The Straits Times
Published on Jan 12, 2013

Sex-for-grades trial: Prosecutor seeks to impeach key witness

Part of Darinne Ko's testimony differ from her CPIB statements


THE prosecution in the sex-for-grades corruption trial turned against its key witness yesterday, pointing out how parts of her court testimony contradicted statements she had given anti-graft police earlier.

Ms Darinne Ko, 23, had barely taken the stand for 30 minutes in the afternoon when Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy asked for her to step down.

After she went back into the witness room, the DPP applied to District Judge Tan Siong Thye to impeach her.

The DPP charged that her testimony in court represented a "material departure" from statements she had given to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in April last year. He pointed out eight instances of such discrepancies, but only three were addressed yesterday.

They centred on her interactions in class with her National University of Singapore law professor Tey Tsun Hang, who initiated their online chats, and why she bought him a $740 Montblanc pen.

Ms Ko is the main witness in the corruption trial of Tey, 41, who is accused of taking advantage of his position as her teacher to obtain gifts and sex from her.

On Thursday, her first day on the stand, she had painted her gifts of a pen, two shirts and an iPod as love tokens, and the two instances of sex with him as a culmination of their love.

The first signs that she would be turned into a hostile witness yesterday emerged when the DPP showed her a photograph of her and Tey topless and in a tight embrace.

Asked where it was taken, she said she did not know.

She was then shown two photographs of Tey's office and asked to review the first photo again to see if it would jolt her memory.

She repeated that she didn't know when it was taken.

She was soon impeached.

When she returned to the stand, the DPP referred to the three inconsistencies.

In a statement she had given to the CPIB on April 2, she admitted that she had been singled out by Tey for attention in his equity and trusts class.

She said in the CPIB statement: "I realised that he likes to call on me to answer questions. At that time, I find that he was humorous and charming when he teaches us."

On Thursday, however, she had said that she and Tey had interacted on the same level "as per any other student, not particularly interactive".

It was only later on that he would call on students who did their tutorials, and she was one of them.

This indicated a much more "limited" amount of interaction, charged the DPP yesterday.

To this, Ms Ko said that the two pronouncements were not mutually exclusive.

The second discrepancy had to do with who initiated their online chats on Google Chat.

In her CPIB statement, Ms Ko had said it was Tey. But on Thursday, she said she did not remember.

In her CPIB statement on the pen, she said she had suggested that Tey replace a fountain pen that he lost with one from Montblanc at Raffles City, but he told her that he did not know how to go to "those places". She then bought it for him.

On Thursday, she said the pen, her first gift to him, was a belated birthday present.

The DPP pointed out that nowhere in her CPIB statements did she say this.

He asked if it was even possible that Tey would have not known how to go to Raffles City when he "used to work maybe two blocks down in the Supreme Court".

At this point, Tey jumped up to protest, asking the DPP to "accord the witness the basic level of decency".

He also told the court that the place he did not know how to get to was the Raffles City Montblanc store, and not Raffles City.

The DPP then put it to Ms Ko that she had been "insinuating" in her CPIB statement that Tey was asking her to get the pen for him. She flatly denied this yesterday.

She said she had "failed to convey" to CPIB officer Png Chen Chen that it was a belated birthday gift.

Ms Png, she charged, was also willing to record only parts of what she said.

"In relation to the gift, Chen Chen had received specific orders to record it within the parameters of my agreement with her boss."

When asked why she did not amend her statement if it had been inaccurate, she said that she had been questioned for 13 hours straight and was running on only three hours of sleep after being woken up at 6.30am.

She was also only asked to read through her statement at 2am.

She later said that she had only amended those parts that she was "coerced" into admitting.

She also alleged that another CPIB officer had threatened that word of the investigation might get out if she had hired a lawyer.

On April 2, when she was first hauled up by the CPIB, her mother had asked a male officer who had gone to her house if she should hire a lawyer.

"His response was: 'If she wanted everyone to know what was going on, she could go ahead to get a lawyer'," said Ms Ko.

The trial resumes next Monday when Ms Ko will take the stand again.