Town council ex-GM changing course in graft trial

Wong Chee Meng (left) is accused of receiving more than $107,000 in bribes. His alleged co-conspirator Chia Sin Lan (right) is also being tried concurrently in the ongoing bribery case.
Wong Chee Meng (left) is accused of receiving more than $107,000 in bribes. His alleged co-conspirator Chia Sin Lan (right) is also being tried concurrently in the ongoing bribery case.ST FILE PHOTOS

Accused likely to plead guilty, say lawyers; prosecution may apply to drop some charges

A town council's former general manager, accused of receiving more than $107,000 in bribes, intends to plead guilty, the State Court heard yesterday.

Lawyers for Wong Chee Meng, 59, indicated this on the first day of the third tranche of the ongoing graft trial, which started last September.

Wong had allegedly received various forms of gratification - including entertainment expenses at KTV lounges, remittances to his mistress in China, a discount on the purchase of a car, and the use of a mobile phone line - for a period of almost two years, between 2014 and 2016.

Wong's lawyer, Ms Melanie Ho from WongPartnership, told the court: "Over the last few months and after an evaluation of the evidence, we have been in discussion with the prosecution.

"For personal and other reasons, our client has decided to take a certain course. This includes the withdrawal of several allegations made in the earlier charges," Ms Ho said.

"To take a certain course" is legal parlance indicating that her client, Wong, is considering pleading guilty.

Wong, also known as Victor, was charged in March last year with 55 counts of corruptly accepting gratification.

This was allegedly in exchange for advancing the business interests of two firms which did work with Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC), where he was previously the general manager.

During the second tranche of the trial in November, public prosecutors withdrew one of the charges.

The Straits Times understands that the prosecution intends to apply for some of the charges to be dropped and the remaining ones amalgamated going forward.

Allegations of the misconduct first emerged in September 2016, after AMKTC received a complaint about the way Wong had handled contracts and dealings in the town council .

Wong, who worked for CPG Facilities Management, the managing agent of the town council, was removed from duty a month later and subsequently investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

Wong's alleged co-conspirator, Chia Sin Lan, 64, is also being tried concurrently in the ongoing bribery case.

Chia's companies, 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise, were awarded contracts and tenders worth millions of dollars by AMKTC during the time the alleged bribery took place, the prosecution has charged. Chia was a director and shareholder of both firms.

Chia faces 54 corruption charges, and his companies also each face one charge of conspiring to corruptly give Wong gratification.

It is believed that Chia will carry on fighting the case.

In their opening statement in September, public prosecutors said that the "lion's share" of the gratifications - or close to $53,000 - went to entertainment expenses incurred by Chia and Wong at various KTV lounges and massage parlours.

Wong had also allegedly received a discount of $13,500 on a Toyota Corolla Altis, which was registered to 19-ANC, and sold to him in 2014.

In 2015, Chia also arranged a remittance of $20,000 to Wong's mistress in China, although defence lawyers said that half of this amount was returned a year later. Employment was also allegedly arranged for Wong's daughter-in-law, Ms Stella Le Thi Hien, at a firm called 4-Ever Engineering and her wages were paid by 19-NS2.

The trial proceedings will resume next Monday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline 'Town council ex-GM changing course in graft trial'. Print Edition | Subscribe