Opinion

Singapore’s Top 5 Corruption Cases (So Far)

Jeff Cuellar 0 Comments

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Singapore is one of the least corrupt nations on earth. Finished laughing now? Good. According to Transparency International’s (TI) 2013 “Corruption Perceptions Index,” Singapore ranks as the world’s 5th least corrupt nation.

The funny thing is that when you check out the TI’s “Global Corruption Barometer,” which is a public opinion survey measuring the average citizen’s view on national corruption, Singapore is oddly not on the list. But if you look at the 2010/2011 stats, 38% of respondents said corruption increased.

Unfortunately for Singapore, I think its #5 ranking is in serious danger, especially with the number of public officials getting busted for corruption.

Without further delay, here are Singapore’s top 5 corruption cases (so far):

 

1. Edwin Yeo – Head of Field Research and Technical Support for the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB)

Photo: WSJ Online
Photo: WSJ Online

Crime: Stealing $1.76 million in government funds

Punishment: 10 years in Changi Prison

Prison Nickname: “Gambling Man” 

Case Overview

You’d think that the most incorruptible civil servants in Singapore would be posted to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). After all, this is the agency that’s responsible for busting some of the very people on this list.

That was until Edwin Yeo joined the bureau. For 15 years, Edwin served the bureau, eventually becoming the Head of Field Research and Technical Support. Then in 2008, he went from supporting the CPIB in its investigations – to becoming the target of one.

What CPIB found out was shocking. Between 2008 and 2013, Edwin stole $1.76 million dollars from a CPIB bank account. What’s even better is what he did with the money – he gambled most of it away at Marina Bay Sands!

After being convicted of 21 counts of financial impropriety, he’s now serving 10 years in Changi Prison.

 

2. Lim Cheng Hoe – Protocol Chief for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)

Photo: The Malaysian Star Online
Photo: The Malaysian Star Online

Crime: Cheating the government out of $89,000 by inflating the price of pineapple tarts and wine he purchased as gifts for foreign delegates

Punishment: 15 months in Changi Prison

Prison Nickname: “Pineapple Express”

Case Overview

Lim Cheng Hoe was just your average civil servant working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). As the MFA’s Protocol Chief, his job was to organize and monitor the conduct of Singapore delegations abroad and foreign delegations visiting the country.

Part of his job included buying gifts for the foreign delegations visiting Singapore. His gifts of choice were pineapple tarts and bottles of wine. However, Lim kind of fudged the numbers a little bit when it came to how many boxes of pineapple tarts and bottles of wine he purchased.

He purchased 2,226 boxes of pineapple tarts, but inflated the number to 10,075 boxes! His math wasn’t any better with his wine purchases, as he purchased 89 bottles and inflated the number to 248. Needless to say, the government wasn’t amused with his $89,000 mistake – and charged him with 10 counts of fraud.

He was sentenced to 15 months in Changi Prison.

 

3. Peter Lim – Chief of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (CDF)

Photo: Yahoo! News
Photo: Yahoo! News

Crime: Favoring IT-related government tenders to certain companies in exchange for sexual favors

Punishment: 6 months in Changi Prison

Prison Nickname: “Most Favored Inmate”

Case Overview

As the chief of Singapore’s Civil Defence Force (CDF), Peter Lim had many responsibilities, which included the approval of CDF tenders. When it comes to government tenders, the winner is typically judged by price, track record, and experience.

However, it was Peter’s way of choosing certain winning tenders that got him in trouble with the law. He was selecting winning tenders based on a different kind of “experience,” as he granted winning tenders to the companies of at least three female executives in exchange for sexual favors.

Peter was originally charged with 10 counts of corruption, but was eventually tried and convicted on one count for obtaining sexual favors from Ms Pang Chor Mui, the former GM of Nimrod Engineering.

He was sentenced to six months at Changi Prison.

 

4. Bernard Lim Yong Soon – Assistant Director for National Parks Board (NParks)

Photo: TODAY Online
Photo: TODAY Online

Crime: Giving false information to public servants and encouraging his friend to lie to corruption investigators during the “Brompton Bicycle Saga”

Punishment: Up to 1 year in Changi Prison, a $5,000 fine, or both

Potential Prison Nickname: “Easy Rider” 

Case Overview

Whenever I hear about this case, I can’t help but play Queen’s “Bicycle” in my head. That’s essentially what this case is built on – a tender for 26 bicycles worth $2,200 a piece! I’m talking about Brompton folding bicycles that retail for $2,000+.

Whatever happened to purchasing simple mountain bikes for $500+ a piece?

Assistant Director for the National Parks Board (NParks), Bernard Lim, was responsible for overseeing the tender for new bikes for NParks staff. I guess Bernard didn’t think it was important for everyone to know that the director of the company winning the tender just happened to be a close friend.

Of course, once the public found out about the bike purchase, questions started to be asked… by the Corruption Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). He lied about his friendship with the company’s director, and then asked him to lie to investigators.

He’s currently on trial.

 

5. Tey Tsun Hang – National University of Singapore (NUS) Law Professor

Photo: TODAY Online
Photo: TODAY Online

Crime: Receiving several gifts and sexual favors from a student in exchange for passing grades

Punishment: 5 months in Changi Prison and a penalty of $514.80

Prison Nickname: “The Hard Grader” 

Case Overview

Most of us fear the prospect of walking into a professor’s office to ask for a better grade. Most of us also would never think of “bribing” our professors with gifts for a higher grade, as that’s a surefire way to get suspended.

But when former NUS student Darinne Ko urged ex-law professor Tey Tsun Hang to grade her “favorably,” he reluctantly agreed – after receiving a Mont Blanc pen, tailor-made shirts, an Apple iPod, and sex.

Needless to say, Ms. Ko was graded favorably by Tey Tsun Hang, and went on to graduate from NUS. Unfortunately for Tey, his actions eventually came to light.

He served a five-month sentence at Changi Prison. He was also later acquitted.

 

Final Note: What’s amazing is that many corruption cases don’t involve low-level civil servants, but those at or near the top of their respective government agencies. That’s a troubling thought. However, there is a silver lining to this issue.

The fact that these individuals were caught due to good investigative work and whistle-blowing means that there are people out there who are working to keep Singapore’s government agencies free of corruption. That’s something to be proud of.

Do you think Singapore is one of the least corrupt nations on earth? Tell us what you think here!

Image Credits:
Don Wong (Banner Photo)

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Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.

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