Former BP director jailed, ordered to pay more than USD $4.7m for Corruption

Singapore: A former director of BP’s marine fuels business in Singapore and a businessman were each sentenced to 4½ years’ jail yesterday for their roles in a private sector bribery case.

It is always interesting to read the developments of certain countries in the fight against domestic bribery, and even more interesting when the case doesn’t concern a government official but two private entities.

In Singapore, an ex-BP employee, Clarence Chang Peng Hong was jailed for 54 months and ordered to pay a penalty of about S$6.22 million for taking bribes from another company.

The Misconduct

Chang, who was BP’s former eastern regional director for marine fuels, had accepted bribes from businessman Koh Seng Lee, on 19 occasions in exchange for advancing the business interests of Koh’s company with BP. Koh had set up a marine fuel trading company, Pacific Prime Trading (PPT), based on Chang’s request. The two had a mutual understanding from the start that Chang would use his position in BP Singapore to advance PPT’s interest, in return for a share of PPT’s profits.

Koh had also agreed to invest $500,000 in a pre-school – Mindchamps Preschool @ City Square – where Chang’s wife was a director.

According to the prosecution, Koh knew Chang had the power to “make or break” PPT, and felt pressured to accept Chang’s requests for payments.

Chang is also separately facing money laundering charges. The alleged charges concern the transfer of almost S$4.7M worth of corrupt proceeds from an HSBC bank account in Hong Kong to a POSB account and two other HSBC accounts in Singapore. Chang is also alleged to have converted nearly S$4M to buy 3 private landed properties and two condominium apartments. That amount is alleged to be wholly or partially the direct or indirect benefits of corrupt proceeds.

Chang was also charged with converting S$111,000 worth of corrupt proceeds to acquire share capital in the pre-school.

The money laundering charges were stood down for the purpose of the corruption trial and will be dealt with subsequently, said CPIB.

Private Bribery

Countries around the world have in recent years sternly condemned the bribery of government officials, calling it harmful to development, an unfair business practice, and morally reprehensible. Assuming that bribery distorts markets, misallocates public funds, and results in the delivery of inferior products and services, all of these descriptions apply equally well to bribery of a private, non-governmental individual.

There appears to be a growing international consensus against private sector bribery, suggesting that companies should expand their international compliance programs to aggressively prohibit commercial bribery as well as bribery of government officials.

“To avoid falling victim to dishonest practices by rogue employees seeking personal gains, companies are strongly advised to put in place robust procedures in areas such as procurement and internal audit,” said CPIB in Singapore.

Companies can refer to CPIB’s guidance on measures to prevent corruption, and are strongly encouraged to obtain certification on anti-bribery management systems, said the bureau.

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