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Singapore’s former transport minister Iswaran slapped with eight new charges related to alleged bribery, corruption - The Leaders Online
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Singapore’s former transport minister Iswaran slapped with eight new charges related to alleged bribery, corruption

Singapore’s former transport minister Iswaran slapped with eight new charges related to alleged bribery, corruption

SINGAPORE, March 25 — Former transport minister S Iswaran was today handed eight new charges for allegedly obtaining a range of valuable items from the managing director of a company involved in construction works on Tanah Merah MRT station.

Iswaran is accused of obtaining items such as bottles of whisky, a Brompton bicycle and golf clubs from one Lum Kok Seng of Lum Chang Building Contractors.

Lum is listed as the managing director of the company on its website. Iswaran allegedly obtained the items, valued between S$186 (RM653) to S$7,907.50 each, sometime between November 2021 and November 2022.

In a separate statement today, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said that the new charges involved valuables worth about S$18,957.

Iswaran, who was handed 27 charges on January 18, mostly related to alleged bribery and corruption, now faces a total of 35 charges.

Appearing at the State Courts on Monday, Iswaran, 61, pleaded not guilty to the fresh charges and intends to contest them.

The new charges come under Section 165 of the Penal Code, which forbids public servants from obtaining any valuable thing — for zero or inadequate consideration — from someone involved in any proceeding or business that is transacted by said public servants.

His previous 27 charges were all related to his interactions with Malaysian billionaire Ong Beng Seng, who owns the rights to the Singapore Grand Prix.

The prosecution comprising Chief Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue and Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelvin Chong attended the hearing.

Iswaran, who arrived at the State Courts slightly before 8.30am, was present together with defence lawyers Rajvinder Singh and Navin Thevar. Davinder Singh, who leads the defence, was not in attendance on Monday.

Iswaran did not offer any comments to the media waiting for him aside from greeting them.

During the hearing, Tan said that the purpose of the hearing on Monday was to tender the eight new charges and transmit them to the High Court.

Thevar asked through the court whether the prosecution intends to press more charges against the client.

He told the court that on January 5, 36 cautioned statements were recorded from Iswaran, but only 27 charges were proceeded during the first mention of the case on Jan 18.

The eight charges presented on Monday were not part of the 36 cautioned statements, said Thevar.

His client was made to report to the CPIB only on March 18 to record cautioned statements, and the defence was only informed of the new charges four days later, said the defence lawyer.

In response, Tan said that the hearing was “not the right forum” for the defence to air his concerns, which should be raised at the High Court instead. He reiterated that the charges were tendered based on evidence.

Thevar replied that the prosecution “has not addressed” concerns that the defence has raised.

District Judge Brenda Tan allowed for the new charges to be transmitted to the High Court.

Iswaran will return to court for a criminal case disclosure conference on April 2.

About the case

The former minister’s charges include 24 of obtaining valuables as a public servant, two under the Prevention of Corruption Act and one for obstruction of justice, involving more than S$384,300.

It is an offence under Section 165 of the Penal Code for a public servant to accept anything of value — without payment or with inadequate payment — from a person with whom he is involved in an official capacity.

It is not necessary to establish that the item of value was received as an inducement or a reward for it to be deemed as an offence.

Iswaran was accused of obtaining about S$218,058.95 worth of valuable things from Malaysian billionaire Ong Beng Seng, who is managing director of Hotel Properties Limited and is widely credited as the person who brought Formula 1 to Singapore.

For the two charges of corruptly obtaining bribes, Iswaran allegedly received flight and event tickets, among other items, worth around S$166,280 in total in exchange for advancing Ong’s business interests.

The charges came after a months-long investigation by the CPIB that began in July 2023.

He was first arrested by CPIB on July 11 last year and later not allowed to carry out his duties, receiving a reduced monthly pay of S$8,500.

Parliament was told on January 9 that CPIB had wrapped up their probe and it was being reviewed by Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC). He was charged at the State Courts slightly over a week later.

Iswaran issued a statement after the hearing in January, stating that he is innocent and would focus on clearing his name.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on January 18 that Iswaran has resigned from his positions as Minister for Transport and Member of Parliament, as well as from the People’s Action Party, and that he would return his ministerial salary and MP’s allowance that he received since the investigation began.

Iswaran’s next appearance in court was on February 8, where his case was transferred to the High Court. The prosecution had made this application due to public interest in the matter.

He was granted permission on the same day to leave the country from February 16 to March 4 to settle his son into university.

The former minister was later given permission to remain outside of Singapore for an additional 16 days when he fell ill during his trip.

A spokesperson for the AGC said last Wednesday that Iswaran had returned to Singapore and surrendered his passport to the authorities.

For each charge of obtaining a valuable thing as a public servant, Iswaran can be jailed for up to two years, fined, or receive both punishments.

If he is convicted of corruptly obtaining gratification under the Prevention of Corruption Act, he can be jailed for up to seven years, fined up to S$100,000, or both.

Anyone convicted of obstructing justice can be jailed for up to seven years, fined, or receive both punishments.