$44m fraud case: Accused trio can get case details

Three senior executives facing charges over a US$35 million ($44 million) fraud where they allegedly used a fictitious sub- contract will get to know who the deceived party claims to be, thanks to a test case ruling.

The trio will also get to know in their trial the reasons the document used is deemed fake, after the High Court overruled the Public Prosecutor's objections to release of the details.

The test case, judgment grounds for which were issued on Monday, closely scrutinised the pre-trial information disclosure regime under the new 2010 Criminal Procedure Code.

Mr Stephen Li, Ms Lim Ai Wah and Mr Thomas Doehrman face six charges each, including a single charge of conspiring to issue an invoice in July 2010 which led to a US$3.6 million (S$4.5 million) payout.

They also face five other charges each of receiving proceeds of the payout under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.

Mr Li was chief representative of China-based ZTE Corporation - a global telecommunications equipment and network solutions provider - for Brunei, New Guinea and the South Pacific Islands from 2010.

Ms Lim is a director of Questzone Offshore, allegedly set up to get commission payments from ZTE over a Papua New Guinea community college pro- ject. Mr Doehrman, her husband, assists the Papua New Guinea government under a trust for the college project.

ZTE was given a US$35 million deal for the 2010 project.

The trio allegedly conspired to have an invoice issued to ZTE, which falsely sought payment to Questzone as a sub-contractor in a fictitious sub-contract.

Prosecutors gave their lawyers a summary of the facts against them as part of the information bundle for the prosecution under the Criminal Case Disclosure Conference regime.

But lawyers Lok Vi Ming, Lai Yew Fai and Julian Tay, defending each of the three, said the summary was "silent as to the person or entity deceived". It was also silent on how and why the sub-contract between ZTE and Questzone was fictitious.

Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, overruling submissions by prosecutors Allan Loh and Dennis Tan, found a "factual gap which it needed to plug".

He held that without the requested particulars, the trio would "be vulnerable to surprises at the trial" which the new disclosure regime was meant to prevent.

He said the prosecutors did not show there were "peculiarities or sensitivities which would be adversely affected" by the disclosures ordered.

But he rejected two of the defendants' applications for further details as these relate to matters unlikely to have a substantial impact.

Justice Chao stayed the order last month pending the prosecution's appeal to the apex court.


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

Become a fan on Facebook