Sundara Moorthy Lankatharan v Public Prosecutor

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeYong Pung How CJ
Judgment Date06 June 1997
Neutral Citation[1997] SGHC 154
Citation[1997] SGHC 154
Subject MatterWhether appellant guilty of obtaining gratification,Criminal Procedure and Sentencing,Whether witness reliable,Prevention of Corruption Act,Whether court entitled to accept one part of testimony and reject other part,Whether evidence in respect of key issues undermined,Appeal,Due regard to be paid to judge's findings and reasons,s 6(a) Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241),Corroboration,Inconsistencies minor in nature or related to minor issues,Appellant HDB officer obtaining money from director of construction company undertaking work inspected by appellant,Power of appellate court to reverse finding of fact,Witnesses,Statutory offences,Corruptly receiving gratification,Evidence,Inconsistencies in testimony,Appellate court did not have benefit of seeing or hearing witnesses,Findings of fact by court below not to be disturbed by appellate court unless clearly reached against weight of evidence,Criminal Law
Published date19 September 2003
Date06 June 1997
Plaintiff CounselFrancis Xavier (Allen & Gledhill)
Docket NumberMagistrate's Appeal No 225 of 1996
Defendant CounselJasbendar Kaur (Deputy Public Prosecutor)
The charge

The appellant, a higher technician employed by the Housing and Development Board (HDB), was charged under s 6(a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 241) (the Act), for having corruptly obtained, as an agent, a gratification in the form of a loan of $4,000 from one Tan Ah Lay, the managing director of Hock Chew Building Construction Pte Ltd (Hock Chew). The gratification was given to the appellant on 13 October 1993, allegedly as an inducement for forbearing to show disfavour to Hock Chew in relation to the appellant`s supervision of the safety aspects of the construction works carried out by Hock Chew at their HDB building project in Woodlands.

The appellant was convicted and sentenced to three months` imprisonment. He was also ordered to pay a penalty of $4,000, in default one month`s imprisonment. The appellant appealed against his conviction and sentence. After hearing submissions from counsel for the appellant and for the respondent, I dismissed the appeal and now give my reasons.

The prosecution`s case

The evidence adduced by the prosecution was mainly as follows. The appellant was employed by HDB, and was the safety unit officer attached to the safety unit of the Structural Engineering Department. His duties included that of carrying out site inspections to ensure that contractors comply with safety measures, to check the submissions of safety programmes or proposals by contractors, to investigate accidents that occur on site and to recommend actions to prevent such recurrence.

At the material time, the appellant was in charge of the worksite in Woodlands, in respect of a building contract by Hock Chew (the worksite). In the course of inspection, the appellant would indicate in a checklist which he used for the inspection, whether there had been any compliance or non-compliance with safety requirements. Should there be a non-compliance of a non-serious nature, the contractor would be required to take remedial measures by a certain date, failing which HDB would award demerit points to the contractor and levy an administrative charge. If the contractor accumulated 100 demerit points within six months, he would be barred from tendering for HDB projects for three months. Where the non-compliance was of a critical nature, a stop work order would be issued.

The prosecution`s principal witness was one Tan Ah Lay (Tan) who was the managing director of Hock Chew. According to Tan, he saw the appellant about once a week when the latter went to inspect the worksite. However, they were not friends and Tan did not meet with the appellant on a social basis. One week before the alleged incident, the appellant approached Tan at the worksite office and asked for a loan of $4,000. Tan did not accede to the request. Subsequently, on 12 October 1993, the appellant paged for Tan and again asked him for the loan. This time, Tan agreed. The appellant informed Tan that he would go to the worksite the next day and asked Tan to meet him there. Tan explained that he had felt compelled to accede to the appellant`s request for the loan as he was afraid that his project might otherwise be affected.

The next day, the appellant came to the worksite in the morning and met Tan at his office. Tan took out a blank cheque and wrote the figures `$4,000`. He told the appellant to wait for a moment whilst he walked out of the office and into another room to ask his foreman Lau Ley Heng (Lau) to fill up the rest of the cheque, as Tan was illiterate in English. Tan did not explain to Lau why he had issued the cheque. Lau wrote the date `13 October 1993`, the words `Cash` and the amount `Four thousand only`. Tan signed the cheque, went back to his office and handed the cheque to the appellant, who promised to repay the loan when he had the money.

The cheque was cleared on 14 October 1993, but the appellant never repaid the loan. Moreover Tan explained that he did not ask the appellant about the repayment of the loan as he was busy with his work and had forgotten about it.

The prosecution also called one Suzana Chee Beng Yen (Suzana) as their witness. Suzana was a sales agent for Canon Marketing Pte Ltd and had been introduced to the appellant when she visited the premises of the HDB Staff Union (the Union) at Waterloo Street to sell the Union a photocopier. At that time, the appellant was the general secretary of the Union. They subsequently became intimate and met frequently between 1992 until 1994 when their relationship came to an end.

On 13 October 1993, the appellant handed a cheque to Suzana for her to cash. The appellant explained that the cheque had been given by the boss of Hock Chew, and it was for the repayment of a loan which he had made to Tan. The appellant asked her to cash the cheque on his behalf as he could not be seen to have lent money to Tan or to have any dealings of this nature with him.

The following day, Suzana cashed the cheque. She then met the appellant for lunch and handed the cash to him. A few days later, the appellant handed $2,000, together with his bank account book, to Suzana and asked her to deposit the cash into his POSB account. He told her that the money was part of the $4,000 which had been returned by Tan. The next day, Suzana banked the money into the appellant`s account, as reflected in the appellant`s passbook.

The defence case

The appellant`s defence was essentially that he had never asked Tan for a loan and suggested that Tan must have lent the money to Suzana. He testified as follows. The appellant had been employed by HDB from 1982 and had been involved in the HDB Staff Union since 1984. In 1991, he became the general secretary of the Union and was involved in running the day-to-day affairs of the Union.

Sometime in mid-1992, he asked one Richard Tan Peck Hoon (Richard), then vice-president of the Union, to look into the purchase of a photocopier. That was how he came to know Suzana, who was the sales representative for Canon Marketing. In August 1992, the Union purchased a photocopier from Canon. The appellant and Suzana subsequently developed an intimate relationship. He lavished her with gifts and they went on holidays together. However, the good times did not last and their relationship ended in 1994.

The appellant claimed that sometime...

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