Public Prosecutor v Teng Cheow Hing

JudgeWong Keen Onn
Judgment Date18 February 2005
Neutral Citation[2005] SGDC 38
Plaintiff CounselDeborah Tan, Marjory Yeoh and Lee Chau Hwei (Deputy Public Prosecutors)
Published date22 March 2005
CourtDistrict Court (Singapore)
Defendant CounselPhilip Lam (Foo, Liew and Philip Lam)
Subject MatterCriminal Law,Section 13 Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241, 1993 Rev Ed),Imposition of a penalty,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Sentencing,Commission of crime out of financial hardship

18 February 2005

District Judge Wong Keen Onn

The charges

1. On 23 November 2004, the accused pleaded guilty to one charge of corruptly obtaining a gratification by way of a loan of $600 whilst as the Managing Agent for the Management Corporation Strata Title of Balestier Point, from a representative of KH Hardware and Machinery (2001) Pte Ltd (“KH”), as an inducement to do an act in relation to his principal’s affairs, that is, to help the said KH secure the tender for a lift maintenance contract at Balestier Point, an offence under section 6(a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241) (“PCA”). He was convicted of the charge (DAC 45752/04).

2. The accused also consented to two other similar charges under s 6(a) PCA (DAC 45751/2004 & DAC 45753/2004) to be taken into consideration for purposes of sentencing. In the first charge DAC 45751/2004, the accused corruptly obtained for himself a loan of $500 as gratification from the sole proprietor of Shun Aircon Services as an inducement to help Shun Aircon Services to secure the chiller repair project at Balestier Point. In the third charge DAC 45753/2004, the accused corruptly obtained for himself a loan of $2000 as gratification from the sole proprietor of New Century Security Agency to recommend business opportunities to the latter.

The facts

3. The facts revealed that the accused had corruptly obtained a loan of $600 from one Tan Eng Teck Tracy (“giver”) as a gratification as an inducement for recommending to his principal, MCST of Balestier Point, to engage Mr Tan’s company as the lift maintenance contractor. The Statement of Facts to which the accused had unreservedly admitted to is reproduced below:

“ The accused is Teng Cheow Hing, a Managing Agent for the Management Corporation Strata Title of Balestier Point (“MCST”). His duties included calling for quotations from suppliers, recommending suitable contractors and reporting against any misconduct by existing contractors of MCST.

2. On or about 24 August 2004, the accused contacted one Tan Eng Teck Tracy (“Tan”), a Sales cum Marketing Manager of KH Hardware and Machinery (2001) Pte Ltd. The accused solicited for a loan of S$1,000 from Tan. When Tan declined, the accused told Tan that he could recommend to MCST to engage Tan’s company as the lift maintenance contractor. Tan then replied that he would check with his boss on the matter.

3. On or about 25 August 2004, at Tan’s office at 170 Tyrwhitt Road, Singapore, Tan reduced the loan amount requested by the accused to S$600. The accused accepted this, and Tan handed a cheque for S$600 to the accused. This loan amount was meant as an inducement for the accused to help Tan’s company to secure the tender for the lift maintenance contract at Balestier Point.

4. The accused has admitted that it was wrong of him to solicit, and to take the money from Tan with who he had official dealings with. His supervisor, Michaeal Arokia Selvan, has also indicated that the accused is prohibited from receiving monies from anyone with whom he had official dealings with. The accused was aware of this.”


4. The accused, 42 years of age, is a first offender and had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity. Counsel for the accused submitted that the accused had obtained the gratification to meet the expenses of hiring a maid to take care of his family members. Accused informed the Court that his grandmother was bedridden due to a stroke and his father was suffering from cancer. He had engaged a maid since 13 January 2003 to take care of his grandmother, thus incurring some S$7,595 in maid levy. His family was and still is facing severe financial hardship. He is the sole breadwinner of the family.

5. Counsel informed the Court that the accused had “approached the authorities to report on the activities that were the subject matter of these charges”. He did not encash the S$600 cheque that was issued to him but claimed that he had “voluntarily returned it to the authorities”. The accused had also “repaid” all the other loan monies he had obtained. Counsel urged the Court not to impose a jail term as the accused would then not be able to support his family financially.

DPP’s address

6. The Learned DPP did not submit on sentence. However, the DPP informed the Court that the cheque of $600 in the proceeded charge was not encashed but was given to the CPIB as an exhibit for the purpose of investigation. For the first charge DAC 45751/04 that was taken into consideration, the cheque of $500 was encashed by the accused but the accused subsequently “repaid” the sum of $500 to the giver sometime in November 2004, which was well after the accused had been charged in Court on 12 October 2004 for these offences. As for the gratification of $2000 in the third charge DAC 45753/04 (that was taken into consideration), it was paid out to the accused in the form of cash of $1000 and a cheque of $1,000. The cheque of $1,000 was handed to the authorities during investigations. The other sum of $1000 was repaid to the giver by the accused in November 2004. On the accused’s claim that “he had voluntarily surrendered the $600 cheque”, the DPP clarified that the accused had gone to CPIB on 25 August 2004 to lodge a complaint stating that the giver was trying to bribe him. The accused then gave that cheque to the CPIB. As mentioned above, the other cheque of $1,000 in the third charge was also seized from the accused on the same day.

Reasons for the sentence imposed

7. In assessing sentence, I took into account the accused’s plea of guilt at the first opportunity, his subsequent co-operation with the CPIB and that he was a first offender. These were mitigating factors in favour of the accused as they go to demonstrate signs of remorse on the part of the accused. However, counsel conceded during mitigation that the investigations had revealed sufficient evidence against his client as the accused had made admissions to the CPIB. In addition, the accused did deposit into his account one of the cheques (the subject matter in the first charge DAC 45751/04) that he had corruptly obtained before returning the loan to the giver of the bribe. This suggested that he did have the required mens rea for the offence under section 6(a) PCA. Thus, the evidence against the accused was quite strong such that the discount for a plea of guilt will have to be less: see Wong Kai Chuen v PP [1990] SLR 1011. In addition, it is trite law that an offender’s plea of guilt has to be balanced against other considerations, such as the dominant public interest of general deterrence: see PP v Tan Fook Sum [1999] 2 SLR 523. It is without doubt that corruption offences are serious offences and the fundamental sentencing principle in such cases is general deterrence: Ong Beng Leong v PP [2005] SGHC 22, Chua Tiong Tiong v PP [2001] 3 SLR 425, LimTeck Chye v PP [2004] 2 SLR 525. Notwithstanding this, I gave some weight to his plea of guilt and the fact that he had a prior clean record.

8. As for the accused’s submission that he committed the crime out of the financial hardship that his family was facing, it is trite law that this is not a valid mitigating factor that will lead to a discount in the sentence as no very exceptional or extreme circumstance had been brought to the court’s attention: see Lai Oei Mui Jenny v PP [1993] 3 SLR 305. Similarly, the fact that the accused returned the loan of $1,500 to the two givers of the bribe should also not be regarded as a strong mitigating factor. Firstly, the Prevention of Corruption Act makes it clear the both the giver and recipient of the bribe would be committing offences under the said Act (except in the case of an entrapment). Both the giver and the receiver are equally culpable in a corruption offence: see LimTeck Chye v PP [2004] 2 SLR 525. Hence, little credit ought to be given to a receiver if he returns the gratification to the giver as the whole transaction is, in the first place, illegal in law. Instead, the proper position is that if the receiver does not surrender the gratification to the authorities, that would be regarded an aggravating factor in sentencing . I therefore gave little weight to these two submissions by his counsel.

9. On the other hand, there are aggravating features present in this case. First, I note that the accused was employed as the managing agent for the Management Council of MCST of Balestier Point. He was in an influential position in the invitation of contractors for quotations and award of the tenders for contracts for works in the condominium. He had abused his position in committing this offence. Second, the accused was more culpable as he himself had solicited the bribe. Third, instead of owning up, he had initially casted aspersions on the givers of the gratification by maliciously alleging that he was offered bribes instead, thus suggesting his own innocence. The two cheques amounting to $600 and $1,000 respectively were given to CPIB in order to substantiate his false claims. In my view, the handing over of the cheques to CPIB could not be regarded in the same category as restitution as it was specifically done to buttress the accused’s malicious allegations. That would hardly be regarded as an indication of true remorse on the part of the accused. Fourth, the accused had used the gratification for his own use up till the time he was charged in court. Fifth, I was mindful that there were two similar offences that were taken into consideration and this would justify the imposition of a heavier sentence than would otherwise be imposed for the single offence that the accused had pleaded guilty to: see PP v Mok Ping Wuen Maurice [1999] 1 SLR 138 at 142E. Having considered all the circumstances, including the fact this was a case of corruption involved in a commercial context, I was of the view that a stiff fine was appropriate. Accordingly, I sentenced the accused to a fine of $8,000 in default 2 months’ imprisonment.


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