Singapore diplomat bitten by graft charges over pineapple tarts

SINGAPORE Thu Oct 10, 2013 5:49am EDT

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - First it was sex, then casinos. Now, a Singapore diplomat has been charged with inflating the number of pineapple tarts and bottles of wine carried on official visits in the latest corruption case to hit the squeaky clean city-state.

Lim Cheng Hoe, former chief of protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, allegedly overbilled authorities by around S$89,000 ($71,100) by overstating the amount of gifts bought for official purposes between 2008 and 2012.

Lim faces 60 charges and could be jailed for up to three years on each charge if found guilty.

Singapore, a wealthy Asian finance and trade center ranked as the world's fifth least corrupt country by Transparency International, has been embarrassed by a number of recent cases involving senior officials.

Earlier this year, the former head of the civil defense force and a law professor were found guilty of corruptly accepting sexual favors. A former chief of the police's anti-drugs squad faced similar charges but was acquitted.

More recently, an assistant director of the anti-corruption watchdog was charged with misappropriating S$1.7 million. Part of the money allegedly was used for gambling at the Marina Bay Sands casino.

Pineapple tarts are bite-sized snacks popular in many Asian countries. The versions favored in Singapore and Malaysia are open-faced buttery pastries topped with sweet pineapple jam.

($1=1.2509 Singapore dollars)

(Reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by John O'Callaghan and Clarence Fernandez)

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