Ex-MFA protocol chief pleads guilty to cheating
He joined the civil service in 1974 and rose through the ranks to become the chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
But in 2012, he got into trouble over false claims for wine and pineapple tarts.
Yesterday, Lim Cheng Hoe, 61, pleaded guilty to 10 charges of cheating the MFA of $35,160.
He admitted to submitting claims for 2,600 boxes of pineapple tarts when he had only bought 220. He also made claims for 139 bottles of wine, but used only 39 of them.
In all, he had faced 60 charges of cheating the Government of about $89,000. From Feb 3, 2008, to May 18, 2012, Lim submitted the claims through the MFA's online system.
Each claim was related to an official trip out of Singapore or a visit by foreign delegates to Singapore.
As MFA's chief of protocol, he was in charge of overseeing the conduct of official visits by Singapore delegations overseas and incoming visits by foreign delegations to Singapore.
For some claims on the pineapple tarts, Lim did not even buy the pastry and submitted false receipts to support his claims, the court heard.
Investigations showed that he became a regular customer at a shop selling pineapple tarts in 2007.
When he asked for receipts, the shop, which did not usually issue them, did so using disused receipt books.
Lim later asked for blank receipts and the shopkeepers agreed, thinking that he found their handwriting not clear enough, the court heard.
GOT FRIEND TO HELP
Lim got a friend, who had no idea the claims were false, to fill in the receipts. For example, he stated 200 boxes when he had only bought 50.
However, his false wine claims had genuine receipts. He bought more wine than he planned to take for his overseas trips, but claimed for all of them.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelvin Kow called for a deterrent sentence as Lim had "abused his position of trust and authority" and "brought disrepute to the public service".
But Lim's lawyer, Mr Philip Fong, said Lim had intended to use the excess claims to buy gifts for foreign diplomats. For example, he would buy flowers and chocolates to show appreciation for dinners hosted by diplomats.
As a diabetic, Lim could not drink and instead used the extra bottles of wine as gifts at some local diplomatic functions, Mr Fong said.
"(His intention) was not to self-aggrandise... It was not to consume the pineapple tarts and wine on his own," he added. Lim is due to be sentenced on Thursday.
(His intention) was not to self-aggrandise... It was not to consume the pineapple tarts and wine on his own.
- Lawyer Philip Fong on his client, former Ministry of Foreign Affairs chief of protocol Lim Cheng Hoe