He was facing a three-week jail term for trying to bribe a building inspector with a pack of cigarettes worth $12.10. But after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he had nine months to live, 68-year-old Lam Kim Heng saw his sentence cut to a $250 fine yesterday.
The coffee shop manager, who has been operating the Heng Heng Eating House in Bukit Batok Street 52 since November 2007, had pleaded guilty in March to a charge of corruption.
Last October, an inspection officer discovered an illegal placement of tables and chairs, in violation of Housing Board 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 Mohd Dzulkarnain Hussein returned the cigarettes. The coffee shop was issued a notice to pay a $600 composition fine.
After being sentenced, Lam filed an appeal in April. But the next month, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and put on palliative chemotherapy.
Looking frail, Lam yesterday came to court from hospital in a wheelchair.
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.
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 also submitted a testimonial from Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Low Yen Ling. She noted his sponsorship of community events and charging of only a nominal fee for meals provided to a family of disabled siblings.