SPH Exec Allegedly Received Kickbacks (ST)

BackJun 27, 2012

He is said to have pocketed $83,500 in return for awarding business deals

WHEN the news first broke, the charges against Peter Khoo Chong Meng appeared to centre on the misuse of shopping vouchers.

Yesterday, when he was brought to court, the case against him went further to include receiving kickbacks from vendors for projects.

This related to contracts to supply souvenirs and knick-knacks and many were believed to have gone to Mr Liaw Kim Chew's company, Sino British Industries.

The Straits Times understands that Mr Liaw is a director of the company, which supplied items such as T-shirts, towels, stationery and mousepads to be giveaways, or for projects such as the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund (STPMF) and the ST Media Club.

Yesterday, he was named in court papers as the man who gave Khoo $83,500 between July 2006 and August 2010, in return for awarding him business deals.

When asked to comment yesterday, an SPH spokesman declined, citing the ongoing court case.

Khoo was charged with eight counts of corruption for the kickbacks, including one for the sum of $30,000, which he was said to have received in August 2010.

According to court documents, it was for awarding Mr Liaw the contract for 100,000 coin banks needed by the Editorial Projects Unit that Khoo headed.

Khoo was then the organising chairman of the activities and events for the Pocket Money Fund, which had since 2010 sold Help-A-Kid coin banks for $5 each to encourage people to save.

All sales proceeds go to the fund. When the coin banks are full, people can also donate the savings to the fund.

Khoo, who worked in SPH for 22 years until he was sacked in September 2010, was also charged with two counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) by servant, a more serious offence than just CBT. He is said to have taken $23,095 worth of Capita shopping vouchers between May 2007 and July 2010, which were intended for the branding and promotion activities of The Straits Times.

The vouchers, typically given out for these purposes, include some that were donated by sponsors and others bought by SPH.

Property giant CapitaLand, which issues Capita vouchers, had sponsored shopping vouchers that were used to reward readers who call the paper's Newsline with news tips.

Khoo's deeds came to light in September 2010 when he voluntarily confessed to then-Straits Times editor Han Fook Kwang and editor-in-chief Patrick Daniel of the English and Malay Newspapers Division (EMND).

His confession came amid an internal audit reviewing expenditure in various departments in the newspaper.

A few days later, on Sept16 2010, SPH issued a statement saying that "to the best of the company's knowledge, none of the donations made to the STPMF has been misappropriated."

The following day he was arrested for CBT.

A month later, The Straits Times said it would provide more information on donations received and how the money is disbursed. Early this year, the pocket money fund which started out as a community project, became a full-fledged charity when it received Institution of a Public Character status.

Khoo, who began his career in SPH as a sports reporter in the late 1980s, was a senior vice-president in EMND when he left.

Friends who spoke to him in the past few weeks said he was in good spirits and had come to terms with what had happened.

When a former colleague asked him how he would handle the case if he were charged, he replied that he would "face the music".

The married man, who has a young son, went to court alone yesterday. Khoo, who is now a marketing and branding consultant, declined to comment on the case when approached.