Asia

Construction general manager who cheated MHA gets 19 months' jail; wife fined $15,000

SINGAPORE – The mastermind of a scheme that saw numerous departments under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) cheated over a period of three years was on Friday (Oct 29) sentenced to 19 months’ jail.

Singaporean Cheow Boon Peng, now 43, and his Malaysian wife Kuan Pooi Yee committed the offences by submitting quotations for works from their company as well as fake quotations purportedly from other firms.

Kuan, now 37, was fined $15,000 over her roles in the ruse.

At the time of the offences, Cheow was the general manager of Buildforms Construction while his wife was a director.

The scheme involved the submission of fictitious quotations to several MHA departments for bidding in construction projects.

These quotations paved the way for Buildforms Construction to be awarded projects worth some $165,000 from 2012 to 2014.

On Sept 29, Cheow was convicted of 10 cheating charges, while Kuan was convicted of three.

In sentencing the pair on Friday, District Judge Marvin Bay said: “The deceptions had effectively locked MHA into a closed market of just one party – Buildforms – (which) could specify their price at will since the fictitious bids would always be higher.”

In December 2011, Buildforms became the sole sub-contractor for all MHA building works at its West Zone properties.

MHA departments in that zone included the Singapore Police Force, Home Team Academy, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, and Singapore Civil Defence Force.

As part of this arrangement, Buildforms was to source for three quotations for certain works.

These jobs would be awarded to the lowest priced quotation that met MHA’s requirements and offered the best value for money.

Cheow and Kuan had initially attempted to obtain genuine quotations from other sub-contractors through Buildforms Construction.

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But the sub-contractors did not always respond.

In January 2012, Cheow came up with the idea to prepare fake quotations from other companies to be submitted together with Buildforms’ own.

His plan was to have Buildforms’ quotation be the lowest bid, ensuring the firm would be awarded the jobs.

Cheow then taught Kuan how to prepare fake quotations from other companies and she in turn taught some of Buildforms’ admin staff to do this.

The fake quotations were created under the letterheads of Gecko Design and Woodworks, E/S Cleaning and Maintenance Enterprise, and Air Builder.

The admin staff would obtain the letterheads of these companies to create fake documents.

The staff made a fake stamp bearing the name of Gecko Design and Woodworks, which was used to stamp the fake quotation documents.

In the case of the other two companies, the staff would superimpose the company stamps on the documents before photocopying them, making it look like the company stamp was genuinely stamped on the fake quotation.

MHA departments would sometimes ask Buildforms to provide supporting correspondence with the companies that had purportedly submitted quotations.

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To get around this, Cheow created fake e-mail accounts to generate false e-mail threads, teaching the admin staff to do the same.

In this way, MHA departments were deceived and awarded numerous jobs to Buildforms from January 2012 to November 2014.

Court documents do not disclose how the conspiracy was finally uncovered.

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