MFA official charged over false expense claims

MFA official charged over false expense claims
Lim Cheng Hoe, 60, allegedly made fake expense claims of almost $89,000 for pineapple tarts and wine.

Lim Cheng Hoe, who was chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), was charged in court on Thursday with falsifying expense claims of almost $89,000 for wine and pineapple tarts.

The popular pastry - some 10,075 boxes of it - and wine were purportedly meant to be used as gifts during overseas trips made by MFA officials.

Lim allegedly cheated the ministry and a separate government unit that handles reimbursements on 56 and four occasions respectively.

The court heard that he made claims for pineapple tarts and wine from 2008 to last year, which he did not actually pay for or use during the trips.

The 60-year-old allegedly falsified receipts, or used genuine receipts but inflated in claims the number of items used for official purposes, to cover up his ruse.

In all, he claimed for 10,075 boxes of pineapple tarts and 248 bottles of wine. But only 2,226 boxes of the tarts and 89 bottles of wine were used as gifts for foreign diplomats or delegates.

The value reflected in each of the charges Lim faces ranged from $280 to $5,080.

Lim was protocol chief at the MFA for about 10 years. He headed the ministry's section that was responsible for organising ministerial and presidential trips overseas, and was the go-to guy for diplomatic protocol during his 38 years at the MFA.

The ministry, responding to queries from The Straits Times on Thursday, said Lim was suspended from all duties and a police report was made after evidence suggesting misconduct was discovered.

"Whether he remains in service or not depends on the outcome of his case," added the spokesman.

"As the case is before the courts, we cannot comment further."

His lawyer, Mr Philip Fong, asked for the case to be adjourned to make representations.

A pre-trial conference is set for Oct 25. Lim's police bail of $100,000 has been extended.

The maximum penalty for cheating is 10 years' jail and a fine.

elena@sph.com.sg


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