BICC facing five-year ban in Singapore

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The Independent Online

BICC, the world's largest cables group, said it would appeal against a five-year ban announced yesterday on doing government business in Singapore.

The company, one of five to be barred, was named in court documents in connection with the conviction of a former deputy chief executive of the Public Utilities Board for corruption. The other companies affected are Japan's Tomen and Marubeni, Germany's Siemens, and Pirelli of Italy.

BICC said its annual business in Singapore was worth pounds 20m, and its existing contract to supply and install cables with PUB will continue until the end of the year. "Singapore has been a good source of work for us, but is minimal in terms of the size of BICC," said a spokesman.

He said the company was given no explanation for the ban. "No one has suggested to us what we have done wrong, which is why we are appealing." BICC has done about pounds 250m worth of business with the PUB over the past 12 years.

The former PUB executive, Choy Hon Tim, was convicted in November on five charges of corruption and conspiracy, sentenced to 14 years and ordered to repay S$13.5m (pounds 6.38m) in bribes.

He was found guilty of receiving the money from another former PUB employee who acted as a consultant to foreign companies supplying power plants being built in Singapore.

"All five companies have been debarred," said Lorna Wu, chairman of the Finance Ministry's standing committee on the case, which is one of the country's biggest corruption scandals. The consultant is believed to have been accused of passing information to the companies, including BICC's cables subsidiary in Singapore.

A spokeswoman for Pirelli said it has been informed of the ban, but had not been told why it had been imposed. "It is based on a misunderstanding of the facts," she said.

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the fastest growing, but is unlikely to have serious knock-on effects on other BICC business. The company announced yesterday that it was investing pounds 21m in the expansion of its cablemaking business in Indonesia and the Philippines through the creation of two new manufacturing joint ventures.

The total cost of the project will be about pounds 45m with BICC taking a 50 per cent equity interest.