NParks officer chooses not to testify in own defence

NParks officer chooses not to testify in own defence
NParks assistant director Bernard Lim Yong Soon.

The National Parks Board (NParks) officer behind the Brompton bicycle procurement fiasco in 2012 has chosen not to testify, after previously indicating that he would take the stand in his own defence.

Defence counsel Lawrence Ang told the court yesterday that his client, Bernard Lim Yong Soon, had weighed his options and wished to remain silent.

He added that the defence would not be calling any witnesses.

Earlier this month, Mr Ang had urged the court to acquit Lim without calling for his defence because there were deficiencies in the prosecution's case and that the law had not been broken.

But the court ruled that the prosecution had made a prima facie case against Lim for lying to auditors.

This means that there was sufficient evidence given by witnesses against the NParks assistant director, who has been suspended from his job, for the case to continue.

Yesterday, District Judge Marvin Bay concluded the trial and gave the defence and prosecution until May 15 to exchange their submissions for the case.

Both parties will then have another week to respond to the submissions.

The next mention of the case will be on May 29, and the court is expected to deliver its verdict then.

Lim, 42, oversaw a controversial $57,200 deal for NParks to buy 26 Brompton bicycles in 2012 from supplier Bikehop Singapore.

He tipped off the director of Bikehop Singapore, Mr Lawrence Lim Chun How, in late 2011 about the upcoming bicycle tender, and gave him specifications that the board was looking for.

This resulted in the sole and successful bid of $2,200 per bicycle by the company, which until then was not in the business of selling bicycles.

When the pricey bikes made the news in June 2012 and online chatter about them grew, Lim asked the Bikehop Singapore director to "unfriend" him on social network Facebook to hide their friendship.

Lim faces two counts of providing false information to officers from the Ministry of National Development, who were conducting an internal audit into NParks' purchase of the bicycles in 2012.

The charges allege that Lim's lies caused the auditors to omit looking into the relationship between Lim and the director of Bikehop Singapore.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy told the court earlier that the accused had covered up his relationship with Mr Lim, and had told the Bikehop Singapore director not to reveal it because he feared being investigated and disciplined - which he later admitted to the CPIB.

But Mr Ang told the court that while Lim's actions might have been "morally reprehensible", they had not broken the law.

While Lim had told the Bikehop Singapore director - whom he had known since 2011 - to "try" not to tell anyone that they knew each other, this was, at best, a "request of a general nature", rather than an instigation to lie to auditors, Mr Ang said.

Lim does not face corruption charges.

If convicted of the two charges that he faces, he can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $5,000 for each charge.

yanliang@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 16 in The Straits Times.

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