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Former AMKTC general manager, company director jailed over corrupt business dealings

[SINGAPORE] A former general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) was sentenced on Wednesday to a total of 27 months' jail, or two years and three months, over corruption offences.

Wong Chee Meng, 59, received about S$50,000 in bribes from a director of two construction firms.

The director, Chia Sin Lan, 64, who was from 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise, was sentenced to 21 months' jail, or one year and nine months.

The two firms were each fined S$75,000.

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On March 25, the pair pleaded guilty to corruption charges, ending a trial that started in September last year.

Wong and Chia each admitted to three counts of corruption involving more than S$75,300.

The first charge was over a S$13,500 discount on a Toyota Corolla Altis owned by 19-ANC and sold to Wong.

The second charge was for offences amalgamated over the payments to Wong's mistress which totalled S$27,800.

The third charge covers entertainment expenses such as those incurred at KTV lounges and massage parlours, which amounted to over S$34,000.

Two other charges - the free use of a mobile phone line which Chia gave Wong, and work he found for Wong's daughter-in-law - were considered during sentencing.

These bribes amounted to more than S$10,700. Chia had also pleaded guilty to a charge each against his firms of conspiring to bribe Wong.

Chia had given the bribes to Wong between 2014 and 2016 to further the business interests of his firms.

In exchange, the younger man used his position to influence the outcome of tenders which Chia's firms were bidding for, such as by instructing staff to adjust tender scores in their favour.

Wong, also known as Victor, was AMKTC's general manager from 2013 to 2016. In September 2016, AMKTC received a complaint about the way he handled contracts.

He was removed from duty a month later and later investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

According to court documents, Wong, who worked for CPG Facilities Management, which was AMKTC's managing agent, had become "beholden" to Chia.

Between 2014 and 2016, 19-ANC and 19-NS2 were awarded tenders and contracts by AMKTC worth S$9,874,650.

In a 2016 tender for the supply of low-emission incense burners, for example, 19-ANC was the fourth-lowest bidder, and AMKTC's contract manager had recommended that the contract be awarded to the lowest bidder, Uniquetech.

But knowing that 19-ANC's incense burners were the most environmentally friendly, Wong told his staff to focus on this aspect, raising the tender evaluation score for 19-ANC, while decreasing Uniquetech's.

He also denied requests from other tenderers to produce a mock-up burner to meet the town council's requirements.

"As a result, the other tenderers were unable to compete on equal terms as the incumbent 19-ANC, which was already supplying burners to AMKTC at the material time under a prior award," court documents said.

Wong also admitted influencing his staff to include 19-ANC in the list of contractors to invite for quotations. These are given for ad hoc works valued at less than S$70,000, when no tenders are called.

Court documents stated: "Owing to his influence, unless 19-ANC could not provide the required works, the staff of the contracts department automatically invited 19-ANC, on their understanding that this was Victor Wong's preference."

In June this year, Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue called for a jail term of at least four years and eight months for Wong along with a penalty of S$23,400.

The prosecution also sought a jail term of at least four years and two months for Chia, along with a S$100,000 fine for each of his two companies.

In mitigation, Wong's lawyer, Ms Melanie Ho, said that her client has had an "exemplary career and public service record" of more than three decades.

She added that this was Wong's first brush with the law and the offences were a one-off indiscretion due to difficulties in his personal life.

She asked the court to sentence Wong to between 11 and 14 months in jail, along with a penalty of S$1,505.

THE STRAITS TIMES