5.5 years' jail for ex-LTA official Henry Foo, who accepted $1.2m in bribes

·Senior Reporter
·5-min read
Former Deputy Group Director with the Land Transport Authority Henry Foo Yung Thye.
Former Deputy Group Director with the Land Transport Authority Henry Foo Yung Thye. (PHOTO: Screencap from YouTube, LTA)

SINGAPORE — Ex-Land Transport Authority (LTA) deputy group director Henry Foo Yung Thye was sentenced to five-and-a-half years' jail on Thursday (2 September) for receiving $1.2 million in bribes. He was also given a penalty of $1,156,250 in total.

As Foo will not be able to pay the penalty, he will serve a year's jail in default instead. This will be on top of his five-and-a-half-year jail term.

Foo, who was with the agency for 20 years, pleaded guilty to seven charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act for receiving bribes, consisting of loans from contractors or sub-contractors. He had "actively and quite persistently" solicited gratification from multiple givers from 2014 to 2019.

Another 29 charges, consisting of graft and cheating, were taken into consideration for his sentencing.

Sentencing Foo, Deputy Presiding Judge Jennifer Marie noted that Foo's case was the largest case of public sector corruption to come before the courts in recent times.

She added that Foo had been the very person entrusted to the maintenance and safeguard of the service, but had paid "scant regard" to the ideals to feed his gambling addiction. His appalling conduct revealed that he had no qualms corrupting the persons he was expected to have oversight of.

Noting that Foo's offences spanned some five years, the judge said this revealed a "sustained period" of the offending.

Addressing Foo post-sentencing, she said, “Your counsel had made an impassioned plea on your behalf. You have done well scholastically and you had actually performed very well in your career. I do hope that on your release you would have put this whole episode behind you and not remain in guilt and shame.

“Do not be afraid to start afresh and seek to achieve what your counsel has said you will - to atone for your mistake and serve the community, and be a person you and your children will be proud of.”

In a previous hearing, the prosecution sought 75 months' jail while the defence asked 46 months' jail and a year's jail in default for the financial penalty.

Gambling disorder causally linked to alleged offences: Defence

Foo's lawyers Lim Ker Sheon and Zeng Hanyi had raised Foo's pathological gambling as a mitigating factor, but the judge did not think it merited significant mitigating weight. Foo still had a choice in deciding how to settle his debts, pointed out the judge.

The lawyers said in Foo's mitigation plea, "The proper context to read into the offences was a desperate man, diagnosed by the Institute of Mental Health to suffer from pathological gambling (which is a DM-5 disorder), whose family was being hounded by loan-sharks and creditors, in trouble so deep he got desperate, borrowing money from any friend he could approach."

Citing a private psychiatrist's report, the defence lawyer stated that Foo's gambling disorder was causally linked to his alleged offences because he relied on others, the contractors, to provide money for him to relieve his desperate financial situation.

While not of unsound mind, Foo was so preoccupied with gambling that he could not reason to himself that what he was doing was wrong. When he could not borrow from friends and family, he borrowed from moneylenders who later harassed him. Foo has since been receiving counselling.

The lawyers said, "Henry obtained first-class honours from the Nanyang Technological University, and thereafter was a post-graduate scholar of the LTA, obtaining his Masters from the University of Southern California. Henry was obviously very capable and highly regarded in the LTA for his work, and was very quickly and repeatedly promoted at a very young age. All the LTA projects under him performed very well. His downfall lay in his gambling addiction."

"We submit this only in the context that none of this is important in sentencing, save in the context that Henry still has a tremendous opportunity to serve the community after he completes his prison sentence given his relatively young age.”

Held key posts in overseeing construction of MRT tunnels, stations

Foo, now 47, had joined LTA on 10 August 1999 and held various posts such as director for the Thomson-East Coast Line Civil Team 3 and deputy group director of Thomson-East Coast (TEL) and Cross Island lines (Civil).

He oversaw the construction of MRT tunnels and stations such as Havelock, Stevens, Great World, Napier and Orchard. He was also one of the evaluating personnel for LTA contracts and subcontracts under the TEL and Cross Island Lines.

In addition, Foo was chairman of the tender evaluation committee. It was in this role that he solicited gratification.

Some of the individuals Foo sought loans from were directors of firms such as Tritech Group Limited, MEPT Engineering, Tiong Seng Contractors, and China Railway Tunnel. In exchange, he promised to “support” their businesses or shared confidential information relating to LTA tenders.

Investigations revealed that the gratification he received from LTA contractors and sub-contractors over contracts was worth some $815 million.

In October 2018, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) received an anonymous complaint that Foo had been soliciting loans from sub-contractors involved with LTA projects. Foo also requested financial help from the director of China Railway Tunnel Group to pay off outstanding personal debts.

Foo resigned from LTA on 19 September 2019.

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