Jail for interior designer who leaked details of SIA building project to contractor in return for commission
SINGAPORE — A search for building contractors for a Singapore Airlines (SIA) classroom project became an opportunity to earn some extra cash when an interior designer conspired with a SIA assistant manager for properties to receive more than S$200,000 in commission.
- Interior designer Rex Zhang Jiahao, 38, conspired with Lionel Low, 36, an assistant manager at Singapore Airlines (SIA), to receive commission from a contractor they helped win a construction tender from SIA
- Zhang roped in contractor Joseph Ang, 51, who was eventually awarded the project because of the confidential information allegedly provided by Low
- In return, Ang was said to have paid Zhang and Low more than S$200,000 as commission
- For his role in the scheme, Zhang was sentenced to eight months' jail on Monday (Sept 18)
SINGAPORE — A construction tender for Singapore Airlines (SIA) became an opportunity for a freelance interior designer and an SIA assistant manager to line their pockets with more than S$200,000 in commissions from the contractor they helped win the project.
The interior designer, Rex Zhang Jiahao, 38, was sentenced to eight months' jail on Monday (Sept 18).
He is the first person to be dealt with over the scheme, after he pleaded guilty in August to corruptly receiving monetary commission from a contractor.
Another two similar charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.
Zhang was also ordered to pay a penalty of S$103,767.55.
Deputy Public Prosecutor R Arvindren told the court that Zhang's co-accused persons — Lionel Low, 36, and Joseph Ang, 51 — have yet to be dealt with.
Low was SIA's assistant manager for properties, handling ad-hoc renovation projects for the airline.
Ang is the manager for Lin Builders, the contractor eventually awarded the SIA project.
Sometime in late 2018 to early 2019, SIA conducted a tender for the construction of a two-storey pre-fabricated building that consisted of 24 classrooms which were to be used as additional training classrooms.
Court documents prepared by the prosecution stated that Zhang and Low were carrying out reservist duties together in early or mid-2018 when Low found out that Zhang was an interior designer and asked him to recommend building contractors for the project.
Low allegedly suggested to Zhang that he could let the prospective contractor know that he had a contact in SIA who could assist in securing the tender and provide help in any way, in exchange for a commission from the contractor.
Zhang agreed to the plan which included splitting the commission equally between the two of them.
He then called one of his contacts who referred him to Ang.
In late 2018, Zhang met with Ang to share more details about the project and told him that if he was interested, he could help Ang qualify for the project by speaking to his contact in SIA.
Ang agreed and sent Zhang the information required for Lin Builders.
Ang soon received an email from SIA inviting him for a site walk, with other contractors, to understand more about the classroom project.
He then proceeded to prepare the necessary documents to make a bid for the project.
To assist Ang with his preparation, Zhang passed on confidential information from Low about the project.
This was said to include the expected timeline and milestones, priority weightage for the assessment, and the S$2.5 million budget so that Zhang could advise Ang to give a quote that was lower.
Zhang also told Ang to show him the quotation before submitting it to SIA.
The quotation was sent through messaging platform WhatsApp and Zhang would then, with Low's purported instructions, ask Ang how much commission could be given based on the contract amount.
The trio eventually agreed that Ang would mark up the quantum of the contract amount by S$100,000 and he would pay Zhang and Low the S$100,000 together with a five per cent commission of the total contract amount, the court heard.
The classroom project was eventually awarded to Ang who then gave Zhang and Low a total of S$177,061.11.
Ang's other firm — Lin ID Group — also ended up becoming the furniture supplier of the project with Low's help.
This time, Ang allegedly agreed to pay a commission comprising a mark up of S$20,880 and five per cent of the furniture contract amount, bringing the total to S$30,474.
The project was completed in April 2021 and the total commission collected by Zhang and Low was said to be S$207,535.11, which was paid out between June and October 2019.
The money was split equally between Zhang and Low, and transferred in cash so as not to leave a paper trail.
Zhang subsequently spent his share of the commission on his wedding and holiday expenses, his wife's maternity bills and general living expenses.
'MOTIVATED BY PERSONAL GAIN'
Seeking nine to 10 months' jail for Zhang, DPP Arvindren said that the gratification amount was not only substantial, but Zhang had also been motivated by personal gain when he committed the offence.
Even though Low allegedly had a higher culpability than Zhang, the prosecution stated that they would not go as far to say that Zhang's role was minimal since he was not obligated to follow Low's instructions.
DPP Arvindren also urged District Judge Christopher Goh to consider that there was some degree of planning and pre-meditation, and that Zhang, together with Low, had initiated the corrupt scheme and put it into motion when they approached Ang.
Speaking on behalf of Zhang, defence counsel Cory Wong sought a six to seven months' jail term for his client as he was the first amongst the three to demonstrate genuine remorse for the offence by pleading guilty.
Mr Wong also added that Zhang did not play a bigger role as he was merely acting on the information provided by Low.
Those found guilty of receiving gratification from a contractor under the Prevention of Corruption Act can be fined a sum which is equal to the amount of gratification received, or jailed up to five years, or both.