SINGAPORE — Ex-Land Transport Authority (LTA) deputy group director Henry Foo Yung Thye admitted on Thursday (26 August) to receiving $1.2 million in bribes from 2016 to 2018, consisting of loans from contractors and sub-contractors.
Foo, who was with the agency for 20 years, pleaded guilty to seven charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Another 29 charges, consisting of graft and cheating, will be taken into consideration for his sentencing.
Background to the case
Foo, 47, joined LTA on 10 August 1999. He held various posts, including director for the Thomson-East Coast Line Civil Team 3 and deputy group director of Thomson-East Coast (TEL )and Cross Island lines (Civil).
In these positions, Foo oversaw the construction of MRT Stations and tunnels such as Havelock, Stevens, Great World, Napier and Orchard. He was also one of the evaluating personnel for LTA contracts and subcontracts under the TEL and Cross Island Lines.
In addition, Foo was chairman of the tender evaluation committee, which was tasked to award scores director over multiple projects.
In this role, he had "actively and quite persistently" solicited gratification from multiple givers from 2014-2019, according to the prosecution.
Some of the individuals Foo sought loans from were directors of firms such as Tritech Group Limited, MEPT Engineering, Tiong Seng Contractors, and China Railway Tunnel Co. In exchange, Foo promised to “support” their businesses or shared confidential information relating to LTA tenders.
In October 2018, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) received an anonymous complaint that Foo had been soliciting loans from sub-contractors involved with LTA projects. Foo also requested financial help from the director of China Railway Tunnel Group to pay off outstanding personal debts.
Foo resigned from LTA on 19 September 2019. He has since made restitution of $83,750, while leaving a balance of $1,156,250. Under the Prevention of Corruption Act, a penalty of the balance amount $1,156,250 must be imposed, and the prosecution applied for an in-default jail term of 24 months.
Investigations revealed that the gratification he received from LTA contractors and sub-contractors were for contracts worth some $815 million. Foo felt beholden to these givers to advance their business interests.
Public sector corruption
Seeking a sentence of six years and three months' jail for Foo, Deputy Public Prosecutor Victoria Ting described the case as "the most significant case of public sector corruption that has been prosecuted in recent times".
Two things that stood out: the amount of gratification that changed hands and the number of givers and vendor companies who were implicated, and the position of trust Foo had abused, said the DPP.
"Most, if not all (givers), initially turned him down and it was only on repeated requests that they eventually agreed to extension of loans."
In mitigation, Foo's lawyer Lim Ker Sheon, who is representing Foo pro bono, said that his client had been diagnosed with a pathological gambling disorder, which was determined by a private psychiatrist to have a causal link to his offences.
The lawyer sought 46 months' imprisonment for Foo, whom he said had "little ability" to influence tender outcomes due to the system of check and balances put in place by LTA.
Lim added that Foo would be unable to pay any penalty the court imposes, and stressed that the latter had gone "above and beyond" in cooperating with the authorities, saving them a considerable amount of time and resources.
Foo had intended to plead guilty from the start, said Lim, who argued that his chances of rehabilitation were high. Foo's sister has supported him throughout by holding him accountable to his whereabouts when he was on bail, and placing a program on his phone to track his activity, so that he would not relapse into gambling.
Foo himself is determined to change, said Lim. He has two sons he loves very much. "He knows the hurt he's caused to his family and this is something he has to live with for the rest of his life," Lim added.
Putting in an impassioned personal plea, Lim added that he had known Foo since the latter was five years old and saw him through his breakdown. Foo is glad that he no longer has to deal with loansharks harassing his family and living a "double life", said the lawyer.
Foo's sentencing has been adjourned to 2 September.
Any person convicted of a corruption offence may be jailed up to five years, or fined up to $100,000, or both. The maximum jail term for an offence of corruption can be increased to seven years if it is in relation to a matter or contract with the government or public body, or a subcontract to execute work comprised in such contract.
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