Court upholds ex-STTA chief's acquittal

Court upholds ex-STTA chief's acquittal

THE High Court on Wednesday upheld the acquittal of former Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) president Choo Wee Khiang for criminal breach of trust, dismissing the prosecution's appeal.

The 59-year-old was cleared last year by a district court of misappropriating $8,400 from the STTA in 2005.

The money was used to pay STTA assistant coach Luo Jie, who moonlighted at Fuhua Secondary School between 2001 and 2003.

A district court found last July that there was neither wrongful loss to the association nor wrongful gain to the coach, since the money was already contractually due to him.

Former STTA high-performance manager Koh Li Ping, 45, was also cleared of helping Choo.

The prosecution appealed, arguing that Mr Luo was not legally entitled to money from the association for private coaching services he gave at Fuhua.

On Wednesday, Justice Tay Yong Kwang agreed with the district judge and dismissed the appeal.

A beaming Choo hugged his lawyer, Mr Murali Pillai, after the verdict but declined comment. But the former Member of Parliament for the now-defunct Jalan Besar GRC is not completely out of the woods.

He still faces three other unrelated corruption charges of accepting bribes from former coaches and a national player, which have been stood down.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers said it will consider the High Court's decision and review the evidence in the separate charges.

Choo, who stepped down from the STTA in 2008 after nearly 20 years at the helm, had approved the payments from the association to Mr Luo.

Mr Luo trained Fuhua's table tennis team but the school found it hard to pay him as he was not allowed to moonlight.

To help Mr Luo get paid, Choo proposed a $9,600 training contract between STTA and Fuhua. Mr Luo was not involved but received $8,400.

The prosecution argued that the diversion of the bulk of the money to Mr Luo was an unauthorised payment.

But on Wednesday, Justice Tay said reasonable doubt had been raised that Fuhua principal Ong Kian Choon was "complicit" in using the contract as a means to pay Mr Luo. He said the money was never meant for STTA so it did not suffer a wrongful loss.

selinal@sph.com.sg


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