Jail for ex-Keppel Shipyard officer in Singapore who took over S$700,000 in bribes

Neo Kian Siong once told a supplier that he would give him more business if he knew how to ‘zuo lang’ — a Hokkien term which the supplier understood to mean to give Neo money. — Reuters pic
Neo Kian Siong once told a supplier that he would give him more business if he knew how to ‘zuo lang’ — a Hokkien term which the supplier understood to mean to give Neo money. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, April 17 — A former senior procurement officer at Singapore’s Keppel Shipyard was sentenced to one year and nine months’ jail today, after admitting to taking about S$740,000 (RM2.25 million) in bribes over 14 years.

Neo Kian Siong, 63, obtained the kickbacks from at least eight people, after revealing to them the quotes that their competitors submitted for orders with his firm.

This allowed the suppliers to submit slightly lower bids just before the deadline and win orders.

In one instance, Neo told a supplier that he would give him more business if he knew how to “zuo lang” — a Hokkien term which the supplier understood to mean to give Neo money.

He used his criminal proceeds to pay outstanding loans of more than S$54,000 for a unit in Chantilly Rise condominium in Bukit Batok, and more than S$132,000 in deposits for two cars — a Honda Odyssey and a Volkswagen Passat.

Neo pleaded guilty in February to 54 charges involving corruption and money laundering, with the remaining 341 charges taken into consideration for sentencing.

He will begin serving his sentence on April 24 as he wants to spend time with his elderly father, who has terminal cancer. He remains out on S$50,000 bail.

In his mitigation plea, his lawyer Raymond Lye, who sought 15 months’ imprisonment for his client, told the court that Neo has made full restitution.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Sng asked for 22 months’ jail instead, noting that Neo’s offences were “sustained and persistent”, and his actions had undermined the fairness of the bidding process.

What Neo did

The court earlier heard that Neo had been employed at Keppel Shipyard for 33 years.

He was responsible for procuring supplies such as raw materials, steel structures, pipes and pipe fittings, fabrication items and yard equipment for Keppel Shipyard. In one year alone in 2014, he handled around 8,000 purchase orders.

In 2000, Ong Chim Sum, founding director of piping component supplier Kim Seng Huat, first approached Neo to ask for his help to expand his firm’s business with Keppel Shipyard.

Ong promised him a share of the company’s profits from sales to Keppel. Neo then came up with the idea that he would tell Ong the lowest quote, so that his company could submit an even lower quote to secure the order.

Ong ended up giving Neo a total of S$56,000 in bribes on 10 occasions from 2000 to 2009.

Ten years later, Ong introduced his son to Neo, who continued the arrangement. The younger Ong later roped in a sales manager who would call twice a week on average to ask him for the lowest quotes.

With Juliana Lee May Ling, founder of copper-nickel fitting supplier Athical Engineering, Neo agreed to reveal the lowest bids after she offered “ang pows”.

Besides paying his loans and car deposits, Neo also used his proceeds to buy S$38,000 worth of shares belonging to Keppel Corporation, Tiger Airways, Liongold Corp and Innopac Holdings, and fund a number of insurance premiums.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) probed Neo in 2014 as large deposits were made into a joint POSB savings account under his and his wife's name that could not be traced to their salaries.

Later, CPIB seized two of his bank accounts which had a balance of about S$150,500, along with 11 insurance policies with a total cash value of about S$730,200.

For each charge of corruption, Neo could have been jailed up to five years and fined up to S$100,000. — TODAY

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