Mother and daughter get jail over bribes taken to help Malaysian with PR application

Lucy Teo (left) and Sharon Loo arriving at State Courts on Oct 27, 2020.
Lucy Teo (left) and Sharon Loo arriving at State Courts on Oct 27, 2020.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - 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 resident (PR) application process to be expedited.

The mother, Lucy Teo, 50, was sentenced on Tuesday (Oct 27) 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 is the amount of bribes taken.

The two Singaporean women had worked together to accept bribes from Fenny Tey Hui Nee, 25, who became a Singapore 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 enquiries 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 that year. Tey handed her the remaining $750 the following month.

Tey went to the ICA building on Oct 13, 2017, and met Teo.

The prosecutors said: "Teo also handed Fenny a file with the necessary documents to be submitted for the application and helped her obtain a queue number before Fenny reached so that she did not have to wait for a long time.

"Teo also told Fenny that she would only need to pass the entire file to the ICA officer processing her application, which Fenny did."

The court heard that after the ICA appointment, Tey "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 application's progress 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 May 2018, she unlawfully used the portal to check the PR application status of her brother-in-law's colleague.

Four months later, she used it to obtain her husband's passport number.

Teo was offered bail of $15,000 on Tuesday while her daughter's bail was set at $5,000.

They were ordered to surrender themselves at the State Courts on Nov 2 to begin their jail terms.

For corruption, an offender can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.

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."