Ex-Ikea manager cleared of graft

In a twist to the Ikea corruption case, one of the masterminds behind the plot to skim millions of dollars through inflated food contracts walked away a free man on Wednesday, while his two convicted partners serve at least 10 months in jail.

Mr Leng Kah Poh (above), 52, was acquitted of corruption and his jail sentence of nearly two years was quashed by High Court judge Choo Han Teck, who said: "What the appellant did was wrong but it was not an offence of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act."

When contacted, the Attorney-General's Chambers would only say that it was studying the grounds of decision carefully.

In February, the former Ikea food and beverage manager was found guilty of 80 corruption charges in accepting $2.3 million in bribes to give contracts to two food suppliers. He was given the longest jail term of the three accused. He was the only one to appeal.

Yesterday, Justice Choo said that to establish a charge of corruption, Mr Leng had to have been induced by a third party to act against the interests of Ikano, the company that runs the Ikea furniture stores here. But in this case, there was no third party since it was Mr Leng himself who came up with the idea to rip off Ikano.

Mr Leng declined to comment on his acquittal, although his lawyer S. K. Kumar said he was emotional, happy and relieved.

The lawyer added that his client admitted to profiting from the scheme, but always maintained he did not act corruptly.

It was in 2002 when Mr Leng, Gary Lim Kim Seng, who ran a firm providing cleaning services to Ikea, and Andrew Tee Fook Boon hatched a plan to get food supplies for the furniture giant's in-store restaurants from a supplier, then sell it to the furniture giant at marked-up prices.

This was done through two companies - Food Royale Trading and AT35 Services. Tee managed the former and owned the latter. The profit was split three ways, and Mr Leng pocketed $2.3 million.

In 2011, Tee pleaded guilty to 12 charges of corruption and was jailed for four months and fined $180,000. On appeal by the prosecution, his term was increased to 40 weeks, which he has already served.

Mr Leng and Lim were also convicted after a 25-day trial. Mr Leng was sentenced to 98 weeks' jail while Lim received 70 weeks.

Separately, Ikano brought a civil claim against the trio to recover the money. This has since been settled out of court.

selinal@sph.com.sg


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