Chinatown Business Association's exec director fined $50,000 for corruption

James Ong Chee Tong, 49, pleaded guilty to one of two counts of getting a $15,000 bribe from Mr Kwek Beng Sin, the boss of BS Construction Services, in return for awarding a contract to the company. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
James Ong Chee Tong, 49, pleaded guilty to one of two counts of getting a $15,000 bribe from Mr Kwek Beng Sin, the boss of BS Construction Services, in return for awarding a contract to the company. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - The executive director of Chinatown Business Association (CBA) was fined $50,000 on Wednesday for corruption.

James Ong Chee Tong, 49, pleaded guilty to one of two counts of getting a $15,000 bribe from Mr Kwek Beng Sin, the boss of BS Construction Services, in return for awarding a contract to the company.

A second similar charge was considered during sentencing.

In early 2011, the association and Singapore Tourism Board embarked on a project to set up an information booth for tourists and visitors to the Chinatown area.

The project was later renamed Chinatown Visitor Centre (CVC) to include the centre.

Between June 2011 and April 2012, Japheth Renovation Contractor was the incumbent contractor at the CBA and was engaged to provide repair and maintenance jobs for the stalls located in Chinatown. The contractor subsequently re-submitted a quotation for the expanded project in June, amounting to $219,875.

Shortly after Ong joined CBA as its executive director in mid-2011, he terminated the services of Japheth and later awarded the CVC project to BS Construction in late August that year, without the approval of the association's executive committee.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu said investigations also showed that after the main contract was awarded, Ong awarded several additional variation work contracts to the company, amounting to $159,000.

Sometime in January 2012, after the CBA had made its third and final progress payment to BS Construction, Ong asked Mr Kwek for a "loan'' of $15,000. But there was no discussion on the repayment terms, interest rates or when Ong was expected to repay the amount.

The court heard that when the cash was given to Ong, he had enough funds in his Citibank personal account. He knew he was in a position of conflict of interest when he sought the "loan'', and that Mr Kwek would find it hard to reject his request because Mr Kwek knew that he was in a position of influence at CBA.

Sometime in December 2013, after investigations started, Ong sent a cheque of $30,000 to Mr Kwek.

Ong's lawyer Chia Boon Teck said this was a private loan and no one suffered any loss as a result.

The maximum penalty for corruption is a $100,000 fine and five years' jail.