Former British Council director in Singapore sentenced to jail for accepting bribes from vendors

501

27th May 2024 – (Singapore) A former director of resources at the British Council in Singapore, Lee Kok Keong, has been sentenced to 16 weeks’ imprisonment for accepting over S$100,000 (US$74,000) in bribes from vendors. Kok Keong pleaded guilty to three counts of obtaining bribes under the Prevention of Corruption Act, with an additional 12 charges taken into consideration.

According to the court, the 50-year-old Singaporean held a position of responsibility at the British Council, an organization focused on cultural relations and educational opportunities. As the director of resources, Kok Keong was responsible for planning and budgeting for the management of the British Council’s premises.

During his time at the British Council, Kok Keong developed a relationship with Lee Lian Hiang, the director of BuildCool Engineering Services. Lee’s company had previously worked as a vendor for the British Council. Additionally, Kok Keong acted as a property agent representing Lee’s wife. The British Council was aware of Kok Keong’s secondary occupation and approved it as long as it did not involve any property-related matters concerning the British Council or its staff.

Around 2014, Kok Keong and Lee agreed that Kok Keong would help BuildCool secure tenders for British Council projects. Kok Keong provided Lee with information about upcoming works, allowing BuildCool to gain a time advantage in preparing tenders. Kok Keong consistently invited BuildCool to quote for all projects, increasing their chances of winning contracts. He also collaborated with Lee to determine indicative pricing for works, enabling Kok Keong to set project budgets.

Furthermore, Kok Keong assisted BuildCool by discussing tenders from other vendors and helping Lee prepare for tender committee interviews. In return for his assistance, Kok Keong and Lee negotiated a share of the profits, although no fixed sum or percentage was established. The cash payments were made in various locations, including a car park, the Housing and Development Board Hub, near Lee’s office, or in Lee’s car, to avoid leaving a paper trail. Kok Keong used the money for daily expenses, family needs, and credit card bills.

Between 2014 and 2018, Kok Keong received a total of S$84,500 from Lee for his cooperation with BuildCool. Additionally, Kok Keong accepted S$15,800 in bribes from Ong Seck Cheng, the director of Encompass Construction, between 2015 and 2020. In exchange, Kok Keong helped Ong secure projects with the British Council. The total amount of bribes received by Kok Keong from both co-accused was S$100,300, which he has since fully reimbursed.

During the sentencing hearing, Kok Keong’s lawyers highlighted that their client voluntarily made restitution and requested a jail term of eight to 10 weeks. They emphasized that Kok Keong had no authority to select project vendors despite his role and did not hold a senior position within the British Council.

Kok Keong will commence his prison sentence on 24th June.