Town council ex-GM graft trial: Funds used to pay for dinners, karaoke came from various sources

Public prosecutors went through a handwritten ledger recording these expenses which was kept by company director Chia Sin Lan (above) and his business partner, Mr Tay Eng Chuan. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The funds used to pay for the dinners and karaoke sessions for a former town council's general manager came under scrutiny on Thursday (Nov 8), the fifth day of a graft trial.

Public prosecutors went through a handwritten ledger recording these expenses which was kept by company director Chia Sin Lan, 63, and his business partner, Mr Tay Eng Chuan.

While Chia, who is being tried for bribery, told anti-graft investigators that the incoming funds listed in the ledger came from the sale of scrap metal, Mr Tay's court testimony gave other sources.

These included a "cash back" of $450 that a foreign worker they employed returned every month to their company, 19-NS2 Enterprise, because his actual salary was lower than what was being declared to the authorities, Mr Tay said.

Mr Tay also highlighted another form of "cash back". This involved suppliers and the sum amounted to thousands of dollars because they charged 19-NS2 inflated prices on paper for certain purchases.

This was done to get larger subsidies from a government scheme to raise productivity, Mr Tay told the court on Thursday.

The same ledger also contained more than a dozen entries - with amounts ranging from $400 to $4,280 - of Chia's expenses for entertaining Ang Mo Kio Town Council's former general manager Wong Chee Meng, 58.

Chia and Wong each faces 54 charges, for bribes totalling over $107,000 that Chia allegedly gave to Wong for almost two years, up to 2016. This was in exchange for advancing the business interests of 19-NS2 and another of Chia's companies, 19-ANC Enterprise.

Both companies, which carried out works for town councils, were awarded contracts and tenders worth millions of dollars by Ang Mo Kio Town Council during the time the alleged bribery took place, the prosecution has charged.

When questioned by Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue on Thursday, Mr Tay told the court how Chia would bring receipts to him, to claim for the expenses from their company, 19-NS2. These were recorded in the ledger.

An entry on May 18, 2015, showing an expense of $3,700, for example, was the total for dinner, karaoke and hotel rooms, Mr Tay said.

Mr Tay added that Chia showed him receipts for hotel stays at Hotel 81 and Fragrance Hotel, which cost between $30 and $35. Chia, however, did not tell him what the hotel rooms were used for, Mr Tay noted.

DPP Jiang asked Mr Tay why the entries, which were all for expenses to entertain Wong, also known as Victor, were recorded differently, and annotated using letters such as V, VI and VIC.

Mr Tay replied that it was Chia's idea not to use the same letters, so the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau or government agencies would not be able to identify them easily if they did a check.

DPP Jiang also questioned Mr Tay on why there was a great difference in the expenses, ranging from $400, to as much as $4,280.

Mr Tay said that the larger amount could be when Chia opened many bottles of alcohol, and the smaller amount was because there were leftover bottles from their last visit, hence they spent less.

But Mr Tay, who spoke in Mandarin and had a translator, said: "I was not present (at these entertainment sessions), so I cannot be very sure."

The trial continues on Friday.

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