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Ng Boon Gay acquitted

SINGAPORE — After a 15-day trial that spanned four-and-a-half months, the most high-profile graft trial in years here drew to a close yesterday — pending a possible appeal by the prosecution — with former Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) Director Ng Boon Gay acquitted of all four corruption charges levelled against him.

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SINGAPORE — After a 15-day trial that spanned four-and-a-half months, the most high-profile graft trial in years here drew to a close yesterday — pending a possible appeal by the prosecution — with former Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) Director Ng Boon Gay acquitted of all four corruption charges levelled against him.

He was charged in June last year with four counts of obtaining sexual favours from Ms Cecilia Sue, who was a sales manager for two IT vendors.

District Judge Siva Shanmugam found that while the oral sex received by Mr Ng amounted to gratification and triggered a presumption under the Prevention of Corruption Act, “the existence of an intimate relationship” between the former CNB chief and the IT executive “negates the presence of any corrupt element”.

He added that it was not disputed that Mr Ng did not exert his influence in respect of any of the CNB’s IT contracts which Ms Sue dealt with.

The judge accepted Mr Ng’s testimony that the instances of oral sex — which he estimated to be between 20 and 30 times — took place in the context of an “intimate relationship with Ms Sue at all material times”.

The judge further noted that Ms Sue, 36, denied the instances of oral sex were offered as an inducement in her statements to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and her testimony in court.

Thus, the judge found that both Ms Sue’s and the accused’s intentions were “innocuous” in giving and receiving the oral sex. “I accepted the accused’s evidence and found that he had no ulterior motive in obtaining them,” the judge added.

The judge, however, found Ms Sue had been “untruthful” to both the court and the CPIB, and that it would be “unsafe” to accept any part of her oral testimony on any contentious matter which was not independently corroborated by other evidence.

As the judge took the packed gallery through his 31-page-long oral judgment yesterday, the tension which had filled the courtroom gradually lifted.

And when the not-guilty verdict was pronounced an hour after the session began, Mr Ng’s family, friends and well-wishers in the gallery could barely contain their emotions as they stood up and broke out in applause.

Madam Yap Yen Yen, Mr Ng’s wife, was seen wiping away her tears as she sat alongside Mr Ng’s brother and sister-in-law.

Mr Ng, who was visibly nervous as he listened to the judgment from the dock, and who had been reticent throughout his days in court, broke his silence.

Thanking his supporters, the 46-year-old told reporters: “The law is fair, the law is just.”

Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, Mr Ng’s lawyer, quipped: “It’s very nice to get an acquittal on Valentine’s Day.” “What’s most important is that this verdict is a vindication of Boon Gay — the fact that he’s not corrupt and his innocence has been proven,” Mr Tan added, even as he noted that there are still “internal proceedings which will have to be dealt with”.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the Civil Service disciplinary proceedings which it had commenced against Mr Ng in late January last year, “on charges of serious personal misconduct”, will continue to be held in abeyance, while the ministry awaits prosecutors’ decision on whether to file an appeal against yesterday’s judgment.

Mr Ng will continue to be interdicted from duties, pending the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings, an MHA spokesperson said.

A spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) meanwhile said the prosecution “will study the oral grounds of decision read out by the District Judge and assess whether or not to appeal”.

Prosecutors have 14 days to decide.

In his judgment, District Judge Shanmugam said he allowed the trial to proceed, despite the defence’s application for an acquittal on the first day of the trial, because the “presumption of corruption” clause in cases involving civil servants under the graft law was met; sexual favours can amount to “gratification”, notwithstanding the defence’s argument that sex between consenting adults in an intimate relationship cannot be so construed.

“It would be erroneous to define gratification by the reasons for which such gratification takes place. The relationship between the giver and receiver would only be relevant if at all for the purposes of establishing the intention behind the gratification and if there was any corrupt intent and/or guilty knowledge,” the judge said.

‘No corrupt element’

Mr Ng’s defence therefore had to show that he did not have “reason to believe or suspect that the gratification was an inducement to show favour” to further Ms Sue’s business interests, that there was no “corrupt element in the transactions”, and that Mr Ng did not “obtain the instances of fellatio with the guilty knowledge that what he did was corrupt”.

While the judge said that he found a conflict of interest present in Mr Ng’s approval of a CNB project involving Ms Sue’s company, Hitachi Data Systems, as a “sub sub vendor”, the conflict was not synonymous with corruption.

Said the judge: “Not every act of conflict of interest permits the inference of corruption ... A corrupt element is not constituted merely because there has been a contravention of some rules or laws.”

Noting the circumstances surrounding the conflict of interest — where the sexual acts were carried out in the context of an intimate relationship, and that Mr Ng had not influenced the specifications of the project nor the work of the evaluation committee — the judge found that Mr Ng “lacked guilty knowledge” in respect of the instances of oral sex listed in the charges”.

The judge noted that Mr Ng had been fairly consistent in his testimony.

With “compelling proof” of an intimate relationship between Mr Ng and Ms Sue at the instances of oral sex and both parties’ “innocuous” intentions in giving and receiving oral sex, the judge said that Mr Ng not only rebutted the presumption clause but also “raised a reasonable doubt in the case against him which would warrant an acquittal on all four charges”.

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