Singapore

Ex-BP manager and businessman both jailed 4.5 years for graft

A former manager at oil giant BP and a businessman were each sentenced to 4½ years' jail yesterday for their roles in a graft case involving close to US$4 million (S$5.3 million).

Clarence Chang Peng Hong, 56, had accepted bribes from businessman Koh Seng Lee, 59, on 19 occasions between July 2006 and July 2010 in exchange for advancing the business interests of Koh's company with BP.

Koh had also corruptly agreed to pay $500,000 to a pre-school - Mindchamps Pre-school @ City Square - of which Chang's wife was a director.

They were found guilty of 20 corruption charges each last year after a trial spanning more than two years.

The duo were handed jail terms of 54 months yesterday, and Chang was additionally ordered to pay a penalty of more than $6 million in default of 28 months' jail.

During the trial, the court heard that Koh had set up a marine fuel trading company, Pacific Prime Trading (PPT), based on Chang's suggestion.

The prosecution said the two had a mutual understanding from the start that Chang would use his position in BP Singapore to advance PPT's interest, in return for a share of PPT's profits.

The prosecution also argued that Koh knew Chang had the power to "make or break" PPT and felt compelled to accede to Chang's requests for payments.

The defence counsels for the two men had argued that the funds transferred between the two were for joint investments in property and in Mindchamps, and were wholly unrelated to PPT's business with BP Singapore.

But District Judge Ong Chin Rhu said the accounts of joint investments were an afterthought.

For each charge of corruption, Koh and Chang could have been jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.

Both of them have filed appeals against their convictions and sentences, and are currently out on bail. 

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

COURT & CRIME