Ex-MFA protocol chief expected to plead guilty in Feb 17 mention

Lim Cheng Hoe, the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) protocol chief at the heart of a pineapple tarts scandal is expected to plead guilty to cheating, at a mention in three weeks. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Lim Cheng Hoe, the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) protocol chief at the heart of a pineapple tarts scandal is expected to plead guilty to cheating, at a mention in three weeks. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The former Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) protocol chief at the heart of a pineapple tarts scandal is expected to plead guilty to cheating, at a mention in three weeks.

Lim Cheng Hoe, 60, first indicated his intention through his lawyers at a pre-trial conference earlier this month. He has not changed his position as of Wednesday, when parties met again to confirm the mention date.

The plea mention for Lim, who is represented by Mr Philip Fong and Mr Nicklaus Tan of Harry Elias Partnership, is scheduled for 11am on February 17, at Subordinate Court 12.

The public service veteran of 38 years faces 60 charges of cheating the Government of about $89,000 - 56 of which involve the ministry and the other four, a separate government unit that handles reimbursements.

He allegedly submitted false expense claims between February 2008 and May 2012 for wine and pineapple tarts, which are popular in the MFA as gifts for hosts of official trips abroad.

Among the alleged claims, ranging from $280 to $5,080, were reimbursements to Lim for 10,075 boxes of pineapple tarts and 248 bottles of wine over the four-year period. But only 2,226 boxes of the pastry and 89 bottles of wine were actually purchased and used by the ministry.

His alleged modus operandi involved falsifying receipts, and using genuine receipts but with inflated claims of the number of items used for official purposes, to cover up his ruse.

The maximum penalty for cheating is 10 years' jail and a fine.