Singapore Zoo Bribery Scheme Gave Man Free Gambling Trips for Years

Posted on: October 6, 2023, 08:29h. 

Last updated on: October 6, 2023, 12:20h.

A Singapore man whose bribery scheme involving the Singapore Zoo allowed him to enjoy multiple visits to casinos is now going to jail for his crimes. Too Say Kiong, a 57-year-old employee of Shin Yong Construction, has been sentenced to 26 months in jail after pleading guilty to 10 charges related to engaging in a graft conspiracy.

The entrance to the Elephant park at the Singapore Zoo
The entrance to the elephant park at the Singapore Zoo. A bribery scheme involving the zoo and a construction company leads to prison sentences. (Image: Pinterest)

Too’s actions spanned a number of years and involved continuing the corrupt practice initiated by his father, Toh Siang Bee, in 2005, according to The Straits Times. The scheme centered on Barry Chong Peng Wee, who was then the director of facilities management at the Singapore Zoo. The facility is a subsidiary of Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which has since been rebranded to Mandai Wildlife Group.

Too acted as an intermediary, delivering bribes totaling more than SGD760,000 (US$554,443) to Chong to ensure that WRS jobs would be awarded to Shin Yong Construction. While Chong was the primary beneficiary of the scheme in exchange for securing the jobs, Too and several others benefited as well. They worked out additional deals that allowed them to keep some of the money for themselves.

Whatever It Takes

The illicit activities came to light in October 2016 when Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau launched an investigation. Over the course of the scheme, Shin Yong Construction reportedly received over SGD9 million (US$6.56 million) worth of work.

At the same time, through the same shady program, four other companies received contracts ranging from SGD14,300 to SGD2.2 million (US$10,426 to $1.65 million). WRS incurred an estimated loss of around SGD1.4 million (US$1.02 million) due to inflated invoices submitted under the scheme, according to investigators.

The corrupt practices involved Chong instructing Too on specific bid prices to ensure contract awards to Shin Yong Construction. Chong wielded significant power in approving WRS jobs to contractors until 2013, when the company hired a specialized team to manage the distribution of the work. Despite the transition, the team still followed Chong’s lead and his recommendations.

Chong would calculate how much he should earn from the deal and give the information to Too. Then, Too would pass the information along to his brother, who arranged for the delivery of the cash. This reportedly occurred every week, according to the court testimony.

After Toh’s demise in 2005, his son, working as a foreman at the construction company, continued the illicit practices, with his brother, Toh Say Yong, taking charge of the business. Under the arrangement, jobs were awarded to the company, with a markup of 10% on the bid the company presented to WRS.

The extra money that Too received reportedly helped him enjoy some extra entertainment. He didn’t specify how much he may have gambled, but admitted to using the funds to take trips to casinos and spend on other forms of gambling.

End of the Line

Prosecutors sought a jail term of 24 to 30 months, emphasizing that the scheme deprived other contractors of opportunities at WRS. Too Say Kiong received between SGD10,000 and SGD20,000 (US$7,291 and $14,582) from contractors for facilitating the arrangement with Chong.

Despite the defense’s arguments about the prolonged case impacting Too’s mental health, the judge emphasized the significance of Too’s role in the scheme. He pointed out that Too’s involvement spanned at least 114 occasions and involved a sum exceeding SGD700,000 (US$510,370).

The judge also rejected the claim that Too didn’t have a choice but to make the payments. He concluded that Too could have decided at any time to stop participating in the arrangement, but freely chose to continue.