Former RSAF engineer admits to cheating Government over contracts worth more than $1.8 million

Rajkumar Padmanathan, 49, pleaded guilty to 19 cheating charges involving more than $150,000.
Rajkumar Padmanathan, 49, pleaded guilty to 19 cheating charges involving more than $150,000.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A former Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) engineer has admitted in a district court that he cheated the Government over contracts worth more than $1.8 million.

On Wednesday (May 9), Rajkumar Padmanathan, 49, pleaded guilty to 19 cheating charges involving more than $150,000. The court heard that 198 other cheating charges involving the remaining amount will be taken into consideration during sentencing.

Besides this, Rajkumar and another former RSAF engineer, Sung Way Xiong, 29, each pleaded guilty to one corruption charge and eight offences involving the Official Secrets Act.

Sung was given 10 weeks' jail on Wednesday. Rajkumar, who has not been sentenced, will be back in court on June 27.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Vincent Ong said that Rajkumar joined RSAF as an air force engineer in 1989 and resigned on July 31, 2012.

His scope of work mainly related to the F-16 aircraft, and required him to raise requests for repair and maintenance works. Independent contractors would tender for these jobs.

DPP Ong told District Judge Edgar Foo: "After receiving the quotations from the contractors, Rajkumar would then indicate which contractors he recommended.

"Rajkumar's superiors would authenticate the request and generally relied on Rajkumar's recommendations in respect of the contractors, as well as the price quoted, to determine if they should be awarded the works."

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) would pay the contractors upon completion of their tasks.

While still working as an RSAF engineer, Rajkumar came up with a scheme to cheat his employer and obtain profits for himself.

On May 19, 2010, he incorporated a firm known as Goodwill Aviations System (GAS), with his wife as the sole director and shareholder. However, Rajkumar was the true owner and controlled the company's business, said DPP Ong.

Without informing his superiors about his links to GAS, he would make recommendations for jobs to be awarded to the firm.

DPP Ong added: "As a result of his recommendation and deception, quotations by GAS would be approved by his superiors and the works would then be awarded to GAS."

Between October 2010 and June 2012, GAS was awarded 99 jobs with a total value of $868,994.

Besides GAS, Rajkumar was also involved in the business of three other companies which tendered for works required by RSAF. They are Eagle Flight Aviation Services, Duratech Engineering and Global Trade Well.

Through a similar method, these three firms were each awarded jobs of between $29,090 and $632,528.

Rajkumar met Sung in 2014 after leaving RSAF. The younger man was an RSAF engineer at that time and had access to a platform known as the Enterprise System, which contained confidential data such as pricing information for various items.

The court heard that the pricing information is classified as "commercial-in-confidence". Contractors with access to the system would gain a competitive advantage over the others.

When Rajkumar learnt that Sung had access to the system, he told the younger man that he was involved in the aviation business and asked Sung to provide him with the prices of items in the RSAF inventory.

DPP Ong said: "He also told Sung that if his business went smoothly, he could employ Sung when the latter left the RSAF and give him a good pay package and that if the business was good, he would share some of his profits with Sung."

Sung corruptly agreed to be part of the plan and gave Rajkumar confidential pricing information which he obtained from the Enterprise System, said the DPP.

In a statement, Mindef said on Wednesday that it has a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption.

Together with the Singapore Armed Forces, Mindef said, it has a "robust procurement process which incorporates a comprehensive set of internal and external audits, checks and balances to guard against corruption and procurement malpractices".

"During one of our periodic internal audits in July 2015, we detected irregularities and immediately surfaced this case to the CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) for investigation.

"All servicemen, regardless of their position or seniority, are expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity and conduct."