Former chairman of the National Trades Union Congress and Member of Parliament Phey Yew Kok appeared in court on Wednesday (Jun 24), after being on the run for almost 36 years.
Phey was charged on Dec 10, 1979 with four counts of criminal breach of trust of a total of S$82,520, and other offences under the Trade Union Act. He was out on bail at S$100,000 but did not have his passport impounded. Phey failed to turn up in court on Jan 7, 1980, and a warrant of arrest was issued on the same day. His two sureties lost S$95,000 of their bail bonds as a result.
Investigations revealed Phey had left Singapore for Kuala Lumpur by train on Dec 31, 1979, and proceeded to Bangkok where he disappeared. He surrendered at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok on Monday, and officers from Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau accompanied him back to the Republic on the same day.
State Courts heard that the charges still stand and investigations will resume. Additional charges may also be tendered.
When the charges were re-read to Phey before the State Courts on Wednesday, the accused said to District Judge Eddy Tham that “if my memory still does not fail me, I don’t think the money was transferred to my personal account”. Phey also had to ask the court interpreter to read the charges to him slowly as he said he was hard of hearing.
There will be no bail, and Phey will be remanded pending further investigation.
Phey is scheduled to appear in court again on Jul 23 at 2.15pm.
For the charges, Phey faces a prescribed punishment of up to seven years’ jail for criminal breach of trust by a public servant, and is liable to a fine.
For the Trades Union Act charges, Phey faces a prescribed punishment of a fine up to S$1,000 unless the offences warrant another form of punishment under the act.
“ZERO TOLERANCE FOR CORRUPTION”
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that a “clean and non-corrupt system” has been maintained in Singapore for fifty years “because we have zero tolerance for corruption”.
“We will not allow any cover up, even when it is awkward or embarrassing for the Government,” added Mr Lee.
In response to media queries, Mr Lee said: “He has been charged in court, and the law will have to take its course.”
“This will bring closure to a long outstanding case involving a person who was holding public office as an MP and a senior union leader,” he added.
NTUC acknowledged Phey’s surrender to the authorities. “We must now let the law take its course,” the labour movement said in a statement.
Phey was general secretary of multiple trade unions including the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (SILO) and the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU) from 1970 to 1970.
He was also a People’s Action Party Member of Parliament for Boon Teck between 1972 and 1979.