Ex-Keppel Shipyard employee jailed for accepting bribes

Neo Kian Siong has been sentenced to a year and nine months' jail for collecting more than $740,000 in bribes. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Neo Kian Siong has been sentenced to a year and nine months' jail for collecting more than $740,000 in bribes. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A Keppel Shipyard senior procurement officer collected more than $740,000 in bribes from some of the firm's suppliers after telling them the prices of products quoted by their competitors.

Neo Kian Siong would receive calls from these suppliers just before the deadline to submit quotes for a given order, and he would inform them of the lowest existing quote. This allowed them to submit a slightly lower quote.

Neo, 63, who accepted the monies from 2007 to 2014, was yesterday sentenced to a year and nine months' jail.

On Feb 15, he pleaded guilty to 26 corruption charges and 28 counts of dealing with the benefits of his ill-gotten gains. Another 341 charges for similar offences were considered during sentencing.

The court heard that Neo, who was sacked in 2016, was not authorised to give such information to the suppliers and that Keppel Shipyard considered such pricing information to be confidential.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Sng said Neo started working for the company in 1981 as a clerical assistant before rising through the ranks, and became a senior procurement officer in 2014.

He was then tasked with procuring supplies such as steel structures as well as pipes and pipe fittings. He handled about 8,000 purchase orders in 2014 alone.

According to court documents, Neo received bribes from eight people whose companies dealt with items such as piping components and copper-nickel fittings.

He used the benefits of his criminal activities to pay for, among other things, shares and insurance premiums.

Court documents did not state how his offences came to light, but the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau interviewed him multiple times in 2014.

In the course of investigations, it seized more than $150,000 from two bank accounts and more than $730,000 from insurance policies.

Yesterday, defence lawyer Raymond Lye pleaded for Neo to be given 15 months' jail. He told the court that his client had made full restitution.

In a statement, Keppel Shipyard said: "We have extended our full cooperation to the authorities, and are unable to comment further. We take a serious view of any corrupt act and will not tolerate any employee conduct that is illegal.

"All employees of the Keppel group are required to abide by the Keppel code of conduct, which prohibits, among others, bribery and corruption."

Neo is out on bail of $50,000 and will surrender himself at the State Courts next Wednesday to begin serving his sentence.

For each count of corruption, he could have been jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-Keppel Shipyard employee jailed for accepting bribes'. Print Edition | Subscribe