Public Prosecutor v Wong Chee Meng and another appeal

JurisdictionSingapore
JudgeSundaresh Menon CJ
Judgment Date16 July 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] SGHC 144
Docket NumberMagistrate’s Appeal Nos 9301 and 9302 of 2019
Date16 July 2020
Published date21 July 2020
Plaintiff CounselJiang Ke-Yue, Kelvin Chong and Kang Jia Hui (Attorney-General's Chambers)
Defendant CounselEugene Thuraisingam, Chooi Jing Yen and Hamza Malik (Eugene Thuraisingam LLP),Melanie Ho, Tang Shangwei and Janie Hui (WongPartnership LLP)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Hearing Date19 May 2020
Subject MatterSentencing,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing
Sundaresh Menon CJ: Introduction

Mr Wong Chee Meng (“Wong”) and Mr Chia Sin Lan (“Chia”) pleaded guilty to three charges of the aggravated offence of participating in a corrupt transaction with an agent under s 6 read with s 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241, 1993 Rev Ed) (“the PCA”). They also consented to having two similar charges taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing. The district judge (“the District Judge”) who heard the matter sentenced Wong and Chia to aggregate sentences of 27 months’ imprisonment and 21 months’ imprisonment respectively, and also imposed a penalty of S$23,398.09 on Wong under s 13 of the PCA.

The Prosecution appealed against the District Judge’s decision on the basis that the sentence imposed was manifestly inadequate. The Prosecution also sought an attachment order under s 319(1)(b) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed) (“the CPC”) to enforce payment of the penalty imposed. Both Wong and Chia filed cross-appeals on the basis that the sentence imposed was manifestly excessive.

Background

The facts are drawn from the joint statement of facts which Wong and Chia admitted to without qualification (the “JSOF”).

Wong was an employee of CPG Facilities Management Pte Ltd (“CPG”), the managing agent of Ang Mo Kio Town Council (“AMKTC”). Pursuant to his employment, Wong was appointed as the General Manager of AMKTC in November 2013 and held a concurrent appointment as Secretary of AMKTC until November 2016. In these capacities, Wong was in charge of AMKTC’s operations and his duties included overseeing and providing inputs on the selection of contractors for the execution of works. Wong was privy to important contract information and attended meetings at which contractors were recommended and selected.

Chia was a shareholder and the directing mind and will of two companies, 19-ANC Enterprise Pte Ltd (“19-ANC”) and 19-NS2 Enterprise Pte Ltd (“19-NS2”) (collectively, “the Companies”). Chia held 50% of the shares in 19-ANC and 40% of the shares in 19-NS2. 19-ANC was in the business of, among other things, tendering for construction-related works at various Town Councils, while 19-NS2 acted mainly as a subcontractor to 19-ANC.

Wong and Chia were introduced to each other in February 2015 by either Mr Tay Eng Chuan (“Tay”) or Ms Alisa Yip (“Yip”), both of whom were shareholders in 19-NS2.

Between 2014 and 2016, Wong received various types of gratification as inducement for advancing the business interests of the Companies in their business dealings with AMKTC. Wong and Chia each pleaded guilty to three charges under s 6 read with s 7 of the PCA corresponding to three types of gratification given to Wong, which were all procured or provided by Chia. The first type consisted of a discount given to Wong in relation to the purchase of a motor car from 19-ANC (“the Discount Charge”). The second type consisted of remittances made to Wong’s mistress in China (“the Remittance Charge”). The third type consisted of entertainment expenses incurred at various establishments (“the Entertainment Charge”).

Before considering the proceeded charges in greater detail, it is helpful to digress briefly here in order to set out the processes in place at AMKTC to decide on the award of contracts. This will help explain precisely how Wong was able to, and in fact did, intervene to advance the interests of the Companies. There were two mechanisms for the award of contracts by AMKTC. The first was by tender, which was employed for larger scale works. The contracts department of AMKTC (the “Contracts Department”) would publicly call for tenders and interested contractors would submit their bids. This would sometimes be followed by an interview with shortlisted candidates conducted by Wong, the Secretary of the Estate Maintenance Committee (“EMC”), the relevant property managers and members of the Contracts Department. A Tender Evaluation Report (“TER”) would be prepared by the contract manager in charge of the tender and vetted by Wong, who would give his input on the draft and propose amendments. The TER would include a recommendation to award a contract based on the “Price Quality Methodology” (“PQM”) and would be submitted to the EMC. The EMC, in turn, would make a recommendation to the Town Council, which would then vote on whether to accept the EMC’s recommendations.

The second mechanism was called an Invitation to Quote (“ITQ”) and this was used for smaller scale works valued at less than S$70,000. The Contracts Department would invite contractors to submit quotes for these projects. The list of invited contractors was prepared by the Contracts Department and approved by Wong. Based on the quotes received, a recommendation as to the contractor to which a particular project should be awarded would be made by the Contracts Department to Wong and the Chairman of AMKTC, and the contractor’s appointment depended upon securing the approval of both of them.

The Discount Charge

As mentioned above at [7], the Discount Charge related to a discount that was extended to Wong when he purchased a motor car from 19-ANC. This occurred sometime towards the end of 2014, when Wong was looking to purchase a new motor car and informed Yip of this. Yip told Wong that 19-ANC was looking to upgrade a 16-month-old motor car that it owned, and that Wong could consider purchasing it. Wong wanted a discount because of the motor car’s high mileage. Yip then discussed this with Chia, who had yet to be introduced to Wong (see [6] above). Chia decided to sell the motor car to Wong at a discounted price to gain favour for the Companies with AMKTC.

The motor car in question was estimated to be worth S$85,000 at the time. Wong purchased the motor car from 19-ANC at a price of S$75,000. As part of the transaction, 19-NS2 also purchased Wong’s old motor car for S$20,000 and then traded it in for S$16,500, incurring a loss of S$3,500. The overall discount obtained by Wong from the transaction, taking into account the loss that was absorbed by 19-NS2 on its purchase of Wong’s old motor car, thus worked out to about S$13,500.

The Remittance Charge

The Remittance Charge related to two overseas remittances made to Wong’s mistress Ms Xu Hongmei (“Xu”) in China between June 2015 and November 2015.

The first remittance occurred in June 2015 when Xu asked Wong to transfer her some money for renovations to her home. Wong approached Chia who, together with Tay, decided to remit S$20,000 (approximately RMB 92,400) to Xu through an intermediary. In the event, Xu eventually received RMB 80,000, the balance having been retained by the intermediary.

The second remittance took place in November 2015 when Xu informed Wong that she had fallen victim to an investment scam and had lost around RMB 50,000 (approximately S$10,480). Wong again approached Chia who agreed to transfer RMB 50,000 to Xu. A sum of RMB 50,000 was transferred to Xu through an intermediary.

In total, the remittances made by Chia to Xu amounted to about RMB 130,000 (approximately S$27,796.02).

The Entertainment Charge

The Entertainment Charge related to entertainment expenses incurred by Chia at various KTV lounges, restaurants, spas and a hotel totalling S$34,070.04. The Entertainment Charge was an amalgamated charge under s 124(4) of the CPC and covered 29 separate occasions between 18 May 2015 and 13 July 2016. All the expenses incurred by Chia on these occasions were made the subject of the Entertainment Charge, without any apportionment of the amounts spent on persons other than Wong who might have been present at the time.

Considerable effort was expended to conceal the entertainment expenses incurred in cultivating Wong. Chia initially paid such expenses in cash and was reimbursed these sums by Tay. Later, Chia began charging these expenses to a corporate debit card maintained by one of Tay’s companies. Tay kept a handwritten record of cash claims made by Chia, keeping these off the corporate books, and separately recorded the debit card expenses that were incurred.

The charges taken into consideration

Apart from the charges that they pleaded guilty to, Wong and Chia also each consented to having two charges taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing. The first of these related to Chia procuring the employment of Wong’s daughter-in-law by a company, with S$8,247.67 of her salary being paid for by 19-ANC. The second concerned Chia’s payment of S$2,527.76 for a mobile phone line which was used by Wong.

Wong’s actions on behalf of 19-ANC and 19-NS2

The various types of gratification given to Wong, unlike in many cases of this nature, were not tied to him showing favour to the Companies in any particular transaction. Rather, they were given to cultivate Wong such that he would become beholden to Chia and behave in a manner that would advance the business interests of the Companies in dealings with AMKTC.

Wong advanced the business interests of the Companies with AMKTC in various ways, including in relation to some specific tenders: First, in a tender for repair and redecoration works pertaining to Housing and Development Board (“HDB”) residential blocks in the Teck Ghee Division in August 2015, 19-ANC and 19-NS2 were the second-lowest bidders for the tender. Yip then informed Wong that the lowest bidder, Foong Ah Weng Construction Pte Ltd (“Foong Ah Weng”), had recently been subject to a stop work order by another Town Council. Following from this, Wong directed AMKTC staff to look into the matter, and this resulted in Foong Ah Weng’s PQM score being adjusted downward. Consequently, 19-NS2 was awarded the tender. Wong was recorded as having highlighted the unsatisfactory track record of Foong Ah Weng and recommending 19-NS2 during the EMC meeting to determine which contractor should be awarded the tender. Second, in a tender for repair and redecoration works...

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