SINGAPORE: A man conspired with his friend from National Service, who worked for Singapore Airlines (SIA), to solicit bribes of more than S$207,000 (US$153,000) from a vendor for SIA projects.
Rex Zhang Jiahao, 38, pleaded guilty on Monday (Aug 14) to one count of conspiring to receive gratification under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Another two charges will be considered in sentencing.
The court heard that Zhang, a freelance interior designer, got to know co-accused Lionel Low Jun Jie, 36, through their reservist duties.
Low was then an assistant manager of properties development at SIA, and managed ad-hoc renovation projects for the airline.
He would conduct quotation or tender exercises and shortlist contractors for interviews, before recommending the contractor to be awarded the project.
Low had been with SIA for six to seven years when he went for a reservist stint with Zhang in 2018.
Low was looking for building contractors for an SIA project, involving the construction of a two-storey building for classrooms to be used for training.
He asked Zhang for recommendations, suggesting that the designer could tell the contractor that he had an SIA contact – without revealing Low’s identity – who could help secure the tender.
On this basis, Zhang could then ask for a commission from the contractor, Low added.
Zhang agreed, and the pair said they would split the commission equally between the two of them.
He managed to find a contractor, 51-year-old Joseph Ang Kok Leng, manager of LIN ID and LIN Builders, who was interested but unsure if he could meet SIA’s requirements.
Zhang then told Ang that he could help him qualify for the project by speaking to his SIA contact.
To help Ang in preparing documents for a bid, Zhang passed on confidential information about the project, that he had obtained from Low. This included SIA’s S$2.5 million budget for the classroom project, as well as expected timelines and milestones.
Before Ang submitted his quotation to SIA, he sent it to Zhang, who discussed with Low and told Ang what to change.
Ang offered to give Zhang 5 per cent of the contract amount of S$1.4 million as a “commission”.
The project was eventually awarded to Ang’s company for about S$2.2 million, including a construction fee of S$1.5 million and other costs.
Ang gave Zhang a “commission” of S$177,000 for this project. He later gave him another sum of about S$30,000 for his help in securing a contract supplying furniture for the classrooms.
The entire project was the largest that Ang’s company LIN ID had won and completed as of April 2021.
SIA paid LIN ID progressively, and Ang gave a total of S$207,535 in gratification to Zhang, across six occasions in 2019. Zhang split the money equally with Low, as agreed.
Zhang later said he knew it was wrong of him and Low to ask for a commission from Ang, in exchange for help to secure the contracts.
He said he did it because he needed money for his wedding and for renovating his new house. He spent the bribes on wedding, holiday and living expenses as well as his wife’s maternity bills.
Zhang will return to court for mitigation and sentencing in September.
The cases for Low and Ang are pending.
Low is no longer an employee of SIA, the Singaporean flag carrier confirmed to CNA on Monday. When asked if it took any actions, SIA said it was unable to comment on legal matters before the courts.