CPIB officer accused of embezzling over $1.7m

SINGAPORE - As a department head in the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong was entrusted with public funds earmarked to support the agency's war on graft.

But on Wednesday, the 15-year CPIB veteran appeared in court accused of misappropriating more than $1.7 million from the bureau, among other related offences.

He faces a total of 21 charges: eight for criminal breach of trust as a public servant, one for forging a payment receipt and 12 counts of using the proceeds of his crimes to gamble.

The CPIB said in a statement on Wednesday that Yeo's ruse was uncovered on Sept 14 last year. He was suspended from duty and interdicted the next day.

The Straits Times understands it was a whistle-blower who alerted the bureau to the case, before it was referred to the police Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) for investigation shortly after.

The court heard that Yeo - who headed the bureau's field research and technical support branch - had between 2008 and last year, siphoned off funds meant for CPIB operations.

He also misappropriated two Honda Civics and two motorcycles belonging to the anti-graft agency, and forged a receipt that claimed a payment of $370,755 had been received by a supplier when this was not the case.

Yeo, 39, was said to have gambled away more than $240,000 of the money he had siphoned off, at the casino in Marina Bay Sands between last May and September.

It was not clear what the rest of the funds went into but prosecutors told the court that of the $1.7 million Yeo misappropriated, $67,000 had been recovered.

Speaking from the dockon Wednesday, Yeo told the court that he did not intend to engage a defence lawyer and asked for an adjournment of eight to 10 weeks to "settle family problems".

He also said the CAD had served him the charges only on Tuesday. "I need some time to prepare my representations and mitigation plea," he added.

The judge agreed but called for Yeo's passport to be impounded before he was released on bail of $500,000 in the afternoon.

The case will be heard again on Aug 21.

Commenting after the case was heard in court, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is in charge of the civil service, said: "This case is particularly serious because it involved a senior officer in the CPIB, which is entrusted with the mission of maintaining the integrity of the system."

CPIB director Eric Tan on Wednesday apologised in a statement and said the bureau would learn from the case and strengthen its safeguards.

Recommendations to prevent a recurrence of such an incident, submitted by an independent review panel appointed by the Prime Minister, are also being implemented, said the Prime Minister's Office.

brynasim@sph.com.sg


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