SINGAPORE, May 8 — Two construction firm employees were yesterday among the first to plead guilty to their roles in a corruption case involving a former deputy group director from the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
Kim Young-Gyu, 52, and Ro Sungyoung, 49, were the project director and project manager of Daewoo Engineering and Construction. They had given S$50,000 (RM155,238) in bribes to Henry Foo Yung Thye from 2018 to 2019.
The South Koreans each admitted to one corruption charge, with another to be taken into consideration during sentencing.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Navin Naidu, Victoria Ting and Kelvin Chong are seeking at least eight months’ jail each for Ro and Kim. This is to “send a clear signal to deter persons in similar positions from acting in the same manner, to the detriment of the Government or a public body”.
At the time of their offences, Foo was overseeing the new Thomson-East Coast Line and Cross-Island Line of Singapore’s MRT network.
In April 2014, LTA awarded a S$441 million contract for Stevens MRT Station, along the Thomson-East Coast Line, to Daewoo. It was the first time that Daewoo secured a project here.
Saying that he had financial problems, Foo sought a loan from Kim and Ro, who eventually agreed to give him the corrupt payments. They hoped that these would put them on friendly terms with Foo and facilitate work on the MRT station.
Separately, the Singapore branch of construction firm China Railway Tunnel Group is accused of giving Foo S$220,000 in bribes.
Yesterday, a third man, Singaporean Chen Xuguang, pleaded guilty to playing a role in the scheme by falsifying invoices from his company, Tong Sheng Construction & Trading, as a subcontractor of China Railway Tunnel Group.
Foo’s case is still pending before the courts.
Apart from being charged with taking about S$1.24 million in bribes from LTA’s contractors or subcontractors, Foo is accused of cheating various colleagues into giving him about S$726,500 in loans.
Persistent in wanting to borrow money
The court heard that Kim was the officer in charge of the MRT station project and Daewoo’s officer in Singapore, with Ro reporting to him.
Both men met Foo for official quarterly meetings.
Foo was also a member of the tender steering committee and chairman of the tender evaluation committee for the project.
Initially, Ro considered Foo to be difficult to talk to and demanding towards Daewoo.
When Foo asked him for a loan around June 2018, Ro said that he would discuss the matter with Kim for fear of offending Foo.
Kim rejected the request because Daewoo had strong compliance policies against the payment of money to clients. Kim knew that this was illegal in Singapore.
Foo, however, persisted and the two men caved in.
Kim feared that if they offended Foo, he could put time pressure on Daewoo and influence LTA’s inspections of the firm’s work.
Ro thought a favourable relationship with Foo was important, since Foo had been demanding in ensuring Daewoo’s compliance with safety and environmental regulations.
They also hoped that giving in to him would land them future projects from LTA.
Kim told Ro to handle the loan and promised him the role of project director with a higher salary.
The two men first gave S$20,000 in bribes to Foo in the middle of 2018.
Court documents then detailed WhatsApp text messages between Ro and Foo in December 2018, with Ro sending another S$30,000 through four transfers into Foo’s bank account and another account held by Foo and his wife.
Foo had told Ro that he needed to “raise another urgent sum of money for my family again”, and asked him to keep this to himself and Kim.
Foo also said that he would return the money but did not specify when. He never did.
Lied to the authorities
On May 3, 2019, Ro asked for Foo’s help to cover up certain safety cleanliness infringements at the Stevens MRT Station worksite.
An LTA officer had given Daewoo a negative score.
Ro was concerned that this would affect Daewoo’s tender bid for a project on the Jurong Region MRT Line.
Foo replied to say that he would speak to LTA’s group director of safety and contracts.
He felt indebted to Kim and Ro for the sums of money, the court heard.
Foo’s intervention did not help and Daewoo was not awarded the contract.
In August 2019, Kim asked Ro to find out from Foo why Daewoo failed in the first stage of the LTA tendering process for the construction of tunnels at Changi Airport.
Foo sent Ro a screenshot of the LTA tender evaluation committee’s assessment, telling him that it was confidential and not to forward it to anyone.
When the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) first interviewed Ro, he was not forthcoming about the gratification and claimed the money had been a bribe from a Daewoo subcontractor.
CPIB then interviewed the subcontractor’s representative, who denied this. Its accounts also did not show any withdrawal corresponding to the sum.
Ro later confessed to bribing Foo using money from his personal rental income from a property in Seoul, South Korea.
The two men could be jailed for up to seven years or fined up to S$100,000, or punished with both.
They will be sentenced on May 18 and are out on bail. Chen will be sentenced on the same day. — TODAY