Ex-NLB manager jailed for bribery involving nearly $600,000

A former manager of a National Library Board (NLB) department was sentenced yesterday to four years and four months' jail for corruption offences that involved nearly $600,000.

The court heard that the amount of bribes was one of the largest linked to the public sector.

Ivan Koh Siong Wee, 51, who worked in the department set up to spearhead NLB's move into e-books and other digital resources, was also ordered to pay a penalty of $229,000.

His friend, company director Low Pok Woen, 52, who had given the bribes in exchange for advancing his business interests with NLB, was sentenced to four years' jail.

The two Singaporeans, who committed the offences between 2005 and 2009, pleaded guilty to 20 counts of corruption involving nearly $500,000.

Another 36 similar charges for the remaining amount were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The court heard that some time around 2004 or 2005, there was a "strategic move" within NLB towards digitalisation.

Koh shared this news with Low. He also said that "to earn a living", Low could explore a business opportunity in providing digital content to NLB.

In November 2005, Low incorporated a company known as Database Resource Services to provide this service for NLB. Two more companies, JCD Crossmedia and W3.XS, were later set up.

Koh was appointed as a manager of NLB's digital resource services department in 2005, making him the second in command there.

In November that year, he started asking Low for money for various personal purposes.

Low then set aside about 30 per cent of all the profits earned from his three companies' subscription contracts with NLB to be given as bribes to Koh.

In return, Koh helped advance Low's business interests with NLB in various ways, like sharing confidential information on the digital resources that NLB was interested in.

The offences came to light after NLB's senior assistant director lodged a police report on Feb 21, 2014.

The two men were each offered bail of $80,000 yesterday and ordered to surrender themselves at the State Courts on May 14 to begin their jail terms. 

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.