After 35 years on the run, former Member of Parliament and chairman of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Phey Yew Kok has finally received his punishment – 60 months in jail.
On Friday (Jan 22), Phey pleaded guilty to 12 charges, including 10 counts of criminal breach of trust amounting to S$243,877.60, one count of fabricating evidence and another of jumping bail. Another 22 charges were taken into consideration in sentencing him.
The 81-year-old is now completely blind in his right eye and starting to lose sight in his other eye due to cataracts. He also suffers from severe hearing impairment and is unable to hear clearly without hearing aids.
In court on Friday, defence lawyer Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah said Phey "led a miserable life alone in a foreign land". There was "nothing romantic or happy about his life during that period", he said.
He had to move constantly because he did not have an identity card or passport, and took up several odd jobs to support himself. He had no security, safety and income, and worried constantly about being arrested.
"He surrendered because Singapore is his home and he wishes to spend his last days with his family instead of dying alone in a foreign land," Mr Rajah said.
Phey is "very ashamed and sorry" for what he has done, he added. "What he has done is let down the union movement, something which he was wholeheartedly committed to – 19 years of his life from 1960 to 1979 – in building up," Mr Rajah said.
"He does not deny that the offences were done in a way that was designed to hide and make it difficult for authorities to find out about them. All this Phey accepts is wrong and should never have been done."
SURRENDERED IN JUNE 2015
Phey was first charged in December 1979 with four counts of criminal breach of trust involving more than S$80,000, and other offences under the Trades Union Act involving more than S$17,500.
He was released on bail of S$100,000, but never showed up for his next court appearance in January 1980. He spent the next three decades a fugitive.
Investigations revealed Phey had fled to Kuala Lumpur by train on New Year’s Eve in 1979 and continued on to Bangkok, where he disappeared and managed to stay out of reach of the authorities, despite an INTERPOL Red Notice being issued against him.
In June last year, Phey surrendered himself at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok. He was escorted back to Singapore by CPIB officers to face the six charges outstanding against him on Jun 24.
A month later, he was slapped with another 28 charges, mostly involving more criminal breach of trust offences he had allegedly committed between April 1973 and June 1979.
Phey is accused of misappropriating funds belonging to multiple unions and companies, such as the International Metalworkers Federation and the Boon Teck Education Centre belonging to the People’s Action Party. He was the MP for the Boon Teck Constituency for eight years from 1972 to 1980.
He is also accused of dipping into the staff funds of the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (SILO), and the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU). Phey had served as General Secretary in both SILO and PIEU.