Former ST Marine president given short detention order, corruption charges withdrawn

Chang Cheow Teck, the former president of Singapore Technologies Marine, had a 14-day detention order imposed on him for failing to use reasonable diligence in performing his duties between April 2008 and 2010.
Chang Cheow Teck, the former president of Singapore Technologies Marine, had a 14-day detention order imposed on him for failing to use reasonable diligence in performing his duties between April 2008 and 2010. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Former president of ship builder Singapore Technologies (ST) Marine Chang Cheow Teck, 56, was on Thursday (Jan 5) spared a jail term, that would have left him with a criminal record.

District Judge Kessler Soh Boon Leng imposed a short detention order of 14 days on Chang for failing to use reasonable diligence in performing his duties between April 2008 and 2010.

The short detention order scheme, which took effect in 2011, allows the court to detain an offender in prison for up to 14 days. It is intended to be less disruptive and stigmatising than a longer prison stay.

Chang was charged last month (December) under the Companies Act, which also involved ignoring information that pointed to criminal wrongdoing at ST Marine.

He is the sixth of seven former ST Marine senior executives to plead guilty in one of the largest corruption scandals here that first broke in December 2014.

Former ST Marine chief executive officer and president See Leong Teck received the heaviest sentence of 10 months' jail and $100,000 fine. Two others were jailed and fined, while one - Patrick Lee Swee Ching - was fined $210,000.

Former group financial controller Ong Teck Liam has yet to be sentenced, while former president of commercial business Tan Mong Seng's case is still ongoing.

Chang had previously faced three charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly conspiring with two subordinates to offer bribes of almost $274,000 in return for ship repair contracts. The three charges were withdrawn.

Court documents showed that at least $24.9 million in bribes, which were falsely claimed as entertainment expenses, were paid by ST Marine between 2000 and 2011.

During Chang's term, at least $6.5 million in bribes were paid.

Shortly after Chang joined the company, Ong told him in a handwritten note that cash payments amounting to more than $3 million were made by ST Marine in 2007 and early 2008.

Chang, believing that these sums were paid as commission to third parties or paid for entertainment, failed to raise any queries about the legality of these payments.

In April 2010, he received an e-mail highlighting that the amounts in "commission cash cheques" were to be capped individually at $5,000.

While aware that these practices were not normal, he failed to question the rationale and legality of these payments.

The prosecution argued that the circumstances should have given rise to suspicion on Chang's part that there were illegal practices ongoing.

However, Chang's defence lawyer Hamidul Haq argued that he "would have taken action if he was aware".

Mr Haq said: "He had no part in the corrupt activities ... His mistake was in assuming certain things, and relying on the recommendations by his employees."

The lawyer asked for a short detention order instead of a fine, noting that his client would have 10 to 15 years left to contribute to the corporate community, which would require a crime-free record. This was not objected by the prosecution.

Chang was also the former president of ST Aerospace from 2010 to 2014. He is currently unemployed.

In sentencing Chang, District Judge Soh said: "This was the darkest hour of your career but you have to learn, move on and serve diligently in whatever capacity in the future. It is also serves as a lesson for other directors to be diligent in what they do."