01 December 2015
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Marco Polo takes rig dispute with SembMarine to mediation stage

Business Times
01 Dec 2015
Tan Hwee Hwee

[Singapore] MARCO Polo Marine said on Monday that its unit MP Drilling has taken its dispute with Sembcorp Marine's PPL Shipyard over a US$214.3 million rig building contract to the mediation stage.

The action was taken on Nov 26, said Marco Polo. This followed MP Drilling's initiation of the contractual dispute resolution process on Nov 24.

"Should PPL refuse to mediate, MP Drilling will proceed to commence arbitration against PPL," Marco Polo said in its Monday announcement.

Marco Polo maintained that MP Drilling has fully discharged itself from taking delivery of or making further payment towards the jack-up rig being built under the contract announced in February 2014 with PPL.

But Sembcorp Marine had in two recent announcements said that the rig was in the final phase of construction and that the termination by MP Drilling was a "repudiatory breach". It also insisted that the contract was still in force and that it was seeking a second payment from MP Drilling.

In its announcement on Monday, Marco Polo said that MP Drilling regards "the nature and number of cracks and other defects (such as porosity) found on all three legs of the new rig at this stage of construction wholly unacceptable".

It said that 70 cracks were found on all three legs of the new rig in the first test in August and that more than 180 new cracks were found in a partial second test subsequently.

Sembcorp Marine had announced that that the contract was still subsisting and that the disputes were technical in nature. It also said that PPL would be inviting MP Drilling to refer the disputes to the Classification Society, whose decision shall be final and binding on the parties as provided for under the contract. "PPL will also be seeking payment of the 2nd disbursement if MP Drilling fails to make payment by 30 November 2015," said Sembcorp Marine.

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Kovan murders: Accused never intended to kill victims, says lawyer

24 Nov 2015
Valerie Koh

High Court urged to convict Iskandar under Section 300(c) to spare him from the gallows

SINGAPORE — Driving home the point that former cop Iskandar Rahmat never intended to kill his two victims, his defence lawyer Shashi Nathan today (Nov 23) urged the High Court to convict him under Section 300(c) of the Penal Code, which could see him spared from the gallows if convicted.

Iskandar, 36, was charged under Section 300(a), which carries the mandatory death penalty, for killing car workshop owner Tan Boon Sin and his son Chee Heong two years ago. But to be found guilty, the prosecution would have to show that Iskandar intended to cause death.

Under Section 300(c), murder is committed with the intention of causing injury sufficient “in the ordinary cause of nature” to cause death. The court has the discretion to sentence the accused to life imprisonment and caning.

Today saw the prosecution and defence present their closing submissions at the end of an eight-day trial, where both sides offered varying accounts of what transpired between Iskandar and the Tans in 14J Hillside Drive on July 10, 2013.

Mr Nathan said Iskandar knows what he did was wrong, but “one has to categorise the offences correctly”. “He was panicking — the plan to take the money had disappeared and he just wanted to get out of the house. He caused terrible injuries but he never intended to kill them,” he said.

Mr Nathan further argued that should the court find Iskandar’s actions — which he is claiming sprang from a sudden fight with his victims — had been committed in the “exercise and excess” of his right of private defence, then his client should be convicted of culpable homicide, a reduced charge.

Over the trial, Iskandar has claimed that the elder Tan, 67, had attacked him knife-in-hand, while the younger victim, 42, had similarly charged at him, after he attempted to rob them.

Today, Deputy Public Prosecutor Lau Wing Yum again disputed this version of events, insisting the sheer number of injuries sustained by both victims, along with the nature and location of their wounds, displayed Iskandar’s intent to cause death.

The accused’s version of the story had loopholes, and hence, his defending arguments were not applicable, Mr Lau said. Claiming panic, Iskandar had earlier said he wanted to flee the house after the stabbings. Yet, he paused to adjust the left wing mirror of the getaway car. “Road safety would clearly not be the top priority for someone who was in such a grave state of panic,” wrote Mr Lau in his submissions.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang echoed this, and also questioned why Iskandar would have cupped his hand over the older victim’s mouth to silence his shouts during the altercation, as claimed in his investigation statement. “When somebody is fighting for his life, the last thing you would think of is stopping the attacker from shouting,” said Justice Tay, who also grilled Iskandar on his various claims during the trial. In response, Mr Nathan said that Iskandar had done that instinctively, as fleeing the scene was still on his mind. As for adjusting the car mirror, Mr Nathan said that Iskandar wanted to ensure that he could reverse “quickly and smoothly”.

The verdict will be delivered next Friday.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Misappropriating iPads: Ex-SCDF director gets jail

Straits Times
17 Nov 2015
Elena Chong

A senior public servant convicted of misappropriating two iPads was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail yesterday.

Jeganathan Ramasamy was director of the technology department at the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) when he obtained the iPad 2s - worth almost $1,900 in total - from communications company NCS.

They were meant to be used to test mobile applications that NCS was developing for the SCDF.

However, he gave one to his daughter and sold the other for $200 to Mr Eric Yap Wee Teck, the current SCDF head who, at the time, was its senior director of emergency services.

Jeganathan, 63,who held his position from 2007 to 2012, was found guilty of two charges of criminal breach of trust at the SCDF headquarters in Ubi Avenue in September 2011 after a 10-day trial.

He is out on $15,000 bail pending his appeal against the conviction.

After he received the iPads, he sent a message on Sept 26 that year to then NCS group general manager Wong Soon Nam, saying: "Tell me the amount I have to pay."

Mr Wong replied that the iPads were "meant for all the new mobile apps that we are rolling out for SCDF and for you to trial".

His offences came to light during investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau into other matters.

In his brief oral grounds last month, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said all three NCS witnesses recalled clearly that Jeganathan had shown some interest in the iPads.

They also remembered he had been told categorically that he would not be able to obtain the iPads at the NCS staff discounted price.

The judge said he could not see how Jeganathan could have been the only one in that Sept 7 meeting who had misunderstood.

Jeganathan, who was defended by Mr Sanjiv Rajan, claimed he had been handed the iPads to buy in his personal capacity, even though he did not pay any money for them.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi had sought a sentence of 10 to 12 weeks' jail, citing aggravating factors such as lack of professional integrity, public disquiet and damage to the SCDF's reputation, and loss of confidence in the integrity of the supply and trial process.

The maximum penalty for the offence is life imprisonment or 20 years in jail and a fine.


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Dan Tan case: Law involved is sound, backed by most, says Shanmugam

01 Dec 2015
Kelly Ng

SINGAPORE — Responding to criticism over the release of alleged match-fixing mastermind Dan Tan from detention, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said today (Nov 30) that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had assessed Tan to be a threat, and his detention in 2013 was “on good grounds”.

And despite calls for the legislation to be reviewed, Mr Shanmugam stressed there was nothing wrong with the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA), and “a majority of Singaporeans support it”.

The issue is with the way Tan’s detention order was drafted, “and that is not a question of policy or principle”, he said. “(The court) did not say the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act is not effective, nor did they say that match-fixing does not come within the CLTPA. What they said was that the order that was issued to (Tan) did not contain sufficient grounds to make out a case to show that he was a serious threat for public order and safety,” said Mr Shanmugam, during a visit to the Central Police Division today to thank police officers for their work this year.

Tan was released last Wednesday after judges said the grounds for his detention set out few connections with Singapore. He had been in custody since October 2013.

Mr Shanmugam said the MHA accepted the apex court’s decision and will continue to study the judgment. Noting that international observers, including former Interpol investigators, have taken issue with the court’s decision, Mr Shanmugam said: “From their perspective, without having looked at the grounds of the Court of Appeal’s judgement, they take it at the headlines, that he is being released by the courts and they can’t understand.”

During his visit today, Mr Shanmugam expressed his appreciation to some 80 officers in the Singapore Police Force who were deployed for various operations this year, such as the State Funeral of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the South-east Asian Games, the Jubilee Weekend celebrations, and relief efforts for the AirAsia QZ8501 crash. In some events, 4,000 to 5,000 officers were deployed at one go, he noted.

“You have had to make personal sacrifices, working around the clock. Your loved ones also made their sacrifice when family plans had to be adjusted due to your deployment during the year-long operations,” he said, adding this came on top of regular policing.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

CAD starts probe into KLW consultant and senior executive

Business Times
24 Nov 2015
Andrea Soh

[Singapore] THE white-collar crime busters have come knocking on the doors of KLW Holdings, questioning two of its senior executives for possible offences and also requesting for access to certain information.

This follows the Nov 4 uncovering of apparent lapses in internal controls and potential breaches of disclosure rules by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the special auditor of the Catalist-listed doormaker firm.

KLW said it received a notice dated Nov 19 from the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), stating that it was investigating an alleged offence under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA).

The same day, CAD interviewed the group's head of operations and human resources, Gaw Kuan Ching Jaslin, KLW revealed in its update to the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Monday night.

Ms Gaw, formerly the group financial controller, was released on bail.

The company's former managing director, Lee Boon Teck, was questioned by the CAD on Nov 19 and 20. Mr Lee, now a consultant of the firm, has been asked to surrender all travel documents and access to certain other documents.

Ms Gaw was interviewed in connection with possible offences under Section 199 of the SFA, which relates to making false or misleading statements; Mr Lee was quizzed in connection with possible offences under Section 203 of the Act, relating to the requirement to make continuous disclosures on the exchange.

PwC had highlighted issues surrounding a number of term sheets that Mr Lee had allegedly taken without the knowledge of other board members, as well as payments by the company to him and disclosures about how proceeds from capital-raising exercises had been used.

At the same time the report from PwC was released, KLW said it would appoint Mr Lee - removed from KLW's board at an extraordinary general meeting on Oct 12 - as a consultant, and that it was re-deploying Ms Gaw to operations and human resources.

Responding to queries by SGX on these appointments, KLW said on Sunday that Mr Lee's appointment was "key to ensuring the continuity of the door business" and would also help shorten the learning curve of its new chief executive Quek Chek Lan; the company added that Ms Gaw's knowledge of KLW's business and recent events would help the reconstituted board in "stabilising and growing KLW for all stakeholders".

The CAD has also requested access to KLW's accounting records, banking records, corporate secretarial documents, draft announcements prepared for the company and all relevant IT equipment and corporate correspondence from Jan 1, 2012.

KLW said the CAD has not disclosed any further details on its investigations, and that the business and operations of the group were unaffected by the probe and would continue as normal.

"The company has extended and will continue to extend its fullest co-operation to the CAD in its investigations and will make further announcements as and when there are further significant developments concerning this matter."

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ADV: A STEP closer to understanding Estate Planning

Singapore Law Watch
17 Nov 2015

Madagascar minister seeks AGC meet-up

Straits Times
01 Dec 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Madagascar's environment minister plans to meet officials here over a case involving US$50 million (S$71 million) worth of rosewood logs alleged to have been imported here illegally from the African country.

This comes after a district court here last month dismissed the case against a managing director and his company charged over the import. About 30,000 rosewood logs seized here last year on transit from Madagascar to Hong Kong are being held pending a High Court appeal to be fixed in due course.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) is appealing against the earlier decision, a spokesman has confirmed with The Straits Times.

The Madagascar minister hopes to meet AGC officials. "I think we may need to coordinate and exchange information among ourselves to get a positive result for the outcome of the appeal," said Mr Ralava Beboarimisa, Madagascar's Minister of Environment, Ecology, Sea and Forests, in an e-mail to The Straits Times.

The case has drawn keen notice abroad: The Environmental Investigation Agency, which lobbies globally for the protection of endangered species and climate issues, has urged Mr Beboarimisa to probe how the cargo was cleared for export by Madagascar before it took off. It is understood that he was not the incumbent minister then.

Last month, a district court dismissed the case against managing director Wong Wee Keong and his company Kong Hoo for allegedly importing the logs without a permit, ruling that these were in transit here and bound for Hong Kong.

The goods acquired from Madagascar by Kong Hoo were seized in March last year when a cargo vessel carrying them berthed at Jurong Port. They were meant to be restuffed into containers and shipped to Hong Kong. It was then reported to be the largest amount of rosewood logs ever seized.

Rosewood - Dalbergia and Diospyros in this case - is a restricted item listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), to which Singapore is a signatory. A Cites listing means permits are required for the commercial import, export or re-export of a specified species.

But in this case, the Madagascar authorities had cleared the items for export. A delegation came to Singapore last December to look into the case. A month later, Madagascar's then environment minister, whose name was not given in the judgment, confirmed via e-mail the export documents were authentic, noted District Judge Jasvender Kaur.

She held that prosecutors had not made the case to justify the charge under the Endangered Species Act against Mr Wong and Kong Hoo.

But Mr Beboarimisa said: "I do not think that Madagascar can approve this sort of export.

"In any case, this export will be clarified by further investigations as soon as Madagascar has access to all exhibits produced during the current trial," he added.

He said Madagascar has now inventorised, marked, secured and recorded in a national database all seized or hidden logs scattered in the country's 11 regions. To complement this, "satellite and radar surveillance activities of Madagascar's north coast - the main area of illegal boarding - are ongoing with the support of the World Bank".

He said these measures are beginning to show results, citing the seizure of more than 1,000 tonnes of precious wood in Hong Kong on Oct 8 this year.

"We all need to understand that natural resources trafficking is part of international organised crime. It involves huge amounts of illegal funds. And the fact is those funds will be recycled for other illegal activities," he said.

Trafficking puts pressure on endangered species, which are part of our common legacy, he said. "The lessons are (that) this must be our common struggle and our common cause," he added.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Enhancing the elected presidency system

Straits Times
24 Nov 2015
Gillian Koh & Tan Min-Wei

The office of the Elected President (EP) of Singapore is a political though non-partisan one.

The EP swears an oath to uphold the interests of the nation in exercising, among others, two key veto powers on the use of national reserves and appointments to top public sector posts against the popularly elected governing executive, the predominant locus of Singaporean political authority.

Therefore, the office is designed to be filled through an equally powerful mandate, popularly elected by Singapore citizens in a first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, even if only after candidates are judged, by a committee comprising heads of three public bodies, to be of good character and competent in the administering and management of financial affairs.

In 2011, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam secured the post with a margin of 7,382 votes or 0.35 per cent over the runner-up, and 35.2 per cent of the total votes cast.

While a legitimate outcome in the FPTP system, in the past fortnight three key concerns have emerged about this young and uniquely Singaporean institution.

First, given the EP's limited yet important custodial powers, some citizens are concerned that the winner might have an even smaller margin of victory and certainly lack a majority vote if more people are likely to qualify and contest for the post. Raised by Mr Clinton Lim in a Straits Times Forum page letter published on Nov 13, he proposed that where there are three or more candidates, a second round of voting should be held between the top two candidates, giving the victor legitimacy from securing an electoral majority.

Second, given the competitive nature of an election, it is unlikely that neither the candidates nor the eventual victor can resist viewing the role as being a more general check on the Government, taking the liberty of making his political views on a wide range of matters known. This politicking beyond his purview could diminish the statesmanship and symbolic national unity that the president traditionally exercises as head of state, compromising that much- needed role in Singapore's diverse national community, argued Mr Calvin Cheng in another letter in the Straits Times Forum page published on Nov 16.

Third, that potential over-reach raises the possibility of igniting a constitutional crisis, stated Mr Cheng.

However, given that the EP's role is already defined and stated, it is more likely this would result in a political, rather than constitutional, crisis. This is because there is provision for Parliament to initiate a tribunal if half its members agree to it. This would involve at least five Supreme Court judges investi- gating such over-reach. Three- quarters of all parliamentarians must then vote to have the sitting EP removed if the tribunal finds there are grounds for it.

Constitutional scholar Kevin Tan has argued that it is difficult for a body of judges to make a ruling on what constitutes such abuse and misconduct because, speaking and mobilising beyond the office may seem to be "perfectly sensible and responsible" to some whereas to others, a "disastrous and irresponsible move". This sounds to us like an issue of politics, not process. These are important considerations, given that the EP has veto powers over a key line of the nation's long-term total defence - the use of our national reserves; and a fundamental pillar of our governance system - the integrity and competence of our state institutions' appointed leaders.

What can be done?

The first concern, the EP's legitimacy, can be dealt with by reforming the electoral process. The selection of the EP should not be replaced with an electoral college comprising representatives of state institutions or civil society organisations, or the office scrapped altogether for a "Council of Grandees", as suggested by Mr Cheng. This will, to various degrees, cause the office to recede further from power conferred by citizens and weaken it.

There is already some compromise to that effect, first, through the pre-qualification process, the legitimacy of which must be strengthened over time with fuller accounts of how candidates have scored on the declared criteria for eligibility; and second, by the fact that the EP exercises his power on the advice of a Council of Presidential Advisers nominated by the EP, the prime minister and the chairman of the Public Service Commission.

There are several electoral systems to ensure the eventual victor has a stronger margin of victory without the need for a second round of voting, like an Instant Run-Off System or the Supplementary Vote (SV), which is our preference. These enhance the legitimacy of the outcome without raising complexity and cost, or creating a new political dynamic through a second round.

SV, most prominently used to elect the mayor of London in Britain, has voters indicate their first and second preferences among the candidates. Should no candidate achieve an absolute majority of votes in the election, all but the top two candidates are eliminated. Voters who initially voted for eliminated candidates would now have their secondary preference brought to bear on the outcome, provided they listed a remaining candidate. The candidate with the most votes then wins. Ballot slips that had not indicated a preference for either of the top two candidates are "set aside" in working out the margins of victory. Such a second count should take effect if the leading candidate fails to achieve a 2 per cent margin of victory over the next. This is familiar to Singaporeans as it is the same margin at which a recount may be requested under our current FPTP system.

To address the second and third concerns, it is vital to have a voter education campaign on the precise powers of the EP, the rationale and how they are exercised, before the next presidential election, regardless of whether the election system is tweaked.

In a random phone-based survey that the Institute of Policy Studies conducted after the 2011 presidential election, no more than 42 per cent of 2,025 respondents, who were Singaporeans of voting age, were able to correctly identify at least six of 11 statements about the EP's roles. While 79 per cent knew the EP could block plans to spend the reserves and 62 per cent knew the EP could block public service appointments, 75 per cent thought the EP was free to speak publicly on national issues he deems important and 66 per cent thought he could work to ensure the Government delivers on its electoral promises.

Note however that 91 per cent at least agreed that the EP must be chosen through an election, and the same percentage, that the process of certifying eligibility is necessary.

It will be up to Singapore voters to decide if a candidate or EP is trying to deceive them about the difference between a vote in the general election and in the presidential election, so voter education is vital.

All political and electoral systems have their limitations. The EP system is young and will benefit from thoughtful scholarship and debate about those. However, the answer cannot be to remove the right to vote altogether. Citizens must be given some part in guarding the Singaporean philosophy of governance and an important line of the country's total defence. It would be an irony to leave that to yet another council of grandees.

Gillian Koh is a Senior Research Fellow, and Tan Min-Wei a Research Assistant, at the Institute of Policy Studies, NUS

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ADV: Kaplan - Obtain a mostly assignment-based top-up business with law degree in 8 months

Singapore Law Watch
17 Nov 2015

Asian investors in NZ project lose legal bid

Straits Times
01 Dec 2015
Joyce Lim

109 Singaporeans, Malaysians stung for $33m on top of failing to recover deposits totalling $9m

A group of 109 mostly Singaporean and Malaysian investors who bought apartments in New Zealand lost a total of NZ$10 million (S$9.2 million) in deposits when the developer went bankrupt in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Not only did the investors fail in a legal bid to recover their deposits, they have now been stung for another NZ$36 million (S$33 million) in a counter-claim by the firm run by the receivers, to recover losses during the global financial crisis in Queenstown. In February, the High Court of New Zealand ruled that Kawarau Village Holdings was entitled to deposits and the NZ$36 million from the group of Asian investors.

This group - none New Zealanders - invested in the failed NZ$2 billion (S$1.8 billion) Kawarau Falls development in the South Island between 2006 and 2009.

Court documents said the investors bought off the plan units in Lakeside West and Kingston West, to be constructed on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, near Queenstown.

The buildings were to be Stage 1 of a three-stage integrated lakeside resort development known as Kawarau Falls Station, set to become a world-class resort with 13 hotels and serviced apartment complexes.

Conceived in 2005, the buildings were part of Auckland developer Nigel McKenna's ambitious project during a buoyant period for property development there. The units were marketed for sale in Asia by Austpac Investment Consultancy.

Singaporean Alex and wife Lisa went to Austpac's Collyer Quay sales launch in 2006. Under two weeks later they opted to buy a one-bedder Kingston West serviced unit for NZ$369,000. The pair, who asked to be known by only their first names, told The Straits Times they paid NZ$70,000 in deposits by 2007.

Housewife Lisa, 48, said: "We were promised a guaranteed rental yield of 6 per cent a year after completion. And we were told that we would be able to stay in the apartment for two to three days a year."

Businessman Alex, 50, added: "We wanted to own a second property but we could not afford one here. So we looked for one overseas... we thought the worst-case scenario would be to lose our deposits."

Another Singaporean who declined to be named said he travelled to Queenstown before sinking about NZ$150,000 in deposit for a two-bedroom apartment at Lakeside View, costing over NZ$1 million. He faces about NZ$700,000 in damages, and says he has already spent $30,000 in legal fees.

In 2009, the original developer Peninsula Road was bankrupted by the global financial crisis and placed in receivership in 2010.

Some time in 2011, the group of investors were served settlement notices by the receivers for their purchases - to pay up the full amount. But none of them settled, alleging that Kawarau Village has breached the contract they had signed.

In March 2012, Kawarau Village proceeded to cancel all of the sales and purchase agreements and forfeited the deposits. The group of investors jointly sought a court order for the return of their deposits. Last March, Kawarau Village started legal proceedings against Mr David Yuen who runs Austpac over a guarantee to buy the units if buyers defaulted.

Lawyer Phil Creagh of Anderson Creagh Lai, representing over 30 investors, told The Straits Times in an e-mail that fewer than 10 of them have come to a settlement with Kawarau Village. The rest have proceeded with a joint appeal against the judgment to be heard next August.

About the lawsuit


• Kawarau Village changed Lakeside West from solely residential use to mixed use - in breach of agreements and hurting the value of the units.

• One title issued for Kingston West included offices, a cinema and ducts between floors, and was not authorised.

• Kawarau's cancellation of the agreements was a wrongful repudiation of them.

• Kawarau Village was not ready to settle at the time it served the settlement notices or at the time of cancellation.


• Damages of NZ$36million (S$33 million) in addition to the NZ$10 million deposits - the difference between the contract price and market value of the units at the time of cancellation.


• Kawarau Village did not materially breach its obligations as vendor under the sales and purchase agreements.

• The investors/ plaintiffs were obliged to settle when called upon to do so in 2011.

• Kawarau Village is entitled to the deposits together with accrued interest and damages for balance of the amount represented by the difference between the market value of the units at the date of cancellation and the contract price.

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Death in Yishun flat: Woman charged with causing hurt

Straits Times
24 Nov 2015
Elena Chong

A 34-year-old woman was yesterday charged with hurting her landlord with a paper cutter and she may later face a more serious charge.

Woo Mui Mee, a Malaysian, is accused of inflicting cuts on the left hand of 76-year-old Mr Wong Keng Woo at about 10pm last Saturday in his three-room Housing Board flat in Yishun Ring Road .

He was pronounced dead at about 11.40pm.

Woo, who was clad in a red polo shirt and dark blue bermudas, looked calm as the charge was read to her in Mandarin.

She was seen nodding her head. At times, she looked around the courtroom.

The prosecution applied successfully for her to be remanded at the Central Police Division headquarters for investigation.

Police prosecutor Ting Ngee Kong told the court that the charge was very likely to be upgraded.

Responding to District Judge Eddy Tham, he said Mr Wong had died, and that the relationship between Mr Wong and Woo was one of landlord and tenant.

Police said they received a call at about 10pm that day, and found Mr Wong lying motionless in his home. At about 8pm that night, neighbours heard a commotion lasting about 15 minutes.

If convicted of the current charge, Woo faces a jail term of up to seven years and a fine. The case will be mentioned next Monday.

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'Comply or explain' - or 'comply or else'?

Business Times
16 Nov 2015
Joyce Koh

The Code's requirement is given effect through the SGX Listing Manual - which is mandatory, not optional

IN ADDITION to the installation of a new leadership at the Singapore Exchange (SGX), industry insiders are also sensing the emergence of a new approach to the regulatory regime.

For one thing, the regulator appears to be knuckling down on the Code of Corporate Governance. In October, Tan Boon Gin, SGX's new chief regulatory officer, remarked that he was surprised "at the number of times (the Code) was referred to as optional or best practice". He added that he plans to deal with the failure to properly "comply or explain" by using the new enforcement powers given to the Exchange, which include levying fines and denying a listed company access to the securities market.

At the same time, SGX announced it had engaged KPMG to examine the annual reports of over 550 mainboard-listed companies to determine how they are abiding by the Code's "comply or explain" requirements. It will then work, "one-on-one", with companies that fall short to improve how they comply with the Code.

Taken together, these moves have led some observers to conclude that SGX is moving from a "comply or explain" regime to a "comply or face the music" approach. This, they argue, is against what they believe to be the voluntary nature of the Code.

Are they right?

Voluntary or non-voluntary?

The first issue to address is whether the Code is, indeed, voluntary or optional.

Many companies take the "comply or explain" requirement at face value: the company can either choose to comply with the Code's guidelines if it wishes and, if it does not, it just has to explain why it is not complying.

What this approach misses, however, is that the "comply or explain" aspect of the Code is being given effect through the SGX Listing Manual - which is mandatory, not optional.

Specifically, Listing Rule 710 requires a company to "describe its corporate governance practices with specific reference to the principles of the Code in its annual report (and) it must disclose any deviation from any guideline of the Code together with an appropriate explanation for such deviation in the annual report".

Read closely, this provision has two requirements.

The first is that the guidelines of the Code are preferred, almost required, even if they are not explicitly compulsory. Judging from Mr Tan's remarks, his view is that the guidelines are good, rather than best, practices. This implies that the majority of companies should be able to comply. In other words, SGX wants companies to adopt these good practices - unless they really cannot.

And when they really cannot, the second requirement is that the non-compliance must be justifiable - or, as the rulebook puts it, "the deviation" from the Code must be "appropriately" explained.


From the regulator's perspective, it probably feels that far too many companies are failing on both counts.

Certainly, there are a few Code guidelines for which the level of non-compliance is high and, at the same time, the explanations for deviations have been less than adequate.

One of these is the nine-year rule. Guideline 2.4 requires that the independence of a director who has served more than nine years should be subjected to a "particularly rigorous review".

Yet, according to the SID-ISCA Singapore Directorship Report 2014, more than half of the listed boards had at least one director who had served over nine years on the board and was still declared independent. A typical explanation goes something like this: "Rigorous reviews have been carried out by the board to assess the independent status of Director A and Director B, who have served on the board beyond the nine-year mark. All of them are considered independent in accordance with Guideline 2.4 of the CG Code 2012."

This merely repeats the Code requirement. It does not adequately explain how the "particularly rigorous review" was conducted nor does it provide any justification as to why the director is considered independent.

Perhaps the most common non- compliance relates to remuneration disclosures. While the SID-SGX Board of Directors Survey 2015 showed that attitudes are improving, still, some 55 per cent of companies are not disclosing detailed remuneration of each individual director and CEO on a named basis as required by Guideline 9.2.

Here, a common boilerplate for non-disclosure of remuneration is: "The remuneration of each individual director and key management personnel is not disclosed in dollar terms because remuneration is a commercially sensitive matter and there could be potential poaching of employees by competitors."

While SGX has yet to rule on the general acceptability of the "fear of poaching" explanation, the fact is that this is clearly not a credible reason in some circumstances such as when the executive directors are major shareholders and their relatives are also employees of the firm.

Besides these examples, disclosures relating to risk governance, board diversity and sustainability are often singled out as lacking in comprehensiveness.

In summary, it is fair to say that SGX is not, in fact, veering towards a "comply or else" regime. Which is not to say that this is a green light for companies to continue to treat the Code casually. Responsible corporate governance requires otherwise; all the more to appreciate SGX's timely attempt to return to the original underlying philosophy of the Code, which is perhaps better restated as: "Comply - or explain satisfactorily why you have not done so."

  • The writer is executive director of the Singapore Institute of Directors

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Time for two Houses of Parliament?

Straits Times
01 Dec 2015
Charles Phua Chao Rong & Inderjit Singh

It is now two months after the general election and a good time as any to review Singapore's political system to meet evolving needs.

From the Westminster system, the People's Action Party Government has already introduced several changes. These are the introduction of Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) in 1984 to institutionalise political diversity; the group representation constituencies (GRCs) in 1988 to level the playing field for minority candidates; and the Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) scheme in 1990 to include civil society voices in Parliament.

One challenge that has reared its head is that some voters feel they have to choose between MPs who are good on the ground and can serve constituents' needs, and those who will add to the diversity of views in Parliament.

To be good at both local grassroots work and policy advocacy is a tall order, since the two require different skill sets.

To address this, and as Singapore nears the end of SG50 celebrations and looks towards SG100, we propose Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, instead of the current single legislative chamber. This allows diversity and municipal needs to be served.

This involves questioning three assumptions about the current system: Is unicameralism - having one parliamentary chamber - the best for Singapore?

Must ministers be elected MPs? Consider India, where former prime minister Manmohan Singh was not an elected MP but was nominated to the Upper House; or Indonesia, which has technocratic ministers appointed based on expertise.

And, can diversity of views be manifested only through elected opposition MPs?


We propose a Singapore-style Upper House of advisers/representatives/councillors/ penghulu (village heads) comprising well-respected leaders. Candidates include community leaders who Singaporeans trust and respect, and sectoral experts.

To a certain extent, it is an amalgamation of Justice of the Peace , Council of Presidential Advisers and NMP systems, while guarding against gerontocracy (rule by elders), a problem that has plagued several countries with such Upper Houses.

Exact details of the Upper House need to be deliberated as a "whole-of-nation" effort, but a few considerations should be made.

First, to exercise effective advisory power, the Upper House's terms of reference must include sufficient powers to initiate new Bills and check Lower House Bills (the British Upper House can veto Lower House Bills once, hence forcing the Lower House to reconsider), oversee the functions of the presidency (appointment of key officials, reserves) and perhaps the requirement for both Houses' approval for constitutional amendments.

Second, the Upper House needs both appointed and elected members in sufficient numbers and a sensible proportion of both to give broad-based advisories without being too large or unwieldy.

The appointment system safeguards against the vagaries of Lower House elections, while also inducing experts who might not have otherwise served because of an unwillingness to participate in the electoral process.

The elected system will elect private- and people-sector leaders (political parties included) based on their ability to offer diverse views in Parliament, judged through their prior writings, speeches, actions and/or civic contributions. Elected members would be expected to consult their respective sectoral groupings - their constituencies - throughout their term.

Third, ministers and office-holders can be appointed from the Upper House. This may be especially crucial for certain ministerial posts. For example, do we want our Foreign Minister to be hard-working internationally (for Singapore's interests) or domestically (for residents)?

However, the Prime Minister needs to be an elected member from the Lower House to demonstrate electoral confidence in his leadership.

Fourth, the head of the Upper House could be elected President (head of state). This suggestion stems from reflections that the presidential election today has become a proxy battlefield for partisan contest and will continue to be so, defeating the original intent of the President's office.

Last, the Upper House members should be remunerated according to the solemnity and importance of their work.


In terms of processes, we propose 4PCs (Public, Private, People, Parliamentary Committees), in place of government parliamentary committees (GPCs), comprising members from all four sectors including both Houses, opposition politicians and civil servants in their private capacity as people-sector representatives.

Membership in the 4PCs should be based on relevant expertise, experience and a heart for Singapore. The 4PCs should be given more data access in order to crowdsource, conduct public consultations and make policy recommendations. Their work must be rigorous in order for it to act as an effective cross-check on government policies.

Each country needs to grow its own political institutions, sensitive to its context and conditions.

Here, a good political system must efficiently aggregate people's voices and effectively foster robust debates to strengthen policies for the benefit of Singapore and Singaporeans. To avoid paralysis as observed in other democracies, a good balance of powers of each House needs to be studied for effective implementation.

We believe bicameralism will ensure Singapore's survival and prosperity for the people, with the people, and as one people.

Each country needs to grow its own political institutions, sensitive to its context and conditions. Here, a good political system must efficiently aggregate people's voices and effectively foster robust debates to strengthen policies for the benefit of Singapore and Singaporeans.

Charles Phua Chao Rong is a Lee Kong Chian graduate scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He is president of the Association for Public Affairs, and organiser of SG100 Compass, Youth Edition. Inderjit Singh was a Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC for 19 years and volunteered to step down at the recent general election.

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Why couples here go for divorce

Straits Times
23 Nov 2015

One in four divorcees surveyed cites adultery as the main reason for seeking separation

Last month, findings of a wide-ranging study on divorcees here were presented for the first time at a symposium organised by the Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC).

Dr Jessica Leong, vice-president of the SAC, did the survey of 134 divorcees - 45 men and 89 women - in 2011 as part of her PhD research. She has counselled couples in troubled marriages for over 15 years.

Commenting on the sample size, she told The Straits Times: "It is challenging to get divorcees who are... emotionally ready to complete the survey.

"They also need to revisit the event of divorce again."

The respondents were asked to fill up a form with questions ranging from the early indicators of marital instability and the trigger event that led to the divorce, to their experiences - how they felt, thought and behaved - after the split.

They were also asked if they felt that anything could have been done to save the marriage, and what factors helped them to positively adjust after the divorce.

Nineteen respondents were later asked to elaborate on their answers in in-depth interviews.

Most of the divorcees surveyed were friends of other counsellors who referred them to Dr Leong; the rest were the counsellors' clients. About seven in 10 of them had children. They were not asked if they initiated the divorce.

Stories differ inside and outside court

It appears that divorcees tell a different story in and out of court when asked why they broke up.

One in four respondents cited adultery as the main reason for their divorce, going by a survey of about 130 divorcees presented last month by Dr Jessica Leong .

This figure is similar to official data on Muslim divorces, but contradicts that of non-Muslim divorces.

Figures from the Department of Statistics show that for non-Muslim divorces last year, only 1 per cent of the plaintiffs cited adultery as the main reason for divorce.

Instead, over half said they split due to "unreasonable behaviour" during divorce proceedings. And 45 per cent split because the couple "lived apart or were separated for three years or more", while 2 per cent cited "desertion" as the main reason.

Dr Leong's survey figures on the main reasons for divorce could be closer to the truth.

Lawyers told The Straits Times that a person filing for divorce usually finds it too costly to prove that the partner had committed adultery. He must usually hire a private investigator, who will give a report of his surveillance findings, and the investigator may need to appear in court. The person with whom the adultery took place must also be named as a co-defendant, and some people do not know the name of the third party in the marriage.

Lawyer Michelle Woodworth said: "The difficulty in obtaining the evidence and the costs in doing so are key considerations for clients making a decision against citing the fact of adultery. Often, a plaintiff may choose to proceed on the fact of behaviour instead."

Another lawyer, Mr Rajan Chettiar, said people may also not mention adultery because of their ego. "Men may feel that they 'lose face' if they tell the court that their wives had an affair with another man."

The 134 divorcees surveyed were asked to give "one specific personal example or event to illustrate the main indicator leading to the divorce". Six of them did not answer.

The question was an open-ended one, and responses were then classified into several categories such as relation problems, including "loss of love" and conflicts with in-laws (14 per cent), and communication problems (13 per cent).

Respondents were also asked to select, from a list of 18 options, the factors that contributed to their marital instability.

There were gender differences.

Nearly half the men said nagging or complaining contributed to the broken marriage, while only 27 per cent of women said so. About 56 per cent of men said "loss of love" was a factor, while only 38 per cent of women said so.

Mr Joel Chua, who attended Dr Leong's presentation and has had over a year of experience as an intern counsellor, said: "Men are emotional creatures too, just that they may not be as expressive about it."

They could feel a loss of affection with their ex-spouse, and the lack of sexual intimacy may play a part.

"Some men have mentioned, without being asked, that there was less sexual intimacy with their spouses when there was more tension in their marriages," added Mr Chua.

Counsellors said it was also important for couples to communicate well, in a way that is mutually respectful. Dr Leong suggested more public education in pre-tertiary and tertiary schools, when people tend to start dating.

"We can teach respect and trust in relationships, and they can bring these values to marriage later on," she said. "They may even identify indicators of troubled marriage and... alert their parents to blind spots they may have in their marriages."

Priscilla Goy

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MAS finalising rules on retail bonds from corporates

Straits Times
16 Nov 2015
Aaron Low

The central bank is in the midst of finalising regulations that will see corporates issue bonds to the retail market at a lower cost, said a senior Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) officer.

The rules could also see retail investors tap corporate bonds from as low as $1,000, down from the current minimum denomination of $2,000.

Speaking at an investor conference on exchange-traded funds (ETFs) on Saturday, Ms Merlyn Ee said MAS has noticed a growing interest among retail investors in fixed income.

"In view of this, we are finalising the bond seasoning and exempt bond issuer frameworks," said Ms Ee, executive director of capital markets intermediaries and corporate planning and communications.

"They will allow eligible corporate issuers to issue bonds to retail investors at lower cost and in minimum denominations of $1,000, while ensuring sufficient safeguards for investors."

Turning to ETFs, Ms Ee said MAS has taken on board suggestions that helped facilitate the growth of the product here while balancing the need for investor protection.

The central bank has also made it a requirement for common investment products offered to the public, including share, bond and real estate investment trust offers, to include a product highlight sheet, a summary that allows investors to understand simply the offer of shares or bonds.

But while MAS is pushing ahead with investor education and developing the local investment market, Ms Ee said investors will need to do due diligence and understand the risks involved before taking up the investment.

"While regulations and financial education are important, the best protection is still a discerning and vigilant consumer who does his homework," she said.

"Before making a purchase, find out how the investment will generate the promised returns and be wary when an investment sounds too good to be true."

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Businessman, CIMB Securities in row over $1m trading losses

Straits Times
01 Dec 2015
Grace Leong

The boss of timber flooring specialist Jason Holdings is in a dispute with CIMB Securities (Singapore) over the alleged non-payment of share-trading losses of more than $1 million, The Straits Times has learnt.

ST understands $1.1 million in losses was allegedly incurred in one trading account and about $60,000 in another between July and August.

Mr Jason Sim Chon Ang, the firm's executive chairman and chief executive (CEO), was served with a writ of summons last week by Allen & Gledhill, which is acting for CIMB Securities.

Jason Holdings told the Singapore Exchange (SGX) yesterday that the claim is over a "contractual dispute between CIMB and Mr Sim".

The group's directors noted that the claim is against Mr Sim in his personal capacity and does not affect the company's operations.

Mr Sim intends to contest the claim. He told The Straits Times: "My lawyer has asked CIMB to show us the documents that prove who traded my account."

The board said in the SGX statement that "it is in the best interest of the company that Mr Sim continues as the executive chairman and CEO of the company". It added that it may reassess Mr Sim's suitability to continue to act as executive chairman, CEO and board member later.

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Singapore International Commercial Court: $1.1b dispute is first case heard

Straits Times
21 Nov 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Successful resolution of spat between Aussie and Indonesian firms could draw more cases

The Republic's first international commercial court case is under way and has made history with two distinguished international judges sitting with a presiding local judge to hear a US$800 million (S$1.1 billion) dispute.

The significance of the first Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) case, which started on Monday, was not lost on the presiding Justice Quentin Loh, who said: "This court signifies not only the aspirations of Singapore to establish itself as a dispute-resolution hub, but it also reflects the needs of international trade and commerce for different fora, for different kinds of dispute-resolution methodologies to resolve the many different types of disputes that can and unfortunately do arise from time to time."

Industry sources said the case will be keenly watched as its success could draw more parties to Singapore to settle cross-border commercial disputes.

In this case, BCBC Singapore, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australian company Binderless Coal Briquetting Company, is seeking damages from Indonesian company Bayan Resources TBK. The claims and counterclaims arise mainly from alleged breaches of a joint-venture pact for the application of a patented technology to produce and sell upgraded coal from East Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo.

The spat also relates to joint-venture company Kaltim Supacoal, incorporated in Indonesia, whose shares are held by both parties.

The joint-venture deed is governed by Singapore law and the heads of damages include a claim of about US$750 million and a counterclaim of about US$59 million.

The newly minted SICC - first mooted by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon two years ago - was set up to hear cross-border disputes and is part of Singapore's plan to become Asia's dispute-resolution hub and grow its legal services industry.

A team of Rajah & Tann lawyers, led by Senior Counsel Francis Xa-vier, is representing BCBC Singapore while Senior Counsel Davinder Singh is helming a Drew & Napier team in defending Bayan and making a counterclaim.

Justice Loh, who is hearing the case with international judges Vi-vian Ramsey from England and Anselmo Reyes from Hong Kong, lauded SC Xavier and SC Singh and their teams for their "brisk and business-like" approach "reflecting the best traditions of the Bar".

"They concentrated on the issues that really matter" and "cooperated to avoid unnecessary, time-consuming and costly skirmishes over interlocutory matters", added Justice Loh on the court's behalf.

The case has spawned satellite litigation in the Australian courts involving a landmark tussle on whether Bayan's shares in Perth-based company Kangaroo Resources should be frozen pending the outcome of the Singapore hearing.

The case, which wound its way through several tiers of the Australian system, was settled last month by a seven-judge panel of Australia's highest court.

The apex court ruled it had the powers to freeze Bayan's shares despite proceedings having yet to be concluded in an overseas jurisdiction - that is, Singapore.


This court signifies not only the aspirations of Singapore to establish itself as a dispute-resolution hub, but it also reflects the needs of international trade and commerce...for different kinds of dispute-resolution methodologies.


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Firm failed to compensate non-manual worker for injury

Straits Times
14 Nov 2015

In a first here, an employer has been taken to court for failing to pay work injury compensation to an employee who does not do manual labour.

Marketing and communications firm Lyon & Dianzi was fined $8,000 on Thursday, said the Manpower Ministry (MOM) yesterday. Mr Kumarawatte Dharshana Sanjeewa, who was a senior art director, fell down a flight of stairs in the two-storey shophouse office in 2012 and dislocated his right shoulder.

Lyon & Dianzi was ordered to pay $18,262.64 for medical leave wages and medical expenses.

In June last year, the company was ordered to pay another $21,800 to Mr Sanjeewa as he suffered 10 per cent permanent incapacity due to torn cartilage in his right shoulder. However, it failed to pay both amounts.

MOM prosecuted Lyon & Dianzi under the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica), which states that employers are liable to pay compensation if there is a valid claim filed by workers, even those in non-manual roles, who are injured during their work.

The cases prosecuted under Wica for non-payment of compensation typically involve construction and marine workers.

It is not mandatory for employers to buy insurance to cover their liability under Wica for non-manual workers earning more than $1,600 a month but they are encouraged to, said MOM's work injury compensation department director, Ms Kee Ee Wah, in a statement.

The Straits Times understands that Lyon & Dianzi is winding up. Calls to its office were answered by another firm, though the business is still registered as "live" with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

Joanna Seow

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Sunvic chided for breaking rules on interested-person deals

Business Times
01 Dec 2015
Kenneth Lim

SGX reprimand cites absence of immediate disclosures, shareholder approval in 1.6b yuan of transactions over 3 years

[Singapore] THE Singapore Exchange (SGX) has reprimanded Sunvic Chemical Holdings for breaching listing rules related to 1.6 billion yuan (S$354 million) of interested-person transactions (IPTs) over the three latest financial years.

SGX said that Sunvic, a maker of intermediate chemical products, failed to make immediate announcements of and seek shareholders' approval for IPTs that had been undertaken in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 financial years. The IPTs were made with associates of current Sunvic executive director and chief executive Sun Xiao and of the late Sun Liping, the former executive chairman and CEO of the company.

The company also failed to ensure that the IPTs were properly disclosed in the company's annual reports for the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years.

Sunvic's auditor, Foo Kon Tan grant Thornton, in April 2014 had highlighted a breach of SGX listing rules related to IPTs between Sunvic and Taixing Jinyan Chemical Technology Co, a company controlled by both Mr Suns and their associates. A number of other previously undisclosed IPTs were subsequently revealed by the company.

The nature of the IPTs included short-term loans, purchases of equipment, sales of chemicals, transfers of land-use rights and the provision of corporate guarantees.

Although the company announced over the course of five quarterly financial reports that it was planning to seek shareholders' approval for the IPTs, a shareholders' vote on those IPTs has yet to be called. In the meantime, the company has continued to enter into new IPTs.

SGX said that Sunvic's directors have responded that the IPTs were necessary for the business operations of the company, and stopping them abruptly would have a "material adverse impact" on the company. Sunvic's board has also expressed a view that the IPTs "did not result in any prejudice to the interests of the company and its minority shareholders", according to SGX.

The directors also stated that the board "had done the best it could to resolve these issues...that have persisted to date", according to SGX.

Listing rules require companies to immediately announce IPTs when they account for at least 3 per cent of the company's latest audited net tangible assets. Issuers must also obtain shareholder approval for any IPTs with the interest person if the IPTs in total account for at least 5 per cent of net tangible assets.

The IPTs accounted for almost 30 per cent of Sunvic's net tangible assets in year-to-date fiscal 2015. They accounted for about 31 per cent in fiscal 2013, and about 17 per cent in fiscal 2014.

Sunvic shares closed unchanged at 22 Singapore cents on Monday before the reprimand was announced.

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Two investors win suit over Big Hotel

Straits Times
21 Nov 2015
Grace Leong

Two investors in a legal spat with businessman Andy Ong have won a court order to place nearly half of the $203 million sale proceeds of Singapore's Big Hotel in trust or "escrow".

The order bars the hotel's holding company, ERC Unicampus, and its directors including Mr Ong, from disposing of the $100 million in escrow. It is pending the outcome of a court hearing on Thursday to decide if the money should stay in escrow until the shareholders agree on how to divvy up the funds.

But the order allows for the payment of conveyancing costs and taxes related to the sale. These include bank loans of more than $80 million and trade bills.

The order was obtained on Tuesday - the day the sale of the 308-room Middle Road property to Hong Kong private equity group Gaw Capital Partners was completed. The investors - Mr Ho Shun Yau, 67, and Mr Yap Chew Loong, 62 - cited risks that the proceeds could be disposed of before the court hearing.

Mr Yap, in court papers, said there were indications that ERC Holdings, a private investment company founded by Mr Ong, intends to apply the proceeds to its investments overseas, including a hotel in Vietnam, which would make it "extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recover these proceeds retroactively".

But Mr Ong, a former director of Sakae Holdings, said that there is "no real risk" that the sale proceeds will be mismanaged.

He said in court papers that ERC Unicampus has "every intention" of presenting the manner of profit distribution to the shareholders. He added that the strategy for distribution of proceeds will be presented at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday and Tuesday.

The two investors are among about 200 people who invested more than $35 million in the 16-storey hotel around five years ago.

Mr Ho and Mr Yap put their money in special purpose vehicles - called ERC Prime and ERC Prime II. These, in turn, hold stakes in ERC Unicampus, which owns the hotel.

The two investors said that the audited financial statements of ERC Unicampus have been released in a "tardy fashion" for some years, making them concerned about the manner in which the sale proceeds will be distributed.

Mr Ho said in court papers that Mr Ong had told investors that "all profits from the purchase and redevelopment of Big Hotel would be distributed equally back to the shareholders as dividends".

Ms Koh Swee Yen, a partner of WongPartnership, is representing Mr Ho and Mr Yap, while Mr Ong's lawyer is Mr Vikram Nair, a partner at Rajah & Tann.

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Freeport king fails in appeal against Monaco criminal charges

Business Times
14 Nov 2015
Cheah Ui-Hoon

Yves Bouvier, a Singapore PR, will now be tried for fraud and complicity in money laundering

[Singapore] THE Monaco courts have turned down Swiss businessman and "freeport king" Yves Bouvier's appeal to drop the charges against him - for fraud and complicity in money laundering.

Bouvier is a Singapore permanent resident who is behind Le Freeport in Singapore.

In the sensational high profile case of alleged art market fraud of close to one billion euros (S$1.53 billion), the charges arose from a complaint by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, owner of AS Monaco Football Club, via his family trust companies, Accent Delight International and Xitrans Finance, in January.

On Thursday, Monaco's appeals court rejected his appeal. Bouvier had filed his appeal in July, citing "procedural irregularities". He also questioned the "systematic bias" of investigators.

In a statement, Mr Rybolovlev's companies said that they're pleased that the case against Bouvier can now go ahead, leading up to a trial before the Monaco Court at a later date.

In Singapore, the companies have also filed a civil case against Bouvier, 51, for him to compensate them for his "secret profit" in selling 38 pieces of art. The 38 pieces comprise two pieces of furniture and 36 masters' paintings and sculptures, from 2003 to 2014, including one where ownership is still in dispute.

The total sale of the artworks is believed to be US$2 billion. Mr Rybolovlev estimates that he's been cheated of US$1 billion in fraudulent price mark-ups.

According to Bouvier's lawyers in Singapore, however, he has not been indicted to stand trial for any of these alleged offences in Monaco. It added that he has also fully cooperated with the investigations in Monaco, and since February 2015, has not been called back to Monaco for any further police interviews or questioning.

"The Monaco Court's latest decision also does not affect the question of jurisdiction, that is, whether the Monaco courts have the authority to hear the issues in the substantive dispute between the parties."

Meanwhile, the case in Monaco covers only three of these artworks, for which the money was remitted from Monaco bank accounts and therefore comes under the principality's jurisdiction.

In the criminal proceedings in Monaco, Bouvier has been indicted for fraud committed in 2013 and 2014, covering only the last three transactions of artworks - Leonardo da Vinci's Le Christ comme Salvator Mundi, Paul Gauguin's Otahi and Mark Rothko's No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red).

The charges for complicity in money laundering date from 2006 to February 2015, because they involve a Tania Rappo, a family friend of the Rybolovlevs.

She introduced the two magnates in 2003, and allegedly continued to receive commissions for transactions from Bouvier, unbeknown to Mr Rybolovlev.

Bouvier's company, Natural Le Coultre SA, is the largest operator in Geneva Freeport.

He was instrumental in setting up Le Freeport in Singapore in 2010, after coming to Singapore in 2009.

He is believed to own 22 companies in Singapore related to the art market. One of them is Art Heritage Singapore, the company managing the launch of museum Singapore Pinacotheque de Paris.

This international art case has gripped the art world as it could well expose mass fraud in the global art market, where masters are traded for millions of dollars, but no one knows for how much when it's not in an open auction.

It was the disclosure of a Modigliani that led to the fallout earlier this year. Mr Rybolovlev found out that Accent Delight had paid US$118 million for Modiglianis' Nu Couche au coussin Bleu but Bouvier had obtained it for US$93.5 million.

He then brought the case against Bouvier as he believed that the latter was acting as his agent, rather than a dealer which would justify the near US$25 million mark-up.

Bouvier, on the other hand, maintains his innocence and denies any wrongdoing in the sale of art pieces to Mr Rybolovlev, which he undertakes in his capacity as an independent art dealer.

Case rivets rarefied art world

THE transaction of the Modigliani painting isn't the only thing controversial about the 38 art pieces acquired by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev through Swiss freeport king Yves Bouvier.

There are also the allegedly stolen works by Picasso and a Rothko, the ownership of which is still in dispute - even as it is believed to be sitting in the Singapore Freeport.

Mr Rybolovlev's companies, through his family trust, paid US$118 million in a private sale for Modigliani's Nu Couche au coussin Bleu (Nude on a Blue Cushion).

For an idea of how prices have gone north for Modigliani's nudes, Christie's New York just sold a similar nude (but one pictured on a red couch) for US$170.4 million this week.

Bought by a Chinese collector via telephone, it cost about US$100 million more than the previous record for the artist at auction; it was also the second highest price ever paid for any artwork in an auction.

Of the 38 artworks in question in the Rybolovlev vs Bouvier case, two Picassos are also in dispute. After the criminal charges were brought in Monaco, Picasso's stepdaughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay, claimed that the two paintings were stolen without her knowledge.

Valued at US$30 million, they are the master's Tete de Femme.Profil and Espagnole a l'eventail - both of which are portraits of Ms Hutin-Blay's mother, Jacqueline Roque, Picasso's second wife.

There has been no suggestion that Mr Rybolovlev knew that any of the works might have been stolen. In other news interviews, he has said that he bought the works in good faith in 2013, without an inkling of their dubious provenance.

The paintings have been handed over to the French authorities for investigation. Bouvier was charged on Sept 14 in Paris with handling stolen goods in relation to these two paintings.

Olivier Thomas, who has been accused of the theft, is now president of Luxembourg Freeport, succeeding Bouvier. Luxembourg Freeport is backed by Bouvier's family.

Another painting in dispute in the collection is, from Bouvier's viewpoint, Rothko's No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red), which brought about this whole case. The negotiated price was 140 million euros (S$214 million). One side alleges there is money still owed, while the other says that payment was more than it should have been. This painting is believed to be in Le Freeport in Singapore, under the jurisdiction of Singapore courts.

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Ex-property agent jailed, fined for forging stamp certificate

Straits Times
01 Dec 2015
Ng Huiwen

A former property agent was jailed for five weeks and fined $2,145 last Friday for forging the stamp certificate in a property rental transaction and for issuing a counterfeit goods and services tax (GST) invoice.

Cheong Sai Chong, 38, a former agent with the Dennis Wee Group, pleaded guilty to the two offences. One other charge was taken into consideration.

Cheong left the firm after his real estate licence expired in July 2012, but still acted on behalf of the landlords and tenants for the rental of two properties. His offences came to light following a review of stamp duty compliance rates by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) in September 2013. It found tenancy agreements for certain properties had not been stamped.

An affected tenant of a commercial property in Ang Mo Kio provided Iras with a stamp certificate as proof of stamp duty payment, but it was later found to be counterfeit. Investigations showed that Cheong had collected $673 for the stamp duty, but did not stamp the tenancy agreements. In fact, Cheong admitted that he had edited the scan of a genuine stamp certificate from a previous property transaction and handed the counterfeit certificate to the tenant.

Stamp duty is paid on documents or agreements relating to properties. A certificate is issued to certify the amount of stamp duty relating to the document or agreement has been paid. For arranging the tenancy agreement for the Ang Mo Kio property, Cheong was also paid an agent's commission of $4,500 by a landlord. Although not authorised to collect GST, he charged an additional $315 in GST using a forged invoice.

In a media release, Iras said it takes a serious view of anyone who deliberately forges stamp certificates or knowingly misrepresents counterfeit certificates as genuine. Potential tenants and property buyers are encouraged to check the authenticity of their stamp certificates online at http://estamping.iras.gov.sg

Cheong could have been jailed up to three years and fined up to $10,000 for forging the stamp certificate. For unlawful collection of GST, he could have been fined up to $10,000.

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CHC's Kong Hee jailed 8 years, others found less culpable

Business Times
21 Nov 2015
Claire Huang

Judge says offences went beyond mere lapses in governance as they involved dishonesty; Commissioner of Charity removes 7 from church

[Singapore] IN a culmination of one of the biggest scandals to hit the charity sector, the six leaders of one of Singapore's megachurches, City Harvest Church (CHC), have been handed jail terms of between 21 months and eight years, with founder Kong Hee receiving the longest sentence for his role in misusing millions of dollars in church funds to prop up the music career of his wife, Sun Ho.

After 140 days of trial, the presiding judge of the State courts, See Kee Oon, on Friday said he found senior pastor Kong, 51, to be the most culpable, and sentenced him to eight years' imprisonment.

Former CHC fund manager and church member Chew Eng Han, 55, was given a six-year term; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 42, received 51/2 years; ex-CHC finance manager Serina Wee, 38, got five years; former CHC committee member John Lam, 47, was jailed three years, and ex-CHC finance manager Sharon Tan, 40, received the lightest sentence, 21 months.

In a Facebook post on Friday night, Kong said he is "saddened by the length of it" and thanked supporters for their love towards him and his family.

Meanwhile, Chew has indicated he will appeal; the other five are considering their options.

All six are out on bail and expected to start serving their sentences on Jan 11.

The Attorney-General's Chambers said the prosecution will study the judge's grounds before deciding if it will file a notice of appeal.

Late last month, the six were found guilty of conspiring to misuse S$24 million in CHC Building Fund monies for the Crossover Project, which was aimed at evangelising through Ms Ho's secular music. Another set of charges involved the misappropriation of a further S$26 million to cover up the first sum through sham bond investments and to defraud auditors with falsified accounts.

In arriving at his decisions, Judge See pointed out the importance of deterring people entrusted with charity monies from misusing those funds - something prosecutor Christopher Ong urged the court to do.

But the judge said he was mindful that deterrence should not "entail the imposition of disproportionately crushing sentences"; he agreed with the defence that general deterrence has rather less cogency in the context of cases where there is no direct personal gain and no evidence of such motives.

The defence had said in mitigation that there had been no wrongful gain as the accused had not benefited from the use of the funds, that they had no intention to cause wrongful loss to the church, that the church did not suffer a loss as the monies were returned with interest, and that the actions were borne out of love for the church and to spread the gospel.

But the prosecution, which had pressed for a jail term of 11 to 12 years for Kong, argued that there were several aggravating factors, namely the profound quality and degree of trust abused by the accused, particularly Kong, the devious and conspiratorial pre-meditation and planning involved in the sophisticated offences, and the covert measures taken by the accused to prevent detection of their crimes.

In his oral grounds for decision, the judge said the issues at trial were not "mere lapses of corporate governance", but were serious offences in which the six acted dishonestly. Wider issues of personal integrity, transparency and accountability were also in the mix.

And while Judge See said he believed the six accused had no intention of causing long-term harm to the church through the permanent deprivation of those funds, he said the arrangements were unlawful and had effectively put CHC's funds into their hands to use as needed for the purposes of the Crossover Project and for round-tripping, and which were unauthorised.

The court heard that Kong was the most culpable in the sham bond investments as he was the church's spiritual leader, "prime mover and driving force" for the Crossover Project.

"Ye Peng and Serina, and to some extent, John Lam as well, also relied heavily on Eng Han's expertise. Both Kong Hee and Eng Han put forward dominant views and preferred strategies that all the other accused persons chose not to oppose or question," the judge said.

On the charges of round-tripping and falsification of documents, the judge found Chew to be the most culpable as the round-tripping transactions were devised and structured by him, while Sharon Tan, Tan Ye Peng and Wee played a lesser role.

In a Facebook post, the church thanked its members for their support. Some church members had turned up at the State Courts on Thursday evening to be assured of a seat in the public gallery the following day. The church urged them to "band together" and to continue praying for those who have been convicted.

Separately, the Commissioner of Charities (COC) issued a statement later on Friday, saying it has resumed regulatory action under the Charities Act to remove seven individuals from the church.

They are: Kong, Lam, Tan Ye Peng, Sharon Tan, Wee, Kelvin Teo Meng How and Jacqueline Tan Su Pheng.

"The removal proceedings aim to protect the charitable assets of the charity and do not prevent the said individuals from continuing with their religious duties, which are separate from the holding of any governance or management positions in the charity."

COC had earlier agreed to defer the removals until after the criminal proceedings of the six conclude.

As Chew is no longer part of the church, the question of his removal is irrelevant, the COC said. But it said it has ordered the church not to enter into any transactions with Chew and his related entities without the commissioner's consent.

An order issued in June 2012, which restricts CHC from paying the legal fees of those involved in the criminal and removal proceedings, as well as for services to the individuals and their related entities without the COC's approval, remains in place.

The church is also required to provide regular updates to the COC's office on its key activities and finances.

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Complaints against doctors at all-time high

Straits Times
14 Nov 2015
Salma Khalik

Professional negligence or incompetence top grouse among the 213 complaints last year

Complaints against doctors reached an all-time high figure of 213 last year. This was 24 per cent more than the 172 complaints received by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) in 2013.

The top grouse, which made up more than one in four of the complaints, was about professional negligence or incompetence. There were 55 such complaints last year- more than double the 23 in 2013.

Overall, more than two in three of these complaints were dismissed by the council's complaints committee. Last year, for example, of the 28 such complaints seen, 21 were dismissed, three resulted in letters of advice to the doctor, and four were sent to a disciplinary tribunal.

Cases in which doctors are found guilty of professional misconduct or negligence include when they gave the wrong medication or dose.

They also include not properly informing patients of the risks and possible complications of certain procedures, not informing patients of alternative treatments or not waiting until anaesthesia took effect before starting a procedure, and so causing the patient pain.

An SMC spokesman said the 17.2 complaints per 1,000 doctors last year was the highest it had

ever received. The previous high was 16.2 complaints per 1,000 doctors, in 2008. Last year was also bad in terms of the number of doctors complained against: 259, against 232 the previous year.

According to the SMC's annual report for last year, there were 12,263 doctors last year, so that is roughly one complaint for every 50 doctors.

The report said complaints mainly concerned "allegations that the professional services provided by medical practitioners (were) not... of the quality that had been expected."

The spokesman said: "Anecdotally, one contributing factor for the higher number of complaints could be a better educated and informed public."

He added: "In terms of the severity of complaint, if one were to use the percentage of complaints received that are referred for a disciplinary inquiry, we note that on average, 5 per cent of complaints received in a year are referred for a disciplinary inquiry, and this has remained fairly stable over the past five years."

Other notable complaints included 24 for over-, unnecessary or inappropriate treatment; and 13 for misdiagnosis. There were also 40 complaints of rudeness and attitude and communication issues.

The SMC looked at 378 complaints last year, including some from past years. Of these, 18 were deemed serious enough for disciplinary inquiries.

Of the rest, six doctors were given letters of warning, 40 were issued letters of advice, three were sent for mediation and 100 complaints were dismissed.

It held 23 disciplinary inquiries last year. Two doctors were acquitted. Two complaints against three doctors were withdrawn, and two cases are pending appeals to the High Court. Of the other cases, the doctors involved were penalised with either censures, fines, suspension or a combination.

One doctor was taken off the Register of Medical Practices on the advice of the High Court because her "fitness to practise had been impaired by reason of her mental condition".

The SMC has held eight hearings so far this year, in which it found 10 doctors guilty of various offences.

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Man jailed 14 years for fatal chopper attack on colleague

Straits Times
01 Dec 2015
Selina Lum

Delivery driver quit after being bullied at work, blamed victim for the loss of his job

A delivery driver, who quit in exasperation after being bullied at work, decided to kill his colleague for causing him to lose his job.

Chinese national Li Yongxiang, 27, walked out of the firm's premises in Kranji Loop, bought a chopper and returned to slash fellow countryman Zhu Ai Hua, 35, at least 26 times.

Li was sentenced to 14 years' jail by the High Court yesterday after he pleaded guilty to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Caning was not imposed in the light of his mental condition.

Li had been charged originally with murder, but a government psychiatrist found that he had a major depressive episode at the time, which reduced his mental responsibility for his acts.

The court heard that Li came to Singapore in April 2013 to work as a driver for a firm dealing in timber floors and doors.

While waiting for his local driving licence, he did odd jobs and was paired with Mr Zhu , who verbally and physically abused him.

While he did not complain, Li told his boss that it was hard to get along with Mr Zhu. The boss told their manager to assign someone else to work with Mr Zhu, but the manager could not.

On June 17, 2013, Li became frustrated when Mr Zhu scolded him for the way he placed a trolley. Li told his boss that he could no longer work with Mr Zhu and resigned.

He then decided to kill Mr Zhu, who he blamed for causing him to lose his job, which also meant losing about $7,500 in agent fees.

After buying the chopper, Li confronted Mr Zhu and slashed his neck and other parts of his body. He then washed up, threw the chopper into a pail and waited for the police to arrive.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sarah Ong argued that Li's killing was not in the heat of the moment, but after he had removed himself from Mr Zhu's presence.

Li's assigned lawyer, Mr Ng Shi Yang, said his client is extremely sorry for his actions, which were triggered by despair.

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Charities watchdog resumes motion to unseat CHC leaders

21 Nov 2015
Kelly Ng

Five sentenced today may lose governance roles, but can still perform religious duties

SINGAPORE — The Commissioner of Charities (COC) has resumed regulatory action to remove seven City Harvest Church (CHC) executive members, including five of those sentenced today (Nov 20) for misuse of church funds, from their management positions in the church.

The five are the church’s founding pastor Kong Hee, who is also a board member; board chairman John Lam; vice-chairman and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng; and church employees Sharon Tan and Serina Wee. A district court sentenced the five to jail along with the church’s former church investment manager Chew Eng Han.

Chew is not involved in these proceedings as he has left the church. However, the COC has ordered City Harvest not to enter into any transactions with Chew and his related entities without the COC’s consent.

Chew is the sole director of AMAC Capital Partners, which previously handled the church’s investments.

Mr Kelvin Teo Meng How, agent and employee, and Ms Jacqueline Tan Su Pheng, church employee, are two other executive members who may also be stripped of their positions.

Releasing a statement about two hours after the sentencing, the COC said it has sought representations from the individuals and the church’s governing board as to why the seven should not be removed, and will consider the reasons “fully and fairly” before making a decision.

The Attorney-General’s consent will also be required for any removal to take place.

The removal proceedings, which were deferred “on a goodwill basis” until after the conclusion of criminal proceedings, aim to protect the church’s assets.

“(The proceedings) do not prevent the individuals from continuing with their religious duties, which are separate from the holding of any governance or management positions in the charity ... The services of the charity can continue as usual,” it said.

Removal proceedings under the Charities Act are independent of criminal proceedings and are initiated when the COC is satisfied that there has been mismanagement and misconduct in a charity’s administration that necessitates intervention.

Should the seven be removed from their respective designations in the church, they will be disqualified from acting as governing board members, trustees or key officers of any other charities.

Their executive memberships in CHC, which accord them the right to attend and vote in general meetings, may also be terminated.

Orders issued in 2012, which restrict the church from entering into transactions with the seven and their related entities without the COC’s approval, remain in place.

The orders also prohibit the church from paying legal fees for those involved in the criminal and removal proceedings.

The church is also required to regularly update the COC’s office about its key activities and finances, and will remain “closely monitored” to ensure proper governance and administration.

Noting that CHC has since elected a new governing board comprising 11 individuals, the COC said: “Going forward, the Governing Board has to exercise greater duty of care and prudence to protect the (church’s) charitable assets and to ensure that they act in the best interest of the (church).”

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Triplets born here can't get citizenship

Straits Times
14 Nov 2015
Aw Cheng Wei

Births not registered after S'pore dad cuts ties with China mum; arrest warrant issued

The youngest has a mole on her right feet. The oldest has a birthmark on her right leg, while the middle one also has a mark on her right leg, but in a different place.

That is how Madam Ning Lei, 35, tells her triplets apart.

Their ears and nose look exactly like their father's, she said. The sisters, who were born at KK Women's and Children's Hospital in July, also have another thing in common - none of them has been granted citizenship.

Madam Ning, a Chinese national, has been unable to contact her Singaporean husband since April. But she needs his identity card to complete the registration of their births.

Under the Constitution, a child born here can apply for citizenship if his parents are married and at least one parent is a Singaporean. In 2013, 30 per cent of all marriages involving at least one Singaporean was to a non-resident - someone who is not a Singapore citizen or permanent resident.

"He doesn't return my calls," said Madam Ning, who, according to her marriage certificate, wedded 35-year-old Gng Cher Kang in August last year. She said they met through a mutual friend in a Chinatown club in May last year. "I liked him because he was a simple man with a good heart," she said.

Madam Ning, who came here in 2013 to work as beautician, left her job after marriage, and accompanied him on his work trips to Wuhan, where he runs a business. After she found out about her pregnancy in February, she moved in with his parents here.

She said she moved out in April as a result of a rift with her mother-in-law and stayed in a hotel with her mother, who came to Singapore then as she was worried.

Madam Ning last saw her husband when he visited her in the hotel in April. She has yet to see him since he left again for China. During her hotel stay, she found out her husband had moved out of their Wuhan home. He changed his office numbers and blocked her on WeChat.

She has filed two police reports on her missing husband. She also applied for a court order to compel her husband to provide her with financial support. When her husband failed to show up for hearings, the court issued a warrant of arrest.

"I want my girls to take up Singapore citizenship. It is their birthright," she said. "Children here also receive better education and health benefits."

She gave birth through a caesarean section about two months short of a full-term pregnancy.

Her in-laws visited her at the hospital twice, but did not say much, said Madam Ning. "My mother-in- law said that it was my decision to bring the triplets to this world, so it is my responsibility to take care of them, not theirs."

When The Straits Times spoke to the mother-in-law last month, she said Madam Ning and her son barely knew each other before they got married. "We are a reputable family. Why would we not want our own grandchildren?"

An Immigration and Checkpoints Authority Singapore (ICA) spokesman said the authorities know of the case, but could not comment to protect the parties' privacy.

Under the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, all births in Singapore have to be registered. For cases where the children's parentage is disputed, both parents will have to resolve the matter, he added.

Madam Ning, who gets help from a church she attends, is now staying at a church friend's home with her mother and the triplets. She is here on a short-term pass and goes to ICA with her mother every two weeks to extend their stay. She said the most pressing concern was the girls' citizenship. "If there are any doubts about parentage, I am willing to send them for DNA tests."

•Additional reporting by Janice Tai

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When shareholders have a say on pay

Business Times
30 Nov 2015
Shai Ganu

The remuneration committee should ensure that senior executive and director pay is fair and commensurate with company performance

IN RECENT years, against the backdrop of a sluggish global economy and depressed stock prices, the call from shareholders to regulate executive pay is becoming too loud to ignore.

Regulatory developments in Europe, Australia and North America giving shareholders greater oversight of executive pay and curbing bonuses in the financial services sector reflect a hardening of attitudes among politicians, investors and the general public.

This "Say on Pay" movement is now gaining ground in most of the advanced economies for shareholders to express their views regarding companies' executive remuneration practices.

How Say on Pay works is typically by a voting exercise on remuneration-related issues at the company's annual general meeting.

Votes are cast either on the overall Remuneration Report (or Directors' Report), or on specific remuneration-related resolutions. The latter can range from the company's remuneration philosophy to the detailed remuneration packages and performance measures for named executives.

Shareholders and advisers are generally most active in ensuring that performance targets are sufficiently challenging to justify high levels of remuneration as well as ensuring that termination payments are not excessive.

Depending upon the jurisdiction, Say on Pay votes can be "advisory" or "binding".

In a binding vote system (which is enacted in the UK and several other EU countries), shareholders have a legally binding vote on remuneration outcomes for the year just completed, as well as the remuneration framework and targets for the forthcoming year.

In an advisory vote mandate (such as in the US, Canada and Germany), however, shareholders vote on remuneration-related resolutions, but the votes do not compel action on the part of the company. Instead, they allow shareholders to express their satisfaction or dissent regarding the company's remuneration decisions. In cases where companies receive a high "no" vote, it sends a strong signal to the company to make changes for the following year.

Singapore is one of the few developed economies that do not have in place a Say on Pay mechanism for shareholders.

Remuneration disclosures are governed by the Code of Corporate Governance (the Code), which takes a principles-based approach to governance and disclosures. Publicly listed companies are expected to comply with the Code guidelines, or adequately explain the reasons otherwise.

However, the SID-SGX Board of Directors Survey 2015 showed that 55 per cent of listed companies did not disclose the precise remuneration of each individual director and CEO as required by Guideline 9.2 of the Code. The explanations given in annual reports are usually about competitiveness and confidentiality.

The introduction of Say on Pay could potentially solve this problem and lead to better remuneration disclosures.

More importantly, remuneration committees and boards will be mindful of their pay strategies and would likely more carefully ensure that there is proper alignment between business performance and pay. Say on Pay can also lead to more effective engagement between companies and investors as companies seek to consult shareholders earlier in the pay-setting process.

It may also encourage companies to promote from within and focus more on succession planning.

On the other hand, the experience in other jurisdictions suggests that there are negative aspects and unintended consequences associated with Say on Pay.

Investors may need to spend more time analysing pay programmes. Shareholders may also increasingly rely more heavily on proxy advisory firms for voting on pay-related resolutions.

If the Say on Pay mechanism ends up being more prescriptive than it ought to be, it could reduce executive mobility or result in key executive talent moving to markets where pay is less tightly regulated.

Companies may also end up adopting "plain vanilla" or "off the shelf" executive remuneration plans, rather than designing plans best suited to their objectives just so that they do not deviate from market norms.

Say on Pay is without a doubt a trending movement in the corporate sphere. But the jury is still out on whether and when it will make its way to Singapore shores.

However, what should be important for remuneration committees to be cognisant of are the underlying sociopolitical concerns regarding inequality in pay and the perceived excessive levels of remuneration for senior executives that have led to the Say on Pay movement in the first place.

Remuneration committees should proactively ensure that these concerns are appropriately addressed in their design of remuneration schemes, and the approval of remuneration levels that are commensurate with company performance.

Meanwhile, boards are well advised to ensure that they fully comply with the Code on remuneration disclosures. If the poor level of compliance with this requirement continues, it may prompt regulators to do more in this area, perhaps even encouraging the institution of Say on Pay mechanisms.

The writer is a member of the CG Guidebooks Working Committee of the Singapore Institute of Directors.

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Z-Obee removes chairman from office as he's a declared bankrupt

Business Times
21 Nov 2015
Tan Hwee Hwee

[Singapore] Z-OBEE Holdings has sacked its chairman, Wang Shih Zen, citing a bye-law that strips a director of office when they become bankrupt.

In a filing with the Singapore stock exchange, the company said that it recently became aware that a bankruptcy order was made by the High Court of Hong Kong against Mr Wang, who is also an executive director.

"By a gazette notice dated 6 November 2015, it is confirmed that the bankruptcy order against Mr Wang was made on on 28 October, 2015."

The filing was made on behalf of the investment holding company by provisional liquidators Donald Edward Osborn, Yat Kit Jong and So Man Chun.

Z-Obee said that Mr Wang has not been contactable by any means since the appointment of the provisional liquidators.

Besides ceasing to act as chairman of Z-Obee, Mr Wang also loses his position as authorised representative of the company and as a member of the nomination committee - with effect from Oct 28.

The company said that its bye-law 86(4) provides that the office of a director shall be vacated if the director, among other things, becomes bankrupt or has a receiving order made against him or suspends payment or compounds with his creditors.

"By virtue of bye-law 86 of the Bye-Laws, the office of Mr Wang as the executive director has been automatically vacated upon the bankruptcy order made against him on 28 October 2015."

In the filing, Z-Obee said that Mr Wang owned a 20.12 per cent stake in the company. He is deemed to be interested in 153.5 million Z-Obee shares.

The principal activities of its subsidiaries are provision of design and production solution services for mobile handset and computer tablets; assembly of mobile handset and computer tablets and surface mounting technology of printed circuit board; and distribution and marketing of mobile handset and its components and electronic components.

In a separate announcement, Z-Obee said that at a Nov 16 court hearing, the hearing of the winding-up petitions against the company was adjourned to Feb 22, 2016.

Shares in Z-Obee have been suspended from trading on the Singapore bourse since June 2014 and will remain suspended until further notice.

The stock has also halted trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

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S'pore 'ideal' for resolving disputes

Straits Times
13 Nov 2015
Rachael Boon

Singapore is the place to be to settle commercial and wealth-related disputes, said Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah yesterday.

She noted Singapore has set up various legal structures in the areas of arbitration and mediation in recent years that firms and well-to-do families can tap.

The idea is to grow an ecosystem of professionals who work together to solve disputes, said Ms Indranee at the Step Asia conference at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

The event covers wealth structuring, family inheritance and succession planning.

She said: "It's not just about having the lawyers or wealth management companies. It is really a whole ecosystem where you have got... the accountants, judges, financial institutions, all with the relevant degrees of expertise."

The centres needed "in order to promote the resolution of disputes" are ready, she added.

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre was set up in 1991, the Singapore International Mediation Centre was set up last November, and the Singapore International Commercial Court was set up in January.

Ms Indranee said: "These structures would lend themselves particularly well to the resolution of wealth management, family related disputes."

She added that wealth management planning is not complete without considering scenarios where mental capacity is lost.

Ms Indranee reminded Singaporeans to make plans using the Lasting Power of Attorney - a legal instrument to allow another person to act on someone's behalf if he loses mental capacity.

She also urged the audience to convey the message to clients and the wider local community.

Ms Indranee also noted that the Ministry of Social and Family Development plans to refine the legislation, to protect people who lack mental capacity. She said a public consultation will be sought soon, and urged the audience to provide their feedback.

Rachael Boon

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Man charged with murder of former air stewardess

Straits Times
29 Nov 2015
Pearl Lee

He is accused of killing former Scoot employee outside his flat in Boon Lay Drive

Bespectacled and wearing a red T-shirt and shorts, 26-year-old Neo Chun Zheng showed no expression yesterday morning as he was charged with the murder of a 23-year-old former stewardess.

He is accused of killing Ms Soh Yuan Lin outside his flat in Boon Lay Drive last Thursday, some time between 8.07pm and 8.17pm.

Hours after Neo was charged, Ms Soh's family held her wake at a funeral parlour in Sin Ming Drive. The place was packed with grieving family members and friends.

The former Scoot employee leaves a younger brother and her parents. They did not want to speak to the media. However, her father, resigned to his grief, said: "Whatever I say cannot change history - it won't bring her back."

Mr Pang Kuan Meng, 59, who embalmed the victim's body, said that her parents are very depressed and it was her uncle who handled the funeral arrangements.

He added that the victim had a deep wound in her neck, confirming previous reports that she had been stabbed there.

The prosecution has asked for Neo, who was not represented by a lawyer, to be remanded pending police investigation. His case will be heard again on Friday.

Neo lived in a four-room HDB flat with his parents and an older brother. Neighbours said they had heard Neo and the victim arguing for about 10 minutes in the flat on Thursday night, with Neo's mother trying to stop the quarrel.

Ms Soh was taken to Ng Teng Fong Hospital and pronounced dead about three hours later.

If convicted, Neo faces the death penalty.

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City Harvest 'issued illegal loans', court told

Straits Times
20 Nov 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Ex-fund manager claims church lent millions at high interest rates; trial to decide if law broken

City Harvest Church (CHC) may have allegedly issued illegal loans worth millions in exchange for high interest rates - according to its former fund manager Chew Eng Han.

This was revealed yesterday, as a judge explained why he has allowed Chew to defend a $21 million civil suit brought against his investment firm by the church.

Chew is also embroiled in a separate criminal trial. He and five other church leaders, including its founder Kong Hee, were found guilty in September of misusing around $50 million of church funds. They are due to be sentenced today.

But 55-year-old Chew, who left CHC in June 2013 after 17 years, is also being sued by the church for $21 million, which was paid over four tranches, in unreturned investments. The money included $4.6 million in interest.

Last October, CHC obtained default judgment against Chew's firm AMAC Capital Partners and separately sought summary judgment against him. But in June, Chew was given the go-ahead to defend his case on condition the $21 million claim was paid to CHC first. He and AMAC appealed to the High Court.

Judicial Commissioner Chua Lee Ming in judgment grounds released yesterday found that Chew could enter his defence unconditionally on three of the tranches worth around $9.5 million. For the fourth tranche worth around $11.5 million, Chew was told to provide $1.5 million security upfront.

According to the court documents, Chew's firm was appointed the church's investment manager in 2007. Two years later, he was approached by one Oh Chee Eng, who hoped that the church could lend money to his firm Transcu Group.

Between March 2009 and the middle of 2010, the church provided 16 tranches of money, to be repaid within a short period. In most cases, the sum was at least $3 million. The interest rates were high.

For instance, in one tranche of $1.5 million, which was given for just a week, the interest rate worked out to 156 per cent a year. In another one-week tranche of $2.35 million, the interest was 52 per cent per annum. Most of the money was paid back by AMAC but for four tranches after Transcu defaulted.

Chew's lawyer A. Rajandran argued that CHC should not be allowed to claim the money since the church had in effect breached the Moneylenders Act by acting as an unlicensed moneylender.

The Judicial Commissioner agreed the loans could hardly have been made for CHC's business as a church and the purpose was "simply to earn a high rate of interest".

He held that for three of the tranches that were the subject of the suit, there was enough evidence to go to trial to decide if the church was breaking moneylending rules. Both Chew and AMAC are appealing against the Judicial Commissioner's ruling on the $1.5 million security to be provided.

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City Harvest Church v AMAC Capital Partners and another [2015] SGHC 299

Charged over false declarations of pay

Straits Times
13 Nov 2015
Joanna Seow

A former chief operating officer of Harry's International was charged yesterday with allegedly overstating the salaries of foreign employees in Employment Pass (EP) applications.

Parmjit Kaur, 48, who was taken to court by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), faces 20 counts of making false declarations of salary to the Controller of Work Passes from April to September 2013.

The Straits Times understands that Kaur is no longer with the bar and dining chain.

In a statement, the MOM said its investigations found that she had instructed her staff to declare the fixed monthly salaries for the foreign employees as $3,100, to meet the minimum requirement of $3,000 for EP applications at that time.

Kaur, a Singaporean, allegedly knew that the employees would be paid less than that.

If convicted under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, she could be fined up to $20,000 and jailed for up to two years.

When contacted, a spokesman for Harry's said: "Since the decision is still before the court, we are unable to comment."

A total of 95 other employers are now under investigation for making false declarations regarding work pass applications for 241 foreigners, the MOM said.

It added that it has stepped up enforcement efforts after the raising of maximum penalties for false declaration in 2012.

Last year, the courts fined eight franchisees of convenience store chain 7-Eleven between $8,000 and $56,000 for making false declarations. Besides penalties imposed by the courts, businesses may also be permanently barred from hiring foreigners.

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Longer jail terms sought for leaders of City Harvest

Straits Times
28 Nov 2015
Danson Cheong

Prosecution says sentences are 'manifestly inadequate'; three of six to file own appeals

After a 142-day trial that ended with six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders jailed for fraud involving millions of dollars, lawyers on both sides are gearing up for another court battle.

Yesterday, the prosecution filed notices of appeal against the prison terms of all six, describing them as "manifestly inadequate".

In turn, three of those found guilty, including founding pastor Kong Hee, confirmed they too would submit their own appeals.

"Whilst I respect the court's decision, there are points which appear to be erroneous and warrant appeal," said Kong, who will appeal against both the guilty verdict and the length of his sentence, in a Facebook post yesterday evening.

He said the road ahead was "long and arduous" but asked church members to pray for a "favourable outcome".

The 51-year-old was held by Judge See Kee Oon as the most culpable for the misuse of $50 million in church funds, almost half of which was spent on illegally funding the pop music career of his wife Ho Yeow Sun.

Judge See sentenced him to eight years in jail, the longest term among the six accused. The prosecution, however, had sought a term of 11 to 12 years.

In a statement yesterday, the Attorney-General's Chambers said: "The prosecution is of the view that the sentences imposed are manifestly inadequate, in all the circumstances of the case."

Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, who is representing deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 43, also confirmed yesterday that his client, who has to serve 51/2 years behind bars, is filing an appeal.

Former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, 55, who was sentenced to six years in prison, had already indicated earlier that he was appealing against both his conviction and sentence.

When asked about the prosecution's decision to push for even longer jail terms, Chew told The Straits Times yesterday: "As I've said openly in court before, the prosecution has been very vicious."

The prosecution had urged the court to impose a sentence of 11 to 12 years in Chew's case.

Others found guilty are still in the midst of examining their options.

Mr Kenny Low, husband of former CHC finance manager Serina Wee, told The Straits Times it was still "too soon to comment". The 38-year-old Wee received a sentence of five years in jail.

Lawyer Paul Seah, who is defending former CHC finance manager Sharon Tan, 40, said: "We are discussing the developments with her and she will decide whether or not to appeal by next week."

She received 21 months in jail.

Former CHC finance committee member John Lam, who received a three-year sentence, did not respond to repeated calls and e-mail.

The prosecution had asked for much stiffer terms for each of them, citing several aggravating factors, and the need to deter similar crimes involving charity funds from happening in future.

But while Judge See agreed on the need for deterrence, he was mindful that it did not "simply entail the imposition of disproportionately crushing sentences".

The defence has up to next Friday to file a notice of appeal.

Other lawyers say the prosecution's move yesterday to push for longer sentences would likely force the defence to submit appeals of its own.

Veteran criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said: "They have no choice but to also put in their appeals, otherwise they might miss out on the chance of arguing whether there should be a lighter sentence."

But this legal battle should not be as long drawn out as the initial trial.

"We are probably looking at an appeal date within six months. The actual appeal will take one or two days," said criminal lawyer Sunil Sudheesan.

What they got and the sentences sought

Kong Hee, 51

City Harvest Church (CHC) founder and senior pastor

Sentence: Eight years

What the prosecution wanted: 11 to 12 years

Chew Eng Han, 55

Former CHC fund manager

Sentence: Six years

What the prosecution wanted: 11 to 12 years

Tan Ye Peng, 43

CHC deputy senior pastor Sentence: 51/2 years

What the prosecution wanted: 11 to 12 years.

Serina Wee, 38

Former CHC finance manager Sentence: Five years

What the prosecution wanted: 11 to 12 years

John Lam, 47

Former CHC finance committee member

Sentence: Three years

What the prosecution wanted: Eight to nine years

Sharon Tan, 40

Former CHC finance manager Sentence: 21 months

What the prosecution wanted: Five to six years


Whilst I respect the court's decision, there are points which appear to be erroneous and warrant appeal.

CHC FOUNDER KONG HEE, on why he will be filing an appeal. He asked church members to pray for a favourable outcome, and thanked them for their love.

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Ku De Ta case: HK judge won't recuse himself

Straits Times
20 Nov 2015
K.C. Vijayan

A Hong Kong judge has rejected a request to recuse himself from hearing an on-going case involving former Ku De Ta chief executive Chris Au.

Mr Au said there was potential bias as the judge's brother - a lawyer - has personal links with one of the plaintiffs, Mr Harry Apostolides. The judge's brother allegedly also has professional links with Mr Apostolides' brother.

Mr Au claimed the judge was biased and had pre-determined the case against him.

Justice Kevin Zervos noted that the "appearance of impartiality is essential for public confidence in the administration of justice".

But, he said in decision grounds released last week, it is "equally important that judicial officers discharge their duty to hear and adjudicate cases and resist unjustified applications for their recusal by tactical and manipulative considerations".

Mr Au and other investors are fighting over the $100 million from Ku De Ta's sale and how club profits were allocated. The dispute centres on their interests in a joint venture called Kudeta BVI, whose shares they held via Retribution Ltd.

The plaintiffs are investors, who include Mr Komal Patel and Mr Apostolides. They say they and Mr Au each held 24.17 per cent of Kudeta BVI.

But Mr Au says he had 35.5 per cent and that there was a deal to buy out his stake for $33.7 million.

Ku De Ta at Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, now controlled by L Capital Asia, was the subject of a five-year trademark lawsuit in Singapore that led to its rebranding as Ce La Vi, earlier this year.

Mr Au, in seeking the judge's recusal, noted that 12 out of 13 interim applications involving the case heard before Justice Zervos went against him or Retribution Ltd.

He further alleged the judge had referred him to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) of Singapore over conflicting testimonies he had given in court but took no action against Mr Apostolides in a similar situation.

Justice Zervos addressed all the grounds raised individually. He said he came to know of his brother's link just after he first got involved in the case in January 2014 and had immediately notified all parties. None raised objections then.

Mr Au did not give a rational explanation for the delay in objecting till August this year, said the judge.

The judge also said it was not the case that "all but one" of the 13 applications he heard had gone against Mr Au. There were four in favour of Mr Au, and some of the other applications were so complex the decisions could not be said to favour either party. The judge noted Mr Au did not appeal against any decision.

He added that Mr Au's claim that Mr Apostolides lied in the Singapore proceedings had no basis on which the court could refer the case to the Singapore AGC, unlike the case for referring Mr Au to the AGC.

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9 months' jail for running over cyclist

Straits Times
13 Nov 2015
Amir Hussain

A taxi driver who caused the death of a cyclist was jailed for nine months and disqualified from driving for 10 years yesterday.

Wong Seng Fook, 55, pleaded guilty to a charge of committing a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide. He also pleaded guilty to a count of driving under the influence of alcohol over the legal limit.

A charge of driving without switching on his front headlamps was taken into consideration during sentencing.

The court heard that at about midnight on Feb 1, Wong went to Red Apple KTV at Golden Mile Tower.

He drank at least three glasses of beer until about 3.30am, before going to Lorong 19 Geylang to deposit money into an ATM machine at about 4am. He parked his taxi illegally along the unbroken yellow lines along the road there, behind a pick-up truck.

After depositing his money, he fell asleep in his taxi until he was woken up by a parking warden at about 4.45am. He started his taxi's engine and drove forward, but hit the pick-up truck. He then, without checking his rear, reversed his taxi quickly and towards the right.

The taxi crashed into Mr Toh Sin Huat, 52, who was on his bicycle.

Wong continued to reverse after sweeping Mr Toh under his taxi, and crashed into another car. He then drove forward before stopping his taxi.

Mr Toh suffered multiple injuries and died in hospital at about 6am.

When the police arrived, Wong reeked of alcohol. A breathalyser test found that he had 46 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath. The legal limit for driving is 35 microgrammes per 100ml of breath.

In a mitigation letter submitted to the court, Wong said he gets flashbacks of the accident, which cause him sleepless nights, and that he is seeing a doctor at the Institute of Mental Health. He also said that he is a bankrupt and that he is the sole breadwinner of his family.

"I have been feeling miserable and depressed over family and financial issues," he added, pleading for leniency.

For causing the death of a person by doing a rash act not amounting to culpable homicide, Wong could have been jailed for up to five years and fined.

The maximum penalty for drink driving over the legal limit is six months' jail on a first conviction, and 12 months' jail and a fine on subsequent convictions.

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Appeals court orders AHPETC to appoint accountants

Straits Times
28 Nov 2015
Walter Sim

Appointment, which is subject to HDB's approval, is to fix lapses at WP town council

The Court of Appeal yesterday ordered the Workers' Party-run town council to appoint accountants, subject to the approval of the Housing Board, to fix lapses uncovered by an audit this year.

In doing so, Singapore's highest court said it had to "focus sharply on what Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) is obliged to do and has not done".

It noted various lapses in governance and accounting, and said that "on the facts before us, there is no real dispute that AHPETC has not fully complied" with its obligations under the Town Councils Act and guidelines under the Town Councils Financial Rules.

The accountants will help to identify outstanding lapses; advise on steps to be taken to fix the lapses; submit monthly progress reports to the HDB, until they are "reasonably satisfied" that AHPETC is compliant with the law; and look into whether past payments were improper and should be recovered.

The appeals court said the HDB must consent to the identity and, if need be, the terms of reference of the accountants so as to "ensure transparency and efficacy in the execution of these duties".

On its part, the HDB should not "unreasonably withhold" consent.

In the event of any dispute over this, it added, either party can seek assistance from the court.

The court also ordered the town council to make all its outstanding transfers to the sinking fund within three months.

The town council must also decide, by then, whether to accept the grants-in-aid previously offered by the Minister for National Development subject to conditions, so as to make the sinking fund transfers.

Otherwise, it is to take other steps to raise funds, such as increasing service and conservancy charges or liquidating investments.

The 72-page judgment yesterday was delivered by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who heard the case in August with Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang.

In May, the Ministry of National Development (MND), which has withheld $14 million in government grants from the AHPETC, appealed against a decision by the High Court, which rejected MND's application for the court to appoint independent accountants to safeguard the grants to AHPETC.

The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the High Court's dismissal of that MND application. CJ Menon wrote that under the Town Councils Act, "the court can only make orders compelling the Town Council to perform its statutory duty. It cannot appoint its own agents to perform these powers, duties and functions of the Town Council".

The High Court had also ruled in May that only the HDB or residents - not the MND - could take legal action against a town council if it fails to perform its duties.

The appeals court said it agreed with the High Court on this. It thus allowed an application by the HDB, made in June, to join MND as a plaintiff in the case - a move that was opposed by the AHPETC.

One of the issues at the crux of the appeal hearing was how much power the court has when a town council is in breach of its duties.

Ms Aurill Kam, the Attorney-General Chambers' deputy chief counsel for litigation, who acted for the MND and HDB, had argued that the court can not only compel a town council to perform its duties, but also "do whatever is necessary" to remedy a breach of duty.

Therefore, the court could appoint the independent accountants as its "agents".

Mr Peter Low, who represented AHPETC, said the court could only ask the town council to abide by the law - and make declarations when it had failed to do so.

The appeals court disagreed with both parties.

"It is inconceivable that the court could be put in such a position in a matter that involved an aspect of local government," CJ Menon wrote, adding that Mr Low's contention "reduced the court to an irrelevant and ultimately toothless observer".

If the court were to appoint accountants to the town council, it would effectively "substitute" AHPETC by having accountants "step in and do what is needed to secure the performance of the relevant duties".

What the court could do, however, is compel the town council to perform its duties by court orders.

CJ Menon noted that AHPETC has appointed an independent consultant, Business Assurance, to address the lapses, although the town council has yet to fully carry out its duties.

"There is no reason why AHPETC should not or cannot engage external consultants to assist it in fulfilling the statutory duties and responsibilities that are incumbent upon it," he wrote. "The various interests at play would be adequately secured by an order requiring AHPETC to make the necessary appointment itself."

Key decisions

What town council must do

• Make all outstanding sinking fund transfers within three months from yesterday; rectify breaches and contraventions of the Town Councils Act.

• Decide whether to accept grants-in-aid made by National Development Minister or take other measures to raise funds for the transfers.

• Appoint accountants subject to the consent of the Housing Board.

Accountants' roles

• Identify outstanding lapses.

• Advise on steps to fix lapses.

• Produce and submit monthly progress reports to HDB until it is reasonably satisfied the town council is fully compliant with the law.

• Look into whether any past payments made were improper and should be recovered

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Attorney-General v Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council [2015] SGCA 60

Some seek stiff penalties for errant pre-schools

Straits Times
20 Nov 2015
Priscilla Goy

But as they form a small minority, watchdog proposes measured approach

Some parents have asked for heavier penalties - including jail terms - for errant pre-schools than what is prescribed in proposed rules for them.

But the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) said errant operators form a small minority, and it will continue with a "measured enforcement approach".

Earlier this year, ECDA proposed laws that will give the authorities more teeth to ensure that pre-schools uphold standards.

For instance, a fine of up to $5,000 could be imposed for administrative breaches, such as not keeping a register of particulars of staff or children enrolled.

ECDA consulted the public about the rules in July and posted a summary of key feedback received and its responses online today.

It received 35 written comments from pre-school operators, parents and other industry partners. It also briefed 750 pre-school staff, met 14 parents from support groups, and held discussions with the Education Services Union.

Some operators were concerned that the administrative burden of the new rules could be heavy, and asked why administrative lapses warranted financial penalties.

"On the other hand, some parents have given feedback that the fines... may not be an effective deterrent against larger operators, and suggested more punitive measures, such as a prison term," said ECDA. It explained that administrative lapses are serious as they can have severe consequences. A lack of proper records could hinder contact-tracing efforts in disease outbreaks, for instance.

Now, all administrative lapses are considered criminal offences, though ECDA typically only gives warnings or shorter licence tenures to errant centres.

The new fines proposed allow the authorities to de-criminalise lapses and give them "more enforcement options to effectively deal with recalcitrant operators", said ECDA. But if breaches are severe, it will still consider options such as closing down centres. "This enforcement approach is already being applied today."

Sheffield Kidsworld director Puhalenthi Murugesan welcomed the balanced approach. He said: "The authorities should not clamp down on the sector, or else operators may end up focusing too much on admin work instead of caring for children."

Another point of contention was the proposal that kindergartens run by the Ministry of Education (MOE) be exempted from the regulations, and some suggested this be changed. ECDA said it "considered this suggestion carefully", but was sticking with its proposal. The kindergartens will be held to "consistent standards", with MOE being directly accountable to Parliament.

The Bill on the new regulations is expected to be introduced in Parliament in the first half of next year.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

'Healer' jailed for sexual assault during 'treatments'

Straits Times
13 Nov 2015
Elena Chong

A self-professed alternative healer sexually assaulted a woman under the guise of providing legitimate treatment for her infertility.

Koh Nai Hock, better known as Doc Bob Koh, was convicted last month of 14 charges of sexual penetration of the businesswoman, then 40, on seven occasions between Nov 1 and Dec 25 in 2010.

Yesterday, the 64-year-old father of three was sentenced to seven years' jail. He is out on $60,000 bail, pending his appeal.

District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim had disagreed with his defence that what he had done were legitimate methods to treat infertility. She found that he knew that they were not legitimate methods and were clearly sexual in nature.

The woman, now 45, first sought treatment from a gynaecologist for infertility in August 2010, and was due to go for surgery to remove an endometriotic cyst in February 2011.

In late 2010, she came to know Koh, who said he could treat her infertility and could shrink her cyst using non-surgical methods.

The victim and her husband paid him $20,580 for a three-month treatment package. She attended eight sessions with Koh: six at Grand Mercure Roxy Hotel in East Coast Road, one each at her home and Ibis Hotel in Bencoolen Street.

During the sessions at the East Coast Road hotel on Nov 1 and 2, Koh asked her husband to leave the hotel room. Koh was alone with her when he committed the offences.

These were repeated each time, except the last session, when the victim, who went to Ibis Hotel alone, felt nauseous and shocked after the "treatment''. Koh had kissed her on her cheek and told her she was "so cute". He gave her a hug, ostensibly to straighten her spine, performed "lymphatic drainage" on her breasts and pressed her rib cage so hard that she screamed in pain.

She declined his offer to use his mouth to suck out "negative energy" from her cleavage.

She reported the case to the police in February 2011. In May the same year, she went to a gynaecologist and later conceived successfully.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Lin Yinbing and Michael Quilindo sought a jail term of 10 years to deter Koh and would-be offenders. They argued that he had practised deception and fear-mongering on the victim to allow him to sexually violate her.

Koh still faces a Health Ministry summons for advertising his treatment services online between May and July 2008. The case is fixed for a pre-trial conference on Dec 11.

The maximum penalty for sexual penetration is 20 years' jail, and a fine or caning.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Safeguard accessibility of legal counsel in S’pore: Voices

28 Nov 2015

“To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.” One of Magna Carta’s ruling principles seems to ring with irony in its country of origin, the United Kingdom.

With reference to the commentary “Magna Carta then and now” (Nov 19), about the relevance of Magna Carta, it could be said that accessibility of legal aid to those who have little money in the UK has been diminished.

As Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd remarked recently, the scale of court fees and the cost of legal assistance are putting access to justice out of the reach of most people.

This is in tandem with the dearth of legal aid offered to divorcees, as reported in the Guardian newspaper, with divorcees conducting their own defence and cross-examination, a skill they lack specialisation in but also the financial capacity to afford.

Fortunately, one can be grateful that Singapore society places emphasis on providing schemes such as the Legal Aid Bureau and the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, on top of the mandatory reporting of pro bono work done by practising lawyers.

That said, we should derive lessons from the UK and take the regression in its pro bono landscape as a reminder of the need to enshrine the values of being a solicitor whose actions mirror the values his society embraces.

It would be more heart-warming to see lawyers engage in pro bono work without needing to record the hours clocked, which may at times not be a fair gauge of the nature of the work itself and of values such as empathy.

The above-mentioned tenet in Magna Carta has a simple premise: Justice should be made accessible to all, given that we should be judged as equals in the eyes of the law, regardless of social status.

Unfortunately, the legal landscape across different societies, such as the UK, seems to be promoting legal advice as a luxury that only the higher echelons of society can afford.

The Ministry of Law and the Law Society have been successful in preventing such potential pitfalls insofar as cultivating pro bono work.

We remain compassionate, but we are not impervious to the vagaries of change.

So, may we remain grounded in the application of Magna Carta and its relevance to our society so that it is a level playing field.

Edwing Teong Ying Keat

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New legal body to oversee all law practices

Straits Times
19 Nov 2015
Danson Cheong

The regulation of all law firms here will now come under a single legal body. The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) was launched yesterday by the Ministry of Law to license and regulate both foreign and local law firms here.

Previously, the Attorney-General's Chambers dealt with foreign firms while the Law Society handled matters relating to local ones. The ministry hopes the integrated system will make it more convenient for law firms to set up offices here.

The new body will ensure that business criteria, such as the names of law practices, foreign ownership and profit sharing, will be applied consistently across the board. The LSRA will also have a website allowing the public to look up any registered law practice and lawyer here.

Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi , the president of the Law Society, said the LSRA will take over some of the society's regulatory and administrative functions.

"However, from a larger perspective, the regulatory role of the Law Society remains and is in fact enlarged as we will be empowered to regulate all lawyers practising in Singapore, including registered foreign lawyers," added Mr Thio, who is also joint managing director at TSMP Law Corporation.

The LSRA is part of a suite of amendments to the Legal Profession Act, which were passed in November last year and came into force yesterday.

The new regime also allows employees of law firms who are not lawyers to become partners, directors and shareholders of their firms. They can also share in the profits of their firms.

The ministry said: "This will give law practices greater flexibility to attract and retain non-lawyer talent, for example, those with strong management or finance experience, who can add value to the firm's legal practice."

But such firms will still be allowed to offer only legal services for now, unlike alternative models which allow them to offer other services such as accountancy.

Because of this, Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam said the change is currently "incremental and limited". But the managing partner of Rodyk & Davidson added that it would pave the way for "multi-disciplinary practices".

He said: "This is the future of law, and probably makes business sense for general work that does not require deep specialist skills but for which consistent standards and competitive pricing are necessary."


This is the future of law, and probably makes business sense for general work that does not require deep specialist skills but for which consistent standards and competitive pricing are necessary.


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Custody fight: Man in limbo in Britain

Straits Times
13 Nov 2015
K.C. Vijayan

A Singaporean bank executive's troubled stint in England continued as a London court rejected his claim for compensation, despite being wrongfully jailed for two months by a British judge.

The man has been stuck in London since 2013 as he fights a bitter custody battle with his Mongolian former wife for their three-year-old son. He was forced to spend 63 days in jail after he failed to ensure that the child, who is in Singapore with his parents, was returned to England, as directed by a court.

Another court set him free.

But his suit for compensation from the British government has now been thrown out. The court accepted that Justice Jennifer Roberts had made errors in jailing him but made clear that these mistakes were not exceptional enough to justify any compensation.

The man, whose passport has been impounded, will continue having to remain in London until the boy returns there.

He and his former wife met in Singapore in 2010, and married here a year later. They then lived in London where he worked. The child was born in July 2012 but the marriage began to falter and he was taken to Singapore to live with his grandparents. The couple returned to England without him in 2013.

The father later filed for divorce in Singapore while she did the same in England. She also alleged he had assaulted her. After a British judge ruled that the son's habitual home is London, she obtained a court order for his return there.

She also hired Child Abduction Recovery International, which specialises in returning children to their parents for a fee, to help her enter Singapore illegally to take the boy by force.

The firm's managing director, Briton Adam Christopher Whittington, hired an Australian's catamaran in Langkawi, Malaysia, and both sailed with the woman to Raffles Marina under the cover of darkness in August last year.

All three were arrested and convicted. The woman and the Australian each got 10 weeks' jail, while Whittington was jailed for 16 weeks.

Back in London, the boy's father was jailed for 18 months for contempt in April last year. But a British appeals court ruled in June last year that the judge was wrong and should have recused herself from hearing the case.

The man then sued the Lord Chancellor, seeking compensation for alleged unlawful detention. Based on the European Convention on Human Rights, a person can be compensated if there is a "gross and obvious irregularity".

In his grounds of judgment released last week, Justice David Foskett expressed sympathy for the family court judge who dealt with the case, given the "emotional complexities and family dynamics".

He said there were errors "but the context in which they were made needs to be re-emphasised: the judge was dealing with a father who had deceived the mother of a very young child into permitting the child to be taken out of the jurisdiction, many thousands of miles from where he was born".

Justice Foskett said it was plain that the family court judge made her decision with the boy's interest at heart. He added that it would be "unfair" to categorise the judge's errors as involving a "gross and obvious procedural irregularity".

Last night, the London-based father said he has been acquitted of all five criminal charges brought against him by his former wife after a four-day trial that began on Oct 19. He said his son is still in Singapore with the grandparents.

The custody tussle is ongoing.

•Additional reporting by Lim Yi Han

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'Heartless' swindler's jail term doubled

Straits Times
28 Nov 2015
Selina Lum

A former insurance agent, who swindled an elderly factory worker he had known for 25 years, yesterday had his jail term doubled from nine months to 1 1/2 years by the High Court after prosecutors appealed.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang agreed that 45-year-old Tan Peng Khoon had shown a "totally heartless attitude" in taking advantage of 61- year-old widow Lim Choon Hoay.

The court heard that over the years, Madam Lim, who could not read English and earned only $600 a month, had lent $150,000 to Tan.

In 2011, he duped her into signing forms to surrender a life insurance policy for about $2,000 and to take out a $6,500 loan against another policy. He made her add him as a joint holder of her bank account, and withdrew the money after depositing the cheques issued in her name.

Justice Tay, noting that Tan had spent the $8,500 at a casino, said it was hard to be sympathetic towards him. The judge added it was shameful that Tan tricked Madam Lim into transferring more than $50 to him for "postage" when she wanted her identity card back.

Tan had taken her identity card when he got her to sign the forms. He never gave it back to her and she had to pay $100 to replace it.

In February this year, Tan was jailed for nine months by a district court after he was convicted of four counts of forgery and two counts of cheating. When the prosecution filed an appeal, he returned the money. But Deputy Public Prosecutors Alan Loh and Nicholas Tan argued it was too late as the surrendered policy has been terminated, causing Madam Lim to lose the coverage of at least $50,000.

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Non-lawyer employees can now have a stake in their law firms

Business Times
19 Nov 2015
Claire Huang

[Singapore] FOR the first time in Singapore's history, non-lawyer employees of law firms can now become partners, directors or shareholders in, and share in the profits of the firms they work for, with amendments to the Legal Profession Act taking effect on Wednesday.

Law firms have traditionally been owned only by lawyers.

This change comes in the wake of recommendations by a committee that reviewed the legal services regulatory framework here with the aim of modernising it. The Legal Profession Act has since been amended, and the changes were passed by Parliament a year ago.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Law said non-lawyer employees in law firms can submit applications to a newly established regulatory body, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), to be registered as regulated non-practitioners.

Law practices will thus have the flexibility to attract and retain such non-lawyer talents, including individuals with strong management or finance experience, it said.

The LSRA, set up on another of the committee's recommendations, will be tasked with streamlining licensing matters related to law practices in Singapore.

It takes over certain regulatory functions that were previously carried out separately by the Legal Profession Secretariat of the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), and also the Law Society of Singapore.

The AGC used to oversee the licensing of foreign law practices, foreign law practice collaborations with Singapore law practices and the registration of foreign-qualified lawyers; the Law Society previously took care of approvals applicable to Singapore law practices.

Under the new integrated licensing framework, business criteria (such as the names of law practices, foreign ownership and profit sharing) will be applied consistently across the board, said the ministry.

It added that the LSRA's e-services portal will bring all application transactions online and do away with manual processes.

Back-end data interfaces between the LSRA, the Supreme Court and the Law Society will provide a more seamless and convenient experience for users of the portal, the ministry said.

It added that, through the LSRA website, the public can run a search of law practices and collaborations registered with the regulatory authority, as well as of lawyers practising in Singapore by name, firm or practice area.

On the changes, Law Society of Singapore president Thio Shen Yi said law firms will now enjoy more flexibility in the way they can structure themselves.

"We are no longer limited or constrained by traditional partnership structures. Non-lawyer employees can now own a minority share in a law firm. Of course, this is subject to safeguards such as AGC and Law Society consent, but it does open up potential opportunities for lawyers to collaborate with other professionals in an integrated way, and deliver a more integrated or holistic service."

Sunil Sudheesan, acting president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore, welcomed the move to streamline licensing matters involving law firms here, adding that it does away with the back-and-forth communications between the different parties.

He also expressed hope that lawyers will be consulted should there be changes envisaged in the licensing regime.

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Serious lapses at KLW could taint Catalist's clean record

Business Times
12 Nov 2015
Kenneth Lim

Special auditor lists string of issues at company; but SIAS chief, corporate lawyer believe sponsor regime remains sound

THE Singapore Exchange's Catalist board is pristine no more.

The special auditor of Catalist-listed KLW Holdings has found apparent lapses in internal controls and potential breaches of disclosure rules at the door maker. This is believed to be the first major governance-related scandal on the Singapore Exchange's secondary board since the creation of the Catalist regime in 2007.

KLW shares fell 11.1 per cent, or 0.1 Singapore cent, to close at 0.8 Singapore cent on Wednesday as trading resumed after the company's late-Monday release of the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

PwC's report highlighted issues surrounding a number of term sheets that then-managing director Lee Boon Teck had undertaken without the knowledge of other board members, as well as payments by the company to Mr Lee and disclosures about how proceeds from capital-raising exercises had been used.

The report also noted the roles played by Mr Lee, group financial controller Jaslin Gaw, and finance and human resource manager Felicia Ngo in some of the potential lapses.

The current board of KLW, which replaced the old independent directors in October after new major shareholder and newly appointed chief executive Quek Chek Lan won minority shareholders' support for their ouster, has said that it would carry out PwC's recommendations.

Those recommendations include commissioning a review of the corporate governance and internal controls of the company; appointing law firm Drew & Napier to review the potential breaches of SGX Catalist rules and the Singapore Companies Act; to secure the company's ownership of a furniture company in Vietnam; to continue trying to determine exactly how much money is owed to or by Mr Lee; and to pursue the recovery of S$7.2 million of commitment fees that the company had paid out for a failed investment.

KLW, through Mr Lee and unknown to the company's other directors, had entered into term sheets on projects in Bali and the Chinese city of Zhangye in 2014, and directed the payment of S$16.2 million in commitment fees for those projects, PwC found. KLW's independent directors learned of those transactions only in May 2015.

PwC said that it was "questionable" why Mr Lee had carried out those actions on the term sheets when there was no material information on those projects and no independent due diligence carried out.

"As the managing director of the company, Lee Boon Teck had, at all material times, a fiduciary duty to safeguard the assets of the company," PwC wrote.

It was also "inappropriate" for Ms Gaw to have signed the cheques for those projects without knowing the reasons for the payments or seeing any supporting documents.

PwC also found that KLW had advanced S$1.95 million to Mr Lee in 2014, which was held by him for several months. That could have been construed as a loan to a director, and could be a breach of the Companies Act if no shareholders' approval had been obtained.

KLW had also used proceeds from a rights issue in 2013, a 2014 placement and a 2014 rights and warrant issue to repay Mr Lee, who had personally funded the company previously when it needed cash, but did not disclose such use of funds to investors and to the other directors, PwC said.

In KLW's financial statements, the company had also classified the commitment fees as well as the S$1.95 million advanced to Mr Lee as cash and bank balances, even though that money had already been paid out.

The alleged lapses at KLW could become the first case of a serious scandal in a Catalist-listed company since the sponsor regime was first created in 2007.

The incidents that were highlighted in the PwC report mostly took place when RHT Capital was KLW's continuing sponsor. KLW's current sponsor, SAC Capital, which took over in March 2015, has said that it would resign at the end of the year.

David Gerald, president of the Securities Investors Association of Singapore, who had recently called for the Singapore Exchange to extend the sponsor regime to certain companies on the Main board because of the good track record of the Catalist board, said that KLW does not hurt the reputation of Catalist especially since it is the first case in seven years.

"One swallow does not make a summer," he said, adding that there can be no guarantee of a scandal-free market regardless of the regulatory regime. Nevertheless, "a sponsored company is better supervised and there is less likelihood of a breach", he said.

Lawyer Stefanie Yuen Thio of TSMP Law Corp noted that SGX has been very diligent about auditing the work of sponsors, and reckoned that the Catalist model is still sound.

"The sponsor-managed regime on Catalist has generally been robust and successful," she said. "Sponsors are proactive in managing these companies, and it's been beneficial for companies to have professional sponsors to turn to for guidance."


Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Two sued by KLW 'also owe Lorenzo money'

Straits Times
28 Nov 2015

As beleaguered door maker KLW Holdings seeks to recover $7 million in commitment fees from a firm and its main shareholder, it appears that these two parties are due to refund $2.8 million in deposits to another company soon.

Straitsworld Advisory and Mr Chan Ewe Teik are due to pay furniture firm Lorenzo International $2.8 million by Dec 7, according to an announcement that Lorenzo made on the Singapore Exchange on Sept 29.

These were deposits Lorenzo paid to Straitsworld relating to medical facilities that Straitsworld had proposed to sell to Lorenzo, according to a May 8 announcement by Lorenzo.

It said the refundable deposit of $2.8 million was part of an arrangement whereby both parties agreed not to solicit other proposals within a certain period that might hamper the chance of a deal on the medical facilities.

After this exclusive period was extended through various means, it would expire on Sept 7, according to a Sept 4 announcement by Lorenzo.

The deposit was to be refunded to Lorenzo without interest within seven days of expiry, according to the original agreement announced. Lorenzo, however, said it had given Straitsworld Advisory and Mr Chan until Dec 7 to refund the deposit.

In response to queries from the Singapore Exchange, Lorenzo said in its Sept 29 announcement that Straitsworld and Mr Chan had informed it that they could not repay the $2.8 million by the original deadline.

Lorenzo also said it took into consideration that "KLW had on Aug 28 announced it was taking steps to recover certain deposits from Straitsworld Advisory and Michael Chan" when deciding to grant the extension.

When contacted, Lorenzo deputy chairman Jeffrey Lim said Mr Chan is due to get back to the firm this Sunday on the payment. A Lorenzo director had written to Mr Chan just two days ago to remind him about the payment deadline, he added.

Mr Lim said Lorenzo had been "cautious" and always had key staff, which included management, independent directors and lawyers, present in dealings with Mr Chan. He said it involved such staff because the firm selling the medical facilities was a listed company and Lorenzo had signed a non-disclosure agreement.

He added that Lorenzo eventually decided not to proceed with the acquisition as it did not raise enough from a rights issue and because its sales had been weak.

When news on KLW broke, Lorenzo called an urgent meeting to make sure it did not have similar issues, he said.

On Wednesday, KLW said it had withdrawn its pending suit and filed another High Court lawsuit against Straitsworld Advisory and Mr Chan seeking the repayment of $7 million.

KLW has been in the spotlight recently, with two former key executives - Mr Lee Boon Teck and Ms Jaslin Gaw Kuan Ching - being investigated by the Commercial Affairs Department for possible breaches of law.

Jeremy Koh

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Related headlines

KLW files fresh claim against investor over $7m, ST, 27 Nov

Foster family gets to adopt child

Straits Times
19 Nov 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Judge rules against natural mum who couldn't stop abusing 10-year-old daughter

A woman who was unable to stop abusing her 10-year-old daughter has lost her to a couple, allowed by the family court to adopt the child against her mother's wishes.

The girl's father had agreed to the adoption by the foster parents, who have cared for the child since February last year and during two other periods between 2008 and 2011.

District Judge Regina Ow-Chang said in decision grounds released yesterday that the "test is not what is best for the natural parents and their right to bring up the child, but what is best for the child".

Acknowledging that it was a "painful decision" to take a child away from her natural mother, the judge found that in this case, it was best for the child to be adopted.

But she made clear the mother's contact with the child would not cease as the adoptive parents had agreed to allow the girl's natural parents to see her.

The adoption agency, MSF Adoption Services, has offered to facilitate any contact.

DJ Ow-Chang noted that the child had had six hard years, from the age of three, being shuttled between her parents and three foster homes.

In September 2008, she was referred to the Child Protection Service (CPS) by a family service centre following claims of physical and emotional abuse. She was placed with a foster family, with her parents' consent.

In January 2009, she returned to her parents, who had learnt positive parenting methods, but the physical abuse allegedly resumed, and the CPS had to step in again.

The natural parents quarrelled often over the mother's treatment of the child, which led to her threatening suicide along with their two children. The girl went to another foster home, and then back to her first set of foster parents when the second set could not continue.

In July 2011, the child was transferred to a third foster home when questions arose about her first foster parents' remaining in Singapore. But the first foster couple then applied to adopt the girl in May last year, and the Guardian in Adoption appointed to assess the case found that efforts to re-integrate the child with her natural parents were futile as she continued to be the subject of their quarrels.

She was afraid of her mother and brother, and expressed her wish to be adopted by her foster parents.

"The natural mother showed poor insight of what the child needed most and triangulated her children into her marital conflicts with her husband," said DJ Ow-Chang.

She found the child had a good relationship with her foster family, and they had put her in a top school.

The foster parents were represented by lawyer Andrew Hanam, while the mother defended herself and asked for a second chance.

She did not want the child to be adopted by foreigners, and suggested her parents or her brother instead. Alternatively, she was prepared to let the applicants look after the child as long as they did not adopt her.

DJ Ow-Chang said these plans showed "she was only concerned about the fact that she would 'lose' her child", and did not have the child's interest at heart.

Noting the " factual matrix of this case is unusual", the judge found "CPS had done all that was necessary to re-integrate the child back to her natural family before making the difficult decision to put the child up for adoption".

The mother is appealing the case. The parties cannot be named.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Kovan double murder trial: Prosecution uses bloody trail to make its case

Straits Times
12 Nov 2015
Selina Lum

It disputes defendant's account as trial closes, saying he had lain in wait for second victim

Prosecutors wrapped up the Kovan double murder trial yesterday by putting forward their own theory - based largely on blood evidence - of how the accused, Iskandar Rahmat, killed a father and son in a robbery attempt two years ago.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Prem Raj Prabakaran suggested that after slashing 67-year-old car workshop owner Tan Boon Sin to death, the policeman had walked around the Hillside Drive house to search for Mr Tan's valuables.

And contrary to Iskandar's claim that he was caught unawares when Mr Tan's 42-year-old son Chee Heong entered the house and came charging at him, the DPP suggested that the accused was lying in wait behind the main door as he knew that someone was coming.

Iskandar, who is fighting for his life on two counts of murder, calmly disagreed with the prosecution's version and stuck to his own account.

His testimony is that on July 10, 2013, desperate to resolve his financial woes, he had carried out a plan to trick Mr Tan into taking out his valuables from his safe deposit box.

He knew Mr Tan had money in the box as he was the initial investigating officer when the elderly man made a police report after $35,000 of his money was stolen.

Iskandar insisted that he wanted to simply grab the money and flee from the house, but the plan went wrong when the elderly man discovered the ruse and attacked him with a knife.

Iskandar said that he managed to snatch the knife away, suffering two cuts to his right hand in the process. He said he swung his arm wildly at Mr Tan in a bid to get away from the elderly man, who bit him and was tugging at him.

Just as Mr Tan fell to the floor, the son came in, shouted "Pa!" and came at him, throwing a punch, said Iskandar.

He said he retaliated, not realising he had a knife in his hand, and continued swinging his arms at the younger Mr Tan, who was stopping him from making his getaway.

Iskandar said that after the younger Mr Tan staggered out of the house, he walked to the toilet at the utility room to get a towel to wrap around his bleeding hand.

He said he did not know that the son had collapsed behind his father's Toyota Camry parked in the driveway. Iskandar, who made his getaway in the car, also said he was unaware that the body was dragged a kilometre to Kovan MRT station.

Yesterday, DPP Prem rubbished Iskandar's account. He pointed to how Mr Tan's car was covered with Iskandar's blood while "not a single drop" of his blood was found on the way to the toilet.

The DPP concluded that Iskandar did not hurt his hand in the scuffle with the older Mr Tan.

The trail of bloody footprints to the toilet was not from his search for a towel, but from him searching the house for the money after killing Mr Tan , contended the DPP.

Iskandar disagreed, saying his blood may not have dripped to the floor as he was cradling his hand.

The DPP also showed a photograph of Iskandar's sock prints behind the main door.

The DPP noted that Mr Tan had phoned his son twice while he was in the house with Iskandar and the cop, who was paying attention, knew that someone was coming. "You stood behind the door because you wanted to launch a surprise attack at the person," said the DPP.

Iskandar disagreed. He said the prints could be due to him picking up his things after killing both men.

The DPP also pointed to blood in the driveway to support the eyewitness account of a neighbour's maid that Iskandar had walked around the back of the Camry. He accused Iskandar of reversing the car even though he knew the man's body was there. Iskandar disagreed.

The DPP also pointed out the number of injuries on the two men.

The older Mr Tan, who was twice Iskandar's age and had knee problems, suffered 23 knife wounds. The younger victim, who was 30kg lighter than Iskandar, had 17 injuries. Iskandar said he could not remember how he inflicted the injuries as "everything happened very fast".

The DPP contended that Iskandar brought along a knife to rob Mr Tan and attacked the elderly man when he refused to hand over the money.

The DPP noted that Iskandar, who was trained in police unarmed tactics, was taught how to block and push away a knife-wielding assailant. But he replied: "If there's an immediate threat to our life, we take out our gun and fire."

The trial, which came to a close after eight days of hearing, has been adjourned for oral submissions on Nov 23.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Dan Tan case: 'Groundbreaking' judgment raises question about Act

Straits Times
27 Nov 2015
Ng Huiwen

Groundbreaking - that is how legal experts and lawyers here have described the decision by Singapore's highest court to declare that alleged match-fixer Dan Tan Seet Eng's detention without trial was unlawful.

They agreed that it showed how the courts were ready to scrutinise the reasons behind the Home Affairs Minister's decision to detain a person under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA), and ensure that the state does not overstep the powers granted by the Act.

But the case has also led to another debate - on whether the CLTPA, first introduced in 1955 to fight secret societies, should be tweaked to take into account the global nature of organised crime today.

On Wednesday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, delivering the judgment on behalf of a three-judge panel, said the key purpose of the Act was to prevent violence or cases in which witness intimidation made prosecution impossible.

But Tan's alleged match-fixing activities "all took place beyond our shores" in countries such as Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria, said CJ Menon. That meant there was little risk to "public safety, peace and good order" here. He added that no evidence was presented to show that potential witnesses were being intimidated.

Said National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor and former Nominated Member of Parliament Thio Li-Ann: "Simply put, the exercise of power under the CLTPA (by the Minister in Tan's case) was not for a CLTPA stipulated purpose.

"The courts will not accept as conclusive the executive's assessment that a person needs to be detained under the CLTPA. It will independently review the exercise of power and ensure it falls within the terms of the statute."

Criminal lawyer Prasad Karunakarn added: "It shows us clearly that any law should be judiciously applied."

Another criminal lawyer, Mr Shashi Nathan, described the detention without trial as a "draconian measure because you are denying a person the chance to have his defence heard". And the courts have made it clear that "if the authorities want to invoke this Act, they must be clear and transparent".

Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan said the case has revealed how courts and law enforcement agencies here could sometimes have a different understanding of what is required to maintain public safety, peace and good order.

And while he welcomed the decision, he remained cautious of its implications. He raised the possibility that Singapore could be seen as a "convenient" place for those engaged in transnational criminal activities to operate from.

He felt that a review of the Act and its scope could be due.

"We should not be surprised if Parliament will seek to enhance the CLTPA as a result of this particular case, so as to deal with cases of cross-border crime, even if it is committed outside of Singapore."

However, constitutional law expert Kevin Tan, who teaches at NUS, disagreed. He said the CLTPA, which was instituted as a temporary law 60 years ago, was never intended to deal with transboundary crime. "It was enacted at a time of gangsterism and secret societies."

In 2013, Mr S. Iswaran , the then Second Minister for Home Affairs, justified the use of the CLTPA against match-fixing syndicates.

He said: "The underlying nature of these match-fixing activities was no different to those of other criminal activities that have necessitated the use of the Act.

"Such criminal activities are often carried out by organised syndicates with complex and layered structures, and extensive networks which make full use of technology. Also, where cross-border illegal activities are involved, the difficulties of securing witnesses who are willing to co-operate and testify in open court are amplified."

Act allows criminals to be held without trial

The Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA) allows the Minister for Home Affairs, with the consent of the Public Prosecutor, to order the detention of suspected criminals without trial, if he deems it necessary "in the interests of public safety, peace and good order". The orders are up to a year and have to be reviewed annually.

The Act lapses after five years unless it is renewed, which explains why it is "temporary".

In October 2013, the CLTPA was passed in Parliament for the 13th time since it was introduced in 1955 during colonial times to fight organised crime, especially secret societies and gangsterism.

According to last year's Singapore Prison Service annual report, there were 136 detainees as of Dec 31, 2014. Just two were women.

A total of 99 were detained for secret society activity and 22 for illegal moneylending.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Tan Seet Eng  v Attorney-General and another matter [2015] SGCA 59

Related headlines

Tan posed no danger to public safety: CJ Menon - Dan Tan match-fixing trial, ST, 26 Nov

Magna Carta then and now

19 Nov 2015
Eugene K.B. Tan & Jack Tsen-Ta Lee

What’s the significance and relevance of Magna Carta, an 800-year-old handwritten sheepskin parchment currently on a world tour that has been to New York City, Luxembourg, China (Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai), Hong Kong, and now Singapore?

Magna Carta was never intended as a “great charter” of people’s rights and liberties. In fact, when it was first created on June 15, 1215, it was essentially a peace treaty warding off a civil war.

However, through a series of serendipities, Magna Carta has become a symbol of freedom and equal rights for all. It has inspired clauses of the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is regarded as providing the foundation of individual rights for Common Law systems, including the United Kingdom and Singapore.

History has not been kind to King John, the English monarch forced by rebellious barons to place his seal on the Charter. In the 19th century, he was cast as the villain in the Robin Hood tales, ill-treating the people while his brother Richard the Lionheart was away fighting at the Crusades.

John levied oppressive fines and taxes to finance battles to regain lands in Normandy lost to Philip II of France. The exasperated nobles finally forced the king to the negotiating table at Runnymede, a meadow beside the Thames. The result was Magna Carta.

Many of its clauses required John to stop unfairly extracting money for his wars. However, the ones with enduring significance are those that sought to prevent him from acting arbitrarily towards his subjects.

For instance, clause 39 states: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way … except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.” Clause 40 continues: “To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.”

The first version of Magna Carta lasted just two months. Complaining he had acted under compulsion, John appealed successfully to Pope Innocent III, then England’s feudal overlord, to annul Magna Carta.

John died suddenly the following year. To secure the barons’ support, his son Henry III and subsequent monarchs reissued the Charter. In 1297, Edward I wrote it into the statute book, confirming that Magna Carta was part of English law.


As a statute, Magna Carta became applicable to Singapore in 1826 when a court system administering English law was established in the Straits Settlements. This remained the case through Singapore’s evolution from Crown colony to independent republic.

The Charter ceased to apply only in 1993, when Parliament enacted the Application of English Law Act to clarify which colonial laws were still part of Singapore law. Nonetheless, Magna Carta’s legacy in Singapore continues in a number of ways.

For one, the Court of Appeal, Singapore’s highest court, has stated that some fundamental liberties in the Constitution originate from the Great Charter’s principles. For example, clause 39 of Magna Carta is the ancestor of Articles 9(1) and 11(1) of the Constitution, which respectively guarantee the rights to life and personal liberty, and prohibit retrospective criminal offences and punishments. Article 12(1), which protects equality before the law, can be traced to clause 40 of Magna Carta.

Secondly, key principles of the Charter have themselves become ingrained in the common law. In a 2014 case, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the common-law notion that punishment must fit the crime stems from, among other sources, clause 20 of Magna Carta, which requires that “(a) freeman is not to be amerced for a small offence save in accordance with the manner of the offence, and for a major offence according to its magnitude…”.

Thirdly, over the years, Magna Carta has been referred to in various parliamentary debates in Singapore since 1955. Parliamentarians often referred to it to emphasise the importance of the rule of law, democratic values and aspiration, freedom from oppression, and access to justice.

Singapore does not owe a direct debt to Magna Carta in the same way that American Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights did. Nonetheless, the principles such as due process of law and the supremacy of law are cornerstones of the rule of law, vital to the success, stability and well-being of Singapore and Singaporeans.


Though most of Magna Carta’s provisions have become obsolete and have been repealed in the UK, the document continues to resound with symbolic value in many former British colonies.

Lord Sumption, a UK Supreme Court judge and medieval historian, commented earlier this year that Magna Carta “has become part of the rhetoric of a libertarian tradition based on the rule of law” — the idea that everyone, including the government, is subject to the law.

This idea has gained near universal acceptance around the world although the principles in Magna Carta are all rather vague. It is how these principles are implemented by parliament and the courts that truly give them significance.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Singapore Constitution, the story of Singapore constitutionalism is also one of legacy, adaptation and innovation.

We have created constitutional organs such as the Presidential Council for Minority Rights, and innovated with the Group Representation Constituency scheme and the Elected President to meet our constitutional and political needs, in line with our indigenous understanding, expectations and conventions.

One final and no less salient point: Ultimately, it is we Singaporeans who sustain and bring new insights, sustained purpose and useful innovations to our system of government.


Eugene K B Tan and Jack Tsen-Ta Lee teach constitutional and administrative law at the Singapore Management University School of Law.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Afro Asia Building murder trial: Aussie forensic pathologist testifies over cause of cuts

Straits Times
12 Nov 2015
Amir Hussain

He says his test shows victim's injuries could have been caused by the edge of a padlock

The three cuts found on a woman who died in a fire at her husband's law firm could have been caused by the edge of a padlock, an Australian forensic pathologist testified yesterday.

Govindasamy Nallaiah, who is on trial in the High Court for the alleged murder of Madam Low Foong Meng, has maintained that he had used only a bicycle chain and padlock to hit her in a fit of rage.

He was a client of Madam Low's lawyer husband, Mr Rengarajoo Rengasamy Balasamy, and was involved in a dispute over legal fees with him. Govindasamy visited Mr Rengarajoo's office in the Afro Asia Building in Robinson Road on Aug 10, 2011 and had his run-in with Madam Low.

The 70-year-old claims he did not use any other weapon on Madam Low, who was 56. As she lay unconscious on the floor, he set fire to his case file and fled when the fire alarm rang.

The cuts on her body were later documented by Health Sciences Authority's forensic pathologist Gilbert Lau, who testified that they must have been caused by a sharp cutting object such as a knife or cleaver.

The tip of Madam Low's left middle finger was nearly sliced off, while another injury on her left elbow fractured the tip of the elbow. There was a cut on the area between her left armpit and back.

Taking the stand as a defence witness on the eighth day of the trial, Dr Johan Duflou yesterday said a padlock similar to the one Govindasamy told police he used had sharp edges, in his view. And a heavy object with sharp edges can cause a wound with clean edges, he said.

Dr Duflou said he initially thought such a padlock could "likely" have caused the finger injury, and it was "reasonably possible" for the elbow injury to have been caused by it.

But he thought it was "possible but unlikely" for the armpit injury to have been caused by the object.

Dr Duflou, who is a University of Sydney clinical professor and formerly the clinical director of the Sydney department of forensic medicine, said he then performed an experiment to see if such a padlock could inflict a cut similar to the one found on Madam Low's armpit.

He secured pieces of fresh pig skin to a piece of masonry board, and stuck them with the padlock several times. He was able to obtain a similar cut, and changed his view to there being a "reasonable possibility and not unlikely" for a padlock to have caused the cut.

Dr Duflou yesterday also said he was of the view that Madam Low's five skull fractures could have been caused by three blows to the head.

Both Dr Lau and Dr Duflou concluded, based on the amount of soot in Madam Low's airways and lungs, and the level of carbon monoxide in her blood, that her cause of death was from the inhalation of fire fumes and extensive severe burns.

Under cross-examination by the prosecution, however, Dr Duflou agreed he would not exclude the possibility of Madam Low's three cuts being caused by a cleaver. The trial continues next Friday with closing submissions by both parties.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

SembMarine, Marco Polo headed for long tussle

Business Times
27 Nov 2015
Tan Hwee Hwee

MP Drilling unilaterally terminates US$214m job over defects and is seeking refund of deposit; PPL says contract still subsists and is calling for second disbursement

[Singapore] SEMBCORP Marine (SembMarine) and Marco Polo Marine could be in for a protracted tussle over a US$214.3 million rig construction contract, which would potentially result in the first cancellation of a jack-up rig building order commissioned to a Singapore-based rig builder during the last rig-building upcycle.

SembMarine's PPL Shipyard is resisting a unilateral contract termination by Marco Polo Marine's unit Marco Polo Drilling (I) (MP Drilling). The jack-up rig contract at the heart of this spat between the two parties was announced in February 2014, towards the tail-end of the rig-building uptick that spanned from the second half of 2010.

To date, Singapore's yard groups, SembMarine and Keppel Offshore & Marine have reported deferment of deliveries of rig building contracts on hand. But, newbuild contract cancellations are stacking up elsewhere against low visibility of a recovery in the offshore drilling market. These include a newbuild semi-submersible drilling rig Seadrill - which was backed by shipping tycoon John Fredrikssen - placed with Hyundai Heavy Industries. Seadrill has cancelled the rig order with Hyundai, citing delays in its delivery.

The first sign of the contract dispute between MP Drilling and PPL came on Nov 17 when Marco Polo fired the first salvo by announcing that MP Drilling had given PPL Shipyard notice to terminate the building contract.

MP Drilling alleged that PPL failed to comply with certain material contractual obligations, It also cited cracks found on all three legs of the new rig during two rounds of tests. This was notwithstanding repair works carried out by PPL after the first round of tests, said MP Drilling.

Besides not wanting to take delivery, MP Drilling said that it was seeking refund of the initial payment of about US$21.4 million.

SembMarine responded on Nov 18 to say that PPL disagreed with MP Drilling's allegations and that it would regard the case as a repudiatory breach of the contract.

The dispute escalated when Marco Polo said in a Nov 24 announcement that it had initiated the contractual dispute resolution process against PPL, as provided for under the contract, to seek the refund. It cited as reason that PPL, through its legal counsel, had not acceded to MP Drilling's demand for, among others, the refund of the initial payment.

Responding, PPL said on Nov 25 that the contract was still subsisting. It added that the rig's contractual delivery date was Nov 30 and that the contract also provided that PPL had an additional 210 days after Nov 30 to deliver the rig.

"Any defect discovered will be made good and retested to the satisfaction of the Classification Society and MP Drilling before delivery," PPL said. It would also seek payment of the second disbursement if MP Drilling failed to make payment by Nov 30.

"As for dispute resolution, as the contract is still subsisting, and the disputes are technical in nature, PPL will be inviting MP Drilling to refer the disputes to the Classification Society, whose decision shall be final and binding on the parties as provided for under the contract," SembMarine said.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Related headlines

$302m Marco Polo rig deal 'still valid', ST, 26 Nov

Marco Polo starts legal action in rig dispute, BT, 25 Nov

SembMarine shares lose ground on rig contract spat, BT, 19 Nov

Strong links between Singapore’s rule of law and Magna Carta

19 Nov 2015
Scott Wightman

In the legendary story of Robin Hood, a valiant outlaw responds to bad King John’s unjust and exploitative rule by robbing the rich to give to the poor. In reality, history came up with another solution to King John’s arbitrary and excessive actions — Magna Carta. Eventually, its symbolism would inspire the contemporary concepts of the rule of law, individual rights, and consultative government.

Today, to celebrate 800 years of Magna Carta and SG50, an original medieval copy of this remarkable document will be on display in Singapore this week, for free, at the Supreme Court of Singapore.

But what was Magna Carta and why is this medieval English peace agreement linked to Singapore’s success and survival?

Magna Carta was agreed in 1215 as a peace treaty between King John and the Barons, leading figures in England who had rebelled against the king’s disastrous rule. King John quickly repudiated the treaty and went back to war with his barons. Had he not died the following year, Magna Carta might have remained an obscure document, of interest only to medieval historians. But King John’s successors willingly re-issued versions of Magna Carta, sometimes in return for an agreement to taxation. Magna Carta would become law in England, and later, the law in the many countries with Common Law legal systems linked to Britain’s. Upon independence, people in those countries claimed for themselves the rights they believed Britons had enjoyed, stretching back in time to the now mythical Magna Carta.

Of course, those countries had customs and practices of administration and justice that pre-dated Magna Carta. But the power of the principles in Magna Carta, or at least the principles believed to be in Magna Carta, have echoed down the centuries and across the world. These include the principle that everyone, including those who govern us, is subject to the law, and that no one should be detained except in accordance with the law.

These principles would find their way into the US Constitution (a golden replica of Magna Carta sits beneath the Houses of Congress in Washington DC). They are at the heart of our modern understanding of individual rights and freedoms and can be seen in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Despite saying little about women’s rights (except that no woman shall be compelled to marry, and that her right to be heard as a witness in court is limited) Magna Carta would still serve as an inspiration for those who demanded that women should have the right to vote. And it was referenced by South Africa’s hero Nelson Mandela in his struggle for equal rights regardless of race.

Magna Carta was part of Singapore’s laws until 1993 and it continues to be referenced in Singapore’s courts today. Like many countries, Singapore has drawn in its own way from the near mythical heritage of Magna Carta but it has done so in ways that go beyond its shores.

In 2015, the World Justice Project placed Singapore second on its Rule of Law index for East Asia and the Pacific and 9th in the Rule of Law world index. “Singapore’s distinctive qualities lie in its zero-tolerance approach to corruption and its strong enforcement of regulations and the criminal law, as well as effective avenues for civil justice,” said the National University of Singapore Dean of Law, Professor Simon Chesterman, in response.

The rule of law has been fundamental to Singapore’s success in terms of trade and commerce, providing business with confidence and stability. Confidence in the rule of law and the Common Law system is one of the reasons why nearly two-thirds of Singaporean investment into the EU goes to the UK, and around half of all UK investment in Southeast Asia comes to Singapore.

Beyond trade though, Singapore is a champion of international rule of law for wider reasons.

As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said, as a small country, Singapore depends on a rules-based, multilateral system to keep it safe and secure. Without it, ‘might is right’. And Singapore has helped to develop and expand international law. Its distinguished senior diplomat, Professor Tommy Koh, chaired the Third UN Conference on the Law of Sea that led in 1982 to what can be seen as a global Magna Carta for the Oceans.

This August, Singapore became a venue in Asia to settle disputes before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos). Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said that this ”demonstrates Singapore’s commitment to the international rule of law by facilitating access to Itlos in order to serve the needs of the states of this region, with a view to promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes”.

Just as Magna Carta aimed to create peace between the King and his subjects through inscribing rules and commitments in law, today, Singapore seeks to create peace and prosperity internationally by doing the same.

So we can see that many of the ideals associated with Magna Carta fly very high in Singapore. Just look at the five stars of Singapore’s flag which symbolise democracy, peace, progress, justice, and equality, the very things that Magna Carta has come to represent.


Scott Wightman is the British High Commissioner to Singapore. Magna Carta is on exhibition at the Supreme Court Auditorium from Nov 19 to 23 November. Admission is free.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Ex-pharma firm exec gets jail for illegal codeine sale

Straits Times
12 Nov 2015
Elena Chong

A judge who jailed a former pharmaceutical company sales manager for 21 months for forgery and offences under the Medicines Act said this could well be the worst case of unauthorised sale of codeine.

Ashley Jas Ang Wei Hoon, 38, worked for Beacons Pharmaceuticals when she committed 203 counts of supplying more than 20,000 litres of codeine-based cough syrup and codeine tablets to a Malaysian man, and 192 offences of forgery. She had admitted to 60 charges in all.

In a year from May 25, 2009, she supplied one Wong Kin Yu with a total of 984 x 3.8L canisters containing codeine and 4,000 codeine tablets which she knew were medicinal products not on the General Sales List. The estimated 20,307.2 litres of cough syrup she dealt with is the highest amount involved in such an offence.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Stacey Anne Fernandez said Ang wanted to hit her sales targets and create a "good portfolio" for herself in the hope of getting a job in another multinational company.

In May 2009, Soh Woon Mei, an assistant at Kim Tian Clinic, asked Ang if she could help order and deliver bottles of cough syrup to Wong, also known as Paul, who had visited the clinic.

Ang at first declined but later accepted the offer when she realised she could not meet her team's sales target. The court heard that she did not query Wong on why he needed medicinal products but believed he wanted to sell them on the black market.

She knew he had faked details in the invoices with the intent to commit fraud. She used the invoices to deceive Beacons into believing that the order had been made by Kim Tian Clinic.

After Ang's arrest in June 2011, numerous cases of forgery on invoices were uncovered. She had deceived the company into believing the orders had been made by various general practitioner clinics.

In passing sentence, District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said the large number of charges and sheer quantities of medicinal products sold showed the extent of Ang's overall culpability and would constitute a significant sentencing factor for consideration.

"This may well be the worst case involving the unauthorised sale of codeine but the prosecution is far from seeking the highest possible sentence,'' he said.

He accepted that Ang was not the mastermind, but still certainly no "pawn'', as characterised by her counsel, Mr Tan Cheow Hung.

"I would consider her to be a co-conspirator or, at the very least, she played the role of the seller in a 'buyer-seller' relationship in the illegal transactions," he added.

He said Ang committed the offences out of self-interest, even if she had not made any financial gain from the illegal transactions.

Ang could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined for forgery.

Elena Chong

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

KLW files fresh claim against investor over $7m

Straits Times
27 Nov 2015
Joyce Lim

It retracts earlier bid to recover sum on advice from new lawyers

Embattled Catalist-listed doormaker KLW Holdings yesterday said it has withdrawn an earlier legal bid to recover a $7 million payment from investor Michael Chan Ewe Teik.

KLW was demanding the repayment of the $7 million paid to Mr Chan as part of three term sheets which the company says were transactions made by its former managing director without the board's authorisation.

The board was told by newly appointed legal advisers Drew & Napier that it is unlikely that it will succeed in obtaining summary judgment against Mr Chan for the $7 million under the terms of the term sheets, as the time for payment came after last Saturday.

KLW was advised to withdraw the earlier action and to file a fresh claim after last Saturday for the monies to be repaid.

On Wednesday, it filed a separate writ of summons and statement of claim against Mr Chan and his company, Straitsworld Advisory, in the High Court.

KLW has been thrust into the spotlight recently after two of its former key executives - Mr Lee Boon Teck and Ms Jaslin Gaw Kuan Ching - came under the Commercial Affairs Department's (CAD) probe for possible breaches of commercial law.

Mr Lee, the former managing director, has since taken a consultancy role in the company.

Ms Gaw, who was previously the firm's financial controller, now heads the operations and human resource department.

It was previously reported that Mr Lee, who founded KLW, had entered into certain unauthorised transactions for the company.

KLW in May announced that the company had paid $16.2 million of commitment fees without directors' knowledge as part of term sheets agreed to by Mr Lee.

Only $9 million has been recovered so far.

Mr Chan is counterclaiming $3.45 million that he alleges KLW owed him from agreements between him and the company through Mr Lee.

KLW said it is assisting the CAD's probe into possible offence(s) under the Securities and Futures Act (Chapter 289) of Singapore.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Strong SGX signal against dubious practices

Business Times
19 Nov 2015
R. Sivanithy

VICTIMS of the collapse in Singapore-listed China companies - or S-chips as they are known in the local market - might view the latest regulatory announcement by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) as being too little too late, but it is nonetheless a step in the right direction since it suggests it will be that much harder from now on for companies to pull off dubious accounting tricks at the expense of investors.

In his regulator's column on Tuesday, new SGX chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin flagged suspiciously large and adverse changes in the finances of companies with big China operations, including those which operate in the textile and sporting goods, manufacturing, heavy industries, packaging, electrical and electronics, retail and chemical sectors. "Some companies... made significant loans and advances to business associates, which were not part of the normal course of business. These debts were eventually deemed uncollectible and written off," wrote Mr Tan. Other examples cited were customer claims for compensation which were more than 10 times the value of the original sales, companies extending prolonged credit terms to customers and reporting dwindling sales, while making significant prepayments to suppliers for raw materials and deposits for capital expenditure and expansion only to later write off these significant amounts.

Although Mr Tan did not state the nature of the scam he is looking to address, it's not difficult to piece it together - list on SGX at a high price, perhaps place out shares at even higher prices when the time is right (as some did during the S-chip peak in 2005-2007; funnel cash quietly to cronies along the way under the guise of "loans to associates" or other inflated payments, then when the market takes a turn for the worse either because others in the sector have been caught and are under investigation or because overall sentiment has soured or because of both; quickly make large write-offs and write-downs to balance the books and hide the fact that money has been drained away.

Because the market then reacts negatively to what is essentially bad news - net asset values after the write-downs would usually be miniscule - the shares collapse. If it stays that way for years, then there's always the chance of exiting via a delisting or privatisation at massively depressed prices.

To put it bluntly, SGX is looking to stop companies, some of which may have decent fundamentals but questionable integrity, from capitalising on a downturn (either in sentiment or the economy or both) by using their SGX-listed vehicles as conduits to rip off the investing public. Granted, there is some validity to the cynical view - mainly from victims of the S-chip collapse - that if listing and regulatory standards had been tighter in the first place, such scams may not have materialised. "It's shutting the door after the horses have bolted," said one cynic, literally referring to S-chips executives who have disappeared once red flags were raised and investigations commenced.

Then again, those who can remember the period 2003-2007 when China companies came flooding in would have to admit that the investing public was so enamoured of the China growth/opening up story that governance and quality concerns were summarily brushed aside in the rush to make money.

This is not to exempt the exchange from blame. Critics say it brought these companies in, earned listing and clearing fees along the way and so has to accept that lapses in its screening, quality control and monitoring systems played a part. To its credit though, it's better to try and fix the problem late in the day than not do anything at all, and this is what Mr Tan's Tuesday announcement seeks to accomplish.

It's important to note that although Mr Tan mentioned China in his column, his warnings apply equally to all SGX-listed entities, many of which may not have extensive business in China but might be tempted to dabble in the type of scam outlined above.

It's also important to cut SGX some slack in its tightening efforts as Mr Tan, formerly a white-collar crime buster from the Commercial Affairs Department, only assumed his present role a few months ago. Since then, there have been clear signs of an even more no-nonsense approach to regulation. One recent example was SGX's reprimanding of copper-based products supplier Advance SCT for breaching several listing rules. Its CEO and a non-executive director were also rapped. In two other cases, it advised trading caution after reviewing the trading activities in two companies, CEFC International and International Healthway.

SGX's warnings are a strong signal to the market that the exchange is keeping an even closer watch; Tuesday's announcement is another step in the right direction towards strengthening governance and restoring much-needed investor confidence.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Case to accredit school bus operators

Straits Times
12 Nov 2015
Yuen Sin

Parents and students from at least five schools were left in the lurch earlier this year when a school bus operator failed to deliver services it had promised.

Now, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA) are joining hands to avert a repeat of that situation.

Yesterday, they signed a memorandum of understanding to develop - in six months - an accreditation scheme for the school transport industry.

Operators who sign up for the CaseTrust accreditation scheme will be able to give customers more assurance by complying with stricter criteria.

These include clear policies about the collection and refund of bus fees and an insurance bond of $100,000 that will be paid out to customers if a bus operator terminates or liquidates his business.

Parents and schools will also be able to cancel contracts, within five days of signing them, if they are not satisfied with the delivery of services, and there will be mechanisms in place to handle disputes.

Eighteen bus operators that serve about 50 schools have pledged to join the scheme.

Since 2010, Case has received 39 complaints about school bus services. These include the case earlier this year in which Mr Adrian Lee, the owner of Sindoz Group, allegedly stopped responding to phone calls after collecting at least $50,000 in bus fees from five schools in January.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan, president of Case, said that the new agreement is a "small step" towards addressing challenges in the school transport industry.

The SSTA now represents 1,200 fleet and single-bus operators.

Mr Lim, who is also on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said: "I understand that there is some cost involved, especially if you're a single-bus operator. But we hope more will come on board once they see that there are tangible benefits."

Mr Wong Ann Lin, executive council chairman of SSTA, added that it will continue outreach efforts to operators to join the scheme.

Operators with the CaseTrust accreditation will be subject to an interim check after four years to ensure that they have been complying with the terms, before their contracts are renewed.

Mr Ben Tan, 40, who operates BT and Tan Transport, is among those who will be joining the CaseTrust scheme.

He said the standardised fare structure under the new scheme will improve communication with his customers.

"Many complaints arise because parents are not sure how many months we are collecting fees for, or how often we do it. It'll be good if there is more transparency involved."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Say 'no' to dual class shares

Business Times
27 Nov 2015
Mak Yuen Teen

Such ordinary shares with different voting rights will severely inhibit the role of directors, shareholders and markets in corporate governance

FROM the first quarter of 2016, public companies in Singapore can issue ordinary shares with different voting rights. The Singapore Exchange (SGX) and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) are currently reviewing whether to allow dual class shares for listed companies.

Hong Kong recently shut the door on dual class shares after the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) rejected it. The Australian Securities Exchange does not allow it (with minor exceptions for cooperatives and mutuals), and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK has also recently banned dual class shares for companies listing on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange.

In the US, the recent popularity of dual class shares among technology companies going public has re-ignited the debate about its merits. Dual class shares were largely disallowed by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) from 1940 until the takeover era in the 1980s, when the NYSE suspended the restriction as some companies seeking to shield themselves from takeovers started to convert from one-share-one-vote to dual class shares and moved to other US exchanges. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) eventually adopted a rule prohibiting companies that were already listed with a single class of shares from converting into dual class shares, which remains the position in the US today.

Recently, a number of commentators here have expressed support for dual class shares for listed companies. The pros and cons of dual class shares have been extensively discussed, and I shall not repeat them. Perhaps Financial Times columnist Andrew Hill best summed up the conundrum as follows: "The advantage of a dual-class share structure is that it protects entrepreneurial management from the demands of ordinary shareholders. The disadvantage of a dual-class share structure is that it protects entrepreneurial management from the demands of shareholders."

Founders and management who wish to protect themselves from the demands of outside shareholders have options such as retaining sufficient shares in a one-share-one-vote structure, issuing preference shares with no voting rights, or using debt financing. Using dual class shares is a case of wanting to have the cake and eating it too.

The empirical evidence supporting dual class shares is at best mixed. Arguably the most comprehensive academic study on dual class shares published in 2010 by three professors from Harvard, Stanford and Yale found evidence indicating that dual class shares reduce firm value in US companies.

However, we cannot reduce the question as to whether we should introduce dual class shares here to a matter of statistics - and even if dual class shares work in the US and other markets, we cannot assume that they will work here. As Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large of Fortune magazine said in Directors & Boards magazine: "The founders of the United States didn't survey types of government around the world and then run a regression analysis to figure out which was going to be the most effective. They set up a governance system according to the principles that they thought made the most sense."

It would be imprudent for us to allow dual class shares without considering our legal and institutional environment, and our approach to corporate governance. We should ask ourselves some fundamental questions, including:

• Does our legal system provide sufficient safeguards against abuse and practical means for shareholders to seek redress?
• Are dual class shares consistent with our legal and institutional environment, and with our philosophy about shareholders' rights and corporate governance generally? 

When HKEx consulted on the issue earlier this year, the respondents were highly divided, largely in accordance with their backgrounds. Accountancy firms, sponsor firms/banks, law firms and listed company staff overwhelmingly supported dual class shares under certain circumstances.

Large global investment managers such as Blackrock and Fidelity opposed it under all circumstances. The Asian Corporate Governance Association (ACGA) survey of 54 of its institutional investor members showed "overwhelming opposition" to it. Most broker-dealers, retail investors and HKEx staff responding in their individual capacity opposed it. Those respondents who support it do not believe that they should be allowed under all circumstances.

Some commentators have suggested limiting dual class shares to certain companies, such as technology companies. This appears to be based on the recent trend of technology companies using dual class shares, rather than the potential merits of dual class shares only applying to such companies as one can just as easily make a case for other types of companies. It may be technology companies today and space travel companies tomorrow that favour dual class shares.

Dual class shares are also used by US companies in industries such as media and communications, fashion and home goods. Some well-known companies that are not in the technology sector that have dual class shares include Berkshire Hathaway, News Corp and Nike.

Among technology companies in the US, Facebook, Google, Groupon and LinkedIn are examples that have dual class shares. However, many others do not have them, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter. Some have argued that dual class shares encourage innovation. Are the latter companies really lacking in innovation? Others have argued that hostile takeovers encourage short-term thinking or threaten founder control and therefore founders and management need to be shielded from them through dual class shares. So, should we also relax our takeover rules to allow boards to take actions to frustrate takeover offers?


Another suggestion is to restrict dual class shares to large listings that attract institutional investors and fund managers. However, as the responses to the HKEx consultation indicate, these investors tend to object to dual class shares. They may still invest in companies with dual class shares not because of fondness for them, but because their passive investment strategies lead them to index some portion of their funds' portfolios.

It has also been proposed that the number of independent directors on the board or nominating committee can be increased to improve oversight and monitoring. As it currently stands, many independent directors are already beholden to controlling shareholders. Having more independent directors who are appointed by those with superior voting rights is unlikely to do much good.

To counter this, it has been suggested that superior voting rights should not extend to the voting for independent directors or that ordinary voting shares should be able to approve or veto certain major corporate actions, such as changes to the core business or constitution of the company. Since one of the main reasons that founders and management want dual class shares is to have more control over key corporate decisions and actions, excluding or limiting the superior voting rights in such situations would miss the main point of such shares. Companies are unlikely to accept dual class shares with major exclusions and may soon be asking the SGX for waivers.

Another suggestion is that superior voting rights should be suspended when certain trigger events occur, such as insolvency or qualified accounts. There may be practical difficulties in prescribing the situations under which such rights should be suspended, and when these trigger events occur, the horse may have already bolted.

Finally, other proposed safeguards include "sunset" clauses requiring shareholder vote every few years or automatic conversion of superior voting shares to ordinary voting shares when the former are sold to outside investors. In the US, some of these restrictions do exist. For example, in Facebook and Google, the superior voting shares convert to ordinary voting shares when the founders sell their superior voting shares to outside investors. However, these are voluntary restrictions adopted by individual companies, and blanket rules around these will further limit the popularity of dual class shares.

There are two key safeguards in the US that provide protection for minority shareholders against abusive conduct by those who control companies through dual class shares.

First, controlling shareholders, like directors, owe fiduciary duty of loyalty to the company and shareholders. This is different from the UK approach, followed by Singapore, which imposes fiduciary duty on directors but not on controlling shareholders. This is how two lawyers from a US law firm explain it in the context of dual class shares in The Corporate & Securities Law Advisor:

"Corporate law provides shareholders with protections against abuses by those in control of the corporation. Directors and controlling shareholders owe shareholders a fiduciary duty of loyalty. The duty of loyalty requires that directors and controlling shareholders act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders, and without regard to personal motivations not shared by shareholders generally. Directors or controlling shareholders may be found to have violated the duty of loyalty if they approve transactions in which they have a conflict of interest because they or someone with whom they are aligned will benefit from the transaction. Such conflict of interest transactions are subject to an entire fairness review unless procedural protections, including an independent committee and minority shareholder approval, are used. To survive the stringent entire fairness review, the transaction must be the result of fair dealing and must be at a fair price. Any breach of the duty of loyalty entitles shareholders to seek judicial relief and remedies. There have been several judicial actions where the control group in a dual class company has been successfully challenged by shareholders."

It seems clear that the protection that minority shareholders have in the US against abusive actions by controlling shareholders is far more extensive than what is provided by section 216 of the Singapore Companies Act dealing with oppression of minority shareholders.

Second, the contingency fee-based class action system in the US gives minority shareholders a viable means for taking actions to seek redress, something that is clearly lacking in Singapore.

Investor rights and protection should not be sacrificed at the altar of attracting listings. The MAS must make the call on this in the same way that the SFC in Hong Kong and the FCA in UK made the decision.

I would urge MAS to bear in mind a comment from Charles Elson, director of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, who is also a lawyer and an independent director, that when you have dual class shares, what you are doing is exporting the monitoring function to third parties - to the government, the courts, the regulators. This is because dual class shares will severely inhibit the role of directors, shareholders and markets in corporate governance. Are our regulators up to the task and prepared to shoulder this responsibility?

The writer is an associate professor at the NUS Business School where he specialises in corporate governance and ethics

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

SembMarine shares lose ground on rig contract spat

Business Times
19 Nov 2015
Tan Hwee Hwee

[Singapore] SHARES in Sembcorp Marine lost ground on Wednesday on market fears that a developing legal spat with customer Marco Polo Marine over a S$214.3 million jack-up contract undertaken by PPL Shipyard could hit its bottom line.

The stock was trading at an intraday low of S$2.17 before closing down five Singapore cents or 2.22 per cent at S$2.20. Not helping was a broad market fall.

The contract is set for cancellation with either parties calling for its termination, citing contractual breaches. An RHB Bank analyst note projects that the contract termination with SembMarine's 85-per cent-owned PPL Shipyard would result in a S$35-40 million profit reversal in SembMarine's Q4. "This prompts us to lower FY15F earnings by 9%," said RHB. SembMarine said in a Nov 18 announcement that Marco Polo's unilateral contract cancellation is "a repudiatory breach of contract".

The company also said that PPL Shipyard "disagrees with the allegations" in Marco Polo's stock exchange statement and "will terminate the contract and claim amounts" due against Marco Polo and its drilling unit.

Marco Polo has alleged that cracks were detected on three legs of the jack-up rig being built at PPL Shipyard during two separate tests.

The RHB research report noted SembMarine "did not deny that cracks existed on the rig's legs" even as it disputed Marco Polo's said allegations.

"Important details - such as the number, severity, exact locations of the cracks and whether the classification societies have had a chance to perform non-destructive testing to verify structural integrity - have not emerged," the report said.

Sources speaking to The Business Times on the condition of anonymity said that the tests - understood to have taken place under full pre-load conditions - on Marco Polo's rig were performed to assess the integrity of its legs and jacking system, which are critical to the safety of its eventual offshore drilling operations.

The PPL400 design jack-up would have marked Marco Polo's entry into the offshore drilling business, as a now offshore support vessel-focused player. The aspiring jack-up rig owner's unilateral call for contract cancellation came as day rates for the offshore drilling asset class fell 30 per cent on the back of a 50 per cent drop in oil prices compared to 2014 levels, prompting industry sources to question if Marco Polo was seeking early release from the rig deal with PPL.

A Marco Polo spokeswoman maintained, however, that PPL was granted the opportunity to remedy the cracks spotted in the legs after the first test was performed, but more cracks were found after the second test. These were severe enough to give Marco Polo great concerns and had prompted the call for unilateral contract cancellation.

Marco Polo is seeking a refund of the 10 per cent deposit, or S$21.4 million placed with PPL for the jack-up rig construction. A second 10 per cent instalment originally due in February 2015 has been deferred on mutual consent as a result of a sectorial weakness, said the spokeswoman.

"Marco Polo has since lined up funding options and would have been in the position to make payment when it is due," she said. The company had also received in-principle understanding from a potential investor to co-own and co-operate the jack-up rig, she added.

Marco Polo's jack-up rig was being built to the same PPL400 design as several other jack-up rigs that PPL has already delivered to Oro Negro and Japan Drilling Company. Oro Negro has three further jack-ups and Japan Drilling Company has one further unit being built at PPL to the same design.

Marco Polo's shares closed at S$0.194, down 1.6 cents. The stock was trading at a low of S$0.162, just one hour before trading closed.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Banned e-smoking devices sold online

Straits Times
11 Nov 2015
Jalelah Abu Baker, Calvin Yang, Melissa Lin

Users' identity not needed to buy vaporisers, e-liquids from sites like Carousell, Gumtree

Electronic smoking devices including e-cigarettes are banned in Singapore, but sellers have found a way around the law by hawking them in cyberspace.

Young people, including teens below 18, are finding it easier to find such battery-run devices, which heat up a chemical, called an e-liquid, and turn it into vapour.

Also called "vaping" devices - as vapours are inhaled - these vaporisers and e-liquids can be obtained from online marketplaces like Carousell, Gumtree and Qoo10, as well as social media like Instagram and online forums here.

On Carousell, there are more than 30 such posts daily, with most selling e-liquids under vague search terms like "juice". E-liquid refills, sold for about $13 for a 10ml bottle and $25 for a 30ml bottle, come in flavours including bandung, root beer float and caramel macchiato, and may be laced with nicotine.

Vaping starter sets are also sold on Carousell for about $170 each.

After a deal is made, the listing would be deleted immediately.

Sellers on Carousell said they rely on the platform for fast deals, and it does not require users to reveal their identity. Their customers range from those in their mid-teens to people in their 50s.

One seller who did not give his name started selling vaporisers a year ago, but moved on to e-liquids "to help regulars continue their vaping lifestyle".

He has been "vape smoking" for the past three years and said the activity is growing in popularity here.

According to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), there were more than 15,000 cases involving people bringing vaporisers, which include electronic cigarettes, cigars and pipes, into Singapore illegally between 2012 and September this year. In the same period, 39 peddlers were caught for selling vaporisers here.

HSA said the vaporisers were found in parcels mostly ordered online, and on people entering Singapore. The Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act here prohibits the import, distribution, sale or offer for sale of any item designed to resemble a tobacco product, including vaporisers.

Buying e-cigarettes from overseas websites or bringing them into the country in hand luggage is also considered importing.

Offenders may be fined up to $5,000 for the first offence, and up to $10,000 subsequently.

Veteran lawyer Amolat Singh said the owners and operators of the online sites can be charged with "aiding and abetting" the offences under the Tobacco Act.

"In a sense, it is no different from allowing someone to sell something illegal in one corner of one's shop," he said.

The online marketplaces said they are monitoring the situation.

Gumtree told The Straits Times that sellers who put up prohibited items for sale will be warned.

Those who continue to flout the rules will be banned and blocked.

"Sellers often try to find ways to work around our defences. We... will continue to update our filters to better clean our site," said a Gumtree spokesman.

Vaporisers can contain cancer-causing agents

Carousell said it works very closely with regulatory and enforcement agencies to identify prohibited products.

It also encourages users to flag products and sellers who do not abide by its guidelines.

There is a sizeable group of vaporiser users here, going by an online e-cigarette forum for people in Singapore, which has more than 200,000 registered members.

Users say the lack of a foul smell is a draw.

After a deal is made, the listing would be deleted immediately. Sellers on Carousell said they rely on the platform for fast deals, and it does not require users to reveal their identity.

"My fingers no longer stink and I can confidently hold my loved ones," said a 28-year-old man.

Said the seller on Carousell of his customers: "Vaping helps smokers transit away from smoking traditional cigarettes, and all of my regulars have no intentions of reverting to smoking."

But Dr Wong Seng Weng, medical director of The Cancer Centre, said e-cigarette users are exposed to nicotine, which is addictive, as well as heated and aerosolised propylene glycol and glycerol, which may turn into carcinogens.

In a joint statement, HSA and the Health Promotion Board advise the public "against using vaporisers to quit smoking or reduce their nicotine addiction".

They cited a report by the World Health Organisation last year that said vaporisers can contain cancer-causing agents and toxicants and, in some cases, as much as those in conventional cigarettes.

They advised quitters to join the iQuit club at www.iquitclub.sg

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Lawyer cleared of outrage of modesty

Straits Times
27 Nov 2015
Elena Chong

A lawyer of 18 years' standing was yesterday cleared of outraging the modesty of a woman in a hotel room.

Mr Ismail Atan, 44, was given a discharge amounting to an acquittal for using criminal force on the 28-year-old woman - by forcefully grabbing her by her arms and trying to kiss and hug her.

The alleged incident took place in a hotel room in the Balmoral area at about 12.45pm on July 4, 2013.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Dwayne Lum told District Judge Jasbendar Kaur that the matter has been compounded, and a letter of apology had been submitted. This was confirmed by Mr Ismail's lawyer Mohan Das Naidu.

Mr Ismail's case was fixed originally for trial for two days.

The law allows certain criminal offences - such as simple molestation, simple hurt and wrongful restraint and mischief - to be settled out of court if the victim agrees to drop the matter in return for some form of compensation.

Offenders whose cases are compounded will not get a criminal record. The maximum punishment for outrage of modesty is two years' jail, a fine and caning.

Elena Chong

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

ADV: Academy Publishing - Law of Torts in Singapore (2nd edition)

Singapore Law Watch
19 Nov 2015
Academy Publishing

Code on debt collection can boost financial hub status: Forum

Straits Times
11 Nov 2015

It is past time for Singapore, as an international financial and banking hub, to have its own code of best practices on debt collection ("Case calls for laws to govern debt collection"; Sunday).

For instance, in Melbourne, Australia, where I worked and lived for more than five years, face-to-face contact between debtors and debt collectors is restricted to the hours of 9am to 9pm, and telephone calls are restricted to between 7.30am and 9pm.

No contact is recommended on public holidays, and there is an outright ban on tactics that involve threats or intimidation.

To give these guidelines bite, they are governed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, within the over-arching legal framework of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act.

Creditors and their collection agencies need to recognise that robust and effective debt collection strategies have to be crafted around common sense, tact and mindfulness, besides being based on hard numbers.

On the other side of the equation, this code of best practices also needs to address the responsibilities of debtors, such as initiating contact with their financial institution and other creditors to work out and agree on affordable payment plans that benefit all parties concerned, and understanding their creditors' legal and other rights against them.

The implementation of such a robust debt collection framework could help resolve the many issues that the industry is facing, and further augment Singapore's status as a global financial and banking hub.

Woon Wee Min

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Governance gap between S-chips and other stocks widening: study

Business Times
27 Nov 2015
Jamie Lee

Divergence more notable from 2012, when revised Code of Corporate Governance was put in place

[Singapore] AMID new attention on the corporate governance of S-chips or China-focused stocks listed in Singapore, fresh data analysis shows a widening gap between governance standards of S-chips and the rest of the market, made up mainly of Singapore entities.

This comes as the Singapore Exchange (SGX) issued a terse warning earlier this month over tardy disclosures by companies with large operations in China.

The Exchange said there have been adverse and significant changes in the financial positions of such companies under "perplexing circumstances".

In a speech on Tuesday, SGX's chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin also said the bourse is reviewing compliance with corporate governance rule among its listed companies. SGX will publish the results of such a review and highlight areas that include the unacceptable use of boiler-plate explanations.

S-chips have improved their governance standards over the years, but the problem is that the pace of improvement lags the rest of the listed companies.

The gap started widening more prominently from 2012, when Singapore companies started to raise standards to meet the revised Code of Corporate Governance. The Code isn't mandatory, but companies have to either comply or explain non-compliance.

Figures from the Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations at NUS Business School show that the average total score for all listed companies that are not S-chips on the Governance & Transparency Index (GTI) - which benchmarks governance standards in listed firms - stood at 48.8 out of a possible 143 points this year.

That isn't a great score, but for S-chips, this was even lower at 42.2. This translates to a 6.6-point difference. In the latest study, the centre looked at 110 S-chips and 529 non- S-chips. The gap has been widening since 2012. That year, the mean score for S-chips was 35.4 while the rest of the listed companies (mainly Singapore- domiciled companies) had a score of 32.8 - a difference of just 2.6 points then.

"The main worry for us is not just in the gap between the S-chips and non-S-chips. It is really in the widening gap, particularly over the past four years," said Lawrence Loh, director of the centre.

"In essence, the core differentiator between the two types of companies is disclosure. S-chips generally do not give the necessary attention to good disclosure."

But in the three years since the revised Code was put in place in 2012, other Singapore-listed firms have generally worked towards good governance practices, Prof Loh added.

As comparisons, none of the S-chips disclosed information on the succession planning of the board and senior management. Many non- S-chips didn't either - but at least the practice is picking up, with 4.3 per cent doing so, said Prof Loh. Just over 6 per cent of S-chips disclosed details of their code of conduct or ethics. This compared with 12.7 per cent of non-S-chips.

Beyond disclosure, only 2.7 per cent of S-chips have independent chairmen, compared to 17.2 per cent for non-S-chips.

Asked if the lack of regulatory reach to China plays a role, Prof Loh noted that non-S-chips, which are predominantly Singaporean companies, have local domiciles that are "within easy reach of regulators and key stakeholders".

"It is really in their integral interest to stay well up in governance and to be seen to be doing so," he said.

"The S-chips have a vastly different primary operating environment for their business. As China's economy has been faing uncertainties and challenges in the past few years, the emphasis on corporate governance has been less for these companies than for non-S-chips. The need and incentives to buck up on corporate governance for S-chips are less strong."

SGX did not name companies when it issued its caution on the disclosures of several companies with a large presence in China, but listed several examples of concern: some companies have reported customer claims for compensation of more than 10 times the value of the original sales, while others inflated trade receivables written off, and provided little clarity. Some made significant loans and advances to business associates, which were not part of the normal course of business. These debts were eventually deemed uncollectible and written off.

There were also others that made impairment provisions on their fixed assets such as factories and land on the basis that discounted cashflow from the business was impaired and the value-in-use negligible. "Some of these impairment decisions may be questionable. That these cases are surfacing at a time when China's economy is slowing and exports and imports declining may not be a coincidence," SGX said.

In the most recent governance issue involving an S-chip, a special audit conducted on Cedar Strategic Holdings, a Chinese property firm, on Tuesday showed that the company displayed numerous weaknesses and lapses in corporate governance, and internal controls. Cedar might have breached Catalist Board rules, too.

The special auditor, which was appointed by the Cedar board this year to conduct an independent review of the firm's accounts for financial years 2013 and 2014, also flagged questions over several divestments.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Man, 32, faces trial for raping his 56-year-old mother

Straits Times
19 Nov 2015
Selina Lum

A safety officer is facing trial in the High Court for raping his biological mother, 56, at their home.

The 32-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, faces one count of rape and two counts of outrage of modesty, all allegedly committed on Oct 4, 2013.

Besides allegedly raping her, he is also accused of restraining her while kissing her breasts and forcing her to touch him sexually.

The man, first charged in 2013, was originally scheduled to go on trial yesterday in an eight-day hearing.

However, the trial did not start. Instead, two legal heavyweights, Senior Counsel Harry Elias and Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, turned up.

The trial was postponed for the man to decide if he wanted the two prominent lawyers - assigned to the case under the Law Society's Criminal Legal Aid Scheme - to represent him as defence lawyers.

If the accused agrees, they will be his third set of lawyers.

He was first represented by Mr Mathew Kurian and Mr Rajan Supramaniam, who were engaged by his brother. The two lawyers later discharged themselves.

The accused then applied for help under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme. Mr Gino Hardial Singh, who came on board in March, no longer acts for him.

Asked about the senior counsel's involvement, a Law Society spokesman said both are strong supporters of the scheme.

Rape carries up to 20 years' jail, and caning or a fine. Molestation with restraint carries between two and 10 years' jail and caning; the other molestation charge carries up to two years' jail, with caning or a fine, or both. A date has yet to be set for the next hearing.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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Singapore Law Watch
11 Nov 2015

Ex-Singapore Power staff charged with corruption

27 Nov 2015
Valerie Koh

SINGAPORE — Four former Singapore Power (SP) technicians were charged in court today (Nov 26) with corruption, all allegedly involving the same construction company.

Muhamad Ridhuan Ramli, 33, faces one count of corruptly obtaining gratification of S$450 for “not creating difficulties” for China Construction South Pacific during an electrical board installation inspection last year. The inspection took place at 667A Punggol Drive. His colleagues Mohamad Suffiandi Mohamad Suhaimi, 30, and Mohd Kutty Hassan, 62, received S$200 and S$50, respectively on the same occasion.

All three were working at SP Powergrid then. The fourth former employee, Jasman Tiron, 55, was working at SP Services. He faces two counts of corruptly obtaining gratification of S$200 for “not creating difficulties” for China Construction South Pacific during two separate electrical board installation inspections. These took place at 55 Havelock Road and 780E Woodlands Crescent between 2011 and 2013.

The court documents did not say what the four allegedly promised in return for the payments.

In a media statement, Singapore Power said it conducted an internal enquiry after receiving a complaint. It then referred the case to Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

Ridhuan, Suffiandi and Kutty were fired in September, while Jasman resigned in April, it added. “Singapore Power takes a serious view of any corrupt act and does not tolerate any employee conduct that is illegal or brings the company into disrepute,” the statement added.

Separately, CPIB reiterated that Singapore adopts a zero-tolerance approach towards corruption. “CPIB takes a serious view of any corrupt practices, and will not hesitate to take action against any party involved in such acts,” it said.

Ridhuan, Suffiandi and Jasman were unrepresented in court today. They indicated they will plead guilty. Their cases will be heard again on Dec 10. Kutty, who was represented by a lawyer, will be back in court for a pre-trial conference on Dec 21. All four are out on bail. If convicted, each of them could be jailed up to five years, fined a maximum of S$100,000, or both.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

PwC calls for tweaks to S'pore tax system

Straits Times
19 Nov 2015
Wong Wei Han

Policies on perks, more bilateral pacts can help generate funds for growth: Accounting firm

Singapore's tax system can be improved to ensure the country can generate the funds needed for long-term growth and development, according to a white paper from accounting giant PwC yesterday.

It called for policies that ensure tax incentives for both foreign companies and local businesses, greater transparency about the tax regime and efforts to establish bilateral tax agreements with more countries.

PwC said tax incentives remain important to attract foreign companies but there should also be greater flexibility to foster entrepreneurship.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises that fulfil certain growth and productivity criteria should be made eligible for tax rewards, it added.

"At the same time, I think we can have more transparency to our tax incentives. Without providing company-specific details, the Government can perhaps release summary data on the incentive requirements, such as average headcount of incentive recipients," PwC Singapore tax head Chris Woo told The Straits Times in a briefing on the paper.

Incentives provided by the Singapore Government - usually in the form of lower corporate tax rate or even a pioneer rate of zero for a certain period such as five years - are decided on a case-by-case basis. There is no public information on the criteria involved.

"Having that transparency can give companies the certainty that Singapore is the place to pursue growth. And that's the ultimate goal: It's all about bringing growth and profits into Singapore."

The PwC white paper came after the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its final reports on how governments can tax more effectively. One of its key aspects is to address transfer-pricing consistency.

Transfer pricing refers to the price in a transaction between two entities in a company. Tax disputes on this front are typically an issue for multinationals, PwC noted.

"One way to further deal with such disputes is through bilateral advance pricing agreements (APAs), which provide taxpayers with certainty through a pricing model documented and agreed between revenue authorities," it proposed.

Singapore should develop APAs with more South-east Asian trading partners, Mr Woo said, adding that the Government should also expand its tax treaty network to minimise double taxation.

Double taxation is when a cross-border business is taxed by both jurisdictions. Singapore and the United States have yet to establish a double-tax agreement, something that the Government can focus on, Mr Woo noted.

"These agreements can encourage Singapore companies to venture overseas. Their growth will, in turn, expand Singapore's revenue base," he said.

Enhancements to the tax system will be crucial for Singapore in the coming decades as it gradually increases its spending on the social safety net for an ageing population.

As spending necessarily increases, all options must be considered to boost government revenue, including raising the goods and services tax, PwC said.


Having that transparency can give companies the certainty that Singapore is the place to pursue growth. And that's the ultimate goal: It's all about bringing growth and profits into Singapore.

MR CHRIS WOO, PwC Singapore tax head, on the benefits of having more transparency to Singapore's tax incentives

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Judge throws out case of illegal import of rosewood

Straits Times
10 Nov 2015
K. C. Vijayan

A judge has dismissed the case against a managing director and his firm for allegedly importing about 30,000 rosewood logs worth US$50 million (S$71 million) without a permit after she ruled that the goods were in transit here and Hong Kong-bound.

District Judge Jasvender Kaur held that prosecutors had not made the case to justify the charge under the Endangered Species Act against Mr Wong Wee Keong and his company Kong Hoo.

In a rare outcome, she dismissed the case without calling for the defence. Prosecutors had called 10 witnesses to support their case.

"The test for calling the defence at the close of the prosecution's case is whether the prosecution has led some not inherently incredible evidence, which assuming such evidence to be reliable, would establish the elements of the offence," she wrote in judgment grounds released on Oct 28.

The goods, which were acquired from Madagascar by Kong Hoo, were seized in March last year when a cargo vessel carrying them berthed at Jurong Port. They were meant to be restuffed into containers and shipped to Hong Kong. It was reported then to be the largest amount of rosewood logs ever seized.

Rosewood is a restricted item listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), to which Singapore is a signatory. A Cites listing means permits are required for the commercial import and export or re-export of a specified species. However, the Madagascar authorities had cleared the items for export. A delegation came to Singapore in December last year to look into the case and, the next month, Madagascar's Minister of Environment, Ecology and Forests confirmed that the export documents were authentic, noted the judge.

The legal defence team comprising lawyers K. Muralidharan Pillai, Paul Tan and Choo Zheng Xi argued that as the evidence showed the cargo was meant to be shipped to Hong Kong, "it must surely be a more reasonable inference that the cargo was not meant to be imported".

The judge agreed, finding that the goods were solely brought into Singapore to be containerised for shipment. There was no evidence it was meant to leave the Jurong Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and be distributed, stored or sold in Singapore, she said. The judge ruled that the items were in transit as they had remained within the FTZ and were therefore under the control of Customs officers, pending the ship-out.

"There was no evidence to establish that the logs were imported into Singapore. Accordingly, a permit was not required," she said.

A spokesman for the Attorney- General's Chambers said: "The prosecution will study the grounds of decision carefully before deciding on the next course of action."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Tan posed no danger to public safety: CJ Menon - Dan Tan match-fixing trial

Straits Times
26 Nov 2015
Selina Lum

Court's decision to free Tan seen by some as blow against efforts to fight match-fixing

After being detained for two years without trial, alleged match-fixing mastermind Dan Tan Seet Eng walked out of court yesterday a free man hours after the Court of Appeal declared his detention unlawful.

Given Tan's alleged links to football corruption across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the decision was seen by some as a blow against efforts to fight matchfixing. But Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon made it clear that as bad as Tan's alleged crimes were, the 51-year-old did not pose a danger to public safety in Singapore to warrant being held under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.

"While... these acts are reprehensible and should not be condoned, there is nothing to suggest whether or how these activities could be thought to have a bearing on the public safety, peace and good order," CJ Menon said as he delivered the decision of a three-judge court.

"The matches fixed, whether or not successfully, all took place beyond our shores," he added.

A shaven-headed and gaunt-looking Tan, who was arrested along with 13 others in September 2013 and began his detention the next month, showed no elation as the judges ordered his release.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it will study the judgment carefully before deciding on its next move.

It explained that it began investigating Tan in 2011, when he was repeatedly cited in Italian court papers for his involvement in match-fixing.

He was accused by MHA of fixing matches in Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey and Trinidad and Tobago. The attempts took place in 2010 and 2011. He was also accused of recruiting runners in Singapore and controlling overseas match-fixing agents and runners from here between 2009 and September 2013.

Tan's arrest in 2013 had been lauded by Interpol as a major blow against match-fixing. Yesterday, the former security chief at world football body Fifa, Mr Chris Eaton, made clear his unhappiness with the court's decision to free Tan.

He had previously fingered Tan as the mastermind of a group with hands in nearly every European football league. In an e-mailed reply to The Straits Times yesterday, the Australian, now an executive director at the International Centre for Sport Security, stood by his assertion. He said Tan had "wrought enormous damage in the global sport of football... Evidence of it abounds internationally".

Italian prosecutor Roberto Di Martino, who led the inquiry into international match-fixing that has resulted in 104 indictments so far, told The New York Times that an international arrest warrant that he made for Tan, who has also been charged in Hungary, still stands.

"If he comes to Italy he'll be arrested," he said. "Actually, he'll probably be arrested if he goes anywhere in Europe."

Tan said little after his release. His lawyers dealt with the paperwork needed for his release and even made a trip to a nearby mall to buy a new set of clothes for him.

At 3.35pm, he emerged stone-faced in the lobby, went to the building's cafe and sat with a can of Coca-Cola, and made several phone calls. His lawyer Hamidul Haq said it was Tan's first can of soda after his arrest.

Some 40 minutes later, Tan finally walked out of the courthouse with his lawyers. Asked what Tan's plans were, Mr Haq said Tan wanted to "connect back" with his three sons.

•Additional reporting by Sanjay Nair

Tan said little after his release. His lawyers dealt with the paperwork needed for his release and even made a trip to a nearby mall to buy a new set of clothes for him ... Asked what Tan's plans were, Mr Haq said Tan wanted to "connect back" with his three sons.

Court on why grounds for detention could not be justified

Dan Tan Seet Eng may have run an international match-fixing syndicate from Singapore. He may have recruited runners in Singapore.

But these activities, while reprehensible and not to be condoned, did not pose a threat to the public safety, peace and good order within Singapore itself.

The matches fixed all took place overseas. There are no indications that Tan's actions could lead to such activities taking root in Singapore. Nor are there suggestions that witnesses are unwilling to testify against Tan because they were being intimidated.

These were the reasons given by the Court of Appeal for why Tan's detention without trial under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act was unlawful and why it had ordered him to be set free.

Under the Act, commonly known as CLTPA, the Home Affairs Minister has powers to detain a suspect without trial for up to a year if he deems it necessary "in the interests of public safety, peace and good order".

But after scrutinising the grounds provided by the minister as the basis for Tan being detained without trial, Singapore's highest court ruled that his detention could not be justified.

"We are... unable to see how the grounds that have been put forward can be said to fall within the scope of the circumstances in which the power to detain under the CLTPA may be exercised by the minister," said the court in an 80-page judgment delivered by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

In the landmark judgment, the court set out the limits of the minister's power of detention without trial.

The judgment also set out the approach that the courts should adopt when reviewing detention orders and how the court should carry out its constitutional responsibility in assessing whether the minister has properly exercised his powers under the CLTPA.

The court noted that the judiciary is tasked with ensuring that any exercise of state power is done within legal limits. In the case of the CLTPA, which vests a "potentially draconian power" in the Government, the exercise of power will be scrutinised objectively, said the court.

The court examined the history of the Act, which was enacted in 1955 to deal with the rising threat posed by secret societies and gangsters.

The court said it is evident that the CLTPA was intended to deal with real and physical threats of harm within Singapore, even though it has been gradually widened to cover more offences.

Over the years, it has been extended to include drug traffickers, to deal with murderers and gang rapists where witnesses are not prepared to testify in court, and to cover syndicated activities of secret society members, such as extortion, unlicensed moneylending and human trafficking.

The court noted that the CLTPA was a last resort, to be invoked only against persons involved in serious criminal activities where the normal criminal process is not adequate because of the threat of harm to witnesses or their families.

The grounds given for Tan's detention - leading and funding a global syndicate to fix football matches in countries including Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Turkey - set out few connections with Singapore, said the court.

The court held that while the CLTPA confers a degree of latitude in detaining people associated with criminal activities, the activities must be of a sufficiently serious nature.

Most importantly, the activities must affect the "public safety, peace and good order" of Singapore, regardless of whether they take place here.

Tan Seet Eng  v Attorney-General and another matter [2015] SGCA 59

Dan Tan: who is he?

Described by friends as an "average Joe".

Dropped out of secondary school.

Said to be an avid gambler, punting thousands of dollars at a time on horse racing and football.

Said to frequent casinos; friends described him as a high-roller.

Jailed for less than a year in 1990s for being an illegal horse-racing and football bookmaker.

Said to have fled Singapore in 1994 after losing $1.5 million betting on that year's World Cup. Returned after creditors agreed to let him pay off his debt in instalments.

Spent most of his free time watching television and monitoring the stock market. Ironically, he rarely watched football.

Convicted Singaporean match- fixer Wilson Raj Perumal is said to have supplied betting tips to Tan.

Invested in Perumal's now-defunct sports event promotion company Football Four U (later known as Exclusive Sports).

When Perumal wanted to buy a share of Finnish football club Tampere United, Tan invested around €300,000 (S$452,000) but withdrew it upon realising Perumal's plan to use the club ownership to manipulate the team's results.

Upon Perumal's subsequent arrest in Finland, he singled out Tan as the ringleader of a match-fixing syndicate, insisting that Tan instigated a certain Joseph Tan Xie to tip off the Finnish police.

Described by friends as loyal and that his "soft-heartedness" is his biggest weakness.

In December 2011, allegedly masterminded the fixing of matches in Italy's Serie A and B.

Charged in absentia by a Hungarian court in May 2013 for alleged role in fixing matches there.

Alleged to have manipulated 150 football matches in four continents.

Named by Interpol as "the leader of the world's most notorious match-fixing syndicate".

Arrested by the Singapore authorities in September 2013 along with 13 others.

Had been detained in prison since October 2013 under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. Released yesterday after detention was ruled unlawful.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

MOF accepts 31 suggestions on draft income tax Bill 2016

Business Times
18 Nov 2015
Claire Huang

[Singapore] THE Ministry of Finance (MOF) has accepted 31 suggestions on the draft Income Tax (Amendment) Bill 2016, following a public consultation exercise held from June 26 to July 24. A total of 70 suggestions were received from 11 organisations and individuals.

The draft Bill contains proposed legislation to effect the tax changes announced at Budget 2015 in late February, as well as other changes arising from the periodic review of the income tax system.

The Income Tax (Amendment) Bill is slated to be introduced in Parliament in early 2016, incorporating the 31 suggestions accepted, MOF said.

The other 39 suggestions were not accepted as "they were inconsistent either with the legislative drafting conventions or the policy objectives of the proposed legislative changes".

The ministry said on Tuesday that most of the feedback it received focused on four areas.

They are: extending and refining the mergers and acquisition (M&A) scheme; enhancing the double tax deduction for internationalisation scheme; introducing the international growth scheme; and extending and enhancing the maritime sector incentive.

One suggestion under the enhancement of the double tax deduction for internationalisation scheme that was accepted was to amend the Act to clarify that a Singapore entity will be treated as having incurred the salary expenditure if it directly incurs that expenditure, or if the overseas establishment incurs the expenditure and is subsequently reimbursed by the Singapore entity.

Another that was accepted was under the introduction of the international growth scheme.

MOF said the definition of "international growth company" will be amended to include a company incorporated and resident in Singapore, which provides services to a person or permanent establishment outside Singapore.

Calls to specify the period of acquisition within which the purchase of ordinary shares in a target company (by the acquiring company or an acquiring subsidiary) will qualify for tax deductions in the proposed paragraph (d) of the M&A scheme, were rejected.

The argument by proposers was that paragraph (d) is unlike the other paragraphs under Section 37L (4A).

But MOF said the purpose of the insertion of paragraph (d) is to specify that any acquisitions made by an acquiring company or its acquiring subsidiaries can qualify for the M&A scheme, so long as the acquisitions are made within the same basis period when the acquiring company and its acquiring subsidiaries own more than 50 per cent of the total number of ordinary shares in the target company.

And as companies have different basis periods, it is not meaningful to specify a date in paragraph (d).

The draft Bill was originally slated to be introduced in Parliament in 2015 but was postponed till next year, following the dissolution of Parliament in August.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Kovan double murder trial: Suspect 'killed victims so they could not identify him'

Straits Times
10 Nov 2015
Selina Lum

Prosecutors claim he had armed himself with knife, with intent to kill 'right from the outset'

Prosecutors yesterday accused 36-year-old policeman Iskandar Rahmat, on trial for the Kovan double murder, of killing a father and son to silence them so that they could not identify him.

Iskandar had testified on Oct 30 that he had wanted to steal from car workshop owner Tan Boon Sin in a bid to resolve his financial woes.

He insisted that his plan was just to grab the money and run, but the ploy went wrong when his 67-year- old victim wised up to the ruse and attacked him with a knife.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Lau Wing Yum, cross-examining Iskandar on the seventh day of the trial yesterday, put it to him that he had armed himself with a knife, intending to kill Mr Tan "right from the outset".

The DPP also alleged that Iskandar had killed Mr Tan's son, Chee Heong, to silence him when the 42-year-old arrived at his father's Hillside Drive house.

Iskandar flatly denied the allegations. He remained stony-faced and composed as the DPP sought to poke holes in his account.

DPP Lau pointed out that if Iskandar had simply run off with the money as he claimed to have planned, leaving Mr Tan Boon Sin alive, the elderly victim would have made a police report and identified him.

Iskandar replied that he had called Mr Tan from a payphone and worn sunglasses when he met him, and that Mr Tan, being elderly, would not have been able to pick him out in an identification parade.

He disagreed with DPP Lau that, as an experienced investigator, he knew that investigations would lead to his identification.

The court had heard earlier that Iskandar was the initial investigating officer when Mr Tan made a police report in November 2012 about $35,000 stolen from his safe deposit box at Certis Cisco. But the two never met.

On July 10, 2013, facing imminent bankruptcy and possible dismissal from the police force, Iskandar set in motion a plan to steal from Mr Tan, who had $200,000 left in the box.

Posing as an intelligence officer on a sting operation to catch the safe-deposit-box thief, Iskandar told Mr Tan to substitute the valuables in the box with a closed-circuit television camera.

The camera which Iskandar supplied was a $10 fake that did not come with a cover for the battery compartment or any batteries.

The dummy camera was the focus of a good part of DPP Lau's questioning yesterday.

The significance of the issue lies in Iskandar's claim that after he followed Mr Tan back to his house, the elderly man came at him with a knife, accusing the cop of cheating him as there were no batteries in the camera. DPP Lau sought to disparage this account.

Surveillance footage at the Certis Cisco vault was played in court. It showed Mr Tan putting the camera in his deposit box and then taking it out two minutes later. DPP Lau suggested that by this time, Mr Tan would have known that the battery compartment was empty. Iskandar replied that he would not know.

DPP Lau suggested that Mr Tan had left the building to ask Iskandar about the lack of batteries but was assured that it could operate without batteries - that was why Mr Tan later made a second trip to Certis Cisco to put the camera in again. Iskandar disagreed.

The DPP said there was no reason Mr Tan would suddenly become suspicious of Iskandar in the house, after allowing the cop to escort him home and offering him a drink.

Iskandar replied: "I wouldn't know what's going on in his mind."

The trial resumes tomorrow.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

$302m Marco Polo rig deal 'still valid'

Straits Times
26 Nov 2015
Wong Siew Ying

Marco Polo Drilling, in trying to halt deal, is breaching contract, says SembMarine

Sembcorp Marine (SembMarine) has hit back in a contractual dispute with customer Marco Polo Drilling (MPD), insisting a US$214.3 million (S$302 million) rig deal is still valid.

The client, a unit of Singapore-listed Marco Polo Marine, last week sought to unilaterally terminate the contract - and demanded the refund of payments made so far.

But in a statement yesterday, SembMarine said Marco Polo Drilling is in "repudiatory breach" of contract.

The client claimed the SembMarine unit PPL Shipyard (PPLS) allegedly failed to comply with certain material contractual obligations. But SembMarine said PPLS' position is that the contract is still in force.

On Tuesday, Marco Polo Marine said it has, through its legal counsel, initiated the contractual dispute resolution process against PPLS. This is to seek a refund of the initial payment of 10 per cent of the contract price, about US$21.4 million, and all other payments it had previously made to PPLS, plus interest.

Yesterday, SembMarine said the "purported termination on Nov 17, 2015, is wrongful and without any justification whatsoever" .

It said the rig, due to be delivered on Nov 30, was substantially ready to be completed when MPD terminated the order.

"Based on the construction schedule, more than 98 per cent of the rig had been completed. The final phase of construction included a pre-load test and a jacking trial followed by non-destructive testing," SembMarine said.

It added that any defect discovered will be made good and pass satisfactory tests by the classification society, before delivery.

SembMarine said the contract also allows PPLS an additional 210 days after Nov 30 to deliver the rig. Therefore, PPLS has "more than enough time" to rectify any defect and deliver the rig.

"PPLS is of the view that the purported termination by MPD is to avoid its obligation to pay the second disbursement of 10 per cent of the contract price (US$21.43 million), that has already accrued and due to PPLS immediately on the execution of the contract," SembMarine said.

It added that this payment was deferred twice at the request of MPD and is payable by Nov 30.

SembMarine said PPLS will be seeking payment of the second disbursement if MPD fails to pay up by Nov 30 and that all of the rights of PPLS are reserved.

As the disputes are technical in nature, SembMarine said "PPLS will be inviting MPD to refer the disputes to the classification society, whose decision shall be final and binding on the parties as provided for under the contract".

SembMarine's shares fell 0.9 per cent to $2.15, while Marco Polo Marine rose 1 per cent to 19 cents.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

SGX fires warning on suspect China-linked impairments, write-offs

Business Times
18 Nov 2015
Mindy Tan

Regulatory chief notes surge of such transactions amid China slowdown; tells directors, audit committees in particular, to be vigilant

[Singapore] THE Singapore Exchange (SGX) has flagged disclosure concerns over some companies, particularly several with large operations in China.

It is closely monitoring disclosures of companies including those which show large swings in financial positions and performance, the exchange said in a post on its regulator's column on Tuesday.

Several companies with large operations in China have recently announced adverse and significant changes in their financial positions under "perplexing circumstances", noted SGX chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin. These companies are mainly from the textile and sporting goods, manufacturing, heavy industries, packaging, electrical and electronics, retail and chemical sectors.

The regulator highlighted a long list of concerns. Some companies have reported customer claims for compensation more than 10 times the value of the original sales, while others inflated trade receivables written off, and provided little clarity. Some made significant loans and advances to business associates, which were not part of the normal course of business. These debts were eventually deemed uncollectible and written off. There are also others which made impairment provisions on their fixed assets such as factories and land on the basis that discounted cash flow from the business was impaired and the value-in-use negligible. "Some of these impairment decisions may be questionable. That these cases are surfacing at a time when China's economy is slowing and exports and imports declining may not be a coincidence," Mr Tan said.

The post is seen as unusual - the SGX is often less explicit in delivering caution. When contacted, SGX declined to name the companies in question. Mr Tan said, in response to queries, that "we are simply highlighting a trend observed based on publicly disclosed information".

"This column serves to set out SGX's expectations of directors, in particular the audit committee, to be vigilant on such matters should they encounter such situations in their companies."

Stefanie Yuen Thio, joint managing director of TSMP Law Corporation, noted that while the actions mentioned in the regulator's column are worrying, the bad practices are the exception rather than the rule among the S-chips or China-focused stocks of today. "In the S-chip heyday of 2006-2007, we saw many China companies list in Singapore. Some may not have had the best management teams; even large listed darlings like CAO had their scandals, and stories about how entire sets of accounting papers literally went up in smoke in China did not raise corporate eyebrows. The S-chips of today are generally managed to a more international standard so it would be unfair to tar all China-listed companies with the same brush," said Ms Yuen Thio.

"While a 'light touch' in regulation makes sense in a mature market, a sound financial centre like Singapore also needs to root out mismanagement. It seems to me that this SGX blog post is an early warning signal to directors that they had better exercise due care, or face the consequences."

The exchange highlighted customer claims and write-offs of accounts receivables and other assets as two key areas of concern. It is concerned with the manner in which claims appear to have been settled or compensated without due process. It stressed that it is the board's duty to verify the amount of damages claimed, and conduct its own investigations. Where significant payments are made or written off, controls must be in place for the board to deliberate on and question the merits of the payments or the actions taken by management to recover the amounts written off. The board cannot merely leave such decisions solely to management.

"SGX is concerned with recent developments where the value of fixed assets including land and real estate properties have been significantly impaired or written off in the records of the company, based on the value-in-use methodology of valuing these fixed assets. These fixed assets may be subsequently disposed without proper disclosure or accountability," said the regulator. "In particular, where the land and real estate properties have been too aggressively impaired to nominal or below its open market value, such disposals at the impaired values prejudices the interest of shareholders as a whole."

David Gerald, president and CEO of the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) (SIAS) noted that the warning - both for retail investors and companies - is a good safeguard.

Based on his observation, "there were three announcements by three Chinese companies, and SGX is pre-empting the fourth announcement", said Mr Gerald, who also declined to name any company. "If there is a fourth one, investors need to know they have to ask questions . . . (SGX) is letting investors know this is happening (and) you need to ask questions, and companies are also being told what steps they need to take. I think it's good as a safeguard."

In his post, Mr Tan stressed that SGX is closely monitoring companies reporting adverse financial developments, and that auditors must undertake audit procedures expected for listed companies. The exchange reserves the right to request for a Special Auditor to be appointed to investigate and report on the true state of affairs of the company and for any special audit report to be made public.

"We understand that difficult economic conditions can greatly hurt companies' financial and business performance. Nevertheless, based on past experience, we are vigilant that companies from certain sectors seem particularly vulnerable to the full negative impact of any economic slowdown," he said.

"In such circumstances, SGX expects companies to be transparent and accurate about their disclosures. Inaccurate or lack of disclosures on compensation claims and settlements without due process is a breach of SGX Listing Rules. Failure by directors to discharge their fiduciary duties also constitutes a breach."

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Raise awareness of transparency, governance of charities: Forum

Straits Times
10 Nov 2015

In highlighting the fact that just over half of charity groups submitted an online checklist used to self-evaluate how well they have followed guidelines laid down by the Commissioner of Charities (COC), last Thursday's commentary raises valid concerns about the governance and transparency of charities in Singapore ("Holding charities to account").

Because the COC has yet to find a balance in the regulation of the sector, two recommendations can be considered.

First, strengthen public education on "informed giving", so that non-profit groups are accountable to donors and the public.

Second, nudge more of these organisations to focus on outcomes and results reporting.

Besides the self-evaluation process, there is a national charity portal, which provides some details about charities, their annual reports and statements of account.

These documents are often uploaded on their respective websites too.

Yet, what is less clear is how aware Singaporean donors are of these platforms, how often these platforms are used, and whether they are consulted when donors give them funds.

More needs to be done to raise awareness of the availability of such information, and people should be encouraged to turn to these portals before they decide to donate to an organisation.

Charities could also be pressured by more discerning donors, who may demand to know how their donations are used.

Charity Navigator, one of the largest charity evaluators in the United States, rates organisations in three areas: financial health, accountability and transparency, and results reporting.

In Singapore, the authorities can encourage charities that have submitted the governance checklist to give prominence to performance measurement and management.

"Evidence-based" giving can promote higher standards.

The National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre has published independent charity analyses for a few non-profit groups, and the COC has worked to develop a transparency index, but more can still be done.

How a charity is managed - and by extension, its effectiveness - has implications throughout the organisation.

In the long term, more extensive recruitment efforts will be necessary to bring in more professionals, as well as to build a pool of manpower and resources to manage this part of a non-profit group's operations.

Kwan Jin Yao

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'Extend exemption for shipping pacts': CCS

Straits Times
26 Nov 2015

The Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) is recommending that the Government extend for another five years a block exemption for liner shipping agreements .

The move follows a public consultation held earlier this year.

The Competition (Block Exemption for Liner Shipping Agreements) Order, issued in 2006, exempts a category of liner shipping agreements from prohibitions against anti-competitive agreements. It was extended in 2010 for five years until the end of this year.

The CCS said yesterday it received five submissions in response to the public consultation, four of which were supportive and one against the proposed extension.

It said: "In arriving at its recommendation, CCS has carefully considered the changes in the international regulatory environment in its review and noted that anti-trust exemptions for liner shipping agreements generally remain the regulatory norm worldwide.

"Agreements between liners to share vessel space increase the utilisation of space, enable more frequent services and may enhance competition with larger liners."

If the new extension is granted, it will last until December 2020.

Marissa Lee

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Jailed swindler faces longer term

Straits Times
18 Nov 2015
K.C. Vijayan

CJ grants prosecution time extension to file appeal against sentence for insurance agent

An insurance agent, jailed for nine months for swindling his client and friend of 20 years, may have to spend even longer behind bars after prosecutors were given a time extension to file an appeal.

Tan Peng Khoon, 44, was working for AIA when he hatched a plan to deceive 61-year-old widow Lim Choon Hoong. The illiterate Mandarin-speaking factory worker unwittingly signed four English-language documents in 2011 surrendering her life insurance policy for $2,018 and letting her obtain a $6,500 loan on another life insurance policy.

She authorised Tan to receive the sums on her behalf. He also convinced her to make him a joint holder of her POSB account.

On Oct 13, 2011, he withdrew $6,500 from the account and spent 19 hours playing the jackpot machines at Resorts World Sentosa. He came out, withdrew a further $2,000 from an ATM from Madam Lim's account and spent a further 21/2 hours at the casino.

Madam Lim, who earned up to $600 a month, lived with her younger son who was financially dependent on her. But in previous years she had loaned various sums to Tan which totalled about $150,000.

He never repaid her, but when she stopped lending him money, he hatched the plan to swindle her of whatever little she still had, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon noted in decision grounds released yesterday.

Tan was found guilty of four charges of forgery and two counts of cheating by District Judge Salina Ishak in February, after a 13-day trial. He had been sentenced to a total of 24 months in jail, but four of the terms were to run concurrently, resulting in a nine-month term.

He appealed against the conviction and sentence but subsequently withdrew the petition of appeal and began his jail term in July.

The prosecution gave notice of appeal against the sentence in February, but failed to file its papers within the required 14-day deadline after the district judge had served the decision grounds in May.

After the prosecution discovered the mistake on June 5, it took immediate steps to apply for a time extension to appeal, noted the Chief Justice. Deputy Public Prosecutor Gordon Oh argued there were aggravating factors justifying an appeal, saying the sentence would remain as a precedent if left uncorrected.

The Chief Justice granted a time extension for prosecutors, who filed their appeal on June 10; by then they had missed their deadline by about 25 days due to an "administrative lapse". He noted the "novelty" of the case - being the first time the prosecution had asked for a time extension to appeal - but found the move would not unfairly prejudice the defendant.

Making clear the delay was not to be condoned, he said the problem "had to be balanced against the public interest in pursuing an appeal".

He held that "the touchstone" in deciding whether such applications should be granted "remains the interests of justice in the particular case".

But he found there was no prejudice in the case as Tan had withdrawn his appeal, even though he knew the prosecution had filed notice seeking an extension of time to appeal.

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Public Prosecutor v Tan Peng Khoon [2015] SGHC 298

Online database simplifies hunt for the right lawyer

Straits Times
08 Nov 2015
Ng Huiwen

Users can narrow search by category, and make instant request for quotation

Searching for a suitable lawyer to help restructure a previous business some years ago proved frustrating for Ms Cherilyn Tan.

Despite approaching several lawyer friends and acquaintances, the 30-year-old found it difficult to get an objective assessment and price quotation.

Realising there may be others with a similar need, the tech enthusiast founded Asia's first legal interactive database last August.

Since then, more than 2,800 lawyers have registered with AsiaLawNetwork.com (ALN), including around 1,000 lawyers based in Singapore. The remaining hail from law firms in the region and countries such as Britain and the United States.

Ms Tan, who first dabbled in software programming and coding when she was 12 years old, hopes to see at least one million lawyers on ALN in five years' time.

The database allows users to call up a list of lawyers using search terms in customised categories such as area of expertise, country, language or budget.

Users are able to instantly make a request for quotations using an online form, which is customised to each lawyer, through the portal.

This would give users an easier time in getting accurate quotes from several lawyers at once, cutting down the need for numerous phone calls or e-mail exchanges.

"Communication between lawyers and potential clients becomes a lot more structured and this saves a lot of time for both parties," said Ms Tan.

Withers KhattarWong partner and criminal lawyer Shashi Nathan, who sits on ALN's board of advisers, said that for lawyers, the benefits such a database would bring are plenty and timely .

"In the last 10 to 15 years, there has been quantum leaps in how technology has affected law practices. Our courts have moved to using an e-litigation system while our clients are now more tech savvy," he said.

"The legal practice will always be competitive and, ultimately, lawyers don't go out there to market ourselves. So this really is the only way you can be visible to clients and for clients to reach out to you."

Civil and commercial litigation lawyer Lee Ee Yang, a senior associate director at Characterist, said the network will level the playing field for small and medium-sized law firms.

All 17 lawyers at the firm have started listing their legal services on ALN since February.

He said: "This allows us to have exposure alongside the bigger brand name law firms. We're able to showcase our niche expertise, but more importantly, with comparatively smaller resources than before."

Lawyers are also encouraged to co-write articles with a team of ALN writers. This allows them to be seen as thought leaders in their respective fields, Mr Lee added.

Beyond linking lawyers to clients, Ms Tan envisions ALN as a platform where firms can connect with one another.

For instance, larger law firms can use the database if they need other lawyers to assist them in bigger cases. It also facilitates potential partnerships between local and overseas lawyers or law firms, she explained.

Mr Nathan cited the recent establishment of the Singapore International Commercial Court as one example of the growing internationalisation of Singapore's legal sector.

In a speech delivered to the Association of Muslim Lawyers last November, Law Minister K. Shanmugam noted that Asia-Pacific's share in the legal market is expected to double from US$109 billion (S$155 billion) in 2012 to US$215 billion in 2017, to become the second-largest regional market.

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Singapore legal firms face push to go global

Straits Times
25 Nov 2015
Grace Leong

It is the biggest multi-continental tie-up in Singapore's legal industry, bringing together 7,300 lawyers across the world. But the deal inked earlier this month between Singapore's oldest law firm Rodyk & Davidson and global player Dentons was more than just a mega union for the record books, it may also be an indication of winds of change blowing through Singapore's legal industry.


As legal services globalise, and as cross-border transactions grow, it makes sense that local firms tie up with global partners.

Mr Thio Shen Yi, senior counsel and joint managing director of TSMP Law, believes the latest tie-ups signal Singapore's growing stature as a legal hub.

"The use of Singapore law is gaining traction. If you are doing business in this part of the world, you will inevitably need to use a firm with Singapore law capability. And global law firms will build access to Singapore law capacity through mergers, alliances, joint ventures," he said.

Dentons has been aggressively expanding its international footprint in the past year.

Mr Joe Andrew, Dentons' global chairman, said that the combination would create a "Pacific Rim powerhouse", and is critical for law firms chasing clients and work on major deals.






"In a globalised world, the old way law firms were organised simply doesn't work," he said.

This is especially so if Dentons wants to gain fast access to work generated by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is seen as affecting almost 40 per cent of the global economy; China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road infrastructure programme; and the Asean Economic Community, which is to be formed by year end.

Just earlier this year, Stamford Law became the Asian headquarters of one of the world's top five law firms, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, in a merger that brought some 3,000 lawyers together.

The internationalisation of law firms is a critical part of the future, and Singapore firms can be at the heart of these moves, Mr Philip Jeyaretnam, senior counsel and managing partner of Rodyk & Davidson, said. "When law firms are interconnected globally, the ability to provide services is enhanced. Singapore can grow significantly as an exporter of legal services," he added.


Some believe the globalisation trend will likely continue. "Today, with barriers to the export of professional services coming down, we can expect a belated wave of combinations and alliances among law firms globally," Mr Jeyaretnam said.

For local law firms involved in such tie-ups, benefits include knowledge and technology transfers from global firms that have a lot more financial firepower, and a larger expertise pool.

"Local lawyers would be working alongside mega-financial services firms from Wall Street, London, Beijing and Shanghai, who are accustomed to working only with global law firms," said Mr Robson Lee, a partner of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

"To be a global player, you need to be part of a bigger platform. Size does matter," he added.

For RHT Law, which joined forces with Taylor Wessing in 2011 to expand into Europe and the United States, the move has been largely positive.

"It allowed us to share best practices on human and knowledge resources, and technology on an accelerated basis. We have strengthened our existing intellectual property practice and added new practices such as private wealth, corporate technology, and financial crime and compliance," Mr Tan Chong Huat, managing partner of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, said.

"The increasingly cross-border nature of many commercial transactions means that law firms without an international presence will find it hard to be involved in international deals or tenders," Mr Tan said.

Equipping its lawyers to handle the rigours of a global legal practice is another boon.

"Our lawyers, having opportunities to work in global transactions, have increased their legal expertise, and become more well-rounded professionals through international secondment and exchange programmes," he said.

Some observers envisage more mid-sized firms entering into some form of alliance with foreign legal practices.

"If a domestic law firm is going into an arrangement with an international firm, the question is what level of independence, or interdependence, is desired, and the level of economic integration," Mr Thio said.

Some may allow an international firm to own part of the domestic law firm, but it really depends on the method by which expenses are shared and billings apportioned, he said.

An enhanced joint law venture (JLV) is a very flexible structure that allows the possibility of substantial economic integration, he added.


But not all are sold on the idea of combining with global firms.

Dentons' strategy of trumping its rivals through sheer size and depth could give it economies of scale. But it has also drawn sceptics, who pointed to the potential for conflicts of interest among clients in different jurisdictions, the difficulty in maintaining consistent quality across regions, and the tendency for savvy clients to seek the best lawyers with niche expertise in a particular region, rather than simply opt for a firm with the widest reach.

It is telling that none of the Big Four local law firms are currently in alliances, although some have been in the past.

In 2012, Allen & Gledhill's merger talks with London-based Allen & Overy crumbled. Its alliance with Linklaters also ended. Drew & Napier had a joint law venture with Freshfields, which ended after seven years in 2007. WongPartnership and Clifford Chance went their separate ways in 2008. A combination or merger with a global firm may be an attractive answer for some law firms, Mr Lee Eng Beng, Rajah & Tann's managing partner, said.

But Mr Lee said the Big Four firm has chosen to "remain fully independent and Asian, and to reach out to the best lawyers in this region to create the largest and most dominant legal services network in South-east Asia".

"For us, it is a question of identity, what gives us the most professional satisfaction, and the excitement and experience of building something that we can be proud of," he added.


While long-time brand names such as Rodyk & Davidson and Stamford have been kept, and local management retained by local partners, some observers say they cannot discount the possibility that other established Singapore brands may be swallowed up in international mergers.

In Hong Kong, many of the local law firms have been swallowed up or merged with international names.

Mr Thio, however, believes Singapore will not go the way that Hong Kong did.

The hard truth of globalisation is that for many law firms, high-value corporate work will almost always have an international dimension. This means there is every incentive for lawyers to start offering cross-jurisdictional work.

"In Hong Kong, there are almost no strong free-standing domestic law firms. It is different in Singapore where there continues to be strong local law firms, and I do not believe that it is in anyone's interest to hollow this out," he said.

Rodyk & Davidson and Stamford have chosen the merger path. Others are opting to wait it out. Like markets in London, New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo, the legal industry here is bifurcating to those who are able to do cross-border work, and to those whose focus is primarily domestic law.

It is notable that Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, in his address at the Rule of Law Symposium last year, cautioned against focusing exclusively on domestic law. He said that must now be regarded as "an act of wilful blindness".

The hard truth of globalisation is that for many law firms, high-value corporate work will almost always have an international dimension. This means there is every incentive for lawyers to start offering cross-jurisdictional work.

And through tie-ups with global firms, many of these local law brands can reposition and reinvent themselves.

In time, the international brand may even be "glocalised", or adapted to the needs of Singapore and the region, which could give local firms a higher standing globally, and strengthen Singapore's legal sector.

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Magna Carta on show at Supreme Court

Straits Times
18 Nov 2015
Lee Jian Xuan

Historic document that is regarded as laying the foundation of democracy lands in Singapore

The Magna Carta, a revered 13th-century English document which paved the way for the establishment of fundamental human freedoms, will be displayed here in an exhibition at the Supreme Court from Thursday.

Written in mediaeval Latin on a sheepskin parchment, the historic document, which translates to "Great Charter" in English, features in an exhibition touring the world this year to mark its 800th anniversary.

Visitors here will get to see a copy of the Magna Carta, one of four still in existence from 1217, from the Hereford Cathedral in England. The other three are housed in the Bodleian Library in Oxford University.

They will also get to see the only surviving copy of the letter from King John of England to announce the issuing of Magna Carta in 1215.

To accompany this exhibition, the Supreme Court will host a concurrent exhibition titled Magna Carta And Us that details how Singapore's Constitution and rule of law are linked to the Magna Carta.

"This is to celebrate Singapore's 50th year of independence. Our countries also have a shared history," says Reverend Canon Chris Pullin, chancellor of Hereford Cathedral, when asked why the exhibition is travelling here.

While the Magna Carta was first mooted as a peace treaty between King John and his rebel barons and has been re-written several times, some of its clauses laid out fundamental values that resonate today, such as the right of all free men to justice and a fair trial, and the rule of law over all, including the king.

But critics have said that the document's impact has been overstated and, in some cases, misappropriated.

In a New Yorker article published in April, history professor Jill Lepore at Harvard University wrote that the Magna Carta "is on occasion taken out of the closet, dusted off, and put on display to answer a need. Such needs are generally political".

To this, Rev Pullin says: "The Magna Carta is an iconic document. It's symbolic for human aspirations. But within it, there are seeds from which marvellous flowers are grown."

The document has been displayed in cities such as New York, Hong Kong and Beijing.

In Beijing, the exhibition was moved from Renmin University to the residence of the British ambassador with reports suggesting that the move was made because the principles of the document are contrary to the Communist Party's.

But Rev Pullin says the relocation of the exhibition was due to "practical and administrative reasons". He adds that response in the Chinese cities was good, with about 7,000 visitors showing up in Hong Kong and another 4,000 in Guangzhou.

Law professor Kevin Tan, who curated the Singapore leg of the exhibition, says visitors can also view panels about the Magna Carta's history and its importance in the world today.

For instance, there will be information about how the document influenced the American constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There will also be an image of a new two-pound coin issued by the British Royal Mint to commemorate its 800th year.

Quoting the United States' Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr, Dr Tan says: "We're not celebrating some ancient instrument. We are celebrating a number of clauses in the instrument that contains 'kernels of transcendent significance'."


WHERE: Level B2 Supreme Court Building, 1 Supreme Court Lane

WHEN: Thursday till next Monday, 8.30am to 8pm daily


INFO: www.gov.uk/government/world/singapore

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Case calls for laws to govern debt collection

Straits Times
08 Nov 2015
Melissa Lin

Tactics getting bolder, says consumer body; but debt collectors say they have tough job

Mr David Chen's wife was alone at home one night in January when three men turned up, banging gates and shouting vulgarities. When she ignored them, they turned off the electricity supply to the flat.

The men were from a debt-collecting firm, and such companies have been growing bolder in the use of harassment tactics.

According to the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), it has received complaints about debt collectors who impersonate police officers and demand payments higher than the loan amount. In one case, they even unleashed a dog into a debtor's office.

Given the rise in complaints against such firms in recent years, Case is now calling for the industry to be licensed and for laws to govern how money can be collected.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon told The Sunday Times: "Debt collectors should be required by law to abide by a code of conduct to carry out their debt collection in a non-oppressive and non-intrusive manner."

Between January and September, Case received 15 complaints about harassment by debt collectors. There were 37 last year, 11 in 2013, and eight in 2012. Debt collection firms are usually hired by licensed moneylenders, furniture retailers, telecommunication companies, fitness clubs and insurance firms to collect money owed.

Between January and September, Case received 15 complaints about harassment by debt collectors. There were 37 last year, 11 in 2013, and eight in 2012.

Debt collection firms are usually hired by licensed moneylenders, furniture retailers, telecommunication companies, fitness clubs and insurance firms to collect money owed. There is no specific legislation that regulates debt collectors, said the Registry of Moneylenders.

The Credit Collection Association of Singapore, formed in November last year to try and lift industry standards, has a code of ethics that requires its members not to use "oppressive or intrusive collection procedures". But it has just 13 members, a fraction of the 300 or so companies in the market, and even then, it does not have much power to enforce the code.

The Protection from Harassment Act , which came into force in November last year, allows debtors to apply for protection orders and claim for damages, but the legal process can be daunting, said veteran lawyer Amolat Singh.

Police step in when the debt collection antics turn criminal - such as in January, when debt collectors who confronted a stall owner at Funan DigitaLife Mall's foodcourt and damaged items were later charged with unlawful assembly.

But Mr Singh said more often than not, victims are told to seek redress through the court or engage a lawyer. "By licensing, undesirable characters can be rooted out. Further, (debt collectors) can be made to learn and know about the dos and don'ts, the limits in the law of pursuing a debtor and where that right ends," he said.

But several debt collection firms claim that they too have a tough job.

Mr Roger Rajan, owner of the JMS Rogers debt collection agency, said: "Recalcitrant debtors and scammers have badly affected the lives of creditors. Some have lost their life savings or are on the verge of closing their businesses because of bad debts."

A tough approach is needed in certain cases. "Knocking on doors louder than usual is sometimes needed to get the attention of the people inside," he said. "And to be taken seriously, we sometimes need to address the matter in an audible and clear manner."

He added that debtors had also threatened his employees with metal rods and parangs. Debt collectors who overstep the law also tend to be new companies which did not train their men properly, he said.

For Mr Chen, a 47-year-old part-time waiter and security guard, January's incident was the second time that month that debt collectors visited his home to claim the $2,000 that he owed a motoring firm. He has since lodged a police report and a complaint with Case.

"I was worried that my 18-year- old son and 20-year-old daughter will be attacked when they returned home," he said. The debt collectors left after police arrived.


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Marco Polo starts legal action in rig dispute

Business Times
25 Nov 2015
Andrea Soh

It is seeking refund of at least US$21.4m from SembMarine unit PPL Shipyard

[Singapore] MARCO Polo Marine has started the legal process to seek a refund of at least US$21.4 million from Sembcorp Marine (SembMarine) after the cancellation of a contract for a jack-up rig.

Marco Polo Marine on Tuesday said that its subsidiary MP Drilling has initiated the contractual dispute resolution process against SembMarine's subsidiary PPL Shipyard, which is provided for under the contract signed between both parties.

Marco Polo had on Nov 17 issued PPL a notice of termination of the contract, after the latter allegedly failed to comply with certain obligations. Marco Polo said that it had found cracks on all three legs of the new rig during two rounds of tests, though repair works had been carried out by PPL after the first round of tests.

With the cancellation of the contract, Marco Polo would not be taking delivery of the new rig, it said in an update on the termination of the US$214.3 million contract.

It is seeking a refund of the initial payment of 10 per cent of the contract price, which amounts to about US$21.4 million, and all other payments it had previously made to PPL, together with interest.

PPL, through its legal counsel, has not acceded to MP Drilling's demand for the refund of the initial payment, among others, after the notice of termination was served, Marco Polo said.

The termination of the contract also means that Marco Polo is not obliged to make any further payment of the contract price to PPL, it added.

BT had earlier reported that there was to have been a second 10 per cent instalment to be paid by February this year. This had been deferred by mutual consent, but a few funding options had been lined up to allow the company to pay this amount when due.

The PPL400 design jack-up rig was scheduled to be delivered at the end of 2015 to Marco Polo, subject to satisfactory tests and certification by an agreed classification society. It would have marked the offshore support vessel player's entry into the offshore drilling business.

SembMarine had said in a response on Nov 18: "PPL Shipyard disagrees with the allegations in the (Nov 17) announcement and will regard this as repudiatory breach of the contract." It added that PPL would terminate the contract and claim amounts due under it against MP Drilling and its guarantor Marco Polo Marine.

Shares in Marco Polo edged up 0.1 cent to close at S$0.19 on Tuesday while SembMarine rose five cents to S$2.17, before the release of the Marco Polo announcement.

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The cost of protecting intellectual property

18 Nov 2015
Wan Saiful Wan Jan

While in New York recently, I walked around Times Square and saw many street vendors selling fake luxury brand handbags. The real items would probably cost thousands of dollars, but these vendors were selling them at less than US$50 (S$71) each.

This experience is not very different from what can be seen in many ASEAN (Association of South-east Asian Nations) countries. When the desire to own a product is hindered by high cost, we end up with replicas at knock-down prices.

It is thus not surprising that in the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement — a trade deal involving 12 Pacific Rim countries including the United States, Japan and Singapore — intellectual property (IP) is a contentious topic.

A stronger IP protection regime means it would be more difficult for genuine products to be copied legally. The TPP wants to ensure IP owners can benefit from their inventions longer.

Obviously, TPP critics are not opposing the pact because they want to buy fake handbags. Their complaint is far more substantive, centering on the impact on the price and access to medicine.

They worry that pharmaceutical companies will control the supply of their medicines for an extended period, which in turn means generic manufacturers will have to wait longer before they can legally produce copies. As a result, the poor in developing TPP countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia may have delayed access to the cheaper generic versions.

This concern is valid. Those at the bottom of the pyramid are usually the ones who suffer the most when producers are given a monopoly on products. They cannot afford the high cost.

But there is a flip side to the issue. If the IP rights of inventors are not respected, then there is no incentive for inventors to innovate. Without the incentives to produce new products and improve existing ones, not only will there be nothing for generic producers to copy, there will be no motivation for inventors to develop new drugs at all. If we go back to the fake handbags in New York, if everything can be copied and sold cheaply immediately, Gucci and Coach would not even bother to invest in new designs at all.

Within ASEAN, the importance of IP is recognised at many levels. Regionally, the ASEAN Working Group on Intellectual Property Cooperation has existed since 1996. Its mandate is to transform ASEAN into an innovative and competitive region through the use of IP.

In Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced in September that he wants to see IP being used as a new source of wealth to help the country escape the middle income trap. He also acknowledged that this is an important element if Malaysia is to become more competitive.

Singapore, on the other hand, is far ahead of other ASEAN countries when it comes to protecting and benefitting from IP. In 2012, the Ministry of Law set up an IP Steering Committee, which subsequently submitted to the Government an IP Hub Master Plan.

In his response to the submission, Minister for Law K Shanmugam stated that the Master Plan will “provide a robust framework to guide the continued growth of Singapore’s IP sector, and cement Singapore’s position as a vibrant global IP hub in Asia”. The focus is to make Singapore a hub for IP transaction and management, quality IP filings, and IP dispute resolution.

Since 2010, I have been involved in global research led by the Property Rights Alliance to look into property rights protection around the world. A report is produced annually in the form of the International Property Rights Index. This year’s index was released on Monday in Kuala Lumpur and a briefing session will be held in Singapore tomorrow.

The global study of 129 countries shows that Singapore is indeed fast cementing its position as a global IP hub. It is once again ranked as No 1 in ASEAN, and fifth in the world. The closest ASEAN country is Malaysia, which is still quite far behind in the 28th spot. In terms of specific scores for IP protection, Singapore’s performance this year is better than many developed countries, including Germany, the US and UK.


However, there is one policy dilemma that makes Singapore an interesting case study to observe. In March this year, the Health Ministry announced that they will initiate a public consultation on standardised packaging for tobacco products. This idea is similar to what was implemented by Australia in 2012, where tobacco products must be packed in a way that does not allow for differentiation. The aim is to reduce smoking, but the move raises questions of whether it will be an infringement of the intellectual property rights of companies who have invested a huge amount of money to build their brands and trademarks.

The desire to protect public health is respectable, but introducing standardised packaging could damage Singapore’s IP ambition without achieving the public health targets. Last year, a study published in Economic Papers, a journal of applied economics and policy, found that, contrary to the Australian government’s desire to reduce smoking, the country actually saw increased consumption after the policy was introduced.

This contradictory outcome was actually predicted by an academic study was published in 2012. Standardised packaging reduces brand loyalty and people start looking at price. Suddenly a new situation is created where consumers discover they can actually afford to buy cigarettes if they ignore brand loyalty, therefore contributing to increased consumption.

There is also the risk that the IP of other industries could be affected once one industry is deprived of its IP. There could be a slippery slope from tobacco to other products that have a possible health impact, such as alcoholic beverages, sugary drinks or fast food.

Where should one draw the line in this IP saga? Should the government deny IP protection to some companies but strengthen it for others? How will that affect the rule of law and trust in government? Should chocolate makers worry because their products may contribute to obesity? There are no easy answers.

The ambition to make Singapore a global IP hub is well within the country’s reach. But the new dynamic between public health campaigns and preventing a drop in investors’ confidence is one that is being carefully watched by many Singapore observers.


Wan Saiful Wan Jan is director of Southeast Asia Network for Development (SEANET), a regional research centre promoting ideas to make ASEAN’s growth more inclusive and sustainable. The Singapore briefing of the International Property Rights Index at The Ritz-Carlton Singapore tomorrow is open to the public.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Businessman jailed for supplying fake degree

Straits Times
08 Nov 2015
K. C. Vijayan

Judge notes spike in cases of foreigners using fake certs to apply for work passes

A district judge, noting that more foreigners are using fake university degrees to get work passes, sentenced a Chinese national to 12 weeks' jail last month for helping a woman from China get a fake degree.

The judge also noted in judgment grounds last week that businessman Dong Gui Tian showed no remorse.

"As I was reading out the oral grounds for conviction, Dong showed positive aggression and non-remorse by violently banging against the witness dock which he was seated in, breaking the metal latches which secured the dock, thereby damaging court property," said District Judge Carrie Chan.

Dong, a permanent resident here, had supplied a forged university degree in economic science for $3,000 to Li Yang Yang in 2009, to support her work pass application. Li, 30, who came here in 2009, pleaded guilty in 2010 for giving false data to the Manpower Ministry in her employment pass application and got four weeks' jail then.

She had identified Dong as the agent who "did everything for her".

She did not get to work and was supported by her boyfriend while here. She met Dong at least four times and paid a total of $19,000.

She was one of four witnesses who testified for the prosecution.

Dong denied knowing or helping Li, and further claimed that the investigating officer had sought $5,000 in bribes from him in 2010.

But the judge noted Li had no reason to falsely implicate Dong and that Dong did not offer evidence to support his claim that the probe officer had asked him for money.

The prosecutors, Mr Amos Tan and Ms Madhu Satish Kumar, called for a deterrent jail term, pointing to Dong's two past convictions for cheating and helping to employ a foreign worker illegally, and citing the spike in forged certificates.

There were seven cases of foreigners involved in forged certificates in 2010 , and 77 two years later.

Dong is appealing against the 12-week jail term and conviction.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

SMRT to bear 95% of blame for woman's bus fall

Straits Times
25 Nov 2015
Selina Lum

Woman's fall in bus fractured her skull, led to coma

SMRT will bear nearly all of the blame for an accident in which a woman hit her head and fell into a coma after the bus she was in stopped suddenly.

The transport operator and former bus driver M. Ezar M. Hassan yesterday agreed to shoulder 95 per cent of the responsibility for the 2011 accident. Madam Ding Weibo, the victim, will carry 5 per cent.

The agreement was reached yesterday, the same day the matter was set to go to trial.

Madam Ding, 58, who filed the suit last year, with her husband You Bujia as her legal representative, was not in court.

Mr You, 62, who attended, with their daughter, 30, declined to reveal how much the family was seeking from SMRT, saying that he was leaving that to his lawyer Tito Isaac.

The lawyer said: "We are still in the midst of quantifying the damages."

If SMRT contests the amount of damages, a separate hearing will be held to decide how much it should pay. Mr You did, however, accept a handshake from Mr Ezar, after the defendants' lawyer Renuka Chettiar initiated a meeting between them. Both men shook hands without exchanging words.

Speaking to reporters, Mr You said that his wife, who fractured her skull and suffered brain injuries, had to undergo two operations. The first was to remove a section of her skull due to her brain swelling. The second, done a year later, was to replace the skull section with metal plates.

She woke up only a few weeks after the accident.

While she can walk and talk, she can only do so slowly, he said. She has not left their flat in the past four years except for exercise.

Mr You said he has stopped running his import and export business to take care of her full-time.

The family of three, who are originally from China, are permanent residents and have lived here for more than 15 years.

Madam Ding and her daughter Xiao Sui had boarded Service 167 in Orchard Road outside The Heeren shopping mall on Dec 18, 2011.

The bus moved off as they were walking towards the available seats. It then stopped suddenly and Madam Ding lost her balance, hitting her head against the metal bar of one of the seats.

After emergency surgery, she was in intensive care for about two weeks. She was moved to a rehabilitation ward on Jan 6, 2012, and discharged on Feb 4, 2012.

A criminal charge was brought against Mr Ezar for causing grievous hurt by a negligent act. He was fined $4,500 after pleading guilty in January 2013.

Last year, a Thai teenager lost her court fight to seek damages from rail operator SMRT and the Land Transport Authority over a train accident that caused her to lose both legs. The High Court found that the defendants were not liable as Ang Mo Kio MRT station was reasonably safe.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

ADV: LexisNexis: Adjudication - Case Law Principles

Singapore Law Watch
18 Nov 2015

Woman sues SGH and two of its doctors for $8m

Straits Times
07 Nov 2015
Salma Khalik

A 51-year-old woman is suing Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and two of its doctors for $8 million, claiming their negligence caused her to lose her legs at the knee, her hands and part of her arms.

Ms Sarina Kaur alleges that one of the doctors went ahead with a simple procedure to treat a urinary condition, even though pre-treatment tests showed she was carrying a bacterial infection. This, the former receptionist claims, led to blood poisoning, gangrene and the loss of all her limbs.

But SGH's chair of surgery, Professor London Lucien Ooi, yesterday said the complications could have been a result of her multiple underlying conditions.

Ms Kaur, who is single and lives with her 78-year-old mother, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about 25 years ago, for which she has been receiving steroid treatment at SGH.

In 2008, she was diagnosed with vesico-ureteric reflux, a condition in which her urine would flow back from the bladder to her kidneys. She also had a recurring urinary tract infection.

In 2012, she was referred to Dr Ng Lay Guat, who was head of urology at SGH. She was recommended a deflux procedure to stop the backflow. According to Ms Kaur's statement of claim filed with the High Court on Wednesday, Dr Ng told her that the procedure "was simple, straightforward and low-risk".

It was scheduled for Nov 20, 2012. But pre-admission test results on Nov 17 showed the presence of multi-resistant Escherichia Coli bacteria in her urine.

Ms Kaur believes that Dr Ng, whom she is suing, should have treated the infection before doing the procedure, which was not urgent and could have been postponed. Instead, Dr Ng gave her an injection of a broad-spectrum antibiotic, went ahead with the procedure, and put her on a daily dose of the medication the day after.

But that night, Ms Kaur developed a fever of 38.7 deg C. Dr Du Jingzeng, the other doctor in the suit, was the medical officer on duty at the time. He diagnosed "likely sepsis" or blood poisoning, but did not call for a more senior doctor to examine her.

The next morning, during her rounds, Dr Ng and her team did an ultrasound scan and found that Ms Kaur's right kidney was swollen.

According to court papers, they did not, "in accordance with standard management", immediately relieve the swelling, drain the infected urine, or effectively treat the infection.

Later that day, Ms Kaur's fever rose to 39.3 deg C. In the evening, she was in "severe septic shock" and was moved to intensive care. Over the next few days, she developed multiple complications, including respiratory distress, multi- organ failure and gangrene. As a result, all four limbs had to be amputated.

On Dec 1, 2012, both her legs were cut off at the knee. Both hands were amputated on Jan 7. At the end of the month, her lower right forearm was cut off. Before the end of 2013, dead tissue on her left forearm stump had to be removed.

She had to quit her job and is no longer working.

Her claims include a report by orthopaedic surgeon Lee Soon Tai, which states: "The absence of wrist/hands and legs/feet deterred Sarina from carrying out her daily self-care and physical activities. She relied on her domestic helper to do the simplest things."

Giving SGH's side, Prof Ooi said in a statement issued by the hospital that the presence of bacteria in urine is not conclusive of an infection in the absence of other symptoms. He explained that Ms Kaur was given a suitable antibiotic "to cover any possible infection".

He said the "serious complication of septic shock following a routine procedure" could possibly be the result of her multiple underlying conditions.

He stressed that the hospital had given her its "full support throughout her treatment as we understand that the complication has been devastating for her and her family".

Ms Kaur has since turned to Tan Tock Seng Hospital for prosthetics.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

SGX wants to add value to its company disclosures

Straits Times
25 Nov 2015
Yasmin Yahya

Move towards fewer but better alerts will bolster regulatory regime here, it says

The Singapore Exchange is studying the way it issues alerts to investors, to increase their value by supplying

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) is studying ways to encourage institutional investors to be more engaged, and to move towards cutting down the number of company disclosures while giving them greater value.

SGX chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin said the push towards "low volume/high value" disclosures was part of moves to strengthen the regulatory regime here.

Speaking at the Thomson Reuters Asean Regulatory Summit yesterday, Mr Tan noted that Singapore has proportionately more retail investors than the United States, home to the principles of disclosurebased regulatory regimes.

"In order for the disclosure-based regime to work in Singapore, we have had to make certain adjustments," Mr Tan noted.

For example, "if company filings are too voluminous, the danger is that investors will not even look at the disclosure documents".

So to move towards low volume but high-value disclosures, the SGX is studying the way it issues alerts to investors.

When a company is queried on unusual trading activity in its shares and replies that it is unaware of any reason for the activity, the SGX will issue a "Trade with Caution" (TWC) alert on the counter.

There has been some debate over whether this alert has lost its efficacy because it has become perceived as "high volume/low value" information, Mr Tan said.

"Hence, we have recently started to increase the value quotient by supplementing our TWCs with additional detailed announcements containing information we have gathered from our surveillance or review of trading activities.

"We are now looking into how such announcements will co-exist with the TWC process."

Mr Tan added that if the SGX notices any unusual and troubling trends, it will draw attention to the practice, to warn investors and put companies on notice.

Just last week, he noted, the SGX drew attention to Singapore-listed Chinese companies reporting sudden adverse financial changes.

The SGX is also "always looking for ways to encourage institutional investors to proactively engage their investee companies as well as exercise their voting rights appropriately to foster sustainable growth and value creation that will be in the common interest of shareholders", Mr Tan said.

This is because institutional investors have the clout and resources to push for change and improve governance.

In the US, the disclosure-based regime works well because institutional investors dominate the market,

Mr Tan noted.

"We cannot increase the percentage of institutional investors overnight. But we can increase the level of shareholder activism by institutional investors."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Singapore leads Asian business law initiative

Straits Times
17 Nov 2015
Grace Leong

A ground-breaking initiative led by Singapore is under way to promote cross-border trade and investment through the convergence of Asia's business laws.

The Asian Business Law Institute (Abli) will be launched by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) at the international conference on Jan 21-22 on legal convergence in Asia.

Backed by leading regional judiciaries, corporations and law firms, the Ministry of Law and the Economic Development Board, Abli will be a forum for the business and legal community and policymakers to discuss how Asian commercial legal frameworks can be linked up.

This would tackle the biggest barrier to growth: legal uncertainty or inconsistent regulations and standards. Often, companies have to make decisions on regulatory compliance in the dark, so they are missing out on business opportunities.

This problem is becoming significant in the light of rising economic integration among Asian countries through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, and initiatives such as the Asean Economic Community (AEC) and China's "One Belt, One Road".

These are potential game-changers that could reinvigorate investment and growth in Asia.

"In terms of laws, unintentionally, we have a legal haze. If we can clear the legal haze, it will be good for everyone," said Mrs Lee Suet Fern, managing partner of Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC and chair of SAL's Steering Committee on legal convergence.

"There are many issues that the region's legal and business communities can work on, including identifying the inconsistencies which undermine transnational business, the solutions that are acceptable, as well as the sort of uniform rules which can apply to cross-border contracts, and how to enforce them," she said.

National University of Singapore law dean Simon Chesterman, a steering committee member, cited a "fundamental contradiction". He said: "Asia is the economic engine of the world, but we haven't seen any of the pay-offs in terms of making Asia more coherent as a single market. The reason is that governments can't or won't do it... so that creates a space for Abli."

Professor Chesterman said that Abli is "not about transforming the laws, but sharing enough information so that the knowledge gap can be addressed".

It is about creating opportunities for countries to modify laws, or for businesses to modify their practices so they can simplify the costs of doing business across multiple jurisdictions, he said.

Rajah & Tann partner Paul Tan, also on the committee, noted that the challenges stem from differences in laws across the region, and the inaccessibility of laws, particularly from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"If you are a businessman sitting in Singapore or America, there is no way to find out what those laws are unless you instruct someone in those jurisdictions, and it is often not easy figuring out who to instruct. The laws may not be in English, but in the countries' national languages," he said.

The TPP and AEC are helping to bring down trade barriers but a need exists for "business-to-business links and contract agreements, and that's where divergence in national laws is an issue", he added.

"There is also no mutual recognition among Asian countries for judgments from a national court, so that increases the costs of trying to do business or resolve disputes in Asia," he said.

Getting acceptance and buy-in from the region is also a challenge.

SAL's senior director and chief legal counsel Sriram Chakravarthi said: "The proof will be in how many countries will come on board, partner with us, and take this to the next stage."

Abli hopes to start with focusing on enforcement of foreign judgment rules in Asean, Australia, China and India and fleshing out guiding principles for Asian data privacy laws. Streamlining Asian cross-border small claims procedures, an area relevant to the rapidly growing e-commerce sector, is another issue to be addressed.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Probe finds nothing wrong with lift involved in accident

Straits Times
07 Nov 2015
Yeo Sam Jo, Olivia Ho

There was nothing wrong with the lift in which an 85-year-old woman lost her left hand.

Describing the Oct 9 tragedy as an "unfortunate lift incident", the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said yesterday that a dog leash which was looped around Madam Khoo Bee Hua's left wrist was simply too narrow for sensors to detect and reopen the doors.

It was citing findings from an investigation report on the incident submitted on Monday.

As the lift went up, the leash could have pulled her hand through a gap in the doors, and the hand was severed before the lift could come to a halt.

Still, the BCA said it accepted a recommendation from the expert who probed the incident to increase public awareness on precautions to take when using lifts, including keeping small and thin objects, such as a dog leash or dangling backpack straps, away from lift doors.


Madam Khoo has been recovering steadily from her traumatic accident a month ago. When I saw her again at Jurong Community Hospital earlier this week, she was her usual indomitable self. The doctors and nurses who are treating her are inspired by her determination to get back to as much of her active and independent life as possible.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM, MP for the Jurong ward where Madam Khoo lives, as well as a long-time family friend

The Jurong Town Council yesterday also revealed its insurer AXA has offered to foot the victim's hospital bill, as well as the expenses for two months of homecare after she is discharged. The lift in question, located at Block 322 Tah Ching Road, is maintained by the town council.

In a statement, the town council said it would continue to provide "the fullest support" for Madam Khoo and her family, to ensure they "have all the help they need to recover following this traumatic incident".

Madam Khoo, who also broke her left leg when she fell inside the lift, has been recovering at Jurong Community Hospital. She is expected to remain there for another 10 weeks.

Her 59-year-old son, who estimates the medical bill to come up to about $40,000, said he appreciated the town council's goodwill and the support of Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the MP for the Jurong ward where Madam Khoo lives.

But the son, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, is worried about how his mother, a widow who lives alone, will cope after she is discharged. He told The Straits Times: "What happens after two months?"

As for the report findings, he said the scenario provided by the examiner was plausible, but questioned why there was a gap big enough for his mother's hand to go through. He suggested that if the lift complied with standards, perhaps the standards should be made stricter to enhance safety.

After the incident, an authorised examiner analysed evidence such as closed-circuit television footage and a specialist medical report, and interviewed the victim. He also inspected the lift in detail and performed tests and simulations of the accident.

  • What the Building and Construction Authority will do next

  • •Work closely with the industry and lift owners of both public and private buildings to raise public awareness on the precautions to take when using lifts.

    •Continue its regular review of the safety and maintenance standards of lifts.

    •Work closely with lift experts to ensure Singapore's standards continue to be on a par with the latest international standards.

BCA said it also conducted its own independent investigation, and its findings were consistent with the examiner's.

Citing the report yesterday, BCA said: "All the door protective devices were tested and verified to be working according to their specifications... (They) cannot be proven reasonably to have failed to function properly on the day of the incident."

The lift doors are supposed to reopen if sensors detect an obstacle 10mm or wider between them, but were not designed to register thinner objects such as the 2mm-thick leash for Madam Khoo's dog.

The BCA said: "Based on the (examiner's) simulations, it is likely that the pull of the taut leash could have caused a fulcrum action, opening up a small gap at the base of the lift cabin doors."

The leash, said the report, partially pulled Madam Khoo's hand through this gap. It was crushed and severed in the small space between the inner and outer lift doors. The hand widened the gap between the lift doors further, triggering the emergency stop and causing the lift to stall near the third storey. The mangled hand then fell to the bottom of the lift pit.

The BCA said that it plans to boost public awareness on lift safety through measures such as distributing posters to town councils and building owners. These will caution users not to put their hands between the doors and to keep a close eye on their pets, for instance.


Experts weigh in on preventing accidents

Pet owners should carry their animals into the lift as a sure way to prevent accidents like the one in Tah Ching Road from recurring, lift experts told The Straits Times.

Another precaution, they suggested, would be to upgrade or retrofit older lifts here to include newer safety technology.

Lift and escalator engineer Kok Peng Koon, 80, said that last month's accident could have been avoided if the lift in question had a more modern multi-beam or "door curtain" sensor.

"These sensors, which sometimes have almost 200 beams for one lift, are close to 100 per cent foolproof," said Mr Kok, who has 38 years of industry experience.

"Even if you put a thin strip of paper between the doors, they will open," added the independent authorised examiner for lifts.

The 19-year-old lift which severed Madam Khoo Bee Hua's left hand last month has a single-beam infra-red sensor located about 250mm from the lift floor. The lift doors had closed on her dog leash as they were unable to detect it.

Lift engineer Quah Eng Hing, 65, said that upgrading lift door sensors is the "best solution" to avoid future accidents.

"Newer Housing Board lifts now are among the safest in the world. They have an infra-red curtain that is so dense, with criss-crossing beams that can even sense objects in front of the doors," said Mr Quah, also honorary secretary of the Singapore Lift and Escalator Contractors and Manufacturers Association.

Experts stressed that lifts like the one in Tah Ching Road are still safe to use.

But passengers should make it a point to ride lifts carefully, said engineer Dominic Cher, 47. This includes keeping clear of the doors and watching out for leashes.

"It's best to carry your dog when you go into the lift - the same way you would carry your child," said Mr Cher, who is also an independent authorised examiner.

"If you are not careful when using lifts, even if they have multi-beam sensors, things could still happen," he added. "It's hard to predict when things can break down."

As for how a gap could appear between the cabin door panels, as it did in Madam Khoo's case, experts said that this is due to the "inherent" design of the lift. Lift doors hang on rails at the top, so any force at the bottom can cause them to be prised open.

But Mr Kok and Mr Cher noted that the Singapore Standard code of practice for lifts does not specify the permissible limit of such gaps.

In response to queries yesterday, the Building and Construction Authority said the lift in Tah Ching Road remains suspended and has to be inspected again before it resumes operation. It added that the Commissioner of Buildings will lift the suspension notice only "after he is satisfied that a thorough inspection has been conducted".


Yeo Sam Jo

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Special audit on Cedar uncovers numerous lapses

Business Times
25 Nov 2015
Mindy Tan

Baker Tilly highlights unrecovered receivables of 180m yuan and possible noncompliance with Catalist rules

CHINESE real estate firm Cedar Strategic Holdings has displayed numerous weaknesses and/or lapses in corporate governance, internal controls, and possible non-compliance with the Catalist board rules, according to a special auditor report by Baker Tilly Consultancy. The issues highlighted by the special auditor include unrecovered receivables of 180 million yuan (S$39.9 million) from the divestment of the titanium dioxide business, the acquisition and proposed divestment of Trechance Group, the acquisition and divestment of Yess Le Green and West Thames, the acquisition of Futura, severance payments and disbursements. On the company's acquisition and proposed divestment of Trechance, for instance, the special auditor was unable to locate board minutes that demonstrate that the board had deliberated the acquisition of Trechance.

It also noted that while Cedar and TCI (Talented Creation International) entered into a second supplemental agreement to revise the terms of the Trechance acquisition in August 2014, the management had paid S$752,095.94 of the S$900,039 cash consideration to Ji Yu Dong in January 2014 before the board's approval of the second supplemental agreement. In September 2014, Cedar went on to pay S$210,000 of the cash consideration to Sinowealth Capital Limited (SWC) instead of TCI. The auditor noted that the company was unable to locate any written instructions from TCI for the payment of S$210,000 to SWC in September, and was further unable to locate any confirmation from TCI that Cedar was no longer liable for this tranche.

It further noted that there was a S$62,056.94 discrepancy between the actual payment of S$962,095.94 made and the cash consideration of S$900,039 in the second supplemental agreement. On severance payments, the auditor found that the company had paid several executive directors and key management between seven and 14 months of bonus and severance-related payments for less than one year of employment with the company. Cedar was unable to furnish any documentation to demonstrate that the nominating committee and board had approved the termination of Cedar's directors and key management executives.

The new board, which took office in June this year, appointed the special auditor in July. This followed an announcement by the previous board in April this year on the intention to appoint a special auditor to, among other things, conduct a review of the firm's accounts for financial years 2013 and 2014 to uncover any potential irregularity. In this connection, Cedar also voluntarily suspended share trading.

Cedar said on Tuesday that its board is actively looking at the current issues faced by the company, and has appointed professionals, including Drew & Napier and Yuan Tai, to look into the various matters, including but not limited to taking legal actions or reporting the incidents to the relevant authorities. Baker Tilly is also assisting the current board to implement an enterprise risk management system for the group.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

The myth of Magna Carta

Straits Times
17 Nov 2015
Simon Chesterman

The Hereford Cathedral Magna Carta will be on display at Supreme Court from Thursday to next Monday. But what significance does this 800-year-old document have today?

Magna Carta bears an iconic status in legal history. Signed eight centuries ago by King John at Runnymede, near Windsor, it laid the foundations for constraints on arbitrary power - the basis for the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.

From mediaeval to modern times, it has been invoked by those struggling against injustice around the world, from Mahatma Gandhi to Nelson Mandela.

In the past two years alone, it has been cited twice by Singapore's High Court as the origin of liberties protected by Articles 9(1) and 11(1) of the Constitution.

The only problem with the historical account is that almost none of it is true.

The agreement at Runnymede was not a constitutional document intended to limit power, but a peace treaty to preserve the king's rule. Despite many paintings and a commemorative £2 coin showing him holding Magna Carta and a quill, King John never signed it.

Oh, and it was not called Magna Carta.

"The Articles of the Barons", as it was originally known, did not guarantee freedoms for the English people. On the contrary, those limitations that it did impose on the king were primarily for the benefit of the Anglo-Norman - that is, French - aristocracy.

Such documents outlining the manner in which the monarch intended to govern, known as Coronation Charters, had been issued by kings since at least Henry I in 1100. It is true that these were often disregarded in practice, but so too was the Articles of the Barons. Neither side complied with their commitments and it was soon annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons' War.

Even if it had not been repudiated, the text hardly reads like the fountainhead of liberty. Among other things, the 1215 document limited the ability of a woman to testify on the death of anyone other than her husband and included punitive provisions applicable to Jewish bankers.

So how is it that this misogynistic, anti-Semitic, failed peace treaty came to assume such significance in English - and Singaporean - law?

For three basic reasons. First, there was not one Magna Carta but several. Second, text that had lain dormant for centuries was later used opportunistically in another English battle against another king. And third, Americans carried the spirit of Magna Carta across the Atlantic - without necessarily bothering to read the words.


Though the document agreed at Runnymede was a failure, it was reissued the following year after John's death by the regents of his son, the nine-year-old King Henry III. With the conclusion of the First Barons' War in 1217, the document was issued a third time. A separate Forest Charter (Carta de Foresta) was also concluded, leading to the main document being called "Magna". Henry III reissued it yet again with further changes in 1225 and his son, Edward I, did the same in 1297.

It was this last version that was incorporated into England's statutes and three provisions do remain in force today.

The first two are of marginal significance, but the third does promise that no free man shall be imprisoned or stripped of his rights except by lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. Limiting the protections to freemen, however, meant that this was of little relevance to the vast majority of the population who were not "free" but villeins or serfs. Nonetheless, this 39th clause of the 1215 version later came to be regarded as the basis for the jury system. (Singapore, of course, lacks a jury system - and in any event, following the 1993 Application of English Law Act, none of this is law in Singapore.)


So the failed peace treaty that started a war was amended and reissued, perhaps explaining its longevity. But its so-called liberties helped only those who were rich and originally French. How did it come to be regarded as the font of English liberty?


Four hundred years later, Edward Coke revived - or perhaps reinvented - Magna Carta during the 17th century as Britain's "ancient constitution". The king might not be subject to man, Coke argued, but he was at least subject to God and to the law.

This was not the sort of thing that kings liked to hear from their chief justices. After being dismissed from the bench, however, Coke went to Parliament and set about trying to limit the powers of the king through legislation.

Not everyone was persuaded. Oliver Cromwell notoriously dismissed the argument with a scatological quip: "I care not for the Magna Farta!"

It took a civil war, the beheading of Charles I, the failed rule of his son, Charles II, and the overthrow and exile of his second surviving son, James II, before the Bill of Rights Act was adopted in 1689. This provided, among other things, that it was "illegal" for the sovereign to suspend or dispense with laws, to establish his own courts, or to impose taxes without parliamentary approval.

It was in this period, then, that the rule of law really came to mean something. Although Magna Carta might have been an inspiration for Coke and his contemporaries in their political struggle with the crown, it was certainly no precedent on which they could rely as a matter of law.


So a flawed document negotiated with a weak king is revived opportunistically four centuries later in another struggle with a series of weak monarchs. Yet how is it that the same document comes to be revered not just as a weapon used against the excesses of power but also as a kind of secular gospel for our age?

Enter the Americans.

It began in literary form. Two years before the English Bill of Rights, William Penn carried Magna Carta across the Atlantic and printed the first American edition. Several decades later, writing in Poor Richard's Almanack for June 1749, Benjamin Franklin enjoined his fellow colonists to remember that "On the 15th of this month, anno 1215, was Magna Charta sign'd by King John, for declaring and establishing English Liberty".

In the succeeding years, those colonists were becoming increasingly unhappy with the taxes imposed on them. Following Franklin's lead, some began to cite Magna Carta as authority for their position.

Note that the Stamp Act was legislation adopted by the British Parliament - not an extra-legal tax - but by now Magna Carta was more symbol than text. When Massachusetts adopted a new seal in 1775, it featured a man holding a sword in one hand and Magna Carta in the other. The 5,000-word Articles of the Barons had become a four-word slogan: "No taxation without representation".

The US love affair with Magna Carta continues today. It is striking that a quick search reveals that the combined courts of Britain have cited Magna Carta around 150 times, including 14 citations by the House of Lords and UK Supreme Court. A similar search in the United States finds more than 3,000 references to Magna Carta, including around 200 by the US Supreme Court alone.

By extension from the US it went on to influence the United Nations and human rights.

Speaking on the occasion of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt expressed her hope that this new document "may well become the international Magna Carta of all men everywhere".

Not bad for a hastily drafted set of demands negotiated under threat of arms by a king and his barons.


Magna Carta literally means "Great Charter". As this brief history shows, the document was not born great but instead had greatness thrust upon it.

Perhaps that is not surprising. Myths have power not because of their ties to the world as it was, but to the world as we might wish it to have been. Magna Carta is one such myth.

And so, through this chain of events, a document crafted to keep King John in power came to symbolise the freedom of English and American citizens - and citizens in Singapore and everywhere else - to enjoy the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.

• The writer is the dean of the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Man jailed here over blackmail threat in HK

Straits Times
07 Nov 2015
Elena Chong

He wanted S'pore woman, 67, to pay $100k, or he would circulate her nude photo, videosShe sought him out for sex after coming across his profile during a holiday in Hong Kong in 2013.

They had a sexual encounter the first time they met and carried on with each other for two years.

The woman from Singapore would pay for the gigolo's expenses when she visited Hong Kong or when they went on holidays. She gave him money as "rental fee" as she knew he had financial troubles.

But things soured in July when the 67-year-old Singaporean woman tried to end the dalliance with the 41-year-old, who demanded $100,000 and threatened to disseminate a nude picture and humiliating video clips he had taken of her without her knowledge.

She bargained the sum down to $60,000 and he came to Singapore on Sept 3 to collect the money - only to be arrested at the airport.

His mobile phone - which had the picture and two video clips of her engaging in sexual activities with him - was also seized.

Yesterday, freelance masseur Calvin Mok Wai Lun was jailed for 13 weeks after he pleaded guilty to an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act.

It is the first transnational crime under this Act, whereby the crime was committed outside Singapore and the victim was in Singapore.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sheryl Janet George said Mok and the victim developed a relationship after meeting in 2013, and often communicated using the WhatsApp messaging service.

When the victim sought to break up their relationship, Mok sent her nude photo to her on WhatsApp and threatened to send that picture and video clips of her to a man she knew.

He also sent voice clips threatening to ruin her career and destroy her reputation unless she paid him $100,000.

Distressed, the victim lodged a police report on Aug 26.

DPP George highlighted aggravating factors such as Mok's attempt to extort $100,000, and how relentless he was in threatening to disseminate the photo and video clips.

Mok's assigned lawyer from the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, Mr Troy Yeo, said Mok committed the offence as he was desperate for money to pay creditors back home.

District Judge Soh Tze Bian said the custodial threshold had been crossed as there was a need for general deterrence.

The offence, he said, was clearly planned and premeditated, and Mok's actions, calculated and deliberate.

"Instances where the WhatsApp service is being used as a tool to perpetrate offences are undoubtedly on the increase throughout the world.

"In IT-savvy Singapore, the problem is further compounded by the wide and extensive reach of the WhatsApp service and other similar apps on smart mobile phones," said the judge.

"Elderly and young persons of the fairer sex are made particularly vulnerable by this exposure, as they are most likely to be preyed upon and solicited for sex and/or held to ransom," he added.

He also pointed out that crimes involving the smartphone were easy to commit and might be much harder to detect and prove.

Judge Soh noted that Mok even had the audacity to negotiate with the victim. He appeared to be very confident of the threat he had made and was bold enough to come to Singapore to collect the sum.

Mok could have been fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to six months.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

ADV: A STEP closer to understanding Estate Planning

Singapore Law Watch
25 Nov 2015

City Harvest trial: Prosecution calls for stiff sentences for Kong Hee and church leaders

Straits Times
17 Nov 2015
Danson Cheong

It asks that 4 leaders be jailed 11 to 12 years each; sentencing could be as early as Friday

The Public Prosecutor has asked for stiff sentences for all six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, including the recommendation that church founder Kong Hee be sentenced to 11 to 12 years in jail, The Straits Times has learnt.

The six were found guilty last month of misusing some $50 million in church funds.

Of that, $24 million was used to bankroll the music career of Kong's wife, singer-pastor Ho Yeow Sun.

Apart from Kong, 51, the prosecution also recommended a jail sentence of 11 to 12 years each for deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 43; former CHC finance manager Serina Wee, 38; and former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, 55.

For former CHC finance committee member John Lam, 47, the prosecution asked for a jail sentence of eight to nine years.

The lightest sentence of five to six years was reserved for former CHC finance manager Sharon Tan, 40.

The prosecution handed in its written submissions on sentencing to the court on Nov 6.

The six are due back in court on Friday for oral submissions on sentencing.

It is the earliest date for the court to pass a sentence.

For the moment, only Kong and Chew have indicated that they are likely to appeal.

"I think it's likely (for Kong to appeal) but I can't confirm right now; realistically, we have to see what happens on Friday," said Kong's lawyer, Mr Jason Chan.

Chew told The Straits Times: "I am standing by my defence and what I testified during the trial, and will make an appeal."

The defence has told the court repeatedly that CHC suffered no loss and the six accused had not profited from their crimes.

The church leaders were found guilty of varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.

A maximum cumulative sentence of 20 years can be imposed on the accused, in addition to a fine.

Kong faced only three charges of criminal breach of trust, which along with Lam, was the lowest number faced by the six accused.

But in his written judgment, Presiding Judge See Kee Oon pointed to Kong as the key man behind the scandal, writing that the charismatic church pastor had "acted consciously and dishonestly".

"Kong Hee maintains that he is a pastor and not an expert in legality.

"But one does not need to be an expert in legality to appreciate certain fundamental aspects of honesty, truth and integrity," the judge wrote.

Judge See added that the group used their positions in the church to shroud their crimes in secrecy.

"When shrouded under a cloak of invisibility, much like the mythical ring of Gyges, persons in such positions of power have no fear of accountability and tend to become their own worst enemies," he wrote.

The ring of Gyges is a mythical artefact that grants its wearer the power to become invisible at will.

It was mentioned in Greek philosopher Plato's Republic.

He wrote: "It has thus been wisely said that the real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light, and if they choose not to come into the light they do so for fear that their deeds will be exposed, as they surely will in time."



Founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church (CHC)

Guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust.

Sentence: 11 to 12 years


Deputy senior pastor

Guilty of six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts.

Sentence: 11 to 12 years


Former CHC finance manager

Guilty of six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts.

Sentence: 11 to 12 years


Former CHC fund manager

Guilty of six charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts.

Sentence: 11 to 12 years


Former CHC finance committee member

Guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust.

Sentence: Eight to nine years


Former CHC finance manager

Guilty of three charges of criminal breach of trust and four charges of falsification of accounts.

Sentence: Five to six years

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

No ruling in divorcees' legal row over child's school

Straits Times
07 Nov 2015
K. C. Vijayan

Judge tells couple to return if they can't agree on pick when 4-year-old is due to start school

A divorced couple could not agree on a school for their four-year-old son and took the fight to the courts.

But the judge has told them to come back later - if they cannot sort it out in a few years - when the boy is due to start school.

The father wants the boy to go to St Joseph's Institution (SJI) Junior while the mother is pushing for Pasir Ris Primary School (PRPS). Both parents are in their 30s.

The father, now pursuing full- time studies at Singapore Management University, claimed that it should be SJI, as his grandfather and father also went there and the school had more stable support.

But the mother, a teacher, countered that PRPS matched SJI's standards and the father's wish to raise the boy in a Catholic environment was best facilitated in a Catholic home, not a Catholic school.

"Much could take place from now till 2017, and family circumstances and parties' viewpoints may well change," said the judge. He asked the parents to seek the court's view closer to the school registration time if they are still unable to resolve the disagreement by then.

District Judge Eugene Tay, in judgment grounds released on Wednesday, held that it was premature to decide as the boy would be due for school only in 2017. "Much could take place from now till 2017, and family circumstances and parties' viewpoints may well change."

He asked the parents to seek the court's view closer to the registration time if they are still unable to resolve the disagreement by then.

The couple married in 2010 and split three years later. An interim judgment for the divorce was given in 2013, pending settlement of ancillary matters. An agreement in September 2013 gave joint custody to both parties, with care and control going to the mother and access terms detailed for the father, among other things.

These terms were included in the November 2013 interim judgment. But in February this year, the father, through lawyer Lai Swee Fung, applied to review the access and living arrangements for the child. Apart from care and control and access, he also sought the court's decision that it was in the child's best interest to go to a Catholic-run school.

The mother, through lawyer Carrie Gill, also sought to vary the November 2013 orders, by providing the father access to the boy from 4pm on Thursdays to 4pm on Saturdays when the boy starts school.

Judge Tay heard both applications in June this year and made no order. The father has appealed against his decision not to make an order. He wants his son to continue the tradition of going to SJI, as three generations before the boy had done.

He believes that since the child has settled in nicely in nursery school, with many friends and classmates likely to progress to Catholic-run primary schools, the boy should be allowed to do likewise.

The father also claimed that if the boy were to go to PRPS, "it was likely the child would have to start from scratch to form new friendships". He said the child, having come from a broken home, may find it hard to adjust to a new school environment, compared with pupils who come from stable home environments.

The mother countered that PRPS was much closer to her home, being 350m away, while SJI- in Essex Road - would require long daily commutes. It was in the child's best interests to be in a school that was closer to home, she said. While her home is in Pasir Ris, the boy's father lives in King Albert Park.

The court rejected the father's request to stop paying $1,000 a month for child maintenance as he is now a full-time student and not working. The judge said it was the father's choice not to work.

The couple are not named to protect the child's identity.


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Apex court mulls over plea to quash killer's execution

Straits Times
24 Nov 2015
Selina Lum

Wrong sentencing principles applied by court, argues lawyer for convicted murderer

The fate of convicted murderer Jabing Kho, who made an eleventh-hour bid more than two weeks ago to stave off execution, still hangs in the balance as a five-judge Court of Appeal mulls over his lawyer's arguments to quash his death sentence.

Kho, a 31-year-old from Sarawak, was due to go to the gallows on Nov 6 for the brutal murder of a construction worker seven years ago, after his appeal for clemency was rejected by the President last month.

Less than 24 hours before he was to be hanged, lawyer Chandra Mohan K. Nair got a temporary stay of execution to prepare his case.

Yesterday, Mr Mohan argued for the five-judge court, which gave a split 3-2 verdict in January in favour of sending Kho to the gallows, to set aside its own decision. He said the court should reopen its landmark decision as errors had been made.

In 2008, Kho bludgeoned Chinese national Cao Ruyin, 40, with a tree branch while robbing him. Cao died of head injuries six days later.

Kho was given the death penalty - then mandatory for murder - in 2010. His appeal failed but he was re-sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013, after the law was changed to allow judges to opt for a life term for murder with no intention to kill.

The prosecution appealed.

As Kho's case was the first of its kind to reach the apex court since the law was changed, it laid down the legal principle for judges to apply in deciding when the death penalty was warranted. The principle - whether the actions of the offender would outrage the feelings of the community - was based on a local 1970s case of kidnapping for ransom.

Yesterday, Mr Mohan argued that the court had applied the wrong sentencing principles. He argued that every murder outraged the feelings of the community and the court was restricting its own discretion.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Francis Ng argued that the assertion was simply a disappointed litigant's attempt to convince the court to revisit a point that has been thoroughly considered.

Mr Mohan also argued that in the re-sentencing stage, Kho was denied the chance to testify as to the number of blows and the force used when he attacked Mr Cao.

But DPP Ng said Kho had already testified during his original trial that he hit the victim twice and did not know the force he used.

Kho's mother and sister, who were in court, spoke to him briefly after the hearing. They then left with tears in their eyes and declined to be interviewed. The court will give its decision at a later date. Kho's stay of execution was extended.

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Taxi body calls for stricter rules for drivers of car-booking apps

17 Nov 2015
Valerie Koh Swee Fang

Drivers should meet stringent criteria similar to those required of cabbies, says NTA

SINGAPORE — As the popularity of third-party ride-booking applications and their private-hire car drivers soars, the National Taxi Association (NTA) wants such drivers to be subject to the same certification and qualification requirements as cabbies.

Cabbies, for instance, have to undergo medical and criminal background checks before progressing on to a 60-hour Taxi Driving Vocational Licence Course.

And even after passing, they have to undergo regular checks by the authorities to ensure that their vocational and driving licences are valid. Any flouting of these rules would result in penalties such as fines or suspension.

In a letter to the Ministry of Transport today (Nov 16) on its recommendations for private-hire car services, the NTA said all service providers who provide “point-to-point transfer services serving the same consumer market should be similarly qualified and certified”.

It also said: “These standards, that ensure the safety and security of the commuters, should not be compromised.”

Last month, Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng was tasked to consult cabbies and the general public on the use of these third-party apps, which include UberX and GrabCar, and craft a fair solution for all stakeholders.

Since then, the NTA has conducted dialogue sessions with over 300 cabbies, and submitted its recommendations to Mr Ng over a coffee session today.

Noting that commuters’ safety and security were of “utmost importance”, the NTA said private-hire drivers should be subject to a clear accountability framework, and should have similar identification protocols as cabbies, such as displaying photo identification.

“For taxis, commuters can approach LTA or taxi operators directly for help or liability claims … whereas for existing private hire vehicle service providers, it is currently unclear as to who the commuters can make claims from: The app providers, car leasing company or drivers,” said Mr Ang Hin Kee, the NTA’s executive adviser.

Noting that taxi operators face compliance costs, the NTA also called for a review of the standards and cost structure for taxis. It pointed out that the shelf life of a taxi is capped at eight years, and taxi operators are not allowed to convert their vehicles for private use.

Furthermore, taxi operators have to comply with a fixed schedule of charges approved by the LTA, but private hire drivers are able to “dynamically change” their pricing based on demand and supply, and this should be reviewed, the association said.

The NTA also urged the LTA to recognise the effectiveness of third-party apps in determining service and availability standards, without falling back on “prescriptive, distorting and costly” statutory requirements.

It pointed out that taxi companies have had to invest manpower and resources to ensure drivers meet taxi availability standards — driving up costs for cabbies — but commuters can provide direct feedback through reviews, and can also have greater access to taxi services through these apps. 

And while laws were passed in August to regulate third-party taxi booking service providers and ensure that taxi fare and bookings are transparent, there are no such regulations for private-hire vehicle service providers, said the NTA, urging the LTA to be consistent in regulating service providers catering to the same market.

In a Facebook post after meeting the drivers, Mr Ng, who will also meet private-hire drivers and commuters, said: “We already have a well-regulated taxi industry and improving the safety and quality of the private hire car industry can only be good for commuters, as they will now have more than just one option for their point-to-point travel needs.”

Commenting on the recommendations, GrabCar regional head Lim Kell Jay said the company is committed to commuter safety. Its fares are fixed and stated up front, and GrabCar drivers must have the correct licences and be commercially insured. It also has additional GrabCar Group Personal Accident insurance coverage for drivers and passengers, and inspects every car in its network.

“This is part of our strict procedure to become a GrabCar driver, which includes background checks, driver training, medical checks for drivers above the age of 50, as well as drivers having to come to the registration office in person to register,” he said.

Uber South-east Asia general manager Chan Park said that as the dialogue progresses, it hopes third-party booking app stakeholders would be consulted, adding that Uber is committed to users’ safety and bringing greater efficiency to the transportation ecosystem.

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Murderer granted stay of execution on 11th-hour motion

Straits Times
06 Nov 2015
Selina Lum

Less than 24 hours before he was set to be hanged, convicted murderer Jabing Kho was granted a temporary stay of execution by the same judges who sentenced him.

Yesterday, a five-judge Court of Appeal allowed the 11th-hour motion to give his newly appointed lawyer more time to prepare his case.

Kho, a 31-year-old from Sarawak, had been due to go to the gallows today for the brutal murder of a construction worker seven years ago, after his appeal for clemency was rejected by the President last month.

But his new lawyer, Mr Chandra Mohan K Nair - who was briefed by Kho's family only on Tuesday night - filed a criminal motion on Wednesday asking for a stay pending a ruling on arguments to quash his death sentence. He is seeking a partial retrial focused on issues relating to Kho's sentence.

At yesterday's hearing, the motion was objected to by the prosecution, which contended that no arguable issues have been raised. Kho's mother, sister and cousin were in court.

On Feb 17, 2008, Kho and an accomplice attacked construction workers Cao Ruyin, 40, and Wu Jun, 44, in Geylang Drive while trying to rob the Chinese nationals. Mr Wu received outpatient treatment but Mr Cao, who was bludgeoned with a tree branch, died from head injuries six days later.

Kho's fate has seen many twists and turns since he and accomplice Galing Kujat were given the death penalty - then mandatory for murder - in 2010.

Kujat, who used his belt buckle as a weapon, in 2011 successfully appealed against the murder charge. He was convicted of robbery with hurt and sentenced to 181/2 years' jail and 19 strokes of the cane.

Kho's appeal failed. But he was re-sentenced to life imprisonment in 2013, after the law was changed to give judges the discretion to opt for a life term for murder with no intention to cause death.

The prosecution appealed, arguing that Kho's vicious crime warranted the death penalty. In a landmark ruling in January, the five-judge court gave a split 3-2 decision in favour of sending Kho to the gallows for the fatal attack.

The case has attracted the attention of human rights groups, including Amnesty International and local outfit Second Chances.

No date has yet been set for the next court hearing.

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Ex-fund manager counters claims

Straits Times
24 Nov 2015
Ng Huiwen

In a post on a blog, Chew Eng Han rebuts allegations made against him by church

Former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han has rebutted allegations made against him by the church during its weekend services.

Yesterday, in a reply posted on a blog, Chew, who is being sued by the church for $21 million in unreturned investments, said he had been silent since the start of the suit and it was time to reveal the "half-truths and lies".

At Saturday evening's service, the church's investment committee chairman, Mr Rick Chan, said: "Many attempts were made by us to recover these investments... Eng Han even gave us a personal guarantee and agreed to an increased rate of interest for these investments.

"However, despite over four years of negotiations, we were unable to reach any satisfactory resolution."

But Chew countered that he had been "duped" by the church into signing a personal guarantee (PG) for the investments in the church's Special Opportunities Fund (SOF).

According to court documents, the church had provided 16 tranches of high-interest loans of at least $3 million to Transcu Group from 2009 to 2010. Chew's firm, AMAC Capital Partners, was appointed the church's investment manager in 2007. While most of the money was paid back by AMAC, it could not do so for four tranches as Transcu had defaulted on the loans.

Chew yesterday gave his account of the negotiations behind the repayment plan to recover losses in these investments, to counter the impression that he had "refused to bear responsibility and refused to engage in reasonable discussions".

He said CHC board members were reluctant to sign the plan last year, as it had a section documenting the board's knowledge and approval of the investments.

Chew had tried to include this section after learning that board members had "feigned ignorance" about the SOF. He noted that the board had portrayed him "as some untamed fund manager who had put monies into the SOF without explaining to the board about the underlying nature and risks".

Calling this a "twisted distortion", he said the court had found board members to have full knowledge from the beginning of the SOF.

The civil suit was a shock to him, he said, as he heard nothing from the church about the repayment plan he submitted. He said up till early last year, he had made repeated requests for the church to arrange a meeting with the Commissioner of Charities to explain the troubled investments. But it did not do so.

Chew added: "I was duped by them to sign a PG on the basis that it would apparently provide a reason for them to hold off the Commissioner of Charities' pressure."

He said he signed the guarantee after CHC pastor Bobby Chaw assured him that the church did not intend to enforce it. Chew was one of six CHC leaders given jail terms last Friday for the misuse of church funds.

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