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21 months' jail, fine for ex-SMRT employee who took more than S$54,000 in bribes from 3 S'pore firms

SINGAPORE — Over a period of six years, a former SMRT employee obtained bribes of at least S$54,850 from three Singapore companies in exchange for informing them about the quotation prices submitted by their competitors during the procurement process.

Soh Choon Heng, 45, was sentenced to 21 months’ jail and fined S$24,850 after he pleaded guilty to three charges of bribery and two charges of forgery.
Soh Choon Heng, 45, was sentenced to 21 months’ jail and fined S$24,850 after he pleaded guilty to three charges of bribery and two charges of forgery.
  • Between 2015 and 2020, ex-SMRT staff Soh Choon Heng took bribes amounting to at least S$54,850 from some of the transport company's vendors
  • This was in exchange for him leaking out quotation prices by the vendors' competitors during the procurement process
  • He had also forged the signatures of his superiors in procurement-related documents
  • On Monday, the Singaporean was sentenced to 21 months' jail and fined S$24,850

SINGAPORE — Over a period of six years, a former SMRT employee obtained bribes of at least S$54,850 from three Singapore companies in exchange for informing them about the quotation prices submitted by their competitors during the procurement process.

Soh Choon Heng, 45, who was working as an assistant buyer for the public transport provider at the time, had also digitally forged the signatures of the company’s management to sign off on relevant procurement-related documents.

At the State Courts on Monday (Jan 16), Soh was sentenced to 21 months’ jail and fined S$24,850 after he pleaded guilty to three charges of bribery and two charges of forgery.

He will be jailed for another eight weeks if he does not pay the fine. 

Another eight charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.

The three companies involved are automobiles spare parts firm Euro Bremse, electrical works firm CEE Technologies, and importer and distributor of automotive parts Alturan.

The three companies were in the business of supplying spare parts to SMRT, according to court documents.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Louis Ngia told the court that Yong Ming Jun and Wong King Mooi, the directors of Euro Bremse and CEE Technologies respectively, have been charged and their cases are still pending. 

He added that Lee Yon Jong, director of Alturan, is not in Singapore. Court documents did not state if Lee has been charged.

WHAT HAPPENED

The court heard that during the time of the offence, Soh’s responsibilities as an assistant buyer at SMRT included initiating the procurement process and to liaise with the various vendors involved.

He did not have authority to award the contract to any vendor.

At various points in time from 2015 to 2020, Soh had leaked the price quotes submitted by competitor vendors during SMRT’s procurement to the three firms.

This gave a competitive advantage to the companies that received the information, as they could then adjust their quotations accordingly.

"Investigations revealed that for a significant number of items quoted by Wong, she submitted prices that were exactly 5 per cent lower than those in the leaked price list," said DPP Ngia.

The procurement system did not allow Soh to view the quotations submitted by the vendors before the procurement period ended. However, he circumvented this by asking the vendors to submit their quotations via a separate message board within the system which he could view.

In exchange for supplying this confidential information, Soh accumulated at least S$54,850 in bribes from the directors of the three companies.

The court heard that Soh had already surrendered S$30,000 to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, which constituted part of the gratification that he had received.

Separately, Soh had also digitally forged signatures of SMRT’s procurement manager and director onto four documents.

On one such occasion, he did not route a document to the approved personnel but instead cropped and pasted a digital copy of the latter's signature onto the letter "for his own convenience".

On another occasion, he had signed off with the director's digital signature against a contract with a stated period of two years, when SMRT had actually granted approval for only one year.

The contract value that was approved by SMRT remained unchanged at S$100,000.

However, this put the firm, CEE Technologies, in an "advantageous position" as the company would have an additional year to draw down the S$100,000 that SMRT had agreed to spend on buying parts from it, the prosecutor said.

DPP Ngia had sought a total sentence of 32 months’ jail and a penalty order, with three months’ jail in default.

He argued that Soh had systematically executed a corrupt scheme that “undermined (SMRT’s) procurement process and its integrity”.

There was evidence of planning and premeditation, in how he had asked the vendors to submit their documents in a way that would skirt around the internal system controls.

Soh was also the party who initiated the corrupt scheme, said DPP Ngia.

Seeking a lower sentence for his client, defence counsel Ashvin Hariharan said that there was no evidence of actual monetary loss suffered by SMRT as a result of Soh's actions.

He added that Soh did not obtain the bribes out of greed. 

Instead, around the time of the offences, Soh’s family had incurred additional medical expenses due to his wife’s pregnancy, among other things, said the defence lawyer.

Mr Ashvin also said that his client would not be in position to pay the penalty, given he currently earned about S$2,000 a month as an administrative assistant, and hence sought a lower default jail term.

In delivering the sentencing, District Judge Janet Wang noted that SMRT did not suffer any actual monetary loss due to Soh’s actions.

However, Soh’s offences had “insidiously eroded public confidence” in the public transport service provider, which, although is a private sector company, receives public funding through government subsidies, said the judge.

For each count of corruption, Soh could have been jailed up to five years, or fined up to S$100,000, or both.

Each forgery offence attracts a jail term of up to four years, or a fine, or both.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the photo caption and summary of the article stated that Soh had been fined S$33,500. This is incorrect. He was fined S$24,850. We are sorry for the error.

Related topics

bribery SMRT corruption

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