SINGAPORE - A Media Development Authority (MDA) assistant director who corruptly obtained loans from grant applicants in return for facilitating MDA grants was jailed for 14 months on Tuesday.
Lai Wai Khuen, 37, had admitted to six charges - four of getting loans of between $1,500 and $5,000 and one each of trying to get a $3,000 loan and forgery.
He was ordered to pay a penalty of $18,000. Although the total amount of bribe was $18,800 in 13 charges, including the ones taken into consideration, the judge took into account that he had paid back $500 and $300 to two people.
The prosecution withdrew 14 charges against Lai, who was acquitted of them. Eleven other charges were considered during his sentencing.
The court heard that Lai, who has been suspended from his job, was promoted two years after he began work as a manager at MDA. He was designated assistant director in July 2012 and headed a cluster team to manage talent development, games, publishing, media services and the Mediapolis, the media hub in Buona Vista.
His offences came to light in December that year when the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau received a tip-off that he had engaged in corrupt practices.
Lai was required to promote, evaluate, recommend and administer the award and disburse MDA grants under various schemes.
Once a grant was approved, he would prepare a letter of offer and letter of acceptance for his boss to sign.
He would present the signed letter of offer to the grant applicant, who would counter-sign if he decided to accept the offer. He would continue to liaise to meet with the grant applicant until the project was completed.
In some cases, he lied to the applicants that he needed the money for his uncle's surgery. But in fact, he had accumulated huge debts from frequent gambling trips on cruise ships and in casinos, and had solicited loans from grant applicants to clear these debts.
Giving the reasons for his judgment, District Judge Soh Tze Bian said Lai was in a position of trust and influence which enabled him to solicit loans from 10 grant applicants on 14 occasions over two years, all of which were deliberate and premeditated offences, carefully planned and expertly executed.
"The grave public disquiet is exacerbated by the fact that this is a case of a public servant succumbing to gambling. Cases of this nature had promoted recent measures to tighten public service processes, including the implementation of a requirement for public servants to declare frequent casino visits,'' he said.
Lai could have been jailed for up to five years and/or fined up to $100,000 for each charge of corruption. The maximum penalty for forgery is four years' jail and a fine.