(From top left to right) Chow Yew Yuen, Tong Chong Heong, Tay Kim Hock, former, (From bottom left to right) Kwok Kai Choong, Choo Chiau Beng, Jeffery Chow

A father and daughter running a family transport and logistics firm were sentenced to jail on Friday (12 May) for paying more than S$400,000 in bribes to executives from logistics giant DHL and food packager Tetra Pak so that they could retain lucrative contracts with the two firms.

Tan Hook Beng, who was the managing director of family-owned Likok Logistics up till March 2020, was sentenced to a year in jail after he pleaded guilty to a charge of offering bribes.

His daughter, Tan Pei Fung, who was Likok’s finance director, was sentenced to eight months’ jail after she pleaded guilty to a single charge of intentionally aiding her father to offer bribes.

Only stern warnings for Keppel’s management

Meanwhile, in January this year, the government issued six former senior management staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) stern warnings over the alleged bribe payments offered to Brazilian officials. They were not prosecuted.

“The stern warnings were issued to the six individuals in lieu of prosecution for offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act,” said the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in a statement.

“The offences relate to bribe payments to officials of Brazilian state-owned corporation Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras), pertaining to rigs-building contracts which Petrobras and/or its related companies had awarded to KOM,” it added.

The six were alleged to have offered bribes amounting to some US$55 million (S$73 million) to Brazilian officials in order to win those rig-building contracts.

Following a public furore over the six former senior management staff of KOM escaping prosecution, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah explained to Parliament that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any of them.

She noted that CPIB had no admissions or confessions from the six former KOM executives.

“Simply put, there is a lack of sufficient evidence, either documentary or through witnesses, which would establish any criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt against a specific individual,” she said.

“CPIB conducted an in-depth investigation within Singapore, within the scope of its legal powers. However… the difficulty with this case is that several potentially key witnesses are not in Singapore, and CPIB has not been able to secure their cooperation or agreement to testify in Singapore.“

She added that both the CPIB and Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had done a careful and thorough review of the documents, including the deferred prosecution agreements and plea bargains, “and the public prosecutor has advised that those are insufficient to meet the burden of proof”.

Currently, the Attorney-General of Singapore is Lucien Wong, who used to be the personal lawyer of PM Lee. Mr Wong was re-appointed as AG last September at the age of 69 where the typical retirement age of a AG is 60.

In fact, there was a foreign witness whose evidence in other proceedings could have been relevant in establishing the offences of the six in Singapore, but Indranee said the witness was unwilling and “cannot be forced” to provide evidence here in Singapore.

Furthermore, Jeffrey Chow, one of the six former executives, had already confessed to the offence in the US court.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and admitted to preparing contracts used to fund the bribe payments. He was subsequently sentenced in 2019 to one-year probation and fined $75,000. The US judge said Chow can serve his probation “in Singapore, where he resides with his wife.”

Regarding whether any prosecution could be advanced in Singapore arising out of the fact that Chow pleaded guilty in a US federal court, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament, Ms Sylvia Lim asked Ms Indranee whether he had retracted his confession to the offence.

Ms Indranee said that Chow denied knowing that commissions paid to the agent in Brazil were paid out as bribes when he was investigated by CPIB during his return to Singapore.

“He did not, during CPIB’s investigations, implicate himself or any others in conspiring to pay bribes,” Ms Indranee said.

She added that even if the AGC applies to a Singapore Court to admit the US plea agreement, the agreement did not identify any specific individuals and was made in the context of a plea bargain, and will be given limited weight without further supporting evidence, and in the face of potentially conflicting oral testimony.

Nevertheless, Indranee assured, “Our zero-tolerance policy must be upheld in a manner that complies with the rule of law. The PP has acknowledged this, and this is exactly what the PP has done on the facts – to uphold the rule of law.”
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