Mother of ex-national table tennis player 'admitted twice' to offering cash to help son

Su Fengxian told the court that CPIB principal special investigator Tay Beng Kwan had also told her that she did not need to engage a lawyer or contact her country's embassy. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - The mother of former national table tennis player Li Hu admitted twice in statements to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) to offering money to help her son amid his disciplinary case, a court heard on Monday (Oct 2).

Chinese national Su Fengxian allegedly offered €2,000 (S$3,200) to Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) technical director Loy Soo Han on Oct 17 last year as an inducement to show leniency Mr Li.

On the first day of her trial on Monday, the court heard that in her statement to CPIB principal special investigator Tay Beng Kwan on Oct 19 last year, Su, now 55, said her son was not around when she took the money out from her bag and put it into an empty envelope.

She told Mr Tay that she then went to Mr Loy's office with her son to plead for leniency.

Su said in her statement: "When my son was leaving the room, I tried to take out the envelope containing €2,000 from my bag to give to Loy, but he told me to keep the envelope and asked (me to) leave the office.

"I intended to offer the €2,000 to Loy as I wanted him to help my son in his current disciplinary case with STTA. I do not mind if there is any disciplinary action as long as my son can stay in STTA."

According to the statement, when Mr Tay asked her if the amount offered was a bribe, she replied: "No, it was just a thank-you gesture for him so that he can help my son."

Su gave another statement to a second CPIB investigator, Mr Cheot Zhi Chen, about a month later, saying that she was from China and did not know Singapore's laws well.

In the statement Mr Cheot recorded on Nov 23 last year, she said: "I regret what I have done and in China, what I have done by offering the money to Mr Loy is part of our culture. I hope the judge and the prosecutor can understand my concerns as a mother and show leniency. I know what I have (done) is wrong."

Last October, Mr Li, 29, was hauled before an STTA disciplinary committee for violating house rules. The former world junior singles champion had let a female friend spend a night at the STTA hostel, located at its Toa Payoh headquarters.

The Hubei native has since been sacked and the STTA said its decision took into account his previous disciplinary issues.

Su's lawyer, Mr Alfred Dodwell, had earlier challenged on Monday the admissibility of the statement his client had given the CPIB on Oct 19 last year, saying that Mr Tay had induced and made promises to her.

According to Su, Mr Tay had told her to plead guilty to the offence. She also testified that Mr Tay had told her that she did not need to engage a lawyer or contact her country's embassy.

She told District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt that Mr Tay had said that "everything would be fine" if she signed the statement.

Mr Tay, who took the stand on Monday, denied Su's claims and said he had made no inducements or promises to her.

He told Judge Chay that she had given the statement voluntarily and had signed on every page of the statement after it was read out to her.

Mr Tay added: "(I) told her if she were convicted, she could be jailed or fined."

After hearing both sides, the judge allowed the disputed statement to be admitted in court. He said that Mr Tay had never promised freedom to Su, and was satisfied she had given the statement voluntarily.

Su also testified on Monday that she was told to come down to the STTA headquarters on Oct 19 last year and met Mr Tay there.

Mr Tay told the court that he had asked her for the location of the envelope containing the money and could not find it when he searched her bag.

The cash-filled envelope was later found in Mr Li's dormitory at the headquarters and when asked, the former national player said he had received it from his mother.

Su had indicated in November last year that she wanted to plead guilty to her offence.

However, District Judge Adam Nakhoda rejected her earlier plea as she had then told the court that even though she had indeed taken out the cash-filled envelope, she placed it back in her bag without uttering a word.

The trial resumes on Tuesday.

In convicted of offering the bribe, Su can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.

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