$6m worth of milk powder, goods allegedly stolen by ex-KTPH staff
The police are investigating a former senior staff member of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) who allegedly stole at least $6 million worth of goods including milk powder, and sold them to third parties over a span of eight years.
The alleged theft came to light after a member of the public alerted the National Heathcare Group (NHG) in June 2022 to suspicious activity involving the sale of milk feeds on online marketplace Shopee, with stocks bearing the address label of Yishun Community Hospital (YCH).
An internal investigation by KTPH subsequently found that about $5.5 million worth of stocks including milk powder, supplements and underpad protectors – which the hospital paid for – were taken from a storeroom in YCH between 2014 and 2022. These goods had an estimated collective retail price of at least $6 million.
In September 2022, KTPH sued former senior retail executive Ray Choo Tiong Hian to recover at least $6 million in losses it had suffered. He had worked at the hospital from February 2008 till his dismissal in June 2022.
Court documents filed by KTPH accused Mr Choo, 42, of removing the hospital’s stocks, or directing other staff to do so. The hospital did not receive any payment for those goods.
It also obtained a Mareva injunction against Mr Choo to freeze his assets, up to a value of $6 million.
KTPH, represented by lawyers from Cairnhill Law, was subsequently awarded a default judgment last November for the sum of $5.6 million with interest against Mr Choo for breaching his contractual and or fiduciary duties.
In response to queries from The Straits Times, the police confirmed that a report had been lodged and investigations are ongoing.
Mr Choo could not be reached for comment.
Professor Chua Hong Choon, chief executive of KTPH, told ST that the hospital’s management promptly made a police report when it was first alerted to the incident. “We are in the process of enforcing the court’s judgment to retrieve the misappropriated funds. As the police investigation is still ongoing, we are unable to reveal further details,” he said.
Prof Chua stressed that the hospital has zero tolerance for staff misconduct and is extremely disappointed by the actions of its former employee. He added that the NHG has commissioned an independent review of hospital operations to prevent such incidents from happening again.
KTPH’s statement of claim noted that Mr Choo was hired to set up Able Studio, a sub-unit of the hospital’s retail pharmacy department, to sell a wide range of medical products and accessories that meet the geriatric and rehabilitation needs of recovering patients, such as milk powder and diapers.
Mr Choo designed Able Studio from scratch, including planning and implementing its operational processes, as well as how it would procure, sell and deliver goods.
His job scope also included reviewing the inventory process, setting up the inventory area, standardising the billing process and conducting the annual inventory stocktake.
KTPH claimed that as part of Mr Choo’s modus operandi, he would inform the Able Studio team of purported corporate orders from third-party buyers verbally or via e-mail or WhatsApp messages.
Mr Choo would arrange for the relevant goods to be delivered to, or collected from, various third-party buyers via WhatsApp or phone calls.
He would either take the stock from the existing inventory from YCH’s storeroom, or raise a purchase order with the hospital’s supplier for the relevant goods to be delivered to the storeroom.
The hospital also noted in its court filings that Mr Choo had set up a system where goods taken from the storeroom would be recorded manually, with the person who made the collection signing on a hardcopy record file.
Mr Choo would later manually deduct the stock from the hospital’s electronic stock management system. On some occasions, the electronic update would be carried out by other employees. Mr Choo was careful to ensure that the electronic records of stock tallied with the physical stocks in the storeroom, noted the court documents.
KTPH said the third-party buyers of the “stolen goods” included Bion Advance, Seniorcare and an individual named Tan Joo Par.
Mr Choo allegedly got the various third-party buyers to pay him for the stolen goods, instead of the hospital. He was also accused of forging invoices using the hospital’s letterhead on several occasions.
KTPH said Mr Choo was the most senior employee it had put in charge of and entrusted with setting up Able Studio.
As a result of his position, he was privy to highly confidential information such as the goods suppliers, costs and retail prices of the goods, and their availability in the hospital inventory.
As the most senior employee, Mr Choo had “the power to make certain decisions”, including to direct the employees in charge of the Able Studio storeroom to release any amount of goods to a third-party buyer, on the basis that he would arrange for an invoice to be issued to the buyer on the company’s behalf at a later date. This “put him in a position to act for his own interests” at the company’s expense, said KTPH.
Mr Choo did not attend a disciplinary inquiry session held by KTPH on June 17. The Board of Inquiry concluded that he was guilty of misconduct, and he was dismissed on the same day.