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Singapore Ex-Protocol Chief Pleads Guilty to False Claims

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(Corrects charges in second paragraph.)

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Lim Cheng Hoe, Singapore’s former chief of protocol at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, pleaded guilty to submitting false expenses over the amount of pineapple tarts and wines he bought as gifts.

Lim, 61, was charged in October with 60 counts of cheating for boosting his expense claims by S$88,997 ($71,000). The prosecutors today proceeded on 10 charges, with the rest to be taken into account for sentencing. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and a fine.

Prosecutor Kelvin Kow urged Singapore Subordinate Courts Judge Eddy Tham to impose a jail term of 18 months to “resolutely deter” others. Philip Fong, Lim’s lawyer, said a prison term of eight to 10 months would be appropriate. Tham said he would sentence Lim on Feb. 20.

Lim’s offenses caused a vast amount of public disquiet, harmed the public service and he abused his position as a senior public official, Kow said. Lim oversaw ministerial and presidential trips overseas and had worked at the ministry for 38 years.

“This is not a case of momentary indiscretion,” Kow said. “He should not be treated as a first offender.”

Lim claimed to have bought over a four-year period 10,075 boxes of pineapple tarts, a common gift during the Lunar New Year, about 4 1/2 times the actual amount. Lim also overstated the amount of wine bought and used for official trips and visits, claiming 248 bottles. He also made claims for items he didn’t buy at all, prosecutors said.

Some Disrepute

Lim’s acts may have brought some disrepute to the public service, Fong said at today’s hearing. Singapore’s ties with other nations didn’t suffer though, he said.

Lim received several public service awards and took responsibility for his offenses, Fong said.

Singapore replaced the head of its anti-corruption agency after an official was charged in July in a separate case of misappropriation and the nation’s former civil defense chief was jailed in a sex-for-contracts case. The country pledged to tighten controls at public institutions to prevent recurrences.

The criminal case is Public Prosecutor v Lim Cheng Hoe, DAC039357-039416/2013. Singapore Subordinate Courts.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at atan17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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