ICA officer, daughter jailed over PR application bribery

Lucy Teo (left) and Sharon Loo Wai Woon worked together to accept bribes from a woman seeking to be a Singapore permanent resident.
Lucy Teo (left) and Sharon Loo Wai Woon worked together to accept bribes from a woman seeking to be a Singapore permanent resident.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

An Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) customer service officer and her daughter received bribes totalling $1,500 from a Malaysian woman who wanted her Singapore permanent residence application process to be expedited.

The mother, Lucy Teo, 50, was sentenced yesterday to 18 weeks' jail. She pleaded guilty on Monday to a corruption charge and five counts of accessing computer data without authority at the ICA Building in Kallang Road.

A district court heard that ICA suspended her on Dec 19, 2018.

Her daughter, Sharon Loo Wai Woon, 29, who worked as a sales consultant for a firm called Immigration Solutions Singapore (ISS), was sentenced to six weeks' jail after admitting to one count of corruption. She must also pay a penalty of $1,500, which was the amount taken in bribes.

The two Singaporean women had worked together to accept bribes from Fenny Tey Hui Nee, 25, who became a Singapore permanent resident (PR) on Nov 9, 2018. She was sentenced to four weeks' jail in June over her role in the offences.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Ben Tan and Eric Hu stated in court documents that Tey had made inquiries about ISS' immigration consultancy services in July 2017 as she wanted to become a Singapore PR. Loo told her that it would cost $5,000 to engage the firm's services.

Tey decided not to engage its services as she felt that the fee was too steep. She later asked if Loo could help her in her personal capacity.

Loo spoke to her mother in September 2017, and they decided to ask Tey for $1,500 in exchange for helping her with the PR application.

Loo later told Tey that her "cousin" could help her, and Tey gave Teo $750 in cash on Sept 28, 2017. Tey handed her the remaining $750 the following month.

The court heard that Tey later "kept asking" Teo about the status of her PR application.

Teo then used her account on ICA's Central Identification and Registration Information System (Ciris) to check on the progress of the application even though she was not authorised to do so.

Her offences came to light after she asked a colleague on Oct 23, 2018, what a particular status meant on the system and said that she was checking on a friend's "PR status".

Teo's superior, who was alerted, then suspected that something was amiss as such information could not be disclosed to outsiders.

ICA later conducted an audit on Teo's Ciris account and discovered that she had performed multiple unauthorised screenings involving other people.

In a statement on Tuesday evening to The Straits Times, ICA said that it will be reviewing Tey's PR status.

Its spokesman added: "ICA takes a serious view of errant officers. Those who break the law will be dealt with accordingly. Following Lucy Teo’s conviction in court, appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against her with a view to dismiss her from service.

"ICA officers are expected to maintain a high standard of integrity and remain professional at all times. All officers are constantly reminded on the expected conduct and behaviour. We regularly conduct audits and disseminate advisories to remind officers against the misuse of IT systems, to reinforce the message that ICA has zero tolerance for such offences."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2020, with the headline 'ICA officer, daughter jailed over PR application bribery'. Subscribe