Ex-boss of listed magazine publisher and property company gets 4 years' jail for cheating

The former chairman and managing director of listed Eastern Holdings, Stephen Tay Thian Boon, was sentenced to 48 months' jail on Wednesday for cheating.
The former chairman and managing director of listed Eastern Holdings, Stephen Tay Thian Boon, was sentenced to 48 months' jail on Wednesday for cheating. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The former chairman and managing director of listed Eastern Holdings was sentenced to 48 months' jail on Wednesday for cheating.

Stephen Tay Thian Boon, 57, was convicted in April this year after a 10-day trial, of cheating the magazine publisher and property company's then financial controller by dishonestly concealing that he was an interested party in a $1 million loan agreement between the company and Dormitory Investment (DIPL), thus inducing Mr Lim Jiah Sheng to pay the amount to DIPL on Jan 13, 2005.

He was also found guilty of failing to declare his interest in the loan transaction and that he had received $400,000 from DIPL's managing director Kang Choon Boon on March 2, 2006.

Tay is also disqualified, under the Companies Act, from being a director and involved in managing any company for five years after his release from prison.

His lawyer Sunil Sudheesan filed notice of appeal against conviction and sentence. Tay was offered $600,000 bail, pending his appeal to the High Court.

A district court heard that Tay had been approached by personal friend Granner Lim Kian Boo, who previously ran a printing business that dealt with Eastern Holdings.

Mr Lim sought $600,000 from Tay on behalf of the bosses of DIPL. This was the amount DIPL needed to borrow to complete a $12 million deal for a foreign worker dormitory at Kaki Bukit Avenue 3.

The prosecution had said Tay was interested in helping and wanted $400,000 to "sweeten the deal". But instead of of making the loan personally, he got Eastern Holdings to act as the lender. He received his payment after the loan deal was signed on Jan 13, 2005.

Mr Sunil had said in his mitigation plea that no loss was caused to any party despite the $1 million loan being disbursed.

He said Tay, who now works as a consultant to Eastern Holdings, strongly believes in helping the less fortunate and has been actively involved in charity work. He has, through several of his private companies and in his personal capacity, donated significant sums to religious organisations and others like the Children's Cancer Foundation and the Yellow Ribbon Fund.

He had argued for a one-day imprisonment coupled with the maximum fine as opposed to the minimum six years' jail sought by Deputy Public Prosecutors Andre Jumabhoy and Shaun Lee.

In sentencing, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said he took into account the considerable sum of $400,000 that Tay benefited from.

Apart from the significant sum, he said other aggravating factors including the high degree of trust in Tay justified the jail sentence.

Tay could have been jailed for up to seven years and/or fined for cheating. The maximum punishment under the Companies Act is a $5,000 fine or 12 months' jail.