Jail for man who took bribes and was lenient in construction site inspections of Singapore Customs building

Lee Mun Cheng was jailed for 18 weeks and fined $7,000 on Oct 6, 2020. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A resident technical officer accepted more than $5,000 in bribes in return for showing leniency over the inspections of the Customs Operations Command Complex (COCC) construction site.

Lee Mun Cheng was jailed for 18 weeks and fined $7,000 on Tuesday (Oct 6).

The 53-year-old Singaporean was also ordered to pay a penalty of $5,319.78 which was the total amount of bribes he took.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to three counts each of corruption and falsification of accounts, and two counts of cheating.

Nineteen other charges were considered during sentencing. He committed the offences in 2017 and 2018.

His three alleged accomplices were working for construction firm Newcon Builders at the time.

They are Indian national Rajendran Thiagarajan, 33; Chinese national Guo Jiaxun, 34; and Lin Haifeng, 45, who is a Singaporean. Their cases are still pending.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Dora Tay and Joseph Gwee stated in court documents that on Sept 23, 2016, Newcon clinched the job to be the main building contractor for the COCC project owned by the Singapore Customs.

Lee was then working for CPG Consultants which inspects mechanical construction works at sites, among other things.

Around February 2017, the firm deployed him to work on the COCC project in Bulim Drive in Jurong West. He was responsible for ensuring that construction works were done in accordance with 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.

The court heard that sometime in August 2017, Guo and Lin of Newcon Builders found Lee too strict in his inspections, and this was causing delays in the project.

Said the DPPs in the court documents: "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."

The DPPs said that Guo also 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.

The prosecutors said Guo and Rajendran made the arrangements for the false overtime claims.

Lee agreed to be part of the plan when approached and 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 this year.

For each corruption charge, Lee could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined up to $100,000.

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