Ex-Singapore official guilty in the case of non-existent 8,000 pineapple tarts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 February, 2014, 10:58pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 February, 2014, 10:58pm

Lim Cheng Hoe, Singapore's former chief of protocol at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, yesterday pleaded guilty to falsely claiming to have bought 8,000 pineapple tarts and hundreds of bottles of wine as official gifts.

Lim, 61, was charged in October with 60 counts of cheating for boosting his expense claims by S$88,997 (HK$547,700), according to court papers. The prosecutors yesterday reduced the number of counts to 10. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and a fine.

Prosecutor Kelvin Kow urged Singapore Subordinate Courts Judge Eddy Tham to jail Lim for 18 months to "resolutely deter" others.

Philip Fong, Lim's lawyer, said eight to 10 months would be appropriate. Tham said he would sentence Lim on Thursday.

Kow said Lim's offences caused a vast amount of public disquiet, harmed the public service and were an abuse of his position as a senior public official.

Lim oversaw ministerial and presidential trips and had worked at the ministry for 38 years. "This is not a case of momentary indiscretion," Kow said. "He should not be treated as a first offender."

Lim claimed to have bought over a four-year period 10,075 boxes of pineapple tarts, a common gift during the Lunar New Year, about four times the actual amount. Lim also overstated the amount of wine bought and used for official trips and visits, claiming 248 bottles. He also made claims for items he didn't buy at all, prosecutors said.

Fong said that while his client's acts may have brought some disrepute to the public service, Singapore's ties with other nations didn't suffer.

Singapore replaced the head of its anti-corruption agency after an official was charged in July in a separate case of misappropriation and the former civil defence chief was jailed in a sex-for-contracts case.

The country pledged to tighten controls at public institutions to prevent recurrences.