Former British Council Singapore director sentenced to jail for receiving $74K bribes

By Minh Hieu   May 27, 2024 | 03:33 am PT
Former British Council Singapore director sentenced to jail for receiving $74K bribes
British Council's Napier Road center in Singapore. Photo courtesy of British Council
Lee Kok Keong, 50, British Council Singapore’s former director of resources, received 16 weeks in jail on Monday for accepting bribes totaling S$100,300 (US$74,000) from vendors.

Kok Keong pleaded guilty to three counts of receiving bribes under the Prevention of Corruption Act, with another 12 charges considered during sentencing, CNA reported.

From September 2014 to February 2020, Kok Keong held the position of director of resources at the British Council and was in charge of planning and budgeting for the management of its premises.

During this time, he accepted cash bribes totaling S$100,300 from his co-accused, Lee Lian Hiang, 55, and Ong Seck Cheng, 52, to facilitate their companies in securing projects with the international organization.

Around 2014, Lian Hiang, the director of BuildCool Engineering Services - a longstanding vendor for the British Council, struck a deal with Kok Keong.

They agreed that the latter would provide BuildCool with insider information about upcoming projects, giving the company an advantage in tender preparations.

Kok Keong ensured that BuildCool was always invited to quote for all projects, thereby increasing its chances of winning contracts.

Additionally, he collaborated with Lian Hiang to determine indicative pricing for works to be done and set appropriate budgets for the projects.

The resources director also discussed other vendors' tenders with the BuildCool director and helped him prepare for tender committee interviews.

Kok Keong would in turn receive a cut of BuildCool’s profits, which were paid in cash to avoid leaving a paper trail.

He used this money for daily expenses and to settle his credit card bills.

Over the period of 2014 to 2018, Kok Keong received a total of S$84,500 from Lian Hiang.

Kok Keong accepted another S$15,800 in bribes between 2015 and 2020 from Ong, the director of corporate renovation services provider Encompass Construction.

He similarly helped Ong secure projects with the British Council for about 5-10% of the value of the entire contract won as commission.

According to Kok Keong’s lawyer, he has voluntarily made full restitution since.

He was allowed to begin serving his sentence on June 24.

Lee Kok Keong, Lee Lian Hiang and Ong Seck Cheng are parts of a group of 16 individuals who were charged with corruption and cheating offences in relation to advertisement and servicing contracts earlier this year, according to The Straits Times.

Under the Prevention of Corruption Act, each count of corruption carries a maximum punishment of a S$100,000 fine and a five-year jail term, while those convicted of cheating can be fined and sentenced to up to three years’ jail.

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