Ex-boss gets jail term for cheating

Stephen Tay Thian Boon
Stephen Tay Thian BoonST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

He got his company to lend $1 million to another firm, and took a $400,000 cut

The former boss of Singapore-listed magazine publisher and property development firm Eastern Holdings was sentenced to four years in jail yesterday for cheating.

Stephen Tay Thian Boon, 57, will also be barred from acting as a director in Singapore for five years after his release.

Now a consultant with the company of which he was chairman and managing director, Tay is appealing against both the conviction and jail sentence. He was found guilty after a 10-day trial of cheating the firm's then financial controller, Mr Lim Jiah Sheng, on Jan 13, 2005.

He hid from Mr Lim and the board the fact that he was getting a $400,000 cut from a $1 million loan from the firm to another company.

The court heard that Tay was approached by a personal friend, Mr Granner Lim Kian Boo, who previously ran a printing business that dealt with Eastern Holdings.

At the behest of Dormitory Investment (DIPL), Mr Lim asked Tay for $600,000, which was the amount DIPL needed to complete a $12 million deal to buy a foreign worker dormitory in Kaki Bukit Avenue 3.

Tay wanted $400,000 to "sweeten the deal".

But instead of making the loan personally, he got Eastern Holdings to lend the cash. He received his "payment" from DIPL's boss Kang Choon Boon in March 2006, around 14 months after the loan deal was signed.

Tay's lawyer Sunil Sudheesan said in mitigation that neither firm suffered any loss.

He also highlighted Tay's charitable work, saying that he has donated significant sums to churches, the Children's Cancer Foundation, the Singapore Thong Chai Medication Institution and the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

One of the testimonials tendered described Tay, who is out on bail of $600,000, as a "man of integrity" who was instrumental in building up the company, which started off in 1981 as Eastern Publishing.

But District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said the $400,000 which Tay earned was quite significant.

He also pointed out that there had been a high degree of trust put in Tay, who could have been jailed for up to seven years and/or fined for cheating.

Stephen Tay Thian Boon, 57, will be barred from acting as a director in Singapore for five years after his release. Now a consultant with the company of which he was chairman and managing director, he is appealing against both the conviction and sentence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'Ex-boss gets jail term for cheating'. Print Edition | Subscribe