Former River Valley High principal admits to lying to MOE official over his affair with school vendor

Former River Valley High principal Koh Yong Chiah was convicted of giving false information to a public servant about his extramarital affair with a vendor.
Former River Valley High principal Koh Yong Chiah was convicted of giving false information to a public servant about his extramarital affair with a vendor.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - Former River Valley High principal Koh Yong Chiah was convicted on Friday (Dec 18) of giving false information to a public servant about his extramarital affair with a school vendor to whom he had awarded millions of dollars worth of school contracts.

The 61-year-old, who has been interdicted, admitted to lying to a senior Ministry of Education official, Ms Chia Ban Tin, on Nov 24, 2005, that he was not having an affair with school service provider Loke Wai Lin.

Ms Chia subsequently submitted a report to the ministry's Director General of Education that there was no such misconduct on Koh's part.

At that time of the interview, Koh was the principal of Jurong Junior College (JJC).

Ms Loke, now 55, was a director and majority shareholder of Education Architects 21 (EA 21) and Education Incorporation (EI), which provided education-related and logistical services to the college.

Koh was principal of the college from January 2003 to December 2009. Between May and November 2005, in his capacity as the final approving authority for contracts at the college, he awarded $162,491 worth of contracts to EA 21. He did not disclose the nature of his relationship with Ms Loke to the quotation approval panel.

Their relationship started in 2001 when Koh was the principal of Chinese High School. Ms Loke, who was then with Television Corporation of Singapore, approached the school to take part in an overseas community service project in 2000.

A mutual attraction developed between the two. They had sex for the first time during a school community service trip to Lijiang, China, in March 2001. Koh bought two gold rings as a pledge of their love for each other.

Ms Loke separated from her husband in 2004 and divorced a year later.

In December 2009, Koh became principal of River Valley High. Between March 2010 and July 2012, he approved the awarding of 39 contracts to EI .

In all, between 2005 and 2012, he approved $3.2 million worth of contracts to Ms Loke's two companies, EA 21 and EI.

The court heard that the Education Ministry looked into Koh's relationship with Ms Loke after receiving an anonymous complaint in November 2004 that he was having an affair with Ms Loke, and that they were behaving inappropriately on school premises and on overseas school trips. When he was interviewed by the ministry in November 2005, he did not come clean.

Seven years later, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) received a tip-off that Koh was suspected of being involved in corrupt dealings with Ms Loke. There was also an allegation relating to impropriety in procurement processes, owing to an intimate personal relationship between Koh and Ms Loke.

Deputy Public Prosecutor G. Kannan urged the court to impose four to six weeks' jail on Koh, saying this was a serious case involving a senior public officer giving a false statement when inquiries were being carried out into allegations of his misconduct.

He said Koh held an "apex position'' in a public institution.

Koh's lawyer Lawrence Ang, together with Mr Eric Tin, told District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim that a custodial sentence was not warranted and a fine would suffice. He continues his arguments in the afternoon.

The maximum punishment for the offence is six months' jail and a $1,000 fine.

Koh's second charge of lying to the CPIB in 2012 will be taken into consideration in sentencing.