SINGAPORE - Former NTUC chairman and ex-MP Phey Yew Kok, 81, was sentenced to 60 months in jail on Friday (Jan 22).
He had pleaded guilty to 12 charges, including committing 10 counts of criminal breach of trust, one count of abetting the fabrication of false evidence to a public servant and one count of failing to attend court when ordered to by a judicial officer.
Phey consented for the remaining 22 charges to be taken into consideration during sentencing.
The jail term will be backdated to June 23 last year, the date of his remand.
Phey is "ashamed and sorry" for what he has done, said his lawyer Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah. His actions have let down the union movement, which he was wholeheartedly committed to, SC Rajah added.
Phey "suffered great hardship" during his 35 years on the run, SC Rajah said. His last job was as a watchman for a godown. In hindsight, he regrets absconding and realises now that he should have stayed on and faced the consequences of his mistake.
The silver-haired Phey, who is married with three children, appeared in court alone, dressed in a white T-shirt and a pair of brown pants.
His expression was solemn and he stood stiffly, shaking slightly as the charges were read to him.
After being on the run for over 30 years, Phey had unexpectedly turned himself in at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok on June 22 last year. He was brought back to Singapore the following day.
He faced a total of 34 charges involving more than $450,000, almost five times the $100,000 in union funds he was originally charged with misappropriating in 1979.
In July last year, he appeared in court via video link to hear 28 new charges. He was earlier charged with six counts of misusing union funds in December 1979.
The fresh charges involved criminal breach of trust, abetting the fabrication of evidence, abetting the provision of false information to a public servant, and misappropriating more than $200,000 in supermarket goods. He had allegedly taken money from the International Metalworkers Federation and Boon Teck Education Centre; his new charges included one of absconding while on $100,000 bail.
After being first charged in December 1979, he was expected to return to court on Jan 7, 1980. But on New Year's Eve, he took a train to Kuala Lumpur and went to Bangkok, evading attempts to track him down. By leaving Singapore, Phey caused his two bailors to forfeit $95,000 of the $100,000 they put up.
Phey joined the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as an industrial relations officer in 1964, and was appointed NTUC president just six years later, at the age of 35. He was elected MP for Boon Teck constituency in 1972.
But soon after becoming NTUC chairman, he was investigated. By the end of 1979, he was facing charges that involved CBT, which included misappropriating two cheques, for $40,000 and $25,000, in 1975 while he was general secretary of the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation.
He has been held in remand since returning to Singapore.