SINGAPORE: While in charge of procurement matters at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), Rikram Jit Singh Randhir Singh tricked the sport’s governing body into disbursing S$609,380 (US$456,000) to companies linked to himself or his wife.
Singh hid this conflict of interest by asking a longtime friend to take over the directorship of his wife’s firm and submit quotations for jobs from FAS, which he would recommend to the management for approval.
He also used another friend’s company as a front to quote for supply jobs that he would then pass to his wife’s firm.
Singh, 43, was sentenced on Tuesday (Jan 16) to a jail term of 55 weeks.
The former FAS deputy director pleaded guilty earlier this month to 15 cheating charges, with another 30 charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
Singh and his wife, Asya Kirin Kames, made profits of about S$128,000 from their actions. This sum has since been seized by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and will be returned to FAS.
Asya had faced cheating charges as well, but the charges were withdrawn on Tuesday following an application by the prosecution. CNA has contacted the Attorney-General’s Chambers for more information as to why Asya’s charges were withdrawn.
The court previously heard that Singh joined FAS in 2010 as a marketing manager, working in the revenue-generating department.
He was eventually promoted to deputy director in 2017 and remained in the position until January 2019, when FAS began investigating him for breaching the association’s code of conduct. CPIB also received information on the matter then.
FAS is responsible for developing and advancing football in Singapore. It is partially funded by Sport Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth; this funding is meant to offset part of FAS’ operating costs.
MANIPULATED QUOTATION PROCESS
Singh met Asya in 2013 when she worked in the FAS’ communication department. Asya left in December that year and set up an event management company, All Resources Network, which FAS frequently engaged to organise and support FAS events.
The couple began dating and eventually tied the knot in 2018.
In October 2017, Asya transferred ownership of All Resources Network to Shankar Suppiah, who had been friends with Singh for more than two decades.
Asya had decided to accept a job in Indonesia and they were concerned FAS would find out about the conflict of interest.
However, Asya remained in control of the firm. She also continued receiving 60 per cent of the firm’s profits under an agreement with Shankar.
Shankar used a fictitious persona called Rebecca to submit quotations to FAS. The persona had been created by Singh and Asya early in their relationship to prevent FAS from suspecting they were in a relationship.
The jobs that Shankar bid for included supplying stress balls with National Council of Problem Gambling (NCPG) imagery to S-League – now known as Singapore Premier League – matches.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development, on behalf of NCPG, signed an agreement with FAS in June 2017 to fund the production of such items to be distributed during matches.
USED FRIEND’S COMPANY AS FRONT
Singh had another arrangement with an ex-colleague, Pallaniappan Ravindran.
The other man was a director of Myriad Sports and Events, which supplied sports merchandise – including to FAS – and dealt with the image rights of football personalities.
In 2016, Ravindran considered closing down Myriad due to other work commitments and a lack of revenue generation. That was before Singh contacted him and asked if he was willing to continue submitting quotations to supply sports merchandise to FAS.
Singh told Ravindran that he could keep a small sum of what FAS paid Myriad for operational expenses, but transfer the remaining amount to Singh.
Ravindran agreed to the scheme out of friendship and after Singh told him about the conflict of interest issue.
In reality, All Resources Network supplied the items to FAS.
In one instance, FAS disbursed S$24,000 to Myriad for 12,500 hand flags for the official opening of the Singapore Premier League in March 2018. Singh instructed a marketing manager who worked under him to endorse Ravindran’s quotation.
In other instances, Singh told his subordinate to find other quotations for supply jobs that Ravindran had submitted quotations.
This was because the commercial and business development department, as required under FAS’ financial protocols, would have to obtain at least three quotations from interested vendors for procurements valued between S$3,000 and S$50,000.
Singh would then determine if the lowest of the three quotations should be approved before sending it to FAS’ management for approval.
As deputy director, he only had the authority to approve procurements valued up to S$10,000.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Thiagesh Sukumaran sought jail time of 24 to 30 months for Singh, arguing that he committed a grave abuse of authority and engaged in an elaborate conspiracy to cheat FAS.
Singh grew so emboldened that he began bidding on Myriad’s behalf – and behind Ravindran’s back – for the provision of technical services to support live broadcasting services for Singapore Premier League matches, noted the prosecutor.
Singh also misused public funds, Mr Sukumaran added, given that FAS was partially funded by government funding and several of the offences involved contracts between FAS and a government entity.
“Football is largely regarded as the national sport in Singapore. The commission of fraud at the FAS, the association that governed the sport in Singapore, would trigger public disquiet,” said the prosecutor.
In sentencing, District Judge Jasvender Kaur disagreed with Mr Sukumaran’s argument that Singh misused public funds. She noted that FAS had no complaints about the jobs completed, while an independent audit requested by FAS showed that it did not pay above market rate for the jobs.
Even though FAS did not suffer financial losses, Singh’s crimes undermined the integrity of its financial governance protocol. Singh also abused his position of trust which was a significant aggravating factor, the judge added.
Singh, who was represented by defence counsel Satwant Singh, could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each cheating offence.
Ravindran has been charged in court and his case is pending, while Shankar was sentenced to four months’ jail in November 2022.