Town council ex-GM's graft trial

Expenses for karaoke, dinners under scrutiny

Company director Chia Sin Lan (far left) told investigators the incoming funds listed in a ledger of expenses came from the sale of scrap metal. But his business partner testified that there are other sources. Chia and former town council general man
Company director Chia Sin Lan (left) told investigators the incoming funds listed in a ledger of expenses came from the sale of scrap metal. But his business partner testified that there are other sources. Chia and former town council general manager Wong Chee Meng (right) each face 54 charges for bribes totalling over $107,000.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

Contractor's ledger lists amounts spent on entertaining ex-GM

The funds used to pay for the dinners and karaoke sessions for a former town council's general manager came under scrutiny yesterday, 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 yesterday.

The same ledger also contained over 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, also known as Victor.

Chia and Wong each face 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 yesterday, Mr Tay told the court how Chia would bring receipts to him to claim for the expenses from 19-NS2. These were noted 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, he 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, he said.

DPP Jiang asked Mr Tay why the entries, which were all for expenses to entertain Wong, 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 the larger amount could be when Chia opened many bottles of alcohol, and the smaller sum came about because there were leftover bottles from their last visit.

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

The trial continues today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2018, with the headline 'Expenses for karaoke, dinners under scrutiny'. Print Edition | Subscribe