Ex-GM of Ang Mo Kio Town Council on trial over $107,000 in bribes

Ang Mo Kio Town Council's former general manager Wong Chee Meng at the State Courts. He pleaded not guilty to taking over $107,000 in bribes from two company directors of 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise.
Ang Mo Kio Town Council's former general manager Wong Chee Meng at the State Courts. He pleaded not guilty to taking over $107,000 in bribes from two company directors of 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Contracts worth millions were awarded to two firms whose directors allegedly bribed him

During the period a former Ang Mo Kio Town Council general manager allegedly took bribes from two company directors, the town council awarded tenders and contracts worth millions of dollars to the duo's two companies.

These included repair and redecoration works on blocks of Housing Board flats as well as the construction of community gardens, court documents revealed on the first day of the trial of former general manager Wong Chee Meng yesterday.

Wong, 58, pleaded not guilty to taking the bribes totalling more than $107,000, mostly from Chia Sin Lan, 63, a director and major shareholder of companies 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise, whose core business is doing works for town councils.

The "lion's share of the gratification", amounting to almost $53,000, was in the form of entertainment expenses at KTV lounges and massage parlours which Wong, who is also known as Victor, and Chia frequented, Deputy Public Prosecutor Alan Loh said yesterday.

"As the general manager of (the town council), Victor Wong had the power and ability to influence the award of (its) projects," he added in his opening statement.

But instead of exercising his role impartially, Wong "fell far short of the high standards of integrity demanded of his office and allowed himself to be cultivated by (Chia) and had become beholden to him, 19-ANC, and 19-NS2", said DPP Loh.

  • The charges

  • The former general manager of Ang Mo Kio Town Council, Wong Chee Meng, faces 55 charges involving taking bribes from directors of two companies: 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise. In all, he is accused of receiving more than $107,000. The charges include:

    • Remittances to his mistress Xu Hongmei in China totalling $30,600;

    • Getting a discount of about $13,500 for a Toyota Corolla Altis he bought via an arrangement involving a 19-NS2 director;

    • Entertainment expenses of close to $53,000 at various KTV lounges and massage parlours which Wong frequented with a 19-ANC director; and

    • Getting a subcontractor of the two companies to employ his daughter-in-law Le Thi Hien. 19-ANC paid more than $8,200 towards her salary between March and August 2016.

  • Court documents show 11 tenders and quotations were awarded to 19-ANC and 19-NS2 between September 2014 and July 2016. These were for:

    • Removal of a clock tower, trees and reinstatement works at Cheng San-Seletar Division(September 2014);

    • Repair and redecoration (R&R) works for 17 blocks of Housing Board flats in Ang Mo Kio (October 2014);

    • Construction of a community garden near Block 533 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 (June 2015);

    • Construction of a community garden between Block 570 and Block 572 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 (June 2015);

    • R&R works for seven carpark blocks in Sengkang West Division (August 2015);

    • R&R works for 25 blocks of flats and two market and hawker centres in Cheng San-Seletar Division (August 2015);

    • R&R works for 11 blocks of flats in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10 (December 2015);

    • Supply of eco-incense burner in Ang Mo Kio Town Council (December 2015);

    • Supply of eco-incense burner (May 2016);

    • Construction of a community garden near Block 307D Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 (July 2016); and

    • Supply and replacement of seating facilities at the void decks of Block 426 to 429 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 (July 2016).

In a statement to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), Wong, who became general manager of the town council in 2013, said Chia and his associate would often offer to pick up the tab when they went drinking as they wanted to cultivate good relations.

"I know that I should not have let them pay or even gone drinking with them, but I was very troubled at the point in time as I was facing problems in my marriage," Wong added in his statement to CPIB chief special investigator Jeffrey Tan, the first witness to take the stand yesterday.

Wong said he would try to pay the bills as well and did so several times. He added that he did not go drinking with other contractors.

Other alleged benefits he received included a $13,500 discount on a car he bought via an arrangement involving Ms Yip Fong Yin, another 19-NS2 Enterprise director.

While he told CPIB the discount was due to the high mileage the car had clocked, Wong conceded this typically knocked $1,000 or so off the price, rather than over $10,000.

Wong is also said to have taken bribes in the form of remittances totalling $30,600 that was sent to his mistress in China, among other charges. He met his mistress Xu Hongmei in 2015 when she was working in Singapore. When she travelled back to China, the single mother asked him for financial help, like paying renovation bills.

When Wong told Chia about these issues, Chia said he would help to settle them. The court also heard that Wong was in China with Chia on two occasions in 2016, during which he visited Ms Xu and got to know Chia's supplier for eco-friendly incense paper burners. Wong told CPIB he did not declare the visits, which were made in his personal capacity.

In another statement in October 2016, Wong said he felt obligated to Chia's firms, and wanted to help them using his authority at work.

In a town council tender for incense burners, for example, he told a colleague to focus on the environmental aspects, knowing that although 19-ANC was the fourth-lowest bidder, it would get a high-quality rating for environment factors and be likely to win the tender.

But the next month, Wong told CPIB his earlier statement was incorrect and he had not been in the right state of mind because of his daughter's impending wedding.

His lawyer Melanie Ho of WongPartnership asked Mr Tan, who took Wong's statement, if he may have decided not to fight the allegations earlier owing to "family pressures". Mr Tan disagreed.

Chia's lawyer Michael Loh of Clifford Law suggested Wong could have made the statements to CPIB out of fear. Again, Mr Tan disagreed.

The trial resumes today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2018, with the headline 'Ex-GM of town council on trial over $107,000 in bribes'. Print Edition | Subscribe