash upfront with the dishonest intention to later claim reimbursement for the expenses and obtain profits for himself.

This was despite knowing that he was not allowed to do so, and that he was supposed to engage approved sub-contractors in compliance with protocols.

To make a profit this way, Ong approached co-accused Yap Kok Leong, the 55-year-old director of SMM's sub-contractor Daycon. He told Yap that the works would be carried out by other workers without SMM's knowledge, and asked to submit invoices through Daycon to SMM.

In this way, Ong engaged his own workers to perform works at the air base for SMM, before "awarding" these works to Daycon. When SMM issued a work order to Daycon, Daycon would "check" to ensure that work was done, and certify it as completed. SMM would later pay Daycon for the works it purportedly carried out, and Yap would pay uncrossed cheques to Ong.

Both Ong and Yap knew that their scheme was intended to deceive SMM that Daycon had carried out the works, and Ong knew that he should not have performed the work instead as it amounted to a conflict of interest. He received a cut from the payment for the works Daycon was engaged in.

In total, between 2005 and 2012, Ong issued 110 invoices to Yap, who added an agreed mark-up. Daycon submitted invoices to SMM for a total value of S$1.07 million.

In 2009, Ong approached another director of a subcontractor - Leong Swee Sum, director of A-One Contracting Services - proposing a similar scheme.

Ong submitted one invoice under his father's name for about S$16,500 for renovation works done to Leong, and Leong submitted an invoice under A-One to SMM for the works for a sum of about S$17,400.

Court documents did not state how the crimes were uncovered. SMM subsequently commenced civil action against Ong for breach of duties he owed the company, and he settled it with SMM, agreeing to pay S$20,112.53.

This amount represents the estimated profits Ong made from the two schemes for works purportedly done by Daycon and A-One.

However, during investigations, Ong admitted that the total margin he obtained after deducting all costs was about 8 to 10 per cent of the total claims he submitted to Daycon, which was about S$60,000. As there were no records, the exact cost Ong incurred in performing the works could not be determined.

The prosecutor had asked for at least eight months' jail, noting the "serial nature of the accused's offending over the span of seven years". He said the scheme was difficult to detect as it appeared to be legitimate from the accounting records, due to fictitious invoices Ong used under his own father's name.

In mitigation, his lawyer had said that the works were actually performed, and that Ong was a first-time offender and had paid the sum agreed on to SMM after the settlement.

For cheating, Ong could have been jailed for up to three years, fined, or both.

The case for Ong's co-accused Yap is at a pre-trial conference stage, while Leong's case is pending.

Source: CNA/ll(nc)

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