Former SMRT Trains branch manager jailed over scam involving contracts worth $196k

SINGAPORE - An SMRT Trains branch manager set up his own firm in 2015 and duped the public transport provider into awarding four contracts to it worth a total of $196,000.

Chua Eng Seng, 43, who worked in communication systems maintenance, was jailed for 13 months on Friday (Sept 21).

He pleaded guilty last month to four counts of committing forgery for the purpose of cheating and two cheating charges.

Chua, who no longer works for SMRT, also admitted to one count of making a bogus report entry by preparing and signing a report to show that goods were accepted by SMRT even though none were delivered.

Fifteen other charges for similar offences were considered during sentencing.

Chua started working for SMRT Trains in September 2009 as a senior engineer. He was promoted to branch manager of communication systems maintenance four years later.

As part of his job, Chua was authorised to approve payments on SMRT's e-procurement and payment systems.

On Oct 26, 2015, he incorporated a firm known as Amory Chua and was its sole director and shareholder. He did not tell SMRT about his interest in the firm, the court heard.

He then used his position as branch manager to recommend quotes from Amory Chua to SMRT.

As a result, Amory Chua was paid for goods and services which were neither delivered nor performed.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim said: "The accused had set up ACPL (Amory Chua Private Limited) with the intent of selling electronic and other items online, but ACPL had no business other than the purported transactions with SMRT."

Between January and April 2016, four contracts - involving items such as fibre optic converters and 3G wireless routers - were awarded to Amory Chua.

The contracts were worth $196,000 and Chua received $106,000 from SMRT. He has since made full restitution.

On May 12, 2016, an SMRT internal auditor alerted the police stating that Chua had been dismissed after an audit revealed that he had falsified quotes sent by various suppliers.

The DPP, who urged the court to sentence Chua to at least 16 months' jail, said that SMRT may be considered a "quasi-public entity" which is part of Singapore's public transport infrastructure. He also said that Chua held a senior position in SMRT when he committed the offences.

Chua was represented by lawyers Adrian Wee and Jonathan Low. Mr Wee pleaded for between 10 and 12 months' jail, stressing that SMRT is neither a government agency nor a statutory board.

It is a public-listed company that provides a service to the public, said the lawyer.

In a statement, SMRT said it expects all staff to uphold the highest standards of integrity at all times and "will not hesitate to investigate, report to the authorities and take firm action against any wrongdoing".