Yeo allegedly started by taking $1,200 from CPIB

SINGAPORE - It all started with $1,200 from the coffers of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

Apparently when Edwin Yeo Seow Hiong allegedly took the money in 2008, no one noticed. That only made the CPIB officer more brazen.

The sums he allegedly misappropriated ballooned from year to year - from $95,000 in 2009, to $106,000 the next year, and $320,000 in 2011. Last year, he allegedly siphoned about $1.2 million.

The total came to more than $1.7 million, a sum he was yesterday charged with misappropriating from the anti-graft agency.

The 39-year-old was caught after someone within the bureau blew the whistle on him.

When he was released on $500,000 court bail and left the Subordinate Courts at about 7pm on Wednesday, he was heard saying "game over, game over" as photographers snapped his picture.

Yeo faces 21 charges in total, with the misappropriation of the money forming the first eight.

The 15-year CPIB veteran is also accused of one count of forgery, and 12 counts of using the fruits of his crime to gamble.

The CPIB said in a statement on Wednesday that it was alerted to the case on Sept 14 last year. Following preliminary investigations, he was suspended from duty and interdicted the next day.

The matter was handed over to the Commercial Affairs Department for an "independent, impartial and thorough" investigation to be conducted.

The bureau's statement added that Yeo had "circumvented" Civil Service rules meant to ensure financial accountability and propriety, which included filing annual declarations regarding one's financial liabilities.

CPIB director Eric Tan on Wednesday said he was "deeply sorry" for the loss of public funds as a result of Yeo's actions.

"As the most senior officer in the agency, I accept responsibility for any lapses or deficiencies which allowed a senior staff's actions to go undetected for four years."

He promised that CPIB would strengthen its safeguards and improve its processes to prevent a repeat. "CPIB will learn from this," he added.

When Yeo first siphoned the $1,200 in 2008, he was heading the bureau's field research and technical support branch.

By 2011 - a year after receiving the Pingat Kepujian (Commendation Medal) from the Prime Minister's Office - he was emboldened to misappropriate more than $320,000. The amount was "intended to be used for the purchase of goods and services required" by his branch for its operations, court papers said.

He also apparently forged a payment receipt sometime in March 2011 to make it seem as though an equipment supplier had received $370,755 from the CPIB, when in fact, no such payment was received.

Last year allegedly brought Yeo his biggest illegal haul - $1.2 million.

Part of this came from the misappropriation of four CPIB vehicles that had been entrusted into his care: two Honda Civics, a Honda Hornet 250cc motorcycle, and a larger 900cc bike of the same make.

These were valued at $46,676.

The same year, Yeo was said to have frequented the casino at Marina Bay Sands, where he allegedly gambled away more than $240,000 of his ill-gotten gains between last May and September.

During this period, he withdrew sums ranging from $6,950 to $45,550 from his POSBank account.

His case will be heard again on Aug 21. Yeo may be jailed for life, or given a jail term of up to 20 years, and a fine if he is convicted of criminal breach of trust as a public servant.

GOVT WILL TIGHTEN UP PROCESSES

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... We will take strong measures to tighten up processes. PMO is examining whether any supervisory lapses may have contributed to this incident. If so, it will take action against the officers responsible.

- Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also the minister in charge of the civil service

VIGILANCE THE KEY

Inevitably with human nature, you will have people who succumb to temptation, who do things they aren't supposed to do - whether in the civil service, banks, law firms or in institutions - despite having the best controls. What we need to do is always be vigilant, be on top of it, and make sure these are the exceptions and they don't become the norm.

- Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam

The 21 charges

2008

Misappropriated $1,200

2009

Misappropriated a total of $94,703.64 on various occasions

2010

Misappropriated a total of $56,002.11 on various occasions

Misappropriated $50,825 on or about March 10

2011

Misappropriated a total of $323,613.20 on various occasions between Jan 24 and Nov 16

Forged payment receipt of $370,755.00 sometime around March

2012

Misappropriated a total of $716,768.37 on various occasions between Feb 15 and Aug 28

Misappropriated a total of $470,265.03 on various occasions between May 4 and Aug 31

Spent $11,950 gambling on May 4

Spent $10,900 gambling on June 1

Spent $45,550 gambling on June 3

Spent $6,950 gambling on June 4

Misappropriated four vehicles worth a gross value of $46,676 belonging to CPIB sometime in June

Spent $16,650 gambling on July 13

Spent $8,250 gambling on July 30

Spent $30,450 gambling on Aug 11

Spent $23,500 gambling on Aug 12

Spent $9,100 gambling on Aug 31

Spent $32,400 gambling on Sept 3

Spent $32,750 gambling on Sept 7

Spent $12,580 gambling on Sept 8

brynasim@sph.com.sg

 


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