The High Court yesterday dismissed an appeal by prosecutors seeking a jail term of three to four months for former National Parks Board (NParks) officer Bernard Lim Yong Soon - the man at the centre of the Brompton bikes controversy - for lying to auditors.
Lim, a former NParks assistant director, was fined the maximum $5,000 in June by a district court which found him guilty of giving false information to a public servant after a nine-day trial.
The prosecution appealed for a deterrent jail term, given the public disquiet that arose over the propriety of the government procurement process.
But Justice Tay Yong Kwang rejected this argument. He said that just because there was a huge public outcry, that did not justify jailing someone who did not do anything to deserve it.
"You have to look at the facts, not how much publicity is generated," said the judge.
He also dismissed Lim's appeal against conviction.
In late 2011, Lim had tipped off the boss of bicycle retailer Bikehop about an upcoming NParks tender for foldable bikes.
Bikehop entered a bid to sell 26 Brompton bikes to NParks in January 2012. It was the sole bidder and it won the tender.
In June 2012, the deal came under intense public scrutiny over the $2,200 price of each bicycle.
When questioned by Ministry of National Development auditors about his relationship with Bikehop director Lawrence Lim, Lim lied that they met for the first time only in March 2012, after the tender was awarded.
But the truth was that the two first met at a night cycling event in September 2011, before NParks invited bids for the bikes.
In May, Lim was convicted of lying to the auditors but acquitted of a second charge of instigating the Bikehop boss to lie.
The prosecution has dropped its appeal against the acquittal.
Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy pressed for Lim to be jailed for three to four months, citing public policy considerations.
The DPP argued that there was a strong public interest in ensuring the transparency of the process through which public funds are spent and pointed to the public disquiet over the bike deal.
Lim's lawyer, Mr Lawrence Ang, argued that his client's conviction was "unsafe" due to procedural lapses in the investigations.
He argued that, contrary to standard investigation procedure, the auditors did not give Lim a chance to read what they recorded at the meeting. Nor was he given a chance to explain himself. Justice Tay dismissed both appeals, saying he saw no reason to disturb the district court's decision.
This article was first published on Nov 22, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.