SINGAPORE – A vice-president of the consultancy that caused a part of Kranji woodland to be cleared without approval was fined $26,000 on Thursday.
Jimmy Liu, 63, was part of a quartet of officers from JTC Corporation and CPG Consultants working on the development of the Kranji Agri-Food Innovation Park (AFIP), which was meant to be a hub for high-tech farming and research and development activities.
The four officers were found to have acted in gross violation of wildlife-related requirements that needed to be met before approval was obtained from the National Parks Board (NParks).
This resulted in the felling of 362 trees without approval.
Liu pleaded guilty on Thursday to three charges under the Parks and Trees Act and one charge under the Wildlife Act
The other three co-accused are Neo Jek Lin, 44, who was a JTC senior project manager; Chong Pui Chih, 47, a former deputy director with the statutory board; and Tan See Chee, 64, director of CPG.
On Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Khoo and Jordon Li said that Liu and the three co-accused had discussed the impact of the wildlife-related requirements on the time needed to complete work on the Kranji AFIP.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, works at Kranji AFIP were halted between April and August 2020.
As part of requirements, JTC was to ensure that proper fencing or hoarding was in place to prevent animals from wandering into the worksite. It also had to allow NParks to conduct plant salvaging before the commencement of any physical works.
Concerned about further delays to the Kranji AFIP, Neo and Chong suggested that, instead of complying with the wildlife-related requirements before commencing tree felling and site clearance works, they proceed while efforts were made concurrently to satisfy those requirements.
Liu and his colleague Tan agreed to the plan.
Meanwhile, on Sept 2, 2020, NParks requested an update on the clearance works that were planned for the coming months in Kranji AFIP.
This led to an e-mail exchange between Liu, Neo and Huationg Contractor employee Chua Ngee Hwee. Liu asked the Huationg worker to fill up a table indicating the expected completion dates of clearance works on-site. Huationg was engaged by JTC to clear the land.
The prosecution said: “Upon receiving the e-mail from Chua... Neo realised that the table filled in by Chua, if sent to NParks, would reveal to NParks that tree felling had taken place without approval first being obtained.”
Neo wished to avoid this and instructed Liu to amend the table to give the impression that clearance works had not started on the plots.
Liu amended the table and sent the falsified e-mail to NParks on Sept 25, 2020.
On Nov 3, 2020, Liu also sent an e-mail to NParks to officially request approval to cut some trees on the site. However, since October 2020, Huationg had already obtained approval from CPG to do so.
Under the Parks and Trees Act, cutting down any tree with a girth exceeding 1m that is growing on any vacant land is prohibited unless approval has been obtained from the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation.
The prosecution said last November that the number of trees cut without approval was enormous, and the exact impact on the environment could not be calculated because the offences took place before any studies were undertaken.
“The approval for them to cut the trees would have eventually been given by NParks, but the harm caused in this case is the failure to allow for proper environmental studies to be done, to ensure wildlife, flora and fauna could be properly managed,” the prosecution said.
The unauthorised clearance came to light after aerial photos of the site showing the destruction of the woodland emerged on social media in February 2021.
Neo and Chong were fined $30,000 each for their role in the conspiracy, while Tan has not been sentenced.
Those convicted of cutting or damaging a tree with a girth of more than 1m without approval can be fined up to $50,000.