SINGAPORE — Three Singaporeans were found guilty on Wednesday (28 April) of corruption related to the selection of two insurance firms to provide performance bonds for Indonesian maids.
Freelance translator Abdul Aziz Mohamed Hanib, 65, insurance agent James Yeo Siew Liang, 49, and company director Benjamin Chow Tuck Keong, 57, were convicted by District Judge Ong Luan Tze of either corruptly receiving or giving bribes between late last year and June this year.
From 1 February 2018, the Indonesian embassy in Singapore made it compulsory for all local employers hiring Indonesian foreign domestic workers to purchase a $6,000 Performance Bond (PB).
This allowed the embassy to call on the PB for the benefit of the maid in the event of any breach of employment conditions by an employer.
Agus Ramdhany Machjumi, as the labour attaché at the embassy, was in charge of issuing accreditation to insurers for the PB. Instead of freely and openly giving accreditation to the 37 licensed general insurance companies in Singapore, Agus tasked Aziz to look for insurance companies or agents who would agree to give them a share of the premiums collected in exchange for accreditation. It it unclear how Agus and Aziz first knew each other.
As Aziz did not know any insurance agent, he asked his friend, Samad Salim, who then asked Chow for help. Chow connected Aziz to Yeo, who was an insurance agent representing AIG Asia Pacific Insurance and Liberty Insurance.
Once Yeo agreed to share the commissions, AIG and Liberty were both accredited by Agus to sell the PB.
AIG and Liberty issued over 5,700 PBs between February and June 2018. Acting in his own capacity, Yeo then shared his commission of around $124,619.26 with Aziz, Agus, Samad, and Chow.
Chow was convicted of one charge of intentionally aiding Aziz to corruptly solicit gratification from Yeo. Yeo was convicted of 18 charges, eight of which were related to him giving gratification to Agus through Aziz, 10 of which were of him giving Aziz gratification. Aziz was convicted of his 18 charges, which mirrored Yeo’s charges.
Aziz was also convicted of an additional charge of soliciting gratification on behalf of Agus from an agent of Tokio Marine Insurance Singapore.
In finding the trio guilty, DJ Ong placed weight to each of the accused person’s statements, which she found had been voluntarily given.
All three had chosen to remain silent during trial when called upon to present their defence. DJ Ong inferred from their silence that they did not challenge their statement, in which they had confessed the offences.
While Yeo had claimed in an ancillary hearing that the percentage payment he made was payment for corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, DJ Ong rejected the defence as there were no supporting documents. Furthermore, CSR was also not mentioned in statements recorded from other accused persons.
In any case, the CSR argument was a “red herring”, DJ Ong said. “A bribe is a bribe even if the money eventually goes to charitable causes,” she said.
While the judge acknowledged that Chow’s role was limited to him introducing Yeo to Aziz, she noted that Chow made the introduction knowing the corrupted nature of Aziz’s plan.
Meanwhile, Agus, who is covered by diplomatic immunity, is no longer in Singapore.
After the trio were convicted, Yeo’s lawyer Chia Boon Teck, applied for his client to leave jurisdiction on a “cruise to nowhere” from 7 June to 1 July.
The prosecution then applied for Yeo’s bail to be increased, but Chia objected. The lawyer said, “It is a cruise to nowhere, there is really no need to increase the bail. It is not like he is going to jump 13 decks into the sea and swim to nowhere.”
DJ Ong approved the application for Yeo to leave jurisdiction, and imposed an additional bail of $25,000 on Yeo.
All three will return to court on 14 July for their sentencing.
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