Ex-NUS fellow jailed for cheating research institute

Liang Juan cheated the NUS Environmental Research Institute of over $15,000 by getting it to purchase items from her own company.
Liang Juan cheated the NUS Environmental Research Institute of over $15,000 by getting it to purchase items from her own company.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

She was a research fellow at the National University of Singapore Environmental Research Institute (Neri) and in charge of procuring items needed for her work.

But Liang Juan, 42, was also a director of private firm Biochem Scientific, which supplied laboratory products. Liang cheated the research institute of more than $15,000 by getting it to purchase items from Biochem between Feb 27 and May 4, 2012.

On Tuesday, she was jailed for eight weeks on three counts of cheating.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Weng Tat told the court that in 2012, Liang, who was in charge of sourcing for and recommending suppliers to Neri, had recommended her own company Biochem to the institute.

Biochem sourced for those items from overseas at significantly lower prices, and made a substantial profit at the expense of the institute.

Liang had never disclosed to Neri that she was the sole shareholder of Biochem, a company incorporated on Jan 13, 2012, nor that she was a director along with her husband.

"Employees of Neri involved in any stage of the procurement process are required to declare and disqualify themselves from handling any procurement in which they or their close relatives have any financial relationship or other interest which may give rise to a conflict of interest," said DPP Leong.

When Liang was subsequently questioned about the purchases during a meeting with various officers from the National University of Singapore (NUS), including those from the NUS Office of Internal Audit, Liang initially denied knowing who the owner of Biochem was. She also shook her head when asked if she was related to any Biochem staff.

However, she was then shown search results from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority that revealed her positions in Biochem, and asked about her failure to declare her interests.

After her ploy was uncovered, Liang said she was concerned that Biochem's business with Neri would have been affected had she made a declaration.

Neri said that if it knew of Liang's involvement in Biochem, it would not have approved the transactions involving her, nor paid the firm the sums it had quoted for its products.

Liang has since made full restitution for the $15,372.49 in losses suffered by the institute.

For cheating, she could have been jailed for up to three years and fined.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-NUS fellow jailed for cheating research institute'. Print Edition | Subscribe