Contracts worth millions awarded to firms when former Ang Mo Kio Town Council GM was allegedly bribed

Wong Chee Meng, 58, stands accused of taking bribes from two company directors in exchange for advancing the business interests of their companies with the Ang Mo Kio Town Council. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - In the period that former Ang Mo Kio Town Council general manager Wong Chee Meng allegedly took bribes from two company directors, town council tenders and contracts worth millions of dollars were awarded to their firms.

On the first day of Wong's trial on Tuesday (Sept 25), court documents revealed that these agreements included that of repair and redecoration works on Housing Board blocks, as well as the construction of community gardens.

Wong, who is 58 and also known as Victor Wong, had in April pleaded not guilty to taking the bribes totalling over $107,000. His trial begins on Tuesday.

He faces 55 counts of corruptly accepting gratification from Chia Sin Lan, director of companies 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise, and Ms Yip Fong Yin, director of 19-NS2.

Wong is represented by Mr Tang Shangwei and Ms Melanie Ho of WongPartnership.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh told the court on Tuesday: "As the general manager of AMKTC, (Wong) had the power and ability to influence the award of AMKTC projects. (He) was expected to act with absolute probity, particularly because his job involved the administration of public funds."

Mr Loh added, however, that instead of exercising his role impartially without favour, Wong "fell far short of the high standards of integrity demanded of his office and allowed himself to be cultivated by (Chia) and had become beholden to him, 19-ANC, and 19-NS2".

The lion's share of gratification which amounted to almost $53,000, said the prosecution, was in the form of entertainment expenses Wong and Chia incurred at KTV lounges and massage parlours, which they frequented often at night.

According to the Building and Construction Authority's directory, both businesses are licensed builders and registered to carry out repair and redecoration works.

The bribes, amounting to more than $107,000, were allegedly taken between December 2014 and September 2016. According to court documents, they include:

• Remittances to Wong's mistress in China worth $30,600;

• Restaurant bills worth $5,000;

• A $13,500 discount on a Toyota Corolla Altis that Wong bought;

• A spa treatment in Geylang that cost around $1,070;

• Stays at budget hotels Fragrance Hotel and Hotel 81, which cost about $35 and $30 respectively;

• Entertainment expenses of more than $40,000 at various KTV lounges and nightclubs;

• A job for Wong's daughter-in-law Le Thi Hien at the firm 4-Ever Engineering. Chia's company 19-ANC Enterprise paid $8,247.67 towards her salary between March and August 2016;

• Charges amounting to $2,527.76 for Wong's use of an M1 mobile phone line.

Chia, 63, is accused of 54 counts of giving bribes to Wong. He also faces one count of abetment for allegedly conspiring with Ms Yip to bribe Wong by making arrangements for Wong to receive the $13,500 car purchase discount, and is represented by Mr Michael Loh of Clifford Law.

Chia's two companies face one charge each of corruption for conspiring to bribe Wong to advance their business interests with the town council.

On Tuesday, a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau officer who took the stand read out statements given by Wong during investigations.

Wong had said he was aware that 19-ANC was trying to build good relations with him. He added that the discount on his car purchase from Ms Yip - supposedly for the high mileage it clocked - should have been only about $1,000 and not more than $10,000 that was given.

"I wish to say that it was bad judgment on my part," he told the officer.

He also said he should not have let Chia and his associate pay when they went out drinking together, that he had not gone for such sessions with other contractors. Wong said he had gone out with Chia as he was troubled due to problems in his marriage.

Wong, the most senior executive in the town council, was removed from duty after it received a complaint about him in September 2016 over the way he handled contracts and dealings in the town council.

He was later investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and was charged in March.

The town council appointed a new general manager, Mr Ang Boon Peng, in April 2017 - about five months after Wong was removed.

The trial this week is expected to take place over three days. If convicted, Wong and Chia could be fined up to $100,000 and jailed for a maximum of seven years on each charge. The companies could each face a fine of up to $100,000 under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

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