Court clears ex-civil servant of corruption

But ex-LTA officer gets 4 weeks' jail after he is found guilty of giving false info on bike auction

A one-time civil servant accused of receiving a $500 discount on a motorcycle, in return for being lenient to a company he was investigating, has been cleared of corruption after a district judge found the evidence against him "unsatisfyingly piecemeal" and "underdeveloped".

Former senior Land Transport Authority (LTA) investigator Charan Singh, however, was found guilty of providing false information to thwart his then-employer's auction of bikes from Super Bike Trading Centre in January 2008. He was jailed for four weeks.

District Judge Eugene Teo, in judgment grounds released yesterday, said that when the probe into Singh's behaviour began seven years ago, it promised to be a coherent and "cogent" case. He made clear the evidence offered for both charges was "reviewed in earnest".

Singh was assigned to probe complaints on Super Bike repossessing motorcyles over payment defaults but he went on to buy a one-year-old repossessed Honda Phantom TA200, for about $3,000, from the firm in 2007. He paid cash and asked for a receipt to be provided under another company's name. Super Bike director Jennifer Tan obliged, and Singh was alleged to have received a $500 discount in return for leniency in the probe against her.

Ten months later, when the LTA was about to auction off four of the company's motorcycles to recover outstanding tax arrears, he told the officers involved that his supervisor had authorised the bikes to be taken off the list. At the same time, he lied to his supervisor that Super Bike had paid all its arrears.The LTA investigated Singh, who later admitted to lying when he said he did not buy the motorcycle from Super Bike. The case was handed to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. In 2012, Singh, 50, pleaded guilty to using a false receipt to deceive the LTA, and he was fined $20,000.

In the judgment grounds, the judge found the charge, that Singh had corruptly obtained a $500 discount in buying the motorcycle, was "wholly unsupported by the evidence". But for the second charge, he found the three LTA witnesses "credible and reliable".

Singh's lawyer Ramesh Tiwary urged the court to impose a fine. But the judge said a fine was inappropriate, given the aggravated nature of the offence, which was "coldly calculated". As a result of the case, Singh, who is married with two teen children, lost his 26-year civil service career. Both prosecution and defence are appealing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2015, with the headline 'Court clears ex-civil servant of corruption'. Print Edition | Subscribe