Govt drops charges against Group MD only to give him warnings over PIE viaduct collapse

Last year, several individuals including the Group Managing Director of the public listed construction company OKP Holdings were charged in court for their involvement in the collapse of the PIE viaduct at Upper Changi on 14 Jul 2017. One worker was killed while 10 others were injured.

According to court filings, there was unauthorised work carried out by the contractor to strengthen surrounding corbels. The contractor has also failed to flag flaws and cracks in the viaduct’s design and structure, deleting potentially incriminating WhatsApp messages.

Court documents alleged that Group MD, Mr Or Toh Wat, was aware of cracks in the corbels (i.e, support structures) of piers 40 and 41 of the viaduct, but had failed to do proper risk assessments of the affected corbels and take measures to ensure the safety and health of employees.

Govt drops charges and only gives warnings to Group MD

However, yesterday (31 Jul), it was reported that the government has decided to withdraw all 3 charges against Mr Or. These were 2 charges under the Building Control Act, in relation to carrying out unauthorised works, and another charge of failing to ensure the safety and health of his employees under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

This was after he was given conditional warnings by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Building and Construction Authority (BCA) a day before the trial involving his company Or Kim Peow Contractors, a subsidiary of OKP Holdings, was set to start.

Mr Or was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for the 3 charges.

Under the Building Control Act, he could have been fined up to $200,000, jailed for up to two years, or both, for carrying out the unauthorised works. In addition, for not notifying the Commissioner of Building Control about the contravention of the Act despite knowing the works had not been authorised, he could have been fined up to $20,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both. The third charge under the Workplace Safety and Health Act carries a fine of up to $200,000, two years’ jail, or both.

Mr Or’s defence lawyer told the court that MOM and BCA officers gave his client conditional warnings on Wednesday morning for all three charges. The AGC headed by Lucien Wong who used to be a personal lawyer of PM Lee, successfully applied for the three charges to be discharged not amounting to an acquittal.

If the government did not drop the charges against Mr Or, the trial is set to go on today (1 Aug) for him. But the other individuals charged were not so luckly and are set to go to trial as planned.

Mr Or used a law firm headed by Davinder Singh, an ex-PAP MP. Mr Singh himself, when he was working for Drew & Napier, has represented PM Lee personally on several defamation lawsuits, with the most famous one against blogger Roy Ngerng in 2014.

OKP Holdings run by Or family members linked to PA grassroots

OKP describes itself as “a leading infrastructure and civil engineering group in Singapore”. Its clients include the LTA, HDB, JTC, National Parks Board, PUB, URA, Changi Airport Group and etc. In recent years, it has also expanded its business into property developments.

According to its annual report, OKP was founded by Mr Or Kim Peow in 1966. Mr Or was awarded a PBM medal in 2003. He is the Group Chairman. He is also the Vice-Chairman of Gek Poh Community Club Management Committee (CCMC) and the Patron of Potong Pasir Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC). Mr Or Toh Wat, the Group MD, is his son who was also conferred a BBM medal for “service to the community” in 2013.

Like his father, Mr Or Toh Wat is also a PA grassroots leader. He is the Chairman of Potong Pasir CCMC. Mr Or Kiam Meng, another son of Or Kim Peow, is the Executive Director of OKP. He is also a grassroots leader and Patron of Anchorvale CCMC.

Mr Or Lay Huat, third son of Or Kim Peow, is also another Executive Director of OKP. Not surprisingly, he too follows the footsteps of his father and the 2 elder brothers to become yet another PA grassroots leader. He is a member of Tampines GRC and Tampines West CCC.

Dr John Chen, an ex-PAP Minister of State and ex-MP, is an independent director sitting on the board of OKP. Dr Chen was an MP from 1988 to 2006 and the Minister of State for Communications from 1997 to 1999. From 1999 to 2001, he was the Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology and Minister of State for National Development.

In essence, the Or family members are all PA grassroots leaders in the various constituencies and are familiar with many PAP MPs and Ministers, including those retired ones like Dr John Chen.

And of course, PA’s Chairman is none other than PM Lee himself.