SINGAPORE — A senior constituency manager of the Residents’ Committees (RC) under Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council who cheated an RC vice-chairman into disbursing him nearly $6,000 in public funds was sentenced to 12 weeks’ jail on Thursday (16 July).
The funds siphoned by Li Xuanwei had been meant for an event to get residents in the relevant wards on board with a Neighbourhood Renewal Programme for Pasir Ris-Punggol.
The 37-year-old Singaporean had joined the People’s Association in March 2008 as a constituency manager. By the time of his offences in 2018, he had been promoted to senior constituency manager at the RCs in Pasir Ris Zone 7 and Zone 8.
He pleaded guilty to two out of four counts of cheating the RC vice-chairman of Zone 8 in 2018, with the remaining two taken into consideration for sentencing.
Reusing documents for sham claims
In October 2015, the Housing and Development Board, Pasir-Ris Punggol Town Council and its RCs embarked on the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme to improve amenities in neighbourhood precincts.
The programme was fully funded by the government and was implemented by the Town Council. As the scheme required the support of at least 75 per cent of the residents, the RCs of Pasir Ris Zone 7 and Zone 8 were tasked to organise an event to explain the scheme to residents and gain their votes.
Li was tasked to organise the one-day event on 3 March 2018. He engaged the vendors and prepared the necessary payment vouchers and cheques with supporting invoices and receipts, before presenting them to the RC chairman of Zone 7.
After the chairman signed the cheques, Li issued payment to the vendors. He then reused the same documents to make sham claims from the RC vice-chairman of Zone 8, Rajeev Divakaran Nair. He deceived Rajeev into believing that he had used his own money to pay the vendors, so that he was seeking reimbursement for his expenses.
On four occasions over 2018 – 17 March, 21 March, 19 April and 4 July – Li obtained false reimbursement from Rajeev. In total he cheated $5,919.27 from Paris Ris Zone 8 RC, which he deposited into his personal bank account.
His offences were uncovered in August 2018, when the constituency director, Wilson Low of Pasir Ris East Constituency Office, discovered the fraud after an internal audit of their accounts.
Low confronted Li on 7 August 2018 and Li admitted to his scam. He made full restitution to Paris Ris Zone 8 RC three days later. Low lodged a police report on 17 December that year.
Abused position of trust and authority: DPP
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Tan Yen Seow asked that Li be jailed at least 14 weeks’ to befit the seriousness of his crimes.
“The RC exists for the public good and serves to promote the welfare of its residents. It relies on limited public funds to deliver its mission, and the accused played a critical role in safeguarding and ensuring the judicious use of these funds,” Tan said.
Li abused his longstanding position of trust and authority in the RC by diverting the public funds to himself, said DPP Tan.
Not only did he cheat the RC’s vice chairman, but also all the residents under the RC’s purview, said DPP Tan.
The prosecutor cited the calculated manner in which Li carried out his offences and his knowledge of the weaknesses in the system as aggravating factors. DPP Tan had also considered Li’s plea of guilt, the fact that he had made restitution, and his cooperation with investigations, as mitigating factors in his case.
For cheating, Li could have been jailed up to 10 years, and fined on each count.
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