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Indian faces graft charges in Singapore

TT Durai, former CEO of a charity firm, approved payments to two companies for services that were not rendered.

india Updated: Apr 19, 2006 14:40 IST

Former Singapore National Kidney Foundation (NKF) chief, TT Durai has been accused of intending to deceive the organisation when he approved payments to two companies for services that were apparently not rendered.

Durai, a person of Indian origin, appeared in a Singapore court on Tuesday. The charges relate to cases that arose during his days as CEO of the NKF, Singapore's largest charity. He posted bail for $50,000.

The NKF runs kidney dialysis and preventive programmes and is fully supported with charity donations.

Durai, 57, has been accused of claiming $20,000 from the NKF 'with intent to deceive,' by using an invoice containing a false statement, to pay interior design consultancy firm DTC Ptv Ltd for its services.

The firm was supposed to provide interior design consultancy to several dialysis centres in 2003 but, the jobs were never carried out.

In the second charge, he was accused of claiming $5,000 from the NKF, using an invoice containing a 'materially false statement.'

The money was supposed to have been paid to advertising agency Decision One International for helping the NKF search for a female television executive. But the service, allegedly, was also never rendered.

Two former members of the old NKF board, chairman Richard Yong and treasurer Loo Say San, also appeared in court. Both were accused of breaching the Companies Act for failing to 'use reasonable diligence' and causing the NKF to excessively pay Forte Systems, a Chennai-based company.

The NKF had awarded a contract worth $4.29 million to Forte Systems, a Chennai-based firm, in September 2001 to provide a new enterprise resource management system.

The deal involved payments from the NKF even though Forte Systems was reported to have failed to deliver some services. Pharis Aboobacker, who is a friend of Durai, owns the company.

However, the court felt that the charges against Yong and San did not warrant bail.

A controversy had erupted when Durai, the then CEO of the NKF, sued The Straits Times newspaper and its senior correspondent Susan Long over an article, Long had written in April 2004.

Though Durai and the NKF later withdrew the suit, many skeletons regarding the managing practices of the NKF emerged.

The focus of the scandal turned to the revelation of Durai's Singapore $600,000 pay, which caused widespread feelings of outrage, anger, and betrayal among the public.

Many were upset that not enough of the donations made by the public went towards treating the patients. Durai was accused of taking backdated pay rises.

Apart from Durai, criminal charges were also filed on Tuesday against a former NKF director, Matilda Chua, and a former worker in the NKF's purchasing department, Ragini Vijayalingam.

Chua has been charged with falsifying accounts at Global Net Relations, a company in which both she and Durai were directors. She would face up to seven years in jail or an unspecified fine, or both, if she were found guilty.

Vijayalingam, also a person of Indian origin, has been charged with accepting bribes from Peng Che Chun, general manager and director of Hygeian Medical Supplies.

She allegedly took $10,000 from Peng to help the latter secure contracts to supply the charity with medical supplies.

She also reportedly received free seafood meals, perfume and massage sessions worth $470 to help Peng secure future deals with the NKF.

Both Chua and Vijayalingam have been granted bail for $20,000 each. The case is scheduled to come up for hearing again next Tuesday.