SINGAPORE: A former director of resources at the British Council in Singapore was sentenced to 16 weeks’ jail on Monday (May 27) for taking more than S$100,000 (US$74,000) in bribes from vendors.

Lee Kok Keong pleaded guilty to three counts of obtaining bribes under the Prevention of Corruption Act, with another 12 charges taken into consideration.

The court heard that the 50-year-old Singaporean worked at the British Council, the United Kingdom’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities.

As the director of resources, he was in charge of planning and budgeting for the management of the British Council’s premises.

Kok Keong got to know co-accused Lee Lian Hiang, a 55-year-old Singaporean director of BuildCool Engineering Services, as Lian Hiang’s company was a long-time vendor for the British Council.

On top of this business relationship, Kok Keong was also a property agent representing Lian Hiang’s wife. The British Council was aware of Kok Keong’s side job and consented to it as long as he was not involved with any property-related matters linked to the British Council or its staff.

Around 2014, the two men agreed that Kok Keong would help BuildCool win tenders for British Council works. Kok Keong was to give Lian Hiang information about pending works to be done, providing the advantage of time to prepare for the tender.

Kok Keong would always invite BuildCool to quote for all projects, increasing its chances of securing jobs. He would also work with Lian Hiang to come up with indicative pricing for works to be done, so Kok Keong could set a budget for the project.

Kok Keong also helped BuildCool by discussing other vendors’ tenders with Lian Hiang and helping him prepare for questions to be asked during tender committee interviews.

In exchange, the two men would discuss what “cut” of profits Kok Keong was to receive. There was no fixed sum or percentage, and Kok Keong would take the cash from Lian Hiang at a car park in Dempsey, at the Housing and Development Board Hub, near Lian Hiang’s office or in Lian Hiang’s car.

Kok Keong requested cash to avoid leaving a paper trail. He used all the money to pay for daily essentials for himself and his family, as well as his credit card bills.

Between 2014 and 2018, Kok Keong received a total of S$84,500 from Lian Hiang for helping BuildCool.

Kok Keong also took another S$15,800 in bribes from 2015 to 2020 from co-accused Ong Seck Cheng, a 52-year-old Singaporean director of Encompass Construction, a company providing corporate renovation services.

In exchange, he similarly helped Ong secure projects with the British Council.

With Ong, Kok Keong received about 5 to 10 per cent of the value of the entire contract won as commission.

In total across the corrupt arrangements with both co-accused, Kok Keong received S$100,300 in bribes. He has since made full restitution.

Lee’s lawyers, Mr Adrian Wee and Ms Lynette Chang from Lighthouse Law, sought eight to 10 weeks’ jail.

Mr Wee said his client voluntarily made full restitution. A married man with two children, Kok Keong first joined the British Council in 1988, said the lawyer.

Mr Wee said Kok Keong had “no authority to select project vendors” on behalf of the British Council, despite his role. Despite his title, he did not occupy a senior position, said the lawyer.

He added that his client was initially investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau only over the BuildCool projects, but Kok Keong volunteered the information about the Encompass bribes.

Kok Keong was allowed to begin serving his sentence on Jun 24.


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