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Former Spring Singapore staff pleads guilty to cheating stat board

SINGAPORE — Together with four friends, a former senior executive at the then-Spring Singapore hatched a plan to cheat the government agency of around S$155,000.

Former Spring Singapore staff pleads guilty to cheating stat board
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SINGAPORE — Together with four friends, a former senior executive at the then-Spring Singapore hatched a plan to cheat the government agency of around S$155,000.

His ploy involved getting his friends to create and register shell companies and forge supporting documents, in order to apply for and get money from an innovation voucher scheme under Spring Singapore.

On Thursday (Jan 31), Leong Weng Cheou, 49, pleaded guilty to 12 counts of cheating and another 18 counts of forgery.

Another 105 counts of similar offences will be taken into consideration for sentencing, which will take place on Feb 21.

Spring’s Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV) scheme is a reimbursement-based, S$5,000 voucher programme targeted at small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to encourage them to develop their capabilities in five categories: Innovation, productivity, human resource, financial management and solutions.

The agency is now known as Enterprise Singapore, which was formed in April last year after the merger of Spring Singapore and International Enterprise Singapore.

The court heard that Leong came up with his ruse in 2015 to defraud his employer because he needed the money for personal expenses.

He also “disapproved” of how (Spring) was disbursing money to applicants whom he felt were making claims under the ICV scheme that were “worth only a fraction of that sum despite having supporting documents showing that they were purchased at S$5,000”, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew.

To get the S$5,000 voucher, SMEs have to first submit an application and quotation for the solution to the statutory board for approval. Once approval is given, the company can proceed to purchase it.

Upon the purchase and delivery of the solution, the applicant will then submit a claim online for disbursement of funds for its purchase.

During the time of his offences between 2015 and 2016, Leong’s duties at Spring Singapore included assessing ICV applications and claims.

To defraud his employer, he engaged four friends — Soh Eng Luan, Lionel Wong Yong Jun, Mary Heah Hwee Hoong and Wong Ping Ling — in four separate conspiracies.

Apart from telling them about the ICV Scheme’s processes, he also taught them how to register the shell companies with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority. The four friends were also aware of the plan to defraud Spring Singapore.

“Leong chose to conspire with these four friends because he perceived that they needed money and he promised them that they could get money if they participated in the conspiracy with him,” DPP Yew said.

In total, Leong forged 31 sets of quotations, invoices and receipts from solution providers. He also forged a cheque and bank statements.

In order to forge the supporting documents, Leong obtained genuine documents from applications and claims from Spring’s computer systems..

He saved them onto a personal hard disk drive and took them home to edit on image editing software. He amended the name and address of the stated customer to the shell companies and even tweaked the name of the salesperson to a fictitious name.

Leong and his friends then submitted these forged documents to Spring for the ICV scheme.

He selected 30 of them and assessed them favourably, the court was told. This increased the possibility of the fraudulent claims and applications being approved.

In total, 31 fraudulent claims were approved and about S$155,000 was disbursed to the shell companies.

Leong pocketed S$77,500, which he used on personal expenses.

The plan unravelled in late 2017 when Leong gathered his friends to talk about returning the money to Spring because he knew that the statutory board’s auditing processes would uncover the fraud.

After that meeting, Soh consulted her lawyer and lodged a police report without Leong’s knowledge. She admitted that she conspired with Leong to cheat Spring.

The four individuals’ cases are still before the court.

DPP Yew, who is asking for a four-year jail sentence, also told the court that the five individuals have jointly made full restitution to Spring after investigations commenced.

For cheating, Leong could be jailed up to 10 years and fined for each charge.


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