Ex-managing director in S’pore gets over 8 years’ jail after cheating firm of more than S$1m

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SINGAPORE: A managing director at a firm providing scaffolding services worked with his accomplices to cheat it out of more than S$1 million after he became saddled with gambling debts totalling around S$100,000.


Cheng Swee Guan used to be employed in the mechanical business unit of Hertel Singapore and earned more than $300,000 a year.

On Wednesday (July 3), the 59-year-old Singaporean, who is no longer working for the firm, was sentenced to eight years and two months’ jail, and ordered to pay a fine of $37,500.

He will have to spend an additional six weeks and 10 days behind bars if he is unable to pay the fine.

Cheng had pleaded guilty to 17 charges, namely multiple counts of cheating and graft.

In 2009, Cheng became a general manager at Hertel after it took over his former employer.

France-based company Altrad Investment Authority later bought over Hertel in or around 2016.

He then became the managing director of the mechanical business unit, and was responsible for the company’s sales and operations.

Deputy public prosecutors (DPPs) Zhou Yang, Benedict Teong and Cheronne Lim stated in court documents that another firm called Kok Chang Scaffolding (KCS) was also a business entity under Altrad.

According to court documents, another Singaporean man identified as Lorenzo Wang Lianzhong, 38, who used to be a managing director of Altrad’s business, was one of Cheng’s alleged accomplices.

In 2014, the two men began gambling with several managers at a container office belonging to Hertel, which also provided insulation, painting and mechanical services.

By mid-2017, Cheng owed Wang and the other managers around $100,000 in gambling debts.

The DPPs said: “Lorenzo had a discussion with Cheng on repayment. Lorenzo proposed an idea where they would submit false quotations and invoices to Hertel using other companies in respect of fictitious jobs.

“Cheng and Lorenzo would then approve the payments for the fictitious jobs by abusing their respective positions of authority in Hertel even though no work would be carried out by (three other businesses).”

These companies were: Petroblanc, Seow Chuan Engineering (SCE) and SHC Engineering and Trading.

The prosecutors told the court that according to the plan, these payments would be split between the two men.

Cheng agreed to the scheme and the two men implemented it from 2017 to 2019, the court heard.


Wang and three other people had earlier started Petroblanc, which was to be used to provide scaffolding rental to KCS.

However, Wang’s name was not formally tied to Petroblanc due to a conflict of interest as he also used to be the financial controller of KCS.

The DPPs said that Cheng and Lorenzo would split the proceeds equally between them, and some of their offences involved SCE, which was then owned by a Kee Seow Chua, 70.

The prosecutors told the court: “Some time in 2018, Kee had confided in Cheng and Lorenzo that he needed money and the pair decided to rope him in to execute (the ruse) through SCE.

“This was because Lorenzo was investigated by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore as the amount of cash in his bank accounts was inconsistent with his salary.

“To avoid suspicion, they decided to stop using Petroblanc as the cover company and instead turned to SCE.”

According to court documents, Cheng and Wang agreed that they would give SCE around 20 per cent commission on the proceeds.

However, the DPPs told the court that Kee received up to $50,000 in total.

The prosecutors added that Cheng and Wang also made use of SHC to commit their offences.

Separately, Cheng worked alone to cheat Hertel into making payments by approving multiple meal claims.

The DPPs also said he worked with other people, including Wang, to commit multiple counts of graft.

Among other things, the court heard that the pair worked together in 2018 to give $40,000 in bribes to a Lawrence Chua Ching Kwang, 65, who was then working for a firm called Vopak Singapore.

This was done to advance the business interest between Hertel and Vopak.

Court documents did not disclose if Kee, Chua and Wang have been charged over their alleged roles in the offences.

-The Straits Times/ANN


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