Three S'porean men found guilty in corruption case linked to then Indonesian Embassy's labour attache

(From left) James Yeo Siew Liang, Abdul Aziz Mohamed Hanib and Benjamin Chow Tuck Keong were found guilty.
(From left) James Yeo Siew Liang, Abdul Aziz Mohamed Hanib and Benjamin Chow Tuck Keong were found guilty.ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Three Singaporean men were convicted in a district court on Wednesday (April 28) over the roles they played in a corruption case involving $124,000 and linked to a man who was then the labour attache of the Indonesian embassy here.

After a trial, District Judge Ong Luan Tze found James Yeo Siew Liang, 49, guilty of 18 graft charges; Abdul Aziz Mohamed Hanib, 65, of 19 such charges; and Benjamin Chow Tuck Keong, 57, of one graft charge.

The labour attache, Mr Agus Ramdhany Machjumi, is no longer in Singapore. In an earlier statement, the Indonesian Embassy said that he had left his post.

The bulk of the offences, which involved performance bonds which all employers had to purchase when they hired Indonesian domestic helpers then, were committed in 2018.

At the time, employers had to pay $70 to purchase a performance bond guarantee from insurers approved by the embassy.

Under the terms of the bond guarantee, employers had to pay $6,000 if they breached a standard employment contract issued by the Indonesian Embassy.

The penalty would be paid by the insurer before it claims the money from the employer.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Alan Loh, Jasmin Kaur and Eric Hu stated in their submissions that the performance bond guarantee was "potentially a lucrative insurance business".

They noted that there were about 120,000 Indonesian maids in Singapore in 2018.

The DPPs added that agents of accredited insurers were paid a "generous" 45 per cent of the premiums paid for each performance bond.

They told the court that Mr Agus, who oversaw the issuance of accreditation to insurers "decided he should win as well".

The prosecutors told Judge Ong: "Instead of freely and openly giving accreditation to the 37 licensed general insurance companies in Singapore, Agus tasked... Aziz to look for insurance companies (or) insurance agents who would agree to give them a share of the premiums collected in exchange for accreditation.

"This is quintessentially corrupt."

Aziz, then a freelance translator, approached a friend identified as Mr Samad Salim.

The DPPs said Mr Samad then roped in Chow, who was a 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.

The DPPs added: "Once James agreed to share his commissions, AIG and Liberty were both accredited by Agus to underwrite the performance bond. AIG and Liberty issued over 5,700 performance bonds between February and June 2018."

Without the knowledge of AIG and Liberty, Yeo corruptly shared his commissions totalling $124,619.26 with the other men.

According to court documents, he kept more than $21,000 and gave Aziz a similar amount. The prosecutors said that Mr Agus received over $71,000 while Chow and Mr Samad each obtained about $5,000.

The outcome of Mr Samad's case was not mentioned in court on Wednesday.

"James made sure that he did not pass any money to Agus directly, but only through Aziz... Payments were entirely in cash stuffed in (air sickness bags found in planes) and envelopes, and no record was kept.

"There is no evidence that the embassy knew or approved of Agus receiving such share of commissions," said the DPPs.

During the trial, the three Singaporeans decided not to testify in court.

The prosecutors, however, stated in their submissions that the men had earlier confessed to the crime in numerous statements to the authorities which have been admitted into evidence.

The DPPs said they were relying on these confessions as "evidence of guilt".

The trio will be sentenced on July 14.

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