Man who offered bribe has jail term cut to $250 fine after being diagnosed with terminal cancer

SINGAPORE - A man who managed a coffee shop found out he was terminally ill two months after he was handed a three-week jail term for corruption. He had his sentence cut to a $250 fine on Monday (Aug 6) after the High Court agreed to grant him judicial mercy.

Looking frail, Lam Kim Heng, 68, came to court from hospital in a wheelchair. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in May and has been given six months to live.

Lam pleaded guilty in March to a charge of corruption for offering a pack of cigarettes worth $12.10 to a building inspection officer in exchange for giving him a heads-up on future inspections.

Defence lawyer Wee Hong Shern sought a conditional discharge of six months. A conditional discharge allows a convicted person to be spared jail time as long as he does not offend again during a stipulated period.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jasmin Kaur did not object to Lam's application for judicial mercy, but argued for a fine below $2,000 instead.

Justice Aedit Abdullah said he accepted that grounds exist for the exercise of judicial mercy.

However, he noted that corruption was a serious offence and some penal sentence should be imposed. In this case, he said a $250 fine was appropriate.

Lam has been operating the Heng Heng Eating House in Bukit Batok Street 52 since November 2007.

The coffee shop was located on premises managed by CPG Facilities Management, which was appointed by the Housing Board to be its managing agent.

On Oct 14 last year ( 2017), an inspection officer from CPG, Mr Mohd Dzulkarnain Hussein, inspected the coffee shop and discovered an illegal placement of tables and chairs in violation of HDB rules.

Realising that a summons would be issued, Lam asked for leniency.

He also slipped the officer a pack of cigarettes and told him: "You help me, I help you, next time call me one hour before you come so that I can prepare."

Mr Dzulkarnain later returned the cigarettes to another coffee shop worker and asked her to return it to Lam. The coffee shop was issued a notice to pay a $600 composition fine.

The matter was later reported to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

In March, a district judge imposed three weeks' jail on Lam for offering the bribe.

He filed an appeal against the sentence in April.

In May, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and put on palliative chemotherapy. Such patients are estimated to survive nine months after diagnosis, said a medical report submitted to the court.

Lam's lawyer also submitted a testimonial from Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Low Yen Ling. She noted his involvement in community activities, which included sponsorships for events and charging only a nominal fee for meals provided to a family of disabled siblings.