Ex-SPH Exec Fined $100k for Graft But Avoids Jail (ST)

BackDec 07, 2012

FORMER Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) senior executive Peter Khoo closed his eyes, tilted his head up and mouthed a silent prayer of thanks yesterday – after hearing he had avoided a jail sentence for corruption and criminal breach of trust.

Prosecutors had been pushing for a prison term of six to eight weeks plus a fine for the former sports reporter, who pocketed $196,500 in kickbacks and vouchers.

But after staring ahead dispassionately in the dock, he was told by District Judge Soh Tze Bian that he would be fined $100,000, on top of an $83,500 penalty which was the total sum of bribes he received.

Khoo had earlier paid authorities the $83,500 – which he received from a friend to whom he awarded business deals from 2006 to 2010.

The 49-year-old Christian was accompanied in court by friends and family yesterday.

He hugged many of them once the sentence was read out and said: "I thank God for my church, family and friends who stuck with me through these difficult times."

Ms Rose Tan, the head of a public relations company and a close friend of Khoo's for around 20 years, said: "Everyone deserves a second chance and I hope he can now move on with his life after a torturous two years."

The prosecution, pressing for a custodial sentence, had cited several past cases, including that of courier Siew Boon Loong, who received a six-week jail term in 2004 after turning himself in to police and confessing to stealing two laptops.

But the judge said that unlike Siew, Khoo did not require a prison environment to feel remorseful and repentant.

Also, Khoo's voluntary confession in 2010 and full cooperation with the authorities also showed genuine remorse.

Judge Soh also agreed with defence lawyer Alfonso Ang that the "unique facts" of Khoo's case made it one without precedent.

In his written grounds of decision, the judge added that all this "when viewed in totality, tips the balance in favour of a sufficiently high global fine which can also serve as a deterrent sentence".

After being charged in court in June this year, Khoo pleaded guilty in August to two counts of corruption and one of criminal breach of trust.

Seven other charges were taken into consideration.

The amount Khoo swindled also included $23,095 in CapitaLand vouchers.

These had been intended for branding and promotion activities for The Straits Times.

Khoo had been the senior vice-president in SPH's English and Malay Newspapers Division and head of its Editorial Projects Unit.

His duties included assisting editors to improve newspaper sales and circulation. But following his confession to then Straits Times editor Han Fook Kwang, he was sacked in September 2010, after 22 years with SPH.

The Attorney-General's Chambers has 14 days to appeal.

A spokesman said it would study the grounds of decision and determine whether there was a need to file an appeal against the sentence.