Duo get 5 1/2 years' jail for accepting over $2m in bribes

Takaaki Masui (left) and Katsutoshi Ishibe, who worked for Nissho Iwai International Singapore and later Sojitz Asia, received more than $2 million in bribes from Mr Koh Pee Chiang between 2004 and 2007.
Takaaki Masui (above) and Katsutoshi Ishibe, who worked for Nissho Iwai International Singapore and later Sojitz Asia, received more than $2 million in bribes from Mr Koh Pee Chiang between 2004 and 2007.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW
Takaaki Masui (left) and Katsutoshi Ishibe, who worked for Nissho Iwai International Singapore and later Sojitz Asia, received more than $2 million in bribes from Mr Koh Pee Chiang between 2004 and 2007.
Takaaki Masui and Katsutoshi Ishibe, who worked for Nissho Iwai International Singapore and later Sojitz Asia, received more than $2 million in bribes from Mr Koh Pee Chiang between 2004 and 2007.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

To continue to be a distributor of edible flour, Singaporean Koh Pee Chiang paid Katsutoshi Ishibe, 53, and Takaaki Masui, 55, over $2 million in bribes between 2004 and 2007 until his business faced financial problems.

Ishibe and Masui were yesterday sentenced to 51/2 years' jail. District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan had found them guilty of 28 counts of corruption each in March at the end of a 13-day trial.

The judge also ordered the Japanese men to each pay a penalty of $1,025,701, failing which, they will have to spend an additional six months behind bars.

The court heard that Mr Koh, the sole proprietor of Chia Lee & Co, claimed he had no choice but to agree to the arrangement. Court documents did not state his age.

His firm was the longstanding distributor of edible flour for the company the two men worked for - Nissho Iwai International Singapore, and then Sojitz Asia after a merger in 2004.

In order to "support and protect" Chia Lee's edible flour business, Ishibe got Mr Koh to also sell industrial flour, but under a profit-sharing arrangement. The deal, worked out sometime in 2002, saw industrial flour being sold through Chia Lee to a firm called Chao Sun Trading for a profit margin of US$23 per tonne.

Mr Koh was allowed to keep US$3 while the remaining US$20 was split between Ishibe and Masui. The deal continued even after Ishibe, who initially was a manager of the foodstuff department of Nissho Singapore and Mr Koh's main contact point with the firm, eventually returned to Japan. Court documents did not state when this happened.

Masui then took over Ishibe's role. The profit-sharing arrangement was made without the knowledge of their company. In the submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutors Jasmin Kaur and Loh Hui-Min said: "Mr Koh agreed to do this 'favour' for Ishibe as he wanted to ensure that his edible flour business would continue to run smoothly.

"He was worried and nervous that if he did not agree to do this 'favour', Ishibe would sell the edible flour to competing trading companies, which would in turn adversely affect Chia Lee's edible flour business."

Later on, each transaction garnered a higher profit margin, but Mr Koh continued to receive US$3.

This amount only just covered his costs and could not sufficiently cover the additional business tax which Chia Lee had to pay as the industrial flour business grew.

By June 2005, Chia Lee ended up in grave financial difficulties. Despite this, Mr Koh continued to pay the two men, out of concern for his edible flour business. The payments stopped only when Chia Lee's accounts were later controlled by Sojitz Japan.

Yesterday, defence counsel Sunil Sudheesan told the court that his clients, who no longer work for the Japanese firm, will be appealing against their conviction and sentence. They are now out on bail of $500,000 each. Court documents did not state if any action is being taken against Mr Koh.

Shaffiq Alkhatib

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2018, with the headline 'Duo get 5 1/2 years' jail for accepting over $2m in bribes'. Print Edition | Subscribe