SINGAPORE: A former general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) and a company director accused of bribing him for contracts pleaded guilty on Monday (Mar 25), in a twist of events following weeks of trial.
Victor Wong Chee Meng, 59, pleaded guilty to three charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act, with another two similar charges to be taken into consideration for sentencing.
In all, the five charges involved more than S$86,000 in various forms of gratification from company director Chia Sin Lan, who also pleaded guilty on Monday.
Wong had received this from Chia, 63, between December 2014 and September 2016. It includes more than S$34,000 worth of entertainment expenses incurred at various KTV lounges, massage parlours and restaurants.
He had also received financial benefits in the form of a S$13,500 discount on a car he bought, as well as remittances made to Xu Hongmei, his mistress from China.
Chia's two firms, 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise, provided construction services to various town councils around Singapore.
The two had been accused of giving and receiving more than S$107,000 in various forms of gratification, in return for contracts. But after weeks of trial, Wong indicated on Mar 5 that he intended to plead guilty.
His defence counsel Melanie Ho had said that over the course of the last few months and after an evaluation of evidence, Wong had decided to “take a certain course” for personal and other reasons.
Weeks later, Chia also indicated his intention to plead guilty.
LION’S SHARE OF GRATIFICATION IN ENTERTAINMENT EXPENSES
On Monday, the court heard that Wong, who was then an employee of CPG Facilities Management, the appointed managing agent of AMKTC between November 2013 and October 2017, had been introduced to Chia sometime in February 2015.
They were introduced by either Mr Tay Eng Chuan, a shareholder of 19-NS2, or Ms Alisa Yip, the operations manager of 19-ANC and 19-NS2. Mr Tay and Ms Yip had met Wong while he was a property manager at the Marine Parade Town Council.
Sometime in end 2014, Wong told Ms Yip that he was looking to buy a new car, as his own car had only a year and four months left. Ms Yip informed him that 19-ANC was looking to sell a 16-month-old Toyota Corolla Altis, and estimated that the price of this car was about S$85,000.
Wong asked Ms Yip for a discount to account for the purported high mileage of the car. After discussing the issue with Chia and Mr Tay, Chia then agreed to sell the Toyota Corolla Altis to Wong with a discount of about S$10,000.
As part of the transaction, 19-NS2 also agreed to purchase Wong’s old car at S$20,000 – which Chia later traded in for S$16,500, for the purchase of a new Toyota Corolla Altis.
This brought the overall discount Wong received to about S$13,500.
But the lion’s share of the gratification took the form of entertainment expenses incurred at various KTV lounges, massage parlours and restaurants which Chia and Wong frequented shortly after getting to know each other.
Between May 2015 and July 2016, Chia and Wong visited visited KTV lounges, restaurants, massage spas and a hotel on 29 occasions. Chia had paid for the expenses on these occasions, which included the purchase of alcoholic beverages, tips to the KTV lounge staff, and the purchase of flower garlands to show appreciation to the KTV lounge singers, including Ms Xu.
The total expenses incurred were more than S$34,000.
Wong and Ms Xu had got into a romantic relationship after the two met in February 2015 at a KTV lounge. In June that year, she approached Wong and asked for 100,000 renminbi (about S$21,000) for renovations to her house in China.
Wong spoke to Chia about it, and subsequently, 80,000 renminbi (about S$17,300) was remitted to Ms Xu through a business associate of Chia's.
In November 2015, Ms Xu told Wong she had fallen victim to an investment scam and was cheated of around 50,000 renminbi (about S$10,500). Wong approached Chia and told him of Ms Xu’s situation, following which Chia agreed to help Ms Xu.
In total, about 130,000 renminbi (S$27,796) was remitted to Ms Xu.
WONG FELT OBLIGATED TO HELP CHIA’S FIRMS
According to court documents, there was an increase in works awarded to 19-ANC and 19-NS2 by AMKTC in 2015 as compared to 2014. This upward trend continued in 2016.
Wong admitted that after receiving the gratification, he felt obligated to Chia's firms, and wanted to help them by using his authority at work.
For example, in a 2016 tender for a term contract for design, supply and delivery of low emission incense burners to AMKTC, investigations revealed that 19-ANC had come in as the fourth lowest bidder, and recommendations were made by the contract manager to award the tender to the lowest bidder, Uniquetech.
Wong admitted that he had asked the contract staff to concentrate on the eco-friendly features of the burner, as he knew that the eco-burner from 19-ANC was the most eco-friendly among the tenderers.
He had also denied the requests of the other tenderers for more time to produce a mock-up that fit AMKTC’s requirements.
The former general manager also admitted to influencing his staff in the contracts department to include 19-ANC in the list of contractors to approach for Invitations to Quote.
Owing to his influence, the court documents said, unless 19-ANC could not provide the required works, the staff of the contracts department automatically invited 19-ANC, on their understanding that this was "Victor Wong’s preference".
Mitigation and sentencing for Wong and Chia will take place on Mar 29.