May - Corruption: Few aberrations, but system still works

Three cases hit the headlines this year. The trial against the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders accused of embezzling more than S$50 million began on May 15. On May 29, former National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor Tey Tsun Hang was found guilty of corruption in the “sex-for-grades” case. Two days later, on May 31, former Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) chief Peter Lim was also found guilty in “sex-for-contracts” corruption case. Earlier on February 14, former Central Narcotics Bureau chief Ng Boon Gay was acquitted of all corruption charges by the District Court.

City Harvest Church embezzling case

Between 2010 and 2012, the Commissioner of Charities (COC) and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) investigated suspected financial irregularities at CHC and claimed finding “misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity”, particularly in its building fund. On June 27, 2012, the CAD arrested CHC founder Kong Hee and five senior members of his church - Tan Ye Peng, Sharon Tan, Chew Eng Han, Serina Wee and John Lam Leng Hung. They were also suspended from all their CHC posts alongside Ho Sun [Kong Hee's wife], Kelvin Teo, and Jacqueline Tan. Later, all were granted bail and their passports were impounded.

All accused were charged with varying counts of Criminal Breach of Trust. But essentially, the case deals with charges of funnelling S$24 million into sham bond investments to further Ho Sun's music career in 2007-08, and misappropriating another S$26.6 million in 2009 to cover up their tracks.

The trial which began in May is expected to last till the second half of 2014. As of now, the prosecution, in the first two legs of the trial, has questioned over 10 witnesses including accountants and directors of CHC-linked companies. The third and final leg will be spread till August 29, 2014, making it one of the longest trial in recent history in Singapore. 

Sex-for-grades case

After serving five months jail term, with the last few weeks on home detention, former National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor Tey Tsun Hang, became a free man again on October 5. Tey was found guilty of obtaining gifts and sex from former student Darinne Ko in exchange of better grades, in May earlier this year. 

Sex-for-contracts cases

Two senior civil servants, Ng Boon Gay, former Central Narcotics Bureau chief, and Peter Lim, former Singapore Civil Defence Force chief, were on trial this year for giving government contracts in return of sexual favours from several women.

But the verdicts in both the cases turned out to be very different.

Ng was acquitted of all four charges in February, with the District Judge Siva Shanmugam calling the prosecution star witness Cecilia Sue “unconvincing, inconsistent and a disturbing propensity to be untruthful when her own interests are called into question”. The Attorney-General's Chambers decided against filing an appeal in June giving a closure to the high-profile case, even though Ng still faces a Civil Service disciplinary process. He would later describe the 19-month-long investigation and trial as “the darkest and lowest point” of his life.

Contrarily, Lim began serving his six-months jail term on June 26, which was later turned to home detention from September 27. Lim was found guilty of obtaining sexual services in 2010 from 49-year-old Pang Chor Mui, a former general manager at Nimrod Engineering, in return for favouring her employer in awarding government contracts. During the trial, Lim also admitted to having sexual trysts with two other women from firms which were also the vendors for SCDF. Lim was also officially dismissed from public service following conclusion of civil services disciplinary proceedings against him, informed the Ministry of Home Affairs in September.   


CPIB officer in the dock

In July, Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong, a 39-year-old assistant director in the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), was charged with 21 offences committed between 2008 and 2012 including misappropriating more than S$1.7 million and forgery. In December, Yeo, decided to plead guilty. His case will be brought up in the Subordinate Court on January 21, 2014.