High Court acquits ex-law don of corruption

Former National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor Tey Tsun Hang (left).

SINGAPORE - In a stunning turnaround, ex-law professor Tey Tsun Hang was acquitted of corruption by the High Court on Friday, after serving five months in jail for accepting gifts and sex from a student.

Justice Woo Bih Li overturned the decision of the trial judge on appeal, saying he "had wrongly equated conduct which is morally reprehensible with conduct which is legally wrong".

He found Mr Tey, 42, had been in a "one-sided" relationship with Ms Darinne Ko, 24, and used it "to satisfy his greed and lust".

Her actions, said the judge, were done out of love, not to get Mr Tey to give her better grades.

Cards and a note sent by Ms Ko to the lecturer at the time gave a better insight into the nature of Ms Ko's feelings than her statements to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau or oral testimony, the judge found.

He said Ms Ko had no plan to "collect" on what she had done for him. "As she was in love with him, the appellant would be able to manipulate her into giving him gifts without needing to suggest that Ms Ko would get better grades in return."

Justice Woo cited last year's "sex for contracts" case that cleared ex-Central Narcotics Bureau director Ng Boon Gay of corruption.

Though that found that an intimate relationship negated the presence of a corrupt element, Justice Woo only went as far as to say that it was "a factor to be considered".

Justice Woo urged Mr Tey to take "a long hard look at himself", saying his decision vindicates him of legal charges only. "This court does not condone the way he abused his position and exploited Ms Ko. He did not even take responsibility when she told him she was pregnant. Instead, he lied to her that he had no money when he told her to get rid of the baby. He is a man without honour."

The Oxford-educated former National University of Singapore associate professor was not in court yesterday. He is believed to have returned to Malaysia.

Ms Ko is believed to be in Singapore working for a foreign law firm. She could not be contacted.

After his conviction on six corruption charges in June last year, Mr Tey was on bail pending appeal but decided to serve the five- month sentence handed down by Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye. He completed it on Oct 5.

Mr Tey's lawyer Peter Low said his team's "long and challenging journey" took "unexpected twists and turns" - like having to take Mr Tey to hospital after he hyperventilated in court.

A spokesman for NUS, which sacked him after his conviction, said Mr Tey can petition for reinstatement but if he does, NUS will hold its own inquiry into the case.

Mr Tey faced six charges of receiving gratification from Ms Ko in exchange for better grades. This included sex in his office and gifts such as a $740 Mont Blanc pen and a $1,278 restaurant bill.

He denied the charges, claiming the gifts were given as part of a mutually loving relationship.

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