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There is no corruption in Singapore...


Alfrescian (Inf)

2 former FairPrice employees admit to graft involving $523,000​


See Hock Lam, then a team leader with FairPrice, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of corruption. He is expected to be sentenced on April 10. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Shaffiq Alkhatib
Court Correspondent

Mar 31, 2023

SINGAPORE – Over eight years, two FairPrice employees worked together to obtain $523,000 in bribes from multiple suppliers of the supermarket chain.
Lim Kian Kok and his subordinate See Hock Lam, who are no longer working for the company, then spilt the amount equally between them, with each receiving $261,500.
They committed the offences from 2013 to 2020.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Pei Wei said on Friday that the pair had ordered larger quantities of fish and seafood from suppliers that bribed them.
She added: “This caused potential harm to... FairPrice and/or its customers, as the goods... purchased may not have been the best available.
“As the country’s largest supermarket chain, (FairPrice) serves a large sector of the Singapore population and the impact of corruption offences like the present may correspondingly be felt by many.”
Lim, 48, who used to be a senior team leader with the supermarket chain, was sentenced to four years and five months’ jail on Friday after he pleaded guilty to 12 graft charges.

He was also ordered to pay a penalty of nearly $290,000. He will have to spend an additional 580 days behind bars if he fails to pay the amount.
See, 70, then a team leader at the time of the offences, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of corruption.
His bail has been set at $40,000 and he is expected to be sentenced on April 10.

Other offenders linked to the suppliers were dealt with in court earlier.
They included Ngow Chun Siong, 44, who was then working for Fish Vision Agro-tech, and Heah Han Huat, 65, who ran Ocean Trust Trading.

DPP Tan told the court that See joined FairPrice in 1997 and later reported to Lim. See’s duties included helping Lim order crabs and prawns.
Lim, who is also known as Andrew, joined FairPrice in 2007 and oversaw its buying operations at Jurong Fishery Port when he became a senior team leader in 2013.
Lim also had the discretion to determine which suppliers to buy fish and seafood from, and how much to buy from them.
Shortly after he became a senior team leader, he approached See and asked the older man if he “wanted to make money”.
DPP Tan said: “Andrew told See that he intended to ask some of the suppliers at Jurong Fishery Port for money in return for purchasing more fish from them.
“He asked See to join him so See would support him in obtaining payments from suppliers... and would not complain to FairPrice about this arrangement.”
See agreed to the plan as he had a gambling habit and wanted to earn some cash. The two men then agreed to split the money equally between them.
The pair later approached four suppliers for the bribes.

On Friday, the DPP urged the court to sentence See to between 46 and 54 months’ jail, as well as a penalty of $261,500.
She added that See, who was not represented by a lawyer, had shared the ill-gotten gains equally with Lim.
Meanwhile, she asked for Lim to be given between 54 and 64 months’ jail, and a penalty of nearly $290,000, stressing that he had initiated the offences.
Lim was represented by lawyer Sng Kheng Huat, who was assisted by Mr Rajwin Singh Sandhu.
Mr Sng said that as a show of remorse, Lim had voluntarily handed $180,000 to the authorities.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Baey Yam Keng clears air over $2.50 nasi padang​

DECEMBER 17, 2013

Member of Parliament (MP) for Tampines GRC Baey Yam Keng stirred some debate last week after he uploaded a photo of his Nasi Padang meal on Facebook.
A Facebook user, Esther Chia, asked the MP how much the dish from the coffee shop at Tampines Blk 475 cost. Mr Baey replied that it cost $2.50, adding that he eats nasi padang "once in a long while".
Another Facebook user later claimed that he went to the same store and was charged $6 for the same dish. This sparked a debate in which some netizens said that Mr Baey should not have been charged a lower price.
To clarify the matter, Mr Baey returned to the stall to speak with the shop owner. He then explained the issue in his regular column on MyPaper, which was published today.
The English version of his article is as follows:
I love local hawker food. There are not many countries in the world like Singapore where one can easily find reasonably priced food with the same high level of hygiene and great variety. Singapore is indeed a food paradise.
Typically, when I cannot be home for my meals, or even when I am eating out with my family, I like to frequent hawker centres, coffee shops and food courts. In Parliament, I have spoken a few times on hawker centres, hawker food and our hawker culture. I have urged the government to help preserve this heritage and national identity of Singapore, and even proposed setting up a Singapore Food Museum.
I like to post photos of the hawker food I eat on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I am not a food critic, so I tend not to comment on the food quality. Nor am I promoting the stalls. I just want to document and celebrate the richness of our hawker food that many of us love.
Last Wednesday, I was in Tampines and decided to drop by the nasi padang coffee shop at Street 44 Blk 475 for my lunch. I ordered a piece of chicken and two veggies, plus a Bandung drink. After I sat down, I gave the attendant $10 and he gave me $7 change. I thought the price was quite cheap. As the coffee shop was new in the neighborhood, I thought it could be a promotional price. I seldom order nasi padang so I am also not familiar with the typical price. I have encountered similar pricing at some Chinese rice stalls, so I did not think too much about it. As usual, I posted a photo of my nasi padang.
Subsequently, a netizen asked me how much the nasi padang was. I knew that the cordial Bandung drink would not cost too much, probably 50 cents out of the $3 I paid. So I estimated the nasi padang to be $2.50 and replied the netizen on Wednesday night.
The following day, another netizen posted on his Facebook that after seeing my post, he went to the same coffee shop and showed my nasi padang photo. However, he was charged $6. Hence, he felt that it was double standards and wondered why MPs could enjoy preferential pricing.
His post was shared widely on various social media platforms. Some netizens opined that it was the coffee shop owner who offered a discount to me, as he would for his regular customers. I had not asked for it and hence I have done nothing wrong. However, other netizens disagreed and felt that the coffee shop owner was 'bribing' me and this was corruption for a MP to accept discounts. Hence, CPIB should investigate. They also felt that when MPs enjoy such discounts, we would be out of touch, and not understand the real costs of living and hence could not appreciate the public's financial burden.
I wanted to get to the bottom of this matter and went back to the coffee shop two days ago on Sunday. As the owner has been approached by reporters, he was aware that this matter had been widely circulated online. In fact, he had wanted to see me at my Meet People Session on Monday to explain. He acknowledged that his staff had recognised me that day and out of respect for my work and service in the community, charged me only $3 when it was more than $4. It was really out of simple goodwill and there was no ulterior motive or expectations on his part. He was deeply apologetic that the matter has somehow been blown out of proportion.
The owner shared with me that since the coffee shop opening, he has been offering a special $2.50 deal for a meal and a drink for senior citizens and students. According to him, his prices are lower than other nasi padang stalls because he would like to reach out to more customers.
He was aware that a netizen claimed that he was charged $6 for ordering a chicken item and an egg item, but he seriously doubted the authenticity as it would not have cost so much. He must have ordered something else he did not declare. As there were no price labels for the different food items, the owner explained that they would usually give an overall discount depending the type of items ordered, hence the final price would differ from order to order.
I thanked the owner for his goodwill and explanation, and asked him not to feel bad as we have done nothing against our conscience.
As part of his corporate social responsibility, the owner intended to offer the $2.50 deal for one nasi padang and a drink to all customers over lunch time (11am-2pm) this coming weekend (Dec 21-22). Up to 100 customers per day will enjoy the special offer and he would donate all proceeds to the Tampines North welfare fund to help needy residents. I naturally applauded and supported his initiative.
I shared this charity plan with my activists. One of them decided to give his support by pledging dollar for dollar so as to raise more money to benefit the community.
As an elected member, I know I have to be totally above board in what I do. If there is a price clearly listed, I would not accept any discount even it was kindly offered to me.
And if I were to jump to a conclusion that all food is cheap just because I had paid $2.50 for a nasi padang, that would have been too naive of me.
On Sunday, I also had nasi padang for lunch at the coffee shop. I ordered a mutton item, an egg item and a veggie. The owner charged me the full price of $3.70. However, some netizens still refused to accept that it was the reality and insisted that I had been 'corrupt' again.
I decided that any explanation was futile and I would just let actions speak for themselves.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Should universities accept $100m donations from coal companies?​

For an institution like the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, accepting money linked to industries harming the planet risks undermining its goals​


David Fogarty
Climate Change Editor

The donation comes as the NUS has been ramping up its sustainability practices and programmes. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

APR 5, 2023

A recent gift of $101 million to the National University of Singapore (NUS) was remarkable for its size and scope. The gift to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) is the school’s largest and aims to significantly boost its leadership programmes for public officers from Asia, and the number of scholarships for students in the region.
But within the university, the gift has stirred unease and raised questions that many other universities have grappled with in recent years: Is funding linked to fossil fuels still appropriate as the climate crisis worsens?
The gift came from the Low Tuck Kwong Foundation, named after Singapore-born Indonesian coal billionaire Low Tuck Kwong, whose Bayan Resources is one of Indonesia’s top coal producers.
Datuk Low and his family have had a long association with the university. His daughter, Ms Elaine Low, who is chairman of the foundation, graduated with a Master in Public Policy from the LKYSPP in 2014. And in 2011, NUS set up the Low Tuck Kwong Distinguished Professorship with a gift of $3 million.
The latest gift aims to bolster Asia’s future through leadership training, outreach and engagement, and strengthen Indonesia-Singapore ties.
For many universities, donations from fossil fuel companies or via foundations remain a grey area as such funding can provide much needed cash and boost research programmes – especially after the Covid-19 pandemic hit some universities hard, leading to a big drop in student numbers.
Yet, the optics of such donations are becoming harder to manage. The fossil fuel industry is under fire for helping fuel climate change and Big Oil’s vow to accelerate oil and gas investment, despite warnings by the United Nations and International Energy Agency that doing so risks accelerating climate impacts.

In addition, the donation comes as NUS has been ramping up its sustainability practices and programmes, and the gift seems at odds with the Singapore Government’s recent adoption of much more ambitious climate targets.
Datuk Low has been developing a small regional renewable energy company, Metis Energy, but Bayan Resources has plans to continue expanding coal production, based on the company’s latest financial reports. That expansion and high global coal prices have meant bumper profits for the company.
In response to questions from The Straits Times, a spokesman for the LKYSPP said: “As with all philanthropic gifts for academic research received by the university, this gift does not influence how LKYSPP academics carry out their research, nor determine the findings and conclusions they reach.

“The LKYSPP remains committed to conducting research and policy-oriented dialogues useful to policymakers and scholars across a broad spectrum. These areas include sustainability strategies and solutions.
“This philanthropic gift affords us greater capacity to carry out our educational mission. Research and knowledge drive change for a better world.”
NUS said it carefully vets all potential donors, especially their reputation, character and business record. Like other universities, it has detailed guidelines on vetting donations for legal, reputational and other criteria. However, it declined to answer questions on whether it was considering adding additional criteria around fossil fuels.
The $101 million gift, though, is a major boost for the university and comes as the number of donors and total value of gifts have been on a downward trend since 2017.
According to the university’s 2022 annual report, 8,068 donors donated $190 million between April 2021 and March 2022. This compares with 11,812 donors who gave $276.8 million in the 2017 financial year.

Divided opinions​

In the United States, Britain and Australia, the debate over fossil fuel gifts has divided opinions. Some academics say such funding can help accelerate the green transition. The money can also be a vital lifeline for some researchers and help fund green solutions.
Others say the money represents a conflict of interest and could influence research outcomes and compromise academic freedoms. Such donations “buy” the institution’s good name.
A study published in March estimated that six fossil fuel companies – ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron, Shell Oil, ConocoPhillips and Koch Industries – donated or pledged nearly US$680 million (S$902 million) in research funding to 27 universities in the US from 2010 to 2020.
The exact amount was hard to calculate because of the lack of transparency around such donations. But the groups behind the study, US think-tank Data for Progress and the non-profit Fossil Free Research, said there was enough public information, such as tax filings and annual reports, to get a good estimate.
“Fossil fuel companies have been quietly leveraging their wealth to gain influence across higher education, including sponsorship of climate and energy-related research,” said the authors of the report.
In 2022, hundreds of scientists wrote an open letter to US and British universities to ask them to ban fossil fuel industry funding for climate change, environmental and energy policy research. The number of signatories has since grown to more than 800 from more than 130 institutions.
The signatories say accepting fossil fuel research funding contravenes universities’ stated commitments to tackling the climate crisis and that universities that maintain close ties to the fossil fuel industry incur a substantial reputational risk.
Western universities have also faced very active campaigns to end all investments in fossil fuel companies as part of their portfolios.
“I think universities should address each situation on a case-by-case basis,” said Mr Bob Ward, policy and communications director for the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in Britain.
“In general, I do not see a problem in accepting funding from a fossil fuel company that is demonstrably committed to the transition away from fossil fuels and to net-zero global emissions by the middle of the century. The money should only be used to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon and climate-resilient world.”
But he felt universities should not accept money from companies not committed to the transition, to avoid being party to greenwashing.

Treading a careful line​

The Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra said it considers exposure to fossil fuels or greenhouse gas-intensive industries as part of its due diligence process for potential donations. All donations must adhere to the university’s principles of, and commitment to, academic freedom and research rigour.
Melbourne’s La Trobe University said: “We do not undertake research relevant to the fossil fuel industry, nor do we accept donations from the fossil fuel industry.”
In 2016, the university said it would cease direct investment in the fossil fuel industry. “We have since divested all of our direct shareholdings and moved the balance of our investments away from fossil fuel companies,” a spokesman said.
Other experts The Straits Times spoke to talked about the very careful line universities need to tread.
“Universities have almost a charter, an agreement with society, to be working on addressing the challenges that confront societies. And environmental damage broadly and climate change in particular are among the grand challenges we face,” said associate professor for sustainability and ethics Sukhbir Sandhu of the University of South Australia in Adelaide.
“Universities might have a valid reason for accepting fossil fuel funding, especially if it’s to help make the sector more sustainable, more efficient, become less environmentally damaging.”
A particular challenge is meeting the aspirations of students and staff. “On average, about 80 per cent of employees say they would like to work for an organisation that’s environmentally sustainable. So to attract employees, it’s important that organisations have a clear environmental mission. And of course, taking funding from fossil fuels does not align with that mission.”
The risks from fossil fuel funding are growing as climate impacts increase, especially from an industry with a long reputation of denying and then delaying climate action.
“Universities have a fiduciary responsibility to their staff and students. If a university can invest in student or research support, it should take opportunities to do so,” said Dr Aaron Tang, a lecturer in climate policy at ANU.
“However, universities carry an influential voice in society. What they say and what they do are important social and political signals. If we want to stop climate change, there are some industries that we need to legislate and regulate – the fossil fuel industry is one of them.”
Ultimately, the debate on donations is much more than just a focus on fossil fuels. The emerging challenge for universities is – how green does the donation need to be? Very, is the short answer.
With the crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, air pollution and water scarcity increasing, the public will surely demand action by governments and corporations to stop the trashing of the planet. And that means universities are key to creating a new generation of scientists and political and business leaders who can reshape the world into a more sustainable one.
The LKYSPP’s vision statement is especially pertinent here: “A world transformed through good governance and leadership excellence.” Accepting money linked to industries harming the planet risks undermining this vision.


Alfrescian (Inf)

38 months’ jail for former FairPrice team leader for graft involving more than $500k​


See Hock Lam was also ordered to pay a penalty of $261,500. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Shaffiq Alkhatib
Court Correspondent

Apr 10, 2023

SINGAPORE - A former FairPrice team leader who worked with a colleague at the time to obtain $523,000 in bribes from multiple suppliers was sentenced to three years and two months’ jail on Monday.
See Hock Lam, 70, was also ordered to pay a penalty of $261,500. He will have to spend an additional 523 days behind bars if he cannot pay the amount.
See had earlier pleaded guilty to 10 counts of corruption.
His accomplice, Lim Kian Kok, 48, who used to be a senior team leader at the supermarket chain, was sentenced to four years and five months’ jail on March 31 after he pleaded guilty to 12 graft charges.
Lim was also ordered to pay a penalty of nearly $290,000, and will have to spend an additional 580 days behind bars if he fails to pay the amount.
The two men, who committed the offences from 2013 to 2020, had split their ill-gotten gains equally between them, each receiving $261,500.
Among the pair’s offences was ordering larger quantities of fish and seafood from suppliers that bribed them.

In earlier proceedings, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Pei Wei had said: “This caused potential harm to... FairPrice and/or its customers, as the goods... purchased may not have been the best available.
“As the country’s largest supermarket chain, (FairPrice) serves a large sector of the Singapore population, and the impact of corruption offences like the present may correspondingly be felt by many.”
DPP Tan told the court that See joined FairPrice in 1997 and later reported to Lim. See’s duties included helping Lim order crabs and prawns.

Lim, who is also known as Andrew, joined FairPrice in 2007 and oversaw its buying operations at Jurong Fishery Port when he became a senior team leader in 2013.
Lim had the discretion to determine from which suppliers to buy fish and by how much.
Shortly after he became a senior team leader, he approached See and asked the older man if he “wanted to make money”.

DPP Tan said: “Andrew told See that he intended to ask some of the suppliers at Jurong Fishery Port for money in return for purchasing more fish from them.
“He asked See to join him so See would support him in obtaining payments from suppliers... and would not complain to FairPrice about this arrangement.”
See agreed to the plan as he needed cash to feed his gambling habit. The pair later approached four suppliers for the bribes.
Other offenders linked to the suppliers were dealt with in court earlier.
They included Ngow Chun Siong, 44, who was then working for Fish Vision Agro-tech, and Heah Han Huat, 65, who ran Ocean Trust Trading.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Jail for ex-CAG staff who took bribes for issuing airside driving permits to unqualified workers​



Shaffiq Alkhatib
Court Correspondent

MAY 5, 2023

SINGAPORE – A former Changi Airport Group (CAG) support officer who accepted bribes to issue Airside Driving Permits (ADPs) to unqualified workers was sentenced to three years and two months’ jail on Friday.
Premkumar Jaya Kumar, 42, took $4,400 from people including a company director.
An ADP allows the permit holder to drive selected vehicles on any part of an airside except for taxiways and runways. An airside is the part of an airport terminal beyond passport and customs control, including places such as hangars and cargo loading areas.
Premkumar, who worked with CAG from Oct 6, 2015, to Dec 25, 2017, had issued the permits even though he knew that company director Diong Yao’s workers did not pass the requisite theory and practical tests.
At the time of the offences, Diong, 41, was a director at Singapura Logistics Support, while another man, Noordin Abdul Gaffor, 48, was then a supervisor at the firm. Their cases are still pending.
Premkumar also modified data in a CAG computer platform called the Apron Permit Issuance and Enforcement System (Apies) to falsify the workers’ profiles and show that they had purportedly passed their theory and practical tests.
He pleaded guilty to offences under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act and multiple counts of graft.

Besides the jail term, he was also ordered to pay a penalty of $7,500. Premkumar will spend an additional 15 days behind bars if he is unable to fork out this amount.
The prosecution said: “By committing these offences, the accused unleashed at least 42 untrained and unlicensed drivers on Changi Airport’s airside. The inherent danger these untrained drivers posed to human safety and property on the airside is exponential.”
Premkumar’s offences came to light when a 19-year-old Malaysian youth, who was then driving a baggage tractor in an airside area, collided with a parked SilkAir plane on Dec 8, 2017.

As a result, the aircraft sustained $795,000 in damage and was declared unfit to fly.
CAG then conducted an investigation and found out that the teenager’s Apies profile was inaccurate and that Premkumar had modified it.
A CAG manager then alerted the police on Dec 15, 2017.
Before committing the offences, Premkumar met Noordin, who was then sitting a theory test as he was applying for an ADP in March 2016.
According to court documents, Noordin later approached Premkumar and told him that his company was servicing a contract with Sats – Changi Airport’s main ground-handling and in-flight catering service provider – that required them to supply drivers at the airside.
Noordin also told Premkumar that the drivers have to obtain their ADPs quickly in order to start work soon.
Noordin asked him to bring forward these drivers’ practical driving test dates, and Premkumar then replied that he will consider the matter.

Deputy public prosecutors Tay Jingxi and Joshua Phang said that on Diong’s instructions sometime later, Noordin offered Premkumar at least $300 per driver whose ADP application he was able to “expedite” in this manner.
Premkumar agreed to this arrangement, which he knew was corrupt.
Among other things, he exercised leniency towards the drivers in their practical tests, ensuring that they passed them. Premkumar also accepted $2,000 in bribes from Diong.
On or before September 2016, Noordin told him that some workers had problems with their theory tests as they were not educated.
Noordin then asked Premkumar to help “expedite” their applications.
The prosecutors said: “(Premkumar) then came up with the idea of identifying existing Apies profiles belonging to valid ADP holders who were no longer working at Changi Airport, and modifying the particulars of these shell profiles to those of Noordin’s drivers.”
Premkumar received another $2,400 in bribes in 2016 and 2017. Improper ADPs were then issued to at least 42 drivers between September 2016 and December 2017.
His offences came to light in December 2017, and he surrendered to the police on Dec 19, 2019.
His bail was set at $25,000 on Friday, and he is expected to surrender at the State Courts on May 17 to begin serving his sentence.


Alfrescian (Inf)

ICA officer who received sexual favour and bribes of over $3k convicted of 8 graft charges, acquitted of 4​


Teo Hwee Peng was convicted on Tuesday of eight graft charges for receiving cash and sex from Liang on multiple occasions in 2018 and 2019. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Shaffiq Alkhatib
Court Correspondent

May 9, 2023

SINGAPORE - An Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer has been convicted of corruption for receiving sex and cash from a foreign sex worker who wanted to be arrested so that she could buy time and continue working here.
The sex worker Liang Qinglan knew that foreigners issued with a special pass (SP) could remain in Singapore to assist with investigations.
The Chinese national concluded that as long as she was not deported, she could still work.
In earlier proceedings, Deputy Public Prosecutor David Menon said: “(Liang) knew it was wrong to provide sexual services to an immigration officer in exchange for his help obtaining an SP, but obliged because she wanted to secure an SP so that she could remain in Singapore to work.”
Liang, who is 40 years old this year, had entered Singapore on May 28, 2018, on a social visit pass which expired on July 27 that year.
Some time between July and August 2018, Liang contacted ICA officer Teo Hwee Peng, 49. He said he could help her secure a special pass in return for an iPhone X.
Between July and October the same year, Teo invited himself to Liang’s home in Jurong West and they had sex.

After the encounter, Liang asked Teo for the procedure to extend her stay in Singapore. He said he would arrange for her to be arrested.
Teo, who previously worked in ICA’s Intel Ops Branch, had contacts who alerted him to potential immigration offenders.
He gave an informant Liang’s details, and the informant in turn alerted an ICA officer.

Liang was arrested on Oct 16, 2018. When asked whether she wanted to remain in Singapore to assist with a related ICA investigation, she agreed.
She paid a fine for overstaying and was issued an SP. Two days later, Teo and Liang met for a meal, which Liang paid.
She also offered to buy Teo an iPhone, but he declined it. Instead, he agreed to her offer of cash of between $2,100 and $2,200.
Later that month, Liang also loaned Teo 5,000 yuan (S$956). He repaid this sum.
The prosecution said that she later loaned him another 2,000 yuan but he did not repay this amount.

Teo, who has been suspended from duties by ICA since Nov 25, 2020, was convicted on Tuesday of eight graft charges for receiving cash and sex from Liang on multiple occasions in 2018 and 2019.
He was also acquitted of one graft charge linked to Liang and three similar charges involving another Chinese national Cheng Wenjuan.
He received the acquittals after Liang gave unclear and puzzling evidence involving a purported sexual favour, and following Ms Cheng’s death from suicide, said Principal District Judge Victor Yeo.
Ms Cheng, 32, had been accused of offences including multiple counts of graft when she was found dead at the foot of a block of flats in August 2021.
With the discharge amounting to an acquittal, Teo cannot be charged again for the same offences.
Liang was sentenced to 25 weeks’ jail a fine of $8,000 in December 2021 after she pleaded guilty to three counts of corruption involving Teo and a separate charge for offering sexual services online.
Teo, who is represented by lawyer Narayanan Vijya Kumar, is now out on bail of $50,000. His mitigation and sentencing will likely take place on June 26.
For each count of graft, an offender can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Kwa Kim Li fined $13,000 after being found guilty of misleading Lee Hsien Yang and sharing confidential information with PM Lee without LHY’s consent​

May 10, 2023
By Jewel Stolarchuk

Lawyer Kwa Kim Li was found guilty of making the false and misleading representation that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had never instructed her to change his will

A disciplinary tribunal has fined senior lawyer Kwa Kim Li a total of $13,000 and ordered her to pay Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) close to about $21,000 in costs and disbursements after finding her guilty of misconduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor.
The ruling was released on Friday (5 May) and represents the latest development in the ongoing dispute between founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s (LKY) children. The feud erupted following disagreements about the late elder statesman’s will and his desire to have their family home at 38 Oxley Road demolished after his death.
Ms Kwa Kim Li, who is Mr Lee’s wife Kwa Geok Choo’s niece, has played a central role in the saga as Mr Lee’s solicitor.
On Friday, she was ordered to pay $8,000 after being found guilty of making the false and misleading representation that LKY never instructed her to change his will dated 2 Nov 2012.
She was also found guilty of misleading LHY and Dr Lee Wei Ling (LWL) by omitting to disclose her communications with LKY between November 2013 and 13 Dec 2013 in response to their enquiries.
On top of this, Kwa was found to have breached confidentiality by sharing documents with LKY’s eldest son and current Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL), without the consent of LHY and LWL, the executors and trustees of their father’s will. She was charged with a $5,000 penalty for this.
The acts amount to misconduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor as an officer of the Supreme Court under section 83(2)(h) of the Legal Profession Act.
As the disciplinary tribunal found the harm committed by Kwa’s misconduct to be “low” and her culpability being “low to medium,” it ordered Kwa to pay penalties that it found to be “sufficient and appropriate to the misconduct committed.”
The tribunal also ordered Kwa to pay LHY costs in the sum of $12,000 and disbursements in the sum of $9,182.29.

The findings of the tribunal
The tribunal assessed two charges the Law Society and LHY brought, respectively.
The Law Society charged Kwa with knowingly disclosing confidential documents and information to LHL without the consent of the executors of the estate. The confidential information Kwa shared with the PM includes five previous wills, email trails between LKY and herself, and explanations for why LKY changed his previous wills.
Kwa admitted to the facts set out in this charge and admitted that these facts amounted to misconduct unbefitting of an advocate and solicitor. She, however, said that this is a breach of confidentiality of the lowest level as LKY would have wanted her to share the information with his children.

She added that she released the confidential information to LHL out of deep loyalty to her uncle, even though he did not specifically instruct her to do so.
The tribunal accepted that there is no evidence suggesting that Kwa was acting with any improper motives. It noted that she had a close personal relationship with her client and his children, who are her first cousins, with whom she grew up.
It, however, noted that it would have been clear to Kwa that she was dealing with sensitive family issues and that she should have acted strictly within her professional boundaries and exercised care and caution. The tribunal said that her misconduct was “her failure to scrupulously safeguard” LKY’s confidentiality.
Meanwhile, LHY, as the complainant, charged Kwa with misleading him and his sister by omitting and/or otherwise failing to disclose her communications with their father between November 2013 and 13 December 2013 in response to their enquiries.
She was also accused of making the false and misleading representation that LKY had never instructed her to change his will dated 2 November 2012.
The two emails that are the subject matter of LHY’s charge were sent by Kwa on 4 June 2015 and 22 June 2015.
The tribunal found that LHY and LWL’s email to Kwa on 3 June did not require reference to the Nov/Dec 2013 communications between Kwa and their father when she replied on 4 June. Based on the evidence it heard, the tribunal said it does not find the charge regarding the 4 June 2015 email to be made out on the facts.
The tribunal, however, found that Kwa did mislead LHY in her email on 22 June.
This time, the email LHY sent to Kwa clearly sought information on what she discussed with his father in Nov/Dec 2013.
LHY and LWL wanted to know the background that led to the signing of Will No. 7. Between Nov/Dec 2013, LKY had several discussions with Kwa about the changes he wanted to make to his will.
Specifically, LKY wanted to share the increase in value of 38 Oxley Road upon any degazetting to be shared equally between his three children instead of having it be retained by LHL, who was to be bequeathed the Oxley property.
He also wished to give all three children equal shares, and Kwa stated that she would prepare a codicil to affect his wish for his signature that week or when he was ready. She added that she had “some thoughts” on the Oxley Road property and would call LKY later that day.
On 13 Dec 2013, LKY sent another email to Kwa asking for a further amendment to his will regarding the bequest for two carpets to LHY.
The tribunal agreed that it was this information that LHY sought from Kwa. But when asked for the background which led to the signing of Will No. 7, Kwa did not refer to her discussions with LKY at all and replied:
“After your father signed Will no. 6 dated 2nd November 2012, he did not instruct me to change his Will. I first learnt about Will no. 7 via email from Fern and Lin Hoe.”
Wong Lin Hoe served as Private Secretary to Lee Kuan Yew.
Kwa told the tribunal that her statement was true and complete as she was not involved at all in the preparation or execution of Will No. 7, but the tribunal did not accept her submissions. It said:
“The issues are quite simple. The first question is whether the November / December 2013 communications should have been disclosed in response to a query on the background to the signing of Will No. 7.
“The second question is whether the omission to disclose made the response misleading. The third question is whether it was true that the Respondent did not receive any instructions to change the Testator’s Will.”
Noting that Kwa failed to disclose the Nov/Dec 2013 communications when asked and gave the “unequivocal impression” that she had no knowledge as to how Will No. 7 came about, the tribunal said:
“We find that the nub of the queries by LHL and LWL was to find out how Will No. 7 came about, and not the formalities of its execution. It is clear that the Respondent knew that the Testator wanted to change the 6th Will and that the changes related to the shares amongst the children in the Oxley Road property.”
Asserting that Kwa did receive instructions relating to the changes that were shortly made, the tribunal found that Kwa’s omission to disclose the Nov/Dec 2013 emails in her email of 22 June 2015 is misleading. It added:
“We further find that her statement in that same email that she did not receive any instructions from the Testator to change his Will is false.”
The tribunal, however, found no direct evidence that Ms Kwa knowingly or deliberately misled the recipients of the 22 June 2015 email. There was also no evidence or even suggestion that she chose to avoid disclosure for personal or any partisan purposes.
Despite this, the tribunal noted that Ms Kwa should have been complete and accurate in her response. It said: “We find that had the Respondent exercised due care and diligence, she ought to have disclosed the November / December 2013 communications in the 22 June 2015 email and ought not have stated that she had received no instructions to change the Testator’s Will.”


Alfrescian (Inf)

5 weeks’ jail for former FairPrice storekeeper who received $4,320 in bribes​


Chua Teow Hym took bribes from representatives of two seafood suppliers to advance their business interests with FairPrice. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Shaffiq Alkhatib
Court Correspondent

May 19, 2023

SINGAPORE - A FairPrice storekeeper took bribes totalling $4,320 from representatives of two seafood suppliers to advance their business interests with the supermarket chain.
In an attempt to cover his tracks, Chua Teow Hym later deleted a WhatsApp conversation he had with one of the representatives after the man, who was then under investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), advised him to do so.
From the total amount received in bribes, he managed to return $500 to one of his alleged accomplices.
On Friday, Chua, 61, who was a FairPrice storekeeper from 2009 to at least November 2021, was sentenced to five weeks’ jail and a fine of $2,000.
He had pleaded guilty to two graft charges involving $3,600 and one count of obstructing the course of justice. Five other charges involving the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.
He was also ordered to pay a penalty of $3,820, which reflects the total amount of bribes taken minus the $500 repayment.
The prosecution said that Chua had taken the bribes from Lim Wei Jian, 33, Ng Keng Meng, 58, and Lim Poh Heng, 70. The trio’s cases are still pending.

The Lims are father and son. At the time of the offences, Lim Poh Heng was a partner at Kiang Huat Sea Products Co while his son managed the firm. Ng was a partner at Nam Soon Sin Kee & Co at the time.
While working for FairPrice, Chua’s tasks included receiving stocks from suppliers and weighing them to ensure they matched the quantity ordered. He also had the discretion to reject stocks if they were not fresh.
Chua had received cash and gifts from his alleged accomplices as he knew that they wanted to forge good relationships with him due to his position at FairPrice.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Pei Wei said that he did so despite knowing it was wrong for him to receive gifts from the suppliers and accepting such items went against FairPrice’s employee code of conduct.
She added that on at least three occasions from 2010 to 2015, he accepted a red packet from Lim Poh Heng on Chinese New Year. Each red packet contained at least $200.
The DPP told the court that the older man later sent Chua messages via WhatsApp, asking for his help to buy a surplus of some fish from his firm. Chua then agreed to do so.
According to court documents, Chua also took bribes from Lim Wei Jian.
On two occasions in 2016 and 2017, Chua asked Ng for monetary loans, and Ng handed him $3,000. Chua later repaid him $500.

Court documents did not disclose how the offences came to light but in October 2020, CPIB started an investigation against Lim Wei Jian, who told Chua about it.
The authorities also seized Lim Wei Jian’s mobile phone.
DPP Tan said that in January 2021, Lim Wei Jian told Chua that they should delete the WhatsApp messages they had exchanged in a bid to prevent CPIB from detecting their dealings.
Chua then deleted their entire conversation some time on or before Jan 31, 2021.
This offence was discovered when the CPIB examined Lim Wei Jian’s mobile phone and found that certain messages from him to Chua had been deleted.
In an earlier statement, the FairPrice Group (FPG) said that since this incident, it has conducted thorough reviews of its procurement processes and implemented actions to strengthen its controls and governance where needed.
Its spokesman added: “(We have) zero tolerance for any behaviour that violates (our) code of conduct. The FPG code of conduct lays down principles of personal and professional conduct, and we require all our employees to hold themselves to these standards... FPG remains committed to moderating the cost of living in Singapore.”


Alfrescian (Inf)

CPIB investigates Seatrium, formerly Sembcorp Marine, for alleged corruption in Brazil​


In March, Sembcorp Marine said that its Brazilian subsidiary, Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz was being probed for alleged “irregularities”. PHOTO: SEMBCORP MARINE
Colin Tan
Senior Correspondent

May 31, 2023

SINGAPORE – The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) announced that it has started investigations against Seatrium, formerly known as Sembcorp Marine.
The anti-corruption watchdog said on Wednesday it is “acting on information received” and that it has commenced investigations against the offshore and marine engineering company, as well as individuals “on alleged corruption offences in Brazil”.
Seatrium is the entity formed by the merger of Sembcorp Marine and Keppel Offshore & Marine earlier this year. The combined group, described as one of the world’s largest O&M energy engineering companies with a total order book of almost $20 billion, was renamed in early April.
When contacted by The Straits Times, a CPIB spokesman declined to provide further details because investigations are ongoing.
In its statement, the bureau underlined Singapore’s strict zero tolerance towards corruption, adding that it will investigate “without fear or favour”. It will not hesitate to take action against any parties involved in corrupt activities.
In March, Sembcorp Marine said its wholly-owned Brazilian subsidiary, Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz, was being probed for alleged “irregularities” by the authorities there.
The proceedings were related to past conduct linked to an ongoing probe into money laundering and graft activities in connection with Operation Car Wash, it added.

The nationwide criminal investigation was launched by the federal police of Brazil in 2014 to look into money laundering activities and was later expanded to include allegations of corruption.
In April, Seatrium said Brazil’s preliminary administrative proceedings against its subsidiary had been suspended.
Separately, six former senior management staff of Keppel O&M were given stern warnings by the CPIB in January over bribe payments related to Brazil’s Petrobras contracts.
The six allegedly conspired with one another to give bribes amounting to about US$55 million (S$73 million) to foreign consultants involved in Keppel O&M’s business interests in Brazil.
The money was then used to pay bribes to officials of the Brazilian state-owned company, pertaining to rig-building contracts that it or its related firms awarded to Keppel O&M.
Keppel O&M also said in January that it had made full payment of the fines and damages payable worth 343.6 million reais (S$88.3 million) to Brazil under a leniency agreement.
Seatrium’s share price closed at 12.3 cents on Wednesday, up 2.5 per cent.


Alfrescian (Inf)
Catching small fries does not deter the big sharks. The big sharks's corruption is legalized. So, technically there is no corruption here.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Seatrium, formerly Sembcorp Marine, says CPIB probe relates to events ‘prior to 2015’; shares fall 1.6%​


Seatrium, formerly known as Sembcorp Marine, is one of the world’s largest offshore and marine engineering companies. PHOTO: SEMBCORP MARINE

Ven Sreenivasan
Associate Editor & Senior Columnist

June 1, 2023

SINGAPORE – Seatrium on Thursday said investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) into the company, formerly known as Sembcorp Marine, relate to events that occurred prior to 2015 and predate the merger this year with Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M).
Seatrium, which was so named in April after the February 2023 merger, disclosed this in a Singapore Exchange filing before the market opened. It called for a trading halt earlier in the morning.
“The company is unable to comment further at this stage as the investigations are still ongoing,” Seatrium said in the filing. It added that it is cooperating with CPIB in its investigations and will make appropriate announcements in the event of any material developments.
Seatrium was responding to CPIB’s announcement on Wednesday evening that “acting on information received”, the agency had begun investigations into the offshore and marine engineering company, as well as unnamed individuals in it, on alleged corruption offences in Brazil.
Seatrium shares fell on the news, retreating as much 3.3 per cent to 11.9 cents after trading in the counter resumed at 10.30am, before paring losses to end 1.6 per cent down at 12.1 cents.
The counter was the most heavily traded stock, with 458.19 million shares changing hands, compared with its average three-month volume of 8.66 million shares.
The director of a bank-linked broking house, who declined to be named, said: “These investigations are by nature going to be long-drawn. In the meantime, they will cast a shadow over the company and the stock price. The market does not know how serious or severe things will get.“

Following the February merger of the two entities, Seatrium became one of the world’s largest offshore and marine engineering companies, with a total order book of over $20 billion.
But not everyone was bearish on the outlook for Seatrium.
In a report released on Thursday, CGS-CIMB analysts Lim Siew Khee and Izabella Tan maintained their “buy” calls on the stock, with a target price of 19 cents.

The analysts said this was based on the company’s strong order book, which they estimated to be at $23.6 billion as at May 23, and a new management team that was appointed earlier in March. Some downside risks, however, would be severe cost overruns and shareholder Keppel Corp significantly reducing its stake in Seatrium, they added.
The latest investigations follow a March 2023 announcement when Sembcorp Marine said its wholly owned Brazilian subsidiary, Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz, was being probed for alleged “irregularities” by the authorities there. The proceedings were related to past conduct linked to an ongoing probe into money laundering and graft activities in connection with Operation Car Wash, it added.
In 2012, SembCorp Marine secured seven drillship contracts from Brazil’s Sete Brasil amounting to US$5.6 billion. The Brazilian agent connected to the contracts, Guilherme Esteves de Jesus, was charged with money laundering and jailed in 2020. The services of Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz’s previous president were terminated in 2015, and he has been under investigation in his personal capacity since 2019.
The nationwide criminal investigation was launched by the federal police of Brazil in 2014 to look into money-laundering activities and was later expanded to include allegations of corruption.
But in April, Seatrium said Brazil’s preliminary administrative proceedings against its subsidiary had been suspended.
Separately, six former senior management staff of Keppel O&M were given stern warnings by CPIB in January over bribe payments related to Brazil’s Petrobras contracts.
The six allegedly conspired with one another to give bribes amounting to about US$55 million (S$74.4 million) to foreign consultants involved in Keppel O&M’s business interests in Brazil. The money was then used to pay bribes to officials of the Brazilian state-owned company, pertaining to rig-building contracts that it or its related firms awarded to Keppel O&M.
Keppel O&M said in January that it had made full payment of the fines and damages payable worth 343.6 million reais (S$88.3 million) to Brazil under a leniency agreement.
In its Thursday filing, Seatrium said: “The company wishes to reiterate it is committed to the highest standards of compliance with anti-corruption laws and does not condone and will not tolerate any improper conduct.”
It added that it has a strict compliance programme and “continuously works to ensure that policies and procedures are in place to prevent any violation of any anti-corruption laws applicable to its operations”.


Alfrescian (Inf)

SPH Media files police report after potential offences flagged in circulation data probe​


SPH Media said it will cooperate fully with the police following recommendations made in a report by the organisation’s audit and risk committee. PHOTO: ST FILE

Goh Yan Han
Political Correspondent

June 21, 2023

SINGAPORE – SPH Media Group has filed a police report after potential offences were flagged in an investigation into the overstating of circulation numbers.
The media company, which publishes The Straits Times, said in a statement on Wednesday that it will cooperate fully with the police, following recommendations made in a report by the organisation’s audit and risk committee. It had been tasked by SPH Media Holdings’ board in January to look into the inflated numbers.
During an internal briefing for SPH Media publications, Mr Max Loh, who chairs the committee, said the police report was not made against specific individuals or entities but comprised the findings of the investigation.
He added: “We cannot say more than that because it will prejudice police investigations. We’ve laid out what the issues or the findings are. And I think we really have to leave it to the relevant authorities, which, in this case, are the police, to figure out how they’re going to proceed and maybe if at all, they want to proceed.”
When asked about the specific offences that were laid out in the report but redacted, Mr Loh said it was not for the committee to determine the offences. The police have access to the full, unredacted report, he said.
“We’ve drawn a line in the sand, basically, so that we can collectively as an organisation move forward with our own mission and purpose... not being unduly burdened by these legacy things that have bogged us down for the past months,” said the former managing partner of EY Asean and Singapore and a member of SPH Media’s board.
The report, which is available on SPH Media’s website, also determined that there was no evidence found that the journalism and editorial departments were involved in the overstatement of circulation numbers.

The committee had commissioned legal advisers from Allen & Gledhill to assist, and in turn, it appointed accounting firm Deloitte to help with forensic discovery and analysis of relevant data.
SPH Media had said in January that several senior employees had been taken to task or had left the company after inconsistencies were found in reporting circulation data.
The matter came to light after an internal review of processes for the period from September 2020 to March 2022. It was during this time, in December 2021, that SPH Media was created following a restructuring of its then listed parent company Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

When asked how many people were interviewed for Wednesday’s report, Mr Loh did not give an exact number but confirmed that it included more than 10 people from SPH Media and SPH and that it was “quite thorough and comprehensive”.
It did not, however, include the four staff members who had left the company in January as they had been interviewed for the earlier internal audit, he said.
In the 14-page report presented to the media group’s board on Tuesday, the committee said Allen & Gledhill had found the actions taken against the employees and former employees in January to be “reasonably justified in the circumstances” and in compliance with SPH Media’s policies.
As for employees who were also involved but are still with the company, Allen & Gledhill said they had acted under the instructions of their superiors. They also appeared to have operated under the mistaken belief that the practices directed by the superiors were accepted practices in the company.
The law firm, which reported its findings to the audit and risk committee on June 16, found that SPH had overstated its daily circulation numbers by 82,600 using data from August 2021.

This comprised 49,000 bulk copies via the Newspapers in Education (NIE) Fund that were reported but not distributed; 5,000 from a Y Deal; 15,000 from an X Barter deal; 1,900 school copies, 2,300 airline copies, 9,000 agency copies and 400 from those who had subscribed to all-in-one packages.
The total number accounted for about 10 per cent of reported daily average circulation.
SPH Media did not identify the parties mentioned in the report.
Chief executive Teo Lay Lim had in January sent an e-mail to advertisers saying that circulation data is not used as a basis for SPH Media’s advertising packages. Instead, it uses data on reach and readership from independent third-party research agencies.
SPH Media also said in its statement on Wednesday that there was no material accounting impact to the financial statements of the company for the financial year that ended in August 2022.
The probe found that there were several matters that could potentially constitute offences, citing similar cases in Hong Kong and the United States.
Apart from the police report recommended by Allen & Gledhill, which the committee concurred with, the probe committee also set out various recommendations for the media group.
“SPH Media Group should take the opportunity to evaluate its risk culture, enhance its risk management practices and continually improve its internal controls and processes,” it said.
This includes building a culture where people feel they can speak openly about risks and challenge others, including those in higher positions, who should then positively address any concerns.
Leaders should also set the tone for a quality and risk-oriented culture that balances commercial considerations with risk management.
The committee also noted that SPH Media “has a legacy of operating within individual departments, given the specialised nature of each operation or function”.
It said the firm should perform a comprehensive review of its control environment and practices to balance operation effectiveness and efficiency with its expected standards of conduct and accountability.
Ms Teo said during the briefing on Wednesday that she was as worried as any employee about people who think SPH Media is untrustworthy following this incident.
“The only thing I can say is that if we saw this and we are doing something about it, I hope that those who are reasonable and fair out there will believe that we all want to do what’s right and what’s responsible,” she said.

How the numbers were inflated​

The report noted that printing and distributing bulk copies to third parties appeared to be an acceptable practice in the newspaper industry, and was not illegal or prohibited under the Audit Bureau of Circulation, Singapore rules. However, copies cannot be counted if they are returned, unsold or undelivered.
There were several instances when this was done, stated the report, which is available on SPH Media’s website.
It added that those involved in overstating circulation numbers and who knew that undelivered copies were included in the reported numbers were from the circulation division.
“There has been no evidence sighted to suggest that the (SPH) board or its senior management (save for [redacted]) were involved in this,” it said.
The report cited examples of how the numbers were overstated, like the printing of ST copies for secondary schools that had requested to change their package deal to include only digital copies.
Another example was the printing copies for school reading corners amid the Covid-19 pandemic when the schools had asked for delivery to be paused. These copies were then sent to a Kaki Bukit warehouse to be disposed of or later distributed.
There were also bulk copies purchased under the NIE Fund to shore up circulation numbers in annual reports to cushion the fall in print circulation numbers and meet key performance indicator targets for the circulation division. Of these, some were disposed of, while there were also digital copies for which no evidence was found on whether they were ever distributed or accessed.
The NIE Fund was originally set up to pay for the distribution of newspaper samples to students, needy families, halfway houses and charities.

How overseas courts have dealt with those who inflate newspaper circulation numbers​

There have been cases, in Hong Kong and the United States, where employees of news outlets were taken to task for inflating circulation figures.
At the Standard and Sunday Standard in Hong Kong, anti-graft officials arrested six people in 1997 in connection with a scheme to inflate circulation figures for the Hong Kong Standard Newspaper and its sister paper, the Sunday Standard.
Three executives were jailed for terms ranging from four to six months after they were convicted of conspiring with two others, including newspaper tycoon Sally Aw Sian, to defraud companies and people who purchase or might purchase advertising space in the newspapers between 1993 and 1997.
Among other things, they were found to have inflated circulation figures to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), used a bogus company to purchase excess print newspapers, and disposed of excess newspapers purportedly purchased by the bogus company.
Ms Aw, the adopted daughter of Tiger Balm businessman Aw Boon Haw and executive chairman of Sing Tao Holdings, a publicly listed company that published the newspapers, was not prosecuted.
Hong Kong’s then secretary of justice cited a lack of evidence against her and the public interest as reasons not to prosecute, since doing so might have ruined the newspaper and led to a loss of jobs when unemployment was on the rise.
In 2006, nine former employees and contractors of US news outlets Newsday and Hoy pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent scheme between 2000 and 2004 to inflate paid circulation data to induce advertisers to buy advertising space.
Media group Tribune Co, which ran the newspapers, agreed to pay US$15 million in a settlement with the US government.
Newsday and Spanish-language newspaper Hoy Publications admitted that between 2001 and 2004, their employees “systematically inflated” circulation numbers in books and records and lied to ABC, Reuters reported.
The agreement, under which the two newspapers avoided prosecution by the US Attorney’s Office, was reached after they set aside US$90 million to compensate advertisers misled by the false numbers.
Newsday admitted that senior managers told distributors to lie to auditors.
Some of the inflated figures came from Newsday employees posing as customers and buying large quantities of the paper throughout Long Island, New York, prosecutors said.


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SPH Media circulation saga: 8 key findings and what went wrong​


The findings led legal advisers from Allen & Gledhill and the committee to agree that some of the matters could constitute offences. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Jean Iau

June 21, 2023

SINGAPORE - Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) overstated its daily circulation numbers, among other findings, a report by SPH Media’s audit and risk committee showed on Wednesday.
These findings led legal advisers from Allen & Gledhill and the committee to agree that some of the matters could constitute offences, and that a police report ought to be filed.
The names of individuals and companies involved in the findings were redacted in the report.
Here are the key findings by the legal advisers.

Areas where potential offences could have been committed​

1. The Newspapers in Education (NIE) Fund and bulk copies​

Bulk copies were understood by those interviewed to mean non-subscription-based news publications sold and distributed at a discounted rate or for free in large numbers.
These copies would be bought or sponsored by corporate customers, or paid for out of the NIE Fund at a heavily discounted rate.
While the details of who and when the fund was set up could not be confirmed, it dated back to as early as 2000.

It was set up to pay for the distribution of bulk copies to students, needy families, halfway houses and charities to increase SPH publications’ readership.
This practice was common knowledge. Management reports by the circulation division that were presented to the chief executive and board referred to “bulk” and “booster” copies. Booster copies were understood to be used to increase circulation numbers.
Revenue into the fund came from packages sold under an education deal, a third-party contract, the sale of PSLE Oral Guidebooks, journalism workshops conducted for schools, editorial write-ups and roadshows or promotional events for smaller advertisers.

Some clients were not aware that the money they paid to SPH would be used to buy bulk copies.
The bulk copies shored up circulation numbers in SPH’s annual reports, cushioned the fall in print circulation numbers, and allowed the circulation division to meet key performance indicator targets.
These targets relating to circulation numbers were discussed with senior management and approved as part of the then listed company’s annual budget.
The number of NIE bulk copies would usually be the highest in August as these numbers would be used in SPH’s annual report.
In recent years, more digital NIE bulk copies, which cost less than print copies, were added to cushion the fall in print circulation and maintain circulation numbers.

The fund was closed in May 2022 following the discovery of the overstatement of numbers in March that year.
The board did not appear to be aware of the operational aspects of the fund, and only the circulation division seemed to know about the source of money paid into the fund.
What was wrong: In August 2021 alone, bulk copies through the NIE Fund which were reported but not distributed accounted for 49,000, or more than half, of the overstated average daily circulation number.
Printing and distributing bulk copies to third parties is not illegal or prohibited under the rules of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) Singapore.
However, copies cannot be counted if they are returned, unsold or undelivered.
This means that the circulation numbers in SPH’s annual reports for FY2020 and 2021, and the biannual and annual submissions to the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and SingStat were inflated.
Those who knew about the overstatement of circulation numbers and that the bulk copies that were not delivered but yet reported were from the circulation division.
No evidence suggests that the board or senior management, aside from one individual whose name was redacted, were involved.
There are also grounds to suggest improper accounting of the NIE Fund as financial reporting standards require that an entity recognise revenue when it satisfies its obligations under a contract with a customer.
However, some money earned from customers were booked into the NIE Fund as liabilities instead of revenue.
Likewise, the NIE bulk copies which were not sold or distributed in a transaction with a third party should not have been recognised as circulation revenue.

2. X Barter Deal​

Between 2013 and 2022, SPH had a barter, or exchange, agreement with a news company identified only as X.
The arrangement involved X providing its e-paper digital subscriptions to SPH in exchange for 10,000 Straits Times (ST) and 5,000 Business Times (BT) digital subscriptions.
Only seven digital codes for ST and BT were accessed during an 18-month period ended July 29, 2022.
The amount paid to X by SPH and vice versa offset each other, and no real cash changed hands.
The deal aimed to expand SPH news publications’ outreach and distribute them in other jurisdictions at zero or low real costs. The deal also sought to promote the publications locally by building subscriptions with complimentary access to foreign news publications.
While the board was aware of the existence of barter deals, there is no evidence that they were told of the operational details of these deals.
What was wrong: While barter deals between media organisations are legitimate and long-established practices and not, in and of themselves, improper, the barter deal could have evolved into a questionable arrangement if entered into for the sole purpose of inflating circulation numbers and revenue without a genuine intention to execute the arrangement.
Red flags in the X Barter Deal include unexplained variances in the terms and conditions of the deal, and the absence of evidence showing the distribution of the digital activation codes.
If the deal was not a genuine arrangement, the corresponding revenue and expenses should not have been recognised, and the circulation numbers should not have been counted.

Other findings from the investigation​

3. School copies​

SPH publications were supplied to schools under two arrangements.
Under the first deal, SPH supplied secondary schools with a print and digital package of both the IN Paper and ST.
For FY2020, an employee directed the circulation division to stop printing and delivering ST print copies to schools at the schools’ request, but to continue reporting these copies as part of ST’s print circulation numbers.
No ST print copies were in fact printed or delivered under this deal from FY2020 onwards.
The following year, the package was revised to exclude the ST print copy, leading to a reduction of 1,900 daily circulation numbers for ST print copies. However, the circulation division was directed to use the NIE Fund to print more print copies to plug the gap in circulation targets for that financial year.
The circulation division continued to print copies of the IN Paper, when schools wanted only the digital copy. Printed copies of IN Paper were delivered to an SPH warehouse in Kaki Bukit and disposed of.
The second arrangement involved reading-corner print and digital copies of SPH news publications placed in tertiary schools.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, when schools requested to pause the delivery of print copies for their reading corners owing to school closures, these copies were still printed, sent to the Kaki Bukit warehouse, and eventually disposed of or stored and redistributed later.
However, these copies were included in SPH’s reported circulation numbers.
The number of copies that were sent to Kaki Bukit during the school closures and disposed of is not known.
The report said there was no available evidence that the SPH’s board or its senior management, aside from some redacted names, knew about the issues surrounding the school copies.

4. Avatar copies​

“Avatar” was understood among interviewees who were aware of the term to mean “throw away”.
It referred to the NIE bulk copies and the reading-corner copies which were not distributed during the school closures but instead disposed of.
The bulk copies were stored in the print centre, and on the instructions of the circulation division, shredded and sold to a third-party waste collector.
They were also delivered to the client at a later date, or delivered to halfway houses and charities in case of audit checks.
The reading-corner copies were printed during school closures and delivered to Kaki Bukit, and some were eventually disposed of.
It could not be determined when the practice of disposing of print copies started, how many print copies were not delivered and instead disposed of, or how many copies were delivered to clients, halfway houses or charities.
Only employees in the circulation division knew about “Avatar”. There is no evidence to suggest that the board was aware of the practice of disposing print copies or the term “Avatar”.

5. Y deal​

From 2013 to March 2022, an entity identified only as Y paid SPH royalty fees monthly to print and distribute 5,000 daily copies of ST.
These were reported as part of SPH’s circulation numbers even after the arrangement ended in February 2021.
As instructed by an unnamed individual, Y was charged a nominal sum from November 2021 onwards to allow the 5,000 copies to continue being reported in SPH’s circulation numbers.

6. Airline copies​

From October 2018, an unnamed airline had an arrangement with SPH where it paid SPH each month for unlimited digital downloads of various SPH media and news titles such as ST, BT, Lianhe Wanbao, Shin Min Daily New, Lianhe Zaobao, Berita Harian and Tamil Murasu.
About 2,500 daily digital copies were reported in SPH’s circulation numbers, although only about 110 to 220 copies were downloaded daily.

7. Agency subscriptions​

SPH had an agreement with two agencies from Oct 1, 2019 to Sept 30, 2022, where it supplied about 4,500 digital coupon passes to each agency for a three-year access to ST online on the smartphone app and Web browser at a certain price.
Due to system constraints, two subscription codes were created per pass, with one subscription recorded at full price and the other at a 100 per cent discount, resulting in a double-counting of digital copies reported in the circulation numbers.

8. All-in-one subscription packages​

These packages were introduced in 2011, and provided subscribers with print and digital copies. Around 2016, some subscribers asked that the print copies not be delivered, but still paid the same amount for the package.
SPH continued to print these copies, which were likely disposed of, and reported them in its circulation numbers.


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Director at research department under Prime Minister’s Office charged with corruption​



Samuel Devaraj

June 23, 2023

SINGAPORE - A director at the organisation that sets the national direction for research and development has been accused of taking bribes in exchange for advancing the business interest of a company.
Henry Wong Chuen Yuen, director of programmes and the central innovation cluster at the National Research Foundation (NRF), was charged on Friday with one count of corruption.
Wong, 53, is also member of the project evaluation panel at the Built Environment Technology Alliances (Beta).
Between May and August 2021, he allegedly agreed to accept gratification in the form of 30 per cent shareholding in the firm Smart Illumination from its director Lee Tze Boon.
This was purportedly a reward for advancing the company’s business interest in its application for grant funding from Beta.
Lee, 50, was also charged with one count of corruption on Friday.
The NRF was set up in 2006 under the Prime Minister’s Office. It sets the national direction for research and development by enacting policies, plans and strategies.

In court, the two men indicated that they would be engaging their own lawyer.
They will return to court on July 13.
For corruption, Wong and Lee can each be fined up to $100,000, jailed up to five years or both.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Why the UN Should Regulate Singapore’s Dangerous Sand Imports​

For nations like Malaysia and Indonesia, the profit that can be made selling off a precious natural resource is often too great to resist.
By Piyali Banergee
June 28, 2023

Why the UN Should Regulate Singapore’s Dangerous Sand Imports

A sand mining operation in Malaysia.

Credit: Depositphotos
Indonesia’s recent announcement that it is ending its 2007 ban on sand exports to Singapore comes as no surprise. It fits a broad and perplexing pattern of flagrant disregard by Southeast Asian governments for their countries’ natural environments. Given Singapore’s wealth, the temptation for neighboring nations, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia, to sell off their sand for immediate monetary gain appears simply too great to resist. It’s understandable, but decidedly, if not dangerously, shortsighted.

Marine sand is the first line of defense against sea level rises, which, if the predictions of scientists are correct, will soon be inundating Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s low-lying shores, putting its people and property at high risk and incurring significant economic losses.

The UN Calls for Sand Mining Sustainability

According to a 2022 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, much greater awareness is needed about the hazards inherent in the “extraction, sourcing, use, and management” of sand. No clearer example of the need for global sand extraction regulations exists than the sand bazaar free-for-all example set by Singapore, Southeast Asia’s leading consumer of marine sand.

The UNEP claims that sand extraction remains “largely ungoverned in many regions of the world.” This is certainly the case with Singapore’s import of sand, which promotes rampant sand dredging and perpetuates a clear and present eco-danger for the region. Put another way, Singapore has created an environmental conscience-free zone, extending back decades, that has harmed its neighbors’ shoreline protections, while abetting its own territorial expansion.

Long the dominant sand buyer in Asia, commissioning droves of dredgers to pluck up sand from every nation with coastlines in the region, Singapore has generally played according to its own rules – or rather, no environmental rules at all. It purchases what it wants when it wants, the environmental consequences to other nations be damned.

Singapore, the Sand Magnet

Not a year goes by that Singapore doesn’t court its neighbors, offering tens of millions of Singapore dollars to pull, like an army of magnets, millions of tons of sand from their over-exploited and increasingly sand-barren shores. Things are particularly bad in Malaysia, where it is no state secret that the country’s decades of sand sales to its rich neighbor are effectively denuding its national shores of suitable reclamation sand. This serves not only to provide habitat for essential aquamarine biodiversity but also to protect against encroaching coastal erosion, which is critical to inland protection as global sea levels rise and climate change-induced super-storms loom on the horizon.

Indeed, in 2021, according to U.N. Comtrade, Singapore paid Malaysia around $424 million for the right to dig up sea sand along the Malacca Straits and ship millions of tons to Tekong Island and Tuas Port to support the miniature nation’s ever-expanding list of land reclamation projects.

Where are all those boatloads of Singapore dollars going?

These staggering annual sums of sand, extracted even after Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad issued a blanket sand export ban in 2018, continue to aggravate coastal erosion and deplete the shores of their vital, stabilizing resources. Much of this sand is said to be extracted from the waters around Johor, the Malaysian state directly adjacent to Singapore. According to Malaysiakini, the Sultan of Johor has in the past profited handsomely from sand sales, through Mados Sdn Bhd, a sand extraction company owned by the royal family. The current sultan, Sultan Ibrahim Ishmail, is listed as a director of the company, together with the remaining shareholders, which include “his second wife and nine out of 10 children.”

In 2002, according to the Malaysiakini report, the Johor state government granted Mados a concession to extract sea sand in two areas – at Ramunia Shoal and Kukup in southern Johor. More recently, in 2014, Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Idris also became involved in two major Malaysian reclamation projects. They were led by Benalec Holdings Bnh, and required the extraction of huge volumes of Johor sea sand. Whether Benalec Holdings has exported sea sand to Singapore through one of its land reclamation and dredging subsidiaries remains unclear.

But there’s reason to believe that Mados is supporting sand exports to Singapore, through a third-party proxy company. For instance, in 2022, a complaint was filed by Mighty Earth against Mado’s Holdings Sdn Bhd, which stated that “the primary beneficial owner of Mados’s Holdings Sdn Bhd (a Sultan of a state of Malaysia) has been using a third-party ‘proxy’ company (Nadi Mesra Sdn Bhd) to develop oil palm plantations,” while alleging that “no HCV [High Conservation Values] assessments were conducted prior to any land clearing.”

If indeed the sultan and/or any of his family members or companies held or controlled by them are still involved in exporting Johor’s sand to Singapore, he and his family should consider their duty of care to the people of the state. Johor’s shores continue to be degraded, year after year, and one year, the sand, for all practical purposes, may be virtually gone.

Today, with the lifting of Indonesia’s decade-and-a-half sand ban, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appears to be ready to take up where Johor may have left off. One needs only recall the reasons why its original sand ban was put in place: the multiple disappearances of islands, swallowed up by the environmental ravages of relentless sand dredging. That the current president, the elected caretaker for the more than 18,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, would choose to ignore the havoc Singapore-bound dredging will do to his people’s homeland is both remarkable and disappointing.

Indonesia’s low-lying coastlines are already vulnerable to rising global sea levels, so to blithely permit the systematic strip-mining of Indonesia’s national shores is the height of irresponsibility. Jokowi needs to answer these questions: How many islands will simply vanish as a result of his new policy? And was his shift in policy even debated during the last election cycle, or was the deal between Indonesia and Singapore concluded quietly behind closed doors after Jokowi’s re-election in 2019?

What’s even more surprising is that Indonesia has actually been selling sand to Singapore for many years, despite its so-called 2007 sand export ban. In fact, Singapore has reported to U.N. Comtrade that it bought $76 million worth of sand from Indonesia in 2017, followed by $78 million in 2018, $69 million in 2019, $55 million in 2020, and $85 million in 2021. This amounts to a total of $363 million over five years. That’s some kind of sand ban. At prevailing market prices, it amounts to roughly 30 million tons of sand over five years – or the equivalent of about one year of Malaysia’s sand exports to Singapore.

Puzzlingly, while Singapore reported purchasing a total of $363 million in sand from Indonesia between 2017 to 2021, Indonesia reported sales of only $243 million during this same time frame to U.N. Comtrade. That’s a difference of $120 million, or more than 48 percent of the total reported by Singapore. So, what accounts for the difference? Where did this extra money go?

How Will It End?

It appears that Indonesia is poised to become the new Malaysia, selling off its precious natural resources at the expense of its own citizens’ national bounty – and, eventually, their safety. All the while, the coastlines of its wealthy neighbor will continue to expand, even as those of Indonesia and Malaysia shrink. All for a relatively insignificant amount of money.

And while Singapore expands – doling out cash to its poorer neighbors eager to sell off their irreplaceable natural heritage, dredger by dredger, barge by barge – the U.N. looks on, a helpless bystander. As always on this issue, Singapore plays and wins according to its own rules – which is to say, by no environmental rules at all.


Alfrescian (Inf)
There is no cronyism in Singapore ok. All the scions of the elites get their jobs and opportunities on merit.


Monday, July 3, 2023​


There is a post that is going the rounds in Facebook and Whatsapp about Ravindran, the son of Minister Shan. Ravi is CEO of LivSpace, an interior design platform. Although no specific claims were made, the innuendo is Ravi secured the renovation works for 26 Ridout Road, and possibly other projects from SLA.

This is possibly defamatory in essence and I would caution all to be careful what you share, not just to avoid legal problems, but in fairness to other parties involved. Possibly Ravi had the 26 Ridout Rd part of the renovation funded by Minister Shan. That is clearly a private affair. As to the URA part of the maintenance and restoration works, and the wider SLA projects, it’s pure conjecture.

In view of the rumours swirling round, Kenneth Jeyaratnam, in his latest blog, asked SLA to make a statement as to whether Ravi had been favored with a slew of projects. It is the right thing to do.

JK wrote of “blatant channelling of employment and contracts to spouses, children and relatives has gone on for decades”. This is a form of corruption known as nepotism and JK mentioned several specific examples.

To this I would add Yeo Wen Xian. Younger Singaporeans may not be familiar with this name. She is the daughter of Yeo Cheow Tong, one time Communication Minister. In 2003, before she entered her final year in a US university, she was recruited by JP Morgan for a massive salary of $300,000 (I stand corrected on this sum, but it was definitely an eye-popping payscale). No doubt it was a coincidence that in the same year, JP Morgan received a contract for Singapore's Airport Logistics Park.

Who is Ravindran Shanmugam?

Other than the fact he is the son of the Law Minister, according to his Linkedin profile :

(1) National service 2 years in Army. No mention of vocation or rank. I surmise 2 years means not commissioned. From his job description, he drew the longer straw - cushy service vocation. A couple of lines of accomplishment – (a) Optimized and standardized Brigade operating procedures as part of two-year National Service. (b) Led a team of 4 people to craft a Quality Management System, increasing operating efficiency ~8%. Astounding if you believe our professional army left those jobs to an 18 year old kid out of high school.
Completed NS with citation of performance - ‘Outstanding’.
You see a White Horse when you see one.

As for my NS. Kana very short straw. 3 years Army fulltime, commissioned, combat infantry.
Completion citation ; ‘Excellence’.
The rest of us are Horses With No Names.

(2) Graduated in 2013 from Oxford Uni, honours in Economics, Philosophy and Politics
Not bad. Obviously a scholar, a breed in high demand in Singapore Inc.

(3) Jobs before LivSpace.
Consultant at McKinsey 2 years 7 months
Manager, Strategy & Business Operations at Grab 1 year 6 months
Executive Director at Mediceram Sdn Bhd 1 year 6 months.

If I were a HR man, I’ll say job hopper and helicopter-dropped.

Temasek-linked Grab sure towed the line well as they helicopter-dropped Ravi to manage something he knew nothing about. After dropping off a PAP minister's son in 2016, the helicopter picked up PAP member of parliament Ting Pei Ling in February this year and dropped her into the position of Director, Public Affairs & Policy, something she knew nothing about.

(4) LivSpace
Brought in as Country Head in Mar 2019. Took over CEO job in Jun 2021.
And there he sits at the moment.

What is LivSpace?

Let me preface this part with a short story. A couple of decades ago, a local carpet wholesaler known as Colour Touch came into prominence out of the blue. I was working in a bank primarily involved in wholesale lending, those syndicated loans, multi-million dollar types. Direct commercial loans of a few hundred thousand or low million dollar types to local businesses were kind of boring to me. Then I noticed Colour Touch suddenly became the darling of a few banks. The company started taking on huge sums of commercial loans. Beyond the dead beat of number crunching a borrower’s financials, a lender needs to have a common sense nose on the ground. What kind of a carpet wholesaler requires that level of funding? Puzzled, I asked someone I knew who was in similar trade. Not surprisingly, he told me it’s all BS. The market is not that big. There is a scheme of transfer pricing leakages and lenders will be left holding a cashless company. Not 2 years after that conversation, Colour Touch collapsed.

LivSpace is basically an omnichannel home interior and renovation platform that connects the 3 parties in interior design projects - consumers, designers, and the service/product vendors.

For consumers, they visit the platform, provide their input of what they want, and LivSpace AI algorithm will match them to an appropriate designer who will then follow up directly. Consumers are able to see design details on the platform.

LivSpace has several advantages for one man operated design shops. A designer signs up as a partner now has a corporate front, various centralised support such as admin, product and services, sourcing, installation liasing, finance and marketing. Designers focus on their core expertise, designing. Thus can accomplish more. Downside is they become commission based and loose certain control of the business.

For service/product vendors, I believe this part of a digitised market place is not yet available.

LivSpace was founded in July 2014 by Anuj Srivastava, formerly of Google, and Ramakant Sharma, formerly of Myntra, a fashion e-commerce company. Based in India, It started off marketing inhouse brand of modular cabinetry. In 2016 interior designing was added on with a community partnership programme. In 2019 they set up shop in Singapore. So far they have gone through several rounds of funding and raised US$432m. It has been proclaimed as a unicorn, ie valued more than US$1b. It’s a familiar story. After 9 years, they generate reasonable revenue, but losses keep piling. They are still burning cash.

Now this idea of community designers is nothing new. Individual designers operating solo but under a common corporate umbrella to share some centralised services. The only difference is LivSpace puts in dazzling digital gadgetry.

In reality, LivSpace has no technology of their own. They simply use Ah Kong’s money to buy apps and assemble them into a connected schema. The main platform of designer community is Canvas, a local start up LivSpace acquired. Currently it is in talks to buy Homelane, a similar designer community platform. Typical acquisition to show growth.

If you have nose on the ground, you can see the reality. I have been there, done that, the interior design business. So pardon the cockiness of my summation. Interior design and renovation is a quintessential brick and mortar business. Designers need to maintain their library of products near them, or their pool of trusted vendors at their beck and call. It is a business of the sense of touch, sight and feeling. See the real colours and hues, feel the textures, the hardness or softness of materials, etc. No amount of digital gadgetry can replace this.

Interior designing and renovation business are high in value, low in volume, long turn-around time and lots of after sales service, often with some retention. Digital bsinesses are low value, high volume, immediate delivery, mostly no after sales, and no retention. In other words, the digital gadgetry is unable to create economies of scale to bring cost down for designing and renovation.

So why are investors rushing in at each funding series? It’s the same as Colour Touch. Step into the boss’ room at Colour Touch and be amazed at how huge it is, at the opulence of gold-plated displays, and be introduced to 7 sales executives all driving company provided BMWs. The company should be doing very well, right?

With LivSpace, be bedazzled by the digital sophistication. Listen to Ravi at interviews and hear a conversation peppered with words of tech giants like scalability, end-to-end connectivity, branding, making connections, customer experience, tech enabled scale, drive scale, etc. Hear them talk of AI algorithm to match customers with designers. For this, all that is needed is certain criteria and boxes to tick off. Can be easily done manually or a simple database with a sort capability. Personally, I wouldn’t put a buy order on LivSpace.

And here comes the kicker.

EDBI is one of the LivSpace investors. I do not know how much they poured in nor when they invested. Most probably in 2019. EDBI booked the investment under the sector “Information and Communication Technology”. You see, it’s a technology stock to them. EDBI is the investment arm of Economics Development Board. EDBI has an investment portfolio of S$79b. (How much of that is national reserves?) Bet this is news to you.

So was Ravi helicopter-dropped into LivSpace in 2019 because of Singapore Inc connection?

For the record, I do not know Ravi. I think he is probably a pretty smart young man.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Iswaran assisting in CPIB’s investigations into a case uncovered by the anti-graft body​


PM Lee added that he has instructed Mr S Iswaran to take leave of absence until investigations are completed. PHOTO: GOV.SG

Wong Shiying

July 12, 2023

SINGAPORE – Transport Minister S Iswaran is currently assisting the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) with the investigation into a case uncovered by CPIB.
In a statement on Wednesday, CPIB said it acknowledges the interest by members of the public in this case because a Minister is being interviewed by CPIB.
It said: “As investigations are ongoing, CPIB is unable to provide further details. CPIB will investigate this case thoroughly with strong resolve to establish the facts and the truth, and to uphold the rule of law. Singapore adopts a strict zero-tolerance approach towards corruption. CPIB investigates all cases without fear or favour and will not hesitate to take action against any parties involved in corrupt activities.”
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement on Wednesday that the director of CPIB had briefed him on the case and sought his agreement to open a formal investigation involving Mr Iswaran and several others.
“I gave Director CPIB my concurrence on 6 July 2023, following which the formal investigation began on 11 July 2023. Minister Iswaran is currently assisting CPIB with the investigations, which are ongoing,” he said.
PM Lee added that he has instructed Mr Iswaran to take leave of absence until investigations are completed.
In Mr Iswaran’s absence, Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat will be Acting Minister for Transport, said PM Lee.



Alfrescian (Inf)

Motor vehicle repair workshop directors bribed Vicom staff to lodge ‘shortcut’ accident reports​


Edrian Lim Cheng Kwee (left), the director of Miracle Workz, and Lim Ah Wah, director of CYS Automobile Services, each pleaded guilty on Thursday. ST PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG
Christine Tan

July 13, 2023

SINGAPORE – To avoid hassle for their customers, two motor vehicle repair workshop directors bribed staff at vehicle inspection company Vicom to lodge “shortcut” accident reports.
These were reports made without physically seeing the vehicles. Instead, the Vicom staff member used photos provided by the workshops, and sometimes even edited them to make it look like they were taken at Vicom.
Edrian Lim Cheng Kwee, 41, the director of Miracle Workz, and Lim Ah Wah, 63, director of CYS Automobile Services, each pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of giving bribes.
The younger Lim had four other charges taken into consideration and was sentenced to four weeks’ imprisonment.
The other director was fined $1,500.
Motorists involved in an accident are required to go to an approved reporting centre (ARC) or authorised workshop, along with their vehicles, to make a vehicle accident report.
This ensures that the damage is assessed by an independent body, and contains the claims cost for motor insurers. Vicom is one such ARC appointed by several motor insurers in Singapore.

Some time before April 2016, Susan Seah Soh Eng, who was then a service adviser at Vicom, agreed with a Miracle Workz employee to lodge accident reports for its customers without them or their vehicles being present at Vicom.
Edrian Lim approved of this arrangement as Miracle Workz was not an ARC. It was inconvenient for his customers to take their vehicles to Vicom for accident reporting before taking it back to his company for repairs.
“In some cases, the customers might decide to not bring their vehicles back to Miracle (Workz), but to other motor vehicle repair workshops instead,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Kit Yu.

Each time, a Miracle Workz employee would provide Seah with details, including the customers’ particulars, information about the accident, and photos of the damaged vehicle.
If the photos showed the vehicle in a place other than Vicom, Seah would edit the photos to make it look like it was taken in Vicom, or ask the employee to retake the photos to avoid suspicion.
Seah asked Edrian Lim if she could be paid for helping them. He instructed his staff to pay her $30 for each report lodged, amounting to $4,400 over a period of almost three years between July 2016 and May 2019.
Similarly, Seah had asked for $40 per report for helping Lim Ah Wah’s customers file accident reports. She said that she had lodged at least 15 such reports in 2017 and 2018, prompting him to give her $600 as reward.
Seah’s case will be heard in August.

Former Vicom service advisor Ng Ah Hiang had received $1,300 in bribes for helping two other car repair workshops. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Ng Ah Hiang, 55, another former Vicom service adviser involved in the corrupt scheme, was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and a $1,300 penalty on Thursday.
Ng had received $1,300 in bribes for helping two other car repair workshops, Long Sheng Motor Service and AMA Automotive, to lodge such reports.
Ng pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving bribes, with a similar offence taken into consideration in sentencing.
Although Vicom did not suffer any loss, the accused persons’ acts placed the company at risk of having its appointment as an ARC terminated by insurers, said DPP Leong.
The prosecutor said it compromised Vicom’s function as an independent damage assessment centre for motor insurance claims.
Motor insurers may then have to use more resources to ensure claims are accurate, resulting in increased costs.
Said the DPP: “Such increased costs might then be ‘passed down’ to motorists in the form of higher insurance premiums.”


Alfrescian (Inf)

Iswaran to remain in Singapore during leave of absence: Prime Minister’s Office​


Mr S. Iswaran will have no access to any official resources and government buildings during this time. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Wong Shiying

July 13, 2023

SINGAPORE – Transport Minister S. Iswaran will remain in Singapore during his leave of absence, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said on Thursday.
A PMO spokesman said, in response to The Straits Times’ queries, that Mr Iswaran will have no access to any official resources and government buildings.
This comes following the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau’s (CPIB) announcement on Wednesday that Mr Iswaran – who is also the Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations – is assisting with an investigation into a case it uncovered. It did not give details on the nature of the investigation.
Mr Iswaran, 61, has been instructed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to take leave of absence until the investigation is completed, the PMO said on Wednesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Wednesday that the CPIB had been investigating a separate matter, which it updated PM Lee on in May. On July 5, it told PM Lee that it needed to interview Mr Iswaran as part of further investigations.
PM Lee gave his approval on July 6 for CPIB to conduct a formal investigation, which began on Tuesday. This would involve interviewing Mr Iswaran, as well as other people.
In Mr Iswaran’s absence, Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat will be Acting Minister for Transport. Mr Iswaran’s portfolio at the Ministry of Trade and Industry will be covered by other political officeholders.

Mr Iswaran’s leave of absence also applies to his duties as MP of West Coast GRC, where he has served for the last 26 years. Other MPs from the GRC – National Development Minister Desmond Lee, Ms Foo Mee Har, Mr Ang Wei Neng and Ms Rachel Ong – will cover Mr Iswaran’s MP duties, including meet-the-people sessions.


Alfrescian (Inf)

Auditor-General flags lapses in govt agencies, including transfer of official funds to personal bank accounts​


In its annual audit of government accounts, AGO cited instances of giving excessive IT access rights and over-disbursing support grants. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Goh Yan Han
Political Correspondent

July 19, 2023

SINGAPORE - The People’s Association, Public Service Division, Ministry of Communications and Information and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore were among the government agencies flagged for lapses and weaknesses in a report released on Wednesday.
In its annual audit of government accounts, the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) cited instances of awarding contracts to debarred contractors, co-mingling official funds with staff’s personal funds, giving excessive IT access rights, and over-disbursing support grants.
It also highlighted possible irregularities in the records provided to AGO by the State Courts and Singapore Food Agency (SFA).
Both agencies have lodged police reports following AGO’s audit observations.
For the State Courts, there were possible irregularities in the quotations provided for 110 out of 295 items, whose rates were not listed in the contract, for a development project.
AGO had concerns over the authenticity of the quotations provided and whether value for money had been obtained for the items.
For SFA, there were possible irregularities in some quotations for ad-hoc works at facilities it managed, resulting in concerns over authenticity of the quotations.

The AGO report was submitted to the President on July 4, and presented to Parliament on Tuesday.

People’s Association (PA)​

The AGO found that three grassroots organisations (GROs) had awarded contracts to or renewed them with two debarred contractors during their debarment period.
The GROs had either not checked the contractors’ debarment status, or awarded the contracts despite knowing.

Contractors may be debarred from taking on public sector projects for reasons such as withdrawing tenders before they are awarded, poor performance reports, or violation of safety regulations or requirements.
PA had paid about $410,000 to the two contractors for providing lift maintenance and security services.
The report said PA acknowledged the lapses and informed AGO that it would review its guidelines and update its procurement checklist to check on debarment status during bid evaluation and contract renewal.
AGO also test-checked 11 welfare assistance schemes managed by five GROs between April 1, 2019 and May 31, 2022.
It found that the money management practices for these schemes at two GROs were “inappropriate and risky”.

One GRO had transferred $707,000 from its bank account to the personal bank accounts of two staff members in seven instances, in sums ranging from $10,000 to $200,000. This was to enable them to withdraw monies for cash disbursements to welfare assistance recipients at festive events.
The other GRO transferred $334,500 to a staff member’s personal bank account for the person to reimburse hawkers and merchants under a voucher assistance scheme.
This was done in 46 instances between July 2020 and November 2021, with transfer amounts ranging from $500 to $21,200.
According to PA, these practices were implemented due to operational needs. AGO said that for proper accountability, monies of GROs should not be co-mingled with staff’s personal monies, and such practices were inappropriate.
While the checks did not find evidence of monies being lost or misappropriated in those two cases, such practices pose significant risk of loss or misappropriation, said AGO.
Both GROs have since stopped these practices.
PA said it would conduct briefings and training on managing monies in welfare assistance schemes, and implement digital payments for disbursements to reduce cash handling.
It would also pilot having selected GROs start using the Government’s electronic voucher system.
AGO also found in its checks into eight GROs, that two did not enter into formal agreements with external service partners, when implementing community projects for residents that had started many years ago.
The report also flagged that PA had either not deactivated, or deactivated late, more than 3,000 user accounts in its volunteer management system, Grassroots E-Mart System and Grassroots Financial Accounting System – after users had left PA, or stepped down from their GRO appointments.
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Of these, 16 user accounts had logged into the volunteer management system and accounting system after their last day of service, and one of them had created six payment transactions worth $624.85 after their last day.
PA said the staff member returned his laptop six days after his last day of service, deviating from PA’s procedures. He had used the laptop and accessed his account in those six days to clear work, and there was no ill intention to misuse access into the system.
AGO also found significant lapses in the evaluation and award of two maintenance services tenders, and one cleaning services tender.
In a statement on Wednesday, PA said it is committed to resolving and improving its governance, procurement and oversight processes.
It has set up a review committee to look at the latest AGO findings together with existing and planned remedies, and will recommend to its board any further interventions.
Both the AGO report and PA statement did not specify the constituencies where the lapses occurred. The Straits Times has contacted PA for more information.

Public Service Division (PSD)​

An IT general controls audit was conducted for the PSD’s human resource and payroll system, which serves over 186,000 users across the Government.
AGO said it found weaknesses which may compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the system and data residing in the system.
These included weak controls over the most privileged operating system and database accounts, and weaknesses in the review of accounts and administrators’ accounts in the system.
Excessive access rights were given to IT vendor staff, which would allow them to modify or delete data files.
Excessive access rights were also granted to vendor staff, to the keys used for encryption or decryption of data files.

Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI)​

In 2022, the AGO reported lapses in MCI’s administration of the Whole-of-Government Period Contract and Framework Agreement (WOG PCFA).
After the first WOG PCFA expired, MCI established a second one in April 2022.
AGO’s review of the tender recommendation report for the second agreement found that out of 108 tenderers appointed to a panel, MCI had appointed five that did not meet the evaluation criteria.
MCI informed AGO that it viewed this as a serious lapse, and that all five vendors had since been removed from the panel.
MCI has also set up a dedicated procurement team.

Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)​

The CAAS had administered several grants to support the aviation industry amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Between Sept 1, 2020 and March 31, 2022, $114.52 million was disbursed for one of the schemes.
AGO found over-disbursements amounting to $1 million, indicating that CAAS’ checks and controls were inadequate in ensuring grants disbursed were valid, accurate and in compliance with grant terms and conditions.
These over-disbursements were due to erroneous claims made by companies which had included ineligible employees who did not meet criteria such as citizenship or having a valid professional licence during the period of claim.
The report also said that for the same grant, certain eligibility criteria were either stated inaccurately or not stated in the grant agreements.
CAAS said each company receiving the grants had been required to appoint an external auditor, who did not flag these errors.
The authority said it would tighten its controls and processes for future grant disbursements and follow up to recover the over-disbursed amounts.