SINGAPORE — Two men were jailed on Wednesday (20 November) for corruption offences, bringing the almost three-year-long Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) saga to a close.
Victor Wong Chee Meng, a former general manager and secretary of AMKTC, was sentenced to a total 27 months’ jail, alongside a financial penalty of $23,398.09 as disgorgement for the financial gratifications he had received.
In March, the 59-year-old pleaded guilty to three counts of receiving tens of thousands of dollars in bribes over a period of two years. These amounted to a $13,500 discount on a purchase of a car, about $27,800 in remittances to his mistress in China and $34,070.40 in entertainment expenses at various KTV lounges, restaurants, massage parlours and a hotel.
Wong had faced 55 counts of graft for offences allegedly committed between December 2014 and September 2016.
He took the kickbacks from Omar Chia Sin Lan, 62, the director and major shareholder of two firms, whose core business is the carrying out of works for town councils. Chia’s two companies, 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise, were awarded tenders and contracts by AMKTC worth millions of dollars during the period that Wong accepted the bribes.
Chia also faced 55 counts of graft and pleaded guilty shortly after Wong threw in the towel. He was given a total sentence of 21 months’ jail.
Two charges of a similar nature, involving Chia finding employment for Wong’s daughter-in-law as well as the use of a free mobile phone line and free phone, were taken into consideration for the duo’s sentencing.
The 55 counts faced by Wong and Chia were amalgamated.
The total amount involved for all the charges against the duo was $86,141.49.
The prosecution had sought a jail term of at least four years and eight months for Wong, as well as a financial penalty of $23,398.09. It also asked for four years and two months’ jail for Chia.
Wong was seen wiping away tears after the judgement was pronounced by District Judge John Ng. Many of Wong and Chia’s relatives were present in court.
Both men will begin serving their sentences from Wednesday.
‘Falling from grace’
In pronouncing his judgement, District Judge John Ng noted that Wong had initiated the graft by asking Chia for a discount on the car and to provide financial assistance to his mistress. Chia had given the gratifications with the purpose of advancing his companies’ business interests, as Wong’s position had given him the perceived ability to grant favours to contractors
And in knowingly receiving the benefits given with “corrupt intentions”, said DJ Ng, Wong had allowed himself to be cultivated by the contractor. His corrupt acts were particularly reprehensible as he had reminded his staff of the need to remain corruption-free in an email on 7 January 2015.
Wong “acted hypocritically” and indulged in the corrupt activities, said the judge. “He has committed a grave mistake by succumbing to corruption and falling from grace.”
But while DJ Ng sentenced Wong to jail terms of between 12 and 15 months for each proceeded charge, he added that to run all of them consecutively would be “excessive”, considering that the gratifications were all given with the same purpose of furthering Chia’s companies’ business interests.
Therefore, only the first and second jail terms will run consecutively, which amount to 27 months imprisonment.
Meanwhile, Chia was given jail terms of between nine and 12 months for each proceeded charge. His first and second jail terms will run consecutively, amounting to 21 months imprisonment.
DJ Ng also imposed a fine of $75,000 each on 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise, an amount based on factors such as the gratification given, the size and reach of the company and the number of people caught in the web of corruption.
He also agreed with the defence that the contracts awarded to the companies were obtained in open tender, and not as a direct result of Wong’s intervention.
In December 2016, media reports said that Wong was being investigated by anti-graft investigators. Wong, who worked for CPG Facilities Management – AMKTC’s managing agent – was asked to go on leave following a complaint filed against him in September 2016. He was removed from his positions at the town council in November that year.
AMKTC oversees the housing estates in Ang Mo Kio GRC. The town council’s chairman is Ang Hin Kee and the other six members are Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Gan Thiam Poh, Intan Azura Mokhtar, Koh Poh Koon, Lam Pin Min and Darryl David.