Singapore

Ex-ST Marine president jailed 16 weeks for illicit payments

The former president of the ship repair business group at Singapore Technologies Marine (ST Marine) was sentenced to 16 weeks' jail yesterday.

Tan Mong Seng, 65, had signed on 101 petty cash vouchers for "entertainment" which actually camouflaged illicit payments amounting to $419,994.

The last of seven people to be sentenced in the case is former group financial controller Ong Teck Liam, 60, who has pleaded guilty.

Between 2000 and 2011, they were involved in a scheme which used 'entertainment expenses' to cover up at least $24.9 million in bribes in one of the biggest corruption scandals in Singapore, court documents showed.

Tan, who runs his own business, was convicted in February of 101 charges of abetment by conspiracy in relation to falsification of accounts for 2002 to 2004.

He was found guilty of conspiring with various people to falsely describe the claims as reimbursement of entertainment expenses when no such expenses were incurred.

In January, the former president of ST Marine, Chang Cheow Teck, was sentenced to 14 days' detention for his role in the scandal.

Former ST Marine chief executive officer and president See Leong Teck received the heaviest sentence - 10 months' jail and a $100,000 fine.

Seeking a sentence of at least six months, the prosecution submitted that the offences were serious, and there is a significant public interest in deterring officers of companies from adopting or following accounting practices that make use of false documents which cover-up illicit payments.

District Judge Jasbendar Kaur said: "In my opinion, as the offences concerned an extensive corporate wrongdoing to conceal the improper payment of commissions that involved officers at all levels and over a protracted period, a custodial sentence was clearly warranted to adequately reflect the seriousness of the offences."

Finding Tan's criminality less than that of four others, the judge said Tan was not a member of the senior management team that was instrumental in instituting the creative practice of using the petty cash vouchers to conceal the commission payments. Compared with the others, Tan's involvement in the scheme was also shorter.

Senior counsel N. Sreenivasan said the corrupt practices in ST Marine pre-dated his client joining the company. All his client did was to ensure that payments did not adversely affect the profitability and margins.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for April 27 for Tan's remaining 345 charges that have been stood down.

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