Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Former Keppel Shipyard senior procurement officer admits receiving over $740k in bribes


A former Keppel Shipyard senior procurement officer has admitted to collecting more than $740,000 in bribes from 2007 to 2014, a district court heard on Friday (Feb 15).

During investigations, Neo Kian Siong also admitted that while working for the firm, he had obtained the bribes from some of its suppliers after revealing to them the prices of products quoted by their competitors.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Sng said: “These suppliers would generally call him just before the deadline to submit quotes for a given order, at which point the accused would inform them of the lowest existing quote.

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“This allowed them to submit a quote that was slightly lower and thereby obtain orders from Keppel Shipyard. The accused was not authorised to give such information to the suppliers.”

The DPP added that Keppel Shipyard considered such pricing information to be confidential and did not allow suppliers to know the quotes submitted by competitors.

Neo, 63, pleaded guilty on Friday to 26 corruption charges and 28 counts of dealing with the benefits of his ill-gotten gains.

The court heard that 341 other charges for similar offences will be considered during sentencing.

DPP Sng said Neo started working for Keppel Shipyard in 1981 as a clerical assistant before rising through the ranks, and became a senior procurement officer in 2014.

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He was then tasked with procuring supplies such as steel structures as well as pipes and pipe fittings. He handled about 8,000 purchase orders in 2014 alone.

According to court documents, Neo received bribes from eight people.

The alleged givers were: Mr Ong Chim Sum, founding director of Kim Seng Huat; his son, Mr Andy Ong Tong Yang; Mr Tony Ong Swee Tek, founder of First Hydraulic and Industries; Ms Juliana Lee May Ling, founder of Athical Engineering; Mr Sean Tee Boon Seng, then external sales engineer with Prochem Pipeline Products Singapore; Mr Nik Chew Kin Peng, then a director at Special Steel and Alloy; Mr Ivan Chui Kum Hoong from U-Metal; and Mr Martin Kuah Wee Peng, who told Neo in 2009 that he would be taking over Wee Tat Marine Hardware from his father.

These eight people, whose companies dealt with items including piping components and copper-nickel fittings, have not been taken to court.

On Friday, the court heard that Neo used the benefits of his criminal activities to pay for, among other things, shares and insurance premiums.

Court documents did not state how his offences came to light but the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau interviewed him multiple times in 2014.

In the course of investigations, it seized more than $150,000 from two bank accounts and over $730,000 from insurance policies.

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Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Keppel said Neo was dismissed from the company in early 2016 after his actions were uncovered.

Its spokesman added: “We have extended our full cooperation to the authorities, and are unable to comment further as court proceedings are ongoing.

“We take a serious view of any corrupt act and will not tolerate any employee conduct that is illegal. All employees of the Keppel group are required to abide by the Keppel Code of Conduct, which prohibits, among others, bribery and corruption.”

Neo, who is represented by lawyers Raymond Lye and Yong Khung Mun, is now out on bail of $50,000.

He is expected to be sentenced on April 17.

For each count of corruption, he can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $100,000.


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