27 October 2016
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Woman's divorce on grounds of separation wrong: Judge

Straits Times
27 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

District court should have dismissed claim as she was the one who walked out: High Court

Hearing a husband's appeal on the grounds for his divorce, the High Court said his wife should not have been allowed to divorce him on grounds of separation because she was the one who had walked out.

Instead, her husband's claim that she had deserted him was correct, said Justice Choo Han Teck.

Madam Law Fay Yuen had cited separation from her husband, Dr Teng Cheng Sin, for the preceding four years when she successfully applied to a district judge for divorce last year.

But the same court had also allowed Dr Teng's counter-claim that he be allowed to divorce her because she had deserted him.

Both cited June 28, 2010, as the date they parted.

"If the operative date was indeed 28 June, 2010, the husband's claim was correctly granted but the wife's claim ought to have been dismissed," Justice Choo Han Teck said in judgment grounds released yesterday.

The judge said desertion is based on one party being at fault, while separation is a "neutral ground with no adverse inference or finding of fault".

It is understood the point, which the judge noted was not raised by either party during the hearing, could affect how the assets are divided following the split.

"It may be considered by the court when assessing the non-financial contributions of a party and the time period could be discounted by the period of desertion," said Harry Elias Partnership lawyer Koh Tien Hua.

The couple, who are in their early 50s, were married in 1990 and have three children aged 18 to 23.

They were in the news more than a decade ago. Dr Teng ran a family practice clinic and operated a bubble tea shop on the same premises, while his accountant wife worked as his clinic assistant.

The district court had allowed his counter-claim for desertion as grounds for divorce but rejected his claim of her "unreasonable behaviour" as an additional ground.

Dr Tan was seeking a time extension from the High Court to file an appeal against the district court's decision not to grant the additional ground.

Justice Choo rejected his application, however, finding there was no point in his pursuing the appeal and urged the parties to proceed "expeditiously" to deal with follow-up matters related to their divorce.

"The claims by the husband that the wife had acted unreasonably are neither necessary nor sufficient... for him to obtain a divorce since he has already succeeded on the ground of desertion," said Justice Choo.

Dr Teng had catalogued several instances of alleged unreasonable behaviour by his wife, which included her complaint to the medical authorities that he sold controlled medicine illegally. He was charged in court but acquitted when the court found that it was the wife who sold the medicine at the bubble tea shop without his knowledge.

She had also complained to the authorities that her husband had bribed two of his patients to testify for him. But after a 15-day trial, he was acquitted when it was found that it was she who had offered the patients $50,000 not to testify.

Justice Choo said his claims of unreasonable behaviour, most of which occurred more than 10 years ago, could be considered, if necessary, for the post-divorce ancillary orders.

The case prompted the judge to recall the three wars between Rome and Carthage, which lasted more than 100 years from 261BC, after both realised they "could not live together side by side".

Things turned nasty for both as they had no court to resolve their quarrel in a civil manner.

"Here the recriminations between husband and wife are rife, and although the court will no doubt hear all their claims, it is not bound to allow them to dwell on petty points," said Justice Choo.

The judge said desertion is based on one party being at fault while separation is a "neutral ground with no adverse inference or finding of fault". It is understood the point, which the judge noted was not raised by either party during the hearing, could affect how the assets are divided following the split.

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

Teng Cheng Sin v Law Fay Yuen [2016] SGHCF 14

Review of SGX's bond framework needed

Straits Times
17 Oct 2016
Goh Eng Yeow

Safeguards like a credit rating can be included to help retail investors recognise degree of risk involved

The carnage in the bond market has been confined to well-heeled investors up to now, even though the sums involved would almost certainly exceed the $520 million of toxic Lehman minibonds sold to the public eight years ago.

Some market pundits believe the fact that this financial catastrophe hasn't maimed a much bigger group of investors, as the Lehman debacle did, can be pinned down to pure luck.

Most bonds issued by companies are sold on the wholesale market, which is operated by a network of bank dealers, because they face less stringent requirements. Firms can issue a short information memo, for example, rather than a full-blown prospectus outlining their business. This has kept the bonds out of the reach of retail investors because buying even one lot could set you back by up to $250,000.

So when marine services firm Swiber collapsed under a mountain of debt three months ago, the fallout hurt mostly "accredited" investors - people whose personal assets exceed $2 million or whose income in the preceding 12 months was $300,000 or more.

To some, the timing of this calamity was fortuitous in a way because it might have prevented other financial catastrophes that could have ensnared retail investors as well.

How is that possible, given the obstacles, such as the huge capital outlay, an investor must overcome before he gets access to the wholesale market? The answer lies with an initiative taken by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in May, after years of deliberation, to give companies the option of opening their bond issues to retail investors.

Under the so-called bond seasoning framework, a company can offer new bonds to retail investors on the same terms offered to original buyers on the wholesale market after the bonds have been listed for at least six months. The sweetener for retail investors is that their outlay can be as little as $1,000, instead of the $250,000 forked out by investors in the wholesale bond market.

Companies, of course, get to raise even more money by issuing new bonds - but without the hassle of producing a full-blown prospectus, which is one reason they turn to the wholesale bond market in the first place. It is just as well that Swiber failed shortly after the bond framework was launched, but the episode has soured the appetite for high-yield corporate bonds.

The Swiber mess also enables us to re-examine the criteria laid down by SGX for companies that want to explore such an option to raise money. An issuer that wants to re-tap the market under the seasoning framework must meet at least one criterion in each of the three tests set by SGX:

•The firm must have a market capitalisation of at least $1 billion over the previous 180 days, or net assets of $500 million in the most recent audited financial statement as well as annual average net assets of at least $500 million in the three most recent audited financial statements;

•It must have a listing on SGX or another recognised stock exchange for at least five years, or listed bonds on SGX for at least five years; and

•It must not have recorded a net loss and must have a positive net operating cash flow for the three most recent audited annual financial statements, or it must have a credit rating of BBB or higher, or it must have listed at least $500 million worth of bonds in the previous five years.

As criteria go, the first two tests will ensure that only fairly large listed firms, worth $1 billion or more, are able to issue the same kind of bonds to retail investors that they sold earlier on the wholesale market.

While a company's size is no guarantee of the quality of its bonds, this criterion will at least filter out the small and risky bond issuers whose debts are likely to be thinly traded.

It is the third test that worries some analysts. Requiring a company to either register a positive cash flow or have an investment-grade credit rating of at least BBB in order to qualify is prudent. But if a company fails to meet either of these criteria, is it still okay to let the firm go ahead to "re-tap" retail investors for more funds if the firm has listed at least $500 million worth of bonds in the previous five years?

Some will argue that raising so much money selling bonds does not necessarily make a company a safer bond issuer.

To them, Swiber makes a good example. As recently as three years ago, it had a market capitalisation of over $1 billion. It had also been a very active seller of bonds on the wholesale market, with 20 issues under its belt. When it defaulted, bond holders were left with $551 million worth of worthless debts.

This leaves us to wonder whether it would have tried to use SGX's bond seasoning framework to raise money from retail investors if that mechanism had been available three years ago.

What should be done?

One obvious tweak to SGX's bond seasoning framework would be to remove the criterion that allows a company to re-tap the market for funds simply because it has issued at least $500 million of bonds in the previous five years, even if it has a market capitalisation of $1 billion or more.

Another obvious recommendation would be to make it compulsory for any company wanting to re-tap retail investors for funds to have a credit rating on the bonds - just to provide an additional safeguard.

One question often raised about retail investors is whether they even bother to look beyond the headline-grabbing yield offered by a bond before hitting the ATMs with their applications.

If a bond has a credit rating, this would at least ensure that retail investors can tell at a glance what sorts of risks they are taking, even if they do not take the trouble to study the financials of the bond issuer.

Given the low interest rates, retail investors sometimes take extraordinary risks to earn a higher return without realising the dangers they could be facing.

To its credit, SGX tries to mitigate the hazards by proposing a string of tests to try to protect their interests, before allowing new type of investments such as the bonds now traded on the wholesale market to be made available to them.

But, sometimes, Murphy's Law gets in the way - anything that can go wrong will go wrong. In that sense, we are lucky that SGX's bond seasoning framework hadn't been utilised yet when Swiber collapsed.

One obvious tweak to SGX's bond seasoning framework would be to remove the criterion that allows a company to re-tap the market for funds simply because it has issued at least $500 million of bonds in the previous five years, even if it has a market capitalisation of $1 billion or more.

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

Court summons must be served in a way that calls attention to it: Forum

Straits Times
08 Oct 2016

We thank Mr Teo Choon Lik for his feedback ("Ensure receipt of court summons is acknowledged"; Wednesday).

Mr Teo raised concerns related to the personal service of court summons and the practice of affixing the summons on the front door when personal service cannot be done.

He is concerned that the service of summons done in this way can be removed by a third party and may attract unnecessary attention and cause embarrassment to the respondent.

The manner in which a court document, such as a summons, is served must be one which will bring it to the attention of the party to be served.

Under the law, it must be served personally on the person named in the summons.

Only if that cannot be done after repeated attempts will the law allow the summons to be served by leaving it with an adult member of the person's family or an employee residing with that person.

If this is still not possible, the law further allows the court to direct that it be affixed to some conspicuous part of the residence.

Although this may attract the attention of members of the public, it is likely to be brought to the attention of the person named in the summons.

It is a criminal offence for the summons to be removed by any other person.

Mr Teo further suggested alternative means of serving court documents by telephone, e-mail or registered mail.

There are practical difficulties, such as verifying the identity of the recipient of the telephone call or e-mail.

As for registered mail, the postal authorities do not require that only the addressee can acknowledge receipt, and hence, we cannot be certain that the correct party has been made aware of the summons.

It is important that parties to proceedings are made aware of the need to appear before the Family Justice Courts to answer the summons or applications against them.

In that light, where it can be shown that the party being served cannot be served personally, the Family Justice Courts will intervene to allow for service other than personal service.

Chia Wee Kiat


Family Justice Courts

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

Kovan murders: Apex court reserves judgment

Straits Times
27 Oct 2016
Selina Lum

Ex-cop appeals against death sentence, says he killed in self-defence

The fate of former cop Iskandar Rahmat, who was sentenced to death for the Kovan double murder, continues to hang in the balance after judgment was yesterday reserved on his appeal.

He was found guilty last December of killing car workshop owner Tan Boon Sin, 67, and his son Chee Heong, 42, on July 10, 2013, at the older man's Hillside Drive house.

Iskandar, 37, then escaped in the older victim's Toyota Camry. The son's body was caught under his father's car and was dragged for more than 1km.

At the hearing before the three Court of Appeal judges yesterday, his lawyer Wendell Wong relied on an argument that was raised earlier - that it was the father who attacked Iskandar first.

During the trial last year, Iskandar, who was facing bankruptcy, said he planned to only rob Mr Tan. He had found out that the victim kept a large amount of cash in a Certis Cisco safe deposit box, after Mr Tan lodged a police report about money being stolen from it.

To steal the remaining money, Iskandar posed as an intelligence officer. He persuaded Mr Tan to take out all his valuables, on the pretext of putting a surveillance camera inside the safe deposit box. He then offered to escort Mr Tan to his three-storey terraced house as he was carrying a lot of money. There, he killed the man.

But Iskandar said Mr Tan realised he was being tricked, became angry and attacked him with a knife. So, he slashed him in self defence.

Mr Wong yesterday said Mr Tan had reason to confront Iskandar as he stood to lose the $600,000 he had taken out from the safe deposit box. He said Mr Tan hid the money in the storeroom after he came home, and that suggested he had become suspicious of Iskandar.

The judges asked what could have alerted Mr Tan - who until then had been "comfortable" following Iskandar's instructions - to make him attack Iskandar with a knife.

Mr Wong suggested that Mr Tan's suspicions could have been raised during a phone conversation with his son when he was at home with Iskandar. The son left his office and drove to his father's house after the call.

Mr Wong urged the court to take a "holistic view" of "all the moving parts in the case", which did not gel with a plan to kill.

Besides, he knew "the wages of murder" was capital punishment, said Mr Wong.

The lawyer also tried to admit a forensic pathology report to support his contention that Iskandar suffered defensive injuries.

He also sought to admit a psychiatric report that showed Iskandar suffered from an acute stress reaction and an adjustment disorder at the time, and that qualified him for a defence of diminished responsibility.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Lit Cheng said the psychiatric report was not reliable as it was based on the "self-serving" account Iskandar gave to the defence psychiatrist. She added that Iskandar did not complain of any symptoms when he was interviewed by a government psychiatrist immediately after the killings.

Ms Lee said: "It's a clear case of double murder." She added that the multiple injuries suffered by both men showed that the attack was ferocious and intended to kill.

The apex court will give its decision at a later date.

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

The board's duties in a takeover

Business Times
17 Oct 2016
Lee Kim Shin

Any misstep could create a false market, or result in a director incurring personal liability or damage to his reputation

WHEN news of a potential takeover of a listed company breaks, shareholders and the public would usually look first to the board's response to the takeover offer.

Directors owe fiduciary duties to act in the best interests of the company, and this often means having proper regard for the collective interest of its shareholders.

This article outlines the obligations and issues that a target company's board should be aware of in three broad areas: communications, recommendation on takeover offer, and dealing with the offeror.


In a takeover, the target company's board's duty to shareholders includes notifying them, without undue delay, of an offer from a serious source, regardless of its views about the merits of the offer.

A firm offer is, however, different from the situation where a prospective bidder simply expresses, through private channels, an informal interest in the company and indicates it would like to discuss the next steps, including access to due diligence. In such circumstances, publicly announcing the approach from the interested party can be premature and inappropriate.

However, the board must keep a close watch for unusual movements in the company's share price, or a significant increase in the volume of share turnover. It must also ensure that information relating to the prospective bid is kept confidential, and that a list of persons privy to that information is kept.

Now, if there are unusual share price movements or significant increases in trading volume, or there are rumours in the market about a possible offer, the company should be transparent and make a prompt announcement about the potential offer.

In this regard, directors must be careful not to make statements that may mislead shareholders or the market. They should be especially mindful when engaging with the press. It is very difficult, after articles are published, to make corrections or alterations. Particular care must be taken during media briefings, as directors must immediately disclose to shareholders any material new information or significant new opinions.

Recommendation on the offer

When there is a firm offer, the offeree's board must make a recommendation on the takeover offer.

It goes without saying that the board must protect the interests of shareholders, and not their own interests or those derived from personal or family relationships. Once a board receives a takeover offer, it should immediately identify the directors who are independent in relation to the takeover offer. Directors with personal interests should declare them as soon as possible to the board.

Any director with an irreconcilable conflict of interest (for example, if he or she is also a director or officer of the offeror), must ask the Securities Industry Council to be recused from assuming responsibility for any recommendation. However, the conflicted director remains responsible for the accuracy of facts stated in any document that the company issues to its shareholders in relation to the offer.

To assure the shareholders that they have been given competent independent advice on the merits of the takeover offer, the target company's board must appoint an independent financial adviser (IFA) as soon as possible after it has received the offer, or after it has been approached with a view to an offer being made.

The substance of that advice must be made known to shareholders. The written advice from the IFA to the directors who are independent of the takeover forms part of the company's circular to shareholders that it has to prepare.

Dealing with the offeror

If the board believes that a bona fide offer is imminent, it must not take any steps that could result in either the offer being frustrated or the shareholders being denied a chance to decide on the merits of the offer. However, this does not mean that the board cannot solicit a competing offer or conduct an auction process. Such an action would normally be regarded as a prudent course of action which is undertaken in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.

The company is also allowed to enter into a break fee arrangement with the offeror or potential offeror. A break fee is a sum to be paid by a target company to the offeror or potential offeror if a specified event occurs and the offer fails. An example is when the board recommends a higher competing offer. A break fee must be minimal - normally no more than one per cent of the value of the company calculated by reference to the offer price. Of course, the board must act in good faith when negotiating a break fee; the Singapore Code on Take-overs and Mergers provides guidelines on the disclosure and terms of break fee arrangements.

Be prepared

A board needs to be well versed in its duties and responsibilities when dealing with a takeover offer. Above all, it must respond promptly to the takeover offer, and always have proper regard to the interests of the shareholders. These responsibilities should not be taken lightly. Any misstep could create a false market, or result in the director incurring personal liability or damaging his reputation. As a practical matter, it should engage competent advisers on legal, financial and investor relations matters to assist with such responsibilities.

  • The writer is a member of the Governing Council of the Singapore Institute of Directors.

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

Bond holders of troubled firms turn on trustee

Straits Times
08 Oct 2016
Marissa Lee

They find it hard to assert their rights, doubt trustee's usefulness

Bond holders who have turned their noses up at two issuers seeking to defer payment or cut into their principal are fast realising how difficult it is to assert their rights. Their frustration is now centred on DB International Trust, the trustee appointed to represent the interests of bond holders in Perisai Petroleum Teknologi and Rickmers Maritime.

The trustee is tasked with pursuing remedies and communicating with the issuers on bond holders' behalf. In the event of a default, bond holders can tell the trustee to demand accelerated payment. But the reality, as Perisai bond holders argue, is that the acceleration process is not quite so transparent.

According to e-mail correspondence produced by bond holders, DB International Trust had required a deposit of US$54,000 (S$74,100) and an indemnity form signed by holders of at least 25 per cent of the $125 millionnotes in order to serve the acceleration notice on Perisai.

DB later reduced the deposit to US$10,000 after bond holder objections, with the balance to be funded subsequently.

In the Rickmers case, holders of its $100 million bonds had twice requested DB to put out notices to individual investors in order for them to connect at independent meetings to discuss the appointment of their own financial adviser.

Both requests were rejected by DB, which said in e-mails that it had been told by the Central Depository (CDP) that any requests for the list of holders and nominees must come from the issuer.

A Singapore Exchange spokesman clarified yesterday that the CDP will request documentation from the trustee to verify that it is empowered under the Trust Deed before providing the list of note holders. A spokesman for DB International Trust declined to comment, citing confidentiality.

As talks with DB drag on, some bond holders have questioned the usefulness of the trustee. But Associate Professor Victor Yeo of the Nanyang Business School said: "When you need someone to act on behalf of so many people, it will take time."

Prof Yeo said the heart of the issue lies with the way the bonds were marketed and sold here, rather than a lack of corporate governance processes. "The question is whether it is a valid assumption that having more than $2 million in assets means you want to go and educate yourself (on the products). Unfortunately, a lot of bond holders don't really read the trust deed and it's not explained to them."

He added: "As a bond holder, you should know that you're lending money to a company and if the company can't repay because of operational challenges, you won't get your money back."

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

To be a FinTech hub, Singapore needs RegTech

27 Oct 2016

Singapore is working hard to develop its financial technology (FinTech) industry and results are beginning to show.

In a recent report by Deloitte, Singapore was tied with London as the top FinTech hub in the world. Both cities attained a score of 10 on the index — the best score among financial centres ranked.

The score is an aggregate of a city’s position on three business indices, the Global Financial Centre Index, Doing Business 2016 and Global Innovation Index, with a lower score associated with an environment more conducive to the growth of FinTech.

As Singapore begins to reap the benefits of melding technology and finance in FinTech, it also needs to explore how technology can contribute to more effective financial regulation through what is known today as regulatory technology, or RegTech.

Singapore’s robust and transparent regulatory infrastructure has always been a crucial determinant of its success as a global financial centre.

Indeed, the Deloitte report highlights Singapore’s regulatory infrastructure as a key driver of its growing FinTech industry, along with its business-friendly environment, supportive Government and easy access to expertise.

However, there may be emerging regulatory challenges associated with the proliferation of FinTech solutions and technologies.

The new financial instruments and business models that FinTech start-ups bring with them add a level of regulatory complexity. Unlike traditional banks, FinTech start-ups may not be as well capitalised or leveraged. This suggests higher levels of risk.

Furthermore, the introduction of technologies that involve high-speed machine trading makes financial transactions and activities harder to track and regulate.

As the 2008 Global Financial Crisis has shown, the inability of regulators to keep up with financial complexity and innovation can be disastrous.

Given this context, RegTech can provide regulators with a set of tools that can help them quickly identify risks and formulate the appropriate regulatory responses.

The governments of major financial markets are beginning to explore the potential of RegTech. For instance, the government of the United Kingdom had allocated funds in its 2015 budget towards the development of RegTech technologies for improving regulatory outcomes. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has taken it a step further by setting up a dedicated RegTech team and introducing new software to augment its regulatory policies.

These include the Market Entity Compliance System, an online stockbroker monitoring system, and Enhanced Investigative Analytics, which track unusual market trading patterns through data analytics.

There is, therefore, a growing application of RegTech to financial regulatory policy among major developed economies. However, this does not suggest that technology alone can solve all regulatory problems.

Like traditional financial regulation, RegTech is much more than its methods and technology. The expertise of the human regulator is still crucial for effective regulation, and it is important to keep this at the centre of financial regulation.

For instance, IBM recently announced the purchase of Promontory, a consultancy firm whose senior staff comprises former regulatory officials from the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This has allowed IBM to incorporate the expertise of these former regulators into the programming of Watson, its cognitive artificial intelligence platform. Watson has been used for a variety of policy applications, with financial regulation being one of them.

This is a significant step forward and highly important for the future of regulation, given that artificial intelligence technologies such as Watson are likely to become a crucial element of governments’ future RegTech toolkits.

As both the FinTech sector and Singapore’s financial services industry in general continues to grow and diversify, there is a similar need to leverage both technology and human expertise to ensure effective financial regulation.

While there has been immense hype around FinTech, there has been much less interest in RegTech, with start-ups in this area few and far between.

Next month, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is holding its inaugural RegTech Forum, as part of its FinTech Festival, to bring together regulators, start-ups and entrepreneurs to explore the latest RegTech developments.

The authority has already begun to explore the possibilities of developing new RegTech solutions; for instance, its Application Programming Interface architecture facilitates the streamlining of banks’ submission of applications and transactions. This will make information disclosure more efficient.

But more needs to be done. For instance, Singapore needs to explore the possibility of developing artificial intelligence platforms that can flag risks and recommend regulatory responses in an automated manner.

RegTech start-ups and entrepreneurs with the technical expertise and technological infrastructure will play a crucial role in the development of such tools.

If Singapore is to retain its position as a leading FinTech hub in Asia and the world, it must now pay closer attention to the regulatory side of FinTech, particularly RegTech.

This, in turn, means making RegTech as attractive and exciting a business prospect for start-ups and entrepreneurs as FinTech, for the two go hand in hand in driving Singapore’s future as a FinTech hub.


Woo Jun Jie is an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University and a Rajawali Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

High time for laws to catch up on drones: Experts

17 Oct 2016
Valerie Koh

New drone models are being launched at such a rapid clip, it’s outpacing the ability to police them

SINGAPORE — Some can hit speeds of 80km per hour and stay aloft for 45 minutes. Others are small enough to fit into the palm of your hand with a camera attached; and some can even pelt small projectiles.

With drone technology heating up and becoming more readily available to consumers, industry players are cautioning that the technology could be outpacing the ability to police the risks, and are urging that laws be reviewed more frequently, while acknowledging the difficulties of enforcement.

Laws were passed in Parliament in May last year to assuage concerns over safety, security and privacy surrounding unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Bill outlines regulations for the safe flying of drones and enforcement action against errant users. For instance, permits are required to fly drones above 7kg, or within a 5km radius of an aerodrome.

Despite the regulations, the Government received a report of a remote control aeroplane that damaged the roof of a housing block in Bishan in the past year.

To date, the operator has not been located, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in a written parliamentary response last week.

Meanwhile, flashy new models are entering the market. Just two weeks ago, Paris-based developer Parrot launched four new drones, available at retailers Challenger and Popular.

The lightweight Disco drone’s features — for instance, a view from the “cockpit” of the drone streamed to the operator in real time through a pair of high-tech glasses — are not necessarily new, but the top speed of 80km per hour for a maximum flight duration of 45 minutes have raised eyebrows.

Its counterpart, the Mambo drone, comes equipped with “cannons” that can fire small balls just strongly enough to burst a balloon, and “grabbers” that can pick up small items.

Experts point to the risks of increasingly sophisticated drone technology accessible to the man on the street at brick-and-mortar shops or online, such as high-definition video capabilities making it easier for surveillance to be carried out furtively.

“It’s quite a strange time for UAVs,” said Dr Foong Shaohui, a Singapore University of Technology and Design assistant professor with an interest in robotics and unmanned systems. “It’s gotten cheaper and anyone can get one.”

“Without proper training, even a drone weighing just 1kg can cause property damage and serious injuries. In this aspect, the Act does have some inadequacies,” he said.
“Even if you stop the sale of a particular (potentially dangerous) drone, someone can actually make it at home.” Round-the-clock enforcement would be difficult, he added.
Last year, a drone was flown into White House grounds in the United States, crashing onto the lawn.

Before the Act kicked in last year, then Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said in Parliament that there had been more than 20 reported incidents involving drones between April 2014 and May last year, two of which involved the drones falling onto MRT tracks.

In such cases, it can be “almost impossible” to find the pilot after, said Mr Mohamed Faisal Mohamed Salleh, deputy director of Nanyang Technology University’s Air Traffic Management Research Institute.

He suggested using aircraft surveillance technology, in which aircraft are tracked through satellite navigation, to trace the positions of all UAVs.

“In research, we’re looking beyond this. We could be using telco networks or wireless networks, or creating an Electronic Road Pricing system in the sky. It’s another way of tracking,” he said.

The Workers’ Party’s Gerald Giam, who spoke about unmanned aircraft regulations when he was a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament last year, proposed fitting drones above a certain weight and size with geo-fencing capabilities, to prevent them from entering prohibited spaces.

“To prevent the use of drones for terrorist attacks, it’s necessary for our security agencies to acquire the latest technologies available to ‘detect and defeat’ rogue drones, and have personnel trained to employ them during emergencies,” said Mr Giam.

Government Parliamentary Committee (Home Affairs and Law) member Desmond Choo felt it was a matter of time before more incidents involving unmanned aircraft, such as the crash in Bishan highlighted by Mr Khaw, surfaced.

“We must prepare for this eventually. The education part is critical, and we shouldn’t just target users, but the companies bringing in drones as well,” he said. Education campaigns could be conducted, to drill operators on the dos and don’ts of flying drones, he added.

His view was echoed by Mr Derrick Tan, owner of drone retailer Sky Hobbies Singapore. “It’s our duty to inform customers when they buy. We have to do our part to protect the reputation of the community,” said Mr Tan.

Retailer Drone Matters’ owner Xu Zhuohua added: “Drones are something you can buy off the shelf and also buy parts and build your own. It’ll be almost impossible to license each and every one of them. It’s more important to have education and common sense.”

Mr Yue Keng Mun, of Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Engineering, proposed allocating indoor or fenced-up outdoor spaces for operators to hone their flying skills.

But Mr Khaw had said in his parliamentary reply that promoting shared used of space in land-scarce Singapore was preferable to setting aside special flying parks.

Singapore Management University’s Chen Siyuan, an assistant professor of law, noted that as some countries struggle trying to come up with “the perfect regulatory framework”, others are moving from restrictive regulations to “more permissive frameworks”.

This is in recognition of the fact that most drone users are responsible, and there are many benefits to using drones, such as news gathering.
“The United States, for example, started out with a whole suite of oppressive regulations, but they’ve scaled back a lot, and now the flying culture there is strong,” he said.

Responding to TODAY’s queries on the potential regulatory challenges that spruced-up drones could pose, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said these drones would have to be assessed on a “case-to-case” basis.

“To facilitate the use of unmanned aircraft in Singapore, CAAS constantly keeps abreast of new developments and technologies and adapt best practices in our regulatory approach,” said a CAAS spokeswoman.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

How to buy an HDB flat while overseas

Straits Times
08 Oct 2016
Janice Heng

Reader Nancy Goh, a single Singaporean senior citizen now working in the United States, intends to return home when she retires within the next five years. She wanted to confirm what flats she is eligible to buy, and whether she can arrange for a Power of Attorney for her sibling to apply for a flat on her behalf.

Housing reporter Janice Heng answers her questions.

Singles aged 35 and older can buy a new two-room flexi flat directly from the Housing Board, through Build-to-Order or Sale of Balance Flats exercises.

If they would like to buy a larger flat, they will have to do so on the open resale market.

Flat buyers may indeed appoint someone to act on their behalf through a Power of Attorney (POA), said the HDB.

They should consult a private solicitor to prepare this legal document. For applicants who are overseas, the POA must be prepared by the solicitor and signed by the applicant in the presence of a notary public, the Singapore High Commissioner, or a Singapore Ambassador in the country of their stay.

The solicitor has to register the signed POA with the Singapore High Court Registry.

Applications to buy a flat directly from the HDB can be submitted online (http://www.hdb.gov.sg/cs/infoweb/homepage).

If the application is successful but the buyers cannot attend the appointment to book their flat personally, they may authorise a representative to do so on their behalf.

This is done by completing an authorisation form that can be found on the HDB's website.

After booking a flat, they will need to sign the Agreement for Lease and pay the down payment. When the flat is completed, they will be invited to collect the keys within one month of being notified.

Either the flat buyers or their appointed representative will need to attend these appointments at the HDB sales office. Requests to defer key collection will be considered on a case-by-case basis, said the HDB.

For resale flats, the buyers or their appointed representative must attend two appointments at the HDB office together with the flat sellers: first to discuss administrative details, and then to complete the resale transaction.

Even after a POA has been arranged, there are some documents that must be signed personally by the flat applicant and mailed to the HDB.

These are the application form, the statutory declaration signed in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths or notary public, and letters of undertaking.

Buyers of resale flats must also sign and submit the resale checklist for buyers.

Singles aged 35 and older can buy a new two-room flexi flat directly from the Housing Board, through Build-to-Order or Sale of Balance Flats exercises.

If they would like to buy a larger flat, they will have to do so on the open resale market.

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

Murder trial: Alleged accomplice says he was scared

Straits Times
27 Oct 2016
Amir Hussain

An alleged accomplice of a businessman accused of killing his wife's lover took the stand to testify on the second day of his trial yesterday.

Businessman Chia Kee Chen, 56, is accused of killing material analyst Dexmon Chua Yizhi, 37, between the night of Dec 28 and the early hours of Dec 29, 2013.

The alleged murder took place in a van driven by Chua Leong Aik, 67, who is serving a five-year jail term for abduction and causing grievous hurt by dangerous means.

Speaking through a Hokkien interpreter, Chua told the court that he met Chia and his Indonesian worker Febri Irwansyah Djatmiko, who is still at large, on the night of Dec 28, 2013. Chua, a cleaning supervisor, is Chia's friend of more than 20 years.

They parked a van at the third level of a multi-storey carpark at Block 429A, Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4.

Chia, Febri and the victim later went into the back of the van, but Chua told the court he did not know the victim was being abducted at the time.

Chua sat in the front of the van and later drove it to Lim Chu Kang. While driving the vehicle, he heard knocking sounds, heavy breathing and also smelt blood.

Some time between 11pm and midnight, Chua said he stopped the van in the Lim Chu Kang area and got out because he was frightened.

The prosecution's case is that the victim was assaulted by Chia and Febri and forced into the van. And while in the van, the victim was further assaulted and his hands and feet tied up. The extensive injuries the victim sustained to his face and head were fatal.

After Chua got cold feet and left the van, the prosecution believes that Chia drove the vehicle to a live-firing area in Lim Chu Kang to dump the victim's body.

Chia then returned the van, which was borrowed from a friend of his sister-in-law, after he and Febri had allegedly spent an hour washing it at a fish farm.

Yesterday, Mr Peter Douglas Wilson, a senior consultant forensic scientist with the Health Sciences Authority, also testified.

Mr Wilson said he found blood from the victim on the rear wall and ceiling of parking space 290 at the multi-storey carpark, as well as on several areas on the surface of the victim's car. He also found the victim's blood on several spots in the van's rear interior area, as well as on the passenger and driver's seats, and on the steering wheel.

If found guilty of murder, Chia faces the death penalty or life imprisonment. His wife, who testified on Tuesday, was not in court yesterday. The trial continues today.

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

Singapore debt restructuring hurdle flagged by Pacific Andes

Singapore Law Watch
15 Oct 2016
Denise Wee

The decision by a fish distributor listed in Singapore to abandon local court proceedings and seek U.S. bankruptcy protection shows the hurdles the city faces in its bid to become a global debt restructuring hub.

Pacific Andes Resources Development Ltd., which defaulted on a S$200 million ($145 million) note in January, filed last month in the U.S. for protection against action by creditors. It did so after certain lenders filed to wind up the firm and its subsidiaries in Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands. That followed a Singapore court’s decision to only offer a moratorium preventing creditors from enforcing claims on assets in the city, but not elsewhere.

Singapore is positioning itself as a fundraising hub for Asia and its ambitions include grabbing a share of debt workouts as defaults rise globally. Indranee Rajah, senior minister of state for law, said in July that Singapore should be a global restructuring center similar to New York and London, not just a venue for local reorganizations. But as slowing economic growth leads to more delinquencies, use of U.S. bankruptcy protection is spreading.

“Singapore faces competition in its ambitions to be a restructuring hub given the U.S. courts’ entrenched position,” said Damien Whitehead, a partner at White & Case LLP. “The reason why Chapter 11 is very appealing is that it has a worldwide moratorium that puts the shutters down on any enforcement by any creditor worldwide.”

Singapore is "already an established center for regional restructurings" and filing bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. can complement work coordinated out of the city, the Ministry of Law said in an e-mailed response to questions. It said a committee recognized that more could be done, including allowing local courts to grant "a moratorium with in personam worldwide effect to creditors within Singapore’s jurisdiction, and to extend such moratoriums to related entities of a debtor." The government in July broadly approved those recommendations and will propose legal amendments later this year, the ministry said.

The need for an improved restructuring framework is increasing after four defaults in the past 12 months. The amount of local bonds issuers must repay will jump to S$3.3 billion in the first quarter of next year and S$3.6 billion in the second quarter, up from S$1.9 billion in the current period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Singapore’s economy contracted by an annualized 4.1 percent during the third quarter from the previous three months, the trade ministry said in a report on Friday.

Jessie Ng, executive chairman of Pacific Andes, said in an e-mailed statement last week that banks’ appointment of liquidators and wind-up orders left the company with no realistic option but to file for Chapter 11 protection.

“We would like to reassure Pacific Andes bondholders in Singapore that, against the background of a threatened and urgent liquidation, the Chapter 11 filings are overall beneficial to them,” Ng wrote, adding that bondholders will be part of a consensual and global restructuring process. The company said that the banks were exploiting the Singapore court’s findings that its moratorium applied only within the city.

Expanded Protection

Alvarez & Marsal Asia Ltd. said that for Singapore tobecome a restructuring hub, it needs to ensure that companieshave protection from creditors in other jurisdictions. TheChapter 11 process leaves the company in charge of the business“to a large extent,” said Thomas Dillenseger, a Hong Kong-basedsenior director at the restructuring firm.

He said local creditors less familiar with the Chapter 11process than U.S. counterparts risk losing out. Bondholders inSingapore have also cited costs and familiarity as challenges.

“We have no legal representative for the U.S. hearing atthe moment,” said Keith Kueh, 43, who said he owns S$250,000 ofPacific Andes bonds. “Nothing is within our control now.”

FTI Consulting Inc. said that the Pacific Andes decisionhighlights the “limitations” of Singapore’s existing laws.

“Should the law be changed in Singapore to enable companiesto take advantage of the worldwide effect of Chapter 11-likemoratorium provisions, they won’t need to go to the U.S.,” saidNick Gronow, a Singapore-based senior managing director at FTIConsulting, a restructuring firm. “That would be a game changerin the world of restructuring.”

Used with permission of Bloomberg L.P. Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved.

Courts to work on solving cross-border insolvencies

Straits Times
07 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

With cross-border bankruptcy cases potentially a growing trend, Singapore courts are taking the lead to work out communication guidelines with other court jurisdictions in order to deal consistently with the assets of a failed company spread across different countries.

Singapore will next week host the inaugural Judicial Insolvency Network conference. At the event, 11 insolvency judges from eight territories including the United States and Australia will meet to develop guidelines for communication and cooperation between national courts in cross-border restructuring and insolvency cases.

Judicial Commissioners Aedit Abdullah and Kannan Ramesh will represent the Singapore judiciary.

In January, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon cited cross-border insolvency as a "prime example" of how Singapore "will have to be open to new ways of doing things" in the face of globalised businesses.

"Cross-border corporate failure raises the prospect of multiple proceedings in different jurisdictions which can give rise to inconsistent outcomes and a rush to lay claims over available assets," he said, as he called for guidelines for courts from diverse jurisdictions seeking an orderly resolution to the same case.

Lawyers say when courts do not cooperate, each might decide differently on how to deal with the bankrupt enterprise.

"It would lead to creditors shopping from one jurisdiction to another to lay claim to assets, creating uncertainty, increasing costs and diminishing asset value," said leading restructuring and insolvency lawyer Chou Sean Yu of WongPartnership.

Another leading practitioner, Mr Ashok Kumar of BlackOak LLC, said the conference is a step in the right direction, as without such a universal approach, coming up with a cross-border corporate rescue plan would be difficult.

In 2009, bilateral court-to-court communication helped facilitate the insolvency proceedings of telecoms giant Nortel in the US and Canada, leading to consistent decisions in distributing the US$7.3 billion (S$10 billion) gleaned from selling its assets.

In a statement, the Singapore Supreme Court said the conference "dovetails with the increasing focus and concerted efforts of various local stakeholders to fortify Singapore's position as an international debt restructuring centre".

The event is timely as regional law firms are seeing a significant increase in insolvency and restructuring work amid rising global corporate defaults, it added.



It would lead to creditors shopping from one jurisdiction to another to lay claim to assets, creating uncertainty, increasing costs and diminishing asset value.

MR CHOU SEAN YU, WongPartnership lawyer, on what will happen if courts do not cooperate.

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


ADV: A STEP closer to understanding Estate Planning

Singapore Law Watch
27 Oct 2016
Rockwills Institute

Action against banks just one volley in all-out war against money laundering

15 Oct 2016
Lee Yen Nee

SINGAPORE — In recent years, money laundering and terrorism financing have increasingly come under the international spotlight — with Singapore, given its financial hub status, never far from centrestage.

The global dragnet around scandal-hit Malaysian state investment fund 1MDB saw regulators in at least 10 countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore, launching investigations to crack down on accounts involved in the alleged misappropriation of funds.

The probes have resulted in million-dollar penalties and the revoking of licences of banks found to have breached anti-money-laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) requirements.

Earlier this week, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) ordered the shutdown of Swiss-based Falcon Private Bank. The action came less than five months after the central bank revoked the licence of another Swiss bank, BSI. So far, other banks — including Singapore bank DBS — have been fined, while three individuals have been charged in court.

But as regulators around the world tighten their watch on banks and financial institutions to prevent money-laundering and terrorism-financing offences, culprits are shifting their illicit activities away from the financial sector and into unsuspecting — and often less-regulated — areas such as metals trading, property deals, charities and even schools.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) describes money laundering as the process by which proceeds from a criminal activity are disguised to conceal their illicit origin. Terrorist financing, on the other hand, involves the solicitation, collection or provision of funds with the intention to use these to support terrorist acts or organisations. Funds may stem from both legal and illicit sources.

Just two months ago, Christian charity organisation World Vision saw its Gaza operations manager Mohammad El Halabi arrested and charged after being accused of funnelling about US$7.2 million (S$9.99 million) a year to support Palestinian militant group Hamas.

In its report on Emerging Terrorist Financing Risks published in October last year, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — an inter-governmental body that develops and promotes policies for AML/CFT — also cited a case in southern Thailand, where an Islamic school was used as a shelter for terrorists. A search of the school by Thai authorities uncovered guns that were later proved to have been used in several terrorist incidents. They also found proof of forged receipts for stationery and other teaching items that were used to receive reimbursement from the authorities.
Such incidents pile additional pressure on governments globally to keep regulations relevant in order to counter threats that have morphed with the emergence of new technologies, and the increasing sophistication and complexity of transnational crimes.

The 1MDB scandal is an example of how Singapore can be entangled in the complex global web of transnational money laundering. As a key financial centre housing more than 1,500 financial institutions of varying sizes and S$2.6 trillion worth of assets under management — the majority of which are foreign sourced — experts say it is inevitable that the Republic would fall victim to money-laundering attempts.

Mr Kwok Wui San, regulations leader at PwC Singapore, said: “I suspect it is actually getting more difficult than before to launder money through Singapore because of the increased sophistication of our authorities and controls at financial institutions, (but) obviously, criminals will continue to find innovative and more complex ways to do so.”

This means that Singapore cannot rest on its laurels, and there is more work to be done to strengthen the AML/CFT regime here, especially when it is situated in a region where several terrorist groups operate actively, said the FATF in a report last month that called on the Republic to do more to pursue cross-border offenders in complex transnational cases.

This year alone, four Bangladeshi workers were convicted of raising money here to fund terror attacks in their home country, and two others were convicted for laundering bribes on behalf of former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Thomas Somare. The eldest son of former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was also convicted in Bangladesh for laundering money through a Singapore bank account.

Singapore has been busy buttressing its defences — drafting new laws and rolling out new measures to curb the scourge. Away from the banking sector, lawyers and accountants are also getting in on the act, with industry associations setting out guidelines and organising workshops. However, significant gaps remain, say experts, who added that fighting the problem requires nothing short of a whole-of-nation effort, right down to individuals being alert in their work transactions. The challenge is in getting the man in the street to realise the damaging impact that money laundering will have on the country in the long term.


The United Nations (UN) estimates that 2 to 5 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) — or US$800 billion to US$2 trillion — is laundered worldwide every year, underlining the seriousness of an issue that governments have pledged to address.

The FATF, a 37-member organisation set up by the G7 Summit in Paris in 1989, has drawn up international standards in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. As part of its work, the taskforce examines money-laundering techniques and trends, and sets out measures that need to be taken to clamp down on such crimes. The FATF also monitors the progress of its member countries in implementing necessary measures and conducts in-depth evaluations focusing on the robustness of their legal and regulatory frameworks for combating illicit financing, as well as how effectively they are being implemented.

The IMF, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank also conduct assessments on members and offer technical assistance to countries to strengthen their AML/CFT frameworks.

Singapore is a member of the FATF and adopts a whole-of-government approach to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, led by the National Steering Committee for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing. The committee includes the permanent secretaries of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Finance, as well as the managing director of the MAS.

In recent years, the Republic has strengthened the regulatory oversight of the financial sector, as well as at-risk non-financial sectors involving lawyers, accountants, corporate services providers, pawnbrokers and real-estate salespersons.

Examples of AML/CFT framework enhancements include requiring real-estate agents since 2013 to lodge suspicious transaction reports if they have reasons to suspect that any transaction may be connected to illicit funds or terrorism. The agents also need to screen clients against UN lists of terrorists, terrorist organisations and other designated entities. Since last year, corporate services providers are required to conduct better customer due diligence and enhance record keeping.

More recently, the MAS had set up an AML department to streamline responsibilities for regulatory policies relating to money laundering and other illicit-financing risks. The central bank also established a dedicated supervisory team to monitor these risks and to carry out on-site supervision of how financial institutions manage these risks.

Although laws have been tightened and regulators are becoming more intrusive in governing the various at-risk segments, criminals can always fall through the cracks, experts told TODAY. This is especially so with the advancement of technology, which has given birth to virtual currencies such as Bitcoin — a concept that regulators around the world are still grappling with but that is reportedly being used by extremist groups such as the Islamic State — and new channels to move and raise funds.

According to the FATF report, Russia, for instance, saw a group of individuals raise funds under the pretext of collecting donations for Syrian refugees, people in need of medical and financial aid, and for the construction of mosques, schools and kindergartens.

Collected funds were moved through a chain of transfers involving credit card accounts and e-wallets, and were withdrawn in cash to be further transported by couriers to the intended terrorists and their families.

Technology is not the only factor keeping regulators on their toes. Globalisation and freer movement of goods around the world have also opened up new avenues for financial crimes and increased the complexity of mitigating such risks.

Assistant Professor Johan Sulaeman, from the Department of Finance at the National University of Singapore’s Business School, said: “It is difficult to have a system that is 100 per cent (secure), so there is always a possibility of (incidents) falling through the cracks. Regulators should not only punish such mistakes, but also identify why they happen.”
He added: “Humans are ingenious and they will always be able to find cracks in the system.”

He suggested that an anonymous whistleblowing hotline may be one way to close the gap. “However, this will end up requiring a lot of resources to weed out irrelevant and spurious reports that lack substance. Incentivising whistleblowers when their reports turn out to be useful, following the United States’ practice, for example, may generate more credible and detailed reports from whistleblowers,” he added.


The Republic’s financial institutions — in particular, banks — have been at the frontline of the nation’s AML/CFT programme. But as awareness of AML/CFT in the financial sector increases, criminals will find it harder to launder their money through banks and will look for alternative conduits such as lawyers and accountants.

Mr S Suressh, who chairs the Law Society’s anti-money laundering committee, told TODAY: “In the course of the discharge of our professional services, lawyers have occasions to handle funds on behalf of our clients. There is a risk that, in so doing, we will inadvertently assist criminals. Accordingly, there is an onus on the legal profession to recognise the kind of activities that lend themselves to money laundering, and to make due enquiries in respect of the same.”

He added that such enquiries include verifying the identity of clients, understanding transactions that lawyers handle and establishing the source of clients’ funds. If enquiries raise suspicions, lawyers are obliged to make a suspicious transaction report to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

The Law Society has been conducting AML training and inspecting law firms to ensure compliance since 2008. Mr Suressh said the level of awareness and preparedness among law firms in Singapore is generally good.

Accountants and auditors, whose responsibilities include deep involvement in entities’ money flows and controls, are also seen as key gatekeepers of the integrity of Singapore’s financial system.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants’ (ACCA) Asia-Pacific head of policy Chiew Chun Wee said that other than the skills to detect signs of financial crimes, accountants need to have the “ethical core to do the right thing”.

“That underlines everything that accountants and auditors do, and if that ethical core falls away, everything will collapse,” he said.

Mr Lee Fook Chiew, chief executive of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA), said incidents of money laundering and terrorism financing encountered by accounting firms in Singapore are still fairly rare. However, as criminals become more sophisticated, firms should step up customer due diligence processes to ensure they are not involved, directly or indirectly, with criminal organisations.

While the legal and accounting fraternities have largely taken to their roles in Singapore’s fight against money laundering and terrorism financing, awareness in other non-financial sectors may be lacking.

The FATF’s recent assessment of the Republic’s AML/CFT framework concluded that, while regulations are generally sound, some enhancements are needed in specific areas such as precious stones and metals dealings. There have been examples overseas of these areas being used as conduits to launder money, particularly as a store of value to move illicit proceeds.

Since October 2014, a cash transaction regime has been implemented in Singapore for precious stones and metals dealers, requiring them to — among other things — file a report with the CAD within 15 business days when they conduct any cash transaction exceeding S$20,000 or the equivalent in foreign currencies.

The real-estate sector, whose AML/CFT requirements were also fairly nascent, also needs time to instil greater awareness among its stakeholders, property agents told TODAY. An agent, who wished to be known only as Alvin, said: “We have CEA (Council for Estate Agencies) guidelines to follow, but I think the majority of property agents in Singapore focus on serving the domestic population, so many of us don’t come in contact with suspicious deals, or we won’t be inclined to think they’re suspicious. More guidance on the risks and how to be more vigilant will help.”

As the country’s AML/CFT requirements for some of the non-financial sectors only came into effect as recently as last year, they will need time to adapt and grow capabilities in this area, noted Mr Lem Chin Kok, head of forensic at KPMG in Singapore.

“It is reasonable to expect that the (non-financial) industry has room to improve in their understanding of money laundering and terrorism-financing risks, and the implementation of more robust frameworks to mitigate such risks. Also, some may not be as well-resourced as the bigger financial institutions, and the demand for AML subject matter experts in the industry exceeds the supply,” Mr Lem said.

“Similar to how it took financial institutions years to get to their level of maturity in AML/CFT, non-financial business professions could also take some time to enhance their capabilities,” he added.

All these are works in progress for the Singapore authorities, who have pledged to study the FATF assessment report and will take further steps to strengthen the framework here.


Even though money laundering may seem like a distant concept that does not immediately affect the lives of ordinary Singapore residents, the strategies and channels for money laundering can be easily turned to illegal purposes, in particular terrorist financing — the reason the two topics are often dealt with together, Mr Suressh noted.

Apart from national security, Singapore’s reputation as a clean financial centre is also at stake. More importantly, the Republic does not want to be the weak link in the global fight against financial crimes.

Professor Sum Yee Loong, from the School of Accountancy at Singapore Management University, said: “Singapore, being an international financial centre, an international trading hub and aviation hub, is extremely vulnerable to the effects of terrorism. This is because acts of terrorism in Singapore will immediately affect the confidence and reputation of the country as a safe and trusted international financial centre, an international trading hub and aviation hub.”

He added: “It is important that Singapore is not only rigorously enforcing the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing, it is also very important to be seen by the world at large that Singapore is extremely serious in (this fight) … Often times, it is the perception that is just as important as the actual enforcement.”

ISCA’s Mr Lee reiterated that, apart from social and political stability, a country’s business reputation can also be damaged if money laundering and terrorism financing related crimes rise, “making it less attractive to international investors”, he said.

In the long term, the economy will be damaged, noted UOB economist Francis Tan. Any financial crime uncovered in Singapore will first hit those directly related to the company involved as the withdrawal of licence and financial penalties may put employees at risk of losing their jobs. Over the longer term, more of such cases may result in weaker job prospects and wage growth, which can in turn hurt Singapore and Singaporeans.

“If we connect the dots, putting our guard down on AML/CFT can have quite serious repercussions in the long term, so we need to make sure that we don’t go down that road,” Mr Tan said.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Court grants Swiber's JM bid, orders filing of cost schedule

Business Times
07 Oct 2016
Anita Gabriel

HIT by mounting claims from creditors and trade suppliers and worsening cash crunch, Swiber Holdings' plea for a shot at rescuing its business under a court-supervised plan was answered on Thursday.

The Singapore High Court granted the firm's application to place both Swiber and its key operating unit Swiber Offshore Construction (SOC) under judicial management (JM) which signals the start of a process that could last up to 180 days - or less or more depending on the outcome.

This follows two months after the struggling oilfield services firm stunned the market when it moved to wind up its operations, blowing the cover on its dire straits only to switch tact and opt for the JM route days later after persuasion from its key banker DBS.

The ruling was delivered by Judicial Commissioner Kannan Ramesh who also ordered that a cost schedule be filed within a month from the JM order and be made available to creditors. Lawyers say clarity on the costs schedule is key as it will allow creditors to weigh the cost benefits of the rescue process against the potential returns.

JC Ramesh also ordered that the JMs (judicial managers) provide updates to creditors of the two companies every six weeks although the first update won't be necessary if a meeting is called within 60 days.

These two terms were earlier put forth to the court by Andrew Chan of Allen & Gledhill who was representing noteholders of Swiber's sukuk totalling S$200 million.

No creditors were physically present at the hearing on Thursday, although over 10 of them including DBS were represented by their respective lawyers, all of whom expressed "no objection" or took "no position" on a JM order.

JC Ramesh also suggested that given the number of creditors and the disparity in their categories that it could add value to form a creditors committee for the JMs to deal with them as a "composite group".

Lawyers familiar with the process say that generally, at the end of 60 days, the JMs will hold a meeting to present their proposal - a broad outline of a rehabilitation plan - to creditors. If creditors don't like the plan, the JM may put up an alternative plan, request more time or the rescue plan could be abandoned altogether - all this with the court's supervision.

In other words, 60 days from hereon could turn out to be crunch time to determine the fate of Swiber.

In his submission earlier as counsel for Swiber, Ashok Kumar of BlackOak LLC said that should the projections by IJMs (interim judicial managers) come to fruition, it is entirely likely that the returns would be better than in a liquidation scenario.

In a supplemental report dated Sept 27 filed by KPMG's head of advisory Bob Yap who was leading Swiber's IJMs - he and two others from KPMG are now the JMs - Mr Yap said that proposals have been received from 27 investors to provide equity/debt financing, asset financing and project financing. These, he said, suggest "reasonable prospects" of refinancing or recapitalising the group.

The report also stated that as at Sept 23, the group had seven projects worth US$1.7 billion and a potential order book of US$608 million based on projects it has bid for. In addition, Swiber could potentially raise US$294.9 million in working capital from disposal of fleet of vessels and property and insurance claims.

"On the strength of their projections and analyses, the IJMs should not be denied the opportunity to secure a better result for Swiber and SOC's creditors in a JM scenario," Mr Kumar submitted. He also pointed out that none of the creditors who filed their affidavits in relation to the case have objected to the JM although they placed on record their wish for certain creditor interests to be duly considered in the process. "If the IJMs are appointed as JMs, they will have due regard to the interests of all creditors," he added.

Swiber, in a Singapore Exchange filing on Thursday, said that it is unable to redeem, and pay the upcoming coupon payment, for its S$100 million notes due Oct 10, 2016. The notes paid a coupon of 5.55 per cent per annum.

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

Laws governing healthcare services to be reviewed

Straits Times
26 Oct 2016
Linette Lai

Starting next month, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will be talking to industry players to find out how laws governing the sector need to change.

A one-size-fits-all approach under the existing Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act is no longer suitable, said Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min yesterday.

The Act, which governs all private and public healthcare services here, was first enacted in 1980. It has not been amended in 17 years.

"Since then, much has changed in Singapore's healthcare landscape," said Dr Lam at the Centre of Regulatory Excellence's Scientific Conference yesterday.

"MOH is therefore reviewing the Act to keep pace with the rapid advances in medicine and health technology, new and changing modalities of services, and profile and needs of our population."

For instance, said Dr Lam, many healthcare services can now be delivered online, as in the case of telemedicine.

However, the existing laws work on the assumption that all services are provided from brick-and-mortar locations.

The Act also does not properly distinguish between different types of healthcare institutions.

"This has resulted in the force-fitting of some institutions to fit our regulations," Dr Lam said.

"For example, community hospitals have historically been subjected to the same requirements as acute hospitals."

Instead, he said, the Act should have different tiers of requirements according to the type and nature of services provided by each organisation.

Healthcare adviser Jean-Luc Butel, who is president of consultancy K8 Global, said having modern technology also means that healthcare is a complex beast nowadays.

"Today, technology - whether it is pharmaceutical or medical - is moving very, very rapidly," he said.

"And so you see this challenge anywhere in the world - where the regulators have to stay updated on these rapid developments and then write regulations that match what technology is doing today."

In its focus-group discussions next month, the Health Ministry will speak with both large and small healthcare players. These include clinics, hospitals, laboratories and nursing homes. It will later engage patient groups and the public.

Said Dr Lam: "MOH will also take the opportunity to strengthen governance systems and improve regulatory clarity.

"By doing so, providers will be more aware as to their responsibilities, and hence be more accountable to patients."

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

Defamatory remarks said in confidence, judge rules

Straits Times
15 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

A district judge ruled that a mailroom clerk defamed a colleague by alleging verbal sexual harassment - but cleared him because the claims were voiced during a probe meant to discuss a spat between the two.

District Judge Seah Chi-Ling held that what Mr Pius Chai said was covered by qualified privilege. "He initially approached his superiors merely to seek a transfer and not to complain about the Plaintiff," he wrote in judgment grounds released on Wednesday.

Mr Chai had said he had been sexually harassed by the plaintiff - Mr Randall D' Souza, then an IT manager at CLSA Singapore - at a meeting on Aug 3, 2012, with the company's senior HR manager Toni Carroll and its country head Andrew Hartley.

The court heard that Mr Chai's complaint had been settled at the meeting, where both parties shook hands and parted. But Mr D' Souza said there was no pact then to "forgive and forget".

He sued Mr Chai in the High Court, with his lawyer Simon Tan arguing the words suggested he had behaved improperly towards Mr Chai.

Mr Chai's lawyers, Mr K.R. Manicka and Mr A. Thirumurthy, countered that although he had been sexually harassed, he had never intended to raise the harassment issue to management, and had done so only when asked why he wanted a transfer.

The judge found Mr Chai had not shown that the allegations against Mr D' Souza had taken place.

"Having regard to the totality of the evidence adduced before me, what I found more likely to have happened was that Plaintiff had on a number of occasions attempted to joke with Defendant, making certain references to the Defendant's butt, and by doing a Michael Jackson impersonation. This had made the defendant very uncomfortable and upset, and prompted him to seek an inter-office transfer."

The judge added that he took into account several factors, including the "rather congenial and informal work culture in the company, with senior management 'coming down to the staff level' and 'joking with (them)'.

Against this backdrop, I found it not improbable that (Mr D' Souza) would have thought it was all right to joke with (Mr Chai). (Mr Chai) was, however, disturbed and distressed by the jokes cracked. "

He dismissed both the defamation suit and the harassment counter-claim by Mr Chai.

Mr D' Souza, 50, who was retrenched in 2013, said yesterday he will be appealing the judgment.

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

Foreign law firms should train more local graduates: Forum

Straits Times
07 Oct 2016

Much has been written about the oversupply of law graduates and the insufficiency of training contracts to go around ("New panel to address oversupply of new lawyers"; Aug 28).

One aspect that has not been explored, however, is the number of training contracts offered by foreign law firms which have been given licences to practise Singapore law.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that these law firms offer very few training contracts to graduates of our local law schools.

One reason for granting foreign law firms the licence to practise Singapore law was not only to open up our legal market, but also to allow our young lawyers to gain exposure and opportunities.

This was deemed to be an acceptable trade-off for opening up the market to foreign practices.

Based on anecdotal evidence, the foreign law firms don't seem interested in training fresh local law graduates. They prefer to poach trained lawyers from the local law firms.

Meanwhile, I understand that the big local law firms have seen erosion in their client base. This would have affected the number of fresh local graduates they would be able to take in, train and retain.

Could the authorities look into all this?

An imposition of training quotas on foreign law firms, in return for the licence to practise Singapore law, may not be out of place.

Josephine Chong Siew Nyuk (Ms)

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Fined for leaking 8,000 people's personal data

Straits Times
26 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Printing firm hired by insurer among eight parties rapped for personal data breaches

A printing firm hired by an insurance company sent erroneous account statements to policyholders that resulted in more than 8,000 people having their personal data leaked.

The data breach by Toh-Shi Printing Singapore was its second such infringement and it was fined $25,000 last month by the Personal Data Protection Commission Singapore (PDPC) for failing to implement adequate checks in processing personal data.

It was one of eight parties dealt with by the commission for data breaches in the last six months, according to the PDPC website. In the previous update in April, 11 defaulters had been taken to task.

Under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), parties that fail to protect personal data can be fined up to $1 million per breach.

The breach by Toh-Shi involved policyholders under the Public Officers Group Insurance Scheme (Pogis), for which Aviva was the appointed insurer.

A total of 7,794 Pogis policyholders received erroneous statements that disclosed the personal data of 8,022 individuals, including the policyholders' dependants.

Toh-Shi, which provides mail-out services of all correspondence for Aviva and data-printing services for ad hoc projects, admitted the data breach occurred because its staff had failed to comply with the company's own security measures and procedures.

Toh-Shi sent out 7,794 corrected statements together with an apology letter prepared by Aviva, and a $50 shopping voucher, to affected policyholders. Aviva also waived a month's insurance premium as a token.

The commission said in its decision grounds that the personal data disclosed "are of a sensitive nature, not merely from a financial perspective but can also be socially embarrassing".

PDPC chairman Leong Keng Thai said the breach could have been avoided if Toh-Shi had followed standard operating procedures. For its first breach, about a year ago, Toh-Shi had been fined $5,000.

"The commission emphasises that it takes a very serious view of any instance of non-compliance under the PDPA, and it urges organisations to take the necessary action to ensure they comply with their obligations under the PDPA," wrote Mr Leong.

Also last month, GMM Technoworld, a retailer of products like waterproof gadgets and measuring instruments, was fined $3,000 for inadequate security on its official website. This led to unauthorised disclosure of the personal data of some 190 customers.

The commission noted that GMM took immediate steps upon being notified to stop the breach and implemented corrective measures to protect customers' data.

The commission also dismissed a case brought against Comfort Transportation and CityCab last month.

Two complaints were made against the cab operators for disclosing taxi drivers' mobile phone numbers to customers who had booked the cabs, as part of the booking process.

Commission member Yeong Zee Kin ruled in decision grounds that both organisations were not found to be in breach of consent or notification obligations because the mobile phone numbers of taxi drivers were used as business contact numbers.

The 11 organisations rapped earlier in April included household names K Box Entertainment Group, Challenger Technologies, Metro and the Singapore Computer Society, which all failed to protect customers' personal data.

Other cases

SEPT 23: ABR Holdings warned for failing to reasonably secure the Swensen's Kids Club website to prevent unauthorised disclosure of personal data.

SEPT 21: Fu Kwee Kitchen Catering Services and Pixart fined $3,000 and $1,000 respectively for inadequate measures to prevent unauthorised access to customers' personal data on their websites.

AUG 11: Mr Justin Chua fined $500 for disclosing personal data of two of his landlord's tenants to a third party without consent.

JULY 25: Spear Security Force warned for failing to prevent unauthorised access to personal data in visitor log book.

JUNE 24: AIA Singapore warned for failing to ensure disclosure of policyholder's personal data to a third party was for a reasonable purpose

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

Actress' firm settles legal battle with RWS over $200k debt

Straits Times
15 Oct 2016
Selina Lum

The curtain has come down on a court dispute between Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and a concert promotion company owned by theatre director and actress Beatrice Chia-Richmond.

The integrated resort had sued her company Running Into The Sun (Rits) for almost $200,000 owed from performances of Ah Boys To Men: The Musical, held at RWS from April 18 to May 4 in 2014.

However, the two parties have now reached a confidential settlement and Mrs Chia-Richmond told The Straits Times in an e-mail: "I am happy that this matter has been amicably resolved."

The contract between RWS and Rits for the musical stipulated that the resort was to get a 15 per cent share of the gross ticket revenue and cash sponsorship. Under the agreement, Rits was also to bear the costs of additional or overtime manpower needed for the shows.

After the show's run, RWS issued Rits two invoices totalling $215,870 for its entitlement of the revenue and for reimbursement of its manpower costs.

Rits, which is best known for organising K-pop concerts by major acts like Girls' Generation, made a partial payment of $16,622.

RWS sued Rits in September last year following its failure to pay the outstanding sum of $199,248, despite numerous reminders.

In a default judgment, Rits was ordered by the State Courts to pay the debt as well as interest of $407.34 and $1,800 in legal costs.

When no payment was made, RWS applied for Mrs Chia-Richmond and Ms Wendy Ng, who were directors of Rits at the time, to be summoned to court for questioning over the possible assets available to pay the sum.

Mrs Chia-Richmond is no longer a director of Rits.

The award-winning theatre director and actress was the creative director of the opening and closing ceremonies of the South-east Asian Games last year, and the National Day Parade in 2011 and this year.

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IVF mix-up: Awarding damages ‘would not belittle child’s value’

07 Oct 2016
Amanda Lee

Paying damages to the parents of a child who was conceived in an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) sperm mix-up at Thomson Medical does not necessarily belittle the child’s value, said a law professor appointed to provide an independent view on the case, which is now before the Court of Appeal.

Such a claim can be premised on how a promised outcome was not fulfilled, which does not require the parents to say anything about the worth of the child, said Associate Professor Goh Yihan from the Singapore Management University’s School of Law, the amicus curiae or “friend of the court” appointed to submit his views.

The case dates back to 2012, when the mother of the child filed a lawsuit against Thomson Medical, its fertility centre and two embryologists over a mix-up in sperm samples. The mix-up had led to her having a baby with a stranger’s sperm instead of her husband’s. The parties are not named to protect their identities.

The woman had sought damages for various categories of claims, including the “upkeep costs” of the child — referred to as “Baby P” — such as expenses for basic necessities and education up to tertiary level.

The defendants have admitted liability for the incident, which took place in 2010. But Justice Choo Han Teck last year disallowed the claim for upkeep, citing “policy considerations” — that Baby P should not have to grow up thinking that her existence was a mistake. The woman then appealed.

Yesterday, the panel of five judges — including Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon — raised the question of whether the emotional harm suffered by the woman can be compensated under tort of negligence, and if this is so, how this can be quantified.

In written submissions to the court, Assoc Prof Goh said the law regards the birth of a healthy child as a blessing and so he or she will always be a benefit rather than a detriment. But damages should not be denied on this “broad premise”, “without more when it is intuitively clear that the parents have suffered some kind of expectation loss due to the breach of contract”, he said.

On whether there was a breach of contract — which is among the factors that would determine if upkeep costs can be awarded — Assoc Prof Goh said there are two terms of contract to consider: That a healthcare service is performed with “reasonable care and skill”, and a “warranty” to achieve a particular result.

In the present case, while there is “no guarantee” that a baby would be successfully conceived through the IVF procedure, it “goes without saying” that the doctors would not use genetic material that did not come from the parents, Assoc Prof Goh said.

As for determining the quantum of damages, Assoc Prof Goh said factors to be considered could include the cost of the IVF procedure as a “rough proxy”, the permanence of the procedure, which “corresponds to the appellant’s expected pleasure and amenity from the life of the child”, and the importance placed on the procedure to provide her with the pleasure of having a child.

“Together, these factors should lead to a ‘restrained and modest’ award of damages for loss of amenity, if they can be awarded in the first place,” Assoc Prof Goh said.

On whether punitive damages should be awarded, Assoc Prof Goh said in this case, Thomson Medical and other respondents were “merely negligent, rather than consciously intentional or reckless, in their conduct”.

“Thus, even if punitive damages can be awarded for purely negligent conduct, the quantum of damages must be reduced to reflect the lesser degree of culpability,” he said.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

IES users’ data leaked due to ‘inadequate’ security measures: PDPC

26 Oct 2016
Kelly Ng

SINGAPORE — The Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES) could have “easily detected” and patched security flaws on its website, which had resulted in more than 6,000 users’ personal data being comprised in a data leak in October 2014, said the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) in findings on the incident that it released publicly on Tuesday (Oct 25).

While its website had a firewall and anti-virus software, these measures alone were “clearly inadequate to reasonably ensure the security of personal data” stored on it, the PDPC added.

Among the “apparent vulnerabilities” identified were the absence of encrypted storage for members’ passwords, and the lack of audit and tests conducted on the site, it noted.

IES, which was among the first batch of personal data offenders taken to task since the Personal Data Protection Act came into force in July 2014, was fined S$10,000 in April and directed to scan for and patch vulnerabilities on its website, and update the PDPC after it had done so.

During its investigations into the leak, the PDPC found no indication that IES — whose members comprise individuals and organisations — had instructed its vendors to make security arrangements to ensure that personal data stored on its site would be protected in compliance with its obligations under the Act.

A scan report conducted after the leak identified 48 “high severity vulnerabilities”, some of which could have been easily detected and patched with “readily available” online guides, said the PDPC.

The PDPC disagreed with IES’ views that it was “unlikely” that people who had obtained and posted the personal data — including members’ user IDs and passwords — would have logged into these members’ accounts as the information leaked was “random, unrelated and unlinked”.

“With automatic scripting, an individual can log in to any IES members’ account notwithstanding the manner in which the user IDs and passwords had been presented ... Indeed, the Commission cannot exclude the possibility that the person or persons who had obtained and posted the (information) may have already done so,” said the PDPC.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

The Institution of Engineers Singapore [2016] SGPDPC 02

Woman jailed 12 years for cheating boss of $1.3m

Straits Times
15 Oct 2016
Elena Chong

Serial offender forged boss' signature, then secretly issued cheques to herself

A secretary who practised writing her boss' signature forged more than 200 cheques and misappropriated $1.3 million from the company.

Lim Hoon Choo, 62, was jailed for 12 years yesterday after admitting to two charges of criminal breach of trust - involving $387,423 in 2012 and $548,309 in 2013. She also pleaded guilty to five counts of forgery.

Seven other charges were considered during her sentencing.

Lim worked for New Asian Capital (NAC), an investment management firm. Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Jun Hong told the court that her duties at its Jalan Sultan office included issuing cheques on behalf of the firm and her boss, Mr Ng Eng Ghee, to pay for various expenses.

Some time in February 2010, she began forging cheques by signing Mr Ng's signature. They were made payable to "Lim Hoon Choo", which Mr Ng and NAC directors did not know was her real name as she was known to them as Eve.

To cover her tracks, she would doctor bank statements and cheque-book stubs to state that the payments made to her were "credit card payments". She would also indicate that the disbursed amounts were smaller than they actually were, so as not to arouse suspicion.

Mr Ng lodged a report on Oct 1, 2013, alleging that an employee had fraudulently issued cheques in her favour.

From February 2010 to September 2013, at least 218 cheques were forged, and $1.3 million misappropriated from the employer. Partial restitution of $141,920 was made. Lim said she gambled away the remaining money at casinos in Malaysia.

DPP Tan highlighted several aggravating factors when he sought a total sentence of 11 to 13 years.

He said this was Lim's fourth spate of offending. She was jailed eight months for CBT in 1983; two years in 1988 for CBT and cheating; and nine years for a series of forgery offences in 1999.

He said Lim had ample opportunity to stop committing further offences but showed neither contrition nor remorse.

DPP Tan said Lim was largely unsupervised and worked alone in the office. "This evinces the huge degree of trust reposed in the accused which she exploited to conduct her massive scam," he said.

Lawyer Benjamin Frois said his client committed the offences to get back at her employer who had ill-treated her. She claimed that she was sent on a "risky business" mission to Johor to interview a potential driver and was looked down on for not being a graduate.

But District Judge Low Wee Ping, who found no mitigating factor whatsoever in her case, said: "How absurd to cite that as mitigation."

Lim could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined on each charge.


How absurd to cite that as mitigation.

DISTRICT JUDGE LOW WEE PING, in response to Lim's lawyer Benjamin Frois, who claimed that his client committed the offences to get back at her employer who had ill-treated her. The judge found no mitigating factor whatsoever in her case.

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Lifting tax exemption on capital gains poses risk: PM

Straits Times
07 Oct 2016
Nirmala Ganapathy

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has cautioned India over withdrawing a tax exemption on capital gains, saying it could hurt the South Asian country and affect its attractiveness to investors from Singapore.

India is looking at removing the tax exemption given to Singapore after it withdrew a similar facility to Mauritius recently to prevent Indian firms from routing cash there to avoid paying taxes.

A 2006 tax treaty between India and Singapore had a provision that any changes in the Mauritius treaty would automatically apply to the one with Singapore.

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper, Mr Lee said Singapore was different from Mauritius and was careful to ensure there was no hot money or black money funnelled through it. India also had over $100 billion in a wide range of investments from Singapore over the last decade.

"We have actually built up a flow of bona fide good investments into India which is very substantial, and there is a whole community of professionals who are managing this out of Singapore," Mr Lee added in an interview with Singapore media.

"And I think it's important that, whatever India does, they don't shake that confidence which has been built up over these past 10 years and they don't cause unintended harm to themselves.

He added: "On that basis, PM (Narendra) Modi and I agreed that DPM Tharman and Mr Arun Jaitley will meet again and see how we can think out of the box and work out solutions which should be beneficial to both countries."

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have been tasked with discussing the issue further and to see how they can facilitate investment flows.

Said Mr Lee: "I explained to Mr Modi it is not a question of whether India is entitled to do this, which of course they are, but whether it is in India's interests to do it and, if so, what is the best way to do it without causing unintentional harm to India."

The move to tighten tax treaties is part of a campaign by PM Modi to crack down on black money, or funds that are never reported to the authorities.

His government recently withdrew capital gains tax exemption to Cyprus, and has been looking at ways to bring back billions of dollars sent abroad by rich Indians to avoid taxes.

Under the agreement re-negotiated with Mauritius, capital gains tax will be imposed for companies already based in Mauritius from next year.

There is hesitation on the Indian side to make exceptions for any country, and a senior Indian official noted the tax treaty with Singapore is a "work in progress" but declined to comment further. Analysts say investors are concerned about the uncertainty.

"It is going to be a tough negotiation," said Mr Rishi Sahai, managing director of investment bank Cogence Advisors.

"There are challenges for Indian policymakers," said Mr Mukesh Butani, managing partner of BMR Legal. "India wants to treat all nations equally."


Nirmala Ganapathy India Bureau Chief In New Delhi

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Tale of deception heard as love triangle murder trial begins

Straits Times
26 Oct 2016
Selina Lum

Wife shows she still has feelings for accused, who allegedly murdered her younger ex-lover

A 50-year-old housewife, whose husband of 25 years is accused of murdering her younger ex-lover, took the stand yesterday on the first day of his trial to tell a tale of deception, suspicion and one errant phone message that led to the alleged love triangle killing.

But showing that she still had feelings for the father of her two children, Madam Serene Goh Yen Hoon, when asked by the prosecution to identify the man in the dock, put a hand on her heart, looked at Chia Kee Chen sorrowfully and told the court softly: "My husband."

Chia, 56, faces the death penalty or life imprisonment if convicted of murdering 37-year-old Dexmon Chua Yizhi, between Dec 28 and Dec 29 in 2013.

His wife, a petite and youthful-looking mother of two, who wore a grey hoodie in court, gave an account of her one-year affair with Mr Chua and how her husband reacted in anger when he found out.

Madam Goh was working as a sales executive at a packaging company in 2003 when she met Mr Chua. He was in a different department, but they took the same company transport as they lived in the same area, she said.

In July 2011, Mr Chua, who was married to a Thai woman, offered Madam Goh a ride home in his car. She accepted and from then on, he took her home regularly. They grew closer, she said.

Around the same time, Madam Goh added, she started receiving calls from a woman who claimed to be her husband's wife in Indonesia. But Chia, who owned a fish farm in Tanjung Pinang, denied this.

In August 2011, Madam Goh and Mr Chua started meeting after work for sex - in his car, at his home, and once at a hotel. They also poured out their marital woes to each other. "While I was having an affair with Dexmon, I felt guilty towards my husband," she said.

Mr Chua also recorded a video of their sexual tryst for "sentimental purposes" in June 2012, although he promised to delete it. Soon after, they stopped having sex but continued talking on the phone, she said.

In November that year, when her husband questioned her about text messages from "Dexmon", she admitted to the affair. She told him she was worried that her lover might disseminate the video, and also promised to break off the relationship.

She said her husband phoned Mr Chua and told him to stop seeing her. He also took her to consult mediums, believing that the younger man had "cast a spell" on her.

On the eve of Chinese New Year, she said, Mr Chua mistakenly sent a video greeting on WhatsApp to her. This rekindled her husband's anger, even though she had cut off contact with Mr Chua. That was the last time they spoke about him.

In the early hours of Dec 29, 2013, she was awoken by a call from her husband, who asked for the phone number of her brother Goh Beng Guat. Prosecutors say Chia went on to ask Mr Goh for help to carry Mr Chua's body, but he said no.

That afternoon, Chia, Madam Goh and their two daughters left for a family trip to Johor Baru. When they returned to Singapore on Dec 31, she said they were stopped at Woodlands Checkpoint and told to assist in police investigations.

After his wife's testimony as a prosecution witness, it was the defence's turn to cross-examine her. But Chia, who sat hunched over with his head down, told his lawyer Peter Fernando not to.

The trial continues today.

About the case

Businessman Chia Kee Chen, 56, is on trial for the murder of material analyst Dexmon Chua Yizhi between the night of Dec 28 and the early hours of Dec 29, 2013. The murder was allegedly committed in a van together with his Indonesian worker Febri Irwansyah Djatmiko, who is still at large.

A second accomplice, Chua Leong Aik, who drove the van, is serving a five-year jail term for abduction and causing grievous hurt by dangerous means.

The prosecution's case is that Chia had roped in the two men to take revenge on Mr Chua, 37, for having an affair with his wife.

The trio allegedly confronted Mr Chua after he parked his car near his Choa Chu Kang Avenue 4 flat.

Mr Chua was forced into the back of the van, tied up and assaulted. He suffered extensive injuries to his face and head.

When Chua Leong Aik got cold feet and left the van, Chia allegedly drove the vehicle to a live-firing area in Lim Chu Kang to dump the victim's body.

Chia returned the van, borrowed from a friend of his sister-in-law, after he and Febri spent an hour washing it at a fish farm.

After his arrest, Chia led police to Mr Chua's body.

Selina Lu

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Final will upheld in dispute over Yeo family properties

Straits Times
14 Oct 2016
Selina Lum

Judge rules matriarch's decision to cut out two grandchildren valid despite her illness

In 2002, the wife of one of the founding directors of food and beverage company Yeo Hiap Seng made a will, leaving one house each to her elder son's two children.

Over the years, Madam Ng Lay Hua made more wills. By the last one in 2012, she had cut the two grandchildren out completely and, instead, left the two houses to her younger son Henry, whom she also appointed as the sole executor.

Despite a challenge to the validity of the later will by elder son Charles and his two children, the High Court upheld it and found that Madam Ng had the necessary mental capacity to make her last will.

In a 79-page written judgment released on Wednesday, Senior Judge Andrew Ang concluded that Madam Ng's decision to disinherit the two grandchildren was not made on the spur of the moment.

Madam Ng, a Christian, had told family members that she was not leaving her grandson any inheritance as she was disappointed he had married a non-Christian and did not attend church regularly.

While the matriarch did not give a specific reason for excluding her grandaughter from her will, the judge said it was clear that Madam Ng was leaving it to Charles to look after his daughter.

Madam Ng had depression in the last years of her life, but her mental illness was not serious enough to affect her decision to exclude the two grandchildren from her will in 2012, said the judge.

"I find it difficult to accept that just because Madam Ng suffered severe depression, her testamentary disposition had to be set aside."

He noted that Madam Ng did not have dementia and even after being diagnosed with depression in 2006, continued with her normal activities, such as reading newspapers, following TV drama serials, monitoring share prices and attending church meetings.

Madam Ng, whose husband Yeo Chee Kiat is a grandson of Yeo Hiap Seng founder Yeo Keng Lian, had two sons and two daughters. Her husband died in 1985.

Her estate included a detached house in Sian Tuan Avenue, a semi-detached house in Watten Terrace, a detached house in Hua Guan Avenue and a portfolio of stocks and shares.

In 2002, she willed the Sian Tuan house to Charles' son, the Watten Terrace house to Charles' daughter, and the Hua Guan Avenue house to Henry and the daughter of her elder daughter Wee Tsan.

By 2012, the Sian Tuan Avenue and Watten Terrace properties were willed to Henry instead, making him the main beneficiary. Henry is married with no children.

The judge said Madam Ng's decision to leave the bulk of her estate to Henry is "consistent with the high likelihood that he was her favourite son".

The judge noted that Henry cared for Madam Ng in her old age, spoke to her in a quiet and gentle manner, managed her affairs, chauffeured her around, attended church services with her and took her out for meals.

He also noted that Madam Ng had instructed her lawyer to change the wills; this was not a case where a will was prepared on instructions by someone who stood to benefit.

The evidence is in favour of Henry's assertion that Madam Ng knew and approved the contents of the wills, he said.

Commenting on the decision, Senior Counsel Deborah Barker, who represented Henry, said: "Depression does not necessarily vitiate a testator's capacity to make a will. Our client is very happy that the court found there were no suspicious circumstances and upheld Madam Ng's last will."

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

Yeo Henry (executor and trustee of the estate of Ng Lay Hua, deceased) v Yeo Charles and others [2016] SGHC 22

11 years' jail, 24 strokes for robbery and sexual assault

Straits Times
07 Oct 2016
Elena Chong

A facilities maintenance supervisor, needing money after he had been fined for an infringement, decided to get it back by robbing a freelance masseuse of $400 at knifepoint.

But it was a poor decision for Raymond Lee Ling Soon, 39, who also sexually assaulted the 24-year-old Chinese national. He was yesterday sentenced to 11 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane after pleading guilty to the two offences. Two others were taken into consideration.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kavita Uthrapathy said Lee had seen the victim's advertisement online and knew that freelance masseuses usually lived alone. As he needed money after being fined for a National Environment Agency offence, he decided to rob her.

He sent a text message to confirm that she was indeed living alone in a rented flat in People's Park Centre.

On Jan 19 this year, he turned up at the flat and pointed a knife at her neck when she showed him to the massage room.

He shouted "robbery'' in Mandarin and told her to strip and lie on the bed. Shocked and fearing he would harm her, she complied.

He rummaged through her belongings and stole $400 from a bedside drawer.

On seeing her naked, he assaulted her while she was too shocked and scared to retaliate or scream.

DPP Uthrapathy said the sexual assaults continued for about an hour during which the victim told him how she was in Singapore to earn money and begged him not to hurt her.

Before he left, he told her to squat by the main door, close her eyes and count to 20. He warned her not to call the police or he would return and hurt her severely. After he fled, she called the police.

Lee deposited the money into his bank account and was arrested the same evening.

DPP Uthrapathy sought a sentence of at least 11 years and 24 strokes, saying the offences were premeditated. She said Lee held a penknife to a vulnerable part of the victim's body - her neck - and subjected her to the gross indignity and humiliation of stripping.

The offences were committed over a prolonged period and the victim suffered unthinkable fear and horror, she added.

The woman is still living in Singapore.

Lee had a similar conviction in 2000 when he was sentenced to seven years and 24 strokes for robbery with hurt and aggravated molestation in a lift. In 2012, he was jailed a total of 26 months for cheating and property offences.

Lee could have been jailed for up to 14 years and caned for robbery; and up to 20 years and caned for sexual penetration to facilitate an offence.

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

Lawyers beat evasive tactics by serving papers via WhatsApp, email

25 Oct 2016
Valerie Koh

SINGAPORE — For the past year, lawyer Adrian Wee has been using emails to notify some individuals that they have been sued by his clients.

And he would consider adding WhatsApp to his arsenal of electronic avenues to serve papers on hard-to-reach individuals if the circumstances call for it, now that the State Courts has given the green light for court papers to be served to an individual through the popular messaging system.

Mr Wee, director of law firm Characterist, said an electronic legal notice is usually used in debt recovery or harassment cases. “In the old days, if the guy’s not home, you have to come back later. It’s easy for them to evade (being served the court papers) by not opening the door. It gets difficult because that can delay proceedings,” he said.

Such evasive tactics may no longer work in this digital age. In May, the High Court ruled that an Australian-based game developer, accused of copyright theft, could be notified of civil action through electronic means such as Facebook, Skype, Internet message board and email.

However, certain conditions must first be met, such as posting physical copies of the legal notice on the door of the individual’s last-known address, or through registered mail. High Court Assistant Registrar Zhuang Wenxiong also said that electronic means “include WhatsApp and other smartphone messaging platforms linked to mobile phone numbers”.

On Oct 20, The Straits Times reported that the State Courts had allowed court papers to be served to a defendant over WhatsApp earlier this month. R&D Pharmaceuticals had started legal action to recover a S$43,000 loan to Mr Tan Chong Min, its business associate, but earlier attempts to reach him at his last-known address had been futile.

R&D’s lawyer Vijai Parwani told TODAY that his firm had a copy of Mr Tan’s identification card, and matched its photograph to his WhatsApp display picture, to prove that the messenger was a legitimate platform to reach him. R&D eventually received a response from Mr Tan.

Despite the court rulings allowing the use of electronic means to serve legal notices, several lawyers told TODAY that they have yet to try such platforms. Mr Wee said that over the past year, he has used email to notify individuals of their lawsuits in under 10 cases. Mr Jason Chan, director of Amica Law, said most lawyers would prefer to stick to traditional means of serving civil suits “in case there’s any dispute” as to whether the defendant actually received the court papers.

Still, Mr Ronald Wong, associate director of Covenant Chambers, pointed out that communicating over WhatsApp or Facebook is commonplace. “We interact with strangers without necessarily knowing their residential address,” he said. “That means if we have legal action, it requires us to be able to bring notice to the person through the very means of communication that we’ve always been using to communicate with them.”

Mr Bryan Tan, from law firm Pinsent Masons, believes that serving notices through social media platforms will make it easier for the plaintiff to start legal proceedings, since such platforms have information on the last known activity of the user.

In the WhatsApp case, for example, once the court’s approval had been obtained, Mr Tan would have been deemed to have been served with the legal notice, even if he did not respond to the message sent by R&D’s lawyer.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Competition Act should not apply to healthcare: Forum

Straits Times
14 Oct 2016

In 1987, the Singapore Medical Association introduced fee guidelines for doctors in the private sector to act as a restraint on their charges.

Unfortunately, in 2010, the Competition Commission of Singapore ruled that these guidelines infringed on free-market competition and abolished them.

Since then, doctors have been free to charge as they wish and there have been cases of overcharging. The cost of medical services in the private sector has also seen phenomenal increase since then.

The move to make private surgery fees public will have limited impact ("Listing of op fees at private hospitals helps patients" and "More transparent fees 'a positive step'"; both published on Oct 6), as the fee-for-service model offers unbundled services that are paid for separately.

This may encourage some doctors to offer more non-surgical treatments, since payment is dependent on the quantity of care given.

There will always be black sheep in any profession. Unscrupulous doctors know they are in a position to charge whatever they fancy by preying on patients' fear, misery and lack of medical knowledge.

Some doctors also indiscriminately charge higher fees, knowing that insurers will cover them 100 per cent.

Patients should protect themselves by clarifying the fees before agreeing to any procedure.

If they believe the charges are unreasonable, they may get a second, or even third, opinion.

However, ultimately, the sick are at the mercy of their doctors. They may not be in the correct frame of mind nor possess the time or knowledge to compare prices.

In the presence of imperfect competition, medical care must not be dependent on market forces, and the Competition Act should not apply to healthcare.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

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AGC learns from Swiss clockwork efficiency

Straits Times
06 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Singapore's Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) intends to learn from the highly specialised work practices of Swiss prosecutors to produce top-notch work under time pressure.

"And notably, without having to work weekends!" quipped Attorney-General V. K. Rajah yesterday in his prefacing remarks to a lecture by Switzerland's Attorney-General Michael Lauber. "We are moving in that direction and I am confident that in good time our efforts will yield the benefits of even greater productivity and efficiency."

He added that Singapore, like Switzerland, has "had to keep an unrelenting focus on efficiency, competitiveness and the rule of law".

He said: "We have also maintained an open and global outlook. It is no wonder that Singapore desires to learn more from Switzerland in many areas, ranging from innovation to human capital development to sustainability."

The inaugural AG's Lecture is part of a series aimed at providing a platform for thought leaders in law and other disciplines to share experiences and insights with Singapore's legal community.

"We are keenly aware that in order to continually serve Singapore better, we have to remain a vital and constantly learning organisation that is ever mindful of developments taking place all around us," said Mr Rajah.

Mr Lauber in his lecture stressed that global cooperation was important to succeed in prosecuting cross-jurisdictional cases.

About 350 participants attended the lecture. They included judges, lawyers, senior officers from enforcement agencies and South-east Asian AGC counterparts.

The lecture launched the AGC's 150th anniversary celebrations, and the occasion will be marked with a series of events from now through the rest of next year.

K. C. Vijayan

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Court order sought for Punggol East documents

Straits Times
25 Oct 2016
Tham Yuen-C

Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council and AHTC go to court for third time over issue

The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) yesterday sought a court order for documents it needs from Aljunied Hougang Town Council (AHTC). It is the third time both town councils, run by rival political parties, have gone to court over the issue.

PRPTC's lawyer Davinder Singh told the three-judge Court of Appeal that the town council was still being "pushed around, frustrated and stymied" in its bid to obtain the documents needed to review the accounts of Punggol East.

The PRPTC took over the con- stituency from the Workers' Party- run AHTC after last year's General Election.

But AHTC said, through lawyer Peter Low, that it had made an effort to hand over the documents and had met 10 times with PRPTC and PRPTC's accountant over it.

The latest hearing comes more than two months after the town councils agreed in court for AHTC to hand over all documents that relate strictly to Punggol East.

Both sides had also agreed to work out the conditions for access to "town-wide" documents relating to Punggol East as well as other constituencies under AHTC.

Yesterday, Mr Singh said PRPTC had not received any of the documents in this category and also had not received all the documents relating solely to Punggol East.

He asked for a court order directing AHTC to instruct its own accountant, KPMG, to hand over all the documents in KPMG's possession no later than Oct 29.

But AHTC said the town council had confidentiality concerns and was willing to give PRPTC and the town council's accountant, PwC, access to the "town-wide" docu- ments only on several conditions. One of the conditions is that PRPTC cannot reveal to a third party any information deemed confidential.

Mr Low said this includes the identity of vendors, pricing and quotations. He asked the court to include a protection for this information in its order.

Mr Singh countered that PRPTC should be permitted to use the documents as long as it was done in the exercise of its rights and in the discharge of its duties.

He said that since Punggol East is now under PRPTC, the town council should be entitled to the documents. He added that agreeing to AHTC's conditions would prevent PRPTC from fulfilling its duties to its residents.

For instance, he said, information on vendors and quotations is "fundamental information" which the town council may have to disclose if monies were lost because particular vendors had been preferred under dubious circumstances.

He also said that ordering any protection for confidentiality may have future implications for other town councils during handovers.

But Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said that while he accepted the principle that "what is decided here may shine a light on future occasions", its implications may not be so wide because of the specific circumstances of the current case.

He said the case is partly the result of the way then-AHPETC, now known as AHTC, had arranged its documents, and the result of one part of AHPETC changing hands.

On the use of the documents, CJ Menon said PRPTC should not be limited in what it does because it was entitled to the documents.

"If matters in the town council had been arranged in a different way, such that Punggol East's documents were discrete and complete, I don't think there would be any argument that Punggol East is entitled to these documents," he said.

The court's concern, he added, was to "make sure (AHTC's) legitimate confidentiality interests are not implicated".

He also said that"any restriction in access had to be rooted in a specific concern of confidentiality."

The judges will make a decision within the week.

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Japan govt agency seeks $570m from man who hid assets here

Straits Times
13 Oct 2016

Japanese debt collectors seeking to recover 43 billion yen (S$570 million) in housing loan debts have applied to seize funds placed in several banks here, traced to a Japanese company director who guaranteed the loans.

The Resolution and Collection Corporation (RCC), a government- owned subsidiary of the Deposit Insurance Corporation of Japan, which deals with salvaging bad loans from failed housing companies, among other things, obtained a court order here in March to freeze bank deposits placed in Singapore.

The sum is being sought against a single person, Japanese company director Masahiko Nishiyama, 70.

The debts arose from 13 groups of loan and quasi-loan agreements made between RCC's predecessor and Japanese company Pexim between 1989 and 1992 that were underwritten by Nishiyama, according to court documents filed.

Kyoto-based Nishiyama was director of Pexim from 1971 to 2003, and held some 16,850 shares in the company worth 16.85 million yen. He also served as president and chief financial officer for Pexim Inc Hawaii.

Pexim was dissolved in 2004 and a Kyoto district court in 2012 ordered Nishiyama together with Pexim to pay the outstanding loans which, with interest, stood at over 43 billion yen in February this year.

It emerged that Nishiyama had dissipated his assets on a massive scale. Criminal proceedings were brought against him in Kyoto where he was convicted this year and imprisoned. Documents seized by the authorities showed he had stashed substantial sums abroad, including Standard Chartered Bank, Bank Julius Baer and Credit Suisse accounts in Singapore as well as other accounts in Hong Kong and Canada.

In February, a Japanese court issued a worldwide freeze order against his assets. RCC, represented by lawyer Daniel Lim from Joyce A. Tan & Partners, successfully applied the following month for a similar freeze by the Singapore High Court.

Nishiyama was made a bankrupt in March by a Japanese court, which appointed Mr Hiroshi Morimoto as his trustee-in-bankruptcy, whose task is to administer all assets seized. Mr Morimoto, represented by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, has been added to the Singapore proceedings and his entry is understood to raise the novel issue of whether a Singapore court is prepared to recognise a trustee-in-bankruptcy appointed in an overseas jurisdiction and clarify his powers.

The next High Court pre-trial conference is due next month.

The case comes in the wake of a first-ever Judicial Insolvency Network conference that ended on Tuesday where more than a dozen insolvency judges from here and abroad sought to work out draft guidelines for dealing with cross- border insolvencies. This is to achieve consistency in judgments delivered in individual countries.

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Ex-students sue NYU, calling its Tisch Asia 'a scam'

Straits Times
06 Oct 2016
Calvin Yang

S'pore campus had sub-par faculty, facilities and equipment, say trio

It was touted as the first overseas offshoot of a celebrated film school, which boasts of alumni such as film-maker Martin Scorsese, and opportunities for students to hobnob with big names and be taught by illustrious directors.

But when Tisch Asia - a branch of New York University's (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts - shut its doors last year due to financial woes, some students felt that they had fallen victim to an educational scam.

Now, three former Tisch Asia students are suing NYU on behalf of their peers, alleging "sub-par" faculty, facilities and equipment compared with that available to their New York peers.

Ms Anna Basso, Ms Amy Hartman and Mr Jaime Villa Ruiz filed a complaint against NYU in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York last month. The American residents spent US$100,000 to US$165,000 (S$136,000 to S$226,100) each in tuition fees to study at the now-defunct school in Kay Siang Road.

The Singapore campus, which opened to much fanfare in 2007, left the private education scene last year after its last batch of students finished their courses. The branch, which offered degrees in areas including animation and digital arts, dramatic writing and film, took in students from a number of countries such as the US, China, South Korea and India.

In documents obtained by The Straits Times, the lawsuit states that Tisch Asia students, many of whom were rejected applicants from Tisch New York's Master of Fine Arts programmes, enrolled on the promise that programmes were identical.

But only the tuition fees were the same at Tisch Asia, the suit alleges.

"When NYU decided to close Tisch Asia, it became abundantly clear to students that they fell victim to an educational scam, that their programme would never create a legacy," the suit noted. "In reality, many faculty members at Tisch Asia had either sub-par experience or knowledge to the faculty in New York... At least one teacher was a fresh graduate of Tisch Asia."

Students also "could not avail themselves of the networking opportunities crucial to the art world", which Tisch New York students had access to through faculty connections and exposure to Hollywood and figures in the film industry.

The suit claims that some cinematography professors "showed students outdated lighting techniques resembling television lighting of the 1990s". One of them "did not know how to use a modern camera".

The alumni suing NYU are seeking class action status, representing other Tisch Asia students.

Many Tisch Asia graduates told The Straits Times they are disappointed with the quality of education, from facilities to exclusion from grants available to their New York peers. A few, however, said their education could not possibly be similar to the one in New York.

A film graduate, who declined to give his name, said: "The only discrepancies I did find were that certain networking events provided to the New York students were not met in the Singapore campus, and at certain times the New York students were given larger allotments for film productions."

However, the 30-year-old, now a director, said the claim that most of his peers were rejects from Tisch New York is not true. "Many of the students applied to Tisch Asia directly because of its location and unique experience of being in South-east Asia," he explained. "To call Tisch Asia an educational scam is a gross exaggeration."

NYU spokesman John Beckman stressed that Tisch Asia students had the same curriculum as the one Tisch uses in New York.

"Many Tisch Asia courses were taught by New York-based faculty and all were taught by highly qualified faculty," he added. "Students had excellent facilities and equipment, and graduates received a Tisch School of the Arts degree.

"Artistically, the school was a real success, with a number of students winning awards."

Financially, however, it did not impress. The school posted million-dollar deficits. The branch was brought here as part of the Government's global schoolhouse project, which drew many high-profile foreign institutions like French business school Insead.

Mr Beckman said Tisch Asia operated at a steep deficit as NYU offered an education that cost more than the tuition fees paid. He said: "This suit is wholly without merit, and we expect to prevail in court."

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Judge lets NS defaulter serve jail before appeal decision

Straits Times
25 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Prosecution had applied for delay while it sought stiffer sentence

A district judge overruled prosecutors who, in an unusual move, had sought to stop a national service defaulter from starting to serve his jail term until their appeal has been decided.

The prosecution is asking for a stiffer jail term for Sakthikanesh Chidambaram, 25, who had been convicted and jailed three weeks for failing to report for NS for five years, six months and 17 days.

His younger brother Vandana Kumar Chidambaram, who turns 23 next week, was fined $6,000 for failing to report for NS for three years, six months and two days.

Both defaulters also admitted to one count each of remaining outside Singapore without a valid exit permit and these charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.

The prosecution, which had asked for short jail terms for both men, is appealing to the High Court for stiffer sentences.

District Judge John Ng said "ordinarily" he would have approved the prosecution's application to stay the jail term until the appeal but did not accede after Sakthikanesh's lawyers Tan Jee Ming and S. Balamurugan objected and assured the court he would willingly return to serve any additional jail term should prosecutors succeed on appeal.

Judge Ng, in explaining his decision, noted Sakthikanesh was eager to put this episode behind him as he did not want to jeopardise his new job due to start on Nov 7.

The judge said in decision grounds released last week that he rejected the prosecution's application after balancing the interests of the prosecution and the prejudice to Sakthikanesh if his incarceration should be delayed.

In jailing Sakthikanesh for three weeks, the judge had, among other things, discounted six weeks for his "exceptional NS performance" on what would otherwise have been a 10-week jail term for an overseas NS defaulter. This discount was based on guidelines issued by the High Court in dealing with another overseas NS defaulter in February.

The High Court had then ruled that exceptional full-time NS performance should be treated as a strong mitigating factor.

Although the brothers had remained out of Singapore without a valid exit permit and failed to report for NS for a length of time, they went on to serve their full-time NS well - one made Officer Cadet School, and the other won a Soldier of the Month Award.

But Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Randeep Singh Koonar argued exceptional NS performance should not be treated as a mitigating factor in itself but as an aspect of good character and should draw minimal weight in mitigation. They suggested "courts should avoid engaging in a performance ranking exercise to determine the culpability of defaulters".

They added that allowing a jail sentence to be discounted to a fine based on the February High Court decision as applied to Vandana was not in line with a 2006 ministerial policy statement that someone who defaults for more than two years should get a custodial sentence.

The judge said it was obviousthe prosecution was asking him to ignore the guidance provided by the High Court on the mitigating value of exceptional NS performance.

"A lower court ought to give due regard to the benchmark sentences provided, particularly when those benchmarks have been developed by the superior court after a 'rigorous scenario analysis' and are specific in its form and substance.

"This is especially so when those guidelines come in the form of a graph, with plot values and a discount table, which can be applied with certitude and consistency," said Judge Ng, in rejecting the prosecution's submissions.

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Swiss A-G acts against Falcon Private Bank

Straits Times
13 Oct 2016
Grace Leong

Criminal proceedings based on issues linked to 1MDB fund

The Swiss authorities have launched criminal proceedings against Falcon Private Bank a day after its banking licence in Singapore was cancelled over regulatory breaches linked to Malaysia's scandal-hit 1MDB fund.

The move by the Attorney- General's office is based in part on issues raised in the enforcement decision released on Tuesday by the country's financial regulator.

It said it suspects deficiencies in Falcon's internal organisation, which resulted in the bank committing money laundering offences.

Falcon said yesterday it hoped to "contribute to an expeditious clarification" of the allegations.

On Tuesday, the Swiss financial regulator ordered Falcon to turn over illegal profits of 2.5 million Swiss francs (S$3.5 million) and banned the bank from entering into business relationships with foreign politically exposed persons for three years. It also launched enforcement proceedings against two of its former executives.

The regulator cited "serious shortcomings in Falcon's risk management" in relation to US$3.8 billion (S$5.2 billion) in 1MDB-related funds that were transferred to accounts at Falcon between 2012 and mid-2015. "These funds were generally moved on quickly," it noted. "The business relationships and transactions booked in Switzerland and at Falcon's Singapore and Hong Kong branches were unusual and involved a high level of risk for the bank, both through their nature and the amounts transacted.

"Although management's attention was drawn to these matters, it repeatedly failed to properly investigate the business relationships, specifically those with politically exposed persons and high-risk transactions."

Falcon had a client relationship with a young Malaysian businessman with links to the Malaysian government, it said, without naming him. "The bank did not verify how this individual had been able to acquire assets of US$135 million in an extremely short period of time or why a total of US$1.2 billion was transferred to his accounts at a later date - a transaction which was clearly at variance with the information he had provided when opening the account," the regulator added.

A number of bank employees had raised "serious concerns" to their managers about the relationship with this businessman. But the internal warnings were ignored. "The focus was always on trying to process the transactions on time," it said.

The regulator cited an e-mail one of the bank's senior managers sent to the Singapore branch carrying out the transactions, warning that "Head Office is watching you".

Two other banks in Singapore were also penalised this week for breaches in relation to 1MDB-related fund flows.

DBS, which was fined $1 million, said it is donating "profits attributable to its shortcomings to charity" but declined to reveal the amount.

UBS, which was fined $1.3 million, will donate all profits arising from the breaches to creating an anti-money laundering and risk education programme to be run by an independent educational body. "We will sponsor the programme, and it will be open to the financial industry," a spokesman said. UBS also declined to say how much it is donating.

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Website ordered to stop selling fake goods

Straits Times
06 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Calvin Klein wins summary judgment against operator of SGbuy4u

The operator of local website SGbuy4u was ordered by the High Court to stop selling fake Calvin Klein goods, in the first reported case involving a summary judgment against a firm peddling fake goods online.

Leading fashion designer Calvin Klein had sued Singapore-registered Global PSM for trademark infringement after investigators bought fake Calvin Klein goods including wallets and underwear online on the SGbuy4u website.

Global PSM, which operated the website, claimed it provided customer-to-customer service. The website is a platform on which users can search for and buy goods ranging from apparel to health products and electronics.

When a user pays for an item on the website, the business operator places an order on the Chinese shopping website Taobao, pays for the item, receives delivery in China and freights the item to Singapore to the customer.

After two sample purchases, Calvin Klein sued and sought summary judgment against Global PSM, freight forwarding company HS International and Mr Jeffrey Tan, owner of the two firms.

A summary judgment means the case need not go to a full trial to hear witnesses and consider all the evidence because a prima facie case had been made out.

"The crux of the dispute lies in the proper characterisation of the business and the involvement of each of the defendants in those business activities," said Justice Chan Seng Onn in judgment grounds released yesterday.

Global PSM, through lawyers C. Selvaraj and Jonathan Ow, had argued that it served as a courier similar to DHL or FedEx, and the original sellers on Taobao were liable for the trademark breaches.

But lawyers K. Sukumar and Jaswin Kaur Khosa countered that the SGbuy4u business does more than courier services. It collects payments, buys the goods on Taobao and directs the seller to send the goods to a warehouse in Guangzhou used by SGbuy4u. No such facilities were provided by deliverers like FedEx or DHL.

Justice Chan had "no hesitation" in holding Global PSM liable for trademark infringement, finding that it manages the SGbuy4u website and allows a user to buy directly from Global PSM. But he ruled that there were issues that needed to be clarified and were appropriate for a trial in relation to HS International and Mr Tan, the other two defendants.

The judge said "there is a pressing need for intellectual property law to keep up with technological advances in order to ensure that the law continues to protect intellectual property and rights owners in real and relevant ways".

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Calvin Klein, Inc and another v HS International Pte Ltd and others [2016] SGHC 214

Slack security measures led to leak of K Box customers’ data

25 Oct 2016
Neo Chai Chin

SINGAPORE — One receptionist used a single-letter password to access the company system, and on one occasion, K Box Entertainment Group received more than 90,000 members’ personal data, unencrypted, via Gmail from its IT vendor, Finantech.

These findings were revealed on Monday (Oct 24) by the Personal Data Protection Commission, some six months after it fined the karaoke outlet operator S$50,000 for not having adequate security measures to protect the personal data of 317,000 of its members, whose details were leaked online.

The commission also ordered K Box to appoint a data protection officer, and fined Finantech S$10,000.

The karaoke chain had no policy, or physical or online security system, to ensure its employees did not remove customers’ personal data from its premises. Employees were required to set alphanumeric passwords with eight letters or numbers, but its IT system did not ensure staff complied.

And when K Box wanted members’ personal data for marketing purposes, it informed its third-party IT vendor, who would retrieve the information from the database and send it unencrypted via Gmail.

K Box did not delete the accounts of employees who had left the company until the day after news of the data breach. And after the news broke in September 2014, the company still did not hire a data protection officer, even though it implemented a new content management system in November 2014.

The data breach could have resulted from K Box’s “admin” user account having a weak password, the commission found. Files detected as malware were found in K Box’s content management system folder, but the commission could not conclusively rule that the breach was due to someone hacking into its system.

The breach had caused the identity-card numbers, mailing addresses, contact numbers and other information of about 317,000 members to be revealed online. It was reported by The Real Singapore website on Sept 16, 2014.

K Box’s weak enforcement of its password policy and weak control of unused accounts and passwords alone could have enabled an attacker to gain access to substantial personal data simply though the content management system, the commission stated in its ruling.

The company’s use of vulnerable software could also have allowed attackers to do more damage.

K Box failed to make “reasonable security arrangements” to protect members’ data and while it had outsourced the hosting of its content management system to Finantech, it was still the data controller and ultimately responsible for its security, the commission ruled.

Under the Personal Data Protection Act, K Box could have been fined up to S$1 million, among other penalties.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

K Box Entertainment Group Pte Ltd / Finantech Holdings Pte Ltd [2016] SGPDPC 0

Swissco demands $43m debt from 3 firms

Straits Times
13 Oct 2016
Marissa Lee

Debt-ridden Swissco Holdings is demanding a sum of US$31.3 million (S$43.1 million) from three firms as it struggles to stay afloat. It has begun arbitration proceedings in Hong Kong, the rig and vessel chartering group said yesterday.

Star Excellence (HK), in which Swissco has a 50 per cent stake, is claiming US$26.1 million against charterer Tyloo for outstanding charter hire amounts due and owing to Star Excellence under a bareboat charter party entered into by the parties.

Meanwhile, Swissco Offshore, a wholly-owned unit of Swissco, has also made a US$5.2 million claim against shipbuilders Nanjing East Star and Jiangsu Skyrun for a refund of two instalments paid by Swissco Offshore. The contracts have been terminated due to substantial delays in the delivery of the contracted vessels, Swissco said.

Separately, Swissco said it is disputing a US$1.69 million claim from X-Drill Holding alleging the sum is due in relation to services provided by X-Drill to rigs owned by four Swissco units. Swissco said it had responded to a statutory letter of demand from X-Drill a week ago.

Swissco told holders of its $100 million bonds on Monday that it cannot pay out a $2.85 million coupon due next Friday and had no plans on its next course of action.

It then invited bond holders to form an informal steering committee to work with financial adviser EY to develop a "mutually agreeable" restructuring plan. EY will begin discussions with note holders next week, and a second informal note holder meeting will be held in four weeks.

Swissco faces a US$147.5 million mountain of bank debt maturing from now until 2020. Add to that the principal owed to bond holders due in 2018 and Swissco has a total debt of US$221.6 million.

Swissco called for a trading suspension yesterday, given the ongoing efforts to present a debt restructuring plan.

Its shares last traded at 5.2 cents on Monday, before trading was halted ahead of the informal note holder meeting that afternoon.

Swissco has also suspended trading of its 5.7 per cent notes, but bond holders have complained that there have been no buyers for a long time anyway.

Swissco faces a US$147.5 million (S$203.2 million) mountain of bank debt maturing from now until 2020. Add to that the principal owed to bond holders due in 2018 and Swissco has a total debt of US$221.6 million.

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Woman allowed to retract guilty plea for dog abuse

Straits Times
06 Oct 2016
Selina Lum

She had been under pressure as lawyer said she may be remanded at IMH if she claimed trial

A 44-year-old woman was yesterday allowed to retract her guilty plea for ill-treating three pet dogs after the court accepted her contention that she had been pressured to plead guilty.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, after examining the circumstances leading to Chng Leng Khim pleading guilty in February, ruled that she had done so after her former lawyer told her she may be remanded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) if she claimed trial.

The lawyer, who was asked to file a statutory declaration to give his account of events, did not deny having said this. Mr Ravinderpal Singh said this was in reply to Chng's question after he told her he could not act for her if she claimed trial.

Mr Singh said Chng had asked him what would happen if she was unable to give evidence. The lawyer said he told her the court has the power to to remand her at the IMH to assess if she was able to testify.

Yesterday, CJ Menon asked why the lawyer had raised this possibility, as the court's power was related to accused persons who may be mentally unfit to testify.

Mr Singh said Chng looked "a little bit depressed" then and he worried if she was in the state of mind to follow court proceedings.

CJ Menon said he saw no reason why the lawyer had raised the issue of mental soundness. "Perhaps something was lost in their exchange," he said. But to Chng, the suggestion that one possible consequence of not pleading guilty was to be remanded at IMH would have been an "alarming" one, he added.

"In my judgment, this was a sufficiently disturbing prospect and, in the particular circumstances of this case, it did unfairly deprive the appellant of her freedom to choose between pleading guilty and pleading not guilty," said CJ Menon.

He noted that the events took place against the backdrop of Chng having repeatedly "expressed sustained misgivings over pleading guilty" and vacillated on her plea.

CJ Menon set aside Chng's conviction and sent the case back to the State Courts for trial. "It may be that claiming trial turns out to be a wholly ill-conceived course of action but, ultimately, it is the appellant's entitlement to claim trial if she wishes to do so," he said.

"She may succeed at trial or she might fail. If she fails at trial, it might conceivably result in a stiffer sentence being imposed than that which has been meted out."

Chng was given 10 days' jail and a fine of $3,100 in February on charges linked to her dogs, including two counts of animal cruelty.

After moving out of her Paya Lebar home, she allegedly left behind a bull mastiff and a chow chow. Both were ill and thin, infested with ticks, and surrounded by their urine and faeces when found. An emaciated and tick-infested poodle found near the house was traced back to her via a microchip.

The chow chow and poodle were rehomed, but the bull mastiff had to be euthanised.

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3 1/2 years' jail for airport manager who embezzled $477k

Straits Times
25 Oct 2016
Elena Chong

An airport manager who misappropriated $476,682 over three months was jailed 3 1/2 years yesterday.

Lim Guan Tee, 61, was employed by Asia-Pacific Star (APS), a subsidiary of Sats, when he committed the criminal breach of trust from July 9 to Oct 10, 2014.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin told the court that Lim had worked for Sats since 1976 and was seconded to APS in October 2009.

He managed the lost and found office, and also had access to the cash from the daily sales of the Tiger Airways counter as the second overall-in-charge of operations in the airport.

His job scope included reconciling differences between the cash sales recorded and the cash collected at the Tiger Airways counter.

On occasion, he would take security company Brink's polymer bags containing cash from the sales desk at the airline counter, saying he would pass them to the lost and found office to be stored in Brink's safe there.

The sales desk agents gave the bags to him as they viewed him as their superior.

Between 2013 and October 2014, Lim also instructed the supervisors on duty in the lost and found office to give the polymer bags from the sales desk agents directly to him or to place them in a separate safe where lost and found items were stored.

The supervisors were instructed not to record in the summary list the bags placed in that small safe or handed to him directly.

Sometimes, he even instructed supervisors to remove bags from Brink's safe when Brink's agents were collecting its contents and to switch them to the small safe.

Brink's agents did not object as long as the removed polymer bags were struck from the summary list.

Lim said he needed the bags to reconcile cash collected with recorded cash sales.

He gave himself up on Oct 16, 2014. Only $12 was recovered from the polymer bags.

Lim had used the money to gamble and repay his loans.

Lawyer Sunil Sudheesan said Lim brought with him all the pieces of evidence when he surrendered to the Commercial Affairs Department, which showed "cooperation of the highest degree".

Pleading for mercy, Mr Sunil said Lim was sincerely remorseful and promised not to re-offend.

He could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined for criminal breach of trust as a servant.

Elena Chong

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IHC stalls shareholders' request for hostile EGM

Straits Times
13 Oct 2016
Marissa Lee

Company says request 'invalid and legally ineffective'; in separate meeting, all other resolutions fail to pass

Medical property developer International Healthway Corp (IHC) appears to have stalled a request from unhappy shareholders to convene a hostile extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of shareholders.

It said in a statement close to midnight on Tuesday that the request was "invalid and legally ineffective", despite the shareholders - Oxley deputy chief Eric Low and his sister Audrey - providing bank verification of their holdings.

A puzzled Mr Low said yesterday: "I don't understand why they doubt my shareholdings. I have shares parked under nominee accounts but I got all the banks to give me letters of certification and I got notaries to verify they were genuine. You can't just say our request is invalid, you have to tell the full story."

IHC did not explain its reasoning in the public filing, but in response to questions from The Straits Times, executive director Lim Beng Choo said she had been advised that under Section 176 of the Companies Act, in order for a person's shareholding to count towards the 10 per cent representation required, his shares must be held in his own name and not in nominee accounts.

She added: "The amount held in their name is only 8,000-over shares."

While the rule requires those calling an EGM to be members of a company's share register, it makes no mention of nominees.

Companies can, however, lay down their own rules for how to count shares in their individual company constitutions. UniLegal consultant Yoong Nim Chor, who advised IHC, declined to comment.

One lawyer, who declined to be named, said he had not come across such a basis for rejecting a requisition before, and that IHC should announce its reasons since the decision was a material development concerning the company.

Another lawyer agreed that those seeking the meeting would have to go back to the drawing board. But he noted it would be an easy fix: "IHC is just delaying the inevitable. The nominee banks will usually play ball and sign the requisition letter and the game will be back in play quite soon."

Meanwhile, IHC is working without an auditor after 58 per cent of its shareholders voted against the appointment of Baker Tilly at a separate meeting yesterday.

Former auditor PwC chose not to be re-appointed owing to disagreements with the IHC board over how certain properties should be valued, among other things.

Independent director Leonard Chia, who chaired the meeting, said: "Since the shareholders have not agreed to Baker Tilly being the auditors, we will have to apply to the authorities for an extension of time to appoint another suitable firm of auditors."

Two other resolutions, to pass a general share issue mandate and approve up to $420,000 directors' fees for the current financial year also failed to pass yesterday with few questions asked.

IHC shares fell 2.9 per cent or 0.2 cent to close at 6.8 cents.

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

1MDB funds siphoned off under 'Ponzi' scheme

Business Times
06 Oct 2016
Anita Gabriel

Swiss regulator gives update on its ongoing probe into Malaysia-govt-owned strategic investment company

[Singapore] MORE than a year and a half ago Malaysian opposition lawmaker Tony Pua described Malaysia's troubled 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) as a "Ponzi" scheme. He was roundly dismissed by some as a fierce critic of the state-backed firm going on a rant.

But on Wednesday, validation came from an unlikely place - Switzerland.

The European country's Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) said its probe into 1MDB's money trail had revealed that US$800 million in investments in natural resources by SRC, a 1MDB-linked company at the centre of the scandal, was misappropriated under a "Ponzi" scheme.

It described such a scheme as one in which the returns on initial investments are paid from funds from subsequent investors rather than from legitimate revenue from investments.

The OAG said the suspected Ponzi scheme, set up to conceal the misappropriation from both SRC and 1MDB, came to light through evidence obtained of further "suspect transactions" involving the Swiss financial sector.

The OAG's statement breaks five months of silence; earlier, it had given updates on its probe into 1MDB monies relatively regularly.

The OAG, which opened criminal proceedings on the case in August 2015, also said that it has to ask for mutual legal assistance (MLA) from Malaysia again, to obtain more evidence to corroborate its latest findings; it said its initial MLA request to Malaysia on the alleged misappropriations, made in January this year, was "still pending".

"The OAG has requested assistance from the Malaysian authorities so that the presumed companies or persons suffering harm can assert their rights in the Swiss criminal proceedings," it said.

The OAG said it remained confident that the two requests to Malaysia will be executed," it added.

The Swiss regulator disclosed that it had also made a fresh MLA request to Singapore based on the "new suspicions", and that its earlier request for cooperation from the Singapore authorities, made in April this year, had been met "to its full satisfaction".

At this stage of the Swiss investigations - earlier revealed to involve suspected misappropriation of some US$4 billion involving Petrosaudi, Tanjong/Genting, SRC and ADMIC - four persons and a bank are being investigated.

Two former 1MDB officials and "persons unknown" are being probed for suspected bribery of foreign officials, misconduct in public office, money laundering and criminal mismanagement.

In April, Switzerland extended its investigation into two former officials of Abu Dhabi sovereign funds for fraud, criminal mismanagement, misconduct in public office, forgery, bribery of foreign public officials and money laundering.

In May, the OAG opened criminal proceedings against BSI SA bank, related to suspected shortfalls in the bank's internal structure.

Singapore shut down BSI's operation here, after its probe into the most complex money laundering case here involving 1MDB funds unearthed suspicious transactions and relationships at the bank.

The latest update by the Swiss authority comes less than three months after the US Justice Department revealed that some US$3.5 billion had been allegedly siphoned out of the state-backed firm and used to fund the lavish lifestyles of several individuals, including Malaysian tycoon Jho Low.

The scandal has weighed Malaysia down for nearly two years.

Of late, expectations have been raised that more developments will be made public by US regulators.

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

S'pore ranks No. 9 in world for rule of law

Straits Times
24 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

It is only Asian nation in top 10 of index of 113 countries by independent group based in US

For the second year in a row, Singapore was ranked ninth globally for the rule of law, the only Asian state in the top 10 out of 113 countries.

The Republic was No. 1 for order and security as well as regulatory enforcement in the 2016 Rule of Law Index compiled by the World Justice Project (WJP), an independent advocacy group based in the United States.

Order and security looks at factors including how effectively crime is controlled and whether there is political unrest, while regulatory enforcement measures the effectiveness of government regulations, among other things.

For absence of corruption, the Republic was ranked behind only Denmark.

The top three overall performers in the WJP index were Denmark, Norway and Finland, while the last three were Afghanistan, Cambodia and Venezuela.

The index measures how the rule of law is experienced by the public worldwide in everyday situations based on surveys of 1,000 respondents per country and interviews with local experts.

  • 1,000

    Number of respondents per country, plus interviews


    Number of indicators across eight primary factors

A country's performance is measured using 44 indicators across eight primary factors, each of which is scored and ranked globally and against regional and income peers.

These factors include constraints on government powers, open government, fundamental rights and civil criminal justice.

"The rule of law is notoriously difficult to define and measure. A simple way of approaching it is in terms of some of the outcomes that the rule of law brings to societies - such as accountability, respect for fundamental rights, or access to justice - each of which reflects one aspect of the complex concept of the rule," said the WJP, which released its latest report last week.

"Effective rule of law reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices large and small," it added.

Singapore's Ministry of Law welcomed the index, noting that Singapore is the only Asian country that has made it to the top 10.

"We welcome the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index as a tool that measures a nation's adherence to the rule of law based on the perceptions of experts and the general public, which we will study as part of our commitment to a robust rule of law framework in Singapore," said the ministry.

Observers here welcome the findings and said the report could be a starting point to discuss what Singapore excels in and what requires more attention.

Singapore did less well in the categories of constraints on government powers, fundamental rights and open government - which measure, for instance, the right to information and civic participation.

National University of Singapore law don Cheah Wui Ling said: "Singapore's high ranking in certain WJP categories is positive, but we need to approach indicators and ranking systems with caution."

She said indicators and indexes are "simplifications of reality".

"In other words, the WJP index may not fully tell us how Singaporeans experience the rule of law as lived in reality," she said.

Even if Singapore ranks highly in an area of governance based on the index's indicators, it does not mean that "no improvements are needed to enhance the rule of law", she said.

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

Shunfu Ville faces hiccups after sale

Straits Times
12 Oct 2016
Lee Xin En

Sale now needs approval of High Court after five unit owners' objections Developer wants to build 30- to 36-storey project, but told to stick to 21- to 23-storey limit

The blockbuster $638 million sale of Shunfu Ville sealed in May this year is facing some hurdles.

Five unit owners have objected to the collective sale of the estate in Bishan.

Also, developer Qingjian Realty (South Pacific) Group, which had hoped to build a project of 30 to 36 storeys, has been told by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to stick to a 21- to 23-storey limit.

The Straits Times understands two mediation sessions with the five objecting owners ended last month and the Strata Titles Boards issued a stop order to the collective-sale committee.

The committee applied to the High Court to seek approval for the sale last week.

More than 82 per cent of the owners agreed to sell the 358-unit privatised Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) estate to Qingjian Realty - in line with legal requirements.

But the sale now needs the approval of the High Court.

Owners can object on grounds such as financial loss even after the sale committee gets the requisite percentage of owners' approval.

Each flat owner stands to pocket an average of $1.782 million if the sale goes ahead, after they agreed to lower the reserve price from $688 million to $638 million.

Madam Teresa Koh, a 68-year- old retiree who owns a Shunfu Ville flat, said she received a circular last month about the five objections.

She added that she had been told to hold off the buying of a new flat.

Flat owners said they were told that they will have to pay $1,500 each for the High Court legal fees.

The deal is Qingjian Realty's first collective purchase in Singapore since it began developing projects here eight years ago. But the setback has not dampened general manager Li Jun's optimism.

He told The Straits Times in Mandarin that this was part of the process of developing projects and lawyers had warned him about such issues in buying collective-sale sites.

He emphasised that the firm had not submitted any design plans, contrary to an earlier news report saying its design had been rejected by the URA.

The firm had submitted an outline application - a broad proposal that allows the developer to propose land use, plot ratio, building form and building height - he said.

"We had hoped to be able to build between 30 and 36 storeys," he said, but added that the firm had anticipated a possible height limit.

He said the prices will depend on market conditions.

"But as a rule of thumb, a flat on the 30th storey sells for higher than a flat on the 20th storey. When we start on the design for the Shunfu Ville plot, we will definitely want to maximise the plot ratio, within the URA guidelines."

He confirmed that Qingjian Realty will comply with the URA's height limit.

The URA confirmed that it had received Qingjian Realty's outline proposal, and that it had asked for the height to be kept between 21 and 23 storeys to ensure "the view from the nearby MacRitchie Reservoir Park is not hemmed in by tall buildings".

"Based on our study, the maximum allowable gross plot ratio of 2.8 for the site can be achieved," it said.

Mr Li said Qingjian Realty can only wait for the High Court's decision at the moment.

Mr Kenneth Szeto, a real estate partner at law firm Colin Ng and Partners, said the High Court application is part of the collective-sale approval procedure.

"It is not uncommon to have objecting minority owners because each development is different and the owners would have bought their units at different times.

"At the moment, it can go either way. The sale application will be allowed if the grounds of objection are not valid. But if it is proven that there's been bad faith in the committee's handling of the matter, if any of the five suffer financial loss, then the courts will have no choice but to turn down the application."

The nature of the five owners' objections is not known.

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

Cash in joint account can't be used to pay one party's debts: Court

Straits Times
05 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

The money was not much but the implications were far-reaching for banks and joint-account holders.

The High Court has ruled in a test case that monies in a joint account held in a bank cannot be held for a creditor under a garnishee order to satisfy debts owed by one of the account holders.

Judicial Commissioner Kannan Ramesh made clear that the benefits of introducing such a practice would be outweighed by "the operation, cost and policy difficulties affecting creditors, debtors and third parties alike".

In judgment grounds released yesterday, he noted the "surprising absence" of any local court ruling on a point of some importance to the banking community.

At issue was $117.34 in a DBS Bank joint account held by businessman Cham Poh Meng and his wife.

Mr Cham had been ordered in January to pay the director of One Investment and Consultancy, a British Virgin Islands company, some $1.5 million in interest following a court-settled spat for sums due under an agreement.

About 10 days later, the director took out a garnishee order against DBS Bank, arguing for the sum in the joint account to be used to settle Mr Cham's judgment debt.

After hearing the parties, an assistant registrar agreed and approved the garnishee order for half of the total sum in the account, presuming that the contributions by Mr Cham and his wife were equal.

DBS, represented by Allen & Gledhill lawyers Tham Hsu Hsien and Hoh Jian Yong, appealed and argued that joint accounts cannot be subject to garnishee orders and there were no " policy imperatives" to depart from a principle followed in most Commonwealth countries.

Mr Cham did not appear at the High Court hearing in May while WongPartnership lawyer Nicholas Seng had been instructed by the plaintiffs not to contest the appeal.

JC Kannan held that there was "no basis in law or fact" to assume that husband and wife were each entitled to an equal share of the joint account, pointing out that the "potential prejudice to the joint-account holder or holders was obvious".

He said there was no chance for Mr Cham's wife to challenge the garnishee order, which was "potentially unfair" to her as a joint-account holder not required to be notified.

He said even if the decision to freeze half of the money in the account had gone ahead, it would not have stopped Mr Cham from withdrawing the remaining sum. This would result in his wife bearing the entire burden as all that would remain would be the frozen half.

The judge conceded that the strongest reason for allowing the freeze was that a debtor "could easily ring-fence his assets from creditors by transferring funds into a joint account with a third party".

But the benefits of allowing garnishee orders to joint accounts would be "disproportionate" to difficulties such as finding out how much each account holder contributed to the account, which the bank was ill-equipped to do.

One way out was for the plaintiffs to apply for a person to be appointed by the court to manage the funds in the joint account, he suggested.

"Whether the balance should lie further in favour of the interests of creditors is a matter best left for legislative reform," said JC Kannan.

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

One Investment and Consultancy Limited and another v Cham Poh Meng (DBS Bank Ltd, garnishee) [2016] SGHC 208

Worrying trend of firms disguising layoffs: NTUC

24 Oct 2016
Kenneth Cheng

Cases where workers whose contracts are terminated at one month’s notice on the rise

SINGAPORE — Some had their contracts terminated without clear explanation — just before their firms moved overseas. Others were let go because they did not meet their performance targets. Or so they were told.

But investigations later show that they are actually disquieting examples of “disguised retrenchments”, a trend the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is concerned about, such that its assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay raised the matter in Parliament last month.

He had called on the Government to pay more attention to the issue for a better reflection of layoff numbers.

Speaking to TODAY last week, Mr Tay, who is also a Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC, said he was unhappy about such veiled layoffs because firms get away with not having to pay workers retrenchment benefits.

It also allows them to avoid bad press or business repercussions if the word gets out. Hence, they axe staff but “don’t say it’s (a) redundancy”, Mr Tay said.

Right now, firms do not have to notify the Government of any forthcoming retrenchment exercises, but are encouraged to do so.

Retrenchment benefits are not mandatory under the law, and the quantum hinges on agreements between employers and employees. Quantums are to be negotiated between the two parties if no provisions are made.

Mr Tay said that, lately, the labour movement’s U PME Centre, which helps professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), is seeing a rising number of one particular type of disguised retrenchment.

This would be workers whose contracts are terminated at one month’s notice — generally permissible under provisions in employment contracts — by firms shedding headcount. These workers did not get retrenchment benefits.

In the past year, the centre handled between 15 and 20 such cases, all in non-unionised firms, compared with fewer than 10 the year before, a trend that corresponds with the increasing number of layoffs, Mr Tay said.

The Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) latest labour-market report last month showed that layoffs for the first half of this year vaulted to 9,510, the highest since 2009.

In other instances, workers are asked to resign voluntarily when firms wade into troubled times. The companies claim that terminating them “doesn’t look good on you”.

In cases where contracts are terminated with poor performance cited as a reason, a tell-tale sign of a disguised retrenchment is when the poor performance rating comes abruptly on the back of consistently good ratings.

Last month, the U PME Centre helped a senior professional in a large non-unionised firm claim retrenchment benefits after a tussle of nearly two months, Mr Tay disclosed.

Mary (not her real name), 45, had approached the NTUC in July after her firm discontinued the project she was working on. A shift in company strategy meant that her role ceased to exist.

Affected staff were given two options: Secure another internal role or accept a retrenchment package if they could not land one. She was also told to hunt for work externally owing to the difficult economic situation.

After landing two job offers, one of which was within the company, Mary chose the other job at another company, which offered bigger responsibilities.

She was later told, however, that she would not receive a retrenchment package since she was offered an internal role, and was to resign. The worker was not told about this policy and felt it was unfair, the NTUC said.

Workers at non-unionised firms tend to be more vulnerable. Mr Tay said unionised firms would consult their unions as provided for in the collective agreement between firms and unions.

The norm is to do this a month before employees are notified of a retrenchment exercise. Retrenchment benefits usually work out at one month’s wage for each year of service.

But workers in non-unionised firms risk being left to flounder, even though individuals who are union members could still seek help through the tripartite mediation framework.

Recourse aside from civil action is limited. Workers could turn to the unfair-dismissal provisions in the Employment Act, but this covers only those earning up to S$4,500 a month.

The new Employment Claims Tribunals, which will, from April, hear salary-related disputes for all workers, regardless of income, may close this gap, but even this avenue is “useless” if employment contracts are silent on retrenchment benefits, said Mr Tay.

Workers must therefore ensure that such benefits are spelt out in their contracts before signing on the dotted line, he urged.

The Tripartite Guidelines on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment offer guidance on responsible retrenchment practices, such as retrenchment benefits.

For instance, employees who have worked in a firm for two years or longer should be eligible for retrenchment benefits, while those with less than two years’ service could be granted an ex-gratia payment.

The prevailing norm is to pay benefits of between two weeks’ and one month’s wage for every year worked, depending on the firm’s financial position and industry norms.

Mr Tay also said that notifying the ministry of retrenchment exercises should be made mandatory, so help can be offered to workers.

Reiterating that employers should be responsible when laying off staff, he added: “Be fair, responsible, follow the Tripartite Guidelines ... (and) do it in a responsible manner.”

Six types of ‘disguised layoffs’

Poor performance

A tell-tale sign of firms slashing staff is when workers are suddenly given poor performance ratings on the back of consistently good ratings.

Axed just before company moves abroad

Workers have their contracts terminated without clear explanation, but learn later that their firms have moved abroad.

Terminated at one month’s notice

Workers are terminated at a month’s notice — generally permissible under provisions in employment contracts — by firms cutting headcount. These workers do not get retrenchment benefits.

Golden handshakes

Workers are axed by firms and given a one-off or ex-gratia payment, some of which are below industry norms.

Contract workers terminated due to lost business contracts

Contract workers have their contracts discontinued after their firms failed to retain business deals or have to shed staff on account of a slowdown. While legally permissible, this could be considered a layoff.

Voluntary resignation

Workers are asked to resign voluntarily when firms are dogged by economic difficulties. The companies claim that terminating them “doesn’t look good on you”.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

MAS shuts down Falcon bank over 1MDB fund flows

Straits Times
12 Oct 2016
Grace Leong

Million-dollar fines also issued to DBS and UBS for anti-money laundering breaches

In more tough action over the deepening Malaysian 1MDB state fund scandal, the Singapore authorities closed a second Swiss bank, and fined DBS and UBS, for anti-money laundering breaches.

The million-dollar penalties for DBS and UBS were for breaches of money laundering rules and centred on lapses by specific bank officers, including executives.

The biggest sanction came with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) ruling that Falcon Private Bank's Singapore branch must cease operations because of "serious failures" in anti-money laundering controls and "improper conduct" by senior management in Switzerland and Singapore. The breaches were in relation to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund flows from March 2013 to May last year.

Falcon, which employs 35 people here at its Centennial Tower office, was also hit with $4.3 million in penalties for failing to adequately assess and file reports on irregularities in customer account activities.

The Swiss-based bank demonstrated "a persistent and severe lack of understanding" of these controls, the MAS said yesterday.

Falcon's Singapore branch manager Jens Sturzenegger was arrested on Oct 5 over alleged improper conduct by him and other senior managers.

The authorities in Switzerland also took action yesterday, ordering Falcon to turn over illegal profits amounting to 2.5 million Swiss francs (S$3.5 million). Criminal proceedings against two former executives were also launched.

Falcon is the second Swiss bank to be shut down here. BSI Bank's Singapore branch was ordered to close in May for similar reasons.

Falcon is owned by Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund International Petroleum Investment Company, which has been involved with 1MDB bonds since 2012. The MAS said it is working with the Swiss authorities to oversee an orderly closure.

It also fined DBS $1 million and Swiss-based UBS $1.3 million for breaches in relation to 1MDB fund flows. These included weaknesses in corroborating the source of funds and inadequate scrutiny of customer transactions.

DBS and the Singapore branches of UBS and Standard Chartered Bank were used as "conduits" for a complex global web of transactions involving entities and individuals in Singapore, the United States and Hong Kong, the MAS said.

While the lapses at DBS and UBS were due to specific bank officers who failed to carry out their duties effectively, the MAS did not find pervasive control weaknesses.

A DBS spokesman said: "DBS will be taking actions to hold responsible staff accountable, which will include our senior executives."

Meanwhile, the MAS is finalising its assessment of StanChart's Singapore branch and has referred the 1MDB-related transactions processed by remittance agent Raffles Money Change to the Commercial Affairs Department.

Said MAS managing director Ravi Menon yesterday: "(Financial institutions) must put in place robust mechanisms to detect suspicious activities, promote strong risk awareness... and empower their compliance and risk management people."

1MDB fund flows: DBS, UBS to take action against staff for control lapses

DBS Bank and the Singapore branch of UBS said yesterday that they will take action against staff who were involved in lapses in relation to 1Malaysia Development Berhad-related fund flows.

The statements came after both banks were fined by the financial regulator for breaches in anti-money laundering laws.

DBS was hit with a $1 million penalty for 10 breaches of these laws while UBS must fork out $1.3 million for 13 violations.

The lapses involve weaknesses in corroborating the source of funds, inadequate scrutiny of customer transactions and failure to file timely suspicious transaction reports.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) had earlier said DBS and the Singapore branches of UBS and Standard Chartered Bank were used as "conduits" for a complex web of global transactions involving entities and individuals in Singapore, the United States and Hong Kong.

It added it did not detect pervasive control weaknesses at DBS and UBS, finding instead the lapses were due to specific bank officers failing to carry out their duties effectively.

It admonished the two banks and told management to address the control lapses and take disciplinary action against the staff involved.

DBS did not say how many staff members would be penalised.

Its spokesman noted: "Any staff we feel could have done a better job... will be held accountable. In general, there is a wide array of possible consequences, ranging from a warning, bonus impact to dismissal.

"We should have taken more rigorous action with respect to the questionable activity, even if it was intentionally designed to conceal another purpose.

"These actions are for lapses which occurred in 2013 and 2014. We have made many enhancements since then and are in a materially better position than before."

The spokesman said the bank will donate "profits attributable to our shortcomings to a worthy cause".

UBS said it was "disappointed" it had not done more to detect the breaches earlier. The bank said it is strengthening its controls and action will be taken against individuals responsible for the lapses.

"UBS is determined not to be used as a platform for financial crime," it said.

"We will donate all profits from this account to the establishment of an industry-wide anti-money laundering programme to be run by an independent educational body to help combat financial crime and reinforce Singapore's status as a financial centre which adheres to the highest standards."

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

Application of POHA clause should include Govt: AGC

05 Oct 2016
Amanda Lee

SINGAPORE — The clause to deal with false statements under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) is separate from those dealing with harassment and stalking, so it does not matter whether a victim feels emotionally or psychologically affected. This was the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) argument to the apex court yesterday against a High Court’s ruling that the Government cannot invoke the POHA.

The case concerned a medical device firm’s co-founder’s comments to socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC) on the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) over an alleged patent infringement. The firm, MobileStat, had sued the Government, claiming that Mindef had copied its concept of a mobile emergency medical station. MobileStat dropped its claim in January 2014, citing financial difficulties.

In January last year, TOC posted an interview with MobileStat co-founder Dr Ting Choon Meng about the case. A cease-and-desist letter was sent by the AGC to Dr Ting, asking him to stop making false statements about Mindef. Mindef had taken issue with Dr Ting’s statements that it had knowingly copied his concept and it was trying to wear him down financially in the suit.

When TOC and Dr Ting refused to take down the statements, the AGC applied for a court order under Section 15 of POHA to have them taken down. A district court granted the order, but this was overturned by a High Court, prompting the AGC to file an appeal.

Yesterday, State Counsel Hui Choon Kuen argued that the clause in question was meant to provide a “measured and calibrated remedy for the subject to have the falsehood corrected”. It was not premised on harassment, he added, contrary to Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon’s finding that the clause was a “lower-tiered remedy for harassment”.

Mr Hui also said that allowing the Government to invoke Section 15 of POHA “does not impinge on free speech in any way”. “This is because the maker of the false statement is not required to take down his false statement as long as he publishes the notification ordered by the court,” he said.

But Dr Ting, who is represented by lawyer Choo Zheng Xi, argued that the purpose of Section 15 of POHA and the Act as a whole does not include the Government. Rather, the clause is to allow “people” and “victims” of an attack that involves factual inaccuracies to help themselves in a manner that they would “feel ... satisfied” without recourse to a criminal complaint or the filing of a civil claim. “This purpose supports the interpretation that Section 15 of the (POHA) was only contemplated to be available to human beings and not the government,” he added.

TOC, which is represented by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam, pointed out that the objective of Section 15 of POHA is to “combat the rising and disturbing incidence of cyber-bullying and antisocial behaviour against lay victims who have little means to protect themselves”. “It was not all within the reasonable contemplation of Section 15’s legislators that the Government — a well-resourced entity which cannot be said to be vulnerable to cyber-bullying or antisocial behaviour — could utilise Section 15,” he added.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, and Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang heard the case yesterday. They reserved judgment.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Firm told to pay $1.6m to neighbour for fire damage

Straits Times
23 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Court also rules firm's insurers not obliged to underwrite payout

An electrical supplies company suffered a double blow when the High Court ruled it was liable for the fire that caused $1.6 million worth of damage to its neighbour and its insurers were not obliged to underwrite its payout.

The court found the blaze started on the premises of Grace Electrical Engineering in Kallang Way in the early hours of Sept 6, 2012 - contrary to its expert's claims.

"All in all, the environmental conditions and circumstances under which the fire originated and spread created an inference of negligence on the part of (Grace), its servant or agent, and (Grace) had not shown it was not negligent," said Justice Belinda Ang, in judgment grounds released last Friday.

Te Deum Engineering, which deals in cables and electrical and plumbing products and occupied the adjoining factory unit, had sued Grace for negligence following the fire that spread to its premises. Te Deum sought $1,584,091 in losses, including $960,000 for goods as well as $157,000 for the rent it was forced to pay for alternative premises.

Grace, which used the premises to test electrical cables and equipment as well as repack cables, denied causing the fire, alleging the fire started at Te Deum, and counterclaimed for its own loss and damage totalling $896,895.

It also emerged Grace had used the premises to house its foreign workers and was slapped with summonses for violating fire safety regulations. Following Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) probes, Grace was convicted and fined $17,000 after pleading guilty to five charges under the Fire Safety Act in 2013, which included converting part of the premises for accommodation use without SCDF approval. Three other charges were taken into consideration.

Investigators separately appointed by insurers for both parties and the SCDF investigations all concluded the fire started in Unit 141, occupied by Grace. But in March last year, Grace engaged a fire expert who opined that all three reports were wrong and the fire started in Unit 143, used by Te Deum.

Tan Kok Quan Partnership lawyer Marina Chin argued for Te Deum that Grace's claim was " simply an afterthought" and a "last- ditch attempt to avoid liability".

Grace, defended by Unilegal lawyer Ranvir Kumar Singh, argued the fire either started on Te Deum's premises or was due to a cause that was unknown or accidental.

The judge cast doubts on the "theory" of Grace's expert and found "no difficulty" accepting SCDF's testimony that the fire started in Unit 141. She said Grace's counterclaim had "no merit" and ordered costs.

Separately, insurers for Grace, represented by lawyer Ramasamy Chettiar, objected to paying out for the firm's losses as Grace did not follow the conditions for the insurance payout to kick in.

Grace countered that this was wrongful and EQ Insurance was liable to pay up to $1 million under the policy for its losses. Justice Ang found that Grace had breached the insurance policy condition in not complying with the Fire Safety Act, which meant EQ was not liable to indemnify Grace for its losses.

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

New forum looks at managing cross-border insolvency cases

Straits Times
12 Oct 2016
Chia Yan Min

Insolvency judges from 10 jurisdictions met in Singapore recently at an inaugural conference to discuss cooperation in cross-border insolvency matters. The judges were from Australia, the British Virgin Islands, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Britain, Hong Kong (as an observer), Singapore and the United States.

The Judicial Insolvency Network (JIN) conference ended yesterday with the preparation of draft guidelines for consideration in the judges' respective jurisdictions.

These draft guidelines address key aspects of communication and cooperation among courts, insolvency representatives, and other parties involved in cross-border insolvency proceedings.

This would benefit relevant stakeholders by reducing legal costs and preserving the value of financially distressed businesses.

With globalisation and the shift in how corporations conduct their businesses and organise themselves, it is hoped that more jurisdictions will participate in JIN to develop best practices in the adjudication of cross-border insolvencies, Singapore's Supreme Court said in a statement yesterday.

While judges from Bermuda, South Korea and Japan were not present at the conference, their judiciaries requested to be kept abreast of the discussions.

The JIN is a platform for judges to share experiences, exchange ideas, identify areas for judicial cooperation and develop best practices.

The JIN conferences will take place every two years in various jurisdictions.

Judicial conference on the establishment of a judicial insolvency network in the region at the Supreme Court of Singapore. ST photo: Alphonsus Chern

The JIN is a platform for judges to share experiences, exchange ideas, identify areas for judicial cooperation and develop best practices.

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

Related headlines

Courts to work on solving cross-border insolvencies, ST, 07 Oct

Prison term cut for man who killed wife

Straits Times
05 Oct 2016
Selina Lum

CJ: Delay in treatment for his mental illness while in custody was unfair and unsatisfactory

For more than three years, a man who was remanded in custody for killing his wife of 21 years received no psychiatric treatment even though he was diagnosed to be suffering from a delusional disorder of the jealous subtype.

This lack of treatment was "unsatisfactory", observed Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon yesterday, as a three-judge appeal court cut the jail term imposed on Rosdi Joenet, 51, from nine to 7½ years.

"It seems unfair... and mistaken to suggest that the appellant's prison term should be extended to enable treatment to be carried out in prison, when this situation would not have arisen if treatment had been promptly provided."

The court allowed Rosdi's appeal for a lighter sentence given that the killing was a one-off incident which was out of character, that he had a low risk of re-offending and that his family, including his wife's mother and sister, wished to have him back.

In 2012, Rosdi, a driver, began having delusions that his wife was unfaithful.

He suspected that she was seeing a man who drove a BMW. He tried to get his daughter to spy on her and constantly checked with his wife's co-workers on her whereabouts.

She denied having an affair.

On the morning of Nov 17, 2012, he woke her up to talk about their problems but his wife chased him out of the room. Rosdi returned with a kitchen knife and repeatedly stabbed her.

He was sentenced to nine years' jail for culpable homicide in March. The judge took into account as a sentencing factor that he was still not well as he had yet to undergo any treatment in prison for his mental illness and thus needed a longer period in jail to be treated.

But yesterday, Rosdi's lawyer, Mr Abraham Vergis, argued that it was "unfair and prejudicial" to hold this against his client, when it was something beyond his control.

When the Chief Justice asked why Rosdi was not treated, Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng said the prosecution was trying to find out what happened between the prison authorities and Institute of Mental Health (IMH) psychiatrist Bharat Saluja, who has since left Singapore.

The Chief Justice noted that serious offences committed by mentally disordered persons "can pull the court in different directions".

On the one hand is the focus on rehabilitation and, on the other, the protection of the public. Rosdi fell into the former category, based on four IMH reports that the risk of reoffending was low, he said.

"The offence here was undoubtedly an outrage as a husband killed his wife with a knife," he said.

"But the significance of retribution may be attenuated where, as here, those closest to the homicide, namely the children, and the blood relatives of the victim, including her mother and sister, have stated that they seek a reduction of the appellant's sentence because they have forgiven him."

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

Draw up an LPA before it's too late

Straits Times
23 Oct 2016
Lorna Tan

Get peace of mind by appointing a trusted person to be your proxy decision-maker

The recent court case of former China tour guide Yang Yin and his subsequent imprisonment for misappropriating $1.1 million from a wealthy widow brought much attention to a relatively little-known legacy planning tool - the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

Just as people tend to put off making a will, there are reasons why they do not get around to making an LPA. Perhaps they are unaware of its purpose or believe it is reserved for the aged and/or the very wealthy.

This may explain why the take-up rate has been low. Out of the adult resident population of about three million, only about 0.7 per cent, or 20,000 people, have applied for an LPA since the scheme started in 2010 under the Mental Capacity Act.

In the third instalment of a three- part series on legacy planning, The Sunday Times highlights why it may be necessary to have an LPA and the top considerations.

To recap, Yang was given an LPA by widow Chung Khin Chun, 89, in 2012 to manage her welfare and financial affairs. In her will, written earlier, he also stood to inherit all of the widow's assets.

Madam Chung's niece Hedy Mok succeeded in revoking the LPA and was instrumental in the making of a new will. In addition, Madam Mok commenced a series of legal actions against Yang in 2014. Madam Chung, who is childless, was diagnosed with dementia that year.

What is an LPA? This allows people to voluntarily appoint one or more persons (donees) to take decisions and act on their behalf as a proxy decision-maker if they lose mental capacity one day.

The LPA allows donees to act in two broad areas - personal welfare and property. Naturally, it is unwise to wait until one is showing signs of physical or mental vulnerability before executing an LPA. Knowing that provision has been made for the future provides peace of mind, as no one can predict when illness or deterioration will take place.

Mr Alex Goh, an associate with JLC Advisors, says we are in a better position to know who can be trusted to be our donees.

"Without an LPA, there will be uncertainty as to who can act as your proxy decision-maker. An application would have to be made to court to decide who should be appointed as your deputy to decide and act on your behalf. In some cases, there may be friction between family members as to who should be appointed as deputy," he said.

Ms Ang Kim Lan, director at Goodwins Law Corporation, points out the differences between a will and an LPA.

"The provisions of a will kick in only when one passes on. However, if a person suffers a lack of mental capacity (for example, lapsing into a coma or suffering a stroke, brain injury, dementia and mental health issues), the will does not apply.

"Most of my clients thought that the will kicks in when such circumstances occur and were surprised when told otherwise," she said.

Mr Vincent Lim, a partner at JLC Advisors, notes that one advantage of the LPA is that the donee would get quick access to funds.

"If an LPA is in place, this will allow your donee to get quick access to funds necessary for your care and maintenance. Banks will allow your donee to take charge of your bank accounts upon presentation of documents such as the original LPA and a doctor's report certifying that you have lost the capacity to manage your own affairs," he said.

If you lose your mental capacity without an LPA, funds in your bank account cannot be touched until a court order is obtained appointing a person as deputy. It could create stress and inconvenience for loved ones who would, in the interim, have to pay for your care and maintenance as well as expenses relating to applying for the court order, Mr Lim added.

Ms Ang advised that an LPA should be taken out as part of a person's estate planning. She points out that it is not true that an LPA is a legacy planning tool for the very old or the very rich.

"In fact, it should go hand in hand with making a will. It is prudent to align both legacy planning tools so that there is continuity in the person's wishes, regardless of his or her mental capacity, and at death," she added.

Mr Brandon Lam, head of financial planning group at DBS Bank Singapore, said that as the population ages, the number of people with mental illness is expected to go up.

"Having an LPA in place will help to protect the interest of the individuals in case they lose their mental capacity," he said.

According to studies, after age 65, the risk of Alzheimer's doubles every five years. After the age of 85, the risk reaches nearly 50 per cent.

"That, to me, means that I'm very likely to get mentally incapacitated when I get older," said Mr Keon Chee, director of Legasy Planners.

What are the top considerations?


It is critical to choose the right person to be your donee because of the significant powers wielded by him or her. After all, the donee is someone conferred with the authority under the LPA to make decisions about your personal welfare and/or property and affairs when you no longer have the capacity to do so.

He or she should be someone who is trusted and competent and has good financial standing.

You can appoint more than one donee. If joint donees are appointed, they should be able and willing to work together to make decisions in your best interests, said Mr Goh.


In the LPA, you may decide to give the donee general powers for all your personal welfare and/or property and affairs, or only specific powers.

There are two LPA versions available. LPA Form 1 - which can be self-completed - allows you to grant general powers subject to basic conditions or restrictions.

Mr Chee said LPA Form 1 is like a "check the box" form for standard cases where the donee has almost full power over the donor's personal welfare and property affairs.

"This works for the majority of people. When a person becomes mentally incapacitated, the donee then steps into the donor's shoes and goes about acting for the benefit of the donor. However, Form 1 doesn't say 'please look after my mum and dad or even my cat'. Form 2 allows such care to be specified and/or performed through the trust," said Mr Chee.

LPA Form 2 needs to be drafted by a lawyer and allows you to tailor specific powers that are to be granted to the donee.

In both forms, you will find the terms "personal welfare" and "property and affairs".

A personal welfare donee is authorised to decide on matters such as where you are to live, whom you may have contact with, what social activities you take part in and what you wear and eat.

A property and affairs donee will have control and management of your property. Among other things, he or she can deal with your property, handle your tax matters and invest your savings.

Those who have assets of a larger and more complicated value may prefer to tailor the powers to be granted to their donees in respect of their property and affairs.


Earlier this year, changes to the Mental Capacity Act enabled professionals such as lawyers or social workers to step in and be appointed as professional donees.

This is significant as people who are single, divorced or elderly and have no next-of-kin or close friends - and thus no one to rely on to be their proxy decision-makers - can consider appointing professional donees. Even those with family members now have the option of paying professionals to be donees.

They may prefer this if they have complex instructions about their care and assets, or if they want to prevent heated disagreements among their loved ones.


You should be aware that your LPA does not override an AMD if you have registered one.

An AMD is a legal document in which you register in advance your wishes not to have any extraordinary life-sustaining treatment to prolong life when you are suffering from a terminal illness, requiring extraordinary life-sustaining treatment, and are unconscious or incapable of exercising rational judgment over your own treatment.

The Ministry of Health has stated that making an AMD is a voluntary decision, and cannot be made on behalf of another person.

And regardless of objections from family members, doctors will have to respect a person's AMD.


From Sept 1 this year, the application fee for LPA Form 1 for Singaporeans was revised to $75. The good news is that this fee is waived for another two years, until the end of August 2018. The fee waiver for LPA Form 1 applications was introduced in 2014.

This means we will be able to file LPA Form 1 applications for free until this date, although people will still have to pay fees charged by professionals engaged to witness and certify the application, such as medical practitioners and lawyers.

The fee of $200 for LPA Form 2 for Singaporeans remains unchanged.

To download the LPA forms and get more information, visit www.publicguardian.gov.sg

• Editor's note: Send your feedback to lornatan@sph.com.sg on what you enjoy reading in Sunday Invest. Tell me what else you would like to see in this section.

What is the Mental Capacity Act?

Provisions of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) address the need to make decisions on behalf of people aged 21 and older who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions.

The Act allows the court to appoint a deputy to make decisions, and act, on behalf of a mentally incapacitated person who has not made a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

The Act also allows parents of intellectually disabled children (below the age of 21) to apply to the court to appoint a deputy.

The Act empowers the court to step in earlier if those appointed as proxy decision- makers present a risk of abusing their powers. This is to prevent vulnerable elderly people with sizeable assets from being exploited as the society ages and grows in affluence.

Lorna Tan

Real-life cases


Ms Ang Kim Lan from Goodwins Law Corporation recounted the sad example of Ms Koh Lay Lay (not her real name), 23, who was involved in a car accident and was reduced to a vegetative state. Her father applied to the court to be a deputy as he sought authority to manage his daughter's personal welfare matters, including initiating legal proceedings against the appropriate parties responsible for her condition.

Ms Koh is neither old nor rich. If she had drawn up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), her father need not have spent money and time to get the court order to be her deputy to manage her affairs.


Madam Mary Heng (not her real name), 75, is a widow with three grown-up sons. The two older sons are already professionals and have received their inheritances from their mother in the form of education funding and financial assistance with the purchase of their properties.

In her will, she appointed her youngest son as the executor and gave everything to him.

When told that in the absence of an LPA, the youngest son is not necessarily the donee, Madam Heng was shocked.

She realised that as her youngest son is still studying overseas, should she become mentally incapacitated, her older sons may apply to court to be appointed deputies to handle her affairs.

Goodwins Law Corp's Ms Ang recalled: "She told me that it is highly likely that the two sons may spend her money freely as they have already been informed that they will not be getting any more money from her if she passes on. For example, they are likely to buy a Mercedes for ferrying her around instead of just a Toyota."

Madam Heng decided to make an LPA appointing the youngest son and the eldest son to be the donees, so as to align her will with the LPA.


Mrs Lilian Yeo (not her real name), 89, was selling her solely owned flat and waiting for her first appointment with the HDB.

However, she was about to have an operation under general anaesthesia. If she passed away, proceeds from the sale of the flat would be distributed according to her will. However, there was the risk that the operation or effects of general anaesthesia could make her fall into mental incapacity.

Mr Keon Chee of Legasy Planners advised her to draw up an LPA for that brief period of risk. This is because a general power of attorney (PA) wouldn't work if she loses mental capacity. A person can use a general PA when he or she cannot be around to complete a transaction such as to sell or buy an HDB flat. It works only when the donor is alive and mentally sound.

So if Mrs Yeo had appointed someone to sell the flat for her via a general PA - because, say, she was too frail - then the process would have become stuck if she fell into mental incapacity during the sale process without an LPA in place.

With an LPA, she has peace of mind that her donee(s) can ensure that the flat would be sold and the proceeds properly utilised.

Lorna Tan

JLC Advisors' Mr Goh says that without an LPA, ''there will be uncertainty as to who can act as your proxy decision-maker''.

Goodwins Law Corporation's Ms Ang believes that getting an LPA ''should go hand in hand with making a will''.

JLC Advisors' Mr Lim notes that one advantage of having an LPA is that the donee would get quick access to funds.

DBS Bank's Mr Lam says an LPA ''will help to protect the interest of the individuals'' if they lose their mental capacity.

Legasy Planners' Mr Chee says LPA Form 1 works for most people and LPA Form 2 allows care to be specified.

No LPA? Expect long court process, high cost

Expect complications if a person suffers from mental incapacity in the absence of the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), Ms Ang Kim Lan of Goodwins Law Corporation warned.

She said the family will be hit by a double whammy - a lengthy period of time for the court to approve deputies to act for the incapacitated person, as well as the high cost involved.

The time required to obtain the court's approval to appoint deputies is at least six months, and the cost typically starts from $8,000, excluding disbursements.

There is no prescribed number of deputies. If there is more than one deputy, they may ask the court to act jointly or severally. However, the deputies are required to submit a single affidavit.

If the deputy or deputies wish to appoint a successor deputy, the successor deputy will also need to submit an affidavit to the court.


1. Third parties are involved in several stages of the application:

•A doctor's report and affidavit is required by the court. This involves making an appointment for the incapacitated person to be examined, and waiting for the doctor's report to be generated and sworn into court by the doctor. If large medical institutions are involved, the process might take more time.

•The consent of relevant people needs to be submitted to the court. Usually, these are immediate family members and other close relatives.

If a home or any other organisation which provides residential accommodation is involved, they will also need to give consent.

These relevant people have to be gathered together so that the application can be explained to them, and they will have to sign their acknowledgment and consent which will then be submitted to the court.

If there is a will, beneficiaries are also considered relevant persons, and must give their consent. 2. The affidavit of the deputy requires a declaration of the mentally incapacitated person's assets and liabilities, as well as the monthly expenditure - broken down into categories such as medical care, accommodation, food expenses, domestic helper expenses and so on. Applicants may need some time to gather the information. 3. Searches have to be made to ensure that there is no existing LPA or Mental Capacity Act court order given in respect of the mentally incapacitated person. This will take a few days. 4. During the process of the application, there will be several court hearings where the registrar or judge clarifies any queries he or she may have regarding the application. The registrar or judge may ask for certain changes or more information and this can prolong the process.

Lorna Tan

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

ADV: Kaplan - Obtain your Law qualification in 8 month

Singapore Law Watch
12 Oct 2016

Rules should apply equally to all players - big and small

Business Times
05 Oct 2016
R. Sivanithy

SGX's guides on false market activities a shrewd move but it must ensure fair application of rules at all times

THE Singapore Exchange's new Trade Surveillance Handbook and Members' Surveillance Dashboard are novel additions to the local corporate governance framework. The former illustrates to trading representatives (TRs) and their broking firms the types of activity that lead to a false market, whilst the latter provides each firm with details of trades done by that house over a recent period that might be considered illegal.

In other words, the Handbook shows what to look out for and the Dashboard alerts the recipient that they may need to take corrective action internally.

Issuing these two guides is a shrewd move by the SGX to engage brokers in helping to police the market - after all, who better to perform such a function than those whose eyes and ears are fixed on trading?

The move will also help shore up retail investor confidence, which was shattered by the October 2013 penny stock crash saga and, in so doing, bring much-needed liquidity back into a market crying out for more volume.

Key to this, however, is a need to ensure fair application of the rules. There exists a strong perception within the TR community that when it comes to enforcing discipline and levying penalties, it is mainly retail brokers who are singled out and that foreign houses or institutions hardly ever feature.

Part of the reason for this is that determining conclusively an intention to create and profit from a false market is not straightforward. In the first paragraph above, the phrase "a false market that contravenes the rules" was used because, as we noted in this column a month ago, there are many instances where a false market may be thought to be present but has typically led to no visible regulatory action possibly because no rules were broken ("False market: 50 shades of grey", BT Hock Lock Siew, Sept 7).

Take, for example, the activity known as "marking the close" which is featured in the Surveillance Handbook. The Sept 7 column discussed something similar - "portfolio rebalancing" where funds buy and sell key index stocks to mirror changes made to indices constructed by Morgan Stanley Capital International or FTSE, or when the end of a quarter draws near.


Even though the effects of such rebalancing are often odd movements in those benchmarks just before the close of trading that could give the impression of a false market, few would realistically claim that such activity is illegal or that penalties are called for.

By the same token though, TRs have pointed out quite reasonably that surely not all odd, last-minute price movements in indices are the consequence of portfolios being rebalanced and that it is entirely possible that some incidents involve rigging or manipulation against which action should be taken.

Another controversial area featured in the Handbook is "layering" which in simple terms involves multiple orders being placed above or below the prevailing best bid or ask prices in order to create the impression of increasing demand or supply so as to induce other players to transact or enter orders at these prices.

The majority of these layered orders are fictitious but at least one is genuine and once that is done, the layered orders are quickly removed.

Since the intention in this case was to create an inaccurate impression via fictitious orders and to profit from this, regulatory action is necessary. Anecdotal evidence from TRs is that algorithmic and programme traders routinely indulge in this sort of layering - entering and withdrawing of large orders as part of their daily activities - yet to the best of the market's knowledge, no disciplinary action appears to have ever been taken.

Without full knowledge of what passes or has passed behind the scenes, it would be premature to conclude that the exchange targets only big players or, as one TR claimed, that it "picks only the low-hanging fruit for convenience".

The problem is that this impression is widespread, so future editions of the Surveillance Handbook should address this criticism, perhaps by illustrating instances where "allowable'' false markets existed and were allowed to pass unpunished.

In the meantime, SGX should bear in mind that rules should apply equally to all parties, big and small, and ensure this is practised all the time so that its regulatory initiatives will receive the full support of the investing public.

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

Law Society goes online for council member polls

Straits Times
21 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Move is a first by an association; attention on who will be next leader in challenging times

The Law Society is going online with its annual elections for council members, in what is believed to be the first such move by an association in Singapore.

The polls - to be held next Monday - will also be closely watched to see who will be taking the helm at a time when the industry is facing increasing challenges.

This includes greater competition for work as the sector liberalises, more law graduates jockey for positions, fewer cases to take on and higher costs.

Seven candidates are vying for the four spots in the senior category of the governing council that are up for grabs. The governing council also includes representatives from the junior and middle categories.

More than 2,000 lawyers in the "senior category" - those with no fewer than 15 years' standing - will be casting their votes via "i-voting" on a secured election Web portal. Registered voters are given a PIN code to log on to the given address of the portal.

This will help resolve a key headache for lawyers. Voting is compulsory under the Legal Profession Act (LPA). This means that defaulting lawyers who do not vote have to explain themselves or face penalties.

A spokesman said: "Like other associations, the society used to organise elections in the traditional way, where members turn up at a voting centre in person, have their identities verified, and then mark their votes on paper, which will then be tallied by hand.

"As a result, members have their work and travel plans constrained by council elections. The society's i-voting initiative now enables lawyers to cast their votes from anywhere in the world, so long as there is Internet access."

Internet poll allows members to vote without affecting work, travel plans

It is understood the LPA had to be amended to allow for electronic voting. "The implementation of i-voting would also enhance service delivery by the society as part of its continuing efforts to support the Smart Nation initiative in Singapore," added the spokesman.

The Law Society's move to use online voting for council elections is different from other organisations that allow members to indicate digitally a straightforward yes-no on issues.

Manifestos of the seven candidates were released to members yesterday. These identified many of the challenges faced by lawyers.

Candidate A. Manimaran urged members to vote in candidates from small and medium-sized law firms which are under-represented in the council. He called for three others from such firms - Ms Lisa Sam, Mr Steven Lam and Mr Michael Chia - to be elected as well.

Mr Chia said the smaller practices had a " vital role" in the justice system and it is important to ensure these practices "are not inadvertently edged out of existence in this fast-changing and competitive environment."

Mr Lam sought to address the "challenging times", noting among other things that fees have not kept pace with higher managing costs and increased client demands.

Ms Sam, who served on the council the past nine years, said she seeks to mitigate the effects of "this challenging and competitive environment".

Senior Counsel Engelin Teh is standing for election for the first time, a move that is tipped as a potential step to a top post if elected. The council meets later this year to decide on office bearers for next year.

"In the past year, I have been approached by fellow lawyers who spoke to me of the various problems that they have been facing as a result of the changes in the legal landscape and the economic downturn," she said in reference to the increased number of law graduates and higher costs, among other things.

"I thought long and hard about it and would like to think it is time for me to give back to my profession from which I have gained much."

Current Law Society president and Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi is expected to step down by year's end.


• Michael Chia: director, MSC Law Corporation

• A. Manimaran: sole proprietor, Mani & Partners

• Steven Lam: director, Templars Law LLC

• Lisa Sam: managing partner, Lisa Sam & Company

• Adrian Tan: director, Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC

• Engelin Teh: Senior Counsel, managing director, Engelin Teh Practice LLC

• Gregory Vijayendran: partner, Rajah & Tann

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

Clear now women can be punished for sexual penetration of minors

Straits Times
11 Oct 2016
Kok Xing Hui

A 10-year jail sentence meted out to a pre-surgery transgender man yesterday made clear that women can be charged and punished for sexual penetration of minors.

Lawyers whom The Straits Times spoke to said the Court of Appeal ruling was an important clarification.

Over 22 months, Zunika Ahmad, 40, had regular sex with a minor using a dildo. Yesterday, Zunika was sentenced to 10 years in jail for six counts of sexually penetrating a minor.

This overturned a previous ruling when Zunika was acquitted because the High Court ruled that the law did not apply to women.

Criminal lawyer Adrian Wee said: "The court has held that that is an offence and I think it is rightly so. I think it is very good to clarify this point. The aim is to protect the minor. Does it matter to the minor whether he or she is penetrated by a male or female?"

Some lawyers were surprised by the previous acquittal.

Zunika had pleaded guilty to the six counts of sexual penetration of a minor but was acquitted by Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu in April.

Section 376A(1)(b) states that "any person (A) who sexually penetrates, with a part of A's body (other than A's penis) or anything else", a person under the age of 16 is guilty of an offence.

Justice Kan reasoned that only a man can be charged with such a crime, given the way the provision was written. He said it was up to the legislature to amend it to make it clear that it includes women.

In the Court of Appeal's decision last month, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said: "Section 376A(1)(b) is gender neutral and is capable of applying to a female offender."

Criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said: "We already know that in other countries, women do exploit other women. It cannot be that Parliament would punish one gender and not the other."

Mr Singh said it was good for Singaporeans to know where the law stands on these matters, and that the previous situation had "created some bewilderment".

Adopting a literal reading "may not serve what Parliament had intended", said criminal lawyer Daniel Chia. "I think, fundamentally, the Court of Appeal recognises that the permutations of sexual misconduct are very wide."

However, criminal lawyer Peter Ong Lip Cheng felt that if the law was ambiguous, benefit of the doubt should be given to the accused and the law ought to be amended by Parliament.

Mr Ong said: "I know minors must be protected, but what I'm saying is, it must be very clear that this is a criminal offence. When you say 'other than A's penis', you're talking about a man."

Woman jailed 10 years for sex abuse of girl

A 40-year-old woman was yesterday jailed for 10 years for sexual abuse of a girl, after being initially cleared of most charges by a lower court, which had ruled that a woman could not be convicted of the crime of sexual penetration of a minor.

Zunika Ahmad, a transgender individual who is biologically female but lives as a man, appeared relaxed on being sentenced. Wearing her usual court attire of a loose-fitting hooded robe, she spoke calmly to her parents and one of her two "wives" before being led away.

Although she had pleaded guilty to seven charges last December, her case took a dramatic turn in April when a High Court judge rejected her plea and acquitted her of six counts of sexual penetration of a minor. The victim was then 13. Zunika received eight months' jail on one count of sexual exploitation.

Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu reasoned that because of the way the law was worded, only a man could be found guilty. The prosecution appealed against this decision, arguing that the provision was intended to apply to male and female offenders.

On Sept 28, the Court of Appeal agreed and ruled that Section 376A(1)(b) of the Penal Code was gender-neutral. The court also reversed the acquittal and reinstated Zunika's conviction.

Diagnosed with gender dysphoria, Zunika speaks, dresses and behaves like a man. Even the two women she "married" in Indonesia did not know their "husband" was a woman.

The victim and her siblings, who were abandoned by their mother, started going to Zunika's flat in 2011. In January 2012, Zunika kissed the victim on the cheek. Between March 2012 and December 2013, she had regular consensual sex with the girl using a sex aid. Zunika stopped the affair in December 2013. Three months later, the girl told her family, and a police report was made.

Yesterday, the prosecution sought at least eight years' jail. Second Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck said Zunika had abused her position of authority and exploited the girl's naivety by perpetrating a series of offences over 20 months.

Zunika's lawyer, Ms N. Sudha Nair, asked for less than three years' jail. She argued that her client had not sought out the victim for sexual gratification; it was after the girl confessed her feelings for the accused that she realised she was also developing feelings for the girl.

In sentencing Zunika to 10 years' jail, the apex court took into account as aggravating factors the number of offences and that she had abused her position of trust. But the court also considered that the offences were committed against the backdrop of a genuine romantic relationship, that Zunika was not a serial offender, and there was a low risk she would re-offend.

A detailed written judgment will be released at a later date.


The sentence is fair compared to the eight months she was given on her first trial. To the other abusers who are still out there, take this case as a lesson. No matter how manipulative you are and no matter how clever you think you are, one day you will still fall, so repent now before you regret. To others who are being abused, please tell people about it no matter how much you think you 'love' somebody... please don't be as stupid as I used to be.

THE VICTIM, who was 13 when Zunika first started having sex with her using a sex aid

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

What the global tax clampdown means for Singapore

Straits Times
05 Oct 2016
Yasmine Yahya

The city state needs to make clear its stance against tax avoidance and help local businesses prepare for new rules

First came the 2008 financial crisis. Then, many years of tepid economic growth.

Around the world, government coffers are running dry.

No wonder, then, that taxmen from Europe to Indonesia are on the hunt for money that they believe is owed to them, especially by big corporations.

Authorities around the world are battling it out with corporate giants to claw back whatever tax revenues they can, making dramatic headlines - Apple vs the European Union, Google vs Indonesia, Starbucks vs Britain.

Singapore, with its 17 per cent corporate income tax rate - among the lowest in the world - has on occasion been placed under a less-than-flattering spotlight as a result, with some foreign regulators accusing companies of shady accounting practices so that they can book profits and pay taxes here, avoiding higher tax rates elsewhere.

But in fact Singapore has joined up with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to implement and promote measures to combat corporate tax avoidance.

Furthermore, the competitive tax rate here is but one of many factors that have led to Singapore repeatedly being named one of the best places in the world to do business, consultants told The Straits Times.

Still, in this new climate, scrutiny of corporate tax is set to intensify. How is Singapore gearing up, and what will it mean for the economy and local corporations?


Many of the battles being waged between tax authorities and multinationals centre on a practice known in accounting jargon as "base erosion and profit shifting" (BEPS).

To illustrate it simply: Say Corporation X, a multinational with businesses all over the world, has mega factories in the United States where it hires hundreds of workers to produce its goods, which it then sells for healthy profits.

Rightfully, Corporation X should pay a certain amount of income tax to the US government each year.

However, it could make use of creative accounting techniques to "shift" its profits elsewhere.

So instead of booking those profits in the US, it may claim that its profits were actually made elsewhere - say, in Ireland, where the corporate income tax rate is 12.5 per cent, much lower than the 35 per cent federal corporate tax rate levied in the US.

And so in recent years, the OECD and the Group of 20 developed economies (G-20) have embarked on a BEPS Project which aims to get tax authorities around the world to set standards that will help clamp down on BEPS.

Singapore has signed on to this project as a "BEPS Associate" and has been providing input to the project since 2013.

The Ministry of Finance (MOF) has made clear that Singapore supports the BEPS Project principle that profits should be taxed where activities giving rise to the profits are performed and where value is created, and it does not condone the artificial shifting of profits.

"Businesses locate their substantive functions in Singapore to pursue regional and global strategic interests, including establishing Centres of Excellence in Singapore for training and development, research and innovation, mid-office functions such as compliance, risk management and technology," the MOF said in a statement.

"They conduct these substantive functions here due to a variety of factors, including our location at the heart of Asia, our good infrastructure, a transparent and robust legal and regulatory regime, and a skilled labour force."

Notwithstanding the Government's vocal support of the BEPS Project and its active participation in it, Singapore has been cited in some cases of disputes over tax avoidance.

In one ongoing case, the Indonesian government has accused Google of not paying proper taxes for the past five years, and it has even gone as far as raiding Google's office in Jakarta to collect data on its advertising revenue in the country.

Google, in response, has said that it has paid all applicable taxes in Indonesia, where the corporate tax rate is 25 per cent, and that its local entity does not handle advertising revenues. It claims ad incomes are booked in Singapore, where Google has its Asia-Pacific headquarters.

Australian tax authorities have also been probing companies operating Down Under which it accuses of shifting billions of dollars of profits to Singapore.

In the meantime, outside of the BEPS Project, countries around the world are clamping down on tax avoidance in their own ways.

The European Commission(EC), for example, has recently made headlines for ordering Apple to pay a record €13 billion (S$19.9 billion)in back taxes to Ireland.

The EC, the executive arm of the European Union(EU), said a tax deal between Irish regulators and Apple amounted to state aid that was illegal under EU laws, which prohibit member states from giving tax benefits to selected companies.


These developments point to an overall climate of greater scrutiny on tax issues all around the world.

Singapore cannot escape the spotlight, and indeed, by signing up to the BEPS Project, Singapore's tax incentives scheme will come under review to determine whether any are "harmful", noted Mr Steve Towers, the Asia-Pacific leader of international tax for Deloitte & Touche.

"A tax incentive will be considered to be 'harmful' to the extent that it provides a lower effective tax rate for income derived by a taxpayer, even though the taxpayer did not itself perform the substantive activities which gave rise to the income," he explained.

That is, the incentive is rewarding the company for shifting its profits to a lower-tax jurisdiction.

According to Mr Towers, one example of a "harmful" tax incentive by OECD standards relates to the exploitation of patents.

"If the relevant research and development (R&D) is performed by a related party, or if the patent is licensed to the taxpayer, or if the taxpayer has purchased the patent, a tax incentive given to the patent income will be considered to be 'harmful'," he said.

"In contrast, the tax incentive will not be harmful if the patent was the result of R&D performed by the taxpayer only."

So a company can only be given a tax break on a patent if it had conducted the R&D resulting in the patent itself, and not if the R&D were done by a partner company or a different subsidiary within a larger group of companies.

While some of Singapore's existing tax incentives are likely to be deemed fully compliant with the BEPS principles, there is a real chance that some will need to be amended, he said.

What is unlikely, he added, is that Singapore will lose its edge as a great place to do business - an opinion shared by other experts.

"If you ask a company, 'Do you invest in Singapore because of tax?', almost 100 per cent would say no. I say this from experience," said PwC Singapore tax leader Chris Woo.

"I was with a client yesterday who is coming here for business reasons - Singapore is a great gateway to the Asian market - and for lifestyle reasons, Singapore being a great place to live, that is safe for his kids and has the rule of law."

Meanwhile, Singapore should also make it clear to the world that it does not tolerate tax avoidance or profit shifting, noted Mr Henry Syrett, a partner focusing on transfer pricing services at Ernst & Young Solutions.

Indeed, he said, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) seems to have ramped up its resources and is scrutinising tax returns more closely, and his team has been receiving more questions from Iras related to transfer pricing.

Transfer pricing is an accounting term referring to the practice of one unit within a larger group of companies selling a good or service to another unit within the same group.

By law, these units should complete that transaction based on market prices. However, some multinationals have been caught abusing this, for example by inflating the price of these transactions as a way to shift profits from a unit in one country to a unit in another country with lower taxes.

"Iras may look at a company's accounts or tax returns and see an item on related party transactions and it will ask what's the basis for that price, so they know the company hasn't under- or overstated that price to transfer funds where it shouldn't be," Mr Syrett said.


Another big change coming up as part of the BEPS Project is the implementation of Country-by-Country Reporting (CbCR).

When CbCR takes effect, multinational companies will have to prepare a report setting out key data for all countries in which they operate, such as revenue, pretax profits, taxes paid and employee numbers.

That report will be distributed to the tax authorities in all the countries in which the group operates.

Each tax regulator can then see whether they have been paid the proper amount of tax. Did the company make more revenue in India and hire more employees there, yet pay most of its taxes in Hong Kong?

This is the sort of scrutiny companies can expect when CbCR comes into effect, said Mr Woo, and it will have major implications for Singapore firms that are being encouraged to venture abroad.

"We need to help our local firms - are they equipped to deal with issues like that? Singapore is a big service economy. As our digital industry expands, that will also attract more attention from tax regulators around the world."

Much of the work in ironing out such issues will involve regulators communicating with each other and agreeing on treaties that will prevent companies from being doubly taxed on the same pot of income.

But companies will have to do more tax planning too, Mr Woo said.

"They must have a better understanding of tax issues and be aware of these minefields. Everyone is busy trying to find their dollar of revenue and some companies say they don't have time to think about tax, but you need to find the right balance."

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SGX still in talks on potential tax waiver on Reit ETF

Business Times
21 Oct 2016
Lynette Khoo

[Singapore] THE withholding tax incurred by exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tracking real estate investment trusts (Reits) is a major bugbear for potential issuers of this instrument. Singapore Exchange (SGX) is thus in talks with the relevant authorities on a potential tax waiver for such a product.

This was revealed by SGX head of research and products Chan Kum Kong in an interview after the maiden listing of a Reit ETF on the Singapore bourse on Thursday. "On the outcome, I definitely can't comment on that but we do recognise this and we have raised the issue," he said. "We are getting feedback from potential issuers that they are holding back their efforts because of this differential in potential returns."

But even so, there is still a "good pipeline" of Reit ETFs that is underway, he added. Touting this as a product with the benefit of diversification and stable returns, Mr Chan said SGX is talking to a number of potential issuers.

Besides being the first Reit ETF to be listed here, Phillip SGX APAC Dividend Leaders Reit ETF also marks other "firsts". It is the first Reit ETF to cover 30 listed Reits in the Asia-Pacific ex-Japan - including 14 SGX-listed Reits - and is the first to be dividend-weighted rather than capitalisation-weighted. This means the investment allocation of the ETF is based on absolute dividends in dollar terms. It is also a dual currency ETF that can be traded in either Singapore dollar or US dollar.

Reflecting strong demand, this Reit ETF issued at US$0.933 has raised more than US$30 million mainly from local investors at its first closing. One-third of the investors are retail investors while the rest are institutional investors.

As a general principle, Singapore Reits enjoy tax transparency on income from Singapore properties. But for an ETF tracking Reits, income distribution from S-Reits' properties in Singapore will be subject to a withholding tax of 17 per cent. As a result, the subsequent distribution by the ETF to individual and foreign corporate investors would be lower than what they could gain from investing directly in the Reits.

According to Leonard Ong, head of real estate tax advisory at KPMG in Singapore, one way to mitigate the tax issue for such investors would be for the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) to waive the withholding tax when distributions are paid out by the Reits to the ETF, and arrange for the tax to be collected at the ETF level.

Mr Chan said that launching a pure Singapore Reit ETF is "taking longer than anticipated", with the withholding tax on income generated from S-Reits being one of the major kinks being ironed out. But Phillip Capital Management managing director and chief investment officer Jeffrey Lee noted that while there has been some market rumblings about the withholding tax on Reit ETFs, the estimated impact on returns for Singapore investors is 25 basis points, which is "not significant in the context of a long-term investment". The customised index for the ETF has shown an annualised return of more than 12 per cent over the past five years.

Under the index, Singapore Reits account for 30 per cent of the total dividends paid out by the 30 Asia-Pacific Reits. Australia Reits make up a larger 60 per cent while Hong Kong Reits account for the balance.

Phillip Capital is still keen to issue an ETF that tracks only Singapore Reits. A waiver of the withholding tax on Reit ETF will "give us the impetus to come up with a fund of Singapore Reits", Mr Lee said.

The newly listed Asia-Pacific Reit ETF is expected to yield around 5 per cent in dividends, or 4.5 per cent excluding the 0.5 per cent charged for management fee. "In the days to come, we could expect more attention now that it gets listed," Mr Lee said. He noted that there are many insurance companies in Japan and Taiwan, for instance, that will not meet return requirements by just buying into government bonds in this low or negative interest rate environment.

Mr Lee also stressed that the Asia-Pacific Reit ETF does not merely look at Reits that pay the highest dividend yield but selects the larger and established Reits with the ability to pay dividends during both good and bad times.

Since the assets under management raised by the physical ETF will be invested in the underlying Reits, the liquidity impact on Reits is going to be very positive, Mr Chan added.

A total of 886,800 units listed in US$ changed hands on Thursday with an average trade size of 15,031 and closing at US$0.931. Some 687,300 units listed in S$ changed hands, with an average trade size of 8,700 and ending at S$1.294.

Of the total of 42 Reits and property trusts listed on SGX with combined market capitalisation of more than S$75 billion, about one-quarter of the shares are held by retail investors.

Phillip Capital had in 2011 launched Singapore's first Reit fund known as Phillip Singapore Real Estate Income Fund, which has reaped annualised returns of more than 10 per cent over the last five years.

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Key changes to EP and NCMP schemes introduced

Straits Times
11 Oct 2016
Charissa Yong

Draft laws of proposed changes will be up for debate at next parliamentary sitting, likely to be next month

Changes to the elected presidency and Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) schemes were introduced in Parliament yesterday, bringing them one step closer to being effected.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean tabled the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Bill, draft laws of the proposed changes, which will be up for debate at the next sitting of Parliament, likely to be next month.

The changes are part of a larger review of the political system, first raised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the debate on the President's Address in January.

Most of them were covered by the White Paper released last month, which set out the Govern- ment's response to recommendations by the Constitutional Commission set up to review the elected presidency scheme.

The key changes include:

Reserved elections

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.

A committee will be set up to determine whether an individual satisfies the legal definition of being a member of these communities for the purposes of the election.

Similar committees are set up before general elections to determine if candidates for the Group Representation Constituency scheme belong to the Malay, Indian and other minority communities.

Meanwhile, any open election will be open to people of all races, including those who do not fall under the major racial categories.

Parliament will decide when the clock starts on the reserved elections, which will determine if the upcoming presidential election due next year needs to be reserved for any particular racial group.

More stringent criteria

A candidate from the private sector must have helmed a company with at least $500 million in shareholder equity to qualify, instead of $100 million in paid-up capital now.

The shareholder equity threshold will have to be reviewed at least once every 12 years - that is, two presidential terms - by the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC).

The PEC can recommend that the sum be raised, but not lowered. Parliament will then decide if the recommendation should be adopted.

Removal over false statements

Even after being elected, the president can be removed from office if he is found to have made false statements to the PEC, which certifies a candidate's eligibility to run for president.

This includes situations when a candidate has intentionally made a false or misleading statement, or knowingly failed to state a fact that is important in determining his eligibility.

More advisers, more consultation

The Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA) will be enlarged to include two more members, bringing the total to eight.

The president must also consult the CPA before exercising most of his discretionary powers, such as over fiscal matters.

The council must state the number of votes for or against its recommendations, and the grounds for these recommendations. Similarly, if the president withholds his assent to Supply Bills, he must publish his reasons for doing so in the Government Gazette.

Recrafting entrenchment provisions

A set of provisions that "entrenches", or protects, the presidency by making it difficult for Parliament to amend the office, will be recrafted into a two-tier system.

The first tier covers the establishment of the elected presidency, while the second tier has to do with the president's powers to safeguard the reserves and make key public- service appointments.

To introduce changes to the first-tier provisions, the Government must get either the president or the CPA's support, or the support of more than half the electorate in a national referendum. To pass the changes, they must be supported by a two-thirds parliamentary majority. For the second-tier provisions, the Government must get a three-quarters parliamentary majority to pass any changes.

The recrafted provisions will not be brought into force for now.

More NCMPs

The maximum number of NCMPs will be increased from the current nine to 12, and they will be given the same voting rights as elected MPs.

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Perfecting Singapore's system of governance

Business Times
05 Oct 2016
Eugene K.B. Tan

The changes the government intends to make to the Elected Presidency are very substantive ones; Singaporeans will need time to digest them

WITH the publication of the Constitutional Commission's report and the White Paper on specific aspects of the elected presidency in September, the stage is now set for the government to introduce the constitutional and other legislative changes. It is highly probable that Parliament will approve the changes by the time it sits in November for the last time this year.

The constitutional review is significant because, at its core, it seeks to further perfect Singapore's system of governance. It's an ambitious attempt on the part of the government to further "foolproof" our political governance, promote good governance, as well as enhance multiracialism.

The Constitution Commission, headed by the Chief Justice, had been thorough and comprehensive in its review. It was inclusive in the review process and had engaged those who participated in the submission and public hearings. This was also evident in the Commission's report where the views and proposals of many contributors shared prominence with the Commission's position.

Considering the competing pulls in the Commission's terms of reference, it was a thorough, comprehensive, and balanced report. The Commission's report is a very important document on our system of governance, institutional design, and on multiracialism. It will be much referred to and referenced in the years ahead.

The government accepted the Commission's recommendations for private sector candidates to be the "most senior executive" in a company with at least S$500 million in shareholders' equity, instead of criterion of being chairman or CEO of a company with S$100 million in paid-up capital. One significant concern was whether an enhanced set of eligibility criteria would significantly reduce the pool of eligible persons, especially for the minorities. The Commission did not take the view that the pool of eligible persons would be dramatically reduced with the enhanced eligibility criteria.


However, the government is taking a different tack and adopting a cautious approach, erring on the side of being safe rather than sorry. In particular, it is not in favour of unduly narrowing the field of eligible persons, especially for hopefuls under the public sector route. Such a preference is perhaps not surprising: Since the first presidential election in 1993, all our elected presidents have qualified automatically through the public sector route.

In the White Paper, the government's caution is evident through the articulated preference for moderation in changes, especially for the public sector qualification route. For another example, the government declined to accept the recommendations to exclude the offices of the Auditor-General and the Accountant-General from being automatically eligible; extending the three-year tenure requirement to six years, and the look-back qualifying tenure to ensure that a potential candidate's experience is current.

The government is probably mindful that a person being eligible is one thing and stepping forth to contest is another thing altogether. It wants to have the eligibility criteria tested for one or two elections before deciding to narrow or enlarge the field further.

Mindful of the uncertainty as to how the proposed changes will work in reality, the government's overall approach is a veritable mix of pragmatic and political considerations. Arguably, the government does not finely differentiate between the two since it has to ensure that whatever changes have to work well otherwise there will be a political backlash.

On the issue of minority representation, the government accepted the Commission's recommendation of the reserved election. If a group has not had a president for five terms, or 30 years, then a reserved election can be conducted. The reserved election holds promise as a safeguard. The requirement of a generational "hiatus" without a president from a specified race removes the possibility of reverting to the former system of fixed rotation.

However, I hope we will never have to resort to a reserved election. This, in turn, requires minority candidates being elected in open elections. It is a very powerful message should a minority race candidate be elected to the highest office of the land. But that message is only powerful and would resonate with Singaporeans and reinforce our multiracialism only if such an achievement was earned through merit.

The Commission also did not specify that the reserved election is meant only for the non-Chinese minorities. This is appropriate and will help reduce the perception that a reserved election is an affirmative action electoral vehicle. However, the challenge lies in demonstrating that the reserved election is for the benefit of not just the minority communities but is equally beneficial to the Chinese majority.

How should we interpret the government's position to let time pass before entrenching the elected presidency? The government prefers to have the option of being able to make changes to the system without the cumbersome requirement of winning the requisite support through a national referendum.

Again, cautiousness is at work. It also wants to be able to roll back or even go further if the changes do not work out well. The government would point to the past 25 years of working out the structure and processes of the elected presidency to justify why it had not brought into force the entrenched constitutional provisions.

The aim of entrenching a constitutional provision such as those relating to the President's custodial powers is to make it more onerous to amend the provision in question. Currently, to amend or repeal an entrenched provision requires the support of two-thirds of voters at a national referendum. This vests the ultimate say in the people.

The government has taken note of the Commission's view that it is not desirable to have a provision that was intended to be entrenched to be held in abeyance indefinitely. In entrenching key constitutional provisions, we are also providing for stability as well.

The vast majority of the constitutional changes in the last 25 years have centred on the institution of the elected presidency. Prior to the establishment of an "intra-branch check" on the executive in 1990, the matter was debated at length for at least six years.

As such, even as it ramps up its engagement efforts, persuading people that the changes are necessary and not a knee-jerk reaction to the divisive 2011 presidential election will take time.

The changes that the government intends to make are very substantive ones. Good engagement is not just about intensity but also being patient and listening attentively to the concerns and questions. Singaporeans will need time to digest the proposed changes and the rationale, be assured that the extent of the changes are necessary and proportionate, and on balance, beneficial to Singapore and Singaporeans.


Rationalising the changes is the easy part. However, if the changes are perceived to be hurried through, then the opportunity of sustained engagement and buy-in is less likely. Assuming Parliament passes the changes in November, then the most significant set of changes to our Constitution since the establishment of the elected presidency would have taken less than 12 months from the President's address at the opening of the 13th Parliament in January this year.

This apparent haste could result in the lack of sustained and patient engagement on the necessity and timing of the changes. Even if the government is deeply convicted by the necessity and rightness of the changes, the perceived haste with which it is effecting the changes may not work in its favour.

The impact of a hasty engagement of Singaporeans could affect the legitimacy of the proposed constitutional changes. Further, if Singaporeans are not persuaded, this lends itself to conspiracy theories on the raison d'etre and urgency of the changes. With the next presidential election scheduled for August 2017 - less than a year away - this could lead, unnecessarily and ironically, to the next presidential election being politicised.

While change is needed, the elected presidency is not broken down such that it is in dire need of urgent changes. Implementing the changes in the subsequent election in 2023 while taking another year or two to engage Singaporeans will not put the presidency, the government, and Singapore in a worse-off position.

The writer is associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University School of Law

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Ex-SCDF director cleared of misappropriating iPads

Straits Times
21 Oct 2016
Selina Lum

Judge not fully convinced of his truthfulness, but appeal raised 'ample doubt' in the case

A former senior civil servant, originally sentenced to 10 weeks' jail last year for misappropriating two iPads, was acquitted by the High Court yesterday after a successful appeal.

Mr Jeganathan Ramasamy, 65, who was director of technology at the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), had received two iPads from IT vendor NCS in 2011.

He gave one to his daughter and sold the other to SCDF's then senior director of emergency services for $200. Each was worth $939.

The prosecution, which brought two charges against him for criminal breach of trust, contended that the two devices were on loan to be used to test mobile apps that NCS was developing for the SCDF.

But Mr Jeganathan, who left SCDF in 2012, argued that they were personal purchases, for which he had yet to make payment.

At his appeal, his lawyer Sanjiv Rajan argued that his client was under the mistaken impression that the NCS employees, who were entitled to a staff discount on the devices, had agreed to help him buy the iPads for his personal use.

In acquitting Mr Jeganathan, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon found "inconsistencies and gaps" in both the prosecution's and defence's cases, suggesting that "the whole truth of the matter lies somewhere in between".

He said while he was "not fully convinced that the appellant was wholly truthful", what matters is that "ample doubt" has been raised in the prosecution's case.

He noted that Mr Jeganathan had repeatedly told NCS executives he would pay for the iPads and had made queries about the price. "Had the two iPad2s been provided for official purposes for the SCDF... there would be no reason why he would have been concerned about the issue of payment," he said.

He noted that NCS did not load any apps into the iPads, contrary to the prosecution's case that the devices were for testing use. He said it did not make sense for Mr Jeganathan to sell one iPad to a senior officer in the same organisation if he had thought it was SCDF property.

The judge addressed a key piece of evidence used to convict Mr Jeganathan - a series of text messages he exchanged with NCS' then group general manager Wong Soon Nam.

In a text sent after he received the devices, Mr Jeganathan told Mr Wong to "tell me the amount I have to pay". Mr Wong replied that "the iPad2 is meant for all the new mobile apps that we are rolling out for SCDF and for you to trial".

The judge said he did not think this pointed conclusively to Mr Jeganathan's guilt. He noted that Mr Wong phoned Mr Jeganathan, who testified that Mr Wong told him during the call to try the iPads first and discuss the price later.

Mr Wong initially testified that no such call took place, but when confronted with the call records, said he could not remember the contents of the conversation.

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1MDB scandal: Two more ex-BSI bankers charged

Straits Times
11 Oct 2016
Grace Leong

Singapore prosecutors yesterday charged two more former BSI bankers caught up in the scandal surrounding Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The new charges revealed for the first time Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, and his father Low Hock Peng's involvement in 1MDB.

One of those charged yesterday was Mr Jho Low's private banker, Yak Yew Chee; the other was former BSI director Yvonne Seah Yew Foong. Yak, 57, a former managing director of BSI Bank in Singapore, and Seah, 45, were each charged with four counts of failing to disclose information on suspicious transactions relating to Mr Jho Low's accounts with BSI Singapore.

Some of the funds were alleged by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to have gone into Mr Jho Low's purchase of properties, including the Oriole Mansion in Beverly Hills. The DOJ filed a suit in July to recover over US$1 billion (S$1.37 billion) in assets related to the global money laundering probe of 1MDB.

The charges against Yak and Seah relate to the transfer on Nov 2, 2012 of US$153 million from a Coutts Zurich account of Good Star, a firm Mr Low controlled, to the BSI Singapore account of Abu Dhabi-Kuwait-Malaysia Investment Corp. Three days later, the US$153 million was moved to Mr Low Hock Peng's BSI account. On Nov 7, US$150 million was moved to another BSI account held by Mr Jho Low. And from his account, US$110 million was transferred to a Swiss account of Selune, a firm he beneficially owned.

The charges allege that Yak and Seah had "reasonable grounds" to suspect that these transfers "represented proceeds of an act that may constitute criminal conduct". But they allegedly failed to disclose this suspicion to the Suspicious Transaction Reporting officer.

Yak and Seah were among six people the Monetary Authority of Singapore referred in May to the Public Prosecutor for evaluation on whether they had committed criminal offences. Both are on bail of $35,000 each. Yak and Seah were also each charged with three counts of forgery. In one charge, Yak allegedly forged a reference letter on Feb 18, 2014 to Mr Olivier Blanchet of BNP Paribas to mislead him that it was signed with BSI's authority. The letter asserted the Low family was a "client of good standing" with cumulative wealth of US$1.63 billion. Seah was charged with helping Yak forge that letter. Yak was also charged with forging on May 19, 2014 a reference letter to Mr Thomas Frey of Kendris. Seah was also charged with helping Yak forge the letter. On Nov 20, 2012, Yak also allegedly forged a reference letter to Rothschild Trust AG chief executive Stefan Liniger.

Seah's third forgery charge alleges that she helped former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei forge a reference letter on Dec 23, 2013 to Citigroup's Europe, Middle East and Africa head of anti-money laundering operations.

Yeo, 33, facing 11 counts for his role in 1MDB, has been charged with forging documents to facilitate a transfer of US$11.95 million in 2013 from SRC International (Malaysia) to a firm beneficially owned by Jho Low associate Tan Kim Loong. Seah and Yeo had signed the letter stating SRC had been the bank's client and its beneficial owner was Malaysia's government.

This brings to a total four Singaporeans charged so far over 1MDB. Yeo is facing trial on four obstruction of justice charges starting on Oct 31. Former remisier Kelvin Ang Wee Keng, charged in April with corrupt transactions, was released in May on bail of $100,000.

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Ensure receipt of court summons is acknowledged: Forum

Straits Times
05 Oct 2016

According to the Family Justice Courts' website, when a complainant applies for a Personal Protection Order, the courts will assign a process server to personally serve the summons on the respondent at the address provided.

However, when I called the courts' hotline, I was told the respondent is not required to be present to accept or acknowledge the summons; the document can be left at the door or pasted on the front door.

There are two issues with this approach.

First, there is a risk of the summons being removed by a third party, especially if the respondent lives in public housing. The unknowing respondent may then be penalised for failing to attend the court mention.

Second, even though the document is in an envelope, the fact that it may be pasted on the door means it is likely to attract the attention of anyone walking past. Any neighbour could easily gain access to the document.

This practice of pasting the summons on the door could be seen as a form of public shaming, where the respondent is exposed to unnecessary attention from his neighbours. This is unfair to the respondent.

I hope the Family Justice Courts will consider using phone communication, e-mail or registered mail to secure acknowledgement from the respondent, so as to allow the matter to be resolved more amicably and smoothly.

Teo Choon Lik

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Holding town councils to account

Straits Times
21 Oct 2016

There is scarcely anyone now who would argue for the Town Councils Act to be left intact just to preserve the autonomy originally offered. Instead, what has been aired periodically is either a repeal of the Act - so estate management is again centralised under the Ministry of National Development (MND) - or strengthened regulatory oversight, as supported even by the Workers' Party.

The alternatives are as different as chalk and cheese. In the hands of professionals within a public institution, there was hardly any public controversy. When estates were managed autonomously by elected Members of Parliament, town councils showed their party political nature. This was more visible from 2011, following a series of council handovers, as voters switched sides during elections. In recent years, the performance of the Workers' Party-led town council has been questioned by the MND, Auditor-General and the courts, prompting calls in 2013 for a "comprehensive review" of the Act. Whether MND's proposals, released this week, meet that objective satisfactorily is a question for the public to ponder.

There is agreement that town council governance should not be left to chance. While the Act was drafted to give MPs "as much latitude as possible" to run town councils, as once heard in Parliament, the prevailing view is that certain baseline standards have to be met. The proposed amendments seek to promote functional capability via a code of governance to be drawn up. To ensure compliance, the ministry will carry out reviews and investigations, and make rectification orders.

More penalties will be introduced which will "mirror" those in the Charities Act, said MND. However, clarity is needed on how these provisions will affect MPs. Some legal protection from personal liability is extended to charity board members, whereas directors in the private sector are liable for breaches of duty. And if councils face fines, will public funds be used to pay these?

Helpfully, conflict of interest has not been overlooked given the risks posed - it is the most frequently cited single reason for claims of breach of fiduciary duties in the private sector, according to a study. There's also merit in ensuring town councillors submit audited financial statements promptly, ensure that the sinking fund and lift replacement fund are properly maintained, and flag insolvency risks via medium-term projections.

As town councils are essentially political institutions, there is good reason for local bodies to avoid playing by sub-optimal or no rules. The gap in provisions for handovers of councils, the safeguarding of vital assets, and the continuation of essential services has been highlighted before. There is value in examining if the amendments go far enough to address these concerns. While the strategic intent of the Act is political, its focus is the larger interest of the public.

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Bill to safeguard credit info among eight introduced

Straits Times
11 Oct 2016
Pearl Lee

Credit bureaus here will soon have to be licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), after proposed legislation was introduced in Parliament yesterday.

If passed, the new law will empower financial regulator MAS to suspend and revoke the licences of credit bureaus that do not safeguard the confidentiality, security and integrity of their customers' credit information.

The Credit Bureau Bill comes two years after MAS conducted a public consultation on the issue, and was one of eight Bills tabled in Parliament yesterday.

The MAS had said then that as credit bureaus are collecting more detailed data from consumers, they should be subjected to more formal oversight.

The new regulatory framework proposed will also make it easier for consumers to buy their credit reports.

Yesterday, changes were also proposed to the elected presidency and Non-Constituency MP schemes, under the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Bill. This follows a review of the elected presidency scheme by a Constitutional Commission.

The other Bills introduced are amendments to laws on merchant shipping, telecommunications, fire safety, national registration, parental leave, and income tax.

A proposed change to the Child Development Co-Savings Act will require employers to give fathers two weeks of paternity leave.

Currently, the law provides for only one week of mandatory paid paternity leave. Employers offer the second week on a voluntary basis.

Another proposed change to the Act will give unwed mothers the same 16 weeks of maternity leave that other mothers get. Unwed mothers are currently entitled to eight weeks of paid maternity leave.

Meanwhile, proposed changes to the National Registration Act will give Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers the powers to investigate offences under the Act, such as when people use a forged identity card.

These cases are currently handled by the police.

ICA officers will also be able to refuse the registration of names deemed to be offensive, or misleading to others, such as names with the words "Professor" or "Sir".

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Important to promote consumer education: Forum

Straits Times
05 Oct 2016

The Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act provides the same protection to consumers who make purchases from online retailers as it does for consumers purchasing from brick-and-mortar shops ("Extend law to protect online shoppers too" by Ms Bea Joy Lee; last Thursday, and "Need for holistic reform in consumer protection" by Mr David Chang Cheok Weng; Sept 24).

This means that action can be taken against errant online retailers under our legislation.

However, it can be challenging to enforce the judgment against an overseas retailer if it has no presence in Singapore.

Consumers, thus, need to be aware of the risks of making online purchases from overseas retailers and take extra steps to protect themselves before making their purchase.

This could include checking reviews on the reputation of websites and retailers, and the refund policy and mechanisms.

We understand the frustrations of consumers when there is sudden business failure, especially when they have made prepayments for delivery of goods or services that have yet to be fulfilled.

Many businesses offer various choices, including prepaid packages and early-bird specials, as a way to attract customers.

These are common business practices worldwide.

Consumers also benefit from discounts for purchasing prepaid packages.

Given the wide range of businesses, it would be challenging to impose broad-based measures on all businesses to protect consumers against loss of prepayments from business closures.

Even large businesses that have been in business for many years are not immune to business failures.

Overseas jurisdictions such as the United States, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong do not impose broad-based measures, as the increased cost of doing business would eventually be passed on to consumers.

Consumer education, thus, remains an important pillar of our consumer protection framework.

Consumers must learn to exercise their choices carefully, especially for large purchases or contracts over long periods.

We will continue to work with the Consumers Association of Singapore to improve consumer education. The Ministry of Trade and Industry will continue to monitor the retail landscape and study the developments in other jurisdictions, as part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act remains relevant and provides adequate protection to consumers.

Cindy Keng (Mrs)


Corporate Communications Division

Ministry of Trade and Industry

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Court nod for civil suit papers to be served via WhatsApp

Straits Times
20 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

In a small move with a big impact, a court has allowed the WhatsApp messaging system on a smartphone to be used to notify a defendant of a civil suit after failed attempts to serve the court papers on him personally.

State Courts deputy registrar Georgina Lum had earlier this month approved the application by R&D Pharmaceuticals to recognise transmission by WhatsApp as "sufficient" to show that the defendant it sued had received the documents.

The company had sued business associate Tan Chong Min, 53, for the return of an alleged $43,000 friendly loan. Under court rules, the court documents have to be served on the defendant personally unless exempted or if an alternative means is authorised by the court.

Such attempts can be unsuccessful for reasons such as the defendant being untraceable.

R&D's lawyer Vijai Parwani had made repeated attempts to serve the papers at Mr Tan's last known address in Dunearn Road.

Lawyers say the purpose of such alternative services is to avoid delay and expense in bringing a reluctant party to court to settle the case.

In the current civil case - believed to be the first where Whats- App has been used - R&D had argued that using such a messaging system linked to his mobile phone was the most effective way of bringing the suit papers to his notice, as its director had been corresponding with Mr Tan through WhatsApp from October last year to August this year. Mr Tan had replied to the director in all these messages.

The court order, statement of claim and other documents were served on Mr Tan via WhatsApp on Oct 6.

As Mr Tan failed to enter an appearance to defend the case within the deadline, a default judgment was entered against him on Monday by the court.

Lawyers say the use of electronic online platforms in Singapore to carry out "substituted service", or an alternative way to serve court documents on someone being sued, is in its infancy and modification and safeguards will follow as the case law develops.

In May, the High Court allowed papers by a plaintiff to be served via e-mail on an Australia-based defendant sued for copyright breach. He could not be reached personally as he was not found at the given address after permission was obtained to serve the papers there. In addition, the court said for the first time that Facebook, Skype and Internet message boards can be used for such purposes.

"As technology advances, newer and more effective electronic methods to effect substituted service will undoubtedly arise. It may be well true that the message to those who intend to evade service is that 'You can run, but you can't hide,'" wrote law graduates Benjamin Tham and Yuen Kit Kuan in a SingaporeLawBlog commentary in July.

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MHA tables Bill to collect iris images from S'poreans, PRs

11 Oct 2016
Wong Pei Ting

Move is among four proposed amendments to National Registration Act mooted by the ministry in Parliament

SINGAPORE — Singapore citizens and permanent residents may soon have to get their eyes scanned and recorded by the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), in its bid to strengthen identity-verification methods.

This move to collect iris images as an extra personal identifier, besides photographs and fingerprints, is among four proposed amendments to the National Registration Act that were tabled by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in Parliament on Monday (Oct 10).

The Act, enacted in 1965 for the registration of persons in Singapore, was last amended in 1994.

The ministry said that the iris scan is “a proven technology” that is “convenient, contactless and non-intrusive”.

The added accuracy from using this technology in the identification process would allow for a more effective and efficient clearance process at Singapore checkpoints, it added.

The MHA also proposed that non-ICA officers be appointed as registration officers so that the ICA may partner other public-sector agencies or the private sector to deliver more convenient registration services.

For example, the public may enrol to submit personal identifiers, such as iris images, at more locations.

Related to the submission of personal data, another key proposed amendment seeks to give the ICA the power to refuse to register inappropriate names that are “against the public interest”.

These include names that are offensive to other people, or names that may be confusing or misleading, for instance, “Professor” or “Sir”.

The fourth proposal involves giving ICA officers investigative powers to deal with matters related to the issuing of identity cards or offences under the Act.

Right now, only the police can investigate offences under the Act.

The MHA said: “The proposed amendments to the (Act) to collect iris images, appoint non-ICA officers as registration officers, provide ICA officers with investigative powers, and refuse registration of inappropriate names, will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of ICA operations.”

The Government has been looking into having an iris-recognition system for checkpoint clearance for more than 10 years.

In 2003, it was reported that the ICA was evaluating such a system for motorcyclists and their pillion riders at land checkpoints.

The following year, as the Government pushed for the more secure biometric passports to be used, the ICA said that it would call for a tender to get proposals on the biometric systems for e-passports, which may include iris-scan technology.

However, when biometric passports were launched in 2006, this was not used.

Last year, in looking to enhance the passport system, the authority called for proposals from the industry to help design a system that used iris scans to identify travellers.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Boost legal, social safeguards to protect the elderly: Forum

Straits Times
05 Oct 2016

In recent times, we have read of sham marriages, nominated beneficiaries of Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies unrelated to a dead person and feuds over estates.

The perpetrators certainly came prepared, with tactics that seemed premeditated and well researched.

Lonely aged citizens are especially vulnerable to feigned affection ("Elderly people less able to process cues of social threat" by Ms Huang Yi; Sept 23).

We need to boost legal safeguards to protect our aged men and women ("Protecting the elderly from financial abuse an urgent matter" by Dr Lee Siew Peng; yesterday, "More types of elder abuse should be considered criminal offences" by Mr Jeffrey Law Lee Beng; Forum Online, Monday, "Govt unit saw over 100 cases of vulnerable adult abuse" and "Study flags financial exploitation of elderly"; both published on Monday).

Any person of a certain age should be accompanied by at least two relatives before he drafts his will, assigns Lasting Power of Attorney, opens a bank account, transfers funds beyond a threshold, or makes arrangements to dispose of his assets, including nominating beneficiaries to his CPF monies.

Utmost care must be exercised, and perhaps a certification of an aged person's mental state procured, before carrying out instructions given by such a person.

The law should afford watertight protection to the vulnerable aged, who may not have the capacity to act or are under the influence of unscrupulous people.

The authorities should be stringent in checking that visitors who stay here for an extended duration have legitimate reasons for doing so, and that their sponsors are genuine. They should also ensure that registered businesses carry out genuine activities.

Let us have comprehensive legal and social safeguards in place so that we can all grow old with dignity.

Lee Teck Chuan

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Doc's reports ordered to be withdrawn in landmark case

Straits Times
20 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

In a landmark case, the High Court has ordered two psychiatric reports on an accused to be withdrawn even though she had accepted the doctor's caution that they were subject to use in court.

The court held that the reports on Madam Rahimah Mohd Salim, which were done at her request and not because of a prosecution request or court order, were subject to litigation privilege.

"The context in which an expert report is produced is critical. I do not think her acceptance of the caution can amount to 'clear, informed and unequivocal' election to waive her right to litigation privilege," said Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin in judgment grounds released last week.

The court also ordered a retrial under a different judge as privileged material had been inappropriately disclosed.

Madam Rahimah, who is facing charges of dishonestly receiving and transferring stolen property, had sought the reports from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to assist in her defence. But she later decided not to use the reports and opted for a psychological report from Raffles Hospital instead.

Litigation privilege exists in documents or communications that are confidential and undertaken for the purpose of a pending or ongoing court case. It is meant to protect a party and enable the party to assess these documents or communications without fear of their disclosure to the other side.

Prosecutors had asked her to disclose the IMH reports last year but she declined, citing litigation privilege. The prosecutors then obtained a court order for the reports to be disclosed.

At a hearing, Dr Stephen Phang from IMH said he had warned Madam Rahimah that whatever he recorded of his assessment may be produced in court, and she had understood and agreed to his caution.

The district judge ruled in April that she had waived her litigation privilege and ordered the disclosure. The trial proceeded with Dr Phang testifying on the contents of the report.

Madam Rahimah, represented by TSMP Law lawyers Colin Liew and Niklas Wong on a pro bono basis, then appealed to the High Court to reverse the district court's disclosure order.

The prosecution team led by Deputy Chief Prosecutor Leong Wing Tuck objected, arguing that there was no serious injustice or palpable wrong to merit intervention by the High Court.

Judge of Appeal Chao disagreed.

He said the "entire circumstances" would have to be examined to ensure whether Madam Rahimah did waive her privilege. He set aside the disclosure order and ordered all privileged material to be struck off the record.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Mr Liew said it was the first time the court has considered and applied the concept of litigation privilege in criminal proceedings.

He said the court has "made clear that privilege is not waived simply because the patient was informed that the psychiatric assessment was not confidential".

He added: "The court has made clear that it will uphold privilege except in very exceptional cases, which is something that is likely to be welcomed by both criminal and civil litigators."

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CPF changes ensure flexibility, safeguard retirement adequacy

Straits Times
11 Oct 2016

Changes to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) scheme that will allow members to withdraw a lump sum upon reaching an eligible age strike a balance between being flexible and safeguarding retirement adequacy, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say yesterday.

He was responding to concerns raised by eight MPs during the debate on the Central Provident Fund (Amendment No. 2) Bill, which was passed yesterday. Other changes include having the Retirement Sum scheme payouts start automatically and making it easier to top up relatives' CPF accounts.

Acknowledging MPs' differing views on the lump sum provision, which had been recommended by an advisory panel, Mr Lim said the panel's views were also divided, with some advocating flexibility and others wanting tighter rules.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) called for more leeway for those who might want to buy property, while Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) suggested allowing the lump sum withdrawal from age 55.

But Nominated MPs Thomas Chua and Randolph Tan cautioned that too much flexibility might risk members' savings.

Mr Lim replied that the changes in the Bill strike "the most appropriate" balance. They allow members who turned 55 in 2013 or later to make a lump sum withdrawal upon reaching the payout eligibility age. This recognises that some people may need to withdraw money earlier, he said. But the amount they can take out is capped at 20 per cent of their retirement savings, and the eligibility age is set at 65 instead of earlier, "because by then the person would be in a better position... to look ahead and make the assessment", Mr Lim added.

Another change will have the Retirement Sum scheme payouts start automatically when members turn 70. Previously, they would have to apply for the payouts to start.

This change kicks in in 2018 and is expected to help a third of the Retirement Sum scheme members turning 70 that year. The total number of members was not given.

Another change makes it easier for CPF members who have set aside their full Retirement Sum to top up the Medisave Accounts of certain family members.

NMP K. Thanaletchimi and Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) wanted to know which relatives this would apply to. Mr Lim clarified that in-laws are also included, as the aim is to encourage the younger generation to top up the accounts of older family members.

MPs, including Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) and Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), also hoped more could be done to educate the public about the CPF.

Mr Lim agreed, saying that the CPF Board is starting an exercise to explain the system simply. A trial run was done last month, with more sessions to be conducted in Tamil, Malay and Mandarin.

Key changes


Central Provident Fund (CPF) members who turned 55 in 2013 and later can make a lump sum withdrawal of 20 per cent from their Retirement Account when they reach the payout eligibility age.


Previously, members on the Retirement Sum scheme had to apply to start their payouts. Starting from 2018, payouts will begin automatically once the member turns 70.


On Jan 1 this year, the Basic Healthcare Sum was introduced. It is the maximum that can be set aside in the Medisave Account.

The CPF Act has been changed to fix the Basic Healthcare Sum for each cohort when they turn 65 years old, and to remove obsolete provisions relating to the Medisave Minimum Sum.


CPF members who have set aside their full Retirement Sum will be able to top up the Medisave Accounts of certain family members, aged 55 and above, directly from their own Ordinary and Special Accounts.

Previously, they would have had to withdraw excess monies in cash first.

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Company wins appeal against Laos government

Straits Times
04 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Bilateral investment treaty includes Macau though it reverted to China later: Court

A Macau-based company has won its appeal against the Laos government in a case before the Appeal Court in Singapore. Sanum Investments had tried to seek redress under a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) signed by Laos and China in 1993, for its claim of capital investment benefit losses through unfair taxes by the Laos government.

Reversing a decision by the Singapore High Court, the Court of Appeal has ruled that Macau would be included under the pact though the former Portuguese colony reverted to China only later, in 1999.

Letters between Laotian and Chinese diplomats that the treaty did not extend to Macau failed to convince the court, which found it was subject to the "moving treaty frontier "(MTF) rule.

"Simply put, because a treaty is binding in respect of the entire territory of a State, the MTF Rule presumptively provides for the automatic extension of a treaty to a new territory as and when it becomes part of that State," wrote Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, in judgment grounds last week.

The five-judge Appeal Court met in April to hear the case.

Sanum Investments, which had a joint venture with a Laotian entity in the gaming and hospitality industry, started arbitration proceedings against the Laos government in 2012, based on the China-Laos BIT. It claimed capital investment benefit losses through unfair taxes. An independent arbitration tribunal chose to settle the spat in Singapore and, against Laotian objections, ruled it had jurisdiction to hear the case and that the treaty applied.

Laos successfully appealed to the Singapore High Court last year where it produced two diplomatic letters between the Laotian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy in Laos.

Sanum, through a Wong Partnership team led by Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo and lawyer Koh Swee Yen, appealed to the apex court, arguing that the Laotian government could not rely on the two letters generated only after the date the dispute had arisen.

The Lao government, through Drew & Napier lawyers Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull and Ms Lim Gerui, countered that the letters were material as the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties envisages subsequent deals may shape treaty interpretation.

The court, among other things, ruled the case turned on the critical date the dispute arose and allowed Sanum's appeal.

The case "marked the first time that Singapore courts have had to review an investment treaty arbitral award as well as to deal with the interpretation of a BIT to which Singapore is not a party", said Senior Counsel Michael Hwang in a 2015 article.

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Sanum Investments Ltd v Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic [2016] SGCA 57

2 brothers sentenced for failing to report for NS in time

Straits Times
20 Oct 2016
Amir Hussain

Two brothers remained out of Singapore without a valid exit permit and failed to report for national service for more than five years and more than three years respectively, a court heard.

But they went on to serve their full-time NS exceptionally well - one was selected for Officer Cadet School, while the other won a Soldier of the Month Award.

On Tuesday, Sakthikanesh Chidambaram was jailed for three weeks. His brother, Vandana Kumar Chidambaram, was fined $6,000.

Sakthikanesh, 25, pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to report for NS for five years, six months and 17 days.

Vandana, who turns 23 in two weeks, pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to report for NS for three years, six months and two days.

Both admitted to another count each of remaining outside Singapore without a valid exit permit.

The prosecution, which had asked for short jail terms, intends to appeal for stiffer sentences. Defence lawyers had asked for fines.

A district court heard that the brothers' Singaporean mother settled in India after she married an Indian national in 1990. But she came back to Singapore to deliver her sons in 1991 and 1993. About two months after each boy was born, their mother took them back to India. They grew up there and attended the Delhi Public School.

The boys visited Singapore six to seven times between 2000 and 2009, with each visit lasting over a month. Both renewed their passports twice, and applied for and got their identity cards in 2006 and 2009 respectively.

In June 2008, Sakthikanesh was told to register for NS. But he left Singapore later that month to pursue his university education in India, returning only in April 2014, after completing his studies. He enlisted for full-time NS in September 2014.

In May 2010, Vandana was told to register for NS. He, however, returned to Singapore only in June 2014 and enlisted for full-time NS in August 2014.

District Judge John Ng found the brothers had "a substantial connection to Singapore". He noted that both got their ICs and used Singapore passports for travel, and that their mother co-owned a Housing Board flat.

The judge said: "If the circumstances showed that the offender (or his parents) had demonstrated all along an intention to retain his Singapore citizenship, it behoves upon him to discharge his NS obligations... at a time when other male Singaporeans are asked to report for NS, and not be allowed to perform his duties only at a time that is convenient to him or of his own choosing."

But the judge noted, among other things, that both men had performed their NS duties exceptionally well. "Sakthikanesh did so well in basic military training... he qualified for Officer Cadet School (OCS). He had almost finished the OCS course to become a commissioned officer when he was suddenly and devastatingly deprived of that opportunity, due to being charged in court...

"As for Vandana... based on the testimonial he had received from his superiors, as well as his solid performances, he was chosen to be an Armoured Vehicle Gunner for the SG50 National Day Parade and he was also named as his Company's Soldier of the Month for May this year," said Judge Ng.

For their Enlistment Act offences, Sakthikanesh and Vandana could have been fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to three years.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Kumaresan Gohulabalan and Randeep Singh Koonar prosecuted the case. Straits Law Practice's Mr Tan Jee Ming and Mr S. Balamurugan defended Sakthikanesh and Vandana.

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Singapore Law Watch
11 Oct 2016

Lawyer suspended 2 1/2 years over illicit deal

Straits Times
04 Oct 2016
Selina Lum

A lawyer with more than 30 years' experience, who acted for the parties on both sides of an unlicensed moneylending transaction disguised as a property deal, was yesterday suspended from practice for 21/2 years.

Ms Leong Pek Gan had placed herself in a position of potential conflict of interest when she acted for a married couple selling their Bedok condominium and a firm that intended to buy the unit. Ultimately, she chose the interest of the firm, whose managing director and shareholder was her long-time client, over that of the vendors.

And even though she had reasonable grounds to believe that the sale and purchase of the flat was to cloak an illegal loan of $250,000, she helped both sides close the deal and failed to report the suspicious transaction.

The partner at Ching Ching, Pek Gan & Partners was found guilty of four charges of professional misconduct in October last year by a disciplinary tribunal, which found her case serious enough to be referred to the Court of Three Judges, which can suspend or strike errant lawyers off the rolls.

Mr Dinesh Dhillon, acting for the Law Society, argued yesterday before the court that Ms Leong "chose to be wilfully blind to the illegality of the transaction".

In 2012, the couple, Mr K. Tanapalan and Ms Vimala Devi Selvadurai, agreed to use their flat as collateral to borrow $250,000 at an interest of 15 per cent per annum from Mr Benson Ho through his firm Invest- Ho Properties.

The loan was documented as an option fee paid by the firm to buy the property. The couple signed a power of attorney to allow Mr Ho to enforce the option if they defaulted on repayment.

Mr Ho later insisted on exercising the option, denying that there was any loan.

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Tighter governance rules proposed for town councils

19 Oct 2016
Kelly Ng

Proposals seek to clarify roles and functions, as well as enhance regulatory oversight

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of National Development (MND) has proposed tighter rules on governance of town councils, among other proposals, following a three-year review of the Town Councils Act.

Yesterday, the MND put up the proposals for a one-month public consultation. They seek to clarify the roles and functions of town councils, improve their governance and financial management, as well as enhance the MND’s regulatory oversight. A Bill is expected to be tabled by early next year.

The dozen proposed changes to the Act include subjecting town councils to a code of governance and internal controls, as well as requiring them to notify residents and the MND on key officer appointments such as chairman, town councillors and general manager.

The regulatory framework for town councils would also be strengthened, with the addition of more penalty provisions to prevent “clear and egregious contraventions” such as withholding of information from the MND and failure to submit audited reports.

It will also be written into law that town councils have to set up a fund dedicated to replacement of lifts and critical lift parts — a move that was earlier announced, following a spate of high-profile Housing and Development Board (HDB) lift incidents involving serious injuries and even a death this year.

In drafting the proposed changes, the MND said it took reference from provisions in the Charities Act, given the similarities between town councils and charities. “Both entities run autonomously, manage public funds and consist of volunteers who help out on a part-time basis,” the ministry noted.

First announced in 2013, the review came after the MND had looked into the People’s Action Party-owned company Action Information Management (AIM) — which provided software to PAP town councils — and concluded there was no misuse of public funds, nor any conflict of interest between any town council members and the company. However, the ministry recommended that the Government conduct a “strategic review” on the roles and functions of town councils in view of their becoming politicised.

Amid the review of the Act, Parliament debated a motion in February last year on the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) audit report on the then-Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC). The AGO report found deficiencies in AHPETC’s financial and accounting systems, record-keeping and safeguards, and concluded that “until the weaknesses are addressed, there can be no assurance that AHPETC’s financial statements are accurate and reliable and that public funds are properly spent, accounted for and managed”.

Then-National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan told the House that the MND would address the weaknesses in the town council regulatory framework as the light-touch approach was no longer tenable. All 85 MPs present then — including the Workers’ Party MPs in attendance — supported the motion to strengthen the legislative framework for town councils and hold those responsible for their management to proper account.

Under the proposed amendments, town councils are required to submit medium-term financial projections to the MND, as well as improve the management of situations where there are conflicts of interest.

Town councils were introduced in 1989 to give elected MPs more authority and responsibility over the HDB estates in their constituencies. Unlike the Companies Act and the Charities Act, which provide for full inquiries and penalties such as fines or jail terms when rules are broken, the Town Councils Act took a “light-touch approach” to regulation and enforcement.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first raised the need to “re-examine the nature of town councils” in January 2013, as he called for a review of the AIM transaction.

During the General Election last year, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong explained why the PAP government started the town council system. Mr Goh was Deputy Prime Minister when Parliament passed the Town Councils Act in 1988. Speaking on the sidelines of a walkabout in Marine Parade GRC, Mr Goh said the Act gives MPs direct control over their town council and makes them directly accountable to their constituents.

The MND said yesterday that the proposed amendments “seek to ensure that town councils deliver essential public services in a consistent, fair and sustainable way that serves the interest of residents, while retaining the autonomous nature of town councils”. It added that the review also recognises that the public “expects transparency and accountability from town councils”.

Other proposed amendments include empowering the MND to direct town councils to make preparations for public emergencies such as disease outbreaks and terrorist attacks.

Clarifying the roles and functions of town councils, it was made clear that they have to cooperate with government agencies to “better serve residents’ needs and interests” when it comes to upgrading works, installation of CCTV cameras and carrying out of mosquito control measures. Town councils also should not engage in substantial trading or financial activities, such as commercial fairs or promotional events, that are “incompatible with their core functions”.

The public can submit their feedback via email (feedback@mnd.gov.sg), post or fax to the Ministry of National Development by November 17.

Changes to Town Councils Act designed to safeguard residents’ interests: Experts

SINGAPORE — The proposed changes to Town Councils Act (TCA) will help to safeguard residents’ interests, said most political analysts and corporate governance experts interviewed by TODAY.

While enhancing accountability, the amendments will still leave room for political parties to run the estates with a fair amount of autonomy, said the experts who were in favour of the proposed amendments.

Town councils were set up in 1989 to give elected Members of Parliament (MPs) more authority and responsibility over the HDB estates in their constituencies. Unlike the Companies Act and the Charities Act, which provide for full inquiries and penalties such as fines or jail terms when rules are broken, the TCA takes a “light-touch approach” to regulation and enforcement.

MPs are given maximum autonomy in operating their town councils to bring home the message that how they manage their estates will affect their electoral fortunes at the next polls.

The proposed changes will not lead to a “nationalisation” of town councils, said Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan.

“The proposed changes are designed as safeguards. They also seek to claw back the rather freewheeling autonomy that town councils now seem to have ... ” he added.

Associate Professor Tan believes the changes will allow political parties to be better assessed based on their management nous, financial expertise and planning foresight.

Associate Professor Lan Luh Luh, from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School and Faculty of Law, said the changes promote good governance overall, although some may be directed at the Workers’ Party (WP). Its management of the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) — now known as Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) — has come under scrutiny in recent years.

Incidents involving the WP-run town council have highlighted deficiencies of the current TCA, said Associate Professor Lan.

She noted that some matters involving the AHTC need not have been taken to court if the Ministry of National Development’s (MND) regulatory powers were clearly spelt out.

However, Associate Professor Mak Yuen Teen, also from NUS Business School, said de-politicising town councils is the ideal safeguard for residents’ interests. “Having statutory boards like the Housing and Development Board (HDB) take over town management and allowing MPs to focus on national issues is better in my view ... At the moment, we are hybrid and confusing.”

Given that the MND is “not independent of the Government”, it is “critical” that the ministry uses the proposed enhanced powers in an even-handed manner on town councils run by the PAP and the WP, he said.

Town council chairmen approached by TODAY also welcomed the proposals to promote better accountability. However, they echoed earlier concerns that one proposal — for each town council to have to have a dedicated fund for lift replacements — may further strain the town councils’ operating and sinking funds.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Chua Chu Kang Town Council chairman, said service and conservancy charges may need to be raised to set aside money for the lift fund. He also suggested giving town councils a greater say in decisions made by government agencies at the planning stage, such as in the choice of lift infrastructure.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Protecting the investor from corporate malfeasance

Straits Times
10 Oct 2016
Goh Eng Yeow

The first step should be to identify the real and unique problems faced by investors here

When the code of corporate governance was last revamped four years ago, the corporate accounting scandals that afflicted some S-chips - China-based firms listed here - were still fresh in investors' minds.

Changes were made to the code to beef up the independence of the board and to tighten the definition of independent directors - "indies" for short.

This was to better safeguard the interests of investors who invest in listed firms whose businesses and assets are based overseas and whose bosses continue to be the controlling shareholders.

Now, the same issue of entrenched control in a listed firm has cropped up again, thanks to a vigorous debate in the local investment community over whether the Singapore Exchange should permit dual-class share listings here.

Although these shares offer the same economic benefits and rights to dividends as ordinary shares, they carry substantially more voting rights which enable their holders to retain control over a firm.

Against this backdrop, Mr Ong Chong Tee, the Monetary Authority of Singapore's deputy managing director of financial supervision, recently raised the issue of reviewing the code again.

As he observed, what is needed is a "balanced and progressive code that not only serves to enhance Singapore's corporate governance standards but is also pragmatic and workable in practice".

To the occasional investor, it is difficult to figure out what the fuss over the code is all about.

That is a pity. The code plays an important role in safeguarding his investments and makes sure that when the management's interests are not aligned with the company's, board members, appointed from outside the company, will be able to exercise objective judgment independently of the management.

This is because part of the code is devoted to criteria on how to select indies, making sure that they have no relationship with the company, its subsidiaries, management or substantial shareholders, which may impair their judgment ability. And while adherence to the code is voluntary, listed firms which do not comply will have to give reasons for failing to do so in their annual reports.

Yet, despite all these guidelines, some are less than enthused about the performance of indies in the local corporate scene.

As corporate governance expert Mak Yuen Teen noted in a recent article, indies can be classified into the "good, bad or ugly". One problem he raised is their lack of accountability if they fail to discharge their duties properly, and whether they make suitable safeguards, despite such a glaring shortcoming.

It would not be surprising to find, in any further review of the code, the role played by indies coming under the spotlight again and how the code's guidelines could be further improved to ensure they stay just that - independent.

However, I feel that even before any revamp of the code is undertaken, we should first review some of the assumptions used in framing the code in the first place.

Our code, like many others, takes its cue from Britain where a strong corporate culture has flourished revolving around a strong and independent board exercising oversight over the management.

One reason why indies have grown in importance in Britain is due to the dispersed manner in which shares are held, with each investor holding a relatively small percentage of the company. And because these shareholders seldom act as a group, they are unable to pin down the management on sensitive issues, and hence the need for indies to uphold their interests.

Here, the problems facing minority shareholders are quite different. In many firms, the founder still runs the show and owns a sizeable stake in the company. Very often, if a major problem erupts, the cause can usually be traced back to him.

Hence, the problem is not about keeping a dominant management in check but one of protecting shareholders from the controlling shareholder. This is a problem which surfaces over and again, whenever we face corporate scandals.

Examples would include S-chips where a boss can wield great power as he is also the company's legal representative, which gives him the right under Chinese law to execute agreements, transfer assets such as land and cash, and give guarantees on the firm's behalf.

At the last revamp of the code, one remedy was to require half of the board to be made up of indies if the same person is serving as chairman and chief executive, and to ensure that the indies are not linked to the company in any way.

But there is a structural flaw that remains to be remedied. We currently allow the controlling shareholders to vote during the election of the indies who are charged with oversight of the management.

That begs the question: How can we reasonably expect an indie to be independent of the management if the management is also the controlling shareholder who elects him to the board?

Packing the board with more indies isn't going to solve the problem if they are all going to be beholden to the controlling shareholder for the same reason.

It may be time to consider if we should be more discerning about adopting the "best market practices" on corporate governance in markets such as Britain. The "best market practices" which work there may not necessarily produce a similarly satisfactory outcome here.

What can be done?

It would be good if the debate over dual-class shares, where the issue of controlling shareholders has also cropped up, can throw up new ways to protect minority shareholders' interests.

To me, one option is to disallow controlling shareholders from voting during the election of indies.

This would ensure that whoever is elected would be acceptable to the minority shareholders, who could then look to them to exercise objective judgments on transactions where the interests of the controlling shareholder and the company are at variance.

As it is, such a structure already exists in some European markets such as Italy.

Related to this issue raised on the independence of indies is how they should be compensated for their efforts.

One problem which has cropped up time and again is the fees paid to an indie for his services, other than his director's stipend which has to be approved by shareholders. The worry is that all these other payments may cloud his independence of judgment.

Usually, this relates to fees paid for services rendered by a firm linked to the indie. But in some cases, this may also refer to the fees which an indie gets paid for sitting on the boards of the listed firm's subsidiaries. These fees are not subject to shareholders' approval and there is no breakdown of the payments in the annual report.

The code recognises that such fee payments may pose a problem and states that "payments aggregated over any financial year in excess of $200,000 should be deemed significant" enough to deem an indie as non-independent.

But providing a ballpark figure of $200,000 may oversimplify the issue. One question to ask is whether the guidelines ought to be tightened - especially if it turns out that the advisory fees which an indie is receiving are considerably higher than his director's stipend.

Of course, there may be other concerns that will need to be looked into, if the code comes under review.

But before we do so, we should seriously think hard about what problems exactly we are trying to prevent and how to solve them. Merely copying the so-called "best practices" of other markets, which operate under very different dynamics, will not achieve our purpose.

Packing the board with more indies isn't going to solve the problem if they are all going to be beholden to the controlling shareholder for the same reason.

It may be time to consider if we should be more discerning about adopting the "best market practices" on corporate governance in markets such as Britain. The "best market practices" which work there may not necessarily produce a similarly satisfactory outcome here.

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

UniSIM upbeat about filling gap in community law sector

Straits Times
04 Oct 2016
Amelia Teng

Its courses, selection and training nudge students to less glamorous but vital path

Family and criminal lawyers - a sector of Singapore's law scene that has been plagued by falling numbers - may soon get some much-needed help.

With a curriculum tilted towards community law, a focus on practical training and a rigorous selection process, Singapore's third law school is quietly confident that its 60 students will take up family and criminal law once they graduate from 2020.

Young graduates have traditionally shunned family and criminal law, perceiving them to be harder work and less lucrative than other areas such as arbitration.

But even though graduates of SIM University's (UniSIM's) Bachelor of Laws and Juris Doctor programmes - which start in January - will be able to go into any field of practice, the school is confident its students will stay the course.

UniSIM law school dean Leslie Chew told The Straits Times: "We cannot guarantee that they will go into family and criminal law, but I'm confident that the way we select and train them will push them in that direction."

While they will study core subjects such as contract and torts, students will spend the entire second year on criminal and family law modules. They will also take two non-law modules in forensic science and social services.

At the National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University, criminal law is compulsory but family law is optional.

UniSIM will also emphasise practical training with six months set aside for a work stint, said Professor Chew. "You're not sitting there to write the best essays. Someone is sitting in front of you asking for real-life advice."

These are all backed by a selection process that puts aspiration and background ahead of paper grades. Nearly all the 388 applicants were interviewed by a panel of four: an academic from the law school, a criminal lawyer, a family lawyer and a community representative. There were 62 panellists, including Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.

Mr P.E. Ashokan, partner in litigation and dispute resolution at Withers KhattarWong, one of the interviewers, gave his vote to "candidates with real-life experiences, like going through a divorce, or having closely witnessed friends and family going through it or having brushes with criminal law".

Lawyers in these fields are also hoping that students eschew the glamour and typically higher pay of corporate law to fill a vital need.

Ms Charlotte Lee, 42, who found pro-bono legal help during a divorce, hopes to "pay it forward" by becoming a family lawyer. She now trains volunteers and will start the Juris Doctor law course next year.

Family and matrimonial lawyer Helen Chia said she looked for "genuine people who wore their hearts on their sleeves" and could relate to others. About 80 per cent of UniSIM's first law cohort have worked on average for 11 years.

Prof Chew added: "Some did volunteer or counselling work, worked with families and juveniles, or are police officers who are familiar with the court system."

This has led to increased hope that the country's newest law school will fulfil its key aim of supplying much-needed community lawyers. According to the Ministry of Law (MinLaw), there were about 1,600 criminal and family lawyers here as of 2014, about a quarter of whom were in their 20s and 30s. In comparison, about 45 per cent of the 3,600 corporate and commercial lawyers are in their 20s and 30s.

UniSIM aims to increase its law intake to about 75 in 2020. Some are hopeful that its law graduates, with the advantage of experience, will be able to change the game. Said Mr Ashokan: "With their networks and contacts, they could command better pay or employment terms."

A MinLaw spokesman said it will "work with UniSIM to monitor the practice areas their graduates enter after graduation".

Genuine interest needed to last in community practice

Ms Charlotte Lee knows first-hand what it is like to go through a divorce and not be able to afford a lawyer, after her own experience about nine years ago.

The 42-year-old, who had been married for eight years, said: "It was a challenging time for me. I had just left my job at the navy, and was having financial difficulties.

"So I understand the challenges that people face in divorce."

She eventually engaged a pro bono lawyer, and she is grateful.

She hopes to be a family lawyer and is starting the Juris Doctor law course at SIM University next year. She now manages and trains volunteers at the Lions Befrienders Service Association.

Her psychology degree from Edith Cowan University, a private institution, also spurred her interest in the social service sector. "It made me interested in the mindset of humans. I also like watching television documentaries about crime and psychology," said Ms Lee.

"I don't see lawyers as glamorous. My impression is that law is hard work and stressful," she said. "But I don't feel daunted by this maybe because of the experience I have."

Ms Faith Tan, 27, a paralegal starting the Bachelor of Laws course next year, said: "I know family law is not as glamorous - you can't say you close $50-million deals.

"But there are other parts of a job that make it meaningful, like being able to help people during the hardest parts of their lives." Ms Tan has a law and management diploma from Temasek Polytechnic.

The shortage of community law practitioners means that there is enough work for aspiring lawyers like Ms Lee and Ms Tan, said Mr Tan Chong Huat, managing partner of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing.

Mr Koh Tien Hua, co-head of the matrimonial and family law practice at Harry Elias Partnership LLP, added that more marriages are breaking down, and crime still exists in Singapore.

Yet the reasons for the lower pay - fresh family lawyers could earn $1,000 to $2,000 less than their corporate counterparts - in these fields are fairly obvious, said legal practitioners like Mr Lim Chong Boon and Mr Rajan Chettiar.

Companies have deeper pockets than those needing criminal help, while firms which specialise in community law tend to be the smaller ones, and cannot afford the pay given by the bigger firms.

Veteran criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said community lawyers "must be in it for the passion" as "the monetary rewards are comparatively not as attractive or even commensurate with the long hours and the hard work".

Mr Chettiar added that young lawyers must manage their expectations: "There is no glamour in law practice, just grit."

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

Proportion of IDs on boards of listed firms on the rise: study

Business Times
19 Oct 2016
Cai Haoxiang

Some companies appear confused over the role of the lead ID; they appoint one even when they already have a non-exec independent chairman

[Singapore] MORE independent directors (IDs) are showing up on the boards of Singapore-listed companies, a comprehensive study released on Tuesday has found.

Some observers said the data uptick suggests that business owners are warming up to the benefits of having checks and balances, but others point out that controlling shareholders tend to appoint friends they can trust as IDs.

Meanwhile, a handful of companies with independent chairmen still appoint a separate lead ID, indicating some confusion over the lead ID role.

Independence in this context refers to having no material business or immediate family links to 10 per cent shareholders and above.

Adrian Chan, a senior partner at law firm Lee & Lee who led the study, said the finding that IDs are making up a bigger proportion of boards at listed firms here, is encouraging.

"Shareholders should be comforted that there are more hands on deck, especially since IDs are seen to be watchdogs over shareholder interests," he said.

He added, however, that there is significant room for improvement where the precise disclosure of the pay of both director and the chief executive is concerned.

The Singapore Directorship Report 2016, the second edition of the study, analyses directors on the boards of firms listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) across board structure, tenure, remuneration, meeting attendance and gender diversity.

The first edition, released in 2014, was notable for showing that directors with multiple directorships tend to have better attendance at meetings, debunking the idea that people with multiple directorships might not be as committed.

Talking points from this year's edition include the puzzling increase in the number of firms appointing lead IDs - even when they did not need to do so.

It was found that, of the 136 SGX companies that need not appoint a lead ID, 21 or 15 per cent, actually did so. The figure was 9 per cent in 2014.

In corporate governance, the chairman is the leader of the board of directors. The board represents shareholders, sets the strategic direction of the company and appoints key management personnel.

In theory, the board should be separate from the management, but in practice, chief executive officers (CEOs) are often also chairmen due to a desire for control.

Under Guideline 3.3 of Singapore's Code of Corporate Governance, companies should appoint a lead ID when an executive, non-independent chairman is running the show.

Companies which have separated the role of the CEO from that of an independent chairman thus need not appoint a separate lead ID, for the chairman already fulfils the role of being an independent check and balance.

John Lim, the immediate past chairman of the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID), said that in such cases, the lead ID was "not a plus":

"If you have an independent chairman - a good, independent chairman - what is the role of the lead ID? He actually has no role; it's confusing."

Another issue people are confused about is director tenure, he said. The independence of IDs who have served for longer than nine years should be "subject to particularly rigorous review", says the Code.

This is an issue that should be separated from that of board renewal, where this "nine-year rule" does not necessarily apply, he said.

Moreover, the statistics can be skewed by market conditions. When there are few new listings, the proportion of companies with IDs who have served longer than nine years will go up, he said.

The directorship report was jointly produced by SID and the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants.

At its launch, a member of the audience pointed out that while there seems to be a push towards independent directors, CEOs will still pick directors they are close to socially.

Responding, Mr Chan of Lee & Lee said: "At least institutions can look at business relationships and how entwined IDs are with management and the controlling shareholder. I don't think you can have a complete wall."

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

Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council seeks ‘urgent’ court date in bid to get documents from AHTC

10 Oct 2016

Singapore — Pasir-Ris Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) has sought an “urgent appointment” with the Court of Appeal to press Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and the latter’s accountant KPMG to provide documents relating to Punggol East.

This comes more than six weeks after the Court of Appeal had directed AHTC to hand over those documents to PRPTC and its accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

But AHTC has not provided all the documents termed Category 1 documents “despite numerous requests”, PRPTC stated yesterday afternoon in a media release.

More than four hours later, however, AHTC issued a media statement to say it had submitted “all the Category 1 documents ... in its possession to PRPTC” and that many documents were submitted during the operational handover last November.

Punggol East’s audited accounts from April 1 to Nov 30, 2015, were handed over recently, on Sept 28, disclosed AHTC chairman Pritam Singh.

However, the Workers’ Party-run town council has not yet submitted any Category 2 documents, which relate to Punggol East but may also relate to other constituencies in the former Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council.

This had been a point of contention between the two sides during the court hearing on Aug 18.

Regarding this, the conditions under which access should be given “would have to be worked out” where AHTC has “specific concerns” about the confidentiality of “specific parts of any identified Category 2 documents”, noted PRPTC yesterday.

But AHTC has not identified any such specific concerns, PRPTC said.

In reply, Mr Singh said: “AHTC is in the final stages of preparing for the handover of the Category 2 documents ... once AHTC’s lawyers and PRPTC’s lawyers confirm the conditions determining their release to PRPTC.”

Both sets of lawyers now look set to seek guidance from the court.

The People’s Action Party had regained Punggol East from the Workers’ Party at the General Election, and placed it under the PRPTC again.

Referring to the constituency’s financial health, Mr Singh said yesterday: “While PRPTC handed over to AHTC S$22.5 million in sinking funds after the Punggol East by-election, AHTC is handing over to PRPTC S$26.8 million in sinking funds and another S$755,000 in accumulated surplus, totaling S$27.5 million.”

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

SGX raps KLW, two former key executives

Business Times
04 Oct 2016
Jamie Lee

Regulator's reprimand comes after 2015 special audit found lapses in internal controls and potential breaches of Catalist disclosure rules

[Singapore] THE Singapore Exchange (SGX) has rapped door maker KLW Holdings and two former key executives, reprimanding them on Monday for a litany of breaches of Catalist rules.

This comes as the company is under investigation by the Commercial Affairs Department for an alleged offence under the Securities and Futures Act. SGX said that it has referred the case and potential breaches of the law to the relevant authorities.

The reprimand of KLW, former managing director Lee Boon Teck, and former group financial controller Jaslin Gaw, follows a 2015 special audit that found lapses in internal controls and potential breaches of disclosure rules at KLW.

A few breaches are linked to two proposed property development projects in Bali, Indonesia, and Zhangye, Gansu, in China. Based on term sheets signed, commitment fees of about S$16.2 million had to be paid by KLW to counterparties for the deals. These fees were meant to be refunded to KLW if no definitive agreements were signed by July 2014.

The deals did not go through, but the fees were not refunded at that point. SGX said by Mr Lee's account, "all reasonable attempts" to recover the fees were unsuccessful.

"However, SGX notes that Mr Lee was able to recover S$9 million in commitment fees almost immediately, after the audit committee was informed by Ms Gaw of the term sheets and commitment fees in May 2015," the regulator said.

Mr Lee wilfully caused the company to fail in announcing material information about this deal - a breach of Catalist rules - SGX said.

KLW also failed to disclose that monies from various fundraising exercises had been used to pay for the commitment fees, as well as repayment of loans to Mr Lee. Some disclosures related to the rights issue and the share placement were wrong.

KLW had also wrongly classified and materially misstated the S$16.2 million, as well as the S$1.95 million advanced to Mr Lee, as "cash and bank balances" in the company's half-year 2014 financial statement. In this instance, Ms Gaw was found to have wilfully caused that breach.

The special audit found that KLW had paid S$1.95 million to Mr Lee at his request. This money, according to Mr Lee, was transferred to him so that he could pay for expenses linked to the China project. But this should have been recorded as a loan to a director, said the special auditor PwC.

PwC noted Mr Lee held on to the S$1.95 million for eight months before returning it to the company in February and March 2015. This is despite the term sheet expiring in July 2014. "During those eight months, despite the significance of the loan, Mr Lee made no mention to the board of it or the purported purpose for which it was provided to him." In this case, KLW failed to make an immediate announcement of any interested person transaction, SGX said.

SGX noted as well that Mr Lee had wilfully caused another breach when KLW failed to immediately announce its acquisition of Key Bay Furniture Co Ltd, a furniture company in Vietnam. Mr Lee was the only member of the board who was aware, at the material time, of the acquisition, and failed to inform the board of it.

This comes a day after KLW said its chief executive officer Quek Chek Lan had resigned due to "other personal commitments". No replacement was cited for the 72-year-old. The company said its sponsor, R&T Corporate Services, is satisfied that there are no other material reasons for Mr Quek's resignation beyond his "other personal commitments". Mr Quek had sold his controlling stake of 19.4 per cent in KLW to Sunny Wealth Ltd, a firm incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. A Wong Ben Koon is listed as its sole shareholder, KLW said.

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

Updating Master under God

Business Times
19 Oct 2016
David Hughes

Developments in law and communication technology require the traditional role of the ship master to be revisited

THE position of the ship master, apparently enshrined in centuries of law, custom and practice, is showing evidence of strain in the light of 21st century ship operation and management. That, at least, is the view of the organisers of a debate to be held in London later this month.

The London Shipping Law Centre says that the master's traditional authority is widely perceived as being diminished while responsibility is being increased, frequently in matters over which he has little or no control. To be fully up-to-date the "he" in that sentence ought to be "he or she". Nevertheless it is difficult to argue against the general case being made.

An article on the Bimco (Baltic and International Maritime Council) website, written three years ago, covers the subject well. It notes that until recently the term "Master under God" was used to describe the role of a ship's captain, who still retains both authority and responsibility from an age before radio and instant communications.

As the Bimco article notes, the master of a ship is responsible, in law, for the safety of that ship and all aboard her. The agreement governing the employment of the crew is between the crew members and the master, not the shipping company. It is the name of the master that will appear on all the documents that relate to the ship and her current voyage. His, in law, is the ultimate authority for that vessel and he is responsible to the flag state for compliance with its maritime regulations.

The upcoming Cadwallader Debate will consider whether the role of the master is under attack. How has his authority and responsibilities been affected in an age of instant communication between ship and shore, and a growing volume of laws and regulations affecting the way the master runs his ship?

These growing demands on the master come at a time when crew numbers have been pared to the bone

Held "legal hostage"

Shipping industry expert, and former seafarer, Michael Grey has no doubts about the increasing difficulties facing ship masters. He cites external interference in loading and stowage, course, speed and performance decisions, sometimes overriding the master's safety concerns and "backed by bullying". He says there are increasing instances where the master is held as a "legal hostage", when local and port authorities, sometimes corrupt, find something wrong with the ship, its operations and its cargo.

With an estimated 150,000 new merchant officers required in the global shipping industry by 2025, Mr Grey is concerned that these factors could well discourage those contemplating a career at sea and ultimate command.

He says: "Ambitious and bright officers need to be attracted to the ship masters' role. However, there are worrying signs that senior officers are being deterred from this aspiration when they observe first-hand the burdens borne by those who command the ships they sail in."

It is not difficult to find recent examples of what many in the industry would regard as the unfair prosecution of masters. The recent sentencing of the master of the ill-fated tanker Prestige, Apostolos Mangouras, to two years in jail is probably the most notorious case.

The secretary-general of the ship managers' organisation InterManager, Kuba Szymanski, says: "Hierarchy is vital to a vessel's performance, as clear decisions are fundamental to a ship's performance and the safety and integrity of crew, cargo and the environment. Ever since all shipping companies had to adopt the International Safety Management Code, we have seen a transfer of authority from ship to shore personnel who are making more key decisions. Yet the master remains formally responsible for factors which he does not control."

Captain Szymanski asserts: "The master must continue to be the voice of the vessel, just as he has always been."

According to Mr Grey the issue is that modern legal developments and the communication technology, which binds ship and shore more closely together, require the traditional role of the ship master to be revisited.

But, as no doubt Mr Grey would readily accept, that is more easily said than done.

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

Noteholders issue direct demand to Rickmers Maritime

Business Times
10 Oct 2016
Tan Hwee Hwee

They want cash now, saying they are not convinced the MTN restructuring proposal is equitable and transparent

[Singapore] THE trustee-manager of Rickmers Maritime Trust is expected to receive on Monday a "notice of acceleration" from a noteholder group demanding immediate payment of their share of the S$100 million medium-term notes (MTN) being proposed for restructuring.

The noteholder group, understood to hold over 40 per cent of the MTN, authorised its appointed legal firm Rajah & Tann to serve the notice.

This is a follow-up from the first notice served in September to the notes' trustee, DB International Trust. Rickmers Maritime said on Sept 28 that it "has not received" the first notice from the notes' trustee.

Selected noteholders in the group told The Business Times after a meeting last Saturday that they were not convinced the MTN restructuring proposal is equitable and transparent.

Rickmers Maritime last Friday threw in a cash handout of S$500,000 in all to noteholders as a sweetener for its second proposal. The shipping trust is seeking its unitholders' approval to issue 1.32 billion new units as partial redemption of S$60 million of the principal amount of the notes. This will bring down the outstanding notes to S$40 million, but on revised terms and repayable in November 2023 instead of May 2017.

The trust updated the proposal after noteholders rejected its previous offer to exchange the S$100 million notes for new unsecured S$28 million fixed-rate step-up perpetuals. The perpetuals will be convertible at any time to units of the trust at a fixed conversion price.

The proposed note restructuring is a precondition set by Rickmers Maritime's bank lenders for pushing out a large part of the trust's loans to the first quarter of 2021.

Noteholders who spoke to BT argued for the shipping trust to come clean on the haircuts tabled for all the company stakeholders; specifically, they are after the finer details of the deal made with bank lenders led by HSH Nordbank.

A noteholder who wished to be known as F Ngiam viewed the proposal as inequitable compared to others from "companies with similar situations that at most kick the can two years down the road". Mr Ngiam, who bought S$750,000 of the notes, pointed out that note restructuring exercises undertaken by other listed offshore-and-marine (O&M) players pledged full redemption in exchange for extension of the notes' deadlines. He noted that, in contrast, the shipping trust is asking its noteholders to "take a seven-year hike filled with a lot of uncertainty".

Fellow noteholders also asked for Rickmers Maritime to disclose the business plan for the extra years sought. One concern is the contracted fee with the trust's affiliate, Rickmers Ship Management. Just a few months ago, a unitholder pointed out that the trust had posted a 2 per cent hike in first-quarter vessel operating expenses to US$9.74 million. This was fuelled by, among other things, an increase in the vessel management fee paid to Rickmers Ship Management.

Others said agreeing to the revised proposal on inequitable terms would compromise noteholders' rights in their future negotiations with issuers.

"I do not want units in exchange for the notes; I want cash," said noteholder Jeffrey Sia.

Noteholders fear the risk of a massive dilution of their investments held in Rickmers Maritime. "What do you think will happen to the unit price after the issuance of the 1.32 billion units?" Mr Sia asked.

Some noteholders said they were prepared to fight for their rights even if it came with the risk of the trust winding up. "If liquidation is the end game, so be it; I am prepared to make the sacrifice to safeguard my future bonds (or notes)," said one noteholder who did not wish to be named.

Commenting on the equity of the note-restructuring exercise, Rickmers Maritime's chief executive Soeren Andersen said: "We are doing all we can to preserve value for noteholders and all other stakeholders, in order of their respective security interests."

On the business plan after a successful note restructuring, Mr Andersen emphasised a two-pronged approach: optimise fleet efficiency while pursuing cash-producing and value-enhancing business opportunities. This may include low-cost vessel acquisitions and the conversion of existing or acquired vessels for other purposes.

He said: "Being part of the Rickmers ecosystem gives us access to investment opportunities within the container shipping space, which we will take advantage of when they offer accretive value and capital is available."

Mr Andersen also reiterated that the trust "benchmarks operating costs continuously" to keep the numbers in line with the market.

He cited the decommissioning of five spot vessels as an example of keeping costs to "an absolute minimum".

"This is a better option financially than operating the vessels in the extremely low charter market," he said.

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

Prosecution appeals against Yang Yin's term

Straits Times
04 Oct 2016
Carolyn Khew

The prosecution is appealing against what it called the "manifestly inadequate" six-year jail term for a former tour guide from China, Yang Yin, who misappropriated $1.1 million from an elderly Singaporean widow.

"The sentence does not adequately reflect the true criminality of Mr Yang's conduct," said the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in a statement yesterday.

Last Friday, Principal District Judge Bala Reddy had sentenced Yang, 42, to six years' imprisonment for committing two criminal breach of trust offences. The Chinese national had misappropriated $500,000 and $600,000 from 89-year-old Madam Chung Khin Chun in 2010 and 2012 .

Elaborating on the decision to file a notice of appeal yesterday, the AGC said the court had not given adequate consideration to two features of the case.

First, Yang was a foreigner who had come to Singapore with the aim of committing criminal acts.

"Secondly, not only did he take advantage of a vulnerable elderly person, (but) he has also failed to disclose the full extent of his criminality, return any portion of the misappropriated monies, and he has not shown any remorse," added the AGC.

The prosecution had originally asked for a deterrent sentence of 10 to 12 years.

Judge Reddy, however, said in his grounds of decision last week that a deterrent sentence need not be "crushing", adding that 10 to 12 years' imprisonment would be "manifestly excessive".

Apart from the criminal breach of trust, Yang was also jailed for two years and two months for a slew of crimes regarding his immigration status, including falsifying receipts for a sham company in order to stay in Singapore.

Though the former tour guide faces a total of eight years and two months in jail, his 26-month sentence was backdated to Oct 31, 2014, when he was taken into remand. Together with a possible one-third remission of the sentence for good behaviour , it could mean a much shorter jail term for Yang.

Yesterday, Madam Chung's niece, Madam Hedy Mok, told The Straits Times she was glad to hear the prosecution had filed a notice of appeal.

"What he (Yang) got was incredibly lenient," said the 62-year-old tour agency owner.

Yang's lawyer Irving Choh said: "We cannot stop the prosecution from appealing but from the comprehensive reasons set out by the learned judge Bala Reddy, it appears that he had meted out a just, fair and proportionate sentence under the circumstances to Yang Yin."

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ICC Academy to host trade finance conference on Oct 26

Business Times
19 Oct 2016

[Singapore] THE International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Academy on Oct 26 will be holding a conference titled Regulation and Compliance in Trade Finance, an event that will gather some of the trade finance industry's leading professionals to discuss regulatory trends - both in the regulatory capital and financial crime fields - which have had a major impact on the financing of trade in recent years.

"Compliance in the finance sector is now more important than ever. The increasing burden of regulatory compliance means more challenging times for banks and corporates," said ICC Academy general manager David Kok. "That's why we are focused on providing high-quality training for trade professionals on how to manage risks and ensure the maximum operational efficiency."

ICC secretary general John Danilovich and Lim Him Chuan, managing director and group head, Product Management, DBS will open the event.

Other featured speakers include Andrew McCarthy, director of Forensic Financial Advisory Services at Deloitte; Bernard Wee, executive director, Monetary Authority of Singapore; Andy Yeo, partner at Allen & Gledhill; Sonia Rossetti, managing director of Transaction Banking at Standard Chartered Bank; and Mark Borton, head of Trade and Working Capital for Asia Products and Markets at the National Australia Bank.

The conference is also expected to see the release of the results from the 2016 ICC Global Trade and Finance Survey, which is conducted by the ICC Banking Commission and is a report that has gained widespread recognition for providing the most accurate and detailed view of the market's current status and trends.

All Singaporeans and permanent residents looking to attend the conference can benefit from a 50 per cent refund for all registrations. The event is accredited by the Institute of Banking and Finance Singapore.

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Auditor rotation: is it time?

Business Times
10 Oct 2016
Willie Cheng

FOR boards and their audit committees, the question "Is it time to change our external audit firm?" seems to be an evergreen conundrum.

The question could be prompted by the circumstances of the company or simply heightened awareness by one or more board members of the heavy discussion in the industry and internationally on the subject of mandatory auditor rotation.

The pros and cons of the subject are fairly well known. How a board arrives at a decision on the rotation of auditors depends on how the directors collectively weigh each of the factors.

For rotation

Proponents of rotation believe that it enhances the independence and effectiveness of the external audit.

Rotation, it is argued, helps to avert audit firms from having an excessive focus on maintaining a long- term commercial relationship with the client. Such a relationship could cause the audit firm to be - whether in fact or in perception - too familiar with, or committed or beholden to, the client.

Some of the companies hit by major financial scandals have had long- standing auditors: Enron (16 years), FIFA (16 years), Bernard Madoff Investment Securities (16 years), and Tesco (32 years). Usually, after a major accounting scandal, there are fresh calls for greater auditor independence and rotation.

It is also felt that a longstanding auditor could lapse into a state of familiarity, which diminishes its ability to maintain a sharp, objective eye for control weaknesses and changes in the company's circumstances. A periodic change ensures freshness and sharp objectivity that an auditor should bring to the table.

Against rotation

The main argument against rotation is that it can be a time-consuming and disruptive process.

For starters, the selection process involves a significant amount of attention by the audit committee and management, not to mention the audit firms bidding for the work. During the transition period, the company's finance personnel and the incoming auditor must also spend considerable time and resources to orientate the latter to the company's business and controls environment.

The fact is that many companies value the auditor for little else beyond its provision of the bland "true and fair" opinion of the financial statements (at least before the enhanced audit report kicks in next year). And since they believe that most auditors tend to provide that as a matter of course, it seems easier to maintain the status quo.

The limited number of top audit firms also makes it difficult to conduct meaningful rotations for large companies.

If only a Big Four firm is being considered, the choices could be limited by the exclusion of the incumbent (which is being rotated out), and others who might be unavailable, be precluded due to conflicts of interest, or just because they are already auditing a major competitor.

Firm independence

Two compromises have thus become popular: rotating the firm's audit partner (rather than the audit firm), and re-tendering without excluding the incumbent from bidding. Both options go some way towards addressing the issues of effectiveness and cost, as well as potentially providing a fresh pair of eyes on the audit.

They do not, however, adequately deal with the issue of firm independence.

Regulator rules

Regulators around the world have long grappled with whether they should mandate rotation. However, the resulting rules remain mixed.

Europe requires mandatory audit firm rotation every 10 years for public-interest entities, but member states can reduce or extend this period. China imposes a five-year limit for state-owned entities and financial institutions. In India, it is every four years for government companies and financial institutions (and from April 2017, 10 years for listed companies and some unlisted companies). In Indonesia and South Korea, it's every six years for listed companies, and in Thailand, five years.

At the same time, many countries do not have mandatory audit firm rotation. They include Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States.

Whether there is mandatory audit firm rotation or not, there is often mandatory audit partner rotation in most jurisdictions.

In Singapore, locally incorporated banks previously had to rotate auditors after five years, but this policy was suspended in 2008 due to the global financial crisis. SGX Listing Rule 713 requires that the audit partner in charge must be rotated after five years, but may return after a break of two years.

Board direction

Against this inconsistent backdrop, what is the board to do?

It is advisable for the board to have an explicitly articulated policy on auditor rotation. This reduces the frequency of the same debates in the boardroom, and will help respond to the question if raised in a shareholder meeting.

In setting a policy, it is difficult to argue against the systemic risk of keeping the same auditor indefinitely. Hardly anyone would argue keeping the same auditor for, say, 100 years. The question becomes the period with which the board would be comfortable keeping (and justifying keeping) the same auditor, and what are the other mechanisms (such as partner rotation and re-tendering) it wishes to include.

Either way, these decisions need to be eventually made.

  • The writer is chairman of the Singapore Institute of Directors

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Ex-Brazil agent Skornicki's transactions 'may be suspicious', says Keppel

Business Times
04 Oct 2016
Cai Haoxiang

Firm is probing allegations that illegal payments have been made on contracts with Petrobras and Sete Brasil

[Singapore] KEPPEL Corporation fell nine Singapore cents or 1.7 per cent to S$5.30 after it said on Monday morning that a former Brazil agent might have engaged in illegal activity.

"Following further internal investigations, Keppel recognises that certain transactions associated with Mr (Zwi) Skornicki may be suspicious," Keppel said.

It said it has notified the authorities in the relevant jurisdictions that it wants to cooperate and work towards resolving underlying issues on the transactions. Keppel also reiterated that it does not tolerate any form of illegal activity, including bribery and corruption, involving its employees or associates.

The firm is investigating allegations that illegal payments were made by Skornicki on contracts entered by Keppel entities with their long-standing customer, Brazil national oil company Petrobras, and rig charter firm Sete Brasil.

Skornicki, arrested in Brazil earlier this year, had also alleged that senior Keppel executives had authorised him to bribe public officials to win contracts.

In response to queries from The Business Times on the nature and parties involved in the transactions associated with Skornicki, a Keppel spokeswoman said that the company was unable to make any further comments on the details due to ongoing investigations.

She added: "No formal charges have, to Keppel's knowledge, been filed against any company within the group or any of its employees."

RHB equity analyst Wan Zahidi Zakwan said that the latest announcement was somewhat expected, though more bad news could be in store for Keppel. "Investors are already jittery with Keppel as its order book dwindles due to the downturn in the oil and gas market . . . our view is that Keppel needs to resolve this issue as quickly as possible," he said.

Petrobras is ensnared in a scandal that began in 2014 when its directors are alleged to have colluded with politicians to siphon money out of contracts for personal use or to fund political campaigns.

The scandal has led indirectly to the eventual impeachment of Brazil President Dilma Rousseff in August.

Contractors such as construction groups and foreign companies have also been implicated in paying bribes to politicians and Petrobras executives in exchange for contracts.

In February last year, allegations first surfaced about Keppel's involvement in the scandal. Keppel denied them, and noted that its agreement with Skornicki and the agent firm which employed him categorically stated that no improper payments should be made to any official connected to contracts.

A year later, Skornicki was arrested in Brazil and charged with corruption, criminal conspiracy and money laundering. The agency relationship between Keppel's entities and Skornicki had by then been put on hold.

Then, a Bloomberg report in August said that Skornicki told a Brazil judge in July that five leading Keppel executives, including current Keppel Offshore and Marine CEO Chow Yew Yuen, had authorised him to bribe officials to win contracts.

In response, Keppel strongly denied the allegations. It said that none of its executives named in the article had authorised Skornicki to make any payments as bribes.

Last month, a representative of the Brazilian government visiting Singapore said that the government is looking to start discussions with Keppel and fellow rigbuilder Sembcorp Marine to find solutions to their challenges in Brazil.

Meanwhile, the fallout from the Petrobras corruption scandal sent ripples through the oil and gas supply chain, exacerbated by an oil price crash.

For example, Sete Brasil had ordered billions of dollars of rigs from Keppel, intending to lease them to its sole client Petrobras. But Sete faced difficulties securing long-term financing and making payments to its contractors. It filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year.

Keppel stopped work on Sete's rigs since end-2015, and has said that it will not resume until payments flow again. It also made a S$230 million provision for its Q4 2015 results, which it said in July "remains appropriate and adequate" as it awaits more clarity on Sete's plans.

Asked what has happened to companies caught up in the Petrobras scandal, Ang Ding Li, IHS Markit's Asia-Pacific head of research for upstream costs, said that implicated contractors were banned from future Petrobras tenders until further notice. However, several contractors have been released from the ban after giving satisfactory assistance during the investigations, he said.

Mr Ang, however, declined to comment on Keppel-specific issues, adding he does not want to speculate on what the firm might face.

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Rare chance to view historic Singapore papers

Straits Times
19 Oct 2016
Melody Zaccheus

Documents proclaiming merger with Malaysia, separation among key items on show for first time

Printed on paper and parchment, with gold leaf accents and motifs such as brightly coloured orchids and hibiscuses - the documents proclaiming Singapore's merger with Malaysia embodied the hope in the air in 1963.

Barely two years later, as the merger unravelled, plain documents were hastily stapled together to detail Singapore's separation from Malaysia to become an independent republic.

The stark contrast in the two sets of documents was noted by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday at the official opening of the Law of the Land exhibition at the National Gallery, where the documents are on display for the first time.

"Our proclamation was plainly and hurriedly presented - stapled together, and the punch holes on the side show that the paper had been filed in a way similar to other records," he said.

For the exhibition, more than 20 documents from the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) and the National Library's collection will be on display in four segments.

They are: Constituting a Colony (1819-1941); Towards Autonomy and Statehood (1942-1959); Merger and Separation with Malaya (1960- 1965); and the Sovereign Nation of Singapore (1965 to present day).

It took NAS curators a year to put the show together. At least half of these documents are on display for the first time.

Dr Yaacob said it is important for a young nation to be "familiar with our history".

"While there have been many reasons ascribed to Singapore's success, such as our political leadership, economic connectedness and social cohesion, one aspect that is often overlooked is the importance of the rule of law," he said.

Some of the highlights of the exhibition include six regulations set out in 1823 by Sir Stamford Raffles, in an attempt to impose law and order in the growing settlement. They included the prohibition of gambling and slavery.

There are also two documents drafted to proclaim military administration over Singapore by the Japanese from 1942, and then the British in 1945 following the end of World War II.

The Japanese document is dated 1941 and shows how far in advance the Japanese had made plans to run Singapore after its military victory in 1942, noted curator Mark Wong, an oral history specialist at NAS.

Another key document is the 1958 Singapore Constitution, which sets out the framework for Singapore's then newly won self-governance. The colonial position of governor was replaced by the Yang di-Pertuan Negara - Mr Yusof Ishak, who was inaugurated six months later.

The colonial position of chief minister was turned into prime minister. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was sworn in as Singapore's first Prime Minister after the People's Action Party won the elections of May 1959.

Mr Wong said this is a rare chance for the public to see these documents, which need special care including temperature and relative humidity control inside museum- grade display cases.

"These documents show how the state is run, its obligations to us as citizens, and our rights as citizens," said Mr Wong.

Dr Yaacob said NAS has been digitising its collection and putting materials online to give the public more access. More than 700,000 archival materials can now be accessed through NAS' Archives Online.

He said: "The National Archives will continue to do its best to give Singaporeans easier and greater access to our past, to be inspired by it, and to play a part in connecting the community to history and heritage."

Printed on paper and parchment, with gold leaf accents and motifs such as brightly coloured orchids and hibiscuses - the documents proclaiming Singapore’s merger with Malaya embodied the hope in the air in 1963. Photo: Dios Vincoy Jr

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Lawyer honoured for community work

Straits Times
09 Oct 2016
Danson Cheong

Every Saturday, lawyer Latiff Ibrahim gathers a group of boys from the Muhammadiyah Welfare Home and takes them to the field at the Old Police Academy.

There, along with some of his friends and their sons, they will play a game of football.

The idea was for the boys from the Home, who might have family problems, to mix with other boys and gain confidence, said Mr Latiff.

Mr Latiff, who has served on the management committee of the Home for eight years, was yesterday honoured for his contributions to community work.

He won the Jasa Cemerlang (Excellent Service) award for his lifelong achievements and contributions to community work.

The 57-year-old has also served on the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore's (Muis) board of appeal for over two decades. The board hears appeals against the decisions of the Syariah Court and the Registry of Muslim Marriages.

Mr Latiff received his award from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the annual Muis Awards ceremony held at the Istana yesterday afternoon.

It was attended by Minister-in- charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim and about 200 guests.

Mr Latiff, who is Dr Yaacob's younger brother, said he finds helping underprivileged children and families "very satisfying".

"The challenge is phenomenal - every child, every family is important... In this sector, I think one can only try your best and just push on. You should never leave anyone behind," he said.

Muis chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar said Mr Latiff has made deep contributions in law, arbitration and social entrepreneurship.

"He is also a firm believer in helping the underprivileged and youth from challenged backgrounds," said Mr Abdul Razak.

Yesterday, awards for long service to the community were given to seven other winners.

A $100,000 cheque was also given to Dr Tan for the President's Challenge. This was raised by Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation, which was set up by Muis in 2005 to help the needy regardless of race or religion.

Mr Abdul Razak said: "The eight individuals whom we honour today have served the community in our beloved socio-religious institutions, such as the mosques, as well as our partners - the Malay/Muslim organisations that further the welfare and well-being of the Muslim community."

Danson Cheong

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Banks unfazed by stricter rules for defining accredited investors

Business Times
04 Oct 2016
Siow Li Sen

They say the regulations won't have material impact on wealth management revenues or their private banking business

 [Singapore] BANKS are sanguine about their wealth business ahead of new rules defining who qualifies to be truly rich, saying the impact of these rules is not going to be significant.

In a bid to protect retail investors, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is tightening the rules that define accredited investors (AIs).

AIs are considered to be better informed or able to access resources to protect their own interests. Being sophisticated investors, they can access a wider range of products such as bonds with a minimum tag of S$250,000, which are not sold to the mass market. AIs are also typically first in line to get allocations for hot initial public offerings.

The main change about who qualifies to be an AI is the tightening of the current S$2 million net personal assets threshold in such a way that the value of an individual's home can contribute only up to S$1 million of this threshold. MAS is also introducing an opt-in regime where those who meet the income threshold will have to make a conscious decision to opt in to the AI status, bearing in mind the regulatory safeguards they would forgo if they choose to do so.

The change means some clients may have to cough up S$1 million cash if they want to retain the AI status when the new rules come into effect, likely next year.

Several banks told The Business Times the change is not going to be significant nor have a material impact on wealth management revenues or the private bank business.

The definition of AI is not a new concept, said a DBS Bank spokesman. MAS first mooted changes to the AI regime back in 2014.

"All our wealth clients go through a comprehensive process of onboarding," he said.

When they sign up as clients, they are offered a choice to opt for AI or retail status. The "opting in" action required by clients is not new.

"What is new is the tightening of the definition to qualify for AI status," the DBS spokesman said.

"We see this move as a positive one in two ways. First, clients will be required to have higher disposable assets as only S$1 million of their property value is counted in the S$2 million personal assets threshold," he said. "Secondly, the new regulations will amplify the point that clients who expressly want to be offered a greater range of investment choices will face higher risks that are commensurate with the higher potential returns."

"The number of clients who will not qualify under the new rules for AI will not be significant. This is because most of our clients today who are AIs already have a minimum of S$1.5 million disposable assets with the bank," said the DBS spokesman.

DBS does not expect to see a significant impact on the sales of wealth management products arising from clients losing their AI status, he said.

Dennis Tan, OCBC Bank head of consumer financial services Singapore, said the bank does not foresee any significant impact on its retail banking wealth management business with MAS's proposed changes to the definition of AIs.

Standard Chartered Bank said it is committed to responsible selling and treating customers fairly, and is supportive of any initiative which safeguards the interest of clients.

"We would expect that some clients may elect to switch their banking services to our retail banking platform, if those clients opt out of the AI regime or do not qualify as AIs under the new definition," said a StanChart spokeswoman. "It is too early to comment on the impact right now."

At Maybank, a spokeswoman said only a very small proportion of its clients in the private wealth segment will be affected by the new AI changes, at "below 3 per cent".

AIs have hogged headlines in the past few months for the wrong reasons - many have cried foul as the value of their bond holdings shrivelled following defaults by some companies. Others are protesting at attempts by cash-starved issuers to defer redemptions and/or interest payments.

Sales of high-yield corporate bonds had been popular among AIs in the past several years, with some deals allocating up to 90 per cent to private banks.

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High Court approves Temasek's scheme to buy out SMRT

Business Times
18 Oct 2016
Soon Weilun

[Singapore] SINGAPORE'S High Court has approved state investor Temasek Holdings' scheme to buy out transport operator SMRT Corporation, bringing the delisting of a 16-year old float one step closer to reality.

The last day of trading of blue chip SMRT's shares will be on Oct 18, and the scheme goes into effect on Oct 25. Payout of the S$1.68 per share is expected to place by Nov 1.

SMRT shareholders had voted on Sept 29 to let Temasek take SMRT private by way of a scheme of arrangement.

Said SMRT in a release after markets closed on Monday: "The board wishes to announce that the Scheme has been sanctioned by the court today.

"Subject to the satisfaction (or where applicable, waiver) of all the scheme conditions in accordance with the implementation agreement, the scheme shall become effective and binding upon the lodgement of the Court Order with ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority)."

SMRT, which had its roots as a government agency, had gone public in July 2000.

Fifth Schedule entity Temasek, a 54 per cent shareholder, had launched the offer for SMRT at S$1.68 per share it does not already own in July. This valued its offer at about S$1.2 billion.

The offer process does not allow Temasek to vote on the offer on Sept 29. About 84.83 per cent, or 3,747, of the minority shareholders present and voting in person or by proxy at the scheme meeting voted in favour of Temasek's offer.

Shareholders also voted on the same day to let the government buy SMRT's rail operating assets under the New Rail Financing Framework for S$991 million before taxes, spread over three years. Thus, all future capital-expenditure obligations are transferred from SMRT to LTA, resulting in improved free cash flow.

SMRT's share price was flat at Monday's close at S$1.68.

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Court orders boy here to be returned to mum in Britain

Straits Times
08 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

4-year-old in care of paternal grandparents in S'pore as parents fight over custody

A four-year-old boy at the centre of a custody battle has been ordered by a family court to be returned to his mother in the United Kingdom to settle the issue in a London court.

He has lived for the last three years with his paternal grandparents here while his Mongolian mother, 31, and Singaporean father, 37, are battling over who gets him.

District Judge Tan Peck Cheng said that the British proceedings have been ongoing since January 2014, and that there have been no fewer than 11 British court orders reiterating that the child is and was habitually resident in Britain since then, that the child is a ward of the British court and that the father and grandfather are required to return the child to Britain.

"In the light of that, it is difficult to understand the husband's and the grandparents' allegations that the proceedings started in Singapore first, and that the wife is a forum shopper," she added in judgment grounds released yesterday.

The judge has allowed the grandparents' application to stay her order, pending the outcome of their appeal against her decision.

None of the parties can be named for legal reasons.

The boy's mother made the news in 2014 when she entered Singapore illegally by boat to try to snatch her son from his grandparents. She was jailed for 10 weeks and deported to London where she won her battle to get the custody issue settled in a London court.

But her husband wanted the case to be heard here, where they were married in 2011.

Their son was born in London in 2012, but registered as a Singapore citizen. The marriage faltered and they took him to Singapore and left him with his grandparents while they returned to London in 2013.

The husband divorced her in a Singapore court last year, while she sued to split in England.

After a British judge ruled that the son's habitual home was London, she obtained a British court order for his return.

Ms Tan heard six applications altogether from the child's mother, father and grandparents.

Acting for the woman, Ms Poonam Lachman Mirchandani applied for orders here "to mirror" the order made by the London courts, principally to confirm the child remains a ward of the British court and that he be returned to London.

The grandparents, through lawyer Raymond Yeo, applied to be the child's legal guardians while lawyer Adrian Tan sought sole custody, care and control of the boy for the father, with supervised access for the mother.

Ms Tan found "real and connecting factors" that made Britain the "more appropriate forum for the child's custody proceedings".

The judge pointed out there was "no shred of evidence" that the child's return would expose him to grave risk of physical or psychological harm or an intolerable position.

"It would neither be against the best interests of the child nor public policy for me to make orders to mirror certain UK orders and I order accordingly," said Ms Tan.

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Regulations should focus on safeguarding investors: Forum

Straits Times
04 Oct 2016

The continuing coverage of individuals suffering massive losses owing to poor investments is a grim reminder of the diminishing credibility of Singapore's capital markets ("Rickmers note holders join forces to get payment"; last Thursday).

I strongly urge a reset of our financial regulatory mandate to focus on investor protection.

The requirements to be an accredited investor should be redefined, and include a minimum level of investment education and training, instead of merely looking at net worth and income.

Individual investors, such as retirees, often hold bonds till maturity because of a lack of expertise and resources in evaluating their investments.

Without proper guidance, their purchases of such investments are often driven by greed or fear, and not sound principles of risk profiles, diversification and wealth protection.

There should be a limit on how much they can invest in one product, for instance, up to 5 per cent of their liquid assets.

The objective is to indirectly compel them to diversify their investment portfolio and to look at other types of products.

Those who want to invest greater amounts can engage the services of certified investment advisers to advise and guide them.

This would make it necessary to expand the pool of investment advisers. With a greater number of retirees armed with substantial Central Provident Fund (CPF) balances, there is a demand for such services.

The authorities could allow CPF monies to be used to purchase bonds of fundamentally cash-rich multinational corporations such as Apple, Facebook and Google, other than local companies' securities.

The issuance of bonds should also be restricted to cash-rich companies that are using the funds for expansion purposes, and not for operational purposes such as paying wages and settling debts.

Weak companies should focus on cost cutting, selling assets and seeking mergers or buyouts, instead of conveniently issuing bonds or shares to raise funds.

It is imperative that Singapore strengthens its hand in investor protection to prevent unnecessary decimation of individuals' wealth.

Frankie Mao

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Widower jailed 33 months for laundering over $500k

Straits Times
18 Oct 2016
K.C. Vijayan

He says he fell in love online with woman who duped him into it, but court not convinced

A widower who "fell in love" with a woman he met online ended up acting as a conduit for the transfer of more than half a million dollars to third parties here.

Mohammad Haikal Abdullah, 56, was found guilty of laundering stolen money and jailed for a total of 33 months last week.

Haikal's project development company Nory International received two deposits in November 2012 amounting to US$455,000 transferred from US-based MAI Wealth Advisors on the apparent e-mail instructions of its client, Ms Lisa Kerkorian.

But MAI later learnt that its client never issued such instructions and that her e-mail had been hacked by unknown fraudsters.

Haikal, the sole director and signatory of Nory's Singapore bank account, withdrew the sums in five tranches ranging from $180,000 to $31,000 within two weeks in the same month and handed over the cash to four people as instructed by one Lillian Alves.

Haikal's wife died of pneumonia in Feb 2012 and he later befriended Ms Alves online in search of a new partner.

His lawyer, Mr Chandra Mohan K Nair, argued in mitigation that Haikal was the victim of an online scam who believed Ms Alves cared for him and was keen to jointly invest in business projects with Nory.

Haikal, the sole director and signatory of Nory's Singapore bank account, withdrew the sums in five tranches ranging from $180,000 to $31,000 within two weeks in the same month and handed over the cash to four people as instructed by one Lillian Alves.

He was instead conned by Ms Alves who sought to use his account to transfer money to buy gems for her clients.

The lawyer referred to a 2014 British media report in which a similarly named Lillian Alves courted a lonely 61-year-old seeking "undying love", but tried to use him as a "money mule" and sought his bank account details. The British prosecutor later dropped the charge against the man, concluding he had been duped.

Mr Chandra Mohan urged the court to consider Haikal's emotional and mental state, given that he lost his wife suddenly.

Pointing out that Haikal did not benefit from the scam and was looking after his two sons here, he suggested the former national dragon boat racing team member be placed on probation or fined instead.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Khoo and Tow Chew Chi called for a deterrent sentence, pointing out it was in the public interest that money laundering and its related offences are dealt with firmly and "with the greatest disapprobation".

They said, among other things, there were also aggravating factors given the large sum involved, and that Haikal's claim of being "in love" with Ms Alves affected his decision making was "utterly without merit", based on the evidence.

"The accused is no babe in the woods himself; rather he is an experienced businessman who once served as the CEO of the third largest construction company in Saudi Arabia. He is far from simplistic and naive," the prosecution added.

District Judge Imran Hamid, who sentenced Haikal, ordered jail terms for two of the seven charges - one of 30 months for receiving stolen property and one of three months for transferring the proceeds - to run consecutively.

Haikal is appealing against the conviction and currently on bail.

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Lee Kuan Yew's estate applies to appeal against judge's decision

Straits Times
08 Oct 2016
Lim Yan Liang

The children of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew want to appeal against a judge's decision that prevents them from submitting to court an account about how their father's interview transcripts ended up with the Government after his death.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, in their role as executors of Mr Lee's estate, had applied to court last year to clarify an agreement their father had made with the Government over the control and use of the interviews he gave in the 1980s as prime minister.

As part of the case, they wanted to file an affidavit setting out a detailed account of how the transcripts came into the possession of the Cabinet Secretary after Mr Lee's death in March last year.

But High Court Judge Tay Yong Kwang did not allow it, saying "the details were unnecessary and quite irrelevant" to the case.

Yesterday, the estate said it has filed an application in the High Court for permission to appeal against the decision.

In a statement, lawyers for the estate said it was also looking to reverse Justice Tay's decision "to seal or expunge certain affidavits, portions of affidavits, and other court documents, from the court file".

The judgment, issued last Wednesday, had set out the background facts surrounding the transcripts: According to an agreement between the late Mr Lee and the Government, the transcripts were to have been kept by the Cabinet Secretary. But they were found at 38, Oxley Road, Mr Lee's home, by a family member shortly after he died on March 23 last year.

Justice Tay had noted that there was no record of why the transcripts had been transferred to Mr Lee.

He also noted that sometime between March 23 and May 5 last year, a member of Mr Lee's family, thinking that the transcripts were official government documents, handed them to the Cabinet Secretary without the knowledge or consent of Mr Lee's estate.

The family member was not named in the judgment.

In setting out his decision not to allow a further affidavit on this matter, Justice Tay had said that the details "would only serve to distract from the real issues" which had to do with the interpretation of the agreement and whether the Official Secrets Act had any bearing on its interpretation.

He had ruled that the transcripts are politically sensitive and protected by the Official Secrets Act.

As such, the estate has the copyright to the transcripts, but not in the conventional sense that it is entitled to access, copy and use the transcripts, the judgment said.

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Ex-beach patrol officer gets jail, caning for rape

Straits Times
04 Oct 2016
Selina Lum

A former Sentosa beach patrol officer who raped and sexually assaulted a drunken partygoer at Siloso Beach four years ago was labelled an "opportunist" as he was sentenced to slightly over 11 years in jail and 12 strokes of the cane yesterday.

Pram Nair, 27, had been found guilty in July of committing the sexual offences on a then 20-year-old relief teacher who was attending a party at Wave House, a club and restaurant located at the beach.

The woman, who was with a female friend on the night of May 5, 2012, had drunk several shots of whisky and orange liqueur before Nair, then 23, approached her group and started chatting.

Nair suggested playing a game that involved him pouring liqueur from the bottle directly into the victim's mouth for 20 seconds. After gulping down the alcohol, the victim began experiencing memory blackouts.

Some time later, the friend decided to leave and went to retrieve the victim's bag at another section of the club. When she returned, the victim and Nair were gone.

During the 15-day trial, which stretched from August last year to April this year, the victim said she was "wasted" and could not remember what happened after her friend went to get her bag. She testified that she woke up on the beach from the pain of Nair raping her. She cried and repeatedly told him "no" but was too weak to push him off.

Two other partygoers walking on the beach called the police when they saw Nair on top of the victim.

When the victim's friend found Nair and the victim, Nair, who was off-duty as a beach patrol officer, told her he had found the victim at the spot naked. He walked away but was later arrested nearby.

During his trial, Nair denied that the victim was drunk. He said she had flirted with him that night and agreed to have sex with him.

But Justice Woo Bih Li did not buy his story and found him guilty of one count of rape and one count of sexual assault by penetration.

The judge, however, disagreed with prosecutors that Nair's crimes were calculated and deliberate.

Noting that the victim went to the party for drinks and had already taken other drinks before Nair came into the picture, he said it was an "exaggeration" for prosecutors to say that he had plied her with alcohol to get her drunk.

"In my view, he was opportunistic when he saw her uninhibited behaviour, but his conduct was not premeditated," said the judge.

He imposed a sentence of 11 years and 19 days' jail as well as 12 strokes of the cane. The jail term took into account the fact that Nair had been remanded for 11 months and 11 days after his arrest.

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

Public Prosecutor v Pram Nair [2016] SGHC 213

Jailed six weeks over not returning for NS duties

Straits Times
18 Oct 2016
Elena Chong

Born in India, he became liable for national service when he was given Singapore citizenship at the age of four.

But he was out of Singapore for more than four years without a valid exit permit, and when the time came to do his duty, Jay Kamal Shah stayed on in India to complete his studies.

He surrendered only last year, and yesterday, the 22-year-old was jailed six weeks for remaining outside Singapore from Nov 3, 2010 to Dec 8, 2014 without permission.

He was given a one-week concurrent jail term for failing to enlist for national service in March last year. He did so only about two months later.

Shah graduated from college in India in 2012, and a Bachelor of Management Studies course last year.

His Singaporean mother had tried to apply for his national service deferment but this was rejected. She also e-mailed the authorities that she wished to renounce her son's Singapore citizenship.

Shah returned to Singapore on April 28 last year, and enlisted for national service about a month later.

His lawyer Rajan Supramaniam said in mitigation that Shah chose to wait until he had completed his examinations before returning to Singapore to surrender himself so that he would not be considered a "drop-out".

Urging the court to impose a fine, counsel said Shah had done well in national service, and may be considering a career in the army.

He also said Shah did not have the benefits and privileges of possessing a Singapore citizenship, having spent his entire life in India.

Shah could have been fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to three years on each charge.

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

Foreign law firms can't give trainees required exposure: Forum

Straits Times
08 Oct 2016

We thank Ms Josephine Chong Siew Nyuk for her feedback ("Foreign law firms should train more local graduates"; yesterday).

Local law graduates from the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Management University generally had no problem securing training contracts in local law firms in the recent past.

Between 2011 and last year, about 90 per cent of them secured training contracts, while 99 per cent found employment within six months of graduation. On the other hand, about 70 per cent of overseas trained graduates secured training contracts in the same period.

The position may, of course, change in the next few years, depending on law firms' assessment of the economy and workflow. We have seen some signs of the market softening.

Qualifying Foreign Law Practices (QFLPs) are allowed to practise in only certain areas of Singapore law, through Singapore-qualified lawyers. These are the commercial and corporate areas.

The Singapore Institute of Legal Education, however, requires that practice trainees have exposure to two or more of the following areas - civil litigation, criminal litigation, corporate practice and conveyancing practice - to qualify for admission to the Singapore Bar.

QFLPs, with the limited areas of Singapore law they can practise, cannot give trainees the necessary exposure to the practice areas required.

There are no plans currently to extend the areas in which the QFLPs may practise. In particular, there are no plans to allow QFLPs to practise litigation.

Praveen Randhawa (Ms)


Corporate Communications

Ministry of Law

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Jason Holdings hit with more claims from creditors

Business Times
03 Oct 2016
Jamie Lee

[Singapore] TROUBLED timber flooring maker Jason Holdings on Sunday said it has received two more letters of demand from creditors that will have a material and adverse impact on the firm.

The claims are the latest in the string of repayment claims that the company has been hit with in recent months. In September, the Commercial Affairs Department of Singapore called in two persons - one current employee and a former staff - of its principal operating unit, Jason Parquet Specialist (Singapore) Pte Ltd (JPSS), for an ongoing investigation.

Jason said that it received on Sept 26 a statutory demand from the solicitors of ANZ Bank, for a claim of about S$1.74 million that is due to the bank. Jason Holdings had stood as a guarantor for loans granted to JPSS.

If payment is not made, secured, or compounded to the "reasonable satisfaction" of ANZ within 21 days of the statutory demand, ANZ can present a winding up application in the High Court against the company.

Jason received a separate letter of demand on Sept 21 from ShareInvestor for a claim of about S$5,900 for an unpaid invoice. It said that ShareInvestor would take legal action if the company did not settle the payment within seven days.

"The board is of the view that the aforementioned statutory demand from ANZ and demand from ShareInvestor will have a material adverse impact on, inter alia, the financial position, the financial performance, business and operations of the group," it said in the regulatory filing.

"Shareholders and potential investors are advised to exercise caution when dealing in the shares of the company."

Shares of the company remain suspended from trading.

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Law firm makes a case for branching out

Straits Times
17 Oct 2016
Lee Xin En

Local law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing has no intention of letting the Big Four accounting firms take a slice of Singapore's lucrative legal sector without a fight.

PwC Singapore announced last month that it is hiring senior lawyers from top law firms here, while another Big Four firm, Deloitte, told The Straits Times last month that it is considering launching its own law firm. This is part of a global trend of accounting firms making forays into the legal business.

Mr Tan Chong Huat, one of the founders of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, says the firm is "built for the future" as it provides a suite of professional services, including forensics and data analytics.

The firm has lifted staff numbers from 45 in the early days to 110 now.

Mr Tan warned that Singapore law firms would be seriously challenged if the Big Four's "multi-disciplinary practices", comprising legal, accounting, restructuring and tax advisory services, arrive in Singapore in a "short and sudden" fashion. Mr Tan added that his firm had prepared itself for such high-level competition when it set up shop five years ago.

RHTLaw started first but, the founders established a group of companies under the name RHT Holdings a year later. These include RHT Capital, which helps Catalist-listed companies with compliance, and RHT Corporate Advisory, a provider of corporate secretarial and governance advisory services. The RHT group now offers a wide range of services, including media and communications, as well as event-organising solutions.

Mr Tan said RHT went beyond being a law firm because "in every business transaction, it's more than legal services that are needed". The strategy has paid off handsomely for the firm, which beat accounting companies to win an Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority project by leveraging on its analytics and compliance capabilities.

But Mr Tan admitted that the journey to becoming an unconventional law firm was not easy. "As lawyers, your first and foremost instinct is to continue with the law practice. We took a long time to branch out.One of our concerns was the confusion in identity and branding."

Luckily, the company, which celebrates its fifth anniversary today, is not resting on its laurels. It has strengthened its legal capabilities by hiring a team of former top police officers, enhancing its dispute resolution and litigation capabilities.

This month, its strategic advisory arm formed a global alliance to expand its mergers and acquisition practice, while its capital arm received in-principle approval to be upgraded to a full listing sponsor.

The company is counting on its strong Asian credentials to battle the big boys. It formed the Asean Plus group of 11 top Asian law firms in 2014. The firms share resources and aim to give clients integrated legal services. "When clients need us for cross-border transactions, our strong local knowledge means that we can quickly localise industry standards and execute the transaction because we are in a local jurisdiction," Mr Tan said.

Asian expansion will be a priority of the firm. It aims to be in all major Asian markets by next year, and will pursue mergers in Indochina and Indonesia, he added.

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