Public Prosecutor v Lee Cheng Chai

JudgeBrenda Tan
Judgment Date16 January 2001
Neutral Citation[2001] SGDC 14
Published date19 September 2003
Citation[2001] SGDC 14
CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)


Grounds of Decision

After a 4 days trial, I acquitted the accused of 2 charges of dishonest misappropriation under section 403 of the Penal Code. The prosecution being dissatisfied with my decisions is appealing against them.

The Charges

2. The 2 charges against the accused were as follows:

First Charge

DAC 20706/2000 (Exhibit P1)


Lee Cheng Chai

M/36 NRIC No. S 1647538F

are charged that you, between 30 June 1997 and 24 December 1997 in Singapore, did dishonestly misappropriate a sum of $18,077.90 which was part of the $23,886.80, paid by Toh Joo Hin Trading to IRS (S) Pte Ltd for the purchase of scraps, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 403 of the Penal Code.

Second Charge

DAC 20707/2000 (Exhibit P2)


Lee Cheng Chai

M/36 NRIC No. S 1647538F

are charged that you, between 3 January 1998 and 11 June 1998 in Singapore, did dishonestly misappropriate a sum of $8,686.20 which was part of the $18,366.25 paid by Toh Joo Hin Trading to IRS (S) Pte Ltd for the purchase of scraps, and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under section 403 of the Penal Code.

The Prosecutions Case

3. The prosecutions case was that the accused, who was employed by IRS (S) Pte Ltd ("IRS") as a Production Manager at the material time, dishonestly misappropriated part of the proceeds paid by Toh Joo Hin Trading ("Toh Joo Hin") to IRS for the purchase of scraps.

4. It was not disputed that Toh Joo Hin purchased scraps from IRS on numerous occasions during the relevant period. It was also not disputed that Toh Joo Hin dealt with the accused in these transactions. It was also a fact that Toh Joo Hin paid a total sum of $42,253.05 towards the scraps. The accused admitted that out of this amount, Toh Joo Hin deposited a total sum of $26,764.10 by way of cheques into the accuseds POSB account while the balance went to IRS.

5. The prosecutions case was that all the scraps belonged to IRS and any proceeds arising from the sales of these scraps also belonged to IRS. The accused had therefore dishonestly misappropriated money that belonged to IRS.

6. It was not disputed that the payments to the accused were made between the period from 30 June 1997 to 11 June 1998, a period spanning just over a year. Pursuant to section 159(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code which stipulated that the offence period for a charge of dishonest misappropriation should not exceed one year, the prosecution accordingly split the period and proceeded with the present 2 charges against the accused.

7. The defence was that first, there was no misappropriation as the scraps which the accused sold were in fact scraps that were unwanted and to be discarded under IRSs policy. Secondly, the accused did not have any dishonest intention as he had thought that he was entitled to dispose of the unwanted P2 scraps by selling them and keeping the proceeds for himself.

8. The prosecution called a total of 3 witnesses to prove its case. The material facts adduced by the prosecution were as follows.


9. The main prosecution witness was Toh Eet Bee (PW2) who ran a scrap collecting business under M/s Toh Joo Hin Trading. PW2 had been collecting scraps from IRS since the 1980s. He dealt with one Jennifer from IRS until the accused took over from her in 1997. Initially, PW2 collected 3 types of scraps namely brass, copper and iron scraps on a monthly basis. IRS would have weighed these scraps before the collection and PW2 would pay IRS by way of cheque according to their weights the following day. On an average, PW2 would pay between $100 to $200 for each monthly collection. In any case, these scraps were not in issue and did not pertain to the charges against the accused.

10. Shortly after the accused took charge of the scraps in IRS, he asked PW2 to furnish him with a quotation for the various types of scraps that PW2 wished to purchase from IRS. After paying a visit to the premises, PW2 decided that he would collect "solder plated scraps" as well. On 3 Jan 1997, he submitted a quotation (exhibit P3) to the accused in which he offered to buy solder plated scraps at $0.60/kg. The accused however told PW2 that he would only sell them to him at $1.20/kg. PW2 agreed orally to this price and thus started collecting solder plated scraps from IRS in 1997.

11. PW2 collected the solder plated scraps in 3 large containers which he supplied to IRS. The accused arranged these visits on a fortnight basis. After each collection, PW2 would drive his lorry to a weighing bridge to ascertain the weight of the solder plated scraps he had collected. In 1997 and 1998, PW2 collected an average of one tonne per visit. At $1.20/kg, each tonne was worth about $1200.

12. Subsequently, PW2 also started collecting connectors from IRS. There were 3 types of connectors. They were the gold plated connectors priced at $1.50/kg, non-gold plated connectors priced at $0.30/kg and the pins priced at $5/kg. The connectors were placed in cartons and PW2 collected them at the same time as the solder plated scraps. In the case of the connectors, he would bring the cartons back and weigh them at home.

13. PW2 would call the accused at night after each collection to inform the accused as to how much the solder plated scraps and connectors weighed and from there they would compute the amount payable for the scraps. When the sums have been worked out, the accused would instruct PW2 regarding payment. There were occasions when the accused told PW2 to issue 2 cheques, one to IRS and the other to the accused. The accused would also tell PW2 how to apportion the cheques. The amounts to be allotted had no relation to the quantities of the solder plated scraps and connectors that PW2 had collected. Sometimes the accused would request for a bigger sum for himself and at other times a smaller amount. There were also occasions when the accused asked PW2 to issue just one cheque to himself. Since the accused told PW2 that he was the boss, PW2 followed his instructions accordingly.

14. As PW2 did not have a current account, his wife would issue the cheques on his behalf. PW2 would post the cheques meant for IRS to IRS marked for the accuseds attention. For the cheques meant for the accused, PW2 would deposit them at POSBank into the accuseds account. It was not disputed that there were 7 instances when PW2 issued 2 cheques at the same time, one to IRS and the other to the accused (see the schedule at exhibit G).

15. Around June 1998, the accused ceased to be in charge of scrap sales and one Lucy took over. PW2 also stopped dealing with the accused with regards to the scraps. Sometime in 1999, IRS terminated the services of Toh Joo Hin.


16. Mr Edward Lim (PW1) joined IRS in Jan 1997 as the General Manager. In April 1998, he took over as the Managing Director from Mr Hiroshi Aoki ("DW2). Subsequent to this appointment, PW1 promoted the accused from the position of Production Manager to that of Operations Manager. PW1 also had plans to groom the accused to be the next General Manager.

17. Sometime around April 1999, PW1 learned from PW2 that the accused had been pocketing scrap sales money around the region of $26,000. PW2 told PW1 that he had come a long way in serving IRS however he could not afford to continue giving a portion of the money to the accused. He asked for PW1s understanding of the situation and also reason for terminating his service. PW1 told PW2 that he would look into the matter.

18. PW1 confronted the accused privately regarding PW2s allegation. To PW1s delight, the accused admitted that he had taken the money. The accused also agreed that what he did was wrong. He told PW1 that sometimes he would use the money to buy drinks for the staff. The accused could not remember how much he had taken but he agreed that it was probably about $26,000. PW1 felt that the accused had made a mistake. In view of the accuseds work performance and contributions to IRS, PW1 decided to pardon the accused on the condition that he made restitution. The accused agreed to it and it was settled that IRS would deduct the amounts that the accused had pocketed quietly from his bonus.

19. Towards the end of 1999, PW1 deducted $8000 plus from the accuseds bonus. There was still an outstanding balance of $14,000 when the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau (CPIB) stepped into the picture in 2000.

20. Other than the evidence of PW1 and 2, the prosecution also tendered 3 statements given by the accused in which he admitted to the commission of the offences (exhibits P9 to 11).

Submission Of No Case To Answer

21. The defence submitted that it had no case to answer. First, it argued that the prosecution had not proved whether it was IRS or the accused who had sold the solder plated scraps and connectors to Toh Joo Hin. Secondly, it contended that the prosecution had failed to show that the accused had a dishonest intention when he took the money.

22. Based on the evidence adduced before me, I was satisfied that the prosecution had established a prima facie case. The scraps clearly belonged to IRS and it would appear that the accused was not entitled to sell the scraps in his personal capacity. The manner in which he told PW2 to split the cheques and his admissions to the offences also indicated dishonest intention on his part. As such I called upon the accused to enter his defence.

The Defence

23. The accused elected to give evidence. In support of his defence, he also called Mr Hiroshi Aoki (DW2), the former Managing Director of IRS to be his witness. The material facts adduced by the defence were as follows.

The Accused

24. The accused joined IRS as a technician in 1986. In 1996, he was promoted to the post of Production Manger. In 1998, he was made the Operations Manager. In July 1999, he was further promoted and became the Deputy General Manager.

25. As far as the accused was concerned, DW2 was the Managing Director...

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