3 Singaporeans jailed for role in corruption case linked to Indonesian embassy's labour attache

(From left) James Yeo Siew Liang, Abdul Aziz Mohamed Hanib and Benjamin Chow Tuck Keong had been convicted in April.
(From left) James Yeo Siew Liang, Abdul Aziz Mohamed Hanib and Benjamin Chow Tuck Keong had been convicted in April.ST PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Three Singaporean men were sentenced to jail on Monday (Aug 23) for their role in a $124,000 corruption case involving a former labour attache of the Indonesian embassy here.

The bulk of the offences, which were committed in 2018, involved bribing the embassy official in exchange for accreditation to sell performance bonds linked to the hiring of Indonesian domestic workers here.

Abdul Aziz Mohamed Hanib, 66, was sentenced to 17 months' jail; James Yeo Siew Liang, 50, to 15 months'; and Benjamin Chow Tuck Keong, 58, to one month's.

The trio was also fined - Abdul Aziz around $18,300, Yeo around $21,360 and Choo $4,570.

All three had been convicted in April.

The labour attache, Mr Agus Ramdhany Machjumi, has left his post in the Indonesian embassy and is no longer in Singapore.

Ms Ratna Lestari Harjana, the embassy's Head of Information and Socio-Cultural Affairs told The Straits Times that Mr Agus' case is being criminally investigated by the Indonesian police in Jakarta and that he will face the legal system under Indonesian law.

“His case is still an ongoing process with cooperation between the Indonesian police, CPIB and the Singapore Police Force.”

In February 2018, the Indonesian Embassy in Singapore introduced a scheme requiring all employers here who hire Indonesian maids to buy a performance bond to ensure that they follow the terms of the employment contract issued by the embassy.

At the time, employers had to pay a one-off $70 premium for a bond guarantee from insurers approved by the embassy. They would have to pay $6,000 if they breached the terms of the contract.

Agents of the accredited insurers received 45 per cent of the premium for each bond.

Mr Agus was then in charge of issuing accreditation to insurers for the performance bond.

He directed Abdul Aziz, then a freelance translator, to look for insurance agents who would agree to give them a share of the commissions collected in exchange for accreditation.

Abdul Aziz approached a friend identified as Mr Samad Salim, who then roped in Chow, the corporate development director of a company dealing with organic products.

Chow later found Yeo, who was then an insurance agent representing AIG Asia-Pacific Insurance and Liberty Insurance.

Yeo's name can no longer be found on the General Insurance Association of Singapore's website.

Between February and June 2018, AIG and Liberty were issued a total of over 5,700 performance bonds. There were an estimated 120,000 Indonesian maids in Singapore that year.

Without the knowledge of AIG and Liberty, Yeo shared his commissions totalling around $124,000 with the other men.

According to court documents, he kept more than $21,000 and gave Abdul Aziz a similar amount. Mr Agus received over $72,000, while Chow and Samad each obtained about $5,000.

It was not mentioned in court on Monday if there is a case against Mr Samad.

Yeo and Abdul Aziz were each convicted of 18 corruption charges in relation to the scheme. Chow, who helped introduce Yeo to Abdul Aziz, was found guilty of one charge of abetting Abdul Aziz to solicit gratification.

Abdul Aziz was convicted of another charge of attempting to seek bribes for Mr Agus in March 2018 from an individual representing Tokio Marine Insurance Singapore. The offer was not taken up.

In a statement on Monday, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau said it has been in touch with the Indonesian authorities about the case.

It said Singapore takes a "zero-tolerance approach" to corruption, and it looks into all corruption complaints and reports, including anonymous ones.

For each count of corruption, an offender can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.

Correction note: In an earlier version of the article, we said that Benjamin Chow Tuck Keong was sentenced to jail for one month. Besides the jail sentence, he was also fined around $4,570. We are sorry for the omission.