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Former BP manager, businessman found guilty in graft case involving close to US$4m

Clarence Chang Peng Hong (left) had accepted bribes from businessman Koh Seng Lee - ST PHOTO WONG KWAI CHOW.jpg
Clarence Chang (left) had accepted bribes from businessman Koh Seng Lee in exchange for advancing the business interests of Koh's company with BP.

[SINGAPORE] A former manager at oil giant BP was found guilty on Thursday of receiving US$3.95 million in bribes from a businessman, who was also convicted.

Clarence Chang Peng Hong, 55, had accepted bribes from businessman Koh Seng Lee on 19 occasions between July 2006 to July 2010, in exchange for advancing the business interests of Koh's company with BP, a district judge has ruled.

Koh, 58, had separately also corruptly agreed to pay S$500,000 to a pre-school - Mindchamps Preschool@ City Square - which Chang's wife is a director of.

Chang and Koh were found guilty of 20 corruption charges each on Thursday, following a trial spanning two years.

Earlier in the trial, the court heard that Koh had set up marine fuel trading company, Pacific Prime Trading (PPT), based on Chang's suggestion.

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The two had a "mutual understanding" from the start, the prosecutors said, that Chang would use his position in BP Singapore to advance PPT's interest, in return for a "share" of PPT's profits.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Jiang Ke-Yue and Loh Hui-Min said that "from the very outset, Koh was beholden to Chang".

"Over time, the aforesaid arrangement became further entrenched as PPT's business with BP Singapore flourished," said the prosecutors.

They also argued that Koh knew that Chang had the power to "make or break" PPT, and felt compelled to accede to Chang's requests for payments.

Chang was also "beholden to place PPT's interests above that of his principal, BP Singapore", as he stood to prosper with PPT, said the prosecutors.

During the trial, defence counsels for the two men argued that the funds transfers between the two were for joint investments in property and in Mindchamps, and were wholly unrelated to PPT's business with BP Singapore.

However, District Judge Ong Chin Rhu said in court on Thursday that the accounts of joint investments are an "afterthought".

It is "telling", that both Chang and Koh's statements pertaining to these joint investments contained "glaring contradictions and inconsistencies", sad the judge.

The duo are out on bail of S$200,000 each, and will be back in court on Sept 7 for their sentencing.

For each charge of corruption, Koh and Chang can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to S$100,000.

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