Closed trial for Singaporean in naval bribery scandal

  Agence France Presse
April 11, 2005

THE trial of a man charged with trying to bribe a Singaporean defence official for one of Europe's biggest aerospace firms will be held behind closed doors, a judge ruled Monday, April 11.

Judge Tan Poon Khai said the trial of Singaporean Eng Heng Chiaw, accused of trying to get classified data on a naval helicopter contract for European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), would not be open to the public because the issue was subject to the Official Secrets Act.

Tan granted deputy public prosecutor Eugene Lee's application for the closed-door trial after the lawyer said the contract was still in progress and the Singapore defence ministry (MINDEF) had classified all related information as "secret".

"Given that the MINDEF helicopter project is ongoing... and the information related to the project is subject to the Official Secrets Act, I grant the prosecution's application for the hearing to be held in camera," Tan said before evicting media from the court room.

The act guards against disclosure of official documents and information that could be detrimental to the city-state's national and public interests.

Eng was charged in February with offering S$500,000 (US$300,000) to Sin Boon Wah, the deputy chief executive for strategic development at Singapore's Defence Science and Technology Agency, in September

A copy of the charge sheet authorities gave to AFP in February said Eng had wanted from Sin information "about the price offered by the competitor in a naval helicopter project so that a company, European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) SEA P/L, could price its offer to secure the said project."

The contract was for six naval helicopters which the Singapore government eventually awarded to Sikorsky Aircraft Corp of the United States.

EADS, which is partly owned by the French government, has repeatedly denied any link to the scandal and said it had no association with Eng.

It also suggested the case had been "manipulated" to damage the company's reputation, without elaborating on who was behind it.

"Neither EADS, nor its helicopter subsidiary Eurocopter, has any relationship with the person," EADS said in a statement issued in February.

"As a matter of corporate policy, EADS fully complies with all applicable legislation in every country where it does business."

If convicted, Eng faces up to five years in jail and a fine of $100,000. His trial in the Subordinate Court, which began on Monday, is scheduled to run for at least five days.