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Ex-SPH Exec Pleads Guilty to 3 Charges (ST)

BackAug 25, 2012

Mitigation plea submitted for a fine and not jail; sentencing on Nov 16

FORMER Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) senior executive Peter Khoo Chong Meng pleaded guilty yesterday to two counts of corruption and one of criminal breach of trust.

Seven other charges will be taken into consideration by the court when he is sentenced on Nov 16.

Accompanied in court yesterday by his family and friends, he declined to speak to the media.

Khoo, 49, was a senior vice-president in SPH's English and Malay Newspapers Division (EMND) and head of its Editorial Projects Unit when he confessed to pocketing CapitaLand shopping vouchers and taking kickbacks from a supplier. The one who offered the kickbacks in return for being awarded business deals with SPH was his friend, Mr Liaw Kim Chew, a director of Sino British Industries.

All in, Khoo, who had worked in SPH for 22 years, pocketed $196,500, including $83,500 in bribes from Mr Liaw and $23,095 in CapitaLand vouchers. After he voluntarily confessed to what he did and made full restitution, he was sacked on Sept 15, 2010. He was charged in June this year.

His lawyer Alfonso Ang submitted a 29-page mitigation plea yesterday, but it was not read out in court. He is urging the court to show Khoo leniency for the three charges proceeded upon, and to fine, rather than jail him.

The mitigation plea reveals that in the days leading up to Khoo's confession to his wife and then to his bosses in SPH, he was troubled about what he had done.

He was so guilt-ridden that he contemplated suicide on Sept 8, 2010. His religious convictions convinced him to confess his crimes and repent before God instead.

The plea written by Mr Ang points out that Khoo had surrendered voluntarily – not because he knew the game was up, but because he wanted to confess.

"There was no whistleblower, no squealer, no informant or leaked document, nor any paper trail that would have led to him," said the plea document. Another mitigating factor was that Khoo cooperated with the authorities, including giving the police a spreadsheet detailing the items he had purchased with the vouchers, their estimated prices, and dates of purchase.

It is also pointed out that Khoo had opted to plead guilty, paid back all of what he took and made contributions to society.

Attesting to this, Mr Ang noted that Khoo has no previous convictions, and had helmed The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund for close to 10 years, during which his "untiring efforts" enabled the fund to raise more than $44 million for more than 85,000 needy children here.

After leaving SPH to become a marketing and branding consultant, Khoo continued to take on and create projects that aided society, the document said.