Top Singapore diplomat jailed over false claims for pineapple tarts, wine

A policeman stands guard in Singapore, on July 18, 2012

A high-ranking Singapore diplomat was jailed for 15 months Thursday for inflating expenses for thousands of dollars worth of pineapple tarts and wine bought as gifts for foreign dignitaries. Lim Cheng Hoe, 61, the former head of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had pleaded guilty on Monday to ten charges of submitting falsified claims. State prosecutors had initially slapped him with 60 charges of overbilling the government for gifts bought for foreign officials during overseas visits, totalling Sg$88,997 (US$70,280). "This case has caused public disquiet as it involved a high-ranking public officer who deceitfully obtained public funds by virtue of his position and the trust reposed in him," district court Judge Eddy Tham said in a written judgement. Lim headed the foreign ministry department responsible for organising ministerial and presidential trips overseas. According to charge sheets, he claimed for more than 10,000 boxes of pineapple tarts, a savoury popular in Singapore, but only 2,200 were used as gifts. Lim asked vendors for blank receipts and overstated the number of boxes purchased. He also claimed for 248 bottles of wine but only bought 89. In another case Peter Lim, the former head of the civil defence force, was jailed for six months last year for receiving oral sex from a female executive of a defence supplier in return for favours. Large-scale graft cases remain rare in Singapore, which pays its civil servants some of the world's highest salaries to deter corruption.