SINGAPORE — A 38-year-old woman who overstayed in Singapore was today jailed 25 weeks and fined S$8,000 for bribing an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer to secure a special pass.
The court heard that Liang Qinglan, a citizen of China, gave the officer free sex, a red packet with 188.88 yuan (S$39), at least S$2,100 in cash, and loans totalling about 7,000 yuan.
Checkpoints inspector Teo Hwee Peng, 48, has been charged with accepting bribes from Liang and another China national. His case is before the courts.
Liang pleaded guilty today to four charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Women’s Charter. Eight other similar charges were considered during sentencing.
The court heard that Liang started working as a prostitute in Singapore after her social visit pass expired in July 2018.
When she began seeking a way to extend her stay, her friend on messaging platform WeChat told her that Teo worked for ICA and could secure a special pass for her.
ICA or the Ministry of Manpower issues special passes that allow foreigners to stay in Singapore for specific purposes, such as to help with investigations and attend court proceedings.
Arranged for her to be arrested
Liang contacted Teo and told him that she had already overstayed for a month. He asked for her passport details and address before telling her that he could secure a special pass.
In return, he allegedly requested an iPhone 10. Liang agreed.
Sometime between July and October 2018, Teo was said to have invited himself to her house, where they had sex in the early hours of the morning.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) David Menon told the court that Teo did not pay for this and Liang did not ask for money either.
Liang then asked Teo about the procedure for her to secure a special pass. He allegedly told her that he caught overstayers in Singapore and would arrange for her to be arrested.
Before becoming a checkpoints inspector, he worked in ICA’s intelligence operations branch, where he identified and arrested immigration offenders. To do this, he relied on contacts who alerted him to potential offenders.
He handed over his contacts to other ICA officers after he moved out of the branch but stayed in touch with some of these contacts. He gave Liang’s information to one of them, who relayed it to her new ICA handler.
In October 2018, Liang was arrested in a joint operation by ICA and the Singapore Police Force.
She followed Teo’s advice, including answering the investigation officer’s questions to the best of her ability. Teo also told her to wear a long-sleeved top, since it might be cold.
She agreed with the authorities to remain in Singapore to help with a related ICA probe, paid a composition fine for overstaying, and was given a special pass.
Liang then told Teo that she received the pass.
In the days ahead, Teo allegedly contacted her to get more bribes.
She paid for their meals one day at Jem shopping centre in Jurong East, after which she asked if he wanted to shop for an iPhone 10 — the item he earlier purportedly requested.
He declined the offer and instead allegedly took S$2,100 to S$2,200 in cash from her.
He later allegedly contacted her to say that he needed a loan urgently.
Fearing that he would revoke her special pass if she refused, and knowing that it would expire and she would need his help again, she transferred 5,000 yuan to him via WeChat in October 2018.
Used to giving small gifts in China: Lawyer
Separately, Liang moved into a flat along Jurong West Street 71 in November last year. She posted advertisements online offering sexual services, at S$120 an hour.
She paid 500 yuan every month to list the advertisements on three websites, providing paid sex to about 90 customers between Nov 30 last year and Jan 13 this year before police officers raided the unit.
She sent S$8,000 of her earnings to her family in China.
DPP Menon argued that several aggravating factors were present, including the repeated bribes and the recipient being a public servant.
Liang’s lawyer Foo Ho Chew said that she was accustomed to the culture in China, where it was common for people to give small gifts as tokens of appreciation to public servants.
She now realises, however, that it was wrong to provide corrupt gratification and regretted her actions deeply, the lawyer said.
Mr Foo added that she came to Singapore to make a living for her five-year-old son and elderly mother, given that the “supply of prostitutes in China is simply in abundance and the competition is too stiff to eke out a living for herself”.
Those convicted of giving or taking gratification can be jailed for up to five years or fined up to S$100,000, or given both penalties. — TODAY