Ex-ST Marine exec fined $210k in graft case

Sentenced for covering up alleged corrupt payments, he avoids jail by assisting in case

Patrick Lee Swee Ching was given the maximum fine of $210,000 yesterday for falsifying documents to cover up alleged corrupt payments. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore Technologies (ST) Marine's former group financial controller was given the maximum fine of $210,000 yesterday for falsifying documents to cover up alleged corrupt payments amounting to more than $126,000.

Patrick Lee Swee Ching escaped a jail term as he had, among other things, cooperated during investigations and pleaded guilty early.

Even the prosecution sought a high fine for the 58-year-old, who has committed to testifying truthfully against his alleged co-conspirators should he be called upon to.

Lee admitted to seven of 38 charges of conspiring with others between 2004 and 2007 to make false entries in petty cash vouchers.

Investigations showed officers of ST Marine, which runs two shipyards in Benoi and Tuas roads, approved and made corrupt payments to secure business by bribing the employees of its customers.

They were paid using ST Marine's funds disguised as "entertainment expenses''.

Amounts of more than $5,000 were split into a series of petty cash claims to avoid suspicion.

When Lee heard that "entertainment expenses'' were being submitted without any supporting documents, and that the sums were being used to pay "commissions'', he expressed his concern to his superiors.

Following various meetings, the senior management agreed to sanction the practice of making these payments.

In mitigation, defence counsel Hamidul Haq said Lee, who has been living in the United States with his family since 2006, voluntarily flew back on several occasions to help in investigations.

He has been in Singapore since his return on Christmas eve.

The lawyer said his client was not the mastermind behind the scheme, and the practice had been going on before he joined the company in 2001.

District Judge Jasvender Kaur said that, ordinarily, she would have imposed a jail sentence.

As the group financial controller, she said, it was Lee's responsibility to ensure that the illicit payments were not disguised.

"You should have known very much better than to listen to your superiors' instructions," she said.

She noted the strong mitigation submitted by both the prosecution and defence.

"I will accept that these strong mitigating factors tilt the balance in favour of a fine,'' she said.

Meanwhile, two more former senior executives of ST Marine were charged with corruption yesterday.

Former president of commercial business Tan Mong Seng, 63, faces one charge involving $43,721, while Han Yew Kwang, 58, then the chief operating officer, was accused of eight charges involving $790,772.

A pre-trial conference has been fixed on July 9, which will include four other former senior executives of ST Marine facing corruption charges as well.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2015, with the headline Ex-ST Marine exec fined $210k in graft case. Subscribe