The National Parks Board (NParks) assistant director accused of lying to auditors over the $57,200 purchase of 26 Brompton bicycles did not break the law even if his actions might have been "morally reprehensible", a court heard yesterday.
Bernard Lim Yong Soon, 42, allegedly lied to the National Development Ministry (MND) on July 18, 2012 that he did not know the director of a bicycle supplier before it bid for the contract. Lim is also accused of instigating Bikehop director, Mr Lawrence Lim Chun How, to perpetuate the lie.
But these charges, argued defence lawyer Lawrence Ang, were founded on an "over-simplistic view" of the law.
Urging the court to acquit his client without calling for his defence, Mr Ang referred to the testimony given by nine witnesses during the trial, which began on March 11.
He alleged deficiencies in the prosecution's case, which was closed last Wednesday.
These included vagueness in the charges, a lack of authority of the auditors to investigate the relation between the two men, and lapses during investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
For example, it had emerged in court that Lim told an anti-graft officer on Nov 15, 2012, that he lied because he feared disciplinary action. But this statement, Mr Ang then pointed out, was made while Lim was being investigated for cheating, not lying. Neither had the MND auditors made it clear to Lim during his July 18 interview that he was being formally investigated.
Said Mr Ang yesterday: "...the CPIB investigators, despite their claim, effectively conducted no investigations into the present offences before charging the accused in court."
The lawyer added that though Mr Lawrence Lim had testified that Lim told him during a phone call to "try" not to tell anyone the two men knew each other, this was, at best, a "request of a general nature" to hide the relationship, rather than an instigation to lie to the auditors.
Earlier in the trial, the court heard that the two men met at a social event in 2011. It also heard that Lim tipped the Bikehop director off about the January 2012 tender which the firm then put in the sole bid for.
If convicted, Lim, who is now suspended from his job, can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $5,000. The prosecution is expected to respond to Mr Ang's submissions tomorrow.
This article was published on April 2 in The Straits Times.
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