2 pest control workers jailed for bribery in exchange for mosquito check tipoffs

Frontal close-up of an yellow-fever mosquito sucking blood, known vector of zika virus, chikungunya, yellow fever and dengue. PHOTO: Getty Images

Two former employees of a vendor contracted by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to assist with mosquito breeding inspections were jailed and fined on Monday (18 March) after they pleaded guilty to receiving bribes.

Tung Chee Keong, a 48-year-old Singaporean, and Chandran Jeganathan, a 30-year-old Indian national, were workers with Killem Pest, a pest control services company. The NEA had engaged Killem Pest as a contractor to assist NEA officers in conducting inspections of mosquito breeding at construction sites.

Tung was jailed for 11 weeks after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiring with Jeganathan to accept bribes and one count of attempting to obtain a bribe from another person. Jeganathan was jailed for six weeks after he pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiring with Tung to accept bribes.

The duo also had three charges of a similar nature taken into consideration for sentencing.

Tung was also ordered to pay a penalty of $1,000 while Jeganathan was ordered to pay $600. As the duo did not pay the penalties, Tung was jailed five days in default while Jeganathan was jailed three days in default.

Between January and April last year, the NEA and Killem team found mosquito breeding grounds on two occasions at a construction site at Tampines Industrial Street 61.

The site was managed by Muthukaruppan Periyasamy, a site manager working for Fenzhii Engineering Services and Ramo Industries. On both occasions, the companies were given penalties, and Periyasamy knew that the next violation would result in a stop work order.

Periyasamy spoke to Tung and Jeganathan privately and offered them $400 per month in return for alerts of upcoming mosquito breeding inspections at the Tampines site so that he could do the necessary prevention steps ahead of inspections. The duo agreed to the offer.

Between May and August last year, the duo accepted $1,600 in bribes from Periyasamy on five occasions. Of the sum, Tung took $1,000 and Jeganathan took $600.

On each occasion, Tung and Jeganathan would be informed of an upcoming inspection at the Tampines site on each day. Jeganathan would then inform Periyasamy about the impending inspection. When the team arrived at the Tampines site for the inspection after Jeganathan’s tipoff, it did not discover any violations.

Tung also tried to solicit a bribe from a workplace safety and health officer from another company at a separate worksite.

On 16 July last year, the NEA team found mosquito breeding grounds at the worksite. At a re-inspection a few days later, Tung approached the officer and asked for $1,000 in return for a tipoff of upcoming inspections. The officer negotiated the sum to $500 but later informed Tung that his company would not make the payment.

In mitigation for Tung, lawyer Arthur Quay said his client was supporting a brother who has terminal cancer.

Jeganathan, who was not represented, told the court that he was not the one who had asked for bribes. He told the court that he did not know how to resolve the issue after getting the first payment.

Periyasamy’s case is pending before the courts.

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