SINGAPORE, Sept 2 — A former senior public servant, who eventually rose to become a deputy group director in the Land Transport Authority (LTA), was sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ jail on Thursday (Sept 2) for a string of corruption offences.
Henry Foo Yung Thye was additionally ordered to pay a penalty for the amount of bribes he has not returned — about S$1.15 million (RM3.55 million) out of S$1.24 million.
The 47-year-old, who had a gambling problem, previously told the court through his lawyer that he could not afford this. He instead chose to serve an additional default jail term of one year.
Deputy Presiding Judge Jennifer Marie noted from the prosecution’s submissions that this was the largest case of public sector corruption to come before the courts in recent times.
Between 2014 and 2019, Foo repeatedly solicited gratification from contractors and subcontractors in the form of loans. He had overseen about S$815 million worth of contracts that they had with LTA, and felt beholden to advance their business interests by helping them whenever he could.
He also cheated various colleagues into giving him about S$726,500 in loans from 2008 to 2019, before he resigned from the statutory board in September 2019.
He pleaded guilty last week in the State Courts to eight corruption charges, with another 22 similar charges — including cheating his colleagues — taken into consideration for sentencing.
Among the seven people and the Singapore branch of a Chinese civil engineering company that were charged alongside Foo, at least two have been jailed.
‘Paid scant regard’ to his ideals: Judge
Foo had joined LTA in 1999, rising to be director of a team involved in the Thomson-East Coast Line in 2014.
He became deputy group director of the new Thomson-East Coast Line and Cross-Island Line of Singapore’s MRT network in 2018. In this position, he took charge of the construction of MRT tunnels and stations such as Havelock, Stevens, Napier and Orchard.
He was also one of the evaluators for LTA contracts and subcontracts under the two MRT lines.
In October 2018, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) received an anonymous complaint that he had been asking for loans from subcontractors involved in LTA projects under his charge.
CPIB also received more information that Foo had asked for financial help from the director of China Railway Tunnel Group to pay off his outstanding personal debts.
Following his offences, Foo was diagnosed in the Institute of Mental Health with a pathological gambling disorder, which a psychiatrist stated had a causal link to his offences.
However, District Judge Marie said this did not “merit significant mitigating weight” in her opinion, as he had a choice of how to settle his mounting debts. “You knew what you were doing was wrong and placed yourself in a conflict of interest,” she noted.
She had harsh words for Foo, saying he had “paid scant regard” to his ideals in order to feed what he said was a gambling addiction.
“Your appalling conduct reveals a person who had no qualms to corrupt the very persons you were expected to have oversight of.”
In meting out the initial individual sentences, the judge said she took into account the fact that Foo usually initiated and persisted in engaging the bribers for loans despite their rejection. The bribes also involved “at least upwards of S$100,000” each.
Furthermore, LTA’s reputation would have suffered some damage in the public eye and tender competitors would not have been able to compete on an even playing field.
Those Foo had taken bribes from received benefits in the form of confidential information, advice and private access to him as an insider, District Judge Marie said.
In coming to the default jail sentence for the financial penalty, she stressed that it was to prevent and deter those who wish to evade paying it, not to punish those who are genuinely unable to pay. She thus agreed with Foo’s lawyer’s submission for a year.
Before ending the hearing, she told Foo he had “done well scholastically and performed very well in your career”.
She added: “I do hope that on your release, you will have put this whole episode behind you and not remain in guilt and shame. Do not be afraid to start afresh and seek to achieve what your counsel has said you will — atone for your mistakes and serve the community and be a person you and your children will be proud of.”
The maximum jail term is seven years for each corruption offence if it is related to a matter or contract with the Government or public body, or a subcontract to perform work under such a contract. — TODAY