General manager of subcontracting firm involved in Bidadari BTO fined $50,000 for corruption

Lu Zhibo was fined $50,000 on March 2, 2022. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A general manager of a subcontracting firm involved in a Build-To-Order (BTO) housing project had given a contractor $24,000 in loans as he did not want to sour their relationship.

Lu Zhibo, 39, who held the highest position in the Singapore branch of Nanjing Minglu Construction Engineering (NMCE), was fined $50,000 on Wednesday (March 2).

Lu, a Chinese national, had pleaded guilty to three charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act and one count of instigating his worker to make a false entry for a payment he had made in NMCE's name.

Another 13 similar charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing.

The court heard that in 2016, the Housing Board (HDB) awarded three contracts for the construction of nearly 1,800 units in the Bidadari estate to Rich Construction Co (RCC).

RCC then hired NMCE as a subcontractor to do concrete works for the project. The contract was valued at more than $4.79 million.

Some time in April 2018, Wong Wei Chern - a project manager at RCC - told Lu he was facing financial difficulties and asked him for a loan of $10,000.

Wong, a 39-year-old Malaysian, also lied to Lu about paying $10,000 in penalties on NMCE's behalf to an architectural firm for mistakes made by its workers.

Though he believed that Wong was making excuses to borrow money, Lu complied and transferred to him $5,000 from NMCE's account.

This was to induce Wong not to make things difficult for NMCE in relation to its work, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Bryan Wong.

In August that year, Wong lied to Lu again about penalties he had paid for NMCE and requested to be "reimbursed".

Lu lent him another $2,000 from his company's account.

In December 2018, Wong told Lu that his superiors had instructed him to deduct $50,000 from NMCE's payment as its workers' mistakes had caused RCC to get demerit points from HDB.

There were no such instruction, the court heard.

In total, Lu had corruptly given Wong $24,000 in loans between November 2016 and August 2019.

To cover his tracks, Lu had instructed his administrative worker to describe the payments as entertainment expenses instead of loans.

"Lu knew that payments which were recorded as loans would be flagged by NMCE's auditors. Specifically, they would ask when the loans could be recovered," said the DPP.

"In contrast, entertainment expenses were not meant to be recovered and were less likely to face scrutiny from auditors," he added.

Wong's case is pending before the courts.

Seeking a fine of at least $55,000, the prosecution said Lu had contributed to a serious risk of eroding confidence in Singapore's public administration.

He added that Lu was in a position to say "no" when Wong asked for the loans and had enough time to alert HDB to the latter's actions.

Lu's lawyer, Ms Jenny Tsin from WongPartnership, said her client did not initiate offering the loans and was pressured into giving them.

"(Lu) did not realise that he had broken the law until investigations were carried out. He promised never to make such a mistake again," she added.

Each offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act carries a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and a five-year jail term.

For instigating his worker to make a false entry, Lu could have been fined and jailed for up to 10 years.

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