Jail for 2nd man linked to Customs Operations Command Complex site inspection graft case

Guo Jiaxun pleaded guilty to three counts each of corruption and falsification of accounts.
Guo Jiaxun pleaded guilty to three counts each of corruption and falsification of accounts.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A former deputy project manager was jailed for 15 weeks and fined $6,000 on Monday (Dec 21) for his role in a graft case over the inspections of the Customs Operations Command Complex (COCC) construction site.

Chinese national Guo Jiaxun, 34, who worked for construction firm Newcon Builders from 2015 to 2018, pleaded guilty to three counts each of corruption and falsification of accounts.

He was the second person linked to the case to be dealt with in court.

In October, Lee Mun Cheng, 53, was jailed for 18 weeks and fined $7,000 after accepting bribes in return for showing leniency over site inspections of the COCC.

The Singaporean, who was then working as a resident technical officer for CPG Consultants which inspects on-site mechanical construction works, was also ordered to pay a penalty of $5,319.78 which was the total amount of bribes he took.

The court heard that Guo was the initiator of the arrangement before it was proposed to Lee. The cases involving two other men - Indian national Rajendran Thiagarajan, 33, and Singaporean Lin Haifeng, 45 - are still pending.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Joseph Gwee said that on Sept 23, 2016, Newcon was awarded a contract to be the main building contractor of the Singapore Customs' COCC project.

Around February 2017, CPG deployed Lee to work on the project in Bulim Drive in Jurong West. He was responsible for ensuring that construction works were done according to contractual requirements.

His working hours were from 8.30am to 5.30pm on weekdays and 8.30am to 12.30pm on Saturdays. The court heard that Lee could claim overtime pay from CPG only if he was physically present on-site to perform inspection beyond his normal working hours.

DPP Gwee said that sometime in August 2017, Guo found that Lee was too strict in his inspections and this caused delays in the project. Guo then discussed the matter with Lin.

The DPP added: "Guo suggested to Lin to plan more OT (overtime) for Lee, which would result in more money for Lee. This was intended to be gratification for Lee, to induce Lee to be more lenient with his inspections of Newcon's work in return."

DPP Gwee also said that Guo suggested that Lee be allowed to claim overtime even when Lee did not personally conduct the inspections

Lin agreed with Guo, as they wanted the COCC project to progress more smoothly, the court heard.

Lee also agreed to be part of the plan when approached and later showed leniency by allowing inspections to be "passed" without him physically inspecting Newcon's works. He also spent less time when conducting such inspections.

Court documents did not state how the offences came to light but all four men were charged in court in July.

For each count of corruption charge, an offender can jailed for up to seven years and fined up to $100,000.