Identify and summarise recent landmark decisions and investigations involving domestic bribery laws, including any investigations or decisions involving foreign companies.
In Public Prosecutor v Syed Mostafa Romel  3 SLR 1166, the Singapore High Court made clear that private sector bribery was as abhorrent as public sector bribery, tripling the jail term (from two to six months) of a marine surveyor convicted on corruption charges relating to the receipt of bribes to omit safety breaches in his reports. The case is significant for the guidance it gives on sentencing of corruption charges. More importantly, it dispels any perceived distinction between corruption in the private and public sectors.
A Singapore shipyard providing shipbuilding, conversion and repair services worldwide was embroiled in a corruption scandal in which former senior executives were implicated in conspiracies to bribe agents of customers in return for contracts. Between December 2014 and June 2015, seven senior executives, including three presidents, a senior vice-president, a chief operating officer and two group financial controllers were charged with corruption for conspiring to pay bribes in return for favours, such as ship repair contracts, and for conspiring to defraud the company through the falsification of accounts and the making of petty cash claims for bogus entertainment expenses.
A Singapore electronics company was implicated in another corruption case in which a former business director, Mark Edward Tjong, was convicted of receiving gratification of some S$87,386 in 2006 in exchange for appointing Mujibur Rahman, the managing director of a Bangladeshi firm called Kings Shipping and Trading Co, to assist that electronics company in a bid for a project involving the Bangladesh Police Department.
In Public Prosecutor v Leng Kah Poh  SGCA 51 (the IKEA case), the Court of Appeal clarified that inducement by a third party was not necessary to establish a corruption charge under the PCA. In doing so, the Court of Appeal overturned an acquittal by the High Court of Leng Kah Poh, the former IKEA food and beverage manager in Singapore, who had originally been sentenced to 98 weeks of jail for 80 corruption charges. Leng had reportedly received a S$2.4 million kickback for giving preference to a particular product supplier. The High Court had overruled the conviction of the trial court and acquitted Leng, holding that the conduct did not amount to corruption because he had not been induced by a third party to carry out the corrupt acts. The High Court held that an action for corruption would only succeed when there are at least three parties: a principal incurring loss; an agent evincing corrupt intent; and a third party inducing the agent to act dishonestly or unfaithfully. The High Court held that in this case no third party existed and therefore the conduct alleged was not considered to amount to corruption under the PCA. However, in overturning the decision of the High Court, the Court of Appeal noted that if inducement by a third party were necessary, it would lead to absurd outcomes and undermine the entire object of the PCA.
In Teo Chu Ha v Public Prosecutor  SGCA 45, a former director at Seagate Technology International (Seagate) received shares in a trucking company and subsequently assisted that company to secure contracts to provide trucking services for Seagate. The High Court held that the conduct did not amount to corruption as the rewards were not given for the ‘purpose’ or ‘reason’ of inducement because they were not causally related to the assistance Teo had rendered. Furthermore, Teo had paid consideration for the shares. The Court of Appeal overruled the High Court decision, finding that a charge of corruption could still be made out when consideration was paid and it was not necessary to prove that consideration was inadequate or that the transaction was a sham. The Court of Appeal noted in particular that the purpose of the PCA would be undermined if it were interpreted to have such a narrow scope that could be circumvented by sophisticated schemes such as the one in the present case.
In a high-profile case involving six leaders of a mega-church in Singapore, City Harvest Church, church founder Kong Hee and five leaders were found guilty by the Singapore state courts of conspiring to misuse millions of dollars of church funds to further the music career of singer Sun Ho, who is also Kong’s wife. The six had misused some S$50 million in church building funds earmarked for building-related expenses or investments. Five of the six, including Kong, were found guilty of misusing S$24 million towards funding Ho’s music career by funnelling church funds into sham investments in a company controlled by Kong. Four of the six were found guilty of misappropriating a further S$26 million of church funds by falsifying accounts to cover up the first sum and defrauding the church’s auditors. They were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 21 months to eight years. Both the prosecution and the respective accuseds have appealed against the judgment.
In a development that will have a significant impact on the anticorruption landscape in Singapore, the Prime Minister announced in January 2015 that steps will be taken to boost the manpower of the CPIB by more than 20 per cent, establish a central reporting centre for complaints to be lodged and review and amend the PCA. Although it remains to be seen which aspects of the law will be revamped, there are some key areas that may be the subject of legal reform. These could be the lowering of the evidential threshold for the establishment of corporate liability, the introduction of a compliance defence, the broadening of the extraterritorial effect of the PCA and the enactment of whistle-blower protection and incentivisation laws. Further details on the review of the PCA are to be announced.
“Reproduced with permission from Law Business Research Ltd. This article was first published in Getting the Deal Through: Anti-Corruption Regulation 2016, (published in March 2016; contributing editor: Homer E Moyer Jr, Miller & Chevalier Chartered). For further information please visit www.gettingthedealthrough.com.”