Jail terms raised for ex-BP manager and businessman in $5.9m corruption case

Clarence Chang Peng Hong (left) received US$3.95 million from businessman Koh Seng Lee over 19 occasions between 2006 and 2010. ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A former manager at BP Singapore and the businessman who paid him $5.88 million in bribes each had their jail terms raised from 4½ years to six years and eight months by the High Court on Thursday.

Clarence Chang Peng Hong, 57, was also ordered to pay a penalty equivalent to the bribes he received between 2006 and 2010.

Chang, who was in charge of BP Singapore’s marine fuel business, received US$3.95 million from Koh Seng Lee, 60, the sole shareholder and executive director of marine fuel trading firm Pacific Prime Trading (PPT), over 19 occasions between 2006 and 2010.

Prosecutors argued that in exchange for the bribes, Chang used his position in BP to advance Koh’s business interest, appointing PPT as BP’s trading counter-party and giving it business.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue said Chang instructed his subordinates to allocate contracts with good pricing to PPT first. Chang also overlooked the fact that PPT did not have the required licence to deliver oil directly to vessels, and leaked confidential information to Koh.

PPT became BP Singapore’s largest counter-party for delivered sales by volume between January 2008 and July 2010, the DPP said.

Chang and Koh were convicted in 2020 of 20 corruption charges by a district judge after a nearly two-year trial. Chang, represented by Ms Melanie Ho, and Koh, represented by Senior Counsel Lee Eng Beng, appealed against their convictions and sentences.

In January, Justice Vincent Hoong acquitted the pair of one charge pertaining to a sum of $500,000 that Koh paid to the MindChamps pre-school at City Square Mall, where Chang’s wife was a director.

The judge found that the payments were not part of the corrupt scheme. He noted that Koh was a shareholder and director of the pre-school and that the text messages between Chang and Koh were consistent with their claim that they had genuinely invested in a legitimate business.

On Thursday, the judge allowed the prosecution’s appeal for a higher sentence.

Justice Hoong accepted the defence’s arguments that there was no actual monetary loss to BP, but said there was evidence of some degree of detriment caused by the cultivation of the insider relationship between Koh and Chang, and the influence that Chang had within BP.

Even though PPT did not have a bunker supply licence from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, it was not disqualified as a trading counter-party, unlike other companies that lacked the licences.

Justice Hoong said: “These selective barriers show that BP Singapore would have been deprived of the potential to have considered alternative trading counter-parties, since a narrower range of alternatives was considered because of Chang’s preferential treatment.”

The judge also considered that the offences involved a strategic industry and that such offences would have undermined public confidence in the bunkering sector’s integrity. 

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