Hoping that NTUC FairPrice would buy more fish from his family’s wholesale business, Lim Wei Jian gave bribes to two employees of the supermarket chain in the form of entertainment and some food and drinks.
These included throwing a birthday party on a yacht for a then senior team leader of NTUC FairPrice, and giving S$200 (RM692) worth of food and drinks over a period of one year to a storekeeper of the supermarket chain.
Today, Lim, 33, was sentenced to a jail term of five weeks and a fine of S$5,000 after he pleaded guilty to two counts of corruption-related offences and one count of obstruction of justice.
Three other bribery charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The court heard that Lim had been employed at Kiang Huat Sea Products, which was owned by his parents, since the end of 2016. He took over management of the firm in 2018.
He became acquainted with Lim Kian Kok, also known as Andrew, then a senior team leader of NTUC FairPrice, sometime in 2017 at Jurong Fishery Port.
Andrew at the time had the discretion to determine which supplier to buy seafood from and the quantity of the purchase, though the price was already predetermined between NTUC FairPrice and its suppliers.
Andrew also could make discretionary purchases from suppliers whenever they offered discounted prices to clear their excess stock.
In March this year, Andrew was sentenced to more than four years’ jail for obtaining bribes from various suppliers for a period of about eight years.
In October 2020, Lim threw a party to celebrate Andrew’s birthday. The entertainment was valued at at least S$2,000, including the booking of a yacht for a day and the purchase of three bottles of whisky.
Andrew also invited along Ngow Chun Siong, a co-accused in this case and an employee of wholesale fish seller Fish Vision Agro-tech, to the celebration.
In turn, Ngow paid Lim S$500 to chip in for the cost of the celebration. He obtained this amount from his employer, Chew Kim Hwee, also named as a co-accused.
Both Ngow and Chew have been convicted and sentenced to jail for bribery-related charges involving Andrew.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Pei Wei told the court that by planning and paying for the celebration, Lim hoped to “build a good relationship” with Andrew who would then purchase more fish from Kiang Huat.
The prosecutor added that Ngow and Chew had hoped for the same for Fish Vision.
Sometime in 2017, Lim became acquainted with Chua Teow Hym, also known as Jimmy, at the time a storekeeper at NTUC FairPrice.
Chua, a co-accused, was tasked to receive stock from suppliers and weigh them to ensure they matched the quantity ordered by the supermarket chain. He also had the discretion to buy stock that exceeded the amount ordered.
On no fewer than 60 occasions in 2021, Lim gave food, drinks or both to Chua, hoping that the latter would accept surplus fish from Kiang Huat.
The value of the food and drinks, given over a period of one year, amounted to around S$210.
“Whenever Kiang Huat had surplus fish, the accused would message Jimmy via the WhatsApp application to tell him and ask him to buy more from Kiang Huat,” DPP Tan told the court.
Sometime in January 2021 while under investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, Lim told Chua that he was facing a probe and that they should delete their WhatsApp conversation to prevent the anti-graft agency from detecting their dealings.
Chua was sentenced to five weeks’ jail and a fine of S$2,000 after pleading two graft charges and one of obstructing the course of justice, involving Lim and others.
Prosecution and defence cases
Seeking a total sentence of six to 10 weeks’ imprisonment and a fine of between S$4,000 and S$6,000, DPP Tan said that the offences caused potential harm to either NTUC FairPrice, its customers, or both.
This is because the supermarket chain employees involved had favoured Lim’s company during the purchase process instead of objectively assessing whether it would be in NTUC FairPrice’s interest to do so. In this regard, other suppliers to the supermarket were also harmed, she added.
While DPP Tan acknowledged that the sum of the gratifications was not large, he noted that Lim’s offences involving Chua were done over a sustained period from 2018 to 2021, including the charges taken into consideration.
Lim had also continued offending while on bail and under investigation, said the prosecutor.
Defence counsel Terence Hua from Solitaire LLP had sought a lighter four weeks’ jail for the obstruction of justice charge and up to two weeks for the graft charge involving Chua, and a fine.
Hua said that parties had known each other from their frequent interactions every morning, in an environment that “invariably” led to the formation of social relations besides their business dealings.
That meant it was difficult for Lim to demarcate his social and business links to the parties involved, he said.
For example, there was also an element of “genuine desire” to celebrate Andrew’s birthday when Lim and the rest threw the party for him, said the lawyer.
As for the bribery offences related to Chua, Hua argued that his client had routinely bought “inexpensive” chicken rice and soft drinks for his staff, and when he did so he also bought extra for Chua.
In delivering his decision, District Judge Kenneth Chin noted that both parties did not differ greatly on the sentences sought, save for the fact that Hua had asked for the jail terms to be served concurrently to shorten the total period.
However, the judge instead agreed with the prosecution’s position in that the two terms must be served consecutively as they involved separate incidents and distinct legally protected interests.
The judge also allowed Lim’s request to defer the start of his sentence by about a week to settle some family and business matters.
For each offence of giving bribes or abetting to give bribes, Lim could have been jailed for up to five years and fined up to S$100,000.
For the obstruction of justice offence, Lim could have been jailed for up to seven years, fined, or both.