SINGAPORE - A former general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC), who was originally sentenced to 27 months' jail for corruption, will have to spend a longer time in prison after his jail term was upped to three years and three months on Thursday (July 16).
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon allowed an appeal by the prosecution to increase the sentence meted out to Wong Chee Meng, 59, who received more than $86,000 in a stream of bribes from Chia Sin Lan, 64, between 2014 and 2016.
Chia is the director of two companies - 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise - which carried out works for town councils.
His original jail term of 21 months' jail was also increased on Thursday, to two years and nine months.
In his decision, the Chief Justice also set out a sentencing framework for corrupt transactions relating to contracts with the Government or public bodies.
Under the law, such offences carry enhanced maximum punishment of up to seven years’ jail and a fine of up to $100,000.
Both sides had appealed against the original jail terms meted out to both men by a district judge in November last year.
In May, prosecutors argued for four years' jail for Wong, and three years and eight months in jail for Chia.
The lawyers for Wong sought between 11 and 14 months' jail, while Chia's sought 17 months' jail.
Wong was AMKTC's general manager from 2013 to 2016. In September 2016, the town council received a complaint about the way he handled contracts.
He was removed from duty a month later and subsequently investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.
In March last year, Wong and Chia each pleaded guilty to three corruption charges part-way through a trial that started in September 2018.
The first charge was over a $13,500 discount on a Toyota Corolla Altis owned by 19-ANC that was sold to Wong in 2014. Chia, who had not met Wong at the time, had agreed to the discount to gain favour with Wong.
Later, the pair began to patronise KTV lounges and massage spas together.
The second charge was for the $34,000 incurred on these entertainment expenses.
The third charge was for payments to Wong's mistress totalling about $27,800.
Two other charges for bribes amounting to nearly $10,800 were taken into consideration.
One was for the free use of a mobile phone line that Chia had given Wong and the other was for work that Chia had found for Wong's daughter-in-law.
In that period, 19-ANC and 19-NS2 were awarded tenders and contracts by AMKTC worth $9.8 million.
In his written judgment on Thursday, CJ Menon laid out a sentencing matrix to determine the starting point for sentences based on the level of harm caused and the offender’s culpability.
The sentence is then adjusted to account for factors specific to each offender, such as whether he pleaded guilty.
In the current case, CJ Menon said Chia derived substantial benefits from his cultivation of Wong, who was able to provide inside information to Chia and had intervened several times to protect their interests.
Wong had abused his position and the high degree of trust reposed in him to commit the offences, said the Chief Justice.
He said Wong and Chia were motivated by greed, rejecting defence arguments that the offences should be seen in the context of their friendship.
The Chief Justice did not consider the public disquiet caused by the offences to be a separate aggravating factor.
“While the offences were undoubtedly serious, involving one of the most senior non-political employees in a town council, an institution that plays a central role in the lives of most Singaporeans, the evidence also showed that the scope of the corruption was isolated to just Wong,” he said.
He also declined to grant the prosecution’s application for an order to enforce the payment of a $23,398.09 penalty imposed on Wong. He noted that the district judge had already ordered Wong to serve one month’s jail in default of payment.