24 April 2017
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Lawyers must raise their game to stay ahead of the times: Shanmugam

TODAY
21 Apr 2017
Valerie Koh

In the past, law firms could charge clients according to the headcount on their team. Now in the digital age, where artificial intelligence and algorithms can substitute a lawyer and obliterate geographical borders, lawyers will have to raise their game and consider how they can offer value-added services.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day litigation conference yesterday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam stressed the importance of lawyers here moving beyond “low-value” and “routine” work that could be done by others.

“You have got to become highly skilled professionals — even those who are already in the profession. You have to continuously upgrade yourself. When the client walks in and speaks with you, he must know that he is speaking with a true professional who is several notches above what the client can get from an outsourced vendor in a low-cost jurisdiction or from a machine. It is critical,” he said.

Citing the example of banking and financial services firm JPMorgan creating a software to interpret commercial loan documents in seconds, Mr Shanmugam said: “What previously took lots and lots of man-hours, now this programme does it in a matter of seconds. So why would someone pay a lawyer to do that work?”

Lawyers could also collaborate with law firms in “low-cost jurisdictions” via email, he added.

“These lawyers, in low-cost jurisdictions, will understand our jurisprudence, they are common-law-trained,” Mr Shanmugam said. “You do not need, therefore, two partners and five lawyers working on it for a week, or two weeks, or five days. You just need a partner and perhaps an associate, just checking whether the vendors have gotten it right.”

To boost productivity so lawyers can focus on higher-order work, the Government rolled out the S$2.8 million Tech Start for Law scheme for small- and medium-sized players to tap tech solutions. However, firms must want to upgrade themselves for these programmes to bear results, the law minister said.

Since the scheme was launched in February, 10 firms have taken up the grant.

While the Government has put in place the framework for legal work to flow into Singapore — such as by expanding Maxwell Chambers and strengthening the intellectual property regime — lawyers would have to play their role by upgrading themselves and taking advantage of technology, he said.

Apart from putting in place legislation to be “arbitration-friendly”, the authorities have primed Singapore to be an international dispute-resolution hub with the setting up of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the Singapore International Commercial Court.

Beyond having the institutions, Singapore should become a thought leader in regional law, with lawyers having a keen understanding of legal systems in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar, he said.

Swept up in a digital revolution, lawyers would find new opportunities in high-value corporate banking and developing areas such as intellectual property laws, he added.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

3 dentists, manager charged over fake Medisave claims

Straits Times
14 Apr 2017
Elena Chong

Three dentists and a manager of a dental group practice are facing hundreds of charges of abetting in a conspiracy to cheat the Central Provident Fund Board by submitting fraudulent Medisave claims.

The Smile Division Dental Group's managing director Cecil Goh Chin Chye, 47, and manager Yeo Meow Koon, 46, each faces 612 charges while Daniel Liew Yaoxiang, 35, and Steven Ang Kiam Hau, 42, have to answer to 280 and 283 charges respectively. They were charged yesterday.

The total amount disbursed in Goh's case was $889,141. Court documents say he was involved in treating two patients in 49 charges.

In the case of Liew and Ang, the total amounts were $388,700 and $434,241 respectively. The alleged offences took place between 2011 and 2013 and involved 29 patients altogether. Except for Ang, the others are also accused of conspiracy to commit forgery for the purpose of cheating. The trio allegedly abetted by scheming to forge the clinical notes of two patients, intending that they be used to cheat the Ministry of Health (MOH) during a Professional Medisave Audit on The Smile Division @ Hougang Central Dental Surgery between Oct 30 and Nov 20, 2012, and at The Smile Division @ CCK between Nov 8 and 25, 2013.

Ang's lawyer, Mr Wendell Wong, said his client acted in the best interests of his 14 patients. "Procedures that were done on the patients and claims from their Medisave were all done with the patients' full knowledge and blessings, and, in some cases, at their own request,'' he said.

Of the $434,241, he said his client ultimately received only a fraction of the sum and that a substantial amount was used to pay for clinic-related expenses.

District Judge Christopher Goh set bail at $250,000 for Ang and $80,000 for Yeo - represented by Mr Tan Hee Joek - and extended Goh's $500,000 bail and Liew's $300,000 bail. The duo's lawyers are Mr Hamidul Haq and Mr Chen Chee Yen respectively. A pre-trial conference is set for May 11.

MOH yesterday said it has served notices of intended suspension of the Medisave accreditation of the three dentists for allegedly authorising submission of claims to CPF Board to deceive it on surgical operations that were not performed.

The dentists have been given two weeks to provide a satisfactory explanation or their Medisave accreditation will be suspended from May 5.

"Given the severity of the alleged offences, MOH will also be referring the matter to the Singapore Dental Council,'' said the ministry.

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Jail terms now tied to quantity of drugs

Straits Times
07 Apr 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Appeals Court directive provides for longer sentences, underlining Parliament's stance

Convicted non-capital drug traffickers will now have their jail terms pegged to the quantum of drugs for which they are charged, instead of serving terms inclining towards the minimum 20 years.

The top court's directive underlines the seriousness with which Parliament treated the drug problem in providing for jail terms of up to 30 years or even life imprisonment together with 15 strokes of the cane.

The Court of Appeal comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Judith Prakash and Tay Yong Kwang said the current sentencing trend "does not seem consistent with the strong deterrent stance that Parliament has taken against drug offences".

"It is therefore the duty of the court to consider the full spectrum of sentences in determining the appropriate sentence," added Judge Tay on the court's behalf in judgment grounds issued on Tuesday.

In an appeal case heard by the court in January, Malaysian Suventher Shanmugam, 22, pleaded guilty to importing not less than 499.9g of cannabis and consented to a second charge being taken into consideration. He had been sentenced to 23 years' jail and 15 strokes of the cane last year, and he appealed to have the jail term reduced to the minimum 20 years.

The court dismissed his appeal, noting the sentence "could have been much more". In explaining its grounds, the court reviewed nine past cases where the amount imported stated in the charges was close to 500g of cannabis. The death penalty applies when the amount is over 500g. All but one involved jail terms in the lower half of the sentencing range, although the drug quantities involved were near the maximum range.

The court accepted that mitigating factors may justify lower sentences but this does "not detract from the overall trend of sentences being at the lower end of the range".

It said such a trend is inconsistent with the need to make the sentences proportionate to the potential harm to society as gauged from the quantities involved.

It ruled that those convicted of trafficking or importing cannabis:

Between 330g and 380g, be jailed from 20 to 22 years,

Between 381g and 430g, be jailed from 23 to 25 years,

Between 431g and 500g, be jailed from 26 to 29 years.

Where the accused cannot undergo the mandatory caning because of gender or age, then a further jail term of not more than a year should be added, said the court. It explained these guidelines can be modified by the precise circumstances of each case. The sentencing range can also be applied to offences involving other types of drugs where the punishment range is the same.

The court also considered if the actual quantity of drugs involved should be relevant, in addition to the quantity stated in the charge, as they may be different.

Citing a 1995 case by then Chief Justice Yong Pung How, the court made clear "the fact that the charge has been reduced from one which would have attracted the death penalty to one which would not is not relevant to sentencing".

The new sentencing guidelines come in the wake of the debate in Parliament earlier this week on the call to review and ensure existing laws contain the "legal muscle" to deal with the drug menace.


NEW RANGES

20-22

Number of years in jail for those convicted of importing or trafficking 330g to 380g of cannabis.

23-25

381g to 430g

26-29

431g to 500g

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Suventher Shanmugam v Public Prosecutor [2017] SGCA 25

Apex court says no to art dispute being heard here

Straits Times
21 Apr 2017
Selina Lum

Court rules that $1.4b case should be heard in Switzerland, overturning earlier decision

A US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) lawsuit brought in the Singapore courts by a Russian oligarch involving his collection of artwork by artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Pablo Picasso, has been stopped in its tracks.

The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that the art deal dispute between fertiliser magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev and Swiss freeport king Yves Bouvier should be heard in Switzerland and not here.

The judgment overturned an earlier outcome in March last year in which the judge dismissed an application to stay the suit on the grounds that Singapore was not the appropriate forum. The judge went on to urge the parties to agree to transfer the case to the Singapore International Commercial Court.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, in a written judgment on Tuesday, said: "In our view, the tenor, form and substance of the parties' dealings were intimately tied up with Switzerland and Swiss law.

"Indeed, we see no substantial connections between those dealings and any other jurisdiction, be it Singapore or otherwise."

Mr Bouvier, a Singapore permanent resident who moved here from Geneva in 2009, is credited with setting up freeports, facilities where artwork is stored in a tax-free setting, in Singapore and Luxembourg.

Mr Rybolovlev made headlines in 2014 after he was ordered to pay four billion Swiss francs (S$5.6 billion) to his ex-wife. The award was later slashed to 564 million francs.

For more than a decade after they were introduced in Geneva, Mr Bouvier played an instrumental role in amassing Mr Rybolovlev's art collection. The art deals were carried out between Accent Delight International and Xitrans Finance, controlled by Mr Rybolovlev, and Mr Bouvier's vehicle MEI Invest.

But the two men fell out in 2014 after Mr Bouvier claimed the Russian failed to make full payment for a €140 million (S$210 million) Mark Rothko painting, and Mr Rybolovlev accused the Swiss of inflating artwork prices and pocketing unauthorised profits.

A criminal complaint was filed in Monaco, while Accent and Xitrans filed a lawsuit in Singapore against Mr Bouvier and MEI Invest.

The plaintiffs alleged that as their agent, Mr Bouvier had breached his duties to them. Mr Bouvier said he was not an agent but an independent seller and the deals were on a "willing buyer-willing seller" basis.

Mr Bouvier, represented by Senior Counsel Edwin Tong, asked for the suit to be stayed, arguing that the case should be tried in Switzerland. The High Court ruled in favour of Mr Rybolovlev but Mr Bouvier won on appeal. The Court of Appeal noted that both men were in Switzerland when Mr Bouvier agreed to help Mr Rybolovlev procure artwork. The first four contracts also stated that Swiss law was to govern the agreements.

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, representing Accent and Xitrans, argued that this had changed in 2009, when the works were shipped to Singapore.

But the court said these events - motivated by Mr Rybolovlev's desire to shield his assets from Russian authorities and his ex-wife - do not have legal significance with respect to his dealings with Mr Bouvier.

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Rappo, Tania v Accent Delight International Ltd and another and another appeal [2017] SGCA 27

Clinic founder allowed to work for rival he set up

Straits Times
14 Apr 2017
Selina Lum

Doctor and daughter also win appeal to lift Mareva injunction on assets of up to $40m

The founder of aesthetic treatment chain PPP Laser Clinic, who is embroiled in a legal battle with the company he started, was yesterday allowed to work for a competitor he set up with his daughter.

This came after the Court of Appeal lifted an injunction which had restrained Dr Goh Seng Heng and his daughter Michelle Goh from joining Quikglow. Quikglow, originally set up in 2013 as Dr Michelle Goh Pte Ltd, was renamed in 2015.

The Gohs also won an appeal to lift a Mareva injunction that froze their assets worth up to $40 million.

Dr Goh, who earned between $11 million and $18 million a year from his upscale aesthetics clinic at Paragon Medical, launched the PPP brand with his daughter in 2011 after she had an idea to take such services to the heartland, the court was told yesterday. Others later invested in the business.

Father and daughter own 13.31 per cent of the shares in Aesthetic Medical Partners, the parent of Aesthetic Medical Holdings, which operates the PPP chain.

In 2015, Dr Goh sued seven other shareholders who controlled 63.47 per cent of the firm. He alleged they had gone back on their promise to give him their voting rights.

He then applied for an injunction to stop six of them calling a meeting to alter the share capital of the company, including issuing shares.

In February last year, he announced that he was stepping down from the Aesthetic Medical group, saying the company was being "driven by the wrong values" under the leadership of new investors.

The two companies then sued Dr Goh, his daughter and their company Quikglow for breach of fiduciary and contractual duties, alleging that Quikglow provides services similar to PPP's. Under this suit, the group applied for a Mareva injunction to freeze the assets of the three defendants as well as an injunction to stop the duo from joining Quikglow.

Last December, the High Court ruled against the Gohs on the injunctions. Senior Judge Lai Siu Chiu described the case as a "power struggle between the shareholders and investors" of the company.

Arguing against the Mareva injunction yesterday, Mr Adrian Tan, representing the Gohs, contended that Dr Goh, who owns a fully paid-up Sentosa Cove property, is not likely to dispose of his assets.

Mr Tan argued that the injunction to stop the Gohs from joining Quikglow was granted wrongly because they did not misuse confidential information.

There are at least two other legal actions relating to the PPP chain. A trial is expected to start in the second half of the year.

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Six church leaders back in court to face outcome of appeals

Straits Times
07 Apr 2017
Selina Lum

3-judge panel to rule on their appeals against conviction and sentences, and prosecution's call for longer jail terms

Acquittal, harsher sentences, lighter sentences or the status quo - these are the possible scenarios facing six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders this morning.

A three-judge High Court panel will deliver its decision on the appeals by the defence against conviction and sentences, and also appeals by the prosecution for harsher punishment.

In November 2015, the six, including church founder Kong Hee, were handed jail terms ranging from 21 months to eight years in the largest case of misuse of charitable funds in Singapore history.

The six were found guilty, after a marathon trial that started in 2013, of misappropriating millions in church funds to fuel the pop music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, in a church mission known as the Crossover Project.

A district court found that they had channelled $24 million from CHC's building fund into sham bonds in music production company Xtron and glass-maker Firna.

This money was in fact used to fund the Crossover Project. Later, another $26 million was used to cover up the initial misdeed.

The prosecution has appealed for longer jail terms for all six: Kong, 52; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44; former finance managers Serina Wee, 40, and Sharon Tan, 41; former finance committee member John Lam, 49; and former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 56.

The six have appealed against their conviction and sentences on varying charges of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.

In September last year, five days were set aside for three judges - Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, and justices Woo Bih Li and Chan Seng Onn - to hear the appeals.

Given the cross-appeals, a range of possible scenarios can materialise today.

On one end of the spectrum, the six may be acquitted and walk out free men and women if the court agrees with them that no crime has been committed as no wrongful loss was caused to the church.

But they may end up spending a much longer time behind bars if the court is persuaded by prosecutors that they deserve a harsher punishment for betraying the trust of church members.

Prosecutors have proposed 11 to 12 years in jail for Kong, Tan Ye Peng, Chew and Wee; eight to nine years in jail for Lam; and five to six years in jail for Sharon Tan.

It is also possible for the court to reduce their sentences if it finds that their original sentences were too harsh for what they had done.

Finally, the High Court may uphold the lower court's decision entirely and dismiss all appeals.

But even after the verdict is delivered, both sides have further legal recourse in what is known as a criminal reference. The procedure allows either side to take the case to a higher court by asking the Court of Appeal to make a ruling on a question of law of public interest.

However, the court can decline to make a ruling if it finds that the question submitted is not a question of law of public interest.

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Landmark piracy case: A Hollywood ending, for now

Straits Times
21 Apr 2017
Irene Tham

In future, it will not be so easy for copyright holders to target Internet users for alleged piracy.

Earlier this week, the Singapore High Court threw out applications by two Hollywood studios to compel telcos Singtel, StarHub and M1 to release the details of Internet subscribers who allegedly downloaded two movies: Fathers And Daughters, and Queen Of The Desert.

The grounds of the landmark decision? Samuel Seow Law Corporation (SSLC), the local law firm that represents the two studios, did not submit "sufficient evidence" to show a link between the over 500 offending Internet Protocol addresses and the alleged pirates. This is because many people may be sharing the same wi-fi connection.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) were responsible for highlighting the lack of sufficient evidence, in a rare intervention.

Queen Of The Desert, which stars Nicole Kidman, is produced by QOTD Film Investment. Fathers And Daughters, a 2015 movie starring Russell Crowe, is produced by Voltage Pictures - the same studio that went after Internet users here in 2015 for illegally downloading the movie Dallas Buyers Club.

SSLC represented Voltage then, and managed to get Singtel, StarHub and M1 to turn over the names and addresses of the alleged downloaders. Hundreds of letters telling users to pay $5,000 were sent out.

Its letters attracted complaints against two SSLC lawyers for breaching ethical guidelines by threatening people with criminal proceedings, prompting the AGC and Ipos to jump in this time to prevent "an abuse of the process of the court".

Lawyers close to the case said the decision signals a push for copyright enforcement via other means such as website blocking. But SSLC is not ready to quit. Managing director Samuel Seow has vowed to find more concrete evidence which will satisfy the court. The cat and mouse game between copyright holders and breachers is not over yet.

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Swissco judicial managers table US$7.2m vessel sale

Business Times
14 Apr 2017
Tan Hwee Hwee

The interim judicial managers (IJMs) of Swissco Holdings announced before Thursday's trading close that a deal is on the table for the sale of a vessel at US$7.2 million to Australian Maritime Systems Asset Holdings Pty Ltd (AMSA).

The IJMs from EY and Swissco Offshore have on Wednesday signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with AMSA relating to the proposed sale of the 2014-built vessel, Coral Knight.

The total consideration for the vessel of US$7.2 million comprises US$172,000 in sales commission payable to Pareto Securities Pte Ltd and the balance of US$7.03 million to Swissco Offshore.

Coral Knight is currently bareboat chartered to AMSA up until April 29, 2017, or a date to be mutually agreed with Swissco Offshore Pte Ltd. The vessel is also mortgaged to OCBC Bank as security to facilities extended to Swissco.

Swissco's IJMs said that the company will seek a waiver from the Singapore Exchange to obtain shareholders' approval for the proposed vessel sale to AMSA.

In support towards the waiver, the IJMs cautioned among others, the event of Coral Knight being possessed by OCBC if shareholders do not grant the approval for the sale of the vessel.

OCBC can then exercise the right to take possession and dispose of the vessel. The IJMs said that under circumstances of a forced sale, the estimated vessel price is US$5 million, lower compared to the US$7.2 million agreed with AMSA.

The proposed sale of Coral Knight will also help Swissco pay down all the amounts owing under the OCBC facilities. It will also allow the discharge of the mortgage over Swissco Synergy, another vessel owned by the company, as security for the OCBC facilities, the IJMs said.

Swissco took the judicial management route last November after its main lenders rejected its debt restructuring plan.

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Expanded Council of Presidential Advisers gets 2 new members, 2 alternate members

Straits Times
07 Apr 2017
Chew Hui Min

The President has appointed two members, and two alternate members, to the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA).

Former Keppel Corp chairman Lim Chee Onn and former Singapore Airlines chairman Stephen Lee, who were both alternate members since January 2008, were made members of the CPA, the President's Office said yesterday.

Their appointments come after changes were made to the elected presidency in November last year.

Under the changes, the president is required to consult the CPA on all matters related to safeguarding Singapore's reserves and the appointment of key public officers.

As a result, the CPA was expanded from six to eight members, with two alternate members.

In the past, the president was required to consult the CPA only on some of these matters.

The alternate members step in when members are temporarily unable to take part in the proceedings of the CPA.

Two new alternate members were appointed: Ho Bee Land chief executive officer Chua Thian Poh and Bank of Singapore chief executive Bahren Shaari.

Mr Lim, Mr Lee and Mr Chua were sworn in at the Istana yesterday. Mr Bahren will be sworn in next Thursday. Their terms started on April 1.

The present chairman of the CPA is Mr J.Y. Pillay, a former civil servant and former chairman of both Singapore Airlines and the Singapore Exchange. The other members are former Cabinet minister S. Dhanabalan, former managing partner of accounting firm Deloitte & Touche Po'ad Shaik Abu Bakar Mattar, retired Supreme Court judge Goh Joon Seng, FairPrice chairman Bobby Chin and Esplanade chairman Lee Tzu Yang.

The CPA advises the president in the exercise of his custodial and discretionary powers. The elected president must consult the council before exercising his powers to veto the Budgets of the Government and key government-linked bodies, and on the appointments of key personnel in the public service.

Members of the council are initially appointed to a six-year term and are eligible for reappointment on four-year terms.

Three of the members are appointed by the president; three are the prime minister's nominees; one is nominated by the chief justice; and one is the nominee of the chairman of the Public Service Commission.

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Cyber risk governance must take centre stage at companies

Business Times
21 Apr 2017

The digital revolution has heralded great benefits, but the scourge of cyber crime is growing apace. Cyber crime has been estimated to cost the global economy over US$450 billion a year. Last year, over two billion personal records were stolen. The Asia-Pacific, in particular, would seem to be acutely unprepared.

According to the Microsoft Malware Index 2016, of the top five countries most vulnerable to malware attacks, four are in the region - Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal. While Singapore may be some paces ahead - it is, after all, driving significant investments in cyber security - it is vulnerable as well. A 2016 survey of Singapore companies by PwC named cyber crime as the second most pervasive economic crime, after asset misappropriation. Cyber incidents have risen sharply: 43 per cent of respondents were hit in 2016 compared to 15 per cent in 2014. Direct losses reported by companies ranged between US$100,000 and US$1 million.

Shareholders lose as well. Just this year, CGI, an IT and business service provider, released a study on the link between cyber breaches and company value. It found that UK-listed companies that experience a severe cyber breach see their share value fall by an average of 1.8 per cent on a permanent basis. This means investors in a typical FTSE 100 firm are worse off by an average of �120 million (S$215 million). The analysis also suggests that the negative impact on share value is getting more severe. Already, both S&P and Moody's have warned that cyber risks could impact credit ratings. As the threat of cyber attacks rises, says Moody's, "the credit implications associated with cyber defence, detection, prevention and response should start to take a higher priority within our credit assessments and analysis".

To be sure, cyber insurance is among companies' first line of defence and demand is expected to surge. PwC has estimated that annual gross written premiums will rise from US$2.5 billion in 2015 to US$7.5 billion by the end of the decade. In Singapore, AIG expects penetration of cyber coverage to grow from 10 per cent to 40 per cent by 2020. But there are challenges, foremost of which is the dearth of data to enable insurers to adequately define and price cyber risks. Companies are typically reluctant to disclose breaches. An Asia-Pacific cyber impact report by Aon and the Ponemon Institute proffers some sobering insights. It finds that "information assets", which include customer and employee records, were under-insured. What's more, 38 per cent of respondents said that a material loss of information assets does not require disclosure.

Cyber security is an evolving landscape. A comprehensive defence strategy will need a collaborative effort between the public and private sectors. In this respect, Singapore has taken significant steps. Last year, for instance, a Cyber Risk Management Project was launched, a partnership between industry, government and academia to tackle demand and supply challenges in the cyber insurance marketplace. The Monetary Authority of Singapore is also working with the insurance industry and banks on cyber security. On companies' part, there needs to be a robust effort at governance of cyber risks, which should be part of board and senior management oversight. Companies may also have to brace for mandatory disclosure of cyber attacks and incidents, which may well be part of the widely anticipated Cybersecurity Act later this year. Such disclosures will help all parties to get a better measure of the growing risks.

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Cooperatives can offer freelancers more protection: Forum

Straits Times
14 Apr 2017

Both Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi (Reconsider if Singapore's freelancers are "free agents"; April 12) and managing editor Fiona Chan (Dealing with a growing dependence on independent workers; March 26) are in agreement that Singapore will see more "unemployed" free agents in our economy of the future.

Both are concerned and champion "greater legal protection" for these independent workers. In reality, there are far more such independent workers in our economy today than has been pointed out.

This is because the four categories framed by McKinsey overlooked many legal "agents" in existing industries such as real estate, insurance and stockbroking. For example, I was made to understand that a share remisier is not an employee of a stockbroking firm.

Once, when my payment for a shares purchase was mishandled, I found out that the law protected the stockbroking firm but not the remisier, because he was contracted as an "agent" and not an "employee" of the firm.

This type of relationship is common in many industries, which means thousands of people are, in the real sense, unprotected "agents". This was so for my remisier, who was jailed for his misdeed.

Mr Chan did not think that a "freelancer association" proposed in Ms Chan's commentary was a solution. May I propose that perhaps a cooperative, like the National Trades Union Congress or the Reverse Co-operative, could be beneficial and offer protection to its members.

Freelancers can join cooperatives and participate and serve one another in areas like administration of retirement savings, sick leave coverage and job placements.

This would offer them better security through group strength.

Geoffrey Kung

Co-founder, Reverse Co-operative Ltd
(Re-Engage Valuable Experienced Retirees to Serve Economy)

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Boards of charities face greater scrutiny under revised code

Straits Times
07 Apr 2017
Tay Hong Yi

Board members serving more than a decade at large charities and Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs) will now be put under increased scrutiny.

Under revisions to the code of governance for charities from January next year, charities with annual receipts or expenditure of more than $10 million and IPCs with either figure exceeding $500,000 will have to justify why they continue to retain such long-serving board members, the Charity Council said in a statement yesterday.

"The intent of this guideline is to encourage charities to practise succession planning at the board level," said the council, which is under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

The change is actually a softening of the council's proposal, made in September last year, to set a maximum term limit of a decade for at least two-thirds of the board of a large charity or IPC.

The council said: "The majority of feedback received indicated that the initial proposed code guideline was too stringent."

Speaking to The Straits Times, Shared Services for Charities (SSC) chief executive Chris Ong said: "It is very likely that the charities are concerned about the challenges in getting new board members with the desired background and willingness to commit their time to these charities." SSC is a charity and IPC that specialises in providing affordable professional shared services, such as auditing, to its peers.

Charity boards with mostly long-serving members may need more time to renew the board, said Mr Ong.

In addition, charities face enhanced disclosure requirements, such as board member attendance at meetings and remuneration, as well as total annual remuneration for staff. Mr Ong said: "The board attendance is one of the key indicators of an effective board."

Other changes to the code include:

Pegging the definition of a charity's size to its gross annual receipts or total expenditure, whichever is higher, in the two preceding financial years.

Removing the "not applicable" option in the Governance Evaluation Checklist (GEC) used by charities and IPCs to evaluate their compliance with the code.

Waiving the GEC submission requirement for small charities that have gross annual receipts or total expenditure of less than $50,000.

Introducing risk management measures.

Removing the "not applicable" option means larger charities and IPCs will now have to comply with the code of governance or explain why they do not. Smaller charities are, however, exempt.

Mr Ong also noted: "If the option of 'not applicable' is allowed, this may provide an easy exit route where controls are not there to mitigate the risks."

An IPC that already has term limits is the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS). "For many years now, SCS has in place succession planning and policies to govern the terms of service for SCS council members," said chief executive Albert Ching.

Of the 12 members currently, only one - an oncologist - has served for over a decade, he added.

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Salesman who took $186k from store jailed

Straits Times
21 Apr 2017
Elena Chong

A former sales associate of Bally Singapore was jailed for 24 months yesterday for criminal breach of trust involving almost $186,000 between December 2015 and August last year.

Jimuhit Ulliel Abdul Nahar, 29, pleaded guilty to misappropriating the amount when he was working at the Ion Orchard store in Orchard Turn.

The offence came to light when Bally Singapore's finance director discovered cash sales that were not deposited into the company's bank account.

Through further investigation, the general manager of the company found out that $185,983 in cash was allegedly misappropriated by Jimuhit. She made a police report on Oct 18 last year.

As part of his job scope as a sales associate, Jimuhit was entrusted with cash sales at the store and was supposed to deposit the money into the bank account, but he failed to do so.

Instead, he kept the money for his own use, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Eric Hu.

On Oct 18 last year, Jimuhit admitted to his company that he had dishonestly misappropriated the money to repay his debts, and cover personal and family expenses.

Only $25,944 was recovered after his arrest and he did not make any restitution.

The court heard in mitigation that Jimuhit had used $6,000 to $7,000 of the misappropriated sum to pay his father's medical bills. His father, who has diabetes, turned up in court in a wheelchair. Jimuhit could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined for criminal breach of trust as a servant.

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Jail terms sought to curb reckless driving

Straits Times
13 Apr 2017
Selina Lum

Prosecution urges High Court to lay down sentencing guidelines

Jail terms ought to be the norm in cases where serious damage or injuries occur as a result of dangerous driving, the prosecution argued yesterday as it urged the High Court to lay down sentencing guidelines for such offences.

Fines should be appropriate only in cases that have not ended in accidents - or where only minor damage or injury has been inflicted - and there are no other compelling reasons for stronger deterrent sentencing, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Francis Ng.

This would reflect Parliament's intentions when it enhanced the maximum sentences for dangerous driving more than two decades ago, he said.

The recommendations came in the prosecution's appeal yesterday against a lorry driver initially fined $3,000 for running the red light and knocking down a pedestrian, who suffered serious head injuries.

Justice See Kee Oon agreed with prosecutors to replace the fine with a one-week jail term. The driving ban was lengthened from 11 months to 18 months.

The judge said he would set out his full grounds at a later date.

In August 2015, Koh Thiam Huat beat the red light along Hougang Avenue 9 and hit Ms Nur Amalia Adam, 20, as she crossed the junction with the lights in her favour. She was hospitalised for seven days for a skull fracture and brain injuries and given 42 days of hospitalisation leave.

DPP Ng argued that this case fell within the category of cases addressed by Parliament in 1996 when it enhanced penalties to give the courts greater flexibility in handing out custodial sentences that would deter errant road use.

Jail terms were doubled - from six months to a year for first-time offenders and from a year to two years for repeat offenders. Maximum fines were more than doubled - from $1,000 to $3,000 for first-time offenders and from $2,000 to $5,000 for repeat offenders.

DPP Ng said penalties were aimed at reducing road accidents and checking drivers who displayed "irresponsible and dangerous driving habits".

Jail terms, compared with fines, would have a greater deterrent effect, he added.

But sentences meted out have been variable, with precedents "pulling in different directions" for similar cases, he said.

He urged Justice See to provide sentencing guidelines for such offences to provide greater clarity for the lower courts.

Citing Traffic Police statistics, he noted that in 2015, the number of traffic accidents resulting in injuries increased to 8,058 from 7,809 the year before.

The number went up even further last year to 8,277.

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SGX forms regulatory spin-off with veteran lawyer as chairman

Business Times
07 Apr 2017
Kenneth Lim

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) has set up a subsidiary to handle its regulatory functions and appointed veteran lawyer and director Tan Cheng Han as the new unit's chairman.

Called Singapore Exchange Regulation Pte Ltd, or SGX Regco, the new unit will begin operations in the third quarter of 2017.

Prof Tan will step down from his directorships at Chuan Hup Holdings, Keppel Reit Management, Global Yellow Pages, Anwell Technologies and Singapore Technologies Marine. He will also resign as deputy chairman of the SGX Listings Advisory Committee, an independent body that decides on unusual listing-related issues for the exchange.

"The resignations ensure Professor Tan is independent of SGX, its members and any company listed on SGX," the market operator said.

SGX Regco's creation was first announced in July 2016 as a way to more formally segregate SGX's commercial and regulatory obligations. The company will have its own board of directors, separate from SGX's board.

"The formation of SGX Regco is aimed at enhancing the governance of SGX as a self-regulatory organisation," SGX said.

"It will make more explicit the segregation of SGX Regco's regulatory functions from SGX's commercial and operating activities. SGX Regco will undertake all front-line regulatory functions now undertaken by SGX's regulation unit and have a separate board of directors from SGX."

Current SGX chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin has been named the chief executive and a board member of SGX Regco. Other directors are being identified and will be appointed soon.

Prof Tan is currently chairman of the Centre for Law and Business at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law.

He is currently a consultant at TSMP Law Corp, and sits on panels of arbitrators in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai. He was appointed Senior Counsel in 2004.

He described a vision for SGX Regco as a regulator that has its ear to the ground and eyes set on the future.

"A regulatory company independent of SGX, yet pragmatic and innovative, while also attuned to market developments, is a development the market is closely watching," he said.

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

High Court throws out Hollywood movie piracy case

Straits Times
20 Apr 2017
Irene Tham

Studios wanted to compel telcos to give details of Net users who allegedly downloaded 2 films

Internet users in Singapore have scored a landmark victory against tactics used by copyright holders fighting alleged piracy.

The Singapore High Court has thrown out applications from two Hollywood studios to compel local telcos to release the details of Internet subscribers who allegedly downloaded two movies: Fathers & Daughters and Queen Of The Desert.

The oral decision delivered at a closed-door hearing on Monday was on the grounds of "insufficient evidence", the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) told The Straits Times yesterday.

In a rare move, the AGC intervened in civil applications made in the High Court in July last year by Samuel Seow Law Corp (SSLC), the local law firm that represents the two studios.

Queen Of The Desert, which stars Nicole Kidman, is produced by QOTD Film Investment.

Fathers & Daughters, a 2015 movie starring Russell Crowe, is produced by Voltage Pictures - the same studio that went after Internet users here in 2015 for illegally downloading the movie Dallas Buyers Club.

SSLC represented Voltage at the time, and was able to get Singtel, StarHub and M1 to turn over the names, NRIC numbers and addresses of alleged illegal downloaders. Hundreds of letters were sent out with users told to pay $5,000. The Straits Times understands that a handful of Internet users settled for an undisclosed sum.

Last year, SSLC again served papers on Singtel, StarHub and M1 to get details of alleged pirates of Fathers & Daughters and Queen Of The Desert, with a list of over 500 offending Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

The AGC and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) said they highlighted to the court that SSLC did not submit "sufficient evidence" to show a link between the IP addresses and alleged illegal downloaders. It was on such grounds that the case was dismissed.

Intellectual property lawyer Cyril Chua of Robinson LLC said: "Many people may be sharing the same Wi-Fi connection. It doesn't mean that the registrant of the line is downloading."

On the other hand, Mr Lau Kok Keng, an IP lawyer at Rajah & Tann Singapore, said requiring the rights owner to link the IP address to the actual infringer is akin to "putting the cart before the horse" - copyright holders need to know who the account holder is to ascertain if he is the actual pirate.

"So it could mean that individuals who illegally download copyright content will be able to get off scot-free because their identities will never be known, short of being caught in the act," said Mr Lau.

Lawyers close to the case said the landmark decision signals a push for copyright holders to enforce their copyright via other means. For instance, the amended Copyright Act that took effect in December 2014 lets content owners seek a High Court order to get telcos to block piracy websites. Before the revised law, they could not compel telcos to block pirated content.

The AGC and Ipos said they had intervened to prevent "an abuse of the process of the court".

In 2015, complaints were made against two SSLC lawyers for breaching ethical guidelines by using threats of criminal litigation in demand letters over the alleged piracy of Dallas Buyers Club.

Mr Samuel Seow, managing director of SSLC, said: "Despite the difficulties, where instructed, we shall press on to find more concrete and substantial evidence which will satisfy the court because it is important to send out the message that the works of copyright holders should be properly protected and enforced accordingly."

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Judge clears man of rape, criticises police probe

Straits Times
13 Apr 2017
Selina Lum

Court notes 'disquieting aspects' of testimony by live-in lover's daughter, the alleged victim

Police investigations into a report of rape "should have been carried out better than they were", said a High Court judge, as he cleared a 57-year-old man of raping the daughter of his live-in lover.

No photographs had been taken by police of the interior of the cabin of the prime mover where the rapes were alleged to have taken place.

This would have been "important evidence", said Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu. Only photos of the exterior were taken by the police and the vehicle was subsequently scrapped.

The alleged victim, who is now 23, had claimed that between 2009 and 2011, when she was between 15 and 16 years old, the accused would drive her to a forested area in Punggol in a prime mover.

Over a period of two years, she was molested and raped on the rear bench behind the front driver's and passenger's seats, she said. In court, she described the bench as having a "cushion" which could sit four persons in a squeeze. The cabin was furnished with curtains stretching along the side windows and the windscreen, she said.

But the accused disputed her description. He said dirty tools and equipment would be placed on the bench. His employer, who was called to testify as a prosecution witness, confirmed that the equipment would take up half the seat and the inside of the cabin would be filthy with oil stains.

In his judgment, Justice Kan said that based on the description of the accused and his employer, the cabin was not a place where the accused could carry out the acts described by the alleged victim.

He noted that her description of the cabin was "confusing". She was also unable or unwilling to draw a sketch of the interior. The judge also noted other "disquieting aspects" of her recounting of events.

Two incidents of sexual abuse allegedly took place in the family flat in 2010. The alleged victim said one of the incidents took place after the accused told her 13-year-old sister to leave the flat to buy lunch.

But Justice Kan noted that the younger sister made no mention of this when she was on the stand, and she was not asked about it.

During the trial last year, the court heard that the alleged victim lived with her mother, older brother, younger sister and the accused from 2004 to 2011. The accused, a crane operator, contributed to the family's expenses.

The alleged victim first told her boyfriend in 2010 that the accused had raped her. He persuaded her to tell her mother, which she eventually did a year later in 2011.

The mother said the girl told her only that the accused had "touched" her and she did not want to go to the police, so nothing was done.

In December 2012, the alleged victim and her younger sister revealed to each other that they had been sexually abused by the accused, and they decided to tell their brother.

Angered by what he heard, the brother made a police report on his own.

Justice Kan said the alleged victim's description of the cabin, her contradictory accounts of the sex acts, and the lack of corroboration had a "negative impact on her credibility". Her testimony was "not unusually compelling or convincing", he said.

"When there are substantial flaws and shortcomings in the evidence as there are here, there will be reasonable doubts," he said.

After he was acquitted, the man, through his pro bono lawyer Abraham Vergis, said: "I am so grateful to the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme and my lawyers, who worked hard to prove my innocence despite having very little time to prepare for trial."

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Public Prosecutor v Mohd Ariffan bin Mohd Hassan [2017] SGHC 81

SIAEC fined $230k for fatal safety lapse

Straits Times
07 Apr 2017
Elena Chong

Falling platform which caused technician's death had screw jacks that needed replacing

SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC) was fined $230,000 yesterday for a workplace safety lapse which resulted in the death of a technician about 3½ years ago.

The fatal accident happened at Changi Hangar Complex Hangar 3 in Airline Road at about 3.15pm on Oct 10, 2013.

Mr Puvanalingam Balakrishnan, 34, was waiting underneath the starboard fuselage docking platform as he wanted to access the cargo compartment of a Boeing 777 aircraft after the platform was repositioned.

Suddenly, the platform fell and pinned the Malaysian underneath it. He was taken to Changi General Hospital, where he died at 12.20am the next day from multiple injuries.

A representative of SIAEC pleaded guilty last month to failing to provide adequate instructions for workers to work safely, implement an adequate risk assessment, and ensure that the starboard fuselage docking platform was safe for use, resulting in the death of Mr Puvanalingam.

Investigations showed that SIAEC was aware of the risk of the docking platform slipping, through a quarterly maintenance service letter dated Aug 7, 2006, that highlighted problems with the platform's screw jacks.

Three years later, the company was also advised of the need to replace some screw jacks.

Although SIAEC later bought screw jacks in 2010, it did not replace the ones for that platform.

Ministry of Manpower prosecutor Jonathan Sun asked for a fine of $250,000 to be imposed as the breaches were not only serious but also over a period of time and a result of SIAEC's negligence.

SIAEC lawyer Niru Pillai said it took immediate steps to review its processes, tighten safety protocols and implement further safety procedures to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

He said his client accepted responsibility and settled with Mr Puvanaligam's family, including making additional payments to help them.

The maximum penalty for contravening the Workplace Safety and Health Act is a fine of $500,000.

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5 church leaders set to begin jail terms

Straits Times
20 Apr 2017
Selina Lum

They are expected to start serving tomorrow; Chew gets deferment

Five of the six people convicted of misappropriating millions from City Harvest Church (CHC) funds - including founder Kong Hee - are expected to surrender to the State Courts tomorrow to start serving their jail terms.

The sixth, former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, 56, was granted his request to delay starting his sentence of three years and four months' jail until the Court of Appeal has made its final ruling on important questions of law that have arisen from the case.

The prosecution has applied for those questions to be heard by the apex court, and Chew said he will also be seeking permission to refer his own questions on the interpretation of criminal breach of trust laws.

He told reporters before the hearing that he believes he is innocent.

Besides Kong Hee, 52, the others due to start their sentences tomorrow are deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, former finance manager Serina Wee, 40, former finance committee member John Lam, 49, and former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41.

Upon reporting to the State Courts, they are expected to be taken down to the lock-up in the basement, to be taken to jail in prison buses, according to lawyers not related to the case.

In a statement that was sent to the media, Kong said: "I am extremely saddened by the prospect of having to leave my family and church, and yearn to see them again after serving my sentence."

He said he has reflected deeply in the past weeks. "I have come to terms with what is ahead and am at peace," he said.

He also asked for forgiveness, adding he had made unwise decisions in the past that had led him to where he was today.

In 2015, the six were sentenced to between 21 months and eight years' jail for criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts.

They had misused $24 million of church funds to invest in sham bonds. The money was used to fund the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun. Another $26 million was used to cover up the misdeeds.

On April 7, the High Court reduced their criminal breach of trust charge to a less serious one. As a result, their jail terms were cut to between seven months and 3½ years.

Kong got the longest sentence. Tan Ye Peng got three years and two months; Wee, 2½ years; and Lam, 1½ years.

Five of them were allowed to defer the start of their sentences by two weeks.

Sharon Tan was granted a two-month deferment to attend to matters as her husband was relocating the family to the United States on an expatriate package.

But yesterday, she asked the court to let her start serving her sentence earlier.

Her lawyer, Mr Paul Seah, said her husband had to move to the US earlier than expected, so she wants to finish her sentence as early as possible to be with her three children.

Her eldest, 13, who has "struggled" in the last few years and has seen a psychiatrist, needs his mother, he said.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong objected, calling it a "tactical" move.

He pointed out that given the length of her jail term, she may complete her sentence and leave for the US before the criminal reference has concluded.

But Mr Seah said: "It's a decision made by a mother in consideration of her family."

He agreed to promise in writing that in the event her original jail term of 21 months was restored by the apex court, she would go back to jail if she had already completed her current sentence.

She would also not leave Singapore before the apex court's decision and would surrender her passport to the court.

Separately, Chew's request to be allowed to travel to Perth, Australia, where his wife and daughter live, was rejected.

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Corruption cases in Singapore fall to record low in 2016

Business Times
13 Apr 2017

Only 118 cases or 14.6% of 808 complaints registered for investigations: CPIB

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) has said that the number of cases registered for its investigation hit the lowest last year.

CPIB said that it received 808 complaints in 2016, down from 877 in 2015. Of these, 118 cases or 14.6 per cent were registered for investigation - the lowest in 32 years.

CPIB disclosed the figures on Wednesday at the launch, jointly by the agency and Spring Singapore, of a new anti-bribery ISO standard to help local firms expanding overseas.

Private sector cases continued to make up the bulk of corruption cases in Singapore, at 85 per cent of all cases registered for investigation last year, CPIB added. This was a four percentage point decrease from 2015.

Public sector corruption cases remained low last year, accounting for 15 per cent of all cases registered for investigation. This was up from 11 per cent in 2015, but CPIB noted that due to the small numbers, the four-point increase "is not significant". Spring and CPIB said that one way to help businesses enhance anti-bribery controls is to have effective compliance programmes such as the new Singapore Standard ISO 37001 (SS ISO 37001). The new Singapore Standard will help firms that are looking to internationalise to manage corruption risk.

"The voluntary standard that is based on internationally-recognised good practices provides guidelines to help Singapore companies strengthen their anti-bribery compliance systems and processes and ensure compliance with anti-bribery laws," the two agencies said in a joint statement.

Wong Hong Kuan, CPIB director and convenor of a working group under the Singapore Standards Council for anti-bribery management systems, said: "With the operating environment becoming more complex, and corruption cases more transnational in nature, adopting the new SS ISO 37001 standard will help Singapore companies safeguard against bribery."

The Singapore standard is a national adoption of ISO 37001 that was developed by an International Organization for Standardization committee comprising representatives from 61 countries including Singapore. Singapore was represented by the working group on anti-bribery management systems led by the CPIB and comprised 11 representatives from business, trade associations and chambers, academia, and government bodies.

By adopting the standard, Spring said, firms would gain an "additional stamp of confidence" in their systems and processes to help them grow overseas. The standard includes a series of measures that organisations must implement which represent globally recognised anti-bribery good practices. It specifies requirements including top management commitment, anti-bribery policy and training to staff, project risk assessments, financial and contractual controls, and oversight by a compliance manager, among others.

"Spring will be working with public and private stakeholders to provide assistance in terms of training, consultancy, certification and funding," said Choy Sauw Kook, Spring assistant chief executive for quality and excellence. Spring and the Singapore Accreditation Council will be working with relevant stakeholders to develop an accreditation scheme for certification bodies providing SS ISO 37001 certification services by the end of this year.

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Public Trustee's involvement invaluable to SNTC: Forum

Straits Times
07 Apr 2017

I thank Mr Madusoodanan Janardanan Pillai for his letter (Have CPF Board manage SNTC funds, instead of Public Trustee's Office; April 4).

Putting aside whether the Central Provident Fund Board has the proper mandate to manage funds for persons with special needs, I would like to highlight that the Public Trustee's fees are substantially lower than those of any commercial fund manager.

In addition, the Public Trustee's involvement provides parents with the confidence that their funds will be properly managed and are free from bankruptcy risk.

Taken as a whole, the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) provides an extremely affordable trust service not found anywhere else in Asia.

Professional trustee services in Singapore are unaffordable to most parents and I believe that the SNTC plays a valuable role in protecting people with special needs.

To ensure parents of children with special needs grow their assets, SNTC works with them to develop a proper financial plan.

For example, there is no need for parents to settle all their assets into an SNTC trust from the onset. Parents should attempt to grow their assets during their lifetime in other ways.

It is only when parents become elderly, or when one parent has died, that an SNTC trust account should be opened.

After settling a trust with SNTC, the parents may then provide a necessary bequest by will or nominate an insurance policy to be paid to SNTC upon their death.

In this way, parents may invest and grow their assets during their lifetime and yet have peace of mind that their dependents will be protected financially when they are no longer around.

The Public Trustee's valuable role in the SNTC scheme is demonstrated by the fact that jurisdictions like Japan and Hong Kong, which are looking to set up similar schemes, have not done so to date because they are unable to find a partner like the Public Trustee.

Tang Hang Wu

Director, Special Needs Trust Company

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15 months' jail for injuring woman at nightclub

Straits Times
20 Apr 2017
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

They had known each other for years but that did not stop Lek Lai Seng, now 54, from hitting a woman in the face with a drinking glass.

She is now permanently scarred and has trouble controlling her drooling.

Yesterday, Lek was sentenced to 15 months' jail for causing grievous hurt to Ms Tan Mei Ji, 37, at the Shanghai Dolly Club in River Valley Road at around 2.30am on June 14, 2014.

He was found guilty earlier by District Judge Michelle Yap, after a trial last year on Dec 27.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wee Hao said in his submissions that the regulars at the nightspot had known each other since before 2010, but Lek and Ms Tan had a feud over money.

Lek had given Ms Tan $60,000 for a business venture that did not materialise.

On June 13, 2014, Ms Tan was drinking at Shanghai Dolly at around 11pm when Lek, who was nearby, gestured to her to walk over to him.

DPP Tan said: "The accused asked the victim when she was going to transfer the money she owed him. She replied that she had already transferred the money to him, and had sent him a message informing him of the same."

This angered Lek as he felt she was arrogant. He splashed a drink on her face and slapped her.

He then swung a drinking glass that he was holding towards the left side of her face, resulting in her bleeding profusely.

CCTV footage showed her staggering backwards, clutching her cheek.

Despite her injury, Ms Tan tried to retaliate by grabbing adrinking glass from a nearby table, but was stopped by club bouncers.

She was taken to Singapore General Hospital and told she needed stitches.

Dr Chia Hui Ling, who treated Ms Tan, later testified in court that she had nightmares and flashbacks of the incident.

Lek, who was represented by lawyer Lim Kia Tong, claimed Ms Tan's injuries could have been self-inflicted.

But Dr Chia testified this was unlikely as she would have had cuts in her hand.

However, she had no such wound.

Lek, who is now represented by lawyer Kertar Singh, will be appealing against his conviction. He is out on bail of $40,000.

For causing grievous hurt, he could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined. He cannot be caned as he is above 50 years old.

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Rickmers Maritime bites the dust; manager opts to liquidate

Business Times
13 Apr 2017
Tan Hwee Hwee

Container shipping trust Rickmers Maritime on Wednesday threw in the towel after a months-long stalemate in negotiating for a lifeline that is conditional on a successful restructuring of S$100 million of medium-term notes due in May.

The trustee-manager cited aggravated illiquidity and lack of investors as supporting its decision to wind up the trust, though it also highlighted "advanced discussions" with "a potential buyer for the trust's assets".

The trustee-manager qualified that "no deal has been finalised at this stage" though this deal on the table "may allow the trust to distribute cash recoveries upfront to unsecured creditors".

Rickmers Maritime would thus far emerge as the first listed shipping trust to file for winding up here.

Robson Lee, partner at law firm Gibson Dunn, explained that unlike the case for a Singapore-incorporated company, a registered business trust cannot apply to undergo judicial management (JM).

As a court-supervised process, JM grants companies extra time over a winding-up or liquidation scenario for rehabilitation or the orderly sale of assets.

This option is not on the table for Rickmers Maritime.

Mr Lee also noted the manager of the shipping trust clearly stated that "it has been unsuccessful in getting any white-knight investors" to pump in new equity to rehabilitate the trust.

The disclosure suggested the trustee-manager faced "insurmountable challenges in obtaining the required consensus among the syndicate lenders, noteholders and other creditors for significant debt-write-offs" that will justify new equity injections.

The only exit path for the shipping trust appears to be liquidation even though observers noted that with extra time, its trustee-manager may get a better deal from selling the trust's assets.

The Business Times understands the talks held with this unidentified buyer are for a deal encompassing the entire Rickmers Maritime's fleet of Panamax-sized container ships.

Only five vessels on the trust's fleet are generating positive cash flows from term-charters with Japan's Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL). Proceeds from these charters go towards repaying a bank loan from a BNP-led syndicate.

Last September, a proposal was first floated for the senior lenders - HSH Nordbank and DBS included - behind the trust's largest outstanding bank loan, to extend US$260.2 million to refinance and push out the maturity of the bulk of the trust's senior debts.

The refinancing package, which covers the bank loans from two separate HSH-led and BNP-led syndicates, was also intended to unlock the cash flows from the five MOL-chartered ships.

But the trust failed to get holders of the S$100 million medium term notes to agree to a pre-condition for the refinancing: a substantial debt-to-equity swap proposed for the outstanding notes.

Among other things, noteholders have questioned whether senior lenders holding collaterals on non-performing assets are benefiting at the expense of unsecured debt-holders.

The trust subsequently defaulted on a S$4.3 million coupon payment to noteholders in November 2016 and the US$196.7 million principal repayment to the HSH syndicate due on March 31 2017.

BT understands DBS underwrote 17-18 per cent of the HSH-led syndicated bank loan, but Singapore's largest local bank would not confirm or comment on its exposure. A spokeswoman however, said: "Rickmers Maritime is an existing NPL (non-performing-loan) case and suitable provisions have been made."

Of the potential realised proceeds from the sale of the trust's assets, OCBC credit analyst Nick Wong emphasized that "secured claims must be met first before the unsecured".

So if "unitholders are highly unlikely to recover any of their investments" as the trustee-manager stated in Wednesday's SGX filing "noteholders could potentially bear losses", Mr Wong said.

The trustee-manager has already won approval from unitholders to liquidate the trust at an extraordinary general meeting last October. Unitholders then extended the greenlight for the trust to be wound up if it cannot be successfully restructured or where the trustee-manager deem it as impracticable or inadvisable to continue the trust.

The trustee-manager said the trust will not proceed with the annual general meeting scheduled on Apr 26 2017 now that it is filing for a winding up.

The trust will also be applying to the Singapore Exchange for its delisting from the Singapore bourse.

Units in Rickmers Maritime last changed hands at S$0.026 before trading was suspended.

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

Hacked legal data retains privacy status

Straits Times
06 Apr 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Apex court rules on client-lawyer e-mails uploaded to WikiLeaks

The Court of Appeal has ruled that restricted legal documents posted on the WikiLeaks website do not lose their confidential status.

To rule otherwise would be to encourage hacking and pilferage of such material, it said.

The apex court was clarifying the issue in its ruling in favour of a company, which had sought to expunge confidential e-mails culled from WikiLeaks by a former employee who was being sued by the firm. The ex-staff wanted to use the documents as part of his defence.

Wrote Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang in judgment grounds released last week: "We did not think that the confidential character of the information in the e-mails had been lost in any way.

"The information is protected by legal professional privilege and there was certainly nothing before the court to suggest that the privilege had been waived."

In 2015, Italian company HT, which deals in security technology for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, sued former employee Wee Shuo Woon for employment contract breaches.

Mr Wee denied the claims and countersued for $23,545 in unpaid wages.

HT denied the unpaid salary claim.

Sometime later, in July 2015, HT's computer systems were hacked and some 500GB of data stolen. The data was later posted on the WikiLeaks website.

It included confidential e-mails between HT and its lawyers relating to legal advice and information on the firm's suit against Mr Wee.

Mr Wee applied to strike out the bulk of HT's claims, using the e-mails to back his application.

HT, through lawyer Adrian Tan, from Morgan Lewis Stamford, then applied to expunge all references to the e-mails in Mr Wee's affidavits. An assistant registrar granted HT's application. Mr Wee appealed to a Judicial Commissioner, who affirmed HT's application.

Mr Wee then appealed to the apex court through lawyer Nicholas Lazarus, from Justicius Law Corporation. The lawyer argued, among other things, that there was nothing left to protect, given that the e-mails were accessible to the public and no longer confidential.

But the court disagreed and dismissed the appeal. It noted that Mr Wee knew the documents were confidential and privileged, and he would have had to sieve through the mass of hacked data to locate the e-mails.

And although the e-mails were "theoretically available" to anyone doing an intense search on WikiLeaks, they were not public knowledge, said the court.

It said: "Merely making confidential information technically available to the public at large does not necessarily destroy its confidential character. Public media , in particular the Internet, must not be the gateway through which all confidentiality is dissolved and destroyed."

The three-member court comprised Justice Tay, who delivered the ruling on behalf of the court, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang.


HACKING NOT CONDONED

Public media, in particular the Internet, must not be the gateway through which all confidentiality is dissolved and destroyed.

The apex court in its ruling, uploading legal professional privilege.

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Wee Shuo Woon v HT S.R. L. [2017] SGCA 23

Healthway's cash woes: D-Day at EGM tomorrow

Straits Times
20 Apr 2017
Marissa Lee

All eyes on swing voter Lippo for decision on $60m bond issuance

The future of cash-strapped Healthway Medical Corp (HMC) will finally be put to a vote tomorrow.

Shareholders will decide whether to allow the clinic chain to issue $60 million of convertible bonds to a private equity firm, Gateway Partners, to help it stay afloat.

The Gateway deal has been mired in controversy since it was announced in January. It sparked an outcry from minority shareholders who objected to HMC transferring a controlling interest to Gateway without obtaining their approval, in breach of Catalist listing rules.

HMC and Gateway eventually revised their deal terms and agreed to hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) after the Singapore Exchange made a rare intervention.

Under the new terms, the $60 million convertible bonds carry a redemption premium that would give Gateway an internal rate of return of 6 per cent - much cheaper than the 16.5 per cent tabled initially.

Shareholder approval would also give Gateway rights to nominate a second non-executive director to the HMC board, as well as a chief financial officer. Gateway partner Anand Kumar joined HMC's board on March 24 when it issued a first tranche of $10 million convertible bonds to Gateway.

That deal was a direct rebuff to a rival offer from Indonesia's Lippo Group, which had also offered to lend HMC $10 million, albeit repayable over a shorter period.

Thus far, Gateway has also rejected Lippo's offer to buy out its position in HMC, by selling its $10 million convertible bonds to unnamed "independent parties".

These parties have since converted their bonds into shares worth 10.7 per cent of the enlarged HMC.

Lippo, through a general cash offer, has built up a 23.4 per cent stake in HMC, and is set to be the swing voter at tomorrow's EGM.

Yet despite the failed attempt to bring Gateway to its side, sources say Lippo might just support Gateway's bond deal after all.

For one thing, HMC's dire cash shortage is no joke. It said it needs $23.8 million from the bond proceeds to repay existing loans and salaries. Further delays could destroy more value for shareholders.

It could also be telling that Gateway has stressed it does not intend to make a general offer for HMC. In the event it converts the $60 million bonds into shares at a fixed price of 3.4 cents, Gateway could tender its shares to Lippo at 4.2 cents a share, and still end up in the money.

A quick profit could be reason enough for Gateway to have held out on the offer till now. If Gateway had sold its voting interest to Lippo sooner, the entire $60 million bond deal might have been scuppered.

All eyes are on how Lippo will cast its vote, and what surprises may emerge after that.


Under the new terms, the $60 million convertible bonds carry a redemption premium that would give Gateway an internal rate of return of 6 per cent - much cheaper than the 16.5 per cent tabled initially.

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

Governance is top issue for S'pore data professionals: survey

Business Times
13 Apr 2017
Amit Roy Choudhury

Of the risk, compliance and data specialists across three cities, those in Singapore appear the most sold on data governance being vitally important in the enterprise data management world.

They were among 200 professionals of this field, including their counterparts from Hong Kong and Sydney, polled recently by Bloomberg; the financial software, data and media company had hosted them at the recent Enterprise Solutions (ES17) Summits held in the three cities.

More than 40 per cent of the Singapore respondents - the highest number among respondents from the three cities - said they expect new technologies, such as web and cloud-based data or quant (quantitative) analysis tools to be the most significant drivers of change this year.

Gurkan Tasoren, Bloomberg Asia-Pacific's head of Enterprise Solutions, said a third of the Singapore respondents said that their companies will be devoting resources to organising data this year, given the vast amounts they consume from disparate sources.

Another third said their companies will focus on distributing data across the enterprise so that it can be used as a strategic asset, all the way from the front-end to the back office.

Speaking to The Business Times, Mr Tasoren said: "Data was referred by some as the new crude oil for the digital economy; governance is defined as the processes surrounding the monitoring and control of internal and external data usage."

He added that in today's data-driven world, data consumption is expected to rise, driven by regulation, business growth, increased automation, risk management, compliance and cost.

"Financial institutions are re-examining their data-management practices to ensure transparency, compliance, accessibility and security. Technology plays a critical role in alleviating the pain points of that process, which in turn can help drive profitability and mitigate risk."

Financial data management has evolved in the last few years. He noted that traditionally, financial-sector data management had focused on standard data needs for day-to-day risk management.

"The tremendous growth of financial data has meant that firms have needed to find ways to acquire, distribute and utilise data.

"The rise of quant-driven strategies is the next-generation trade that follows from high-frequency trading. This drives the demand for quality, event-driven news feeds and quant-data products as the industry looks to monetise the availability of data, which in turn bolsters the need for quant-tools solutions in managing the data."

Mr Tasoren said that, despite significant focus by Singaporean enterprises on integrating, connecting, analysing and distributing data, the cost of this exercise was a concern. In fact, more than a third of respondents cited this as 2017's biggest challenge.

This only points to the need for efficient platforms that can ease cost and profitability pressures.

The Bloomberg official added that users also expressed concern with data duplication and consistency, especially around data acquisition, a task which is typically not as coordinated across the department or the whole company.

"This could result in inconsistent usage, where the various departments could be utilising disparate sets of data, which leads to misalignment.

"We see a trend towards maintaining master-data content which is cleansed prior to distribution and usage, so the firm's users can access it with confidence. For example, we see a trend in clients looking to create master sets of historical data across data points of volatility."

There is a need to have proper processes in place to ensure that all the data that firms are consuming from disparate sources are of the "highest quality, and are collected, reported, stored, retrieved and processed in a timely and efficient manner", he said.

"It is not just about whether the systems companies have in place can meet their current needs; it is vital that firms implement technological solutions that can scale according to a continued increase in data consumption."

Once data is organised and distributed efficiently, "having a secured managed service that can store and archive the data, and enable information analytics and trade reconstruction across the enterprise, now or seven years later, is also an important piece of the puzzle".

Mr Tasoren added that optimising the data supply chain is becoming key for enterprises in Singapore and in Asia, with regulatory requirements and cost pressures. Firms that acquire, organise, distribute and utilise high-quality data will have a competitive advantage.

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

New hope for Reit unitholders with SFA Amendment?

Business Times
06 Apr 2017
Tan Chong Huat, Joseph Lau & Gerald Tham

In the first of this two-part article, we explored some options available to unitholders of a Real Estate Investment Trust (Reit) to hold a Reit manager accountable for its actions. In this second part, we discuss the impact of the Securities and Futures (Amendment) Act 2017, and consider whether recent events in the Reits industry will impact and shape discourse on future development of the Reits regime.

Putting unitholder interests first

When the 2017 SFA Amendment Act becomes effective, a Reit manager will have a statutory duty to act in the best interests of the unitholders and to give priority to the interests of unitholders over its own interests, or the interests of its shareholders, should there be a conflict of interest. Breach of this duty renders the manager liable to all unitholders for any profit, directly or indirectly made by it or any of its related companies, or for any damage suffered by the unitholders as a whole. This is also a criminal offence, where the Reit manager may be liable to a fine not exceeding S$100,000.

The 2017 SFA Amendment Act also imposes duties on the directors of the manager to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the Reit manager discharges its duties and to give priority to the interests of unitholders over the manager's own interests, or the interests of the manager's shareholders, should there be a conflict of interest.

Directors who contravene these duties will be liable to all unitholders for any profit, directly or indirectly made by them or the manager or any of the Reit manager's related companies, or for any damage suffered by the unitholders as a whole. This is also a criminal offence, where the directors may be liable to a fine not exceeding S$100,000 or up to two years imprisonment.

There are three important qualifiers to these statutory duties. First, the 2017 SFA Amendment Act has not yet taken effect, and thus these provisions are still outside the range of options available to unitholders.

Second, proceedings against a director of a Reit manager would only be allowed where the Reit manager has conducted the affairs of the Reit or exercised its powers in a manner that is oppressive or disregards unitholders' interests, or where an act of the Reit manager has been done or is threatened which unfairly discriminates or is prejudicial to unitholders. As examined in the previous article, it is not presently clear how the Singapore courts will interpret or apply these requirements.

Finally, the 2017 SFA Amendment Act is not likely to have retrospective effect, which means that it is not clear whether the actions taken by a Reit manager or its directors before the date when the 2017 SFA Amendment Act becomes effective, can be used to support a claim for breach of these new statutory duties.

It remains to be seen whether a Reit manager who had placed itself into a position of conflict before the effective date of the 2017 SFA Amendment Act, and continues to be in such a position of conflict thereafter, would be liable for a breach of any statutory duties.

What's next for the Reits regime?

In light of the above challenges, would further changes need to be implemented in the Reits regulatory regime in the foreseeable future?

Here we would point out that the revised Code on Collective Investment Schemes (CIS), which was issued on Jan 1, 2016, and the 2017 SFA Amendment Act, resulted from a wide-ranging consultation on enhancements to the regulatory regime governing Reits and Reit managers, initiated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) as recently as 2014. The revised CIS incorporated changes to, among others, align the performance fee structure with the long-term interests of a Reit's unitholders, and enhance disclosures relating to income support payments.

In the consultation, MAS requested feedback on whether the current approach of relying on unitholders to initiate a review of the Reit manager's appointment is effective, and if not, the additional possible measures that could be considered. MAS noted that "respondents were of the view that it is currently not difficult for unitholders to convene an extraordinary general meeting to obtain a simple majority that is needed to remove a Reit manager". MAS also noted that there was a general consensus that the current approach is broadly effective, and that no regulatory intervention was needed at that time. However, as examined in the previous article, such recourse may not be feasible for unitholders of a Reit whose units are still substantially held by the Reit's sponsor and related parties.

At this juncture, it is not clear what further regulatory change in the Reits regime could be implemented. One possible avenue is to explore targeted requirements to prevent the "clever financial engineering" that a Reit manager may undertake "to disguise inherent blemishes", such as an acquisition by the Reit manager of assets at inflated prices and the leaseback of these assets to the vendor at inflated rents, which Ho Ching cautioned against in her speech marking the listing of MapleTree Logistics Trust on July 28, 2005.

Aligning interests

Another possible way forward would be for stakeholders to revisit the measures to ensure the interests of all unitholders are aligned with those of the Reit manager, and consider whether the existing suite of measures to promote financial transparency and improve corporate governance are sufficient. These could include examining the compensation structures adopted in the industry and subject the same to tighter parameters including independent approval by unitholders at annual general meetings such that the Reit manager's fee structure is more closely aligned with the long-term interest of the Reit and its unitholders, and adopting best practices with respect to the charging of acquisition and divestment fees by a Reit manager by subjecting the same to a mandatory review and approval process by the audit and/or risk committee(s). These measures were not implemented in the last review of the Reits regime, in light of the varying business models of Reits and practical difficulties in implementation, respectively.

In addition to strengthening investor confidence in Reits, these proposed changes would need to be balanced against attracting more Reit listings to Singapore and possibly stymieing the development of S-Reits as an asset class.


Mr Tan is managing partner of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP; Mr Lau and Mr Tham are associates of the firm.

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

Swee Kee founder's son sues brothers over house

Straits Times
19 Apr 2017
Selina Lum

He argues he should get 1/4 of sales proceeds, even though his share was transferred in 1985

The surviving sons of the founder of Swee Kee, once Singapore's most famous chicken rice shop, are in a court fight over the family home in Katong, which was sold 1½ years ago.

The third son, Mr Moh Tai Siang, 59, claims one-quarter of the proceeds should go to him, even though he had, in 1985, transferred his share of the house to second son Tai Tong, also known as Freddy, and youngest son Tai Suan, known as Royston.

The Branksome Road home was sold for $16 million in 2015.

It is Tai Siang's contention that Freddy, 61, and Royston, 58, have been holding his stake in trust for him all these years.

Their father, the late Mr Moh Lee Twee, opened Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant in Middle Road in 1949. It closed in 1997.

In 1957, Mr Moh bought the house as a home for himself and his wife, their four sons and their families. He died in 1977, but his widow remained at the house until her death in 2015, while the sons, except for Freddy, moved out.

In his lawsuit, Tai Siang said he and his brothers had been given their shares of the house in the 1970s, when their father, who was potentially liable as the guarantor of a $1.25 million bank loan, decided to "re-organise" his assets.

The patriarch transferred the house to his four sons in equal shares and incorporated a firm, Swee Kee & Sons, to which he transferred the chicken rice business.

When Tai Siang faced financial difficulties in 1985, he claimed his mother and eldest brother, Tai Sing, asked him to transfer his share to Freddy and Royston to avoid putting the family home at risk. Tai Siang alleged that his mother had told him he would get his share back when he was "old" or the house was sold. The transfer was handled by a law firm. A legal document stated that $200,000 was paid for Tai Siang's share but he denies receiving the money.

Tai Sing died in a 1987 car crash. His share of the house was transferred to his widow and son in 2014.

Tai Siang said he was shocked to learn in September 2015 that the house had been advertised to be auctioned, whereupon he lodged a caveat to stop its sale. When Tai Sing's family, Freddy and Royston cancelled the caveat, he sued his two brothers.

Freddy and Royston denied they were holding Tai Siang's stake in trust for him and contended he had sold them his stake decades ago.

Yesterday, Tai Siang's lawyer, Mr Rajiv Nair, said there was no evidence of whether $200,000 had been paid to Tai Siang in 1985.

But the defence argued that Tai Siang had a gambling addiction and spendthrift lifestyle in his younger days, incurring debts for which his family had to bail him out. Tai Siang had in fact offered to give up his stake for urgent financial assistance, according to Freddy's lawyer, Mr Peter Madhavan.

Royston's lawyer, Mr Adrian Tan, also noted that when Tai Siang was made bankrupt in 1988, he declared he had no assets whatsoever. By waiting to file suit after his mother had died, Mr Tan contended, Tai Siang effectively ensured his version of events could not be disproved.

Mr Madhavan yesterday asked Tai Siang why he had never asked his mother for his share of the house back. "My mother was ill, and if the brothers are arguing, she will definitely be unhappy," he replied through a Mandarin interpreter.

The trial continues.


$1.25m

Size of bank loan the Moh brothers' father was guarantor of.

$200k

Lawyer Rajiv Nair said there was no evidence of whether $200,000 had been paid to Tai Siang in 1985.

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UK looks to EU-S'pore FTA for ways to ensure trade continuity

Business Times
13 Apr 2017
Soon Weilun

Envoy says indication of whether EU-Singapore FTA can come into force before Brexit may be out on May 16

The United Kingdom wants to work on legal mechanisms with Singapore so that when it leaves the European Union (EU), companies from both sides can continue reaping the benefits of a pending free-trade agreement (FTA) the South-east Asian country has with the EU.

But all this hinges on an EU Court of Justice decision, expected in as little as a month, on the number of layers of approval the FTA must get before it can come into force.

These comments, made on Wednesday by British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman, are the first such public comments since late March, when Britain officially kick-started negotiations on its departure from the EU, a process now called Brexit.

He told an auditorium of attendees at a talk organised by the Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF): "We hope that the EU FTA (with Singapore) can come into force before we leave the EU."

If the FTA does come into force, what Britain wants to achieve in its discussions with Singapore, he said, is "a mechanism that enables us to, in our respective countries, effectively put in place provisions at one minute past midnight that the substance of the agreement continues, and that businesses won't notice any difference".

For now, May 16 would be the date to watch; Mr Wightman said the EU Court of Justice will issue a decision on the EU-Singapore FTA that day.

Should it decide that the FTA needs only the European Parliament's approval - as opposed to requiring ratification by the national and regional parliaments as well - it is very likely that the trade deal can come into force by the time Brexit happens, which is in two years.

It can then form the legal basis for future trade ties - or even an FTA - between Britain and Singapore.

Stating that diplomatic resources may be limited for Britain to negotiate multiple trade deals after Brexit, Mr Wightman said in comments to The Business Times that it is only "logical" for Britain to quickly formalise an FTA with Singapore if the EU-Singapore FTA is already in force.

"There's a logic. When Singapore concluded the text of the FTA with the EU, it was doing so on the basis that the EU comprised 28 member states, and access to the UK market would have been quite a significant part of the Singaporean computation," he said.

And having a bilateral FTA with Singapore as soon as possible after Brexit can help Britain negotiate good agreements with other countries too.

"It's because that would be such a high-quality agreement and that then sets the benchmark," he said.

This can already be seen in how EU is negotiating FTAs with other Asean countries by using the EU-Singapore FTA as a reference point, he added.

But should the European court decide that national and regional parliaments have to ratify the FTA too, the pact may come into force only after Brexit.

This will make it "harder" for Britain and Singapore to achieve the same outcome for future deals as when the FTA is in force.

Singapore and Britain would then have to rely on World Trade Organisation schedules, or their list of commitments on market access as WTO members, to define their trade relations.

"But I'm confident that we will do it either way," Mr Wightman said.

While representatives from the business community are hoping to reap benefits from the EU-Singapore FTA as soon as possible, they are also worried about how its early ratification can affect future Britain-Singapore links.

This because they expect a period of transition after Brexit occurs, as Britain cannot formally negotiate trade deals with any other country while it is still an EU member.

Sunny Koh, SMF's deputy president, said: "If the EU-Singapore FTA is already in effect, there may be zero tariffs.

"How can this then also seamlessly benefit the flow of goods and services between Britain and Singapore?"

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

Investors file police reports against property company

Straits Times
06 Apr 2017
Lorna Tan

A2A offered attractive returns for investing in US, Canada property

A land-banking scheme that offered attractive returns for cash investments in real estate in the United States and Canada has come under the spotlight.

Five investors who claimed they put an aggregate of more than $1 million into A2A Capital Management's projects between 2011 and 2014 have filed police reports against A2A. It is believed that many more investors in Singapore have invested with the property development and investment firm, which lists about 15 real estate investment projects on its website.

A2A was placed on the investor alert list of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on March 23. It "provides a listing of unregulated persons who, based on information received by MAS, may have been wrongly perceived as being licensed or authorised by MAS", according to the MAS website.

The firm was set up in 2009 and has a paid-up capital of $100, records from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority show. A2A has vacated its office in Raffles Place and moved to the Philippines.

It had several schemes with different maturity periods. For example, an investor paid US$10,000 (S$14,000) or CAD$10,000 (S$10,400) for a "unit" of land in Texas or Ontario, Canada. The investors expected to get their capital back plus profits. The distributions would be based on the progress of sales and construction.

Property manager Veronica Chen, 33, invested in two schemes. The brochure for one of them shows the estimated target return was US$122 million, on a total investment of US$91 million. This translated into an overall 134 per cent return for the project.

She recalled that an A2A representative had told her verbally and via SMS that she could potentially reap nearly three times her initial investment sum over 10 years.

Ms Chen invested US$30,000 in a 10-year project in Texas with expected annual payouts. She claimed she has not received any payout.

Papers relating to this project - obtained by The Straits Times from Ms Chen - state that the scheme "entails risks that may lead to a substantial or total loss of capital". They also say "there is no guarantee, and no representation is made, that the investment objectives can be achieved or that the DP (development plan) would be successful".

Madam Mohamad, 78, who invested a total of $500,000 from 2011 to 2014 in several projects with A2A, said she has received only one payment - for $1,500 last year.

"I am very sad I may die before I get my money back. I'm 78. I had told my two grandchildren I can help pay for their studies but now I can't help them," the retiree said.

Investor David Lee, 72, is the only one out of the five who got his principal sum back from his first investment in 2013. The retiree invested $27,000 in a Texas project, which came with a 110 per cent return after the one-year maturity period.

When it materialised, he invested $300,000 in other projects with a longer maturity, expecting higher profits. He claimed he has not received any of that money back yet.

Investor and businessman Vijay N said he was impressed with the marketing presentation and the large, well-decorated office of A2A in Raffles Place. He invested about $50,000 in two projects with the firm in 2012 and 2013.

"I thought it was a good investment... I expected my first payment of the returns to be in 2014. When I didn't receive anything, they told me the winter was bad," he said.

He received his first returns payout of $700 in the middle of last year but it was much lower than what he had expected.

When Mr N contacted A2A in February, its client services department replied, saying the relocation of its office to the Philippines was the result of the authorities here "putting regulatory impositions" on land-banking products. So the firm decided to "disband retail sales and operational activities" here.

It also stated that the management was working on the payout timelines for the projects, and would provide an update as soon as they were firmed up. Mr N wants to reach out to other investors and organise a meeting to discuss what they can do collectively.

The president and chief executive of the A2A group of companies is Mr Foo Tiang Meng Dirk Robert. Mr Foo, 58, who is also a director of A2A, previously worked at land-banking firm Walton International. A2A told The Straits Times that its query had been "forwarded to management in the US".


INITIAL IMPRESSION

I thought it was a good investment... I expected my first payment of the returns to be in 2014. When I didn't receive anything, they told me the winter was bad.

BUSINESSMAN VIJAY N, who invested about $50,000. He got his first returns payout of $700 last year but it was much lower than what he had expected.

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1st foreign lawyer in international dispute court here loses case

Straits Times
19 Apr 2017
K.C. Vijayan

The first "offshore" case with an American lawyer appearing before the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) here was settled earlier this month, with his client losing a US$28 million (S$39 million) spat.

The contractual dispute between the parties based in the United States and Singapore was recognised as an "offshore" case - paving the way for a foreign lawyer registered with the SICC to argue in the dispute.

US attorney Timothy Ross Lord showed up in court in February to defend US-based Teras Cargo Transport (America), which was being sued by Singapore-registered Teras Offshore for contract breach and non-payment.

Mr Lord is the first foreign-registered lawyer to appear in court here for an SICC case.

Both Teras Offshore and Teras Cargo Transport provide marine logistics services to the offshore oil and gas industry worldwide.

Teras Cargo had contracted with two US-based companies to provide tugs and barges, among other things, in relation to the transport of modules for a liquefied natural gas plant construction project in Curtis Island, off the Queensland coast in Australia.

It then sub-contracted the work to Teras Offshore on back-to-back terms under separate "parallel" sub-contracts.

Both the main contracts and sub-contracts required the supply of tugs and barges to transport modules from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines to Curtis Island.

Teras Offshore conveyed some 92 modules in 87 voyages to Curtis Island on time without losses. It sued Teras Cargo for back charges totalling US$24,500,178 and A$984,815 (S$1 million) involving its services.

Teras Cargo, through lawyer Rajkumar Mannar and Mr Lord, denied the claims, arguing that the main contracts and sub-contracts were "all-inclusive" and the work claimed for was within the existing contractual scope.

Lawyers Peter Doraisamy and Andrew Lee countered for Teras Offshore that the nearly US$25 million sought as "back charges" were reflected in the invoices issued to Teras Cargo, among other things.

SICC international judge Henry Bernard Eder ruled in judgment grounds that both sets of contracts were not all-encompassing, and there were specific areas of work excluded from the scope of work done by Teras Cargo under the main contract and, in turn, Teras Offshore under the sub-contracts.

Based on the evidence, he found that each of Teras Offshore's claims related to work that was "out of scope" of the contracts - such as removing grillages installed on the barges to fasten the modules during the journeys - which justified the claims.

He found that such work was carried out either by agreement between the parties or based on requests from Teras Cargo.

Noting that Teras Cargo had also admitted receiving a US$3.5 million advance from Teras Offshore in 2012, the judge ruled that Teras Offshore's claims succeeded fully.

The total sum payable for the claims amounted to some $38.8 million.

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

S'pore seeks clarity on tech impact before it legislates

Business Times
12 Apr 2017
Jacqueline Cheok

Janil Puthucheary says govt will take a "watch-and-see" approach for e-commerce and other disruptive technologies

[Singapore] THE Republic will take a "watch-and-see" approach to coming up with regulations for e-commerce and other disruptive technologies, said Janil Puthucheary, the new minister in charge of GovTech, the agency tasked with harnessing info-communications technology (ICT) for public-sector transformation.

He was speaking on Tuesday at the inaugural Dentons Rodyk Dialogue, a forum jointly organised by law firm Dentons Rodyk & Davidson and the Singapore Management University; the event explored the legal and business challenges and opportunities in the e-commerce sector.

Asked how regulations in Singapore will keep up with the ever-emerging, diverse innovations globally, he replied: "Legislation is always going to be lagging behind."

He added that while Singapore wants its laws to be updated, it must first have "clarity" on the new technologies and where they are headed in order to draft fitting regulations - and this "will not be a short or neat process".

Regulatory sandboxes are thus a key way for the government to "give space for innovation to occur", he added. (Regulatory sandboxes are "safe spaces" where startups can test innovative products or business models in a live environment, under more relaxed legal requirements. An example is the one that the Monetary Authority of Singapore set up for fintech.)

Dr Puthucheary said: "We want to institutionalise this process. We will then use the activities (of the regulatory sandboxes) to develop and inform regulation and legislation."

The Minister of State for Communications and Information and also for Education was joined at the dialogue by representatives from Lazada, the Singapore-based, Alibaba-controlled e-commerce platform, and Dentons Rodyk.

Lazada chief Maximilian Bittner listed the three biggest challenges faced by e-commerce players in South-east Asia - a growing marketplace and assortment of products; a complex, fragmented region with multiple regulations; and cross-border trade.

Gladys Chun, general counsel for Lazada, said regulations around taxes, data privacy and digital assets will affect e-commerce operators, and remarked that the Singapore government has been "proactive in involving industry players" in tackling such issues of the e-commerce space.

Dentons Rodyk senior partner Gilbert Leong noted, however, that there is now no single or monolithic piece of legislation in Singapore that addresses the e-commerce space.

He told The Business Times: "If e-commerce is defined as simply a method which facilitates a buy-sell transaction online, there may not be any regulations at all."

Mr Leong, who deals with intellectual property and technology, said that if an e-commerce platform operates in Singapore, the platform must be registered to do business here, and would likely have to comply with the Personal Data Protection Act, Lemon Law and Consumer Protection Act.

Asked about legal areas here that needing more clarity, he cited that of the responsibility of a platform in cases of non-delivery of products or delivery of defective products, especially when the seller is outside Singapore; another area requiring clarity is that of the rules surrounding the transfer of data between countries.

Like Lazada's Ms Chun, he cited tax regulations as one area to be sorted out. "We are aware that the Singapore government is looking into the issue of tax as it relates to e-commerce, in particular, that of GST (Goods & Services Tax)."

Mr Leong is upbeat about the growth prospects for e-commerce: "Consumers here are growing in affluence and more exposed to goods and services normally consumed in the West. The difficulty for e-commerce players is that they are playing in a fragmented market in terms of laws, language and culture."

He noted that a harmonisation of laws and regulations will be slow in coming, as South-east Asian countries hail from different legal traditions and have their own domestic concerns to address. But such harmonisation is desired, he said. "It will create a simplified playing field."

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

Aussie businesses eye backdoor listing through suspended Mercator

Business Times
06 Apr 2017
Kenneth Lim

The judicial manager of Mercator Lines (Singapore) has agreed to transfer its listed status to three Australian businesses, whose equity will be used to pay the shipping company's creditors and shareholders.

The implementation agreement, which is still subject to due diligence and regulatory, creditor and shareholder approval, was signed with Nickolaos Mitropoulos and Dimitrios Podaridis, who wholly own three Australian businesses: Champion Commodities, Country Fresh Milk and Champion Beverages.

As part of the proposed scheme, those businesses will be transferred to a Singapore-incorporated holding company, Essence Holdco.

Essence Holdco will then issue S$5 million in new shares of itself to the judicial manager or scheme administrator to be distributed to creditors and shareholders, and a further S$1 million of new shares to be distributed to the judicial manager and independent financial adviser. Once the scheme is completed, Mercator's shares will be delisted, and Essence's shares will be listed on Catalist.

Mercator did not say what the Australian businesses do.

The proposed scheme is a stark reminder of Mercator's collapse. The company underwent judicial management in January 2016, and has since been selling its vessels for cash. Judicial manager Yit Chee Wah of FTI Consulting found one more float to sell.

"One of the company's major intangible assets is its listing status," the judicial manager said in the announcement. "If the transfer is successful, it will provide some recovery to incumbent shareholders and creditors of the company."

The manager added: "If the company's assets were liquidated, it is unlikely that there will be any residual value available for distribution to shareholders and creditors. As such, the scheme potentially offers better returns for shareholders and creditors, as compared to a liquidation scenario."

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Building firm fined $230,000 over Sentosa fatal accident

Straits Times
19 Apr 2017
Elena Chong

Worker suffocated in wet concrete, 10 others hurt when part of formwork collapsed

A building subcontractor failed to ensure its formwork structures for poured concrete were safe, resulting in the death of a worker and injuries to 10 others when part of the formwork collapsed.

Genocean Construction was yesterday fined $230,000, after it pleaded guilty to contravening the Workplace Safety and Health Act at the worksite in Beach View on Sentosa.

The 11 construction workers were casting concrete on top of the formwork, when part of it collapsed on Jan 29, 2014. They fell about 10m into wet concrete. Mr Zhou Tonglin, 35, suffocated, while the rest suffered injuries from minor cuts and abrasions to fractures.

Genocean had been engaged to carry out structural works for a three-storey family entertainment centre. Investigations showed that the shoring for the formwork in question had not been made in line with specifications and a professional engineer's design.

A detailed analysis also uncovered pre-existing cracks in some parts of the structure, among other things. It grew increasingly unstable as concrete was poured in.

Ministry of Manpower prosecutor Ameerhan Shikandar said the company did not ensure that a risk assessment was conducted or safe work procedures developed for the shifting of the shoring system.

No inspection was conducted by the formwork supervisor to ensure that the structure was safe before allowing casting to start.

Mr Ameerhan had sought a fine of at least $250,000, citing serious actual harm as an aggravating factor.

The company, represented by Mr Desmond Tan, was allowed to pay $100,000 by April 25 and the balance in two equal instalments of $65,000 each.


Genocean had been engaged to carry out structural works for a three-storey family entertainment centre. Investigations showed the shoring for the formwork in question had not been made in line with specifications and a professional engineer's design.

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Man in custody fight lied to get travel documents

Straits Times
12 Apr 2017
K.C. Vijayan

He claimed his passport, impounded by British authorities, was lost

A Singaporean whose passport was impounded over a custody battle in Britain was so desperate to return here that he sneaked out of the country to Turkey, where he obtained documents to return home.

The man, 39, skipped London, where his passport was held, tried, but failed to get substitute travel papers at the Singapore consul's office in Dublin, Ireland, and yet somehow managed to get to Istanbul, Turkey.

Details of the man's flight last year emerged last week in the Singapore State Courts after he pleaded guilty to giving false information in an e-mail to the honorary consul-general of Singapore in Dublin.

The acrimonious custody battle over their four-year-old son has seen both the man and his London-based Mongolian ex-wife, 33, spend time in jail. The couple cannot be named for legal reasons.

Their son is living here with the man's parents and is the subject of a British court order to be returned to London.

The false-information charge was over the man's application in Dublin in February last year for a document of identity (DOI) to be issued in lieu of the passport, which he claimed had been lost on a bus ride from Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Aware that he could not get a new travel document from the Singapore High Commission in London, which was monitoring his legal issues, he went to Dublin last year to apply for a DOI to return so that he could file a final bid to keep the boy in Singapore.

But the Dublin office rejected his request after checks verified that his passport had been impounded.

He departed for Turkey, where, with assistance from Singapore officials, he got papers for the trip here.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) arrested him last September on his return, but it was not disclosed in court how he had travelled from Britain to Turkey.

ICA's probe showed that he had lived in London since 2010 and had outstanding wardship and alimony matters linked to his ex-wife in a Manchester High Court. This had caused his passport to be impounded by the British authorities.

ICA, in prosecuting the case, sought a five-week jail term to underline the seriousness of his offence under the Passports Act.

His lawyer, Mr Adrian Tan of August Law Corporation, in mitigation, urged the court to impose a minimal sentence, pointing out that the offence was committed under "the pressure of several unique, extenuating circumstances".

Mr Tan pointed out that the accused, a former government scholarship holder and financial analyst with a global firm, had spent 2½ years in Britain, "alone, jobless and broke, living a threadbare existence".

The lawyer added that his bid to return was the "desperate attempt of a man who wished to return to protect his son and family".

In April 2014, he was sentenced to 18 months' jail by Justice Alison Russell in the British Family Court for failing to return the boy to Britain, a conviction that was quashed on appeal, by which time he had spent more than two months in a British jail.

In August 2014, his ex-wife entered Singapore illegally with two others in a bid to forcibly take away her son from the grandparents, and was jailed 10 weeks for immigration offences.

District Judge Ow Yong Tuck Leong noted the "very unusual circumstances" of the case and called for further sentencing submissions. He adjourned the case for sentencing next month.

The man's appeal to keep his son here in the face of the British court order is pending in the High Court.


Father can claim compensation for 9 weeks' jail: UK appeals court

The Singapore father in the custody battle spent nine weeks in a jail for contempt of court after failing to produce his Singapore-based toddler in a United Kingdom court in 2014.

This week, a UK appeal court said he can claim compensation after it ruled that errors by the judge who sent him to jail constituted "gross and obvious irregularity".

The three-judge court's judgment grounds on Monday overturned a High Court decision which had dismissed the man's claim for damages under the UK's Human Rights Act in relation to his jail term.

He had been sentenced to 18 months' jail by High Court Justice Alison Russell in April 2014 for court contempt after he failed to ensure that his four-year-old son, who is in Singapore with his parents, was returned to England, as directed by the court.

The man is embroiled in an ongoing bitter tussle with his Mongolian ex-wife over custody of their child.

But in June 2014, an appeals court quashed the conviction and ordered his immediate release.

He then sued the British government over the imprisonment but failed in the High Court in 2015, after the judge held that although Justice Russell had made errors in jailing him, the errors were not exceptional enough to justify any compensation.

The appeals court disagreed and "took the opposite view".

Lord Justice Rupert Jackson wrote in the decision grounds: "Although I regret the need to make such a finding about any High Court judge, I consider that Russell's errors did amount to gross and obvious irregularity."

The errors included failing to recuse herself, calling on the man to give evidence instead of warning him he need not give evidence, and relying on his failure to ensure the toddler's return to the UK by March 28, 2014, through court proceedings in Singapore when that was not possible.

"For a judge to include a veiled instruction which cannot be complied with, and then to commit the respondent to prison for non-compliance is a gross irregularity," said Justice Jackson.

The errors, when looked at cumulatively, were all linked, even if no individual error in the group was serious enough to constitute "gross and obvious irregularity", he said.

All five errors enumerated were obvious, he said, noting that such mishaps are "happily" rare events.

The court allayed any concerns the outcome may have on family judges, noting the work "takes a toll on those judges who have a diet made up largely of care cases".

K. C. Vijayan


The acrimonious custody battle over their four-year-old son has seen both the man and his London-based Mongolian ex-wife, 33, spend time in jail.

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KS Energy believes group will continue as a going concern

Business Times
06 Apr 2017
Jamie Lee

KS Energy believes that the group will continue as a going concern. The oilfield services firm said this on Wednesday in response to a Singapore Exchange query relating to an "emphasis of matter" by its auditor for its 2016 full-year results.

The group referred SGX to an extract of the emphasis of matter from the independent auditor. While acknowledging that there were uncertainties over the group's ability to generate cashflows to meet its debt obligations, KS Energy said that it has "reasonable expectation" that it will have enough resources to continue its operations for at least until the end of the year.

KS Energy reported a net loss of S$126 million. The group's current liabilities also exceeded current assets by S$88.2 million, KPMG had noted.

KPMG also said: "If for any reason the group is unable to continue as a going concern, it could have an impact on the group's classification of assets and liabilities, and the ability to realise assets at their recognised values and to extinguish liabilities in the normal course of business at the amounts stated in the financial statements."

KS Energy said that although the group expects the overall operating cash flow to remain negative in the next 12 months, it anticipates generating positive cash flows from existing and prospective rig charter contracts.

It said its operating cash flow forecast is derived from the chartering cash flow forecast, the forecast for other operating costs and for changes in working capital. It said these are "continuously reviewed" by the management.

The group is also negotiating with its bondholders and a shareholder to restructure some of its debts. What is at hand is the total outstanding sum of S$74.9 million - comprising S$61.6 million of outstanding convertible bonds and S$13.3 million of shareholder loan - together with the cumulative accrued interest and bond premium, to be repayable more than 12 months from the reporting date.

The restructuring is also aimed at preventing a trigger of cross-default clauses on other borrowings of S$343 million, currently classified as non-current liabilities.

The group is waiting on a S$5 million bridging loan, and has capital commitment of S$245 million as at Dec 31, 2016, for an asset under construction due at the end of this year. The group plans to get financing closer to the date of delivery.

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Caretaker charged over church fire

Straits Times
19 Apr 2017
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

A caretaker was hauled to court yesterday after he allegedly started a fire at his workplace, St Hilda's Church, on Easter Sunday.

Yeo Liang Chai, 60, was charged with committing mischief by fire as he had allegedly set ablaze a room in the church in Ceylon Road, off Dunman Road, on April 16.

He is accused of committing the offence between 6.45am and 6.50am that day.

Yeo is now remanded at Central Police Division and may be taken out to assist officers with their investigations.

Dressed in a white polo T-shirt and blue jeans, he was expressionless as he stood in the dock when the charge was read out to him.

He is unrepresented and will be back in court next Tuesday.

In a news release, the police said that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) received a call at around 7am on Sunday, stating that black smoke had been spotted coming out from the roof of the church.

SCDF dispatched two fire engines, two fire bikes, two support vehicles, a Red Rhino and an ambulance to the scene.

Police said the fire involved some books in a room on the second floor and the blaze was confined within.

SCDF officers used a compressed air foam system to extinguish the flames, and no one was injured in the incident.

Easter Sunday is the most important day in the Christian calendar. It is a time of rejoicing as it marks the day they believe Jesus was resurrected.

If convicted of committing mischief by fire, Yeo can be jailed up to 10 years and fined.

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Legal costs may run up to record $15m for criminal trial

Straits Times
12 Apr 2017
Ng Huiwen

Each of the five defendants who still has a counsel could incur up to $1m more in lawyers' fees

The most expensive criminal trial in Singapore's history is set to get even more expensive.

Lawyers' fees for the 142-day City Harvest Church (CHC) trial at the State Courts, from its start in May 2013 to sentencing in November 2015, had previously been estimated to cost more than $10 million.

But this could rise by between $1 million and $5 million more, now that the prosecution has referred the case to the Court of Appeal.

This came after a High Court appeal last Friday ended with jail terms for all six defendants cut.

Each of the five defendants who are still being represented by lawyers could incur at least $1 million more in legal fees, for what is likely to be the most crucial stretch left in the long-drawn case, said senior lawyer Foo Cheow Ming.

"As the criminal reference (at the apex court) is crucial and will affect the bottom line fate of each party, I don't see the additional fees as being lower than $1 million per head, as starters, maybe even more."

Taking a different view, Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi said additional legal costs might possibly be kept at about $250,000 per party as the criminal reference will be centred solely on the interpretation of Section 409 of the Penal Code.

"The work the lawyers have to do at this stage may be fairly limited. They know the facts of the case well and instead, they will be now diving deeper into an isolated point of law."

The sixth defendant, former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, has been representing himself since May 2014.

Four of the other five are represented by high-ranking senior counsel, who typically charge $1,200 or more an hour, lawyers said. And the appearance of these top counsel in the High Court or Court of Appeal usually costs about $10,000 to $20,000 a day.

However, the lawyers may agree on a cap on legal fees, depending on a client's ability to pay.

The CHC trial is the second longest in history, beaten only by a drug-trafficking case in the 1990s that went on for 168 days.

Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, who represents CHC deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, said yesterday: "The truth of the matter is that most, if not all, of the accused (including my client) have long run out of funds to pay their fees during the trial itself, let alone for the appeal and now the reference."

But the lawyers have continued "because it is our duty to complete a job that we have started and because we have come to see our clients as people caught in circumstances that they did not fully appreciate at the time events took place".

The lawyers for the other four defendants declined to comment.

In June 2012, the Commissioner of Charities (COC) issued an order to restrict CHC from paying the legal fees of those involved in the case, and neither the church nor its employees may be involved in raising funds for the legal costs.

A COC spokesman told The Straits Times the order is still in force.

However, the church, in a list of questions on the case posted on its website, said that while it is restricted by the authorities from helping to pay for the legal fees, "individual members are free to support them".


$10m

Previous estimate of lawyers' fees for the trial at the State Courts, from its start in May 2013 to sentencing in November 2015.

$1m-$5m

Range of the amount that the fees could rise to, now that the prosecution has referred the case to the Court of Appeal.


Some will start serving sentences by April 21

Some of the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders facing jail for their roles in Singapore's largest case of misuse of charity funds will start serving their sentences by April 21, said a notice posted on the church's website.

No names were mentioned.

Last Friday, church founder Kong Hee and five others were sentenced to jail terms of between seven months and 31/2 years for investing millions in sham bonds to fund the pop music career of his wife in a church mission and then covering up their tracks.

Five - Kong, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former finance committee member John Lam and former finance manager Serina Wee - had sought a two-week deferment of their sentences. Former finance manager Sharon Tan had asked for two months' deferment.

Their requests were granted.

On Monday, the prosecution filed a criminal reference to ask the Court of Appeal to rule on questions of law of public interest.

Yesterday, Chew told The Straits Times that he has informed the High Court that he intends to apply for permission to file his own criminal reference.

"I've also requested a stay in sentence and asked for advice on how to extend bail pending the outcome of the criminal reference. I've not got any reply yet."

Kong's lawyer, Senior Counsel Edwin Tong, said his client has not yet decided whether he will surrender on April 21 or seek a stay of his sentence.

Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, representing Tan Ye Peng, said his client "has not made any changes to his plans". Tan had told reporters on Friday that he would "like to serve the sentence and move on".


Five - Kong, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former finance committee member John Lam and former finance manager Serina Wee - had sought a two-week deferment of their sentences. Former finance manager Sharon Tan had asked for two months' deferment.

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Serial forger gets seven years' corrective training

Straits Times
06 Apr 2017
Elena Chong

To fuel her gambling addiction, an accounts executive forged 21 company cheques totalling more than $300,000 over five months.

This is Tay Hui Ling's third brush with the law for similar offences - having been jailed twice before, in 2001 and 2008.

The 42-year-old was yesterday sentenced to seven years of corrective training, a prison regime for repeat offenders with no remission for good behaviour.

She was employed by real estate firm Murray. Its director, Mr Satinder Singh Garcha, 44, is a high-net-worth, India-born Singapore citizen who has invested $250 million in recent years buying heritage properties and converting them into upmarket hotels here and in Santiago, Chile.

Tay had admitted to eight of 21 charges of forging OCBC Bank cheques purportedly issued by Murray. The total amount involved in all the charges is $366,242.

The court heard that Tay, who joined the company in October 2015, was entrusted with a blank OCBC chequebook so that she could issue cheques to its clients and creditors. Between Dec 1, 2015, and April 28 last year, she executed a scheme involving the blank cheques.

She would insert her name as payee, fill in the amount to be paid to her and fraudulently sign off as Mr Singh, who is the authorised signatory.

She then either deposited these cheques into her own bank account or encashed them and obtained cash directly from the bank.

Mr Singh, who is also known for captaining the Singapore polo team to a SEA Games silver medal, reported her to the police on May 5 last year after Tay had come clean.

No restitution has been made.

The court heard that Tay had gambled away the money obtained.

The maximum penalty for forgery is 15 years' jail and a fine.

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Private-hire drivers, home offices could retain protection if insurer collapses

Business Times
19 Apr 2017
Kenneth Lim

MAS consults on changes to Policy Owners' Protection Scheme

Private-hire car owners who drive for Uber or Grab will be entitled to protection if their insurers collapse, under a proposal that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is considering.

That proposal, as well as a cap on what can be paid out to policyholders when their insurers fail, are among a number of possible amendments included in a public consultation by MAS on the Policy Owners' Protection Scheme.

The scheme, which is administered by Singapore Deposit Insurance Corp, offers compensation to individual policyholders if their insurers go bust. The scheme is funded by the insurance providers, which each pay a risk-based fee calculated from the amount of protected liabilities and premium income it receives.

The last time the scheme was reviewed was in 2011, and the current consultation is part of an attempt to keep it up to date with today's circumstances.

The rise of businesses such as Uber and Grab, through which individual car owners can sign up to provide taxi services, has created uncertainty about whether the scheme's objective of protecting only personal policies extends to insured property (like cars) that are sometimes used for commercial purposes.

"In recent years, there are increasingly more examples where it is less clear if an insurance policy should fall into the 'personal' lines category," MAS said. "In other words, the line between personal and commercial usage has become blurred, especially in the case of personal motor insurance and personal property (structure and contents) insurance."

MAS is proposing to define the scheme's scope of "personal" insurance policies to include any policies that are "owned by a natural person". This would allow not just private-hire cars to enjoy the protections of the scheme but home offices as well.

MAS is also considering imposing caps on payouts under the scheme. The proposal will limit the payout to S$50,000 for damage to the policyholder's own property, such as personal motor insurance, and to S$300,000 for property damage claims for personal property insurance.

The proposed caps will still be able to fully cover more than 99 per cent of claims, MAS said. Imposing a cap, however, is a matter of prudence to ensure that the S$32 million Policy Owners' Protection Scheme fund is not overly exposed to high-value property damage claims.

The proposals also include legislative amendments to cover riders attached to eligible annuities and non-voluntary group policies. Riders are currently not covered for those types of policies.

Another proposal considers what happens if an insurer collapses and there are no suitable buyers for the insurer's policies and it is deemed preferable to terminate a policy. In such instances of "forced surrender", MAS is proposing to waive surrender penalties.

Many of the other proposals involve clarifying ambiguities in the current rules or codifying existing practice.

For example, MAS is proposing not to extend the scheme's coverage for pure accident and health policies to bundled products that also include other kinds of benefits, such as a pleasure craft policy that includes public liability and property loss.

MAS is also seeking to clarify the scheme's coverage of death benefits that are linked to the net value of underlying assets. The regulator is seeking to clarify that the scheme's coverage extends only to guaranteed benefits, not variable ones, unless the variability is a ratchet that sets a minimum amount. Since there is a minimum benefit that is guranteed, that policy will be covered by the scheme.

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HK court rules for Malaysian billionaire in case against Lippo

Straits Times
12 Apr 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Malaysian billionaire T. Ananda Krishnan has won the latest round in a long-running legal battle with Indonesia's Lippo group. A court of appeal in Hong Kong last month stymied a bid by Lippo's PT First Media TBK to lodge a further appeal against an earlier ruling.

The saga began in 2010 after the failure of a joint pay-TV venture between Mr Krishnan's Astro group and Indonesian tycoon James Riady, of the Lippo Group.

The dispute went to an arbitration panel in Singapore, which ruled that Lippo units should pay Astro about US$130 million (S$182 million). Lippo's First Media challenged this and scored a big victory in 2013 when the Singapore Court of Appeal ruled that the units need pay only about US$700,000.

In 2010, before this ruling, Astro had asked a Hong Kong court to enforce the Singapore award and seize any Hong Kong-based assets linked to First Media.

First Media initially believed it did not have any assets in Hong Kong, so did not challenge the order within the stipulated deadline.

But in 2011, Astro successfully applied to garnish US$44 million in assets from AcrossAsia, a Hong Kong-listed affiliate that owed the money to First Media.

That prompted First Media to apply to get an extension of time so it could challenge the order - around 14 months after the deadline had passed.

That began a series of legal gambits by First Media to try and overturn this order, including one in January asking that it be allowed to make its case at Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal.

But the three judges in the Court of Appeal said they were not convinced that there were "questions of great general or public importance" to merit a further appeal.

The court also noted that First Media's case had been considered at two levels in Hong Kong - the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Justice of Appeal Susan Kwan said that First Media's application for permission to go to the Final Court of Appeal "is an attempt to persuade a third tribunal to exercise the discretion differently".

"We do not think the contentions are reasonably arguable."

First Media was ordered to pay HK$109,686 (S$19,818) in costs.

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Local laws need more teeth to deal with issue: Forum

Straits Times
06 Apr 2017

It is heartening that the Government is seriously considering how to address the problem of fake news.

With almost every Singaporean equipped with a smart gadget that gives him or her quick access to news , the danger of "destabilising" fake news is a real threat to society.

Undiscerning recipients of such news would not even attempt to verify the news they get, even if it is potentially explosive.

Also, much damage would have been done before damage-control steps are taken.

Besides introducing new laws with more teeth, we should also learn from countries such as Germany and Britain, which require social media websites like Facebook to remove any fake news or face a blockage or shutdown.

Seah Yam Meng

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Ezra noteholders seek rights issue, cash from escrow

Business Times
19 Apr 2017
Tan Hwee Hwee

Observers warn against getting hopes up on recovering most of what they are owed

EZRA Holdings' noteholders want the founding Lee family behind the debt-laden listed group to consider a rights issue as a restructuring plan is being drawn up for its Chapter 11 filing under the US bankruptcy code.

Noteholders also sought clarity on whether an escrow account the group pledged to set up for their benefit in March 2016 can ring-fence cash for the purpose of repaying the interest or principal sum of the S$150 million note issue.

Ninety-three noteholders attended a dialogue session on Monday evening organised by the Securities Investors Association Singapore (SIAS).

SIAS president David Gerald told The Business Times that in addition to hearing about the updates on Ezra, noteholders also appealed for the board of the listed group to consider a rights issue and for the Lee family to subscribe additional equity to show their commitment.

BT understands, however, that any rights issue has to be put forward within the confines of Ezra's restructuring plan to be tabled before the US court.

Separately, bond specialist Terence Lin of iFast flagged the company's response confirming that an escrow account had been set up following a previous consent solicitation exercise with noteholders.

As indicated in Ezra's March 22, 2016, disclosure on the escrow account, otherwise known as an interest service reserve account, the group would have set aside an amount equal to at least two successive interest payments towards its outstanding notes.

But observers cautioned noteholders against getting their hopes high on recovering most of what the beleaguered group owes to them.

Robson Lee, a partner at law firm Gibson Dunn, said that for a start, with the stay on all claims and enforcement actions against the assets of the Ezra Chapter 11 entities, "it is doubtful whether noteholders can demand for any purported escrow account monies . . . to be used to pay any outstanding coupon payments".

Mr Lin of iFast concurred that drawing down the escrow account in time for coupon payments may be unlikely, but he suggested that "the cash in the escrow account could form the (only) security" noteholders can lay claim to.

On the cash sought through a rights issue, observers pointed out that this will have to be pumped in as super-priority rescue financing into any entity under Chapter 11 protection. The fresh cash injection can then be ring-fenced for rehabilitating the Ezra group of companies.

But OCBC Credit analyst Nick Wong warned in a March 14 research note that such rescue financing could subordinate noteholders' claims. "In the event that the company fails in its restructuring and is wound down, recoveries for noteholders could potentially be lower as a result."

These preliminary observations are subject to the finer details of Ezra's restructuring plan, which has to be tabled before the US court within the 120 exclusive period from its Chapter 11 filing unless the group seeks extension to do so.

Noteholders have also been advised that more can be done for the group's creditors under Chapter 11 protection compared to a winding-up petition.

Mr Lin pointed out that the biggest concern of the holding company is the billions of US dollars in contingent liabilities on its books from corporate guarantees extended to its associates or subsidiaries.

In contrast, the holding company has few unpledged assets that can be sold to pay off its outstanding debts with unsecured creditors.

Mr Gerald highlighted noteholders' unhappiness over the absence of the notes trustee at Monday's dialogue session. He also said that SIAS will take up with the Monetary Authority of Singapore the current unsatisfactory status of the trust deed, which offers little help to noteholders.

HSBC Institutional Trust Services (Singapore) Ltd is the trustee for Ezra's S$150 million notes.

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Apex court reserves judgment on LKY transcripts

Straits Times
11 Apr 2017
Charissa Yong & Danson Cheong

Lawyers for his estate argue that agreement on their use was not to preserve their secrecy

In his lifetime, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had allowed media outlets, such as Singapore Press Holdings and Channel NewsAsia, to access selected transcripts of interviews he gave in the early 1980s for research and publication.

Lawyers for the late Mr Lee's estate argued that this proved that an agreement governing the transcripts' use and administration had not been made to preserve their confidentiality and secrecy.

They were appealing against a High Court ruling that the estate held the copyright over the interview transcripts, but did not have custody over them or the rights to freely use them. The ruling notes that the limited rights of the estate only let it ensure that the Government complies with the terms of the agreement signed by Mr Lee.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), arguing in favour of the ruling on behalf of the Government, pointed out that only limited rights to the transcripts had passed on to the estate following Mr Lee's death on March 23, 2015.

In essence, the case, brought by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang as executors of their father's estate, centres on whether the estate can use or make copies of the interview transcripts.

Yesterday, a three-judge panel comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Chao Hick Tin heard the arguments of both parties for two hours.

It decided to reserve judgment.

The transcripts contain accounts of affairs of state as observed and experienced by Mr Lee, who was prime minister when he gave the interviews as part of a government oral history project in the 1980s.

The terms of the interview agreement dictate that the transcripts would be kept in the Cabinet Secretary's custody until 2000, or five years after Mr Lee's death, whichever is later.

During this moratorium period, no person should have access to, supply copies or be able to use the transcripts without the late Mr Lee's express written permission.

After this period, the Government may hand the transcripts to the Director of Archives.

The High Court ruled last September that Mr Lee's estate held the copyright insofar as ensuring the Government complied with the terms of the interview agreement.

Yesterday, Mr Lee's estate's lawyers said the Government had sought to describe the interview agreement signed by the late Mr Lee as one to "protect secrecy".

On the contrary, the late Mr Lee's actions to make the transcripts available to media outlets showed the opposite, they argued.

He did not have to be concerned with his estate "freely giving out" state secrets as the information would be bound by the Official Secrets Act, said Mr Lee Eng Beng of Rajah & Tann. He added that a substantial part of the transcripts is in the public domain.

Given this situation, it was not unreasonable for the estate to gain access to the material and make copies, Mr Lee Eng Beng said.

But Justice Phang noted during yesterday's hearing that doing so would ignore the reality that Mr Lee was also prime minister and would have discussed affairs of state in these transcripts.

"As a matter of common sense, at least some of the material would be politically sensitive," the judge said.

He added that Mr Lee Kuan Yew was quite different from an ordinary private citizen, and any agreement signed would likely have taken this into account.

The AGC reiterated its argument that Mr Lee's rights to grant access to, supply copies of and use the transcripts were vested in him alone, and do not pass on to his estate.

"Given the personal control (Mr Lee) wanted to have over his politically sensitive transcripts, it is inconceivable that the intent was for his estate... to be able to grant permission for access, use and supply of copies, and to use the transcripts freely to the same extent that he could," said the AGC.

It added that what passed on to his estate was the right to deny others the right to publish the material.

If Mr Lee's estate wanted to make copies of or use the transcripts, they would need authorisation from the Government under the Official Secrets Act, the AGC said.

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No need for new laws to tackle fake news: Forum

Straits Times
06 Apr 2017

The possibility of the introduction of new rules to counter fake news is disconcerting (Govt reviews how to tackle fake news; April 4).

Individuals in Singapore have been jailed for offences related to fake news (TRS co-founder gets eight months' jail; June 29, 2016).

There are obviously sufficient laws to deal with the problem.

I fear that new legislation will prove to be a setback for mainstream and citizen journalism.

Legislating fake news could lead us down the path of a dictatorship, if opposing political views are brushed aside by simply dismissing them as fake news.

Some people may label facts that they do not agree with as fake news, so something that is labelled as such today may eventually emerge as being true.

If that is the case, would the law compensate an individual who is tried and punished for publishing fake news that later turns out to be true?

Will the accusers be punished for falsely claiming that something was fake news?

If there are to be new laws to counter fake news, there should also be legislation to counter false claims of fake news.


I fear that new legislation to counter fake news will prove to be a setback to mainstream and citizen journalism.

Chan Yeow Chuan

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ADV: Enter the STEP Private Client Awards 2017/18

Singapore Law Watch
19 Apr 2017
Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners

City Harvest lawyers to study AGC filings before next move

Straits Times
11 Apr 2017
Danson Cheong & Selina Lum

Prosecution gets ready for another battle after apex court review

The dust is far from settled for the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders convicted of multimillion-dollar fraud, as the prosecution gears up for another battle in court.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has now filed a criminal reference with the Court of Appeal, raising "questions of law of public interest" that had arisen with a High Court three-judge panel's ruling on the case.

The six involved and their lawyers appeared to be studying the latest development, with senior pastor Kong Hee, 52, saying through his lawyer Edwin Tong that he would look at the filing carefully before considering the next move.

Lawyers for former finance manager Serina Wee, 40, also said they were still reviewing documents submitted by the AGC.

Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, who represents deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, said last night that he had just received the AGC's documents and had not discussed them with his client, while lawyers for former finance committee member John Lam, 49, and former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, had no comment.

Former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, 56, who is representing himself, told The Straits Times that the move by the AGC was predictable. "I don't think they will succeed," said Chew, who said he would raise a criminal reference of his own soon, without specifying what or when. Chew added that he agreed with the High Court's interpretation of the law in its ruling.

When contacted, CHC executive pastor Aries Zulkanain said: "We put all our trust in God, and we will do what we have been doing these seven years - we will pray."

Lawyers told The Straits Times it was appropriate that the AGC had filed a criminal reference.

Mr Eugene Thuraisingam said there is a question of law of public interest because of the conflicting decisions, not only in the Singapore High Court but also in the interpretation of the Indian equivalent, which is considered an authority.

In the 1976 case of Tay Choo Wah, which set the legal position in Singapore till now, the High Court considered two conflicting authorities, one related to India's penal code and the other to Ceylon's.

"My opinion is that the majority got it correct," he said.

Mr Shashi Nathan, a partner at Withers KhattarWong, said the question of which section of the law directors should be charged under for criminal breach of trust (CBT) is one that has to be resolved as it affects future prosecutions.

At the heart of the AGC's filing is the High Court's decision to reduce the charges of CBT which the six had been convicted of.

They had all been found guilty of CBT as agents under Section 409 of the Penal Code.

But the High Court ruled that the six church leaders are not considered agents under the provision - with two of the three judges ruling that "agent" connoted someone in a professional capacity - and reduced their offences to basic CBT, under Section 406, which carries lighter sentences.

The AGC is asking the Court of Appeal to decide on this point of law: whether a director or a member of the governing body of a company or organisation who is entrusted with or has dominion over property, can be construed as an agent.

The six CHC leaders were initially sentenced to jail terms of between eight years (for Kong) and 21 months (for Sharon Tan).

This was dramatically reduced by the High Court last Friday, to 3½ years for Kong and seven months for Tan.


At the heart of the AGC's filing is the High Court's decision to reduce the charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT) which the six had been convicted of. They had all been found guilty of CBT as agents under Section 409 of the Penal Code. But the High Court ruled that the six church leaders are not considered agents under the provision - with two of the three judges ruling that "agent" connoted someone in a professional capacity - and reduced their offences to basic CBT, under Section 406, which carries lighter sentences.


Key questions in the case

What is a criminal reference?

A When questions of law of public interest have arisen in a criminal matter, after the High Court has decided on the appeal, either party can file a motion to refer these questions to the Court of Appeal. The procedure, known as a criminal reference, is provided for under Section 397 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Q Who can file it?

A Both the prosecution as well as the accused person can file a criminal reference.

The public prosecutor does not need the permission of the Court of Appeal to do so, but accused persons need to seek permission. An application for permission must be made within one month of the High Court's decision.

Q What are questions of law of public interest?

A The question of law must be one that is of public interest and not just personally important to the parties alone.

Q What are the possible scenarios in the City Harvest case now that a criminal reference has been filed by the prosecution?

If the Court of Appeal agrees with the High Court's interpretation of the law, then the High Court's decision last Friday will prevail.

If the Court of Appeal disagrees with the High Court's interpretation, there is a wide range of possibilities. It can give a definitive ruling on the questions of law without disturbing the convictions and sentences of the six City Harvest Church leaders.

The prosecution has, however, requested that the Court of Appeal reinstate the original convictions of the six church leaders. If the court agrees to the request, the six will find themselves back to the 2015 convictions on the more serious criminal breach of trust charge. However, the court has the discretion to sentence them.

Q Will a different set of judges be hearing the criminal reference?

A Yes. A different panel, from the other judges on the Supreme Court bench, will be convened to hear the criminal reference, and the decision will be binding.

Q What sort of timeframe are we looking at?

A Lawyer Shashi Nathan said it could be "months" before the Court of Appeal hears the case. He said the court may appoint an amicus curiae (Latin for friend of the court) to give an independent view as a third party.

Q Is there any recourse for the accused persons after the Court of Appeal rules on the criminal reference?

A The decision of the Court of Appeal in a criminal reference is final.

Q Can the accused persons wait for the Court of Appeal hearing to be over before they start serving their sentences?

A The accused persons can apply to the High Court for a stay on their sentences pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal decision, said lawyers.

Q How common are criminal reference cases in Singapore?

A Applications are "not uncommon" but it is rare for the court to grant permission to accused persons, said lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam.

Lawyer Tan Hee Joek said only rare cases can satisfy the criteria to refer to the Court of Appeal as they are meant to restrict such reference unless questions of law of public interest are involved.


PAST CASES

In 2010, lawyer Bachoo Mohan Singh, who was convicted of helping a client dishonestly make a false claim before a court, succeeded in his criminal reference.

He was sentenced to three months' jail. At an appeal in the High Court, his conviction was upheld but his sentence was reduced to one month's jail and a $10,000 fine.

But he took his case all the way to the Court of Appeal, on the legal question of what exactly is a false claim, and how far a lawyer has to go to make sure that what his client tells him is true. Mr Singh was eventually acquitted.

In 2014, the prosecution filed criminal references in two unrelated cases of private-sector corruption. Former Ikea food and beverage manager Leng Kah Poh and former Seagate senior director of logistics Henry Teo Chu Ha were acquitted on appeal to the same High Court judge after he ruled that their actions did not amount to corruption.

After the Court of Appeal agreed with the prosecution that the High Court's interpretation of the law was wrong, it reinstated their original convictions.

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

Immunity for marital rape being reviewed

Straits Times
05 Apr 2017
Rachel Au-Yong

Married women should have same protection from violence as unmarried women: Minister

Married women should have the same access to protection from violence as unmarried women, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday.

To that end, the Government is "actively reviewing" the issue of marital immunity for rape, and will give an update once it is completed.

In one of the firmest statements from the Government on the subject, Mr Tan emphatically told Parliament that violence against women is "unequivocally wrong".

"Although married persons have conjugal rights over each other, such rights should be exercised within reasonable behaviour," he told the House during a debate on a proposal to express support for women's aspirations in Singapore.

He also noted that existing laws have made Singapore a safer place for women, but at the same time, "we have to shape society's ideas about what is not acceptable".

The minister was responding to MPs' concerns about violence against women.

Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun urged the House to be less tolerant of all sorts of violence. "How can we turn a blind eye towards brutal acts of violence like rape simply because it is committed by a family member? How can we as a society or as policymakers protect vulnerable members of our society?"

The current review of the law signals a further change on what constitutes marital rape. Up until 2007, Singapore did not recognise the concept of marital rape - that a husband could rape his wife.

That year, the law was amended to recognise marital rape under certain circumstances, such as if the husband and wife were living apart under an interim judgment of divorce or written separation agreement, or if divorce proceedings had begun, or if the wife had already obtained a personal protection order against her husband.

But such qualifiers are not satisfactory to advocates like Ms Jolene Tan, head of advocacy and research at Aware, who has seen such cases at the group from time to time.

She welcomed the review, saying: "If it is non-consensual penetration, it is rape. There should not be any legal distinction between marital rape and other kinds of rape."

Ms Tan hopes the law can be changed by October, when Singapore is up for review by the United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which takes stock of progress on women's rights issues.

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan also said the law review was a step in the right direction, and would empower victims to step forward to reclaim their dignity.

There is still a high degree of social stigmatisation surrounding marital rape cases, she said, adding: "The afflicted party would find it very difficult to raise a public case against the spouse. Having a law in place would point our moral compass in the right direction, so that for those who are afflicted, they know the law is on their side and (this would) dispel any misperceptions that just because he or she is your spouse, he or she can do anything to you."

Agreeing, Mr Kok said he hoped the Government would consult women's organisations like Aware to get more input on the matter.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson), who tabled the motion on women, said the review was timely and necessary. "Men and women enter marriage as life partners. Thus, mutual respect is paramount to the sanctity and longevity of the relationship."


PROTECTION FOR MARRIED WOMEN

Violence against women is unequivocally wrong. Although married persons have conjugal rights over each other, such rights should be exercised within reasonable behaviour. Married women should have the same access to protection as unmarried women. We are thus actively reviewing the issue of marital immunity for rape, and will give an update once the review is completed.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT TAN CHUAN-JIN

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Keppel signs deal with EDB to build gasification plant on Jurong Island

Business Times
19 Apr 2017
Andrea Soh

Singapore is moving ahead with a gasification facility that uses coal and other feedstock on Jurong Island, some six years after it first studied the idea as part of the Jurong Island version 2.0 initiative.

Keppel Infrastructure, a division of Keppel Corporation, said in an announcement on Tuesday that it has signed an agreement with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) to develop, own and operate such a facility.

The agreement marks an important step in preparation for the final investment decision which will be taken at a later date, said Keppel.

The facility will use proven and best-in-class technologies to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide, syngas and other industrial gases from a variety of potential feedstock, including coal and refinery by-products. The gases produced will provide alternative feedstocks for petrochemical plants and refineries.

The project is part of the government's Jurong Island version 2.0 initiative which focuses on feedstock options and infrastructure developments to create new competitive advantages for Singapore's petrochemical sector. Under this initiative, EDB has worked with Vopak Terminals to develop a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) terminal that officially opened on Jurong Island in June last year; LPG is interchangeable with naphtha as feedstock for petrochemical crackers to a certain extent.

EDB studied the feasibility of coal gasification as early as 2011, and launched a Request for Proposals in February 2012. The agreement with Keppel marks the culmination of a competitive selection process by the agency; besides Keppel Corp, industrial gas producers such as Soxal and Linde Gas were said to have been interested in the project, The Business Times reported in 2014.

BT understands that the process has taken a long time due to extensive consultations conducted with other government agencies on the environmental impact of such a facility. Keppel said in its statement that it will develop energy efficient and R&D projects to augment the facility.

The agreement comes ahead of the requirement by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for all ships to comply with reduced sulphur emission limit by the start of 2020. As the refineries in Singapore produce low sulphur compliant fuel, there will be increased demand for hydrogen from existing and new customers, Keppel noted in its press release.

Suresh Sivanandam, senior manager of refining research for Asia-Pacific at oil consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said the latest development is catered towards meeting the demand for industrial gases in Jurong Island's next phase of growth. "Any mitigation steps refiners would need to take to meet the compliant bunker fuel based on IMO regulation would require more hydrogen," he pointed out. Linde Gas has a similar plant in Jurong Island which takes in refinery by-products to produce industrial gases, he added. Keppel's facility, in comparison, has flexibility around the feedstock.

EDB executive director of energy and chemicals Damian Chan noted that because of the integrated nature of Jurong Island, an improvement in providing an alternative supply of competitive feedstock will invariably benefit the rest of the chemicals value chain.

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

Indonesian couple's lawsuit against AIA: Marathon hearing ends

Straits Times
11 Apr 2017
Lorna Tan

A marathon court hearing of a lawsuit against insurer AIA by an Indonesian couple over a fake US$5.06 million (S$7 million) policy sold to them by a rogue AIA agent finally ended on Friday.

The first day of the 40-day hearing was in February last year.

High Court judge Belinda Ang is likely to hand down a ruling on the case in a few months.

Mr Ong Han Ling and his wife Enny Ariandini Pramana, both 78, commenced the suit in 2012 against AIA and an AIA-related firm, Motion Insurance Agency.

They sued the firms for negligence and breach of duty of care when handling their insurance. They also asserted AIA's vicarious liability for former agent Sally Low's fraudulent acts. She was jailed in May last year for eight years.

The hearing ended with two insurance industry veterans taking the stand for three days.

Former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian was the industry expert for Mr Ong's lawyers KhattarWong, while Mr Mun Cheong Fai, former executive director at Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore, was AIA's expert.

The Ongs, Singapore permanent residents, are seeking damages of $4.2 million to $7.2 million. They claim AIA and Motion breached a duty of care owed to them - causing them loss. The duties included providing a sound internal system to detect and prevent fraud.

On Friday, both experts were asked for their views on the October 2002 guidelines on standards of conduct for financial advisers under the Financial Advisers Act.

Mr Tan said the insurer has a responsibility to ensure the instructions came from the customers and not through a fraudulent party, as well as to provide prompt documentation to the customers that the orders have been executed.

He added that it is the "duty of the insurance company to make sure the policy is delivered to the client". And if the insurer wishes the agent or intermediary to deliver the policy, someone else "must be responsible to make sure the policy has been delivered".

Mr Tan explained that this is necessary and prudent "because of the risk of intermediary fraud".

Low appeared to have been given free rein in managing huge sums from the Ongs, allegedly telling AIA to issue four unauthorised policies which they never received.

Mr Mun said the insurer has "that responsibility to process whatever proposals that might have come in or applications that might have come in". He agreed that under the Monetary Authority of Singapore's market conduct standards for life insurers, AIA is responsible for the conduct of its representatives like Low.

The saga began in late 2002 when Mr Ong was sold a fake five-year AIA Thank You policy by Low.

Mr Ong said after he remitted the premium, Low, without his knowledge or consent, used the funds to buy four AIA policies for him, his wife and their daughter.

Midway through the tenure of the Thank You policy, the agent deceived him into giving the insurance proceeds from three of the unauthorised policies to her. Her scheme came to light in 2008, after Mr Ong learnt from AIA that the Thank You policy was a bogus one.

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

Scholarship fund by women lawyers calls for fresh ideas

Straits Times
05 Apr 2017
Ng Huiwen

Singapore Association of Women Lawyers struggling to raise money to help those with disabilities

Growing up deaf, Mr Benedict did not think that he would one day be able to get a good job, much less graduate from university.

To help his taxi-driver father support his family of five, which included his housewife mother, he even thought of quitting school to find a job. He was then only 15 years old.

"Of course, this wasn't a very ideal outcome, when I liked learning new things," said Mr Benedict, now 34, who was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in both ears when he was just aged one.

But thanks to a scholarship started by a group of women lawyers, he was able to complete his studies and eventually graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2005.

The scholarship, established by the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers (SAWL) in 1987, provided him with between $300 and $5,000 a year, from secondary school to university, to help finance his studies for 10 years.

SAWL, set up in 1974, started the scholarship to help those with disabilities. While it has helped about 800 needy beneficiaries who have disabilities, the 30-year-old fund has been struggling to raise money recently, said Ms Foo Siew Fong, an executive committee member of SAWL and chair of the fund's board of trustees.

To date, the fund has given out scholarships worth a total of $662,200, with about $40,000 disbursed annually in recent years. Recipients are Singaporeans or permanent residents.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Ms Foo said: "We are a small charity with limited resources. It hasn't been easy, with so many charities out there with big marketing budgets."

Fund-raising efforts have now become more urgent with Raffles Country Club, one of its main donors, due to shut by July next year, she said.

But for a start, the fund has been renamed for the first time since its inception to make it simpler to remember, said Ms Ong Lee Wha, SAWL president and the fund's honorary secretary.

Formerly known as the Tah Ah Tah-SAWL Fund, it was officially launched as the SAWL Scholarship Fund at a gathering last Saturday which was attended by Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

Supporting the name change, Ms Indranee said: "I see this scholarship as something very much in line with our efforts to build an inclusive society that supports each individual to go as far as he or she can, irrespective of starting point or disability."

SAWL has been raising funds through the sale of its books, but this is "no longer sustainable", said the fund's honorary treasurer Anne Choo.

"Circumstances have changed. Selling books may have worked in the 1980s but it is no longer a practical way to raise funds, if people can easily get information online," she said.

SAWL has published two books - You And The Law ($18) and Teens And The Law ($10).

Ms Choo has called for more young lawyers to come on board to inject fresh ideas into fund-raising efforts.

"Beyond doing pro bono work in legal clinics, lawyers can contribute to society and the underprivileged in other areas," she said.


FUND HELPS INCLUSIVENESS

I see this scholarship as something very much in line with our efforts to build an inclusive society that supports each individual to go as far as he or she can, irrespective of starting point or disability.

SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR LAW INDRANEE RAJAH, on the SAWL scholarship's efforts to help beneficiaries.

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Ex-owner of cat cafe, where 7 cats died, jailed

TODAY
19 Apr 2017

The former owner of a now defunct cat cafe in Orchard was sentenced to two weeks’ jail and fined S$3,500 on Tuesday (April 18) for offences related to the health of the cats on his premises.

Jonathan Tan Wei-De was the owner of Cuddles Cat Café at *SCAPE, which was shut in December 2014 — less than four months after it opened. TODAY reported at the time that seven of the 30 cats bought for the cafe had died before the establishment was opened in mid-September.

According to an Agri-food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) statement on Tuesday, the agency was first alerted to allegations of mismanagement of diseased cats at the premises in October that year — prompting an investigation.

Tan was later found to have breached AVA licensing conditions by not keeping the cats in good health. Additionally, the 33-year-old also failed to ensure that the cats tested negative for toxoplasmosis, a disease that can infect animals and humans, before keeping them in the café for public interaction.

The case was later referred to the police after it was alleged that Tan had provided falsified cat health records when he applied for an AVA licence for the cafe. Tan’s sentence on Tuesday was for giving false information to a public servant and for attempting to cheat. The S$3,500 fine, which was in default of two weeks’ imprisonment, was for failing to comply with the AVA licensing conditions.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

New award for loss of genetic affinity a gain for IVF law

Straits Times
11 Apr 2017
K.C. Vijayan

The Court of Appeal last month created a new compensation award for "loss of genetic affinity" in the case of a baby conceived with the wrong sperm following an IVF mix-up.

Genetic affinity loss refers to the cost and hurt to a parent of being deprived of having a baby with her spouse via reproductive technology through the negligence of a third party.

In the 2010 incident, the woman and her husband went to the Thomson Medical Centre for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment but a stranger's sperm - instead of her husband's - was used to fertilise her extracted eggs.

The mistake resulted in her giving birth to a baby girl with her genetic make-up but not her husband's. She sued the centre for negligence in 2012 seeking, among other things, damages for the baby's upkeep until she grew up.

The end result: The apex court rejected her upkeep claim but recognised she had suffered loss termed as "genetic affinity". The court said her desire to have a child of her own with her husband "is a basic human impulse, and its loss is keenly and deeply felt".

It pointed out ordinary human parents and children are bound by ties of blood and this fact of biological experience - heredity - carries deep socio-cultural significance. "And when, as in the present case, a person has been denied this experience due to the negligence of others then she has lost something of profound significance and has suffered a serious wrong. This loss of 'affinity' can also result in social stigma and embarrassment arising out of the misperceptions of others, as was the case here."

The five-judge panel placed the compensation sum at 30 per cent of the financial costs of raising Baby P, with the precise sum to be assessed by the High Court. The ground- breaking judgment, unprecedented here or elsewhere, suggests the court is prepared to address compensation for loss in an uncharted area.

Issues of heredity and family become all the more important in an era when IVF is increasingly common and genetic manipulation is well on the way to becoming reality. Gene-editing technology, for example, could in future be used to tweak a child's traits more in favour of one parent than the other.

Problems arise when plans go awry and the court has in a way served notice it will not back away from looking at losses not hitherto compensated within the traditional categories of civil claims. Such issues were highlighted by National University of Singapore (NUS) biomedical ethics researcher G. Owen Schaefer, who underlined the importance of the concept in this "genomic era".

Even family publication parentsworld flagged that after the incident, "it is expected that couples who are seeking alternative methods to conceive would be greatly concerned about this issue".

One practical effect in the immediate case is whether the father could also have been eligible to be compensated for the loss of genetic affinity, just like Baby P's mother. "By recognising loss of genetic affinity as a head, it would appear that the husband as the legal father has also suffered a loss, perhaps even more acutely than the mother as he has no genetic connection with the child," said NUS law faculty professor A. Kumaralingam.

Baby P's father, as her legal parent, has rights and obligations but the rights of her biological father remain to be established or clarified. Lawyers point out that the man has not surfaced to make any civil claim for potential compensation for over six years - the recognised deadline in civil claims - which means that the case is moot.

Medical confidentiality constrains him from being identified to third parties without consent but what of his rights as a biological parent? Parliament passed the Status of Children (Assisted Reproduction Technology) Act in 2013 and it states that interested parties involved in such mix-ups can apply to the court to be declared as parents of the child within two years of the mistake being discovered. The Act does not apply in his case which preceded the Act and one possible unknown is that he could have relinquished his rights formally despite the nexus.

If that were to happen, it would not be without precedent as in the case of the twins at the centre of a custody battle between their Singapore mum and American dad in 2011. It emerged while the twins were here that the biological father was someone else who was understood to have signed his rights away, according to the twins' mother then. Interestingly, the twins knew of this when they were court-ordered to return to the US accompanied by their legal father six years ago. The access tussle between the divorced mum and dad is still ongoing in the US to date.

While the litigation in the case of Baby P is over, it is possible that the biological father may surface at some point in time in the future, for whatever reason, for example, should Baby P gain some prominence that bears notice. Such is the sad saga that while all appears over in the court arena, the affected parties will continue to court the consequences for good.

Such prospects, in this area of law that is in its infancy, bear contemplation, given that the numbers resorting to IVF techniques are expected to rise, and the need to minimise incidents.

In its annual report issued last October, Britain's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) said it received reports of 517 incidents, out of approximately 72,000 cycles of fertilisation treatment in 2015. "Whilst incidents make up less than 1 per cent of treatment, any incident is one too many and is one of the reasons we produce this report," added HFEA.

For the year under review, there were no Grade A incidents for the first time in the five years since HFEA was established in Britain. A Grade A category error or incident includes events such as the death of a patient, being implanted with the wrong embryo, or something that affects a large number of patients, such as a storage-unit malfunction.

As IVF continues in an important way to help couples with reproductive difficulties and the numbers multiply, the British examples and the case of Singapore's Baby P illustrate this is a difficult area when incidents arise - as the Court of Appeal suggested in dealing with the case - with ongoing ramifications.

Like others elsewhere, the court here has shied away from the claim for upkeep of the baby on principle, but unlike others, it has inched forward to detect the need for redress by recognising "loss of genetic affinity". What a signal gain for the law's development indeed in finding such an inventive loss.

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Seadrill gets 3-month extension for debt restructuring talks

Business Times
05 Apr 2017
Tan Hwee Hwee

New York and Oslo-listed Seadrill, which is behind two rig orders valued in excess of US$1 billion with two listed offshore and marine groups here, has obtained a three-month extension from its lenders for restructuring talks.

Seadrill's two subsidiaries, North Atlantic Drilling and Sevan Drilling, have yet to take delivery of two rigs placed with Sembcorp Marine and Cosco Shipyard.

The rig owner-operator said on Tuesday that its banks and other lenders had agreed to extend restructuring talks by three months to July 31.

It had warned in February against the risk of having to enter into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection if an agreement cannot be reached with its lenders.

Some US$14 billion of debts and liabilities were reported on its highly-geared balance sheet.

Seadrill also warned on Tuesday against "impairment, losses or substantial dilution" for some stakeholders.

It expects in addition to Chapter 11 proceedings, "the implementation of a comprehensive restructuring plan (may) involve schemes of arrangement".

Its 70.4 per cent-owned subsidiary, North Atlantic, had last secured an extension of a standstill agreement for the West Rigel semi-submersible rig from SembMarine to July 6, 2017.

The extension of the standstill period allows the parties to continue to explore commercial opportunities for the unit. In the event that no employment is secured for the unit and no alternative transaction is completed, North Atlantic and SembMarine's rig building unit will form a joint asset holding company for West Rigel.

North Atlantic had paid 20 per cent downpayment to SembMarine, with the remaining 80 per cent of the contracted US$568 million due on the delivery of West Rigel.

A SembMarine spokesman said the yard group "has no comment and will continue to monitor the developments".

Seadrill's controlled Sevan Drilling had last secured a deferment on the delivery of the deep-water drilling unit, Sevan Developer, from Cosco Shipyard to April 15, 2017.

Sevan Drilling said the final delivery instalment payable to Cosco had been amended to US$499.7 million, representing 95 per cent of the US$526 million contracted value with the yard group.

Singapore-listed Cosco Corporation owns equity interest in Cosco Shipyard, but this is expected to be acquired by the parent group, China Cosco Shipping Corp.

Cosco Corp cannot be reached for comments as at press time.

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

Court dismisses $21m claim over losses in 2008 crisis

Straits Times
18 Apr 2017
K.C. Vijayan

It orders investment firm to pay $750,000 in legal costs to bank and relationship manager

In one of the last lawsuits from the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis, the High Court dismissed a US$15 million (S$21 million) claim by an investment firm suing a bank for losses in a financial product known as "share accumulators".

The court was not convinced that Societe Generale Bank & Trust had to get clearance from Mr Lucas (who goes by one name) as part of a contract whenever his wife Lenny Patricia Halim Liem inked deals for First Asia Capital Investments (FAC) to invest in the share accumulator scheme.

Both were authorised signatories for FAC, which entered into share accumulators with the bank through its relationship manager.

The accumulator, or discounted share purchase programme, is a product that lets investors buy shares at a market discount. If the price rises by more than a certain percentage, the contract ends and the investor takes a profit. But if the market price falls below the discount price, the investor would be required to continue buying at the same price, which would now be at a premium above the market price.

Judge of Appeal Steven Chong, in judgment grounds last week, noted that share accumulators sparked financial woes for many investors following the 2008 global financial crisis and might explain why many sued banks to disclaim them.

FAC entered into 103 share accumulators with the bank involving shares in 27 firms, trading over some 18 months till January 2008.

But about three months later, all but 18 of the 103 accumulators had been knocked out; the 18 accumulators led to US$15.86 million in losses.

FAC sued the bank claiming it breached an oral agreement under which Mr Lucas' written consent was required. The pact was in addition to the main contract, under which Ms Lenny was a signatory but served as an "ancillary person".

Mr Gabriel Peter, acting for FAC, also brought several other claims against the bank, including misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty and undue influence. Lawyers Suresh Nair and Kenneth Koh, defending the bank and relationship manager, pointed to, among other things, transcripts of conversations which showed Ms Lenny actively made decisions and was not an "ancillary person" who had no authority to enter or exit share transactions.

Justice Chong found "the objective circumstances confirm that the (oral) collateral agreement did not and could not have existed."

He added: "It is difficult to believe that Lucas would not have wanted the security of a written collateral agreement given that he is a commercial lawyer who would have, by his own admission, understood the importance of evidence."

Justice Chong dismissed the claims and ordered FAC to pay $750,000 in legal costs to the bank and its relationship manager, noting the time spent to review and transcribe 338 recordings of phone conversations between Ms Lenny and the relationship manager in the run-up to the court case.

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First Asia Capital Investments Ltd v Société Générale Bank & Trust and another [2017] SGHC 78

SGX appoints new members to disciplinary, appeals committees

Straits Times
11 Apr 2017
Wong Wei Han

New members have been appointed to two independent Singapore Exchange (SGX) committees that oversee regulatory action.

Six new members have joined the disciplinary committee while the appeals committee has two new appointments. The new faces replace retired members.

The 15-member disciplinary committee examines charges levelled by the SGX against rule breaches. It has the power to impose sanctions ranging from public reprimands and fines to demanding resignation of directors or executive officers.

Drew & Napier dispute resolution director, Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull, has joined as one of its three co-chairmen, while RHTLaw Taylor Wessing senior partner Tan Chong Huat has been appointed deputy chairman.

The other four - GIG Consulting director Cheng Ai Phing; OCBC Malaysia senior adviser George Lee; TC Capital chief executive Tommy Tan; and Finix Corporate Advisor partner Soh Gim Teik - joined as members.

The two new appointments on the appeals committee are Baker McKenzie Senior Counsel and dispute resolution head Chan Leng Sun, who joined as deputy chairman, and Cornerstone Advisors managing director Benjamin Kan.

The six-member committee hears appeals against certain decisions by the SGX and the disciplinary committee. It can uphold, vary or reverse these decisions.

SGX chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin said the two committees "play a key role in disciplining errant market participants".

The SGX has set up numerous independent committees to enhance its decision-making processes for regulations and policies.

A new listings advisory committee was created in 2015 to advise the bourse on its listing policies. One of its recent moves was giving suggestions and backing to the dual-class share framework proposal.

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Pushing for greater accountability of Reit managers in Singapore

Business Times
05 Apr 2017
Tan Chong Huat, Joseph Lau & Gerald Tham

Under the current regime, unitholders have limited or no rights to interfere with the management of the Reit

While Singapore is now the second largest Reit market in Asia, recent headlines have highlighted possible deficiencies of the Reit industry, including the accountability of Reit managers.

This issue has not gone unnoticed by the authorities. While the conduct of Reit managers is currently regulated by the Code on Collective Investment Schemes (CIS) and the common law, Parliament in January 2017 passed the Securities and Futures (Amendment) Act 2017, which introduces statutory protections for unitholders against the failure of Reit managers and their directors to act in the best interests of unitholders.

In this first of a two-part article, we explore some options available to the unitholders of a Reit under the current regime to hold a Reit manager accountable for its actions.

The Singapore courts have yet to determine whether the manager of a Reit owes fiduciary duties to unitholders. Nevertheless, Lee Chiwi, who authored a book on the legal nature of a unit trust, suggests that such duties are owed for two reasons.

First, Reit managers exist not solely for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of unitholders, which is a characteristic common to fiduciaries. Second, a Reit manager's position should be supervised under equitable principles as unitholders are not able to unilaterally amend or determine what powers and duties a manager possesses under the trust deed of a Reit. Unitholders are also vulnerable with limited or no rights to interfere with the management of the Reit, as the manager typically has autonomy to determine how the interests of unitholders are served.

The trust deed of a Reit is required to contain provisions which allow the manager to be removed by a simple majority of unitholders present and voting at a general meeting (with no unitholders being disenfranchised), and to allow a general meeting to be convened at the request of at least 50 unitholders or unitholders representing at least 10 per cent of the issued units of the Reit.

While convening a general meeting to pass a resolution to remove the manager is theoretically possible, this may prove difficult in practice. In a 2007 article in the Singapore Academy of Law Journal, Adjunct Associate Professor Joseph Chun noted that Reit managers are usually owned by the sponsor of the Reit, which in turn would typically hold the lion's share of units in the Reit and thus a greater proportion of the voting power. Therefore, even if unitholders are able to requisition a general meeting, they may find it difficult to gather the required simple majority to pass the resolution for removal of the manager.

The CIS requires a Reit manager to "have arrangements in place to take all reasonable steps to obtain the best possible result for the scheme, taking into account the following execution factors: price, costs, speed, likelihood of execution and settlement, size, nature or any other consideration relevant to the execution of a trade or transaction".

That said, the requirements of the CIS are not statutory obligations, and a breach of the CIS does not itself generate criminal liability. If, however, a breach of the CIS is established, it may support the unitholders' case in civil or criminal proceedings that the manager is liable. Also, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) may take into account a breach of the CIS in determining whether to revoke or suspend the authorisation of the Reit, or to refuse to authorise new schemes by parties responsible for the breach in question.

Nevertheless, it may not be easy or rewarding for unitholders to show that a manager has breached the CIS. For instance, it is unclear whether paying a higher price for a property acquisition from a related party would in itself demonstrate that a Reit manager did not use "all reasonable steps" to obtain the best possible result for the Reit.

Moreover, given the possibility of the authorisation of the Reit being revoked or suspended by MAS, unitholders may wish to consider whether establishing such a breach achieves their objectives, as such revocation or suspension of authorisation may negatively impact the value of their investment in the Reit.

For instance, if it is clear that, but for the manager's under-performance, the Reit would be performing well, it is more sensible for unitholders to explore other options to preserve the Reit as an investment vehicle whilst addressing the quality of management. The most advantageous option for unitholders will depend on the unique circumstances of each case.

Unitholders may apply to the Singapore courts for an order under the Securities and Futures Act where the Reit manager has conducted the affairs of the Reit or exercised its powers in a manner that is oppressive or disregards unitholders' interests. Another ground for such application to the Singapore courts is where an act of the Reit manager has been done or is threatened which unfairly discriminates or is prejudicial to unitholders.

The court is empowered to make a wide range of orders, including an order which cancels or varies any transaction or regulates the conduct of the affairs of the Reit manager in the future. However, there are no instances where the Singapore courts have interpreted or applied this provision in the Securities and Futures Act, and it remains to be seen how these grounds would be satisfied.


The writers are from RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP. Tan Chong Huat is managing partner of the firm; Joseph Lau and Gerald Tham are associates.

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

S’pore indebted to Othman for gutsy belief in unity: DPM

TODAY
18 Apr 2017
Toh Ee Ming & Kenneth Cheng

The Republic would be “a very different country” if Mr Othman Wok was not part of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s team, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday, as several Government leaders paid tribute to his role as a champion of multiracialism — a cornerstone of Singapore’s success.

They also noted Mr Othman’s other contributions, including improving the quality of social welfare services and laying the foundation for a progressive Malay-Muslim community.

“His guts, the courage he gave the Malay community and the confidence in multiracialism that he gave all Singaporeans, the confidence that we could make it work — that’s what we are in debt to him for,” said Mr Tharman, who was among several ministers who visited Mr Othman’s home in Kew Avenue to pay their respects.

“He rose to the occasion, decided that his belief in unity was worth fighting for, hitched his wagon to Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s and Singapore became what it is,” said Mr Tharman added.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said Mr Othman “made important decisions which helped to lay the foundation for independent Singapore, and the harmony and the peace that we enjoy among all the races in Singapore today”.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, noted that Mr Othman laid the foundation “for a very modern and progressive Malay-Muslim community”.

“He fought for what he believed was right, not just for the Malays in Singapore, but for the whole of Singapore,” added Dr Yaacob.

In a statement issued by its Organising Secretary Chan Chun Sing, the People’s Action Party (PAP) said: “As we mourn his passing, let us also preserve his ideals for a multiracial, multicultural nation, and also re-dedicate ourselves to building on the legacy of our pioneers.”

As the first Minister for Social Affairs, Mr Othman “was instrumental in shaping the foundations of our social service sector”, said Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

“Mr Othman was an advocate of improving training and research in the social welfare field, and also urged organisations to join in efforts to do more for the care of the elderly,” he added.

Yayasan Mendaki’s chief executive officer Rahayu Buang said the Malay-Muslim community “is indeed grateful to him for proposing free education to all Malays from primary to tertiary, and will always remember Mr Othman as the man responsible for the setting up of the Singapore Islamic Religious Council (Muis)”.

In its own statement, Muis noted that Mr Othman’s “greatest legacy was the development of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Amla) together with the late Prof Ahmad Ibrahim”.

It was Amla that made the establishment of Muis, the Syariah Court and the Registry of Muslim Marriages possible, Muis said.

Former home affairs minister Ong Pang Boon, 88, also a member of the first Cabinet, said of Mr Othman: “He was also a man of high EQ, who always had kind words for his Cabinet colleagues, his grassroots workers and friends, and the man in the street.”

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Two teens arrested for impersonating police officers

TODAY
11 Apr 2017

Two men, aged 17 and 18, were arrested for their suspected involvement in impersonating a public servant, the police said in a Facebook post on Monday (April 10).

Their arrest followed a report on April 6 about a group of young men claiming to be Police officers and engaging in aggressive tactics to seek donations in public.

Besides impersonating as police officers, the men also claimed to be working for a company to solicit donations.

TODAY understands that the firm is called Velocity Advertising and Sales.

Their identities were subsequently established on Sunday, and they were arrested on the same day.

Police said investigations against the teenage pair are ongoing.

The company is also being investigated for possible breach of regulations under the House to House and Street Collections Act.

In its Facebook post, the police reminded the public to request for the Police Officer’s Warrant Card for verification when in doubt, before complying with the instructions of the officer.

Genuine warrant cards will have details such as the Police crest, the photo, name, and NRIC of the officer.

The holographic word “POLICE” will also appear below the Officer’s photograph when the card is tilted at an angle.

Anyone found guilty of an offence of impersonating a public servant, under may be punished with an imprisonment term which may extend to two years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Let’s not rest on our laurels when it comes to rule of law: Voices

TODAY
05 Apr 2017

As the Attorney-General’s Chambers celebrates its 150th anniversary, the message about being grounded in the rule of law rings clearly in the report, “Rule of law a game-changer for S’pore: PM” (April 1).

Conscientious effort goes into revising statutes insofar as precedent cases are concerned and with regard to ensuring an equitable society.

For instance, the need for increased privacy led to the Personal Data Protection Act in 2012, which included legitimising the credibility of initiatives like the Do Not Call Registry.

It follows that we should credit our legal pioneers for their contributions that engendered the judicial system we have today.

Upholding the rule of law can potentially be more difficult going forward, however, when voices from other judiciaries filter in and come into conflict with existing judgments.

Take, for example, the judgment passed in the United States granting Amos Yee asylum on the basis that he was prosecuted on the pretext of silencing his political opinions (Blogger Amos Yee granted asylum in the US; March 25, online).

While it is not my prerogative to comment on the judgment’s validity, it is vital to note that with relevance to the rule of law, such comments are a deviation from our rulings, creating a risk of conflict between societies.

It requires fortitude to hold steadfast to the judgments of one’s judiciary, which constitute a stabilising factor in upholding the rule of law.

Another facet of enshrining the rule of law is to ensure the accessibility of law.

To quote Britain’s former senior law lord Tom Bingham, in his book The Rule of Law, this entails the law being “accessible and so far as possible intelligible, clear and predictable”.

A constant review of laws is therefore required such that they can be understood by the common man.

In terms of applicability, however, legal representation is still needed, which pro bono initiatives such as the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme do well to supplement.

But perhaps more governmental pro-bono organisations can be established to tap the apparent glut of lawyers and, simultaneously, allow them to cater for the masses in line with the ethos of legal practitioners — to embody compassion while giving it.

To conclude, while we laud ourselves for our commitment to the rule of law, central to the success of any society is to remain grounded and strive for improvement.

Edwin Teong Ying Keat

 

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Man jailed for forgery, traffic offences during driving ban and theft

Straits Times
18 Apr 2017
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

Being banned from operating all classes of vehicles did not stop Vijayanand Arumugam from riding a motorcycle.

On July 27, 2014, Vijayanand, now 26, hit an elderly woman while riding a motorbike, causing multiple fractures.

Being banned also did not stop him from successfully applying for a job as a delivery driver. He simply forged a Traffic Police (TP) document.

Yesterday, he was jailed for 11 months and banned from operating all classes of vehicles for five years after pleading guilty to riding the motorcycle while under disqualification, causing grievous hurt by performing a negligent act, forgery and theft.

He also had three counts of theft, two traffic offences and one count of criminal breach of trust involving $3,638.45 in cash taken into consideration during sentencing.

Vijayanand had been disqualified from holding a driving licence for all classes of vehicles from Feb 28, 2014 to June 13, 2016 for an earlier traffic offence.

Court papers did not mention the nature of the offence.

But on July 27, 2014, at around 10pm, he rode a motorbike in Yishun Ring Road. When he reached the traffic lights at Yishun Street 61, which were in his favour, he failed to keep a proper lookout and hit Madam Yip Wai Ying, 61, as she was crossing the road.

She was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and treated for several injuries, including multiple fractures in the ribs, a bruised lung and a fracture on her right shoulder blade. She was hospitalised for six days and later put on medical leave for 26 days.

Vijayanand got the delivery driver job during his disqualification period by forging an official Traffic Police letter. He had taken a picture of the letter, reminding him to turn up at TP headquarters for an investigation. He then edited it on his mobile phone and showed it to the owner of logistics company KJT Express, Mr Vincent Quck Weng Seng, 37, when he applied for a job with the firm.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Amanda Chong said: "Using this forged document, the accused managed to deceive (Mr Quck) into believing that the said document, which stated that the accused was permitted to drive Class 3 and Class 4 vehicles, was genuine."

Vijayanand was employed as a delivery driver on Feb 6 last year.

The offence came to light about two months later when Mr Quck lodged a police report, suspecting Vijayanand had stolen money from the company.

During investigations, police found the document - later established to be forged - while they were in the process of ascertaining Vijayanand's identity.

The court heard that on Aug 19 last year, he also stole two Puma Home United football jerseys that had been hung outside a flat at Block 758, Choa Chu Kang North 5.

For forgery, Vijayanand could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined. And for causing grievous hurt by performing a negligent act, he could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000.


Vijayanand was jailed for 11 months and banned from operating all classes of vehicles for five years after pleading guilty to riding the bike while under disqualification, causing grievous hurt by performing a negligent act, forgery and theft.

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

New guide to clear doubts on sharing customer data

Straits Times
10 Apr 2017
Irene Tham

Protecting consumers' privacy is not at odds with Singapore's push to get more organisations to use or share customers' data to, say, plan retail promotions or transport routes, said Singapore's privacy watchdog.

The Personal Data Protection Commission told The Straits Times it has received several such queries, prompting it to spell out the techniques for treating consumers' data for such purposes in a newly issued guide.

"More of them (organisations) realise the strategic value of the data they collect as a source of competitive advantage," said a spokesman for the commission.

However, organisations are also concerned that seeking consumers' consent for new uses of their personal data - a requirement under the Personal Data Protection Act - might be too onerous.

The commission has clarified in the guide, Anonymisation, issued two weeks ago, that data stripped of personal identifiers - name, age and contact details - can be used or shared with third parties without first seeking consumers' consent. Consumer data that is anonymous is not considered personal data.

Companies may also choose to use anonymisation techniques to continue to retain consumer data without breaking the law.

These techniques include replacing a person's name with a randomly generated string of numbers, removing the first five digits of a person's NRIC number, or putting individuals in broad age groups instead of stating one's age.

The commission has also reminded organisations to use robust techniques so an individual's identity cannot be construed by combining separate data sets.

Lawyer Gilbert Leong, senior partner at Dentons Rodyk & Davidson, said companies trip up when they do not ensure that the anonymisation process is not easily reversed.

"The commission is also quick to warn that once re-identification occurs, such data ought to be treated as personal data," Mr Leong said.

Some local companies said the guide is useful.

EZ-Link, which issues contactless cards for public transport and retail payments, said: "We will be using anonymous data on card usage to generate solutions that benefit our commuters."

It is working with the National University of Singapore and Alibaba Cloud, a unit of China's Alibaba Group, to analyse commuters' travel data.

This has potential uses, for instance, when a bus breaks down. The location and expected destinations of affected commuters could be shared with taxi and car-sharing operators to put nearby drivers on alert. Another possible use is for planning better retail promotions at train stations.

Singapore's largest telco Singtel said it, too, uses the anonymised data of mobile phone users to identify where crowds normally form to help the telco decide where to install equipment to boost mobile signals.

"When data is used for marketing and research, we obtain consent from customers who can opt out," a Singtel spokesman said.

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

ADV: 5 tips to negotiate for better legal service

Singapore Law Watch
05 Apr 2017
Thomson Reuters

Jail for man who used spy camera to video women

TODAY
18 Apr 2017
Kelly Ng

He would tail female colleagues to the washroom and video them using a mini-USB spy camera placed at the gap under the cubicle doors.

Raymond Loh’s acts went undetected for more than a year until one of his victim’s caught the former research assistant with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) red-handed after luring him into the toilet.

On Monday (April 17), Loh, 31, was sentenced to six months and two weeks’ jail, after pleading guilty to eight out of 468 charges of insulting the modesty of various women and criminal trespass into the female toilet at the Connexis building in one-north. The remaining 460 charges were taken into consideration in sentencing him.

The court heard that Loh had, on hundreds of occasions, taken upskirt videos and photos of women at various locations — including the toilets at his workplace in Connexis, escalators in MRT stations, and supermarkets — using a spy camera which he had bought online for such activities.

He would name these files after the victims’ names if he knew them, or with descriptive language, such as “big thigh” or “chio girl”, then save them in his work desktop for his viewing pleasure.

A total of 460 upskirt videos and 20 upskirt photos were found in the computer during investigations.

Loh’s offences went undetected from sometime in 2015 until February 15 last year, when one of his victims lodged a police report. The victim said she had seen Loh entering the female toilet after her on several occasions and lurking around the cubicle while she was still inside it. The last of these occasions was on Jan 25 last year, when she caught him in the act, the court was told.

A*Star terminated Loh’s services on Feb 12 last year.

Seeking a sentence of 26 weeks’ jail, the prosecution charged that Loh had violated the privacy of numerous victims for more than a year, and should not be considered a first offender.

Arguing that Loh’s offences involved a “high degree of planning and premeditation”, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ho Lian-Yi noted that the accused had carried the spy camera with him “waiting to commit his offences whenever an opportunity presents itself”. He also chose a miniature device to evade detection.

While Loh has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, his mental condition did not rob him of self-control, said DPP Ho.

“He knew what he did was wrong. There is no evidence whatsoever that he had been subject to any uncontrollable impulse,” said the DPP.

Loh could have been jailed for up to a year and/or fined for each charge of insulting a woman’s modesty. For criminal trespass, he could have been jailed three months’ and/or fined S$1,500 per charge.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

New SIAS chair aims to grow investor activism, education

Business Times
10 Apr 2017
Michelle Quah

Dealing with the ongoing challenge of obtaining funding will also be on top of the list for Magnus Bocker

Growing investor advocacy and board accountability, and dealing with the ongoing challenge of obtaining funding, will be at the top of the agenda for former Singapore Exchange (SGX) chief Magnus Bocker in his new role as honorary chairman of Singapore's investor advocacy group, the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) or SIAS.

Speaking exclusively to The Business Times soon after his appointment, Mr Bocker shared the key objectives and challenges he intends to tackle during his three-year tenure, even while he stressed that his role would mainly support that of SIAS president and CEO David Gerald.

"I hope to see two things develop in the year to come. The first is to see more retail investors engaging in the market, hopefully through SIAS. The second and maybe the more important is to seek effective accountability and asking the right questions of boards and senior management, primarily through direct contact and not through campaigns via the media," Mr Bocker said.

"We need to accept that shareholder activism is an important pillar in the stock market, and it gives good feedback to achieve better corporate governance. Many boards listen regularly to institutional shareholders and should do the same with minority shareholders."

SIAS, considered the voice of minority shareholders here, hopes to tap Mr Bocker's reputation and experience garnered from decades spent in the financial industry. He served as SGX chief from 2009 to 2015, and as president of American stock exchange, Nasdaq, before that. Prior to his position at Nasdaq, he was involved in the creation of Nordic exchange OMX, and its eventual merger with Nasdaq in 2008.

Mr Bocker, who hails originally from Sweden but now calls Singapore home, is involved with tryb Capital, which provides funding for fintech companies in Asia. He also chairs Blibros Capital Partners, his own investment company, based in Singapore and Sweden, that focuses on companies that are part of the digital transformation.

Despite a seemingly busy schedule, he said, he decided to take on the role as SIAS's honorary chairman (taking over from Lim Hwee Hua) as he had worked closely with the organisation during his years with SGX. "I have always had a passion for investing in stocks. I bought my first stocks when I was 11 years old, and most of the education I got at that time came from Aktiespararna, the Swedish equivalent of SIAS."

He hopes to tackle the challenges - some more longstanding than others - facing SIAS. "For an organisation like SIAS, independent funding will always be a challenge. It has been that way since SIAS started in 1999, and I'm sure it will be so going forward."

SIAS operates on a non-profit basis, with its funding made somewhat easier when it was recognised as a charity and an Institution of Public Character (IPC) recently.

Mr Bocker added: "We (also) need to establish a strong case for retail shareholders to join SIAS, and for listed companies to support what we do. Another very important challenge is of course SIAS's mission to protect minority shareholders and be vigilant to any misconduct that goes on in the market.

"SIAS needs to stand up for the rights of minority shareholders and convince companies to be more accountable to all shareholders; one very good example is how SIAS is always present at all AGMs (annual general meetings) asking relevant and important questions.

"Additionally, we can always be better in investor education, a topic that is very close to my heart."

He emphasises, though, that his role is to support Mr Gerald. "It is not my role to be part of SIAS's day-to-day operations or (to say) how SIAS should be organised.

"I will focus my efforts on supporting David and his team on any issues they might have, give my input on where we can make things better and be generous with the contacts I have both here in Singapore and around the world. It is also the duty of the honorary chairman to see that the president and management committee act in the interest of SIAS and its constitution."

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

New laws up terror security, bar foreigners from local political causes

TODAY
04 Apr 2017
Valerie Koh

Laws protecting the public from the growing terrorist threat and explicitly barring foreigners from using the Republic to further political agendas were passed in Parliament yesterday, with Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam stressing the Government’s longstanding position that “foreigners and foreign entities should not import foreign politics into Singapore”.

“Nor should they interfere in our domestic politics, especially those issues of a political or controversial nature,” he told the House.

Wide-ranging amendments to the Public Order Act include possibly requiring organisers of large-scale public events — deemed to be at high risk of a terror attack or public order incident — to deploy armed security officers and barricades, and conduct full-person and bag checks. Foreigners are also prohibited from using assemblies and processions in Singapore to promote political causes, by giving the Commissioner of Police powers to reject such applications, so long as he has “reasonable grounds” to believe that the event is “directed towards a political end”, and involves foreign entities and foreigners.

“The Commissioner would have to consider if such activities would cover matters, regardless of whether in Singapore or elsewhere, that promote the interests of political parties or group of persons organised for political objectives,” Mr Shanmugam explained.

Activities that are deemed as influencing, or seeking to influence policies or decisions of any government, legislative changes, any election or referendum, or public opinion on controversial issues are also included, for example. So too are events that “promote or oppose political views or public conduct relating to activities that have become the subject of political debate”, Mr Shanmugam said.

During the debate, which lasted more than one-and-a-half hours, several Members of Parliament (MPs) voiced concerns over the impact of the changes on civil society groups, including their access to foreign expertise, and their ability to pay for enhanced security measures at events. Two MPs — Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng and Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun — also questioned the power granted to the Commissioner of Police, with Mr Ng asking if public confidence in the police could be compromised should the men in blue be tasked with making “political decisions”.

In response, Mr Shanmugam pointed out: “He is not deciding in favour of one conclusion or another ... his is a threshold question.”

He added that most avenues for civil society groups to tap into foreign expertise and knowledge remained untouched, given that the provisions in the legislative changes relate to public assemblies and processions.

Mr Kok also asked whether the involvement of foreign employees in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the planning and running of events could land them in trouble with the law. Mr Shanmugam said it depended on the role played by the foreign employees.

He added: “It will not come as a surprise for you that NGOs are a favoured route for foreign agencies to channel funds … we need to be very careful.”

He cited hypothetical examples: Malaysians financing an event here to promote the imposition of Syariah Law, Americans organising an anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rally here, Myanmar Buddhists protesting against the Rohingya with the Singaporean Buddhist community, or Hindus from India financing an animal welfare event here to protest against the sale of beef.

“Our Singaporeans organising protests is one thing. Foreign-financed, foreign-participated protests are a completely different ball game,” Mr Shanmugam said.

Responding to calls by the MPs to clarify what constitutes matters of public controversy, Mr Shanmugam said that definitions would be rendered useless by the complexity of these situations. “All you will end up doing is creating many alley ways, in which … you would be made a laughing stock,” he said. He reiterated that Singaporeans will not be affected by the changes, which are “directed at foreigners and foreign entities”.

“Those events, where a permit is applied for, will be assessed carefully case by case, by the police,” said Mr Shanmugam, noting that the police have previously rejected permit applications by non-Singaporeans to organise events at the Speakers’ Corner related to Malaysia’s electoral reform group Bersih.

The changes to the Act came after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had warned foreign organisations against interfering in domestic issues, in the wake of last year’s Pink Dot event. The annual LGBT event had attracted a bumper crop of sponsors including Facebook, Google and Bloomberg then, and the MHA said it would make clear that foreign entities should not “fund, sponsor or influence such events”.

In terms of enhancing security at public events, the new laws require organisers to inform the police of estimated crowd sizes above 5,000 people (for public events) or 10,000 people (for private events) at least 28 days before the event. Failure to do so would result in a maximum penalty of one year in jail and S$20,000 in fine. For major events such as marathons, concerts and year-end countdown celebrations, which could be targets for terrorists, the police will discuss security plans with event organisers and issue directions for security measures.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Singtel vendor fined $10k for data breach

Straits Times
18 Apr 2017
Irene Tham

Watchdog raps Tech Mahindra for unauthorised changes that leaked a customer's personal data

Singapore's privacy watchdog has fined India-based Tech Mahindra $10,000 for failing to protect the personal details of 2.78 million Singtel customers from unauthorised changes, which inadvertently caused the personal data of one customer to be leaked online.

The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) started investigating Singtel and its technology vendor Tech Mahindra after customers reportedly noticed someone else's NRIC number, account number and billing address on the My Singtel app and the telco's website.

The customer, whose personal data was leaked, had reported having troubles with his OnePass login ID for accessing the My Singtel app and Singtel's website in February last year. OnePass lets users check and pay bills, view data usage and re-contract or purchase a new phone online.

The telco alerted Tech Mahindra to the issue, and the vendor later updated the customer's OnePass profile in the database.

But an erroneous code was introduced, resulting in the profiles of 2.78 million Singtel customers being updated with the personal details of that one customer. The PDPC said that of these customers, 2,518 users viewed the affected user's leaked NRIC number, account number and billing address after logging in using their OnePass ID.

After receiving reports of the breach, Singtel shut down its app and disabled OnePass. The telco also notified the affected customer of the breach.

The PDPC said that Tech Mahindra was acting as a data intermediary for Singtel. But it "failed to make reasonable security arrangements to protect the personal data of Singtel customers that it processed", thus the $10,000 fine.

Organisations flouting the Personal Data Protection Act, in force since July 2014, can be fined up to $1 million.

Singtel, on the other hand, was found to have complied with the law. Specifically, Singtel had put in place a contract requiring Tech Mahindra to comply with the Act.

"Having a contract that sets down the obligations and responsibilities of a data intermediary to protect personal data is a prudent first step for organisations to take," said PDPC.

The telco also has a standard operating procedure, requiring all changes to the database to be tested first before running them.

In addition, Singtel had given Tech Mahindra specific instructions to restrict the database update to one customer's profile, and has yearly security reviews of its OnePass system, website and My Singtel app.

Lawyer Gilbert Leong, senior partner at Dentons Rodyk & Davidson, said that commercially, "there would not be anything more that Singtel could have done as well, short of not outsourcing anything".


The Personal Data Protection Commission said that Tech Mahindra was acting as a data intermediary for Singtel. But it "failed to make reasonable security arrangements to protect the personal data of Singtel customers that it processed", thus the $10,000 fine.

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

Singapore Telecommunications Limited Tech Mahindra (Singapore) Pte Ltd [2017] SGPDPC 04

Govt studying ways to take City Harvest case further

TODAY
10 Apr 2017
Valerie Koh

Usually, when the High Court has decided on a matter like the City Harvest Church case, there is no further appeal, but there are some avenues to take this matter further, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said yesterday.

The Government is waiting, however, for the Attorney-General’s Chambers to study what is possible “in specific contexts”.

On Friday, the High Court reduced the six former church leaders’ sentences to jail terms ranging from seven months to three and a half years, which Mr Shanmugam said was “far too low”.

Among other things, the case can be brought to the Court of Appeal through a criminal reference application, relating to questions of law and public interest, for example.

Asked for his comments on the reactions from some of the accused who had expressed disappointment about their convictions being upheld, Mr Shanmugam said: “When you’re in court, you lose, it’s natural to feel disappointed.”

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Penalties for sex crimes, maid abuse could go up

TODAY
04 Apr 2017
Valerie Koh

The Government is reviewing the applicable laws relating to sexual offences against minors as well as the abuse of foreign domestic workers, to better protect these two groups of vulnerable victims.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam told Parliament yesterday that the review — to be completed this year — would consider whether sentences have to be enhanced, and whether new laws need to be drafted.

Without citing specific cases, he said that the review would be done for offences involving “very young children” preyed upon or otherwise attacked and subjected to sexual abuse.

A separate class of vulnerable victims would be domestic helpers.

Mr Shanmugam said: “They come here, they do the work because we don’t have enough people, but they have to be treated with a certain dignity and a certain respect for the law. They’re not slaves.”

Ms Tin Pei Ling, Member of Parliament (MP) for MacPherson, pressed the minister on the possible outcomes of the review, asking if legislation and penalties would be toughened.

“There wouldn’t be a review ... if we felt that everything was okay as it is. But I shouldn’t jump in and say we should definitely go in a certain direction,” Mr Shanmugam replied.

Asked by MP (Nee Soon GRC) Louis Ng whether the evaluation would include laws related to the mentally disabled, the Minister would only say that the review would be a comprehensive one.

Last month, Mr Shanmugam announced that the Government would be relooking penalties for sex crimes against young victims, after a public scrutiny on the punishment imposed on convicted sexual predator Joshua Robinson.

Robinson, an American working as a mixed martial arts coach in Singapore, was sentenced last month to four years’ jail for offences ranging from sexual penetration of a minor to making an obscene film.

He was found with nearly 6,000 obscene films, of which 321 videos involved child pornography. The case sparked widespread public debate, with many questioning the sentence he received.

The prosecution is not appealing the sentence.

In another case last month, a Singaporean couple was sentenced to jail and fined for starving their Filipino domestic helper.

In the widely publicised case, freelance trader Lim Choon Hong was sentenced to three weeks’ jail and fined S$10,000, while his wife Chong Sui Foon was sentenced to three months’ jail.

Their helper, Thelma Oyasan Gawidan, was given plain bread and instant noodles for her meals twice a day, and she lost around 20kg over just a year.

She was also barred from using the bathrooms in the couple’s home, and had to seek permission to drink water. The prosecution intends to appeal for a stiffer sentence.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

How can Singapore companies ensure equality in the gig economy?

Business Times
18 Apr 2017
Karen Cariss

With the advent of the "gig economy" in Singapore - where conventional jobs are replaced by freelance, on-demand "gigs", or short-term projects - the relationship between employer and employee needs to be completely rethought. Perhaps these terms will even become redundant?

The benefits for Singapore's predominantly young workforce include the ability to enjoy freedom, autonomy, and the prospect of a much-expanded career portfolio that this kind of work provides. Meanwhile, employers get a much more flexible workforce in tough economic conditions.

But this trend could create issues for the workforce, as well as the wider business environment. Last month, the Singapore government announced that it will set up a tripartite workgroup to study the concerns faced by freelance workers, including the lack of income security and savings for retirement.

Companies such as foodpanda, Grab, and Airbnb are frequently credited for, or accused of, generating these contingent jobs, but of course casual, part-time and contract workers were a component of the workforce long before their arrival.

Whether by design, ambivalence, or employment regulations, contingent workers have historically ranked as second-rate citizens in most organisations. At best, viewed as short-term external skills or expertise; at worst, dispensable hired hands. Either way, they have been pooled in a category that typically denies them many of the monetary, social and professional development benefits enjoyed by permanent employees.

The gig economy suits many millennials with the skills, talent, and digital resources to concurrently juggle multiple projects and employers, accelerating their earning capacity and professional networks. But being classed as "talent on demand" also has its shortcomings which include the lack of worker benefits usually provided by employers, legal protections, the potential for financial disadvantage due to inconsistent or piecemeal work and commoditised skills that become devalued in an open global market.

One key career ingredient that is typically lacking for contingent workers is ongoing learning and development opportunities sponsored by their employers. Except for a few forward-thinking organisations, contingent workers are rarely invited to participate in employer-funded training or management development, not given mentoring or leadership opportunities, nor sponsored for advanced technical or professional skills development. That will prove to be a short-sighted approach that reinforces the paradigm of contingent workers as temporary and dispensable resources. In reality, such workers will make up a significant component of any high-performing team in future.

FIGHT FOR TALENT

For the last two decades, employers in Singapore have fought the escalating war for talent and rather than this war abating, it is gaining intensity on many fronts - especially in professions requiring advanced science, technology, and engineering skills.

However, organisations, leaders, managers, and employment policymakers are ill-prepared for an agile workforce that will assess its own career portfolio opportunities and vote with its feet. Almost every employment practice that exists today can and should be dismantled and scrutinised for its propensity to either help or hinder the talent attraction and retention demands of the business.

To prepare for the future, employers need to rethink their workforces. It boils down to this: employers have an ownership mindset about their employees, but as author Orly Lobel aptly notes in the title of her book on the topic, talent wants to be free.

The skills and mindset required to effectively manage the workforce of the future are, predictably, different from those that succeeded in the past. The premise that authority, know-how, and decisions cascade from the top is already coming undone. If your leadership repertoire is limited to a command and control style, you will have some soul-searching to do.

While the hierarchy is undoubtedly likely to become more egalitarian, technology itself will play a significant role in future workflow management. As is already the case with Uber, for example, machine algorithms are effectively replacing the role of supervisors and managers, by sourcing work, assigning it to workers and managing performance via feedback and ratings. An algorithm could be your next boss.

In this context, businesses in Singapore will need to surface three intelligences as differentiators for business leadership success: digital intelligence, cultural intelligence and business intelligence.

Digital intelligence means understanding the strategic power of information technology and having the ability to execute digital strategies for competitive business advantage. Cultural intelligence denotes understanding and appreciating cultural differences and having the ability to work effectively in a variety of cultural settings. And finally, business intelligence - understanding the business drivers, systems and capabilities and having the ability to contribute strategic advice based on workforce analytics.

With these elements in place, businesses will be in a position to galvanise the workforce of the future, and indeed unleash the boundless talent that is available in this country.


The writer is CEO of talent management Software-as-a-Service company, PageUp, and co-author of 'Cliffhanger: HR on the Precipice in the Future of Work'.

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

Why was the elected presidency changed?

Straits Times
10 Apr 2017
Charissa Yong

Singaporeans will elect a president this September, in the first election since changes to the Constitution were passed last November.

All the candidates will have to be from the Malay community this round, under a new rule that reserves presidential elections for candidates from a particular racial group, if there has not been a president from the group for a period of time.

The criterion to qualify to run for president was also tightened, and candidates from the private sector will have to have experience helming companies that are worth a lot more.

Political observers have called these amendments to the elected presidency one of the biggest political changes in recent years.

Why were they made in the first place, and how big a deal are they?

WHAT DOES THE ELECTED PRESIDENT DO?

Singaporeans did not always elect their president. Before 1990, presidents were appointed by Parliament and had a mostly ceremonial role, save for some discretionary powers.

But as Singapore prospered, first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew feared that the reserves Singapore had accumulated so far could be "ruined in one election term".

So the Government made the case for an elected president, to protect Singapore's national reserves and the integrity of its public services. For the president to be able to stand up to the elected government of the day, he would need a popular mandate.

The late Mr Lee likened an elected president to a goalkeeper, the last line of defence against a rogue government wanting to squander the country's hard-earned reserves or install cronies in key public positions.

The Constitution was amended in 1990 to set up the elected presidency, under which the president is elected for a term of six years and can veto the Government's drawdown of past reserves and the appointment of key public-office holders.

He or she can also block, among others, preventive detentions under the Internal Security Act and refusals of corruption probes.

The elected presidency went beyond just one man or woman, and was an institution that would ensure stability for Singapore.

At the same time, the president would continue to be a unifying symbol for all Singaporeans.

WHAT PROMPTED THE CHANGES?

Since then, the elected presidency system had been tweaked along the way. But 25 years later, three political and socioeconomic trends have prompted the Government to make a major update.

First, presidents and candidates from minority communities have been relatively scarce. Singapore has not had a Malay president - or even a Malay candidate for president - since the elected presidency took effect in 1991.

The only Malay president so far, the late Mr Yusof Ishak, was appointed head of state in 1959 and became the first president from independence in 1965 till 1970.

Singapore had an Indian president, the late Mr S R Nathan, from 1999 to 2011, but he was unopposed in the 1999 and 2005 elections.

In 2011, all four candidates in the presidential election were Chinese.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said a minority candidate who runs for president will find it hard to beat a rival from the majority race, all else being equal.

Race still matters at the ballot box, he said, and a significant number of people prefer a president or prime minister to be of their race, as a Channel NewsAsia-Institute of Policy Studies survey last year found.

If the system went unchanged, Singapore would not have a non-Chinese president for a long time, and national cohesion would be harmed if minorities felt they had no chance of being president, said Mr Lee.

To the Government, this under-representation of minority communities is exacerbated by the second trend - that elections these days are hotly contested.

The 2011 presidential election saw President Tony Tan Keng Yam elected in a four-way contest by a slim margin of 7,382 votes.

A third and separate trend was identified: that the size and the complexity of the economy and the organisations safeguarded by the president have grown tremendously.

Originally, candidates from the private sector were considered to have enough experience, if they have run large and complex companies that have at least $100 million in paid-up capital. But this threshold of $100 million is outdated and too low to guarantee that anyone who meets it will have the experience to make complex decisions, said Mr Lee.

Today, the total value of Singapore's reserves is more than $700 billion. And as of last year, there were 2,114 companies that met the threhold, compared to 158 in 1993.

To study these issues, a Constitutional Commission was set up in February last year. It received submissions from the public and held public hearings in April and May last year to hear from some of the groups and individuals who submitted their views.

The panel also looked at strengthening the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) and giving its advice greater weight.

WHAT IS NEW ABOUT THIS YEAR'S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION?

Three key changes were made to the elected presidency.

One, an election will be reserved for a particular racial group if there has not been a president from the group for the five most recent presidential terms.

This applies to the Chinese, Malay and "Indian and other minority" communities.

Any non-reserved election will be open to people of all races.

For the purpose of determining when a reserved election must be held, the Government started counting from the term of former president Wee Kim Wee, who was the first president to exercise the powers of the elected president.

As there has been no Malay president for the latest five presidential terms - after Mr Wee were Mr Ong Teng Cheong; Mr Nathan, who served two terms; and Dr Tan - candidates for the upcoming election must be from the Malay community.

Two, a candidate from the private sector must have helmed a company with at least $500 million in shareholder equity to qualify.

This threshold will be reviewed at least once every 12 yearsby the Presidential Elections Committee.

Three, the CPA will be enlarged to include two more members, bringing the total to eight. And the president must now consult the CPA on all matters related to safeguarding Singapore's assets and appointing key public officers.

HOW DIFFERENT WILL CAMPAIGNING BE?

Campaign rules were also changed to discourage divisive electioneering. There will no longer be designated election-rally sites. Instead, candidates who want to hold rallies can pick their preferred sites, but must apply to the police for a rally permit.

They will also have more TV airtime, and can hold indoor private meetings with specific groups of voters.

Explaining the rationale for the changes, Minister Chan Chun Sing said campaigning "must not inflame emotions and must be in keeping with the decorum and dignity of the office of the president".

A presidential hopeful must also make a statutory declaration that he understands the role of the president as spelt out in the Constitution. This arose after several candidates made certain claims and promises in the 2011 election, suggesting that they may not have been clear about the powers and scope of the president.

HOW CONTROVERSIAL ARE THE CHANGES?

The idea of reserved elections was by far the most contentious change.

One key concern of some law dons and political scientists was that a president chosen in such an election may be viewed as a token president who lacks legitimacy.

They also felt it is a form of affirmative action that could undermine meritocracy.

But the Government stressed that the eligibility criteria will not be lowered for minority candidates. Ministers also pointed out that reserved elections will kick in only if a community goes five terms without seeing one of its own as president. This may not happen as Singapore becomes more race-blind.

Another concern, voiced by the Workers' Party (WP), which voted against the changes in Parliament, was that raising the eligibility criteria may shrink the pool of candidates and limit it to senior public officers.

This dovetailed with the criticism levelled by some on social media that the changes were meant to keep out non-establishment candidates.

The tighter criteria could mean those with a public sector background are more likely to get elected, and such a person might find it harder to be a check on the Government, they argued.

But others countered that the late Mr Ong's background as a deputy prime minister and former member of the People's Action Party (PAP) did not stop him from being an independent president.

Lastly, the debate highlighted the disconnect between the purpose of the elected president and the process of electing one.

The commission noted the contradiction between a necessarily apolitical president, and choosing him via an election, an inevitably political process.

There were also contradictions between his role of being a symbol of national unity and acting as a check on the Government.

Hence, the panel raised the question of whether the president should eventually be an appointed post once more.

During the debate in Parliament on the changes, the WP proposed splitting the symbolic and custodial roles of the president, and having an appointed president and an elected eight-member senate that would oversee the reserves.

But the PAP called the idea flawed and unworkable, saying that having eight elected individuals will lead to more politicisation.

While an election could be politicised, the changes to campaign rules will go some way towards lowering temperatures.

And while the review generated a fair amount of public debate and interest over the past year, the changes generally appear to have been accepted by the public.

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

Fake news: Current laws 'offer limited remedies'

Straits Times
04 Apr 2017
Rachel Au-Yong

Examples show falsehoods can cause real harm, says Shanmugam

The Government is seriously considering how to address the issue of fake news, and will announce its position once a review is completed, Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament yesterday.

There are limited remedies to deal with falsehoods under current laws, he said. For example, it is an offence under the Telecommunications Act to transmit a message knowing that it is false.

But, he added: "The circulation of falsehoods can go viral today very quickly. So we need to do more."

Chua Chu Kang GRC MPs Yee Chia Hsing and Zaqy Mohamad had asked about fake news, which has become a global concern of late.

Mr Shanmugam said one had to assume it "can be used as an offensive weapon by foreign agencies and foreign countries".

"We have already seen examples of that - to get into your public's mind, to destabilise your public, to psychologically weaken them and impact your agencies," he said. "That is a very serious threat, and it will be naive for us to believe that governments or state agencies do not engage in this. There is enough evidence that they do."

He cited examples to show fake news was not about "trivial factual inaccuracies, but falsehoods that can cause real harm". Last year, a man opened fire on a pizza restaurant in the United States after a fake news story claimed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ran a paedophilia ring there. Commentators have suggested it can be a powerful tool to interfere in domestic politics, with misleading stories fuelling xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments before the Brexit referendum, and attempts to sway upcoming polls in Germany and France.

"These are not isolated incidents," the minister said, noting that other countries may be involved.

"The whole idea is to spread sensational news, sensational headlines, influence the population, and arrive at the outcome that is wanted by a certain country outside," he added.

That is why several countries have called for a tough stance against fake news, he said. Germany is considering a draft law requiring social networks like Facebook to remove fake news from their platforms, or risk fines of up to €50 million (S$75 million). United Kingdom MPs have begun a probe into fake news, calling it a threat to democracy.

He also cited local examples of false news from sites The Real Singapore, States Times Review and All Singapore Stuff to illustrate how the trend, if unchecked, can cause harm to innocent Singaporeans, alarm to the public, and damage to reputations.

While fake news has been a problem here, it has not had that much of an impact yet, he noted.

But, he added: "You can predict the same sequence of actors - foreign countries, foreign agencies, people sitting outside Singapore - using it to either destabilise our society, or not caring whether it destabilises but doing it to make a lot of money."


SERIOUS THREAT

We have already seen examples of that - to get into your public's mind, to destabilise your public, to psychologically weaken them and impact your agencies. That is a very serious threat, and it will be naive for us to believe that governments or state agencies do not engage in this. There is enough evidence that they do.

LAW MINISTER K. SHANMUGAM, on fake news.

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

Experts welcome laws to curb fake news

Straits Times
17 Apr 2017
Rachel Au-Yong

They warn that fake news will get harder to spot, point to its insidious effects on people

Fake Facebook accounts of at least 13 People's Action Party MPs surfaced in a matter of days last month, but were shut down by the social media company before anything sinister could take place.

However, two experts who track the issue of fake news warn that such accounts and news will not only increase but could also become harder to spot. That is why they welcome the Government's announcement that it is looking into how to deal with the problem.

Besides calling for new laws, Latvian academic Janis Berzins and digital management consultant Ryan Lim said commercial entities - such as smartphone companies and social media platforms - must cooperate with governments to clamp down on fake news.

The two men took part in a closed-door dialogue last week with Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam on building resilience in a post-truth era, which was organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Fake news reports have already been flagged for influencing Britain's referendum to leave the European Union and the American presidential election last year.

Mr Lim, QED Consulting's founding partner, said those who spread fake news will use more sophisticated methods that may confuse even the most cyber-savvy.

He and Dr Berzins are concerned about the subtle but insidious effects fake news has on a population's psyche and their trust in major institutions like the government. For example, in Germany, there were false claims of a German girl being raped last year by asylum seekers - reports that appear to target Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy for refugees.

Dr Berzins, director of the Centre for Security and Strategic Research at the National Defence Academy of Latvia, said his country is facing an onslaught of "systemic disinformation" from Russian sources.

"All the rhetoric stays in the minds of the people," he noted.

He warns that fake news is the new frontier of military operations. He said: "The best army is the one that wins without going to the fight.

"So you spread misinformation, dilute nationalist sentiments, debase the trust of the citizens - whatever it takes to break the social contract between people."

Laws are needed to halt the spread of such falsehoods, he said, citing a landmark Bill by German legislators which, if passed, will compel social media outlets to quickly remove fake news which incite hate or face fines of up to €50 million (S$74 million).

German officials had provided data showing that Facebook "rapidly deleted" just 39 per cent of the criminal content it was notified about, while Twitter acted quickly to delete only 1 per cent of posts cited in user complaints. "Corporates and governments aren't on the best of terms," he said. "The intention isn't to apply the fine, but to convince these guys to react faster."

Another way governments could combat fake news more effectively is by collaborating with friendly states. Mr Lim suggests friendly nations form some sort of compact to take action against those residing in one country but disseminating fake news about another.

He cited the States Times Review - a sociopolitical site founded by Mr Alex Tan Zhixiang, who operates outside of Singapore. Among other things, the site had suggested that the late S R Nathan was an unpopular president by claiming that there was near-zero turnout during his state funeral last year.

"The cyber world has no borders, so we need to work together to bring people to task," Mr Lim said.

While both experts would like to see more government action against fake news, they also said it is critical that people exercise a large degree of personal responsibility over what they read and share.

Dr Berzins said: "There should always be some level of distrust of what we read on the Internet."


CYBER PATROLS

The cyber world has no borders, so we need to work together to bring people to task. We can't say it's just one country's problem - it's a global issue.

MR RYAN LIM, a digital management consultant, on how governments could work with friendly states to combat fake news more effectively.

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KS Energy's Kris Wiluan and son under CAD probe

Straits Times
10 Apr 2017

Pair assisting with CAD investigation into potential false trading and market-rigging

The executive chairman and chief executive of KS Energy and his son, an executive director at the offshore and marine company, are being investigated by Singapore's white-collar crime buster.

KS Energy said in a stock exchange filing last Saturday that Mr Kris Taenar Wiluan and his son Richard James Wiluan had been been interviewed by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) in its investigations into a potential contravention of Section 197 of the Securities and Futures Act, which deals with false trading and market-rigging transactions.

The older Wiluan posted police bail and was released after his interview while his son was released without requiring bail.

"Both have informed the board that they have and will continue to cooperate fully in the investigations, including granting access to all their electronic data, IT equipment and data storage devices from January 2015," said KS Energy, adding that it has not been approached by the CAD regarding its investigations. It also said that the CAD has not revealed any details to the board.

Both men said they would keep the board updated on the progress of the investigations.

The company will also make further announcements, as and when necessary.

Meanwhile, the business operations of the group are continuing as usual.

Earlier this month, the company disclosed that its independent auditors from KPMG had flagged "material uncertainty related to going concern" in relation to its 2016 financial statements.

The auditors noted three issues of going concern.

First, the group made a net loss of $126.3 million, with the group and company's current liabilities exceeding current assets by $88.2 million and $99.5 million, respectively.

Second, the group's convertible bonds of $61.6 million and short-term borrowings from a shareholder of $13.3 million are subject to restructuring.

Third, the group has a capital commitment of $244.8 million for an asset under construction that is due for delivery on Dec 31.

KS Energy shares are down 9.7 per cent at 8.4 cents so far this year.

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

Laws changed to keep pace as cybercrime evolves

Straits Times
04 Apr 2017
Lester Hio

People who use or trade personal information obtained illegally can now be charged with an offence even if they did not perform the hacking to retrieve the data, after changes to cyber security laws were passed yesterday.

In amending the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, the Government is moving to keep pace with the evolving nature of cybercrime and criminal acts that target computer systems.

Besides criminalising the use of personal information obtained through illicit means, the changes also make buying or selling hacking tools for illegal activity a crime.

The revisions also extend the Act's reach to offences committed abroad, and toan overseas computer, which lead to "serious harm" in Singapore.

In addition, prosecutors can now combine repeated instances of hacking into one computer for a period of 12 months or less into a single charge, which will allow a higher penalty to be imposed.

The changes "will allow the police to handle the increasing scale and complexity of cybercrime, as well as the evolving tactics of cyber criminals", said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee.

They come ahead of a new Cybersecurity Act that should be introduced in the middle of this year, which will require operators of critical information infrastructure to take proactive steps to secure their systems and networks.

Ten MPs spoke in support of the Bill, pointing to recent breaches such as the leak of the personal details of 850 national servicemen and Defence Ministry staff as grounds for tighter cyber security measures. However, several MPs also raised concerns about its implementation.

Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) and Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan sought to clarify when having access to personal information might be an offence.

For instance, journalists or researchers may obtain such compromised data in their line of work.

There is "nothing wrong" with reporting or researching on hacked data, provided that information is not published or made publicly available, Mr Lee said.

However, he noted that depending on the circumstances, "indiscriminately making available hacked personal information may amount to an offence".

Mr Murali, Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) also pointed out that extraterritorial cases are often challenging.

"Investigations for such cases are usually complex as it will involve dealing with the laws of other countries," Mr Choo said. "How would distributed databases and cloud services affect investigation and enforcement?"

Mr Lee replied that data hosted on the cloud may actually be physically located in servers overseas, which makes investigations more challenging. Where necessary, the police will work with their overseas counterparts to investigate such cases, he said.

Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and nominated MPs K. Thanaletchimi and Thomas Chua asked about raising awareness of cyber security in the private sector, especially among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Mr Lee replied that businesses must recognise the importance of guarding against cyber risks.

He added that the Infocomm Media Development Authority will set up a digital tech hub by the third quarter of this year to provide SMEs with technical advice on cyber security.

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

At 87, lawyer P. Suppiah is still fighting the good fight

Straits Times
17 Apr 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Age doesn't stop defence counsel P. Suppiah from taking on hard, gruelling cases in the courtroom

An astrologer once told Mr P. Suppiah he would not live beyond 72.

Now 87, Singapore's oldest practising lawyer has outlived the astrologer. He also continues to trawl the courts, defending clients while remaining an active golfer.

He has even made time to learn more Japanese.

Last week, he was at a High Court pre-trial conference to defend a 20-year-old alleged capital drug trafficker - the latest in a long array of criminal and civil cases that he has taken on since he was called to the Singapore Bar in 1960.

In January, he defended K. Malayaperumal, the first defendant in a high-profile civil suit brought by Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam in his capacity as an executor of the estate of Dr Freda Paul, a former paediatrician at Singapore General Hospital.

The case saw Mr Jeyaretnam taking the witness stand in the High Court and Mr Suppiah cross-examining him as defence counsel.

The trial involves the distribution of assets following the death of Dr Paul in August last year at the age of 87. She never married, and her sole asset was a house in Haig Road, which was sold in 2009 for $15.4 million, of which $5 million ended up with her maid, a construction worker and an engineer.

Judicial Commissioner Debbie Ong reserved judgment in the case, and the outcome is pending.

In 1963, Mr Suppiah represented three of the 59 detainees involved in the Pulau Senang prison riots, during which three staff, including the superintendent, were killed. Eventually, 18 prisoners were executed, while others were jailed or acquitted after a 64-day trial for murder and rioting.

In 1993, Mr Suppiah defended Dutch woman Marial Krol, 60, charged with capital drug trafficking. He got her acquitted after a 29-day High Court trial, in a case that drew keen interest in Holland.

Some 60 of the cases he undertook over the years have been included in published law reports.

Married with two children, Mr Suppiah ascribes his sustained health to a lifelong affinity and passion for sports in general and football in particular. He also credits his wife, Juliana, a retired nurse and self-taught nutritionist, with prescribing the right meals. They have three grandchildren.

Speaking to The Straits Times, he said: "I was fortunate to have a little talent in football. The secret of long life is to take pride in your talent, which forces you to live up to it. That requires personal discipline in regular workouts and good food to maintain your pace. Then everything else falls into place."

"I have always enjoyed playing football, which started when I was six and lasted till I was 30," said the one-time coach of the Malaysian Armed Forces team, which lost an epic 1966 Malaya Cup final to Selangor by a single penalty goal.

Among other roles, he served as vice-president of the then Singapore Amateur Football Association in 1963-64, and sat on its coach, selection and referee committees.

He has also penned a book of reflections, Chopsticks & Bananas, published in 2015.

Born here in 1930, he grew up in the Farrer Park area. He studied law in London and was called to the English Bar in 1959.

In 1942, just after the Japanese occupied Singapore, he attended the Japanese trade school near the old Kallang Airport, and graduated with a Japanese-scripted trade certificate in aviation engineering in September 1943.

He shared one vivid memory related to the Japanese Occupation.

"I remember, just after the war, when my mother took me to the market, she met this woman who had lived in our neighbourhood in the Scotts Road area in the war years.

"The woman said, 'You are lucky, you still have your son. I lost all my sons - killed by the Japanese.'

"They hugged each other and wept. That is something I have never forgotten to this day."

Mr Suppiah, who runs his own law firm with lawyer K. Elengovan, 59, said he would have preferred to be a doctor if he had had his way.

"I did law because my education was interrupted by the Japanese invaders during the war, and I had no time to do science subjects because I wanted to obtain the Senior Cambridge Certificate as quickly as possible," he said.

"In medicine, you have the satisfaction of seeing results in your patients but, in law, if the judge is not convinced, that is the end."

Mr Suppiah, who is also a practising lawyer in Malaysia, drives over regularly from Johor, where he now lives, listening to Japanese-language tapes along the way to relearn the language that he first picked up during the war.

Has old age affected his memory?

With a grin, he said: "A woman's phone number, I can remember."


LONGEVITY

The secret of long life is to take pride in your talent, which forces you to live up to it. That requires personal discipline in regular workouts and good food to maintain your pace. Then everything else falls into place.

LAWYER P. SUPPIAH, on how he has been able to live a long and purposeful life.

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

When no means no

Straits Times
09 Apr 2017
Kok Xing Hui

Government review of immunity for marital rape long overdue, say experts

She wanted a divorce and had moved back to her parents' home. Weeks later, her husband dragged her to their former home, where he stripped, gagged and bound her, before forcing himself on her.

For that, he was initially fined $4,000 for wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation and voluntarily causing hurt. They were still man and wife so he could not have raped her - under the law.

That was 1999. Almost two decades later, Singapore still allows for immunity for marital rape. But that looks set to change as the Government said it is "actively reviewing" the issue. Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who highlighted the review in Parliament on Tuesday, told The Sunday Times it is timely.

"I strongly believe that a married woman should not have any less protection against sexual violence than an unmarried woman," he said. "While there are conjugal rights between a married couple, these rights exist within the bounds of reasonable behaviour. With this in mind, when a woman says 'No', it means 'No'."

Lawyers, activists and social workers welcomed the move, saying the law should have long been scrapped. "Married women are not chattel," said Mr Sunil Sudheesan, acting president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore.

Criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said: "Imagine this, a woman can run a company but when she goes home, she can't even say no to her husband forcing himself on her. That is quite preposterous."

Non-spousal rape, meanwhile, carries a maximum jail sentence of 20 years and the man is also liable to a fine or caning.

The man in the 1999 case was eventually jailed for 18 months when the case was appealed. Then-Chief Justice Yong Pung How called him an uncivilised savage and said the fine was "manifestly inadequate".

Over the years, Singapore took small steps to redress the issue.

Before 2007, it did not recognise that a man could rape his wife. But that year, the law was amended to lift immunity under certain circumstances: if the couple were living apart under an interim divorce judgment or written separation pact; if divorce proceedings had begun; or if the wife has a personal protection order against her husband.

But this was not enough, said many. Said Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan: "The amendments continued to harbour a misogynistic mindset. It was a case of two steps forward, one step backwards."

Immunity should be abolished altogether, say the experts. But one concern - which some ministers surfaced in Parliament in 2007 - was that a woman could cry rape to get back at her husband.

Then-Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee said: "We do know of cases where a wife can cry foul. We have got feedback from men whose marriages are also on the rocks, but who have sex and the wife may appear to consent. But afterwards, she... can threaten that rape has happened. Should that be marital rape? That is the Damocles' sword hanging over him."

In a departure from this view, Minister Tan says: "Existing safeguards in the form of evidentiary requirements, prosecutorial discretion and judicial scrutiny are in place to prevent the miscarriage of justice for all types of rape, including marital rape."

Another concern was that criminal proceedings of marital rape may be intrusive for families. But family lawyer Sim Bock Eng noted: "This same argument also applies to marital violence and has not stopped marital violence from being a crime."

Singapore, along with Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, still offers marital rape immunity. Those that had abolished it include all American states by 1993, Norway in 1971, Thailand in 2007 and South Korea in 2013.

There have not been many known cases of marital rape here. The Sexual Assault Care Centre started by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) in 2014 saw 117 cases of rape and sexual assault by penetration in 2015 and 138 last year. Only six in each year were marital rape cases.

But social workers said the issue is vastly under-reported, as are rape cases. Victims are also unlikely to come forward since marital rape is not illegal, said Ms Jolene Tan, head of advocacy and research at Aware. Lawyer Ivan Cheong added: "There's the added trauma of a wife having to share that a husband has forced himself on her."

The greatest benefit of abolishing this immunity, said those interviewed, is in sending a signal to society that men should not force their wives to have sex without consent.

Ms Tan pointed to a 2014 Aware survey of 500 youth which found that while three-quarters thought it was important to seek consent for physical intimacy when dating, 40 per cent did not think so when married.

The hope is that mindsets will shift, with the latest signal from the Government. Said law don Dr Tan: "It would appear that the immunity for marital rape is on its last legs in Singapore."


SINGAPORE'S EVOLVING STANCE ON MARITAL RAPE

Before 2007: It is not a crime for a man to rape his wife.

2007: The law is changed to recognise marital rape under certain circumstances.

2012: Law Minister K. Shanmugam says arguments for criminalising marital rape are worth looking at.

2013: Then Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran notes one instance of false reporting since 2008.

2016: Singapore tells UN Human Rights Council it is "actively working towards repealing marital rape immunity".

Now: Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin revisits the issue.


POSSIBLE TO ABUSE LAW

We have got feedback from men whose marriages are also on the rocks, but who have sex and the wife may appear to consent. But afterwards, she... can threaten that rape has happened. Should that be marital rape? That is the Damocles' sword hanging over him.

DR HO PENG KEE, speaking on the topic in 2007


NOT SAFE AT HOME

Imagine this, a woman can run a company but when she goes home, she can't even say no to her husband forcing himself on her. That is quite preposterous.

CRIMINAL LAWYER AMOLAT SINGH

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

Big polluters to face heftier fines

Straits Times
04 Apr 2017
Audrey Tan

Changes to the Energy Conservation Act, passed in Parliament yesterday, mean large polluters here will have to step up their green efforts, or face enhanced penalties.

Companies will have to adopt a structured measurement and reporting system for their greenhouse gas emissions - a move which will pave the way for the carbon tax scheme the Government plans to impose from 2019.

The scheme will tax large emitters - such as power stations, refineries, and petrochemical and semiconductor manufacturers - based on the amount of greenhouse gases they produce, likely in the range of $10 to $20 per tonne. They will also have to be more active in seeking opportunities to improve energy efficiency, and ensure common industrial equipment and systems meet minimum energy performance standards.

From next year, all new industrial facilities and major expansion projects will need to have their design reviewed to ensure they incorporate energy efficiency measures.

Previously, the Act only required large energy users to appoint an energy manager, routinely monitor and report energy use and annual emissions, as well as submit annual energy efficiency improvement plans to the National Environment Agency.

In outlining the changes yesterday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said: "As a result of these enhancements, we will be raising penalties for several non-compliances to reflect the higher value of industrial goods, and to bring them in line with other legislation."

He did not give details on the heftier fines, but said companies which comply can benefit from long-term cost savings, and increased competitiveness.

The enhanced law will help Singapore tackle climate change by targetting the largest emitter here; the industrial sector contributes about 60 per cent of carbon emissions here.

"Improving energy efficiency... in the industrial sector is thus key to achieving our climate change goals," said Mr Masagos.

Under the Paris climate pact inked in 2015, Singapore pledged to cut the greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, come 2030. It also pledged to stop any increase in its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030.

The enhancements will also see a new Vehicular Emissions Scheme replace the current Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme. Under the old scheme, only carbon dioxide is taken into consideration in determining the emissions level. But the new one will also consider other harmful pollutant emissions in addition to carbon dioxide.

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

New alliance to promote responsible drinking

Straits Times
17 Apr 2017
Tiffany Fumiko Tay

Helmed by nightlife operators and alcohol suppliers, the industry-wide effort aims to raise standards, train bar staff

A new alliance is being formed to promote responsible drinking and raise standards in the nightlife sector, marking the first industry-wide effort to do so.

Helmed by operators and alcohol suppliers, it aims to train bar staff on how to spot and handle inebriated customers, for instance, and even how to react during a terror attack.

The Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA), which represents 445 operators, and the European Chamber of Commerce's (EuroCham) wine, spirits and beer committee here - composed of nine alcohol brands that make up the lion's share of the local market - are joining forces, they revealed to The Straits Times.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is being finalised to form the Singapore Alliance for Responsible Drinking (Sard).

Also on the cards is a public engagement effort on responsible consumption and possibly an accreditation scheme to promote minimum standards for operators.

While both parties have previously worked together on ad hoc initiatives, they decided to pool their resources this time for a larger impact, said Mr Davide Besana, vice-chairman of EuroCham's wine, spirits and beer committee. He is the Asia-Pacific corporate affairs manager for Edrington, which makes Scottish whiskies such as The Macallan and Highland Park.

Edrington, together with other brands on the committee - Bacardi, Diageo, Moet Hennessy Diageo, Pernod Ricard, William Grant and Sons, Remy Cointreau, Carlsberg and Asia Pacific Breweries - make up an estimated 80 per cent of the alcohol market here.

The alliance will also provide a collective voice for the industry in its regular engagement with the authorities, such as over the proposed amendments to the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act introduced in Parliament earlier this month.

Among the proposals are a "lighter touch" and licences with longer validity periods for law-abiding licensees, but stiffer penalties for errant operators.

SNBA president and nightlife veteran Dennis Foo said that the Ministry of Home Affairs has been more proactive in seeking industry input in recent years. "We are very supportive of (the Amendment Bill) - it recognises that proper operators should not be treated the same as bad ones," he said.

The MOU to form the alliance will be signed within the next few months, and discussions have already begun on possible initiatives, said EuroCham executive director Lina Baechtiger.

Among these is the introduction of a voluntary accreditation scheme to raise standards in the industry by rewarding responsible operators, such as the Best Bar None scheme adopted in Britain.

The alliance is also looking to expand a programme to train bar staff to identify, intervene and prevent potential alcohol-related problems among customers.

Sard's formation is timely as the definition and scope of nightlife has evolved, said Timbre Group's managing director Edward Chia, who is vice-president of SNBA.

The lines between bars, clubs and restaurants have blurred, while a decentralisation of nightlife entertainment is expected to take place over the next decade as neighbourhood establishments continue to sprout, Mr Chia added.

Mr Foo, who is the chairman of CityBar Holdings, said: "There are a lot more restaurant-bars now, and a lot of young professionals joining the industry."

The increasing threat of terrorism and overseas attacks on public entertainment establishments also present fresh challenges.

"We need to train our people to know what to do if something happens," said Mr Chia, adding that the only way to do this is with an industry-wide move.

Mr Eugene Fung, owner of The Mad Men Attic Bar near Boat Quay, said that leveraging on the overseas experience of alcohol brands would be useful for the adoption of best practices here.

"Having a common voice will also help in our engagement with the authorities so we know better what we are doing wrong or right," he said.

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

First corruption, now abduction in custody spat?

Straits Times
09 Apr 2017
Tan Tam Mei

Filipina accuses man in US Navy graft case of hiding their two kids

The man nicknamed "Fat Leonard", who is embroiled in a massive corruption scandal involving US Navy personnel, has now been accused of hiding two of his children from their mother.

Ms Morena Galvizo De Jesus, 34, who said she was his de facto partner of five years from 2004, told The Sunday Times that Leonard Glenn Francis took their son and daughter away in 2009, and she has not seen them since. The children were then aged one and two.

Ms De Jesus said she has spent more than seven years and all her money trying to find her children.

Francis, a Malaysian, is currently awaiting sentencing in the US for bribery. The Singapore-based ship handling contractor made international headlines in 2013 in what became known as the "Fat Leonard" scandal that implicated scores of high-ranking US Navy officials.

He pleaded guilty in 2015 to cheating the US Navy of US$35 million (S$49 million) - by bribing officials and civilian contractors through his firm, Glenn Defence Marine Asia.

Francis plied them with cash, decadent meals and the services of prostitutes to get classified information and win contracts from US Navy ships docking at ports in Asia.

The portly man, once famous for his grand Christmas displays at his Nassim Road home, is being accused by Ms De Jesus, who is from the Philippines, of hiding their children.

The children's whereabouts are unknown, but Ms De Jesus has returned year after year to Singapore, the place where they were on holiday when they went missing.

US court documents from 2013 relating to the corruption scandal, which The Sunday Times obtained, described Francis as a divorcee and father of four children.

The documents said one child was studying in the US, while three younger children were being cared for by his mother in Malaysia, whose address Ms De Jesus said she does not have.

Speaking over the phone from Australia, where she is looking for work, Ms De Jesus said she filed legal proceedings in the Philippines and Singapore.

In 2011, the Philippine Regional Trial Court granted her custody of her two children, but court orders and papers served on Francis to return the children were ignored. An arrest warrant was issued for him in the Philippines.

A year later, with the help of the Philippine Embassy in Singapore, Ms De Jesus started court proceedings here.

Francis was arrested in the US in 2013. The next year, the Singapore Family Justice Courts declared the custody order be given "full recognition and effect". But Francis refused to disclose their whereabouts.

Ms De Jesus said she met him in 2004 as a student while on attachment at Singapore's Amara Hotel.

His sweet-talking ways and opulent wealth, coupled with promises to start a family, won her over. He claimed to be a divorcee with two adult children. She later returned to the Philippines for her studies.

While he kept putting off marriage, they had two children in 2007 and 2008, both of whom are Filipinos. Ms De Jesus and the children lived in the Philippines, and Francis visited them once a month, sometimes for only three hours.

"He always said he was busy with work and back then, I believed him, I thought he knew what was best."

In 2009, while with the children here, Francis told her to return to the Philippines to settle business at his office there.

"But when I got there, I realised he had sold the apartment we were living at (in the Philippines). He also cancelled my return ticket to Singapore and cut off contact. I had only three sets of clothes with me."

Ms de Jesus had to stay with her parents and found a job to earn money to return to Singapore.

Since then, she has been on a mission to find her children, diligently looking out for news on Francis in hopes of finding out where they might be.

"Now all I want to do is to find my children."


DISAPPEARING ACT

He always said he was busy with work and back then, I believed him, I thought he knew what was best... But when I got there, I realised he had sold the apartment we were living at (in the Philippines). He also cancelled my return ticket to Singapore and cut off contact.

MS MORENA GALVIZO DE JESUS, 34, on how Leonard Glenn Francis gradually cut off contact.

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

Automating HR functions may reduce risk for Singapore SMEs

Business Times
04 Apr 2017
KC Kwa

The human resource function of any organisation is responsible for many different tasks. A key responsibility includes managing employee benefits and handling payroll. As the organisation grows, so do the number of variables and the possibility of errors in calculating payroll across different functions and managerial levels.

Detailed records need to be kept in order to keep track of employee details - attendance, overtime, performance- linked incentives, leave, expense reimbursements as well as various deductions mandated by government labour and income tax laws.

The entire process can become extremely cumbersome and errors can have serious implications. These come in the form of penalties for delayed statutory compliance as well as reduction in employee satisfaction and morale.

By automating HR and payroll functions, businesses not only save time and money, and improve job satisfaction, they also reduce the risk of being uncompliant.

Here are three reasons why automating HR functions may reduce risk for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore:

Ensure compliance with government regulations

Labour laws offer protection to both the employee and employer against unfair employment practices. Compliance with these laws is essential for a fair and equitable workplace.

For example, from April 2016 onwards, the Ministry of Manpower has mandated that employers must issue itemised payslips to all employees covered by the Employment Act. Non-compliance will result in S$100-S$200 in penalty per occurrence after the grace period ends on March 31, 2017. Payslips must include details such as name of the employer and employee, overtime hours and pay, the date of payment and salary quantum, including allowances and deductions as well as details of all payments made since the previous slip. The salary quantum must not only include overtime hours - which can become challenging to calculate manually - as well as the rate at which they are calculated and the breakdown accurately represented.

A cloud-based payroll Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application takes the manual work off the entire process while ensuring compliance with the latest regulations. Updates are also automatically pushed over the cloud whenever there is a change in policy.

Reduce calculation errors

As employers, businesses in Singapore must comply with the Employment Act which has detailed requirements for Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions, Overtime Time (OT) and leave allocations for employees.

CPF contributions, both for the employee and employer, are calculated based on the employee's wages. That's not all. Contributions are also dependent on the employee's age, the contribution rates during the fiscal year, the Ordinary Wage (OW) ceiling, citizenship status and many other factors.

The task can be further complicated as rounding up salary numbers is unique for each component: employer CPF, employee CPF, and total CPF.

The Employment Act provides for rest days, hours of work and other conditions of service applicable only to workmen (for example, construction workers, drivers and cleaners) and employees with basic monthly salaries not exceeding S$4,500 and S$2,500 respectively. Calculation of any work done in excess of 44 hours per week is considered overtime work and SMEs in Singapore need to calculate OT accordingly. Detailed records of employee attendance and time spent at work are needed in order to ensure accurate calculations.

The Employment Act also covers annual, maternity, paternity, sick and child care leave to name a few. There may also be additional types of leave organisations give to their employees as benefits. Leave allocations also differ across managerial levels, length of employment as well as citizenship factors.

Manually calculating or using Microsoft Excel to calculate CPF contributions, OT pay, and leave allocations can be a tedious task and can lead to careless mistakes.

Any errors in these calculations can result in penalties as well as serve to lower employee confidence in the organisation. Automating these calculations can prevent errors as well as reduce regulatory and compliance risk for businesses in Singapore.

Preserve institutional knowledge

Today, many professionals change jobs to further their careers. With a cloud-based HR SaaS application, important company information is stored securely in the cloud and senior management and any designated HR staff are able to access the information anywhere, anytime. This means that businesses do not need to rely on the knowledge of just one or two key employees.

Relying on key employees to process pay, manage OT policies and calculations, handle all the leave entitlements and track balances manually exposes the business to risk if the employees leave the company. Having these HR processes automated with a cloud-based solution will not only enable organisations to preserve institutional knowledge but also have a transparent equitable system.

SMEs in Singapore found not complying with the Employment Act can face severe penalties. Automating HR functions can not only help reduce errors, improve employee confidence and morale, but also improve regulatory compliance.


The writer is founder & chief executive officer of Justlogin Pte Ltd.

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

Reinforce religious ideas of love, forgiveness to support rule of law: Voices

TODAY
17 Apr 2017

I refer to the report “No one is above the law: Shanmugam” (April 8, online).

In today’s uncertain and chaotic global climate, Singapore is largely able to maintain its relative peace, security and stability because of its adherence to the rule of law, an idea built upon the foundations of justice.

Order is maintained because it is not governed by arbitrary ideas conjured up by legislative or other authoritative figures, but rather by the shared, desirable idea of serving one another without fear or favour.

The rule of law is paramount in Singapore’s context, given that our society comprises people from different backgrounds, religions, races and familial and financial circumstances.

Governance cannot be possible without giving consideration to such differences. Hence, our nation turns towards this idea to ensure that our social fabric is not ripped apart by hate, religious extremism, inequality and other undesirable effects from the faults of human nature.

Given recent developments, it is important that we, as citizens and neighbours, cultivate mutual understanding. When we encounter problems in which religion or another volatile topic is the issue, we must never turn to immediate, unfounded criticism.

In the case of the imam, it was the preacher — and not the religion — who had erred. In the case of the City Harvest Church leaders’ trial, while we are entitled to our own opinions about its outcome or the goals of religion, we should be mindful of our social circumstances and provide only constructive feedback.

When Singapore is governed by the rule of law, we must take a leap of faith and trust in our judiciary’s impartiality in passing a judgment proportional to the magnitude of the crime.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam mentioned that a laissez-faire approach will not do. This is because a just, equal society would never allow prejudice and segregation to proliferate.

Political philosopher John Rawls stated that men should agree to “share one another’s fate” and “avail themselves of the accidents of nature and social circumstances only when doing so is for the common benefit”.

Singaporeans are bound together by our common destiny on this little red dot, so we should not allow negativity to tear us apart.

What we should do is to reinforce the positive ideas, such as forgiveness and love, which are fundamental to every religion, that the rule of law aims to support.

Louis Lau Yi Hang

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

What happens to property at end of lease?

Straits Times
09 Apr 2017

Land ownership in Singapore falls under two categories: freehold and leasehold.

Freehold owners will hold on to the land title in perpetuity. This means there is no expiry date.

While there are many different tenures for leasehold property, 999-year and 99-year leasehold are the most common. At the end of the leases, the rights of the leasehold owner are effectively nullified.

For 99-year leasehold Housing Board flats, the unit will be returned to HDB, which will then surrender the land back to the state.

Some flats in older estates may be selected for redevelopment under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers), but a majority will likely see the end of their leases. Sers is done by the Government - the HDB homeowner cannot initiate any collective sales.

But for private property owners who want to continue living in their homes, they can apply to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to top the lease back up to 99 years. It requires SLA's approval and the premium will be determined by its chief valuer.

Private property owners can also collectively sell two or more units to willing buyers, such as property developers, in what is known as an en bloc or collective sale. The most common collective sale is that of all the units in a strata or flatted development. Owners of two adjoining developments or landed properties can also collectively sell their properties to a single buyer. The sale proceeds are divided among all the unit owners. But there is no guarantee of success for both options.

Owners must first reach consensus. If the property is older than 10 years, at least 80 per cent of the owners must agree to the sale or the lease top-up.

In a collective sale, the incoming developer will have to pay to take the remaining lease back up to 99 years. This makes it more difficult for owners with shorter remaining leases to find a willing buyer.

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

S'pore design protection laws to be amended

Business Times
04 Apr 2017

To better support Singapore's design industry, a series of changes governing the registration of designs were tabled by the Ministry of Law on Monday.

These include broadening the scope of registrable designs, shifting ownership from commissioning party to designer, changes to design grace period provision and procedural changes to make filing designs easier.

This is the first significant change to the Registered Designs Act proposed since it was introduced in 2000.

The changes aim to update Singapore's design protection regime to account for trends in technology and design and to support the growth of Singapore's design industry by making it easier for designers to protect their works.

Registrable designs will now include virtual designs of non-physical products that can be projected onto a surface and have useful functions, such as a virtual keyboard.

Designers will also be able to register colours as a design feature, allowing colours to be protected as a design feature in their products.

The amendment will also clarify that the designs of artisanal or handcrafted items, such as handmade jewellery, can be registered.

Another key change is the shift of ownership from commissioning party to designer. Prior to this amendment, design ownership went to the party which commissioned the design.

The amendment will now, by default, give ownership of the design to the creator. This is to minimise instances of designers inadvertently losing rights of their own work.

Designers will also now have a longer grace period to apply for protection.

Previously, a designer whose design was made public only had six months to register their design, and could only do so under limited circumstances.

The changes will extend the period to 12 months and will cover any disclosure originating from the designer.

The last change will allow multiple designs under the same broad category to be filed in a single application.

For example, a designer who wants to submit designs for a bed and a table would have to file two separate applications as each design falls under a different sub-category.

Under the proposed changes, the designer would only have to file a single application for both designs as they belong to the same broad category of furniture design. THE STRAITS TIMES

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

Don't let accidents hurt your pocket too

Straits Times
16 Apr 2017
Lorna Tan

A personal accident plan can ease the burden of medical costs, by transferring some risks to insurers

We all try our best to avoid accidents or being bitten by mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus, for example, but they may still happen.

Accidents, particularly serious ones, can cause a financial strain on a family, especially in the event of death, or permanent disability resulting in the loss of a job or a long period of medical leave.

The good news is that we can consider transferring some of these risks to insurers by purchasing a personal accident insurance plan which will ease the financial burden of medical expenses.

These risks include not being financially prepared for medical treatment - those not covered by your hospitalisation plan such as some outpatient visits - and potential loss of income.

To stay relevant, the scope of coverage under a personal accident plan has evolved over the years.

It includes medical expenses arising from infectious conditions such as hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), dengue fever and Zika, and even accidental food poisoning.

The Sunday Times outlines the benefits offered by personal accident insurance.

Q What is personal accident insurance?

A Personal accident insurance primarily covers accidental death and permanent disablement. Permanent total disablement occurs when the insured person is unable to work owing to accidental bodily injury. Some policies also cover permanent partial disablement, which includes loss of fingers/toes, third-degree burns, temporary total disablement and/or temporary partial disablement.

One important benefit is the provision of inpatient and outpatient medical expenses. In the event of minor accidents, such as a slip or fall, outpatient coverage for consultations comes in handy, as this is not covered under medical insurance - unless it is a pre- or post-hospitalisation treatment. This is one of the most common claims insurers receive, said Ms Koh Yen Yen, Sompo Insurance Singapore's chief distribution officer.

The weekly income benefit - which provides a cash benefit for every week of temporary disablement - is usually offered as an optional benefit or included in a comprehensive plan.

"This provides financial assistance to the family and is especially helpful for those who are self-employed," said Ms Koh.

Nowadays, it is common to find additional benefits like emergency medical evacuation and repatriation, and treatment by licensed Chinese physicians and chiropractors, in a personal accident cover.

Other notable benefits offered by some comprehensive plans include:

Medical expenses as a result of specified infectious diseases such as avian influenza, Sars, Zika, HFMD, and dengue fever;

Mobility aids, including purchase or rental of wheelchair as prescribed by the doctor;

Facial reconstructive surgery after an accident; and

Cash benefit for "happy events", such as for birth of child.

Q I already have a life insurance plan, a hospitalisation plan and a critical illness cover. Is personal accident insurance necessary?

A Some people consider their life and/or medical insurance policies to be sufficient to cover them in the event of an accident. And personal accident insurance does not provide coverage against sickness or general disability which would be covered under medical and critical illness coverage.

Still, many people are unaware of the complementary benefits provided by personal accident insurance so as to achieve more comprehensive financial protection, said Ms Koh.

A personal accident plan can complement a life insurance cover in that it pays for permanent partial disablement, temporary total disablement and/or temporary partial disablement. For example, in the event of the loss of sight in one eye, or the loss of the use of the fingers on one hand, there will not be a payout under a life insurance policy. But the personal accident plan will provide a payout.

A personal accident plan also pays on top of a life insurance policy for death and permanent total disability.

Ms Koh added that personal accident insurance complements medical coverage in that it pays for outpatient medical expenses, including treatments at Chinese physicians and chiropractors. Personal accident coverage also helps cover the co-insurance and/or deductible under a hospitalisation insurance plan or a company's outpatient medical insurance plan, for accident-related expenses.

Q Are there any terms and conditions that I should look out for in a personal accident plan?

A HL Assurance suggests that it is prudent to review your personal accident coverage every three to five years. This is because customers may be able to get improved products at similar premiums.

Ms Koh advised customers to look out for the variations in the coverage terms.

Definition of accident: An "accident" in a typical personal accident policy means an event caused by "violent, visible and external means". A more comprehensive policy would have a wider definition such as an "identifiable event which is sudden, unforeseen or unexpected". For example, policies with a more restrictive definition would not cover accidental choking.

The coverage period after accident resulting in death or medically certified permanent disability: This period typically ranges from six months to as long as 18 months. A longer coverage period is more advantageous to the policyholder. For example, if the insured is unable to regain the use of a finger after months of therapy and is certified to be partially permanently disabled after the coverage period, no benefits will be payable to the insured, added Ms Koh.

Q How much would a personal accident cover cost?

A The premium payable for personal accident insurance is a lot lower than for a life insurance policy, for the same sum insured. There is no requirement for a medical examination and the policy does not take into account pre-existing medical conditions.

For an assured sum of $100,000, the annual premiums could range from $85 to $300. Liberty Insurance notes that for a smaller sum insured of $50,000, the premium may start from as little as $50 per year.

Mr Bevan Cheong, head of accident and health business, Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore (TM), said that premiums on personal accident plans do not depend on age or gender. Instead, the criteria for pricing includes scope of coverage and the occupations of the insured persons.

"Premiums would depend on one's occupation. Customers in low-risk occupations such as administrators, editors, programmers, students, and so on, would pay the lowest premiums. Customers in high-risk occupations such as construction workers, deliverymen, high-rise window cleaners and welders would pay a substantially higher premium," he said.

Ms Koh said that there are also family plans that provide discounts for insuring the whole family - for example, free coverage for eligible children if both parents are insured. Family plans usually include the two parents, children who are studying full-time and those aged below 25.

Unlike medical insurance, personal accident policy premiums do not increase with age. However, note that there are age limits applicable, and the sum insured could be reduced for policyholders above a certain age.

Over at Tokio Marine, its TM PA plan offers free child cover for the policyholder, of up to four children below age 18, so long as one parent is insured. TM Protect PA offers enhanced coverage against three specific conditions - HFMD, dengue fever, and food poisoning, while TM Protect Mosbite covers any of five mosquito-borne diseases - dengue fever, Zika, yellow fever, malaria, and chikungunya (commonly known as "chicken malaria") - with a lump sum payout of up to $3,000 upon diagnosis. The annual premium for TM Protect MosBite with a $3,000 sum assured is $59.

TM PA and TM Protect PA plans offer worldwide coverage while TM Protect MosBite requires the covered diseases to be diagnosed in Singapore.

At Sompo, the most popular plan is PAStar, which offers benefits such as coverage for medical expenses incurred as a result of contracting 17 specified infectious diseases, including Zika, dengue fever, HFMD; full terrorism cover; re-employment benefit - which can be used to pay for courses that will allow the policyholder to engage in an alternative occupation; a baby bonus allowance of $100 on the birth of each child up to two children per policy year; and reconstructive surgery for facial disfigurement and trauma counselling expenses.

Q Who would need personal accident coverage more?

A Mr Ankush Bhardwaj, director, lifestyle underwriting, at AXA Insurance, advised that individuals who are vulnerable and exposed to greater risks would benefit from a good personal accident cover.

"This includes people who are in sports, children, the self-employed, the elderly and unemployed individuals, as they are not covered under any form of employee benefits," he said.

Mr Cheong said that those employed in high-risk occupations, such as construction workers or high-rise window cleaners, could consider this cover.

Ms Koh noted that the accident rate is higher for children and the elderly, compared with the general population base. As such, insurers have come up with products that cater to the needs of these groups.

For example, Sompo's PAJunior plan caters to children from as young as one month old. Child-friendly benefits include childcare and a school fee subsidy, which reimburses any childcare charges or school fees incurred during hospitalisation and while recuperating at home due to an accident; an additional sum insured during school sports and competitions; a quarantine allowance for 16 infectious diseases including HFMD and dengue fever; and cover for accidental food poisoning and insect/ animal bites.

However, while these policies apply to certain higher-risk groups, accidents, of course, can happen to anyone.

Q Customers tend to confuse personal accident with travel insurance. What are the differences?

A Mr Cheong said that personal accident insurance and travel insurance are designed to serve different purposes, although they may share some similar benefits. Personal accident insurance plans generally do not cover travel-related events such as trip cancellations, emergency medical assistance and evacuation, or baggage delays.

AXA's Mr Bhardwaj said that personal accident insurance covers the customer 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and usually applies regardless of where he is geographically. On the other hand, travel insurance covers the insured only when he is on a trip outside Singapore.

Ms Koh noted that personal accident cover is a standard benefit found in all travel insurance plans.

She said: "The personal accident section under a travel insurance plan is intended to cover accidents occurring during the trip, though some policies have extended them to cover accidents while travelling to and from the airport.

"To cater to some common adventurous activities undertaken during a trip, many travel plans now cover activities such as hot-air ballooning or underwater activities which may be excluded under personal accident insurance."

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

Jail terms cut for CHC founder and five church leaders

Business Times
08 Apr 2017
Claire Huang

Court, in split decision, finds that what the church leaders did satisfies the lesser form of criminal breach of trust

Singapore's High Court of three judges, in a split decision, has reduced the sentences of the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders involved in the long-drawn court case, also one of the largest scandals to hit the nation's charity sector.

Two of the three judges concluded that what church founder Kong Hee and five others did satisfied the less aggravated form of criminal breach of trust (CBT) under Section 406 of the Penal Code, not the original CBT charges under Section 409.

Under Section 406, the maximum penalty is imprisonment of seven years, or a fine, or both.

Of the three judges on the panel, only Justice Chan Seng Onn upheld the decisions made previously by Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon.

In October 2015, Presiding Judge See found Kong and five others guilty of conspiring to misuse S$24 million in the church's building fund monies for the Crossover project, aimed at evangelising through singer Sun Ho's secular music. They were also convicted of another set of charges for misappropriating of a further S$26 million, which went into covering up the first sum through sham bond investments.

In November 2015, the six were handed jail terms of between 21 months and eight years; Kong, 52, got the stiffest penalty.

With the revised decisions, Kong, whom the three judges agreed was the most culpable, had his eight-year jail term cut to 3½ years. The judges noted that he "was one of the main players - if not the main player - who had set things in motion in relation to the sham investment charges, where he had directed and influenced the other appellants".

Kong's wife, Ms Ho, was absent from the hearing. His lawyer Edwin Tong said his client was disappointed with the conviction and was mulling over the judgment before deciding on the next step.

In a Facebook posting, Kong wrote: "While the conviction being upheld is not what I have hoped for, I am grateful that the sentence has been reduced. Once again, thank you so much for all the love you have given to me and my family."

The church's former fund manager, Chew Eng Han, 56, was given a jail term of three years and four months, down from the previous six years. Speaking to the media after the hearing, he said it is "pretty likely" he would take his case further.

Tan Ye Peng, 44, the church's deputy senior pastor, got his sentence of 5½ years lowered to three years two months; ex-CHC finance manager Serina Wee, 40, had hers halved to two years six months; and ex-CHC finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, now gets seven months' jail, a third of her original 21-month sentence. Former CHC finance committee member John Lam, 49, had his initial sentence of three years halved to one year six months.

All six have asked for their sentences to be deferred by between two weeks and two months.

When asked, the Attorney-General's Chambers said the prosecution is considering the grounds for the decision before deciding "on the appropriate course of action".

Central to the reduction of the CBT charges was the issue of whether Kong, Tan Ye Peng and Lam were acting as "agents" as set out in Section 409 of the Penal Code.

In his oral judgement on Friday, Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin said he and Justice Woo Bih Li thought the prosecution had failed to prove the aggravated form of CBT, which requires the accused to be a public servant, "a banker, a merchant, a factor, a broker (or) an attorney", or an agent, when committing the crime.

"While a director undoubtedly holds an important position in a company or organisation, it cannot be said that a person, by becoming a director, has offered his services as an agent to the community at large or that he makes his living as an agent," said Justice Chao.

He added that the relationship between each of the three leaders and the church is an internal one.

For these reasons, the two High Court judges found that [/OR]the appellants "should only have been convicted of the offence of criminal breach of trust simpliciter under Section 406 of the Penal Code".

That said, Justice Chao pointed out that there was no "erroneous determination" on the part of Presiding Judge See, who was bound by the findings of a High Court case - something the High Court itself is not bound by.

Although the sums involved in the case are "indeed substantial", Justice Chao and Justice Woo found that there were "exceptional mitigating factors": The first was that there was no personal gain - something the prosecution accepts - and the second, that the six had "acted in what they considered to be the best interests of CHC".

"In other words, they believed that their acts, especially where the sham investment charges are concerned, would ultimately have advanced the interests of CHC by allowing them to evangelise through the Crossover project," said Justice Chao.

He added: "None of the appellants, particularly Eng Han, Ye Peng, John Lam, Serina and Sharon, could be said to have gained anything from what they did, other than pursuing the objects of CHC . . . Their fault lies in adopting the wrong means."

The developments were a culmination of one of the longest criminal cases in Singapore history. Investigations into the case started in 2010, which led to a trial that lasted more than 140 days; a five-day appeal hearing followed last September.

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

Public Prosecutor v Lam Leng Hung and other appeals [2017] SGHC 71

Comprehensive global agreement needed on MNC tax treatment

Business Times
04 Apr 2017

Australia has become the latest country to impose its own version of a punitive tax on multinationals that shift their profits to low-tax jurisdictions. The British were the first to impose a 25 per cent Diverted Profits Tax in 2015. Several other countries are considering introducing similar laws in response to public pressure over multinationals' tax avoidance schemes.

So will the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reap its due? The Opposition says it can raise a lot more by simply changing interest deduction rules for companies. But Mr Turnbull seems persuaded that this move will be seen as being tough on global firms and thus will pay political dividends. So from July 1, companies with a global revenue of more than A$1 billion (S$1.06 billion) and Australian revenue of more than A$25 million will now pay a 40 per cent tax on all their Australian profits. Mr Turnbull has also armed the tax authority with special laws aimed at multinationals. The government has put out the word that it hopes to collect up to A$2 billion with this tax in the coming years.

Originally dubbed the "Google Tax" in Britain, this new type of tax was aimed at preventing technology companies - such as Facebook and Google - from using complex tax arrangements to move their British profits to low-tax jurisdictions. The British initiative was the first in line with an OECD plan to end "base erosion and profit shifting" (BEPS), which refers to tax avoidance strategies that exploit interstices in different tax rules to artificially shift profits to low (or zero) tax locations. The OECD says that under its inclusive framework, over 100 countries and jurisdictions are collaborating to tackle BEPS. But as more countries join in the hunt for what each considers its own fair share of revenue, the question arises: Who is entitled to that tax revenue?

The other concern over Australia's move is that it gives the tax authority huge new powers and there is always a potential for abuse. Critics point out that these powers may be used to collect more taxes than was intended by the government. And the critics may be right - the British situation seems to bear it out. The British tax authority has taken a very aggressive stance with multinationals simply because it has fallen �9.6 billion (S$16.8 billion) short of its own estimates for the last financial year.

Mr Turnbull's move may also create uncertainty for businesses because this tax can be collected upfront and the firm then has to claw back if it thinks that it has been overtaxed because its company structure was misunderstood.

None of this should be taken to mean that global firms should be free to game the tax system for their own ends. As Oxfam, a British charity, points out in a report: "Corporate tax havens are causing the loss of huge amounts of tax revenue and their use is becoming standard business practice for many companies ..." But what causes this problem in the first place? As the report explains: Over the past decades, the tax contributions of large corporations have been diminishing because governments compete to race to the bottom on corporate taxation. Indeed, it is those very governments that woo companies with tax breaks and other preferences.

This is a global problem. What is needed is a comprehensive and global approach to tax treatment of companies.

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

Criminal references rare, numbers show

Straits Times
15 Apr 2017
Ng Huiwen

Procedure in spotlight after AGC filed one in church leaders' case

Of the hundreds of cases filed at the Supreme Court in the last decade, only a small fraction reached the highest court in Singapore as a criminal reference.

From 2007 to last year, a total of 21 criminal references were filed to the Court of Appeal, according to figures released to The Straits Times yesterday.

No criminal references were made in the last two years, even as the number of cases under the criminal jurisdiction filed at the Supreme Court stood at 526 last year and 509 in 2015.

The rare procedure was in the spotlight on Monday after the Attorney-General's Chambers filed a criminal reference, days after the High Court's ruling on the six City Harvest Church leaders. Their charges were reduced after two of the three judges ruled that they did not commit criminal breach of trust as an "agent", which the court connoted to be someone in a professional capacity.

Lawyer Lau Kah Hee, who specialises in commercial dispute resolution, stressed that a criminal reference is not a further appeal from a High Court's decision.

"It is not to be abused as a means of a 'backdoor appeal'," he said, adding that the High Court is the court of final appeal for criminal cases heard in the State Courts.

Rather, it is an avenue to settle a legal conflict, where there are questions of law of public interest arisen with a High Court decision.

He said: "Factual issues are not in play, since a criminal reference is not the same as a criminal appeal."

Other high-profile cases include one involving former National Parks Board assistant director Bernard Lim Yong Soon, who was fined $5,000 for lying to auditors.

His offence came to light after the purchase of 26 Brompton foldable bicycles in 2012 drew public scrutiny. The prosecution filed a criminal reference in 2014 asking the court to rule on whether jail terms should be imposed for public servants who lie during a probe.

The judges refused to make a ruling, as it was not appropriate to set a benchmark, as sentencing depends on the facts of each case.

In 2012, the prosecution filed a criminal reference, after former chief justice Chan Sek Keong set aside the conviction of Malaysian Adnan Kadir and ordered a retrial. Adnan had been sentenced to five years' jail and five strokes of the cane for importing 0.01g of heroin.

Mr Chan noted that if Adnan could convince the trial court that the drugs were for personal consumption as claimed he would be guilty of a less serious offence.

However, the apex court later ruled that the prosecution need not prove that an accused brought drugs into the country for the purpose of trafficking, in order to secure a conviction.

The judges, in a criminal reference, have the power to quash the conviction, make no orders to the acquittal or conviction, or order a retrial by the lower court.

The decision of the Court of Appeal in a criminal reference is final.


21
Number of criminal references filed to the Court of Appeal from 2007 to last year

526
Number of cases under the criminal jurisdiction filed at the Supreme Court last year

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Ruling may set new legal position on CBT

Straits Times
08 Apr 2017
Selina Lum

Decision departs from 1970s precedent in interpreting criminal breach of trust

A key aspect of the verdict in the City Harvest Church (CHC) case could have wider ramifications for future criminal breach of trust cases, said lawyers.

CHC founder Kong Hee and five other church leaders had their sentences reduced because - while they were found guilty of criminal breach of trust (CBT) - they were cleared of the more serious charge of committing CBT as "agents".

Instead, they were convicted on plain CBT under Section 406 of the Penal Code, under which the maximum penalty is less than half of that for aggravated CBT under Section 409.

In reaching this conclusion, the High Court broke away from a legal position - based on the 1970s High Court case of Tay Choo Wah - that has prevailed in Singapore for the past 40 years.

Till now, directors who misappropriate the property of the company they are entrusted with are liable for the more serious offence of CBT as agents, under Section 409 of the Penal Code.

Section 409 makes it an offence for a person who misappropriates property that is entrusted to him "in the way of his business as a banker, a merchant, a factor, a broker, an attorney or an agent".

But yesterday, two judges out of a three-judge High Court panel ruled that directors such as the CHC leaders cannot be considered "agents" under Section 409.

The majority interpreted the provision to mean that in order to be found guilty under Section 409, the accused must be "in the business of an agent" at the time the property is entrusted to him.

Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin said the provision applies only to a "professional agent" who offers his services as an agent or makes his living as an agent.

In addition, the relationship between a director, who is entrusted with the property, and the company, which is the one entrusting the property, is an internal one. This stands in stark contrast, he said, to the external nature of the relationship that "a banker, a merchant, a factor, a broker (or) an attorney" shares with his customer who entrusts the property to him.

The second judge, Justice Woo Bih Li, agreed with him. The third, Justice Chan Seng Onn, disagreed.

Justice Chao stressed that the judge who convicted the CHC leaders was not wrong. This is because, as a lower court judge, he was legally bound by the Tay Choo Wah case.

The decision has significant ramifications, say lawyers.

"It will impact the way company directors who commit CBT of company funds are charged in future," said Mr Lee Teck Leng of Lee Chambers, who has been a criminal lawyer for over 20 years.

Mr Shashi Nathan, a partner at Withers KhattarWong, said: "There will be a rethink on how to prosecute accused persons in the future. For defence lawyers, there will be a seismic shift in how we pitch our cases."

Mr Lee said that as there are now two conflicting High Court decisions, the matter could go up to the Court of Appeal by way of a criminal reference on a question of law of public interest.

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

US Court dismisses claims against Keppel and SembMarine

Business Times
04 Apr 2017
Tan Hwee Hwee

Decision may mitigate litigation risks from Sete Brasil contracts, but concerns remain over 2 groups' disposal of rigs

A District court in the US has dismissed claims tied to a Sete Brasil-linked lawsuit that were filed against Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Marine.

While the court decision may mitigate the litigation risks spilling over from their previous contracts with Sete Brasil, industry analysts pointing to excess capacity in the market said that it may take years before the two large-cap groups can hope to offload some or all the rigs commissioned by the Brazilian owner.

In two separate morning disclosures on the court ruling on Monday, Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Marine said the United States District Court, District of Columbia, had ruled in favour of them and their two respective business units, Keppel Offshore & Marine (O&M) and Jurong Shipyard Pte Ltd (JSPL).

The two disclosures said Keppel Corp, SembMarine, Keppel O&M and JSPL were added as defendants along with other shipyards and entities in a legal action filed with the US district court. US-based investment firm EIG Management and its eight managed funds commenced the lawsuit against Brazil's national oil company (NOC) Petroleo Brasileiro SA in 2016.

EIG had alleged that it was misled by Petrobras, along with the other named yards and entities, to invest over US$221 million of equity in Sete Brasil, a rig-owning business unit of the Brazilian NOC.

Both Keppel Corp and SembMarine had denied what they described as "baseless allegations".

The two Singapore-listed groups were implicated in the lawsuit because they were commissioned by Sete Brasil for the construction of 13 ultra deep-water (UDW) drilling units at a combined value of US$10 billion.

Considering the EIG claims could spur more legal actions, one observer viewed the court dismissal as a "positive sign" for Keppel Corp and SembMarine.

What continues to divide the market is the two listed groups' remaining exposure to the Sete Brasil fall-out.

Sete Brasil was granted bankruptcy protection from a Brazilian court, but it remains unclear to observers what the restructuring that ensues would spell for the rigs with Keppel Corp and SembMarine.

A Credit Suisse equity analyst said: "If the assigned yards can continue building the rigs, this will be positive accretion to the two listed groups given the rigs have already been subtracted from their order books."

Credit Suisse's view is that the two groups have extended sufficient provisions - Keppel and SembMarine respectively set aside provisions of S$230 million and US$329 million - to their Sete Brasil exposure. But the analyst acknowledged that "the market is still debating over the adequacy of the provisions" until and unless the two groups manage to offload the rigs and their resale prices are disclosed.

The odds, however, are stacked against Keppel Corp or SembMarine securing buyers for the Sete Brasil rigs in the near term, if analyst readings of the offshore drilling market are anything to go by.

Wood Mackenzie's research director Angus Rodger said that conditions of "significant over-supply... open up a window for oil companies to lock in rigs at rock-bottom prices".

"It is unlikely Petrobras and other oil companies will look to fund construction of rigs from scratch or to purpose through to 2020, due to an over-supply of next-generation units that have been constructed over the last five years."

The consensus though, is that the Sete Brasil rigs being built to meet Brazilian requirements including those of local content, eventually still stand a good chance of getting contracted in Latin America.

So it is down to waiting out for the eventual recovery in the offshore drilling market for Keppel Corp and SembMarine.

Mr Ang noted that signs have already emerged of the rig count in Brazil having bottomed out. "The Brazilian rig fleet continued to decline over the past six months albeit at a slower pace than during 2015 and the beginning of 2016," he commented, though qualifying that demand for the next few years can still be met by currently contracted units.

Drastic cost deflation is also supporting investment interest returning to Brazil's large oilfields. Mr Rodger said: "The majority of Brazil's sub-salt oil projects have large reserves that can be developed at break-even oil prices of sub-US$60 per barrel, which qualify them as among the hottest deep-water plays globally."

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S'pore wildlife faces poaching threat

Straits Times
15 Apr 2017
Audrey Tan

Number of cases appears small, but experts say widespread problem is often under-reported

Wildlife is thriving as Singapore becomes greener. But some animals, including birds, wild boars and fish, face the threat of poaching.

Songbirds are among those most at risk - as collectors are willing to pay a pretty penny for a bird that can carry a tune.

On websites such as Locanto or Facebook groups that sell birds, people are buying and selling magpie robins - black and white birds that call in melodious trills - for between $250 and $888, a check by The Straits Times (ST) showed.

In response to ST queries, the authorities said they have received reports of magpie robins, spotted doves and red-whiskered bulbuls being caught from the wild.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it investigated 24 cases of alleged poaching over the past five years - from 2012 to last year. Of these, six cases were resolved with fines. For the rest, warnings and advisories were issued.

Over the same period, the National Parks Board (NParks) said it looked into 17 cases of alleged bird poaching within parks and nature reserves. Fines were paid in eight cases, and in the other cases, people were given warnings and advisories.

The numbers appear small, but observers say they do not accurately reflect the widespread nature of the problem. Poaching is often under-reported, as it is difficult to catch poachers in the act, said Mr Alan Owyong of the Nature Society (Singapore) bird group.

"The authorities will act only if they witness the poaching itself, or from photographic or video evidence," said Mr Owyong.

Trainer and freelance photographer Steven Tor, 55, agreed. Last month, he saw three men who appeared to be trying to catch a bird near Seletar Aerospace Park.

"They seemed to be trying to lure a wild magpie robin into a cage, which contained another magpie robin that kept calling out," said Mr Tor. He called the AVA twice that day, but no one turned up.

In response to queries from ST, an AVA spokesman said it is following up and investigating the alleged bird-poaching activities in Seletar.

Poachers also trap birds by laying spike-studded wires on the ground to ensnare them, said Mr Louis Ng, chief executive of wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society. He has seen people poaching birds in the Lim Chu Kang area.

Another poaching hot spot is the vegetated area next to the old railway track in Tanglin Halt, said Ms Lucy Davis, a former resident of the area who has come across two poaching incidents there.

Ms Davis, an artist and founder of The Migrant Ecologies Project that studies culture and nature in South-east Asia, spent three years studying the interactions between humans and birds in the area.

"Most of the time, the poachers appear to be 'uncles' who grew up catching birds in their kampung days. To them, it seems to be a form of male bonding," she said.

Under the Wild Animals and Birds Act, it is illegal to kill, take or keep any wild animal or bird without a licence, said AVA. Those found guilty can be fined up to $1,000 per animal, and have the animal confiscated.

The mere possession of bird traps or trapping devices is an offence within NParks-managed areas, said NParks' group director for conservation Wong Tuan Wah.

Mr Ng, who is an MP for Nee Soon GRC, added: "To effectively reduce the number of poaching incidents, the authorities should ban the sale of trapping devices in pet stores."


MAXIMUM FINES FOR POACHING

$5,000 If the animal is poached from a public park.

$50,000 If the animal is poached from nature reserves or national parks.

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Shorter jail terms for 6 leaders

Straits Times
08 Apr 2017
Selina Lum & Ng Huiwen

High Court's split 2-1 ruling on appeal extremely significant, say lawyers

In a courtroom packed with supporters and a few detractors, City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee sat expressionless when he was told he will serve 3½ years in jail - the final twist in one of Singapore's longest-running criminal trials.

It was less than half of the original sentence he had been facing, but in a split 2-1 High Court decision on appeal, the bench majority decided to reduce the 52-year-old's criminal breach of trust (CBT) charge to a less serious one.

Five other current and former church leaders, who in 2012 were accused of misappropriating $50 million in church money to fund the Crossover Project in a failed bid to promote the pop music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, and then to cover up their tracks, also saw their jail terms slashed - despite the prosecution's appeal for longer terms.

Deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, had his 5½ years in jail cut to three years and two months.

Former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 56, who originally got six years in jail, had it reduced to three years and four months. Former finance manager Serina Wee, 40, had her five-year jail term halved to 2½ years.

The three-year sentence of former finance committee member John Lam, 49, was also halved. Former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, will be jailed for seven months instead of 21 months.

"While the conviction being upheld is not what I have hoped for, I am grateful that the sentence has been reduced," Kong, whom the judges described as the "mastermind", said later.

Yesterday's ruling capped a case which has engrossed the public since 2010, when the authorities started probing the affairs of the City Harvest Church, seven years after a church member first made allegations that building funds were being misused.

The investigations cast a spotlight on Kong's prosperity gospel, which marries materialism with spiritualism, and the attempt by the church, which at its peak had 30,000 congregants, to reach out to the "unchurched" by turning Mandarin pop singer Ho into a star in America.

Ho starred in several racy videos, including China Wine, which featured Wyclef Jean and was widely viewed and criticised on YouTube.

During a marathon 142-day trial, which started in 2013, it was revealed how the six had channelled $24 million from CHC's building fund into sham bonds in music production company Xtron and glass-maker Firna. The money was in fact used to fund the Crossover Project.

Later, another $26 million was used to cover up the sham bond investments.

The prosecution, believing that the 2015 jail terms which ranged from 21 months to eight years were inadequate, filed appeals. All six accused also appealed against their conviction and sentence.

Kong's role as the "spiritual leader of the other appellants", whom he led and mentored, ought to be reflected in the sentences imposed, said the court yesterday, explaining why he received the longest jail term. But "none of the appellants, particularly Eng Han, Ye Peng, John Lam, Serina and Sharon, could be said to have gained anything from what they did other than pursuing the objectives of CHC. Their fault lies in adopting the wrong means", said Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin.

The dissenting judge, Justice Chan Seng Onn, however, said it was very clear Kong's wife had benefited directly and Kong indirectly from criminally misappropriated funds to fund her music career. Justice Woo Bih Li was the other judge who ruled on the appeal.

The ruling was described by lawyers as "extremely significant", given that the court departed from a four-decade-old legal position and reinterpreted Section 409 of the Penal Code, the provision governing the role of agents in CBT.


DIFFICULT TIMES

Keep my family in prayer. It is a difficult time for us.

CHC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR HO YEOW SUN, and wife of Kong Hee, speaking over the phone to The Straits Times.


Five key highlights of the judgment 

Some answers to pressing questions.

WHY WERE THE CBT CHARGES REDUCED?

The court found that City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, 52, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, and former finance committee member John Lam, 49, were not "agents" entrusted with dominion over CHC's funds.

While they held important positions in the church, it does not mean they were offering their "services as an agent to the community at large" or making their living as an agent. This is unlike a banker, a broker or a lawyer.

With this, the aggravated charge of CBT under Section 409 of the Penal Code, which involves CBT by a public servant, banker, merchant or agent, was reduced to a simpler charge under Section 406.

WHY WERE SENTENCES CUT?

The lesser charge of CBT had a "significant impact" in the reduction of the sentences, as the maximum punishments of the two are "markedly different", the court said. The maximum jail terms under Section 406 are less than half that for those under Section 409.

Despite the huge sum of about $50 million involved, the court recognised that there had been no personal gain, among other mitigating factors, and "their fault lies in adopting the wrong means".

WHY WERE THE ACCOUNT FALSIFICATION CHARGES UPHELD?

These were related to entries recorded in the church's accounts in October and early November 2009 showing that the sham bonds purchased by the church's building funds were redeemed. The court held that the accused were aware the entries were false and they intended to defraud.

WHAT DID JUDGES SAY ABOUT KONG HEE?

Kong's role was that of "spiritual leader" of the five others, providing the "overall direction and moral assurance for their actions". Thus, his overall culpability was the greatest.

He was also one of the main players - if not the main one - who had influenced the others into using the church's funds to purchase sham bonds, even if he did not directly participate in redeeming them.

WHAT DID THE DIFFERING JUDGE SAY?

Justice Chan Seng Onn, in differing from Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justice Woo Bih Li, noted there were elements of benefit to Kong and his wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun. There was also permanent financial loss to the church.

Justice Chan called for a dismissal of the appeals for the six accused and prosecution.

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Rajah & Tann S'pore bags top legal award

Straits Times
03 Apr 2017
Grace Leong

Rajah & Tann Singapore has been awarded Singapore's National Law Firm of the Year award at this year's Chambers Asia-Pacific Awards.

The Big Four law firm beat five other firms to clinch the accolade last Friday.

The award is given to the leading domestic and international law firm in each country surveyed, based on research for the 2017 edition of Chambers Asia-Pacific.

Chambers is a London-based publisher of legal industry guides.

Rajah & Tann won the award in 2013 and 2015, and is the only law firm in the Republic to have won it thrice since the inception of the awards in 2012.

Rajah & Tann managing partner and Senior Counsel Lee Eng Beng said: "We are honoured to be recognised by Chambers, whose awards are widely respected in the legal industry.

"This award is a testament to the quality and range of our services to our clients in Singapore and South-east Asia.

"We will continue to grow our regional capabilities and provide the best services to support the diverse needs of our clients in this region."

The awards recognise domestic and international law firms' achievements in key practice areas such as outstanding work, impressive strategic growth and excellence in client service, over the past 12 months.

Rajah & Tann Singapore is one of the largest full-service law firms in Singapore and South-east Asia, with market-leading practices in dispute resolution, international arbitration, shipping, insolvency, restructuring, corporate and commercial tax and trust, among others. The firm has about 650 fee earners.

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Sakae seeks to rebound after legal woes

Straits Times
15 Apr 2017
Grace Leong

Despite long court battle, sushi chain has been diversifying and restructuring

Last week, Singapore-listed Sakae Holdings finally caught a break in its long-time fight with former director Andy Ong, when the High Court ruled in its favour and found that Mr Ong did breach his fiduciary duties to the firm.

That was a major victory for the operator of the Sakae Sushi chain as the four-year legal battle had taken a toll on the business as well as its management.

Over the years, Sakae's fortunes have waned. Not only was it mired in the court fight, but the company has also had to wrestle with flagging results over the past two financial years.

Rising legal fees, among other things, pushed the company into a loss of $4.6 million for financial year 2015, from a net profit of $2.1 million in 2014. Its net losses widened further last year to $13.1 million.

The environment that Sakae now operates in is far more challenging compared with the days when it took the nation by storm with its conveyor-belt sushi and interactive computer menus. It set up its first restaurant in 1997 amid the Asian financial crisis.

At the time, the Sakae Sushi chain symbolised all that was right with the food and beverage sector in Singapore - a quick-service concept offering a fun-filled, value-for-money dining experience.

It invested in staff training and went global. At its peak, it had more than 200 restaurants in Singapore and the region.

This year, it will launch up to three restaurants in Myanmar, add two in Vietnam and is considering re-entering the Indonesian market.

But amid its ambitious regional expansion, Sakae is undergoing its biggest restructuring in Singapore.

RESTRUCTURING TO GET FITTER

The company has shuttered 10 of 46 restaurants here in recent months, and plans to cut six more by the first half of this year, as it wrestles with rising business costs and fierce competition in the F&B sector.

While it has not retrenched staff, the company has relocated workers from closed restaurants to other locations, and is not replacing those who have resigned.

"We are working very hard to boost morale, while going through rationalisation to get ourselves fitter," Sakae founder Douglas Foo told The Straits Times.

Concurrently, Sakae has been moving into advisory work to build the financial resources needed to expand in the region, and that is part of Mr Foo's grand plan to grow the chain to 30,000 outlets worldwide.

The restaurant business model is not going to offer much scale, especially as its Singapore operations are being restructured, he said.

BRAND INNOVATION

But consultants point to branding issues that Sakae should consider addressing, in particular, perceptions that its business has failed to evolve in response to changing demands and tastes, and these have left it in a position where downsizing in Singapore and looking to other emerging markets for growth is the only viable short-term strategy.

More thought should be given to Sakae's brand, and what distinguishes its offerings from those of other F&B operators here, they say.

Mr Nick Foley, president for South-east Asia, Pacific and Japan at brand consultancy Landor, said: "If Nike is about 'winning', Disney is about 'magic', and Red Bull is about 'extreme energy', what is the single concept that makes Sakae desirable and distinctive?"

Mr Graham Hitchmough, chief executive for Asia-Pacific at Brand Union, said that reviving the brand's mojo is important - some long-time customers miss little touches such as tablet-based games for children and also noticed that Sakae's menu has been changed around significantly but not always for the better.

While chains such as Sushi Tei present a slick, contemporary Japanese dining experience and high-end izakaya joints focus on quality and seasonality, he said "those that succeed tend to share key characteristics: a sense of authenticity around the core offer, as well as consistent product and service".

FOOD SAFETY FOCUS

But innovation is part of Sakae's DNA, as well as food safety, Mr Foo countered.

He said: "A lot of restaurants depend on food-trading companies. But they don't have a clear picture where their food supply is coming from, or its quality. Food safety is our key promise. We work very closely with farms to ensure this. I visit the farms myself, see how they farm and take the water where the fish are swimming for lab tests.

"We also check their fish feed. What has the fish been eating for the past three years? Is it done in a sustainable way so we can maintain consistent supply?

"The way we built our business is different from that of ordinary restaurant operators."

So dedicated is Mr Foo to maintaining food safety and quality that he took a pay cut for half a year during the Sars outbreak in Singapore so that the restaurants can continue to include vitamin E in their sushi rice, rather than cut costs.

"Had we taken the vitamin E out, it would have compromised food safety and our brand," he said.

He added that his colleagues are always experimenting with new food creations and experiences. "Some of our new creations are accepted, some not. But no matter what new items we add, some fundamental staples like salmon sushi and inari sushi are still hot favourites."

Dr Lau Kong Cheen, senior director at brand consultancy A.S. Louken, said that diversifying into corporate advisory and food trading and expanding into new markets overseas are good moves.

"Sakae was a brand highly relevant when Japanese cuisine was on the rise, but it is slowly losing its brand relevance to certain market segments that are more sophisticated, well travelled, or just more budget-conscious.

"But there are fertile markets beyond Singapore that are more attractive, and they can leverage a brand that has been strongly established here," Dr Lau said.

LEGAL WOES

But building the Sakae brand has not been easy as Mr Foo has been fighting Mr Ong, who had been a close friend since their national service days, in court. Their friendship ended in tatters after Mr Ong invited Mr Foo to participate in a property development investment with him. The ensuing legal battle has "hugely impacted how the company performed" and drained almost $10 million in legal fees in the past four years, Mr Foo said.

"It took away our chief financial officer's management time, and the administration and finance division had to help trace documents, put out filings. That was time we could have taken to build the business. And I had to sit on the witness stand... for two weeks in February last year during trial.

"That was not a nice experience. But I wanted to do nothing but tell the truth," Mr Foo said.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel as a High Court judge ruled in Sakae's favour last week. Justice Judith Prakash ordered Mr Ong and associates Ong Han Boon and Ho Yew Kong to pay about $35 million to Griffin Real Estate Investment Holdings, in which Sakae is a minority shareholder.

Mr Ong was also ordered to pay $2.64 million to Sakae.

Sakae on Thursday said it will hold its annual general meeting on June 30 instead of April 30, as its auditors need time to assess the judgment's impact on its earnings this year.

"The judgment is justice for the 80-plus minor shareholders of Griffin Real Estate who will get part of the $35 million," Mr Foo said. "We will be concentrating more on our business now rather than channelling energy on the suit."

He added: "This is one of the saddest things to happen in my life journey. It did drain a lot of our financial resources and management time. But I take responsibility in that there are things we needed to be mindful of. I am saddened and disappointed over the loss of the friendship, but life has to go on."


$13.1m

Net losses of Sakae Holdings last year.

$4.6m

Net loss of Sakae Holdings for financial year 2015.

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Game plan to strengthen legal, accounting firms for global growth

Straits Times
08 Apr 2017
Wong Wei Han

The Committee on the Future Economy has charted a way forward for the legal and accounting industries in Singapore.

From identifying key business areas and building capabilities to technology adoption, the game plan aims to position Singapore legal and accounting firms for international growth.

The legal and accounting services working group under the CFE has recently finished its year-long study, and it tabled 15 recommendations yesterday.

The implementation of these plans will be coordinated by the Professional Services Programme Office, a new inter-agency unit set up by the Law Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Economic Development Board and the Monetary Authority of Singapore. It will be opened next month.

One key thrust of the recommendations stressed the need to develop "future ready" professionals that possess multi-disciplinary skill sets.

This should see institutes of higher learning adjust their curriculum and programmes to better equip future lawyer and accountants. There should also be programmes for mid to senior-level accountants and lawyers to be seconded to clients for international exposure.

Singapore is geographically placed to export legal and accounting services to regional markets, to serve nine high-growth practice areas such as corporations, business valuation and internal audit, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah said.

"But clients are also telling us that they need people who can coordinate projects across jurisdictions, and people who understand their industries and businesses. You must be more than just lawyers and accountants - to anticipate the trends and advise clients accordingly for better value-add," she told reporters at a briefing.

Another aspect of the recommendations focused on technology and innovation for greater productivity, particularly at the smaller firms. One possible way to do so is to have open application programme interfaces to allow new digital solutions to be developed, the working group suggested.

There were 6,444 lawyers employed across 874 law firms, according to figures last year. In the accounting industry, 17,812 people were employed across 689 firms. The two industries had a combined $1.1 billion worth of services exports last year.

Ms Indranee stressed the two industries are in good shape, with demand outstripping supply as long as firms look beyond these shores for growth. Rajah & Tann is one of the local law firms with ambitions to become a regional powerhouse.

"Our overseas market growth is double-digit, whereas the domestic growth is just single digit. Certainly, there's plenty of demand - that's why the New York and London firms also set up shop here," deputy managing partner Patrick Ang said.

But resource and scale constraints will stay an issue for smaller players, he noted. "It makes no sense for a 30-man firm to pay for million-dollar solutions when a 3,000-man firm pays the same amount for far more transactions."

The Government has moved to address some of the financial hurdles for technology adoption.

A $2.8 million programme was rolled out in February to provide funding support of up to 70 per cent of the first-year cost of adopting five technology products. These include online legal research tool Intelllex and practice management systems CoreMatter and Lexis Affinity.

There is still plenty of room for improvement in terms of technology and productivity, Ms Indranee said, and efforts here can help reduce operating cost and make services in Singapore more appealing to clients.


AIM TO ADD VALUE

But clients are also telling us that they need people who can coordinate projects across jurisdictions, and people who understand their industries and businesses. You must be more than just lawyers and accountants - to anticipate the trends and advise clients accordingly for better value-add.

SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR LAW AND FINANCE INDRANEE RAJAH, on how lawyers and accountants here must go beyond their traditional roles.

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Rise in sex crimes over past 5 years: State Courts

Straits Times
03 Apr 2017
Seow Bei Yi

Increase might not indicate worsening problem but that more victims are coming forward to make reports: Experts

More sexual crime cases were filed in the State Courts last year compared with five years ago, but that is not necessarily an indication of a worsening problem.

Ms Anisha Joseph, manager of the Sexual Assault Care Centre at the Association of Women for Action and Research, said the rise in sexual offence numbers signals that more people are not afraid to make a report, and have faith in the criminal justice system.

The number of sexual crimes hit a high in 2015, according to State Courts data. Last year, 233 cases were filed in the State Courts, compared to 218 cases filed in 2012 and 164 cases in 2011.

There were 272 cases in 2015.

These cases involved sexual assault by penetration, sexual grooming of a minor under 16, outrage of modesty or rape.

In February, the Home Affairs Ministry announced several initiatives to encourage people to report if they have been victims of sexual crimes. Among them was a new one-stop centre for those reporting a rape that had occurred in the past 72 hours.

Instead of travelling to a public hospital for a medical examination, victims who lodge a report can be medically examined at the victim care centre.

The Law Ministry is also looking at how to reduce stress faced by victims during court proceedings.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam had said that a key issue was to encourage victims to report a sexual assault.

Meanwhile, of the cases that ended up in court, 190 led to convictions last year, up from 146 in 2012 and 105 in 2011.

The High Court, which heard 16 cases of sexual offences such as rape and sexual assault by penetration last year, saw 11 convictions. In 2012, there were six rape cases filed.

Experts said that in many instances, the perpetrators were known to the victims.

Clinical psychologist Jeanie Chu said a contributing factor to sexual crime could be social media, including dating apps, and the easy access to sexual content online.

"(Easy access to content) could trigger sexual predators to want to commit such acts. With dating apps, there is also more accessibility to meeting new people," said Ms Chu, who works at the Resilienz Clinic.

Recent news reports have sparked concerns over sexual crimes.

Last month, a 39-year-old American mixed martial arts instructor was sentenced to four years in jail for making obscene films and having consensual sex with two 15- year-old girls he befriended on social networking sites.

He also possessed 321 films containing child pornography with children as young as two years old.

It is believed to be the largest number of such films seized from a single person here.

While experts laud the attempts to get victims to report sexual crimes, they said that challenges remain.

For instance, victims tend to be less willing to report an assault in cases where the perpetrator is known to them , said experts.

"The extent and intensity of impact (of the assault) depend on factors such as the nature and severity of the incident," said Ms Chu.

"But it also depends on the support (that the victims) receive thereafter. The impact is likely to be less if they receive support from family members as well as professionals."

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OG founder's son loses tax battle over dad's estate

Straits Times
14 Apr 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Australian court upholds tax commissioner's demand for $29m in landholder tax to be paid

The son of the late OG department store founder Tay Tee Peng has lost a A$27.9 million (S$29.6 million) tax fight in an Australian court, which ruled the amount was to be paid for 33 million shares in real estate company Memocorp Australia which he acquired from his father's estate.

These shares are subject to the landholder tax in New South Wales (NSW), a duty paid when acquiring a substantial stake in a landholder.

A unit trust scheme, a private company, or a listed company that has land holdings in NSW with a value of at least A$2 million will be considered a landholder.

The son, Mr Tay Chwan Yi, argued that the shares were acquired based on a 2002 will made by his father, who died on Nov 30, 2013, aged 92, and that the shares were therefore exempted from the tax .

But the Australian tax commissioner disagreed, saying that Mr Tay Chwan Yi's interest was not acquired "solely" as a result of the distribution of the estate.

The tax commissioner said the transfer was made following a 2014 agreement between him and three siblings, and not due to their father's will.

In judgment grounds issued last week, NSW Supreme Court Justice Richard White agreed with the taxman, after hearings last year.

"I do not accept that the shares were acquired by (Mr Tay Chwan Yi) solely as a result of the distribution," said the judge.

Mr Tay Tee Peng, who lived in Singapore, left an estate worth more than $1.7 billion in all, including his shares in companies.

He opened the first OG store in Chinatown in 1971. He also founded Ocean Garments that made and sold women's fashion items at department stores in Singapore.

He also owned shares in several companies in Australia, Hong Kong, China and Singapore, and held a 51 per cent stake in OG.

After provisions for two daughters and Nanyang Technological University, the balance of Mr Tay Tee Peng's estate was to be shared among his four remaining children.

Mr Tay Chwan Shih, the eldest child, was to receive 31 per cent of the balance, Mr Tay Chwan Yi was to get 29 per cent and two other daughters, 20 per cent each.

But these four siblings sought to preserve their father's legacy by retaining ownership of his companies, instead of selling them.

They entered into a formal agreement in February 2014, under which Mr Tay Chwan Yi would get all of his father's shares in Memocorp. The son would, among other things, buy out the shares in Memocorp from his three siblings.

In return, Mr Tay Chwan Yi would sell all his existing shares in OG to his elder brother and his shares in a China-based fashion company to one sister.

In May 2014, the estate's executors transferred 33,053,508 shares in Memocorp to Mr Tay Chwan Yi.

As Memocorp was a landholder, the landholder tax was payable.

However, lawyers for Mr Tay Chwan Yi argued that an exemption under the law applied, as the transfer was effected "solely" to distribute to Mr Tay Chwan Yi his share of his father's estate.

Mr Tay Chwan Yi's Australian law firm Allens declined to comment yesterday when asked if he was considering an appeal.

Forbes magazine listed the Tay family as among Singapore's 50 Richest People for 2016, with extensive real estate holdings in Singapore and Australia through their privately held Memocorp.

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Sakae wins court action against ex-director and associates

Straits Times
08 Apr 2017
Grace Leong

Three men ordered to pay $35m to real estate firm in which Sakae has minority stake

Sakae Holdings, the owner of the Sakae Sushi chain, has won a major legal victory against former director Andy Ong and his two associates.

High Court Justice Judith Prakash ordered Mr Ong and associates Ong Han Boon and Ho Yew Kong to pay about $35 million to Griffin Real Estate Investment Holdings, in which Sakae is a minority shareholder.

Mr Ong was also ordered to pay $2.64 million to Sakae.

Yesterday's judgment follows a seven-week trial last year centred on Sakae's accusations that Mr Ong breached his fiduciary duties while a Sakae director.

Sakae also brought a second suit, this one against various people who allegedly conducted the affairs of Griffin Real Estate "in a manner that is oppressive and prejudicial" to the interests of Sakae.

Sakae founder Douglas Foo and Mr Ong had been fast friends since their national service days and had become successful businessmen by 2010.

But their friendship ended in tatters after Mr Ong invited Mr Foo to participate in a property development investment with him.

Sakae eventually sued Mr Ong and his companies, alleging oppression, breach of fiduciary duty and exploitation.

Mr Andy Ong, Mr Ong Han Boon and Mr Ho were accused of treating Griffin Real Estate's funds as their personal money and diverting them for the benefit of the ERC group.

Mr Andy Ong is the founder and chief executive of ERC Holdings, which is the holding company of ERC group.

ERC Holdings, in turn, is a shareholder of Gryphon Capital Management, which manages Griffin Real Estate property investments, including Bugis Cube, a commercial property at 470, North Bridge Road.

Sakae, which is represented by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and Mr Jaikanth Shankar of Drew & Napier, alleged that Griffin Real Estate funds were used by ERC group to finance the purchase of the House of Tan Yeok Nee, a gazetted national monument in Penang Road, and Big Hotel in Middle Road.

Judge Prakash found Mr Andy Ong to be "in breach of his fiduciary duties to Sakae" and ordered that Griffin Real Estate be liquidated.

"Mr Ong also avoided taking the stand and avoided having to answer questions about (Griffin Real Estate's) financial position," the judge wrote in the 171-page judgment released yesterday.

"(Griffin Real Estate) has $96 million in its bank account but it is not clear that those funds represent the total value of the company. From the evidence given at trial, it is apparent that the company's finances have been manipulated for the benefit of other parties."

Justice Prakash noted that the defendants acted in "clear disregard of Sakae's interests when they siphoned out $16 million from (Griffin) under the guise of prematurely terminating" a lease agreement, which she found to be a "sham document".

"The $16 million was ultimately used to benefit the ERC group of companies and it is not disputed that Mr Ong had a sizeable interest in the companies which benefited from the transactions," she wrote.

In another instance, a $10 million loan from UOB earmarked for Griffin's working capital needs was used, at Mr Andy Ong and Mr Ong Han Boon's directions, to fund an ERC firm's purchase of Big Hotel.

"It appears that an exercise in creative accounting had been effected seeking to depict cash inflows to (Griffin) in full satisfaction of the loan, but ultimately leaving the company $7.9 million out of pocket," the judge wrote.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Foo said he is "relieved that justice is served".

Mr Andy Ong is said to be considering an appeal.

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Many still accessing movies, music illegally

Straits Times
03 Apr 2017
Raynold Toh Yk

Despite the availability of several legitimate options online, many people in Singapore are still illegally getting their movie and music fix on the Internet for free.

A survey of 1,000 people in May last year found that 63 per cent of respondents here said they were downloading or streaming content unauthorised at the time. The findings were released in February by consultancy Ernst & Young.

Top of the list of pirated content were TV shows and movies. Some 51 per cent of respondents admitted to downloading these files illegally.

Accessing music files online unauthorised came in second, with 48 per cent of people doing so.

Getting games illegally online was third, at 38 per cent.

This was despite the launch of several legal options here in recent years.

Video subscription services Netflix, Hooq and CatchPlay were all launched last year.

For music, Apple Music and Spotify were launched in 2015 and 2013, respectively. And online video game store Steam allowed gamers here to buy digital games in Singapore dollars from 2014.

But Mr Bryan Tan, technology partner at law firm Pinsent Masons MPillay, said that even with the rise of subscription services like Netflix and Spotify, "it is still hard to beat obtaining files from illegal downloads, which are completely free", noting the wide range of pirated content.

Said a 21-year-old retail assistant who did not wish to be named: "I know it is wrong to download those files but it doesn't cost me anything and it is also convenient."

Singapore fared worse for illegal downloads and streams than New Zealand (58 per cent) and Australia (46 per cent), but scored better than Malaysia (83 per cent).

The latest figures mirror earlier findings. A survey by research consultancy Sycamore Research and Marketing released in 2014 showed that 61 per cent of people here aged 16 to 64 said they had participated in movie and TV or music piracy.

Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, managing director of independent record label Rock Records Singapore, said piracy "is our biggest enemy" and causes a loss of sales revenue.

"We are trying hard to clamp down on piracy, but we need help from others such as the Government," he added.

Mr Tan said more could be done to persuade people to move away from digital piracy. "Consumers could be allowed to customise their subscriptions so they need not pay a large fee to watch only a few programmes," he said.

The same survey also found that privacy was a key concern among people here who used digital services, as 81 per cent felt organisations should be more transparent about how they use the consumer information collected.

Some 72 per cent of respondents were also worried about having their personal data - such as location and messages - accessed, while 66 per cent felt the same for their online habits and behaviour.

These findings could be due to greater awareness of the need to safeguard personal data since legislation like the Personal Data Protection Act was enacted, said Mr Tan.

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Jail, fine and ban for taking part in illegal race

Straits Times
14 Apr 2017
Elena Chong

F&B manager hit top speed of 219kmh during midnight race around Seletar Link

A food and beverage manager, who clocked 219kmh in his wife's Nissan GTR in an illegal race around Seletar Link, was sentenced to two weeks' jail yesterday.

Koo Kwok En, 37, was also fined $2,500 and banned from driving for 18 months after admitting to taking part in the illegal race, dangerous driving by accelerating and travelling at very high speed, and driving without insurance coverage at 12.16am on May 9, 2015.

Two other charges were considered in sentencing.

The court heard that Koo had challenged Kevin Pratama Chandra, 24, to a race. Kevin was driving a Lamborghini. The duo and their friends were part of a group who had parked their high-performance cars along the left side of Seletar Link that day.

When Kevin gave the "OK ready" signal to start the race, the two vehicles accelerated rapidly, to the cheers of spectators at the side of the road. The GTR's in-car camera showed it hit 219kmh briefly towards the end of the race, way exceeding the speed limit of 60kmh.

Police officers on anti-illegal racing operations had spotted the GTR and Lamborghini driving off Seletar Link in the direction of Tampines Expressway.

Neither Koo nor Kevin had a permit from the police to take part in a "competition of speed". Koo admitted he knew his actions had caused danger to himself and other road users. Kevin is claiming trial.

Koo, represented by Mr Raymond Lye, could have been jailed for up to six months, fined up to $2,000 and banned from driving for at least 12 months for illegal racing.

The maximum penalty for dangerous driving is a $3,000 fine and 12 months' jail, and for the insurance charge, a $1,000 fine and three months' jail plus 12 months' disqualification.

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