After 30 years on the run, former HDB officer jailed 42 weeks for forging work orders

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Hew Chong Wai was under investigation by the CPIB in 1987 when he fled the country.

File photo of a gavel. (Photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE: After 30 years on the run, a former Housing and Development Board (HDB) officer was sentenced to 42 weeks’ jail on Tuesday (Jun 13), for forging 128 HDB work orders.

53-year-old Hew Chong Wai pleaded guilty to 18 charges of forgery for the purposes of cheating. Another 110 charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.

Hew was found to have signed on the “checked by” and “approved by” column of the work orders, so HDB would believe that the works stated in the documents had been checked and approved by two other HDB officers.

Hew, who was then a housing and maintenance inspector with the HDB, had been under investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in 1987 when he fled Singapore. He was eventually located and arrested in the town of Seremban by Malaysian authorities in May 2017 and handed over to CPIB officers the next day.

The court heard that in 1987, Hew hatched a plan to obtain money through fraudulent means. It involved forging documents to deceive HDB that the works stated had been completed. Over a one-month period, between February and March 1987, a total of 128 work orders were forged. 

Hew worked with an accomplice, sub-contractor Tan Kiam Hock who would claim payment on the work orders from his main contractor. The main contractor would then be reimbursed by HDB.

In total, Hew received S$22,959.50 from Tan in 1987. This has an estimated corresponding value of S$38,908.79 based on Singapore’s Consumer Price Index figures between January and April 2017.

Tan was charged in court and pleaded guilty in 1988. He was sentenced to 4 months’ jail.

Prosecutors argued that Hew should be sentenced under current sentencing norms, where he would face a maximum penalty of 10 years’ jail per charge. If Hew had been convicted and sentenced in 1988, the maximum penalty he would have faced would be seven years per charge.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani noted that having absconded for 30 years, Hew “does not have the right” to claim that he be sentenced under the old sentencing norms.

Hew, who was unrepresented, asked for leniency. But he was chided by District Judge Kenneth Yap, who pointed out that he “did not face the music at all for 30 years”. The judge also remarked that Hew had not turned himself in, but instead “just happened to be caught”. 

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