SINGAPORE, Jan 14 — A 58-year-old man was convicted today of trying to bribe an enforcement officer from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) with S$100. This happened after the officer wanted to seize a shared bicycle the man was using.
Wong Swee Liang had claimed trial to one count of corruption, alleging that he initially thought the officers were salvage contractors and that he merely wanted to buy the bicycle from them.
At the time, he was using it as his personal mode of transportation between his office and an MRT station.
His colleague had sold him the black bicycle, and he suspected that it belonged to bicycle-sharing operator oBike, even though oBikes were typically yellow.
District Judge Salina Ishak rejected his defence as it was “inherently incredible”. She also found that the officers gave “clear, credible and convincing evidence” of what happened on Dec 21, 2018.
Just a few months earlier, oBike had abruptly exited Singapore and went into liquidation, saying it was tough to meet new rules under a licensing regime to tackle indiscriminate parking.
In convicting Wong, the judge ruled that the S$100 met the legal definition of gratification, intended as an inducement to the officer.
On the day of the offence, two enforcement officers were in the vicinity of 51 Ubi Avenue 1 to collect abandoned oBike bicycles.
Norris Ang, who was wearing a lanyard showing his LTA authorisation card, identified himself to Wong. This was part of LTA protocol as they were dressed in plainclothes.
Ang testified that Wong first offered S$50 to him, stating that it was a pity that the bicycle would be sent to a scrap yard. Ang rejected this but Wong tried to offer S$50 again.
When Ang told him not to do this as it was a form of bribery, he persisted, looking through his wallet and offering S$100. Wong also said: “The bicycle is very good to ride and I give you S$100 and nobody will know.”
Ang’s colleague corroborated this and took a photograph of Wong looking through his wallet. He sent this to a WhatsApp group used by them and their supervisors, saying in a text message: “This guy is trying to bribe me and Norris.”
In countering Wong’s defence, the prosecution referred to his statements to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) where he admitted to intending to bribe Ang.
The prosecution said that Wong had clearly scrutinised the statements, signed them 25 times and understood their contents.
Despite this, Wong challenged their accuracy during the trial. He rejected the parts where he admitted he was aware that the officers were from LTA and that he intended to bribe one of them.
He also claimed that he had felt scared and wanted to leave CPIB quickly. However, the officers who took his statements testified otherwise.
Contrary to his testimony in court, Wong had admitted in his statements that he realised the LTA officers were from the agency after they told him to check with LTA if he had questions about the seized bicycles.
He also admitted that he was in the wrong over the bribery and apologised.
Wong, represented by defence counsel Wee Hong Shern, will return to court on Jan 29 for mitigation and sentencing.
For offering gratification, he could be jailed up to five years or fined up to S$100,000, or receive both penalties. — TODAY