Friday, 1 February 2013

What's Happening In Squeaky Clean Singapore

By Khalil Adis

Singapore is among the top 5 least corrupt country. Or is it?
The word “corruption” and Singapore appear to not go hand-in-hand. For several years, the city-state has topped transparency rankings and prided itself for having a no-nonsense government. The argument was (and still is by the way) by paying its civil servants top dollar, the government would be able to keep a tight lid on that dreaded word as they would not be enticed to accept favours. Neighbouring countries were often cited as examples where corruption is prevalent.

A recent finding by Transparency International in 2011 (see image) showed that Singapore is the fifth least corrupt country after New Zealand, Denmark, Finland and Sweden with a corruption index of 9.2. Singapore is also the only South East Asian country in the top ten. So how did the recent case of corruptions rear its ugly head in squeaky clean Singapore?

For starters, corruption is nothing new in Singapore. Back in 1986, former National Development Minister Teh Cheang Wan was investigated for corruption which subsequently resulted him in taking his own life before charges could proceed.

In 2005, corruption again reared its ugly head in the charity sector involving the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) which caused much public distrust as the CEO was reported in The Straits Times to have installed “a glass-panelled shower, a pricey German toilet bowl and a S$1, 000 (US$782) gold-plated tap.” There were also revelations following court proceedings that he paid himself $S600, 000 (US$469, 000). In a manner befitting poetic justice, taking the paper to court for defamation sealed his fate and led to his downfall. It also opened a can of worms that Singapore is not as corruption-free as it seems.

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8 debarment cases due to corruption involving public officers, contracts

There have been eight debarment cases on grounds of corruption involving public officers and government contracts since 2004.

Revealing the figures in a written reply to Parliament on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said in all these cases, the individuals involved, including the public officers were convicted.

The companies and businesses involved were also debarred for a period of five years.

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City Harvest church founder Kong Hee and 4 others arrested

Founder of City Harvest Church Kong Hee was arrested together with four others from his ministry on Tuesday morning.

Mr Kong, deputy Pastor Tan Ye Peng, and three other leaders from their church were picked up from their homes early this morning.
They were taken in for questioning over alleged misuse of church funds and alleged breaches under charity laws.

The police said that the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) has conducted a thorough investigation and will be charging Kong Hee, Tan Ye Peng, Lam Leng Hung, Chew Eng Han and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon for Conspiracy to commit Criminal Breach of Trust as an Agent under section 409 read with section 109 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

Tan Ye Peng, Chew Eng Han and Tan Shao Yuen Sharon will also be charged for Conspiracy to commit Falsification of Accounts under section 477A of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

All five will be charged in court for the offences on June 27, 2012.

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$50.6m: Amount of funds misused - City Harvest Church

A SHOCKING revelation: The figure was more than twice the one given on Tuesday for the amount of funds allegedly misused by City Harvest Church leaders.

At yesterday's court hearing, deputy public prosecutor Christopher Ong read out a laundry list of misappropriated funds that added up to a staggering $50.6 million.

This dwarfs the $23 million reported after the five were arrested on Tuesday.

Church founder Kong Hee, 47; his deputy, Tan Ye Peng, 39; church board member John Lam Leng Hung, 44; church investment manager Chew Eng Han, 52; and church financial manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen, 36, looked on impassively as they stood in a row to hear their charges.
The courtroom was packed with Kong's supporters. An area normally cordoned off was opened up to accommodate them. Even so, not all of the 200 who turned up could get in, as a queue snaked outside the room.

The accused acknowledged their supporters by waving, but the mood got grimmer as the charges were read. All five were downcast as a dramatic silence enveloped those present.

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Former SPH senior staff charged with corruption, CBT

A former senior management of Singapore Press Holdings was charged on Tuesday with a total of 10 counts of corruption and criminal breach of trust.

Peter Khoo Chong Meng, 49, was the senior vice president of the English and Malay News Division.

Khoo allegedly obtained gratifications amounting to $83,500 from Liaw Kim Chew in exchange for furthering Liaw's business.

It is believed that Khoo received between $5,000 and $30,000 from Liaw on eight occasions from 2006 to 2010.

In return, Khoo allegedly awarded Liaw with business deals from SPH's Editorial Project Unit, which Khoo was in charge of.

Khoo also allegedly took shopping vouchers worth more than $22,000 between 2007 and 2010.

As part of his duties, Khoo headed the committee which held events to raise funds for The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund.

He was dismissed from SPH in September 2010.

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Senior MFA official Lim Cheng Hoe under CAD probe

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) says it has received information that former Chief of Protocol, Mr Lim Cheng Hoe, had made improper claims for reimbursements for expenses incurred by him during some of his overseas visits.

In response to media queries, the ministry said that it takes all allegations of improper conduct seriously. MFA referred the matter to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) for a full investigation on Tuesday.

Mr Lim was also suspended from all duties on Tuesday.

MFA said that Mr Lim has served the ministry and Singapore very well for 38 years, and that it is very sad that this has happened.

MFA added that it expects its officers to uphold the highest standards of duty, integrity and professionalism.

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Ex-CNB chief Ng Boon Gay returns to court

Former Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) chief Ng Boon Gay returned to court Tuesday after being charged with corruption two weeks ago.

The 46-year-old Ng had allegedly received sexual gratification from Ms Cecilia Sue Siew Nang in return for "furthering the business interests" of the companies she was working for.

Ms Sue was an employee of IT vendors Oracle Corporation Singapore and Hitachi Data Systems between June and December last year.

The Straits Times said Ng's lawyer, Tan Chee Meng of Wong Partnership, told the court his client will not enter a plea as the particulars of the case were not yet available.

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Singapore ex-civil defence chief charged with sex for favours

The former head of Singapore's civil defence force was on Wednesday charged with accepting sex for favours in the most serious corruption case involving senior government officials in almost 20 years.

Former Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) chief Peter Lim is accused of having corruptly obtained sexual gratification from two female vendors and one potential female vendor to the SCDF on 10 occasions between May 2010 and November 2011," said a spokesman for the city-state's anti-corruption agency.

Lim's is the most serious corruption case involving a senior official in Singapore - which prides itself on its reputation for transparency and good governance - since 1993, when Yeo Seng Teck, at the time the chief executive of the Trade Development Board, was investigated for offences dating back to 1988.

In February, the Singapore authorities replaced Lim, along with Central Narcotics Bureau director Ng Boon Gay, saying the two men were being investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. 

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SCDF sex scandal

Ex-SCDF Chief Peter Lim Sin Pang was so horny that he even brought one of the women involved in the sex scandal to make love in his own home!

Peter Lim was charged with 10 counts of corruption for having obtained sexual gratification from three women between May 2010 and last November in exchange for favouring their companies during IT-related tenders held by the SCDF.

One of the women, former NCS director of business development Ester Goh Tok Mui. reportedly had sex with him seven times in his Tanjong Rhu apartment which he lives with his wife

Other than his own apartment, Peter Lim is said to have engaged in sexual trysts with Goh in public places such as at various car parks and three times in a Clementi flat. Goh has since left NCS.

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Names of 48 men charged for sex with underage prostitute

48 men have been charged in court for paying for sex with an underage prostitute. Another 14 are under probe.

The accused include civil servants, high flyers in the finance industry, and other notable figures.

80 men have been implicated in the case. More charges are expected to be filed.

The following is a list of 44 men who have been charged with having commercial sex with a person under 18 years of age. Those found guilty can be jailed up to seven years and fined.

The youngest accused is 21 years old, and the oldest is 48. The accused include a former police superintendent, military officers, a lawyer, businessmen and other professionals.

One businessman, Foo Kim Meng, 45, allegedly had paid sex with the girl at least four times, the most among the 44 men...........

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Ex-Sony manager pleads guilty to accepting $3.3m in bribes

A district court found a former manager of Sony Electronics Asia Pacific guilty of accepting nearly $3.3 million in bribes.

Pheh Boon Leng, 46, was charged today with 19 offences which were committed over two years, reported The Straits Times.

He continued accepting bribes even after he was promoted to Senior Manager in July 2004.

Pheh collaborated with two Indonesians, Mr Acing who owns Kencana Jaya and Mr Agus Handaja who owns P.D. Yanco, to sell off Sony media products at below cost prices. They agreed to pay 10 per cent of the total sales value of each shipment to Pheh.

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Four chefs from famous hotels charged with corruption

The Straits Times reported that four chefs from well-known hotels in Singapore were charged with corruption on Friday.
They are – Tan Ah Teng, of Goodwood Park Hotel, Chik Ka Chung, who was with Wan Hao restaurant in Marriot Hotel, Yang Lai Fatt, formerly with Meritus Mandarin, and Goh Wooi Cheat, formerly the chef of Summer Palace of Regent Hotel.

Tay Ee Tiong, the former proprietor of the Bedok-based seafood supplier, Wealthy Seafood Product and Enterprise, was jailed for 11 months in September 2011. He had pleaded guilty to bribing 19 chefs from 17 hotels and restaurants, with sums amounting to $992,404 from 2006 to 2009.

The men are among 19 alleged to have accepted kickbacks from seafood supplier, 

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High Fliers In Hot Soup 

We kid you not. Some children in Singapore are so poor, they don't stay back after school for remedial lessons because they can't afford to eat at the canteen. That's what financial lifelines like the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund are meant for. Imagine what sort of despicables would stoop to rob from such impoverished unfortunates.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) senior vice-president Peter Khoo was charged in court yesterday for misappropriating shopping vouchers to the tune of $23,000 while he was the organising chairman of the activities and events for the School Pocket Money Fund. That plus obtaining monetary gratifications from related shady business deals between July 2006 and August 2010.

The nation had yet to come to grips with last week's exposé regarding Chief of Protocol with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lim Cheng Hoe's fiddling with his expense claims for overseas trips. A guy who was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 2009, and careerist veteran of 38 years playing host for countless VVIP visits. No information is given about the monetary sums involved, but whatever amount he pocketed, he will be paying for it in spades. 

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Strong Case Against City Harvest 

After a 2 year investigation, the Singapore Police had arrested leaders of one of Singapore’s biggest mega-churches, City Harvest Church. The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) arrested City Harvest founder, Pastor Kong Hee, along with four others for alleged criminal breach of trust and falsifying church accounts.

The main case is over the alleged misuse of at least S$23 million of church funds which were believed to have been used to finance the music career of Kong's pop-star wife, Sun Ho. Money from the church were given to a “Crossover Project”, with the purported purpose of using Sun Ho’s secular music to connect with people and reach out to non-Christians.

Though City Harvest has always denied that they funded Sun Ho, this cannot come as a surprise to anyone in Singapore. This is not a secret as City Harvest has always been pretty upfront about the fact that Pastor Kong Hee “support” his wife’s career. 

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CHC member writes to MCYS alleging defamation 

A City Harvest Church member, Christopher Pang, has written to Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth & Sports Chan Chun Sing alleging that the Commissioner of Charities' statement on the misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity is defamatory.

The Commissioner of Charities issued a statement on Tuesday saying that its inquiry discovered financial irregularities of at least S$23 million from the Charity's funds, and that these funds were used with the purported intention to finance Sun Ho's secular music career to connect with people.

Among other things, Mr Pang said he disagreed with the Commissioner of Charities' statement being posted on MCYS' website.

Speaking up for the five leaders who were charged in court on Wednesday, Mr Pang claimed that the statement is defamatory, and asked for an apology from the Commissioner of Charities. 

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City Harvest Executive Member alleges COC Defamation

TOC understands that this letter has been sent by Christopher Pang, an Executive Member of City Harvest Church, to the Ministry of Community Youth and Sports (MCYS), copied to members of the media.

Dear Mr Chan Chun Sing,
I read with disappointment the defamatory article posted in MCYS’ Press Room entitled “Inquiry found misconduct and mismanagement in the City Harvest Church”.
I am an Executive Member of City Harvest Church, and yes, five people from my church were taken in yesterday, 26 June 2012, for investigation and it was announced they would be charged. Among them are the senior pastor of my church Pastor Kong Hee, and our deputy senior pastor, Pastor Tan Ye Peng.
The “report” that the Commissioner of Charities put up is offensive in the following ways:
  1. The five individuals had not been yet charged on 26 June 2012. But the report was already posted online, and circulated to the public. Does the Commissioner of Charities feel that it is the judge of these five individuals, and not our judiciary? By posting this report, it is already declaring these five individuals “guilty” of wrongdoing even before the Singapore legal system has begun speaking to these five individuals. Frankly, this is defamatory, and necessitates an apology from the CoC.
  1. There are some points in the report that make accusations that are not supported by evidence. For example,

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Inquiry found misconduct and mismanagement in the City Harvest Church 

Commissioner of Charities suspends governing board members, trustees, employees, agents and Executive members under the Charities Act

The Commissioner of Charities (COC) instituted an Inquiry into the City Harvest Church (the Charity) on 31 May 2010 under the Charities Act. Concurrently, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) commenced investigations into financial transactions involving several individuals and companies, related or connected to the Charity. Both the COC and CAD have since concluded its Inquiry and investigations, respectively. Separately and independently from CAD, COC has decided to take action under the Charities Act.

COC’s Inquiry revealed misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the Charity, particularly in relation to the funds that were in the Building Fund which had been raised and earmarked for specific purposes. Financial irregularities of at least $23 million from the Charity’s funds have been discovered. These funds were used with the purported intention to finance Ho Yeow Sun’s secular music career to connect with people. There was a concerted effort to conceal this movement of funds from its stakeholders. Refer to Annex for the details of the misconduct and mismanagement.

The COC is concerned about the misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the Charity. Under the Charities Act and with the consent of the Attorney-General, the COC has suspended the following persons from the exercise of their office or employment as governing board members, trustees, agents or employees of the Charity with immediate effect: 

Former SLA officers Koh Seah Wee and his subordinate Lim Chai Meng jailed for $12m fraud case

Two former Singapore Land Authority (SLA) officers involved in a $12 million fraud case were sentenced to jail today.

Former deputy director of technology and infrastructure, Koh Seah Wee, 41, was sentenced to 22 years in jail, and his subordinate, former manager Lim Chai Meng, 38, was sentenced to 15 years, The Straits Times reported.

Koh and Lim both pleaded guilty last week to 55 and 48 charges respectively.

Working in collusion with seven external parties, the men had - in the time between Jan 2008 and March 2010 - cheated SLA by rendering false invoices through various business entities for IT services and goods which were not delivered.

In all, SLA paid $12.2 million in 282 contracts to 11 bogus vendors. To date, $9 million out of the total amount has been recovered.

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Fifth man jailed 18 months for involvement in S$12.2m SLA fraud

An assistant manager who received about S$32,000 for helping to defraud the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) of nearly S$12.2 million was jailed for 18 months yesterday.

Tan Meng Teck (picture), 43, who used to work with IT services provider NEC Asia, is the fifth man to be sentenced in the biggest case of government-sector fraud since 1995.

Tan pleaded guilty to three charges of conspiring with four other men, including former SLA deputy director Koh Seah Wee and manager Lim Chai Meng, to cheat the authority in 2008.

The duo had roped him in to help dupe the SLA into believing that the invoices they rendered for fictitious services and goods were genuine.

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SLA cheating case: 6th and final man jailed

The last man in the conspiracy to cheat the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) was jailed for 18 months on Wednesday.

The Straits Times reported that Seah Hwee Thong, 48, was given six months' jail on each of three charges. Seah faces 12 charges in total.He had deceived SLA into paying a telephone equipment firm, TPL Communication, $59,000 and $59,900 under contracts not fulfilled and for 'perverting the course of justice' in 2008.

The remaining nine charges were considered during his sentencing, reported The Straits Times.Between Nov 2007 and March 2010, ex-deputy director of SLA's technology and infrastructure department Koh Seah Wee, 41, and then manager Lim Chai Meng, 38, conspired to cheat the statutory board of $12.2 million.

Koh is now serving 22 years jail time, while Lim is serving 15 years.

The pair started cheating SLA towards the end of 2007 when they managed to come up with fake quotations which Koh would approve to get money from the statutory board.

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The Minister And The Surgeon

According to the Law Minister, who was once a Senior Partner and head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution at Allen & Gledhill LLP, the misleading statements in question were made by Mr Kuan, which was why the charge for Woffles could only be that of abetment. That was the report on Sunday Times, 17 June 2012.

A few days back on Friday, 15 June, the words from the horse's mouth seem to say something else.

So who should we believe, the rich minister or the rich plastic surgeon? And please, don't quote PM Lee Hsien Loong again:

"Do you believe everything you read in the Straits Times?" (Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum at NUS, April 2007)

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Case files: Revelations & developments

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