20 August 2017
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Apex court dismisses appeal on Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s interview transcripts

TODAY
18 Aug 2017

The Court of Appeal on Thursday (Aug 18) dismissed an appeal by Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang for all rights to late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s interview transcripts from the 1980s.

Their rights to the copyright of the transcripts — of interviews Mr Lee Kuan Yew had done between July 8, 1981, and July 5, 1982, with the government’s oral history unit — cannot be meaningfully exercised without the consent and cooperation of the government, which owns the physical transcripts, said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who ruled together with Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang.

And it is up to the government to provide that consent and cooperation according to what it deems in the national interest, he added in a written judgment.

Dr Lee and Mr Lee, the founding Prime Minister’s two younger children, are executors of his estate. They wanted to be entitled to use and have copies of the transcripts, and have the apex court declare there shall be no access or use of the transcripts by anyone until March 23, 2020 (five years after Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death) without their written permission.

The case centred on an interview agreement Mr Lee Kuan Yew signed with then-Cabinet Secretary Wong Chooi Sen and Mrs Lily Tan, then-director of the Oral History Unit. The agreement governed the rights, use and administration of the transcripts until five years after his death and beyond.

CJ Menon said a key concern of the parties to the agreement was the need to sufficiently ensure no unwarranted disclosure or circulation of the material to anyone else before a suitable time had passed — and even then, only with the permission of the government.

The judges found that Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s personal right to use the transcripts did not pass to his estate. If his estate had unqualified use of the transcripts, it would potentially be an offence under the Official Secrets Act, they said. Dr Lee and Mr Lee’s “status as Mr Lee’s children does not exempt them from the operation of the OSA”, they said.

The judges said their findings are “entirely consistent with Mr Lee (Kuan Yew’s) desire to ensure that the information in the transcripts would be protected until the critical time (of his death) and even beyond that, because the interests at stake are not personal to Mr Lee but involve matters of national interest”.

“It would be very surprising if the control of such material were left to (Dr Lee and Mr Lee Hsien Yang) who, as executors, are concerned only with his personal affairs,” they said. “Relatedly, Mr Lee (Kuan Yew) gave the interviews not in his personal capacity, but in his capacity as the Prime Minister of Singapore, as part of a Government project: This too militates against the notion of such rights being vested in his personal executors.”

Before his death in 2015, a copy of the transcripts were kept in Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s house as he was working on his memoirs. After his death, a family member — who was not identified in the judgment — passed them to the Cabinet Secretary, Mr Tan Kee Yong. Dr Lee and Mr Lee discovered the transcripts had been handed over to Mr Tan only when they received a letter from him acknowledging receipt of the transcripts.

The two children then asked to look through the transcripts and Mr Lee did so at the Ministry of Home Affairs after he signed an undertaking to safeguard official information.

In July 2015, Mr Lee and Dr Lee wrote to the Attorney-General’s Chambers asking for a copy of the transcripts to be provided to them. They also asked if their father had ever given written permission for anyone else to use or have a copy of the transcripts and wanted their permission, going forward, before any access could be granted to the transcripts.

The AGC declined to provide a copy and maintained the right to grant access to the transcripts did not vest in Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s estate, and the siblings took the matter to court.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Lee Wei Ling and another v Attorney-General [2017] SGCA 48

Hunting down illegal wildlife owners

Straits Times
13 Aug 2017
Zaihan Mohamed Yusof

AVA inspectors share tales of desperate tactics by owners cornered by the authorities

Nobody answered the door when two Agri-food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) inspectors made a surprise visit to a Bukit Panjang flat based on intelligence.

The pair - who wanted to be known only as John and Tom - left after an hour of waiting. But when they returned to the same flat four hours later, they struck gold.

They found a hedgehog, slightly bigger than an adult's palm, kept in a plastic tank inside the flat.

The Sunday Times was given an exclusive look into the inspectors' work by tagging along during the raid around a month ago, as they shared accounts of the desperate tactics used by illegal wildlife owners who find themselves becoming the prey of the authorities.

John, who is in his 40s and has eight years of experience, said that when cornered with incriminating evidence, some illegal wildlife owners would resort to hiding the animals or delaying investigations.

"There have been instances when the suspects kept their gates locked as they went back to their kitchens to do something funny... We will advise them not to do so," said John.

Tom, who is in his 30s, said some suspects would become verbally abusive. "(They) try to instil fear in us," he said.

Dr Anna Wong, the director of AVA's Import and Export Regulation Department/Quarantine & Inspection Group, said AVA is alerted to cases of illegal wildlife ownership or trade through feedback, tip-offs, inspections and surveillance.

Dr Wong said: "AVA officers face various challenges while conducting investigations or interacting with suspected wildlife owners or sellers. This includes sellers cutting off engagement with an investigation officer posing as a potential buyer or running away from officers. As there are always risks or dangers involved, each operation is carefully planned for."

Under the law, importing animals without an AVA permit is illegal and carries a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or jail sentence of up to a year.

It is also against the law to possess, advertise for sale or display to the public, including online, any illegal wildlife species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna or Flora (Cites).

Yet, the many local and foreign online advertisements and posts suggest a healthy trade.

From 2013 to May this year, AVA has handled 100 cases pertaining to the possession, sale or trade of live wild animals, including Cites and non-Cites animals seized from Singapore's borders, inland possession and online sales.

In 2015, there were 25 cases in which 463 wild animals were confiscated. The following year, the number of cases rose to 31, though fewer live animals - 162 - were seized.

From January to May this year, AVA has seized 128 live wild animals in 11 cases. John said: "It (online posts, blogs and advertisements) creates a buy-and-sell situation in Singapore. It's getting worse nowadays (as) we seem to be apprehending more people who are trying to sell."

AVA inspectors have seized rare animals like scorpions, tarantulas, pigtail macaques, fennec foxes and the Asian leopard cat.

The most commonly seized animals are star tortoises, hedgehogs, ball pythons, sugar gliders and leopard geckos, said Dr Wong.

For Tom, his strangest find during a raid was a pit viper snake.

He said: "In that case, we had asked the owner to take the glass box with the pit viper out.(Yet), he was actually playing with it. To us, it's a venomous snake."

At the Bukit Panjang flat, where the owner claimed she did not know that keeping a hedgehog was against the law, the inspectors' job was far from complete.

After taking her statement, the hedgehog was transported to the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), where it was officially handed over. ST understands that while WRS receives confiscated wildlife at least "once or twice a month", it also gets wild animals abandoned by their owners.

An animal's body weight is measured and it is examined for parasites and eye or nasal discharge before being admitted into WRS' quarantine facility. Some animals arrive in "near-death" condition due to poor care and husbandry.

Added Dr Wong: "Wild animals are not suitable pets as some may transmit zoonotic diseases to humans and can be a public safety risk if mishandled, or if they escape into our dense urban environment...

"Demand for such animals would fuel illegal wildlife trade, which severely impacts the wild populations of numerous species."


THRIVING ILLEGAL TRADE

463

Number of live wild animals confiscated in 2015.

162

Number of live wild animals seized by AVA last year.

128

Number of live wild animals seized from January to May this year.

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

AGC takes contempt of court action against Li Shengwu

Straits Times
05 Aug 2017
Danson Cheong

It says PM's nephew failed to delete offending Facebook post and publish apology by extended deadline yesterday

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has filed an application in the High Court to begin proceedings for contempt of court against Mr Li Shengwu.

In a statement last night, the AGC said it made its application against Mr Li, 32, the eldest son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, yesterday.

The impending proceedings involve a Facebook post Mr Li published on July 15, which the AGC said was an "egregious and baseless attack" on the judiciary.

It asked that the post be deleted and that Mr Li sign and publish a written apology on his Facebook page. Mr Li has not done so.

Earlier in the day, Mr Li said he had not intended to attack the judiciary, but had amended the post to clarify what he meant.

In the offending post, Mr Li wrote that the "Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system", pointing out that because of previous legal action, foreign media had been cowed into self-censorship. The post was set to the "friends only" privacy setting, but it was published by several websites and widely circulated on social media,

In his post, Mr Li shared a link to a Wall Street Journal newspaper article giving a summary of the recent dispute between his father and aunt Lee Wei Ling on one side, and his uncle on the other, over their late father's home at 38, Oxley Road. The article was titled "Singapore, a model of orderly rule, is jolted by a bitter family feud".

He also included a link to a 2010 New York Times editorial critical of his late grandfather, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and the Government over what it deemed as censorship of the foreign press. The commentary described the late Mr Lee as the "designer of draconian press laws", which have been used to suppress legitimate criticism.

On July 21, the AGC issued a letter of warning to Mr Li, asking that he "purge the contempt".

"The post is an egregious and baseless attack on the Singapore judiciary and constitutes an offence of contempt of court," Senior State Counsel Francis Ng wrote in the letter to Mr Li, which was released to the media yesterday.

Mr Ng noted that the clear meaning of the post "is that the Singapore judiciary acts on the direction of the Singapore Government, is not independent, and has ruled and will continue to rule in favour of the Singapore Government in any proceedings, regardless of the merits of the case".

Mr Ng pointed out that the fact the post was republished widely was "an entirely foreseeable consequence". He cited three reasons:

The fact that Mr Li was the grandson of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

The "highly inflammatory nature" of Mr Li's assertions, in particular against the judiciary. "These assertions directly contradict Mr Lee Kuan Yew's values and the judicial system which he spent his entire public life upholding and defending, and would therefore be very topical," wrote Mr Ng.

The timing of the post, coming shortly after a parliamentary debate on the allegations of abuse of power that Mr Li's father and aunt levelled against PM Lee, and Mr Li's own posts publicly supporting his father and aunt.

Mr Ng asked that Mr Li comply with the AGC's instructions by 5pm on July 28.

A day before the deadline, Mr Li wrote to the AGC asking for the deadline to be extended to Aug 4, so he could "seek advice and respond".

The AGC replied that same day agreeing to extend the deadline to 5pm on Aug 4.

Yesterday, the AGC said Mr Li "failed to purge the contempt and to apologise by the extended deadline".

 

"An application for leave to commence committal proceedings for contempt against him will today be filed in the High Court," the AGC said in its statement.


BASELESS ATTACK

The post is an egregious and baseless attack on the Singapore judiciary and constitutes an offence of contempt of court.

SENIOR STATE COUNSEL FRANCIS NG, in a letter of warning to Mr Li Shengwu on July 21.


LI SHENGWU'S RESPONSE

Well, this is a new development. Fortunately, my friends know how to call a spade a spade.

MR LI SHENGWU, in a Facebook post late last night after the AGC said it had begun contempt of court proceedings against him.

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

'Finest of his time', lawyer and ex-judge Joe Grimberg dies

Straits Times
18 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Prominent lawyer Joe Grimberg, a mentor to many legal minds, including senior counsel Davinder Singh, died yesterday at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Orchard Road.

He was 84.

A senior counsel and former judicial commissioner, he handled a wide range of general and commercial cases after being called to the Bar in 1957, when he joined law firm Drew and Napier.

He served as judicial commissioner from 1987.

Two years later, he rejoined Drew and Napier as a consultant.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said: "We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mr Joseph Grimberg. Joe was a dear friend and colleague to many of us on the Bench."

CJ Menon described Mr Grimberg as "the finest of his time and quite frankly he was peerless".

"I saw him appear as an advocate from time to time and could only watch in awe and admiration.

"He spent a time on the Bench and I recall my appearances before him as some of the most enjoyable experiences I have ever had as an advocate. He was kind, courteous and blessed with a fine intellect and loads of patience."

The chief justice added: "As one of the first to be appointed senior counsel in Singapore, he lent his stature to building up the prestige of that accolade."

CJ Menon said when he became a judicial commissioner in 2006 and Chief Justice later, "Joe took the trouble to send me extremely kind and encouraging messages. I have the highest respect, admiration and affection for a great lawyer, who was truly inspiring to so many of us.

"He will be long remembered for his remarkable contributions to the legal history of Singapore.

"My colleagues and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, his loved ones and his colleagues and friends who will all miss him very much."

Mr Singh, Drew and Napier's executive chairman, said: "I am heartbroken. I have lost a dear friend and mentor who taught me everything I know.

"Drew and Napier has lost a family member who was loved and admired by all. In life, as in the law, he won all the prizes for integrity, humanity and humility. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe, his family and loved ones."

Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran said: "Joseph Grimberg was a gentlemanly lawyer; the likes of which the profession has rarely seen. He epitomised the finest ideals of the legal profession."

A passionate sportsman, Mr Grimberg played cricket and rugby at the highest league level for the Singapore Cricket Club. He also served as a former president of the Singapore Cricket Association (SCA).

SCA president Mahmood Gaznavi said his death was a great loss to Singapore cricket.

"It is sad that he has passed on at a time when cricket is on the ascendancy through no small measure because of his care and concern."

The funeral will be held at 4pm on Sunday at the Jewish Cemetery in Choa Chu Kang Road.

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

The Big Read: New laws could bring relief, but condo residents’ apathy a bigger problem

TODAY
12 Aug 2017
Kelly Ng

For years, horror tales abound in condominiums across the island: Illogical and draconian by-laws passed by high-handed management committees, and proxy wars waged by owners who try and garner hundreds of votes to push their agenda.

Which was why the first-ever set of legislative changes to the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act introduced in Parliament earlier this month — after the authorities had canvassed views for five years — was greeted with relief all round. The amendments to the Act, which was enacted in 2005, are aimed at enhancing transparency and governance, and giving owners more leeway to decide what is in their best interest, especially where safety is concerned.

Residents say they have to put up with an assortment of outrageous by-laws, ranging from heavy penalties — running as high as S$500 — for replacing their parking decal and hefty wheel clamp release fees, to the banning of safety grilles for not keeping with the condominium’s appearance.

Their hope is that the change would get to the heart of a truism of living in strata-titled properties: Power concentrated in the hands of a few, and how that power is derived — through proxies.

Among the most significant changes proposed to the Act is a cap on the total number of proxy votes one can hold at annual general meetings, where various resolutions — including new by-laws — are put up for voting, usually by members of the management council.

If passed, gone will be the days where a handful of residents can bulldoze their agenda through, simply by convincing neighbours who do not intend to show up for the meeting to hand over their voting rights. At the most, one can only be appointed as the proxy holder for 2 per cent of the total number of strata lots in the development, or two lots, whichever is higher.

Yet, as several residents whom TODAY spoke to acknowledged, a big part of the problem is how many people see fit to adopt a hands-off policy and instead sign over proxies, despite knowing full well that their lives would be keenly affected by the decisions of the management committees — commonly known as Management Corporation Strata Title, or MCSTs.

Nevertheless, some residents have come to the realisation that they need to take ownership and be involved.

Take Mr Oo Gin Lee, for example. When he first moved into a condominium along Upper Bukit Timah Road, he was a typical resident who would rather mind his own business than get involved with managing the property.

But he soon found himself having to put up with measures such as a S$500 fee for residents seeking to replace their parking decal. The fee was increased from a “negligible” amount by the condominium’s previous management council to prevent residents from passing the decals to, say, their relatives, Mr Oo said.

“The high-handed management style did not sit well with the residents. Many were complaining,” said Mr Oo, 48, a public relations consultant.

Fed up with the situation, he and five other greenhorns in management council matters ran for election and have been taking care of the condominium since August last year. At the condominium’s annual general meeting (AGM) scheduled for next week, Mr Oo, who is secretary of the management council, aims to repeal the S$500 fee.

CONDO WOES

By-laws relating to vehicle parking and wheel-clamp penalties are often the subject of ugly spats among residents and management councils.

At Blossom Residences in Bukit Panjang, some residents were in favour of raising wheel-clamp fees from S$100 to S$300 at the most recent annual general meeting in May, but the resolution was voted down.

On the other end of the spectrum are situations like that in the condominium Mr Oo lives in, with what he described as “draconian” measures to prevent abuse of parking in the estate.

In a similar vein, Merawoods at Hillview Avenue has been described as a “parking nightmare” by residents in posts on an online property forum between 2012 and 2014, with some describing the management council as “inflexible, unforgiving and mercenary” in its “swift clamping” of unauthorised cars.

“Once your car (wheel) is clamped, no amount of logical (reasoning) will make them change their minds ... In this tiny area, they are no doubt arrogant kings and (queens) and have absolute power over all residents,” a Mr Yee Teck Wong wrote in a post in June 2014.

Safety fixtures such as window or door grilles have also sparked tussles, with management bodies in many estates banning residents from installing them for fear that the look of the building may be ruined.

In January 2015, the Strata Titles Board ruled in favour of a family who was twice refused permission to put up grilles at the balcony of their 13th-floor unit in One North Residence, noting that “children’s safety must be paramount even if the grilles may affect the appearance of the building”.

In the recent legislative changes tabled in Parliament, the power to prevent the installation of safety features has been taken away from management councils. Should a disagreement still arise, owners can seek help from the Strata Titles Board.

Over at 19 Shelford off Adam Road, Mr Zou Xiong has been embroiled in a year-long spat with the estate’s management council over the installation of safety grilles on the balcony of his 4th-floor penthouse.

The management council would not give its approval to the father of a five-year-old boy and three-year-old girl, saying the grilles were not in keeping with the appearance of the development.

Mr Zou, 41, sought help from the Strata Titles Board on the dispute. And he won, with the board ordering the council in March to let Mr Zou install the grilles within two months.

Yet the grilles are still not up, because the management council wanted Mr Zou to “indemnify (the entire estate) against any waterproofing leakages, damages, costs, third party claims and all liabilities (that) arise during the course of and consequential to the (installation) works”.

“They wanted us to be responsible for the whole estate. I felt it was very unfair to us,” said Mr Zou, an engineer.

Some residents living at a unit on the ground floor of a development in Tampines hope the legislative changes, if they come to pass, would help settle a row they have been caught in with their neighbours upstairs.

To guard against “killer litter”, the 26 households on the ground floor units want to install shelters at their patio. They came up with guidelines to standardise designs, then got the approval from the authorities and managing agent.

But their plan has still incurred the wrath of some residents on the second floor, who complained that such external fittings would block their view. They also asked who would be responsible for maintaining the structures.

In its effort to placate the complainants, the managing agent got the owners of ground units to adhere to a raft of conditions belatedly.

Said an affected resident, who wanted to remain anonymous: “It is good that the Government is making changes to prioritise safety, but it is as important for there to be clarity as to how these guidelines should be enforced, and who — which authority — enforces them.”

Presently, it is not rare to see a handful of proxy holders dominate decisions at meetings, said lawyer Toh Kok Seng, who has represented management corporations, managing agents and subsidiary proprietors in various strata disputes.

“In many MCSTs, a lot of home owners do not show up at AGMs and instead give their votes to proxies ... Sometimes, you see one or two people who have amassed a lot of proxy votes, which are like ‘blank cheques’ for them,” said Mr Toh, a senior partner at Lee & Lee. He added: “In theory, every subsidiary proprietor (property owner) is entitled to request for resolutions to be passed at AGMs, but this does not happen frequently. Usually, it is the council that will propose (these resolutions).”

But with attendance at AGMs notoriously poor, the proposed cap on the total number of proxy votes one can hold could mean nothing ever gets done.

Mr Teo Poh Siang, 55, director of estate management agency Wisely 98, cited a case where a motion tabled to upgrade the air-conditioning system did not receive the requisite votes. An extraordinary general meeting was convened and with the help of council members who sought proxy votes, the motion was eventually passed.

“In the absence of those proxy votes, we may not obtain the necessary support to have the motion passed to have the aircon replaced. The occupants would continue to suffer from poor air-conditioning,” Mr Teo pointed out.

‘INCOMPETENT’ MANAGING AGENTS

While management councils wield the power in deciding how to run estates, the work falls on managing agents, who are contractors, typically engaged on yearly contracts. As council members are typically volunteers, the actual day-to-day management of the estate is delegated to the managing agents, which include implementing by-laws, handling residents’ queries, ensuring proper accounting of funds, and organising AGMs.

Their services are paid for from the maintenance fees property owners pay, usually quarterly.

One of the changes initially suggested for the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act was to remove the need for managing agents to be reviewed annually. But following concerns that managing agents could become “complacent and ... not be on their toes”, the amendment was dropped.

Some residents TODAY spoke to were glad for it, noting that the state of their living environment hinges largely on the competence of managing agents.

Residents at the estate in Tampines squabbling over the shelters at the patios, for instance, felt that the spat could have been averted.

“The managing agent was not very clear with what the rules were, and kept flip-flopping in their stance, causing unnecessary conflict and animosity between residents,” said a resident.

At Regentville in Hougang, former managing agent Newman and Goh was replaced after residents lamented that security officers were “overzealous in carrying out wheel clamping, (thus) creating a hostile living environment”, according to meeting minutes.

Some S$12,000 in wheel-clamp fees was reclaimed by the condominium’s council and refunded to residents who had a “valid cause for violating the parking rules”, the minutes of an AGM on July 29 showed.

At Clover By The Park, a condominium right next to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, a former managing agent erroneously approved a resident’s application to install floor-to-ceiling glass windows at his balcony even though this was in breach of the estate’s by-law, resulting in the management council taking the resident to court. Although it won the case, the council’s legal fees ran up to tens of thousands — which other homeowners had to fork out money to cover.

To close the loop on tightening management of MCSTs, Mr Ken Sun, chief executive of estate management firm Aces Assets Management, suggested a licensing framework where management councils may weed out “make-do cowboy outfits” or managing agents that get by in the industry because of their cheap pricing.

His firm had taken over estates that were unable to hold AGMs because their financial accounts have not been finalised.

“Many of (these managing agents) outsource accounting to freelancers, whose reliability is questionable ... In one case, we had to back-track all the ‘in and out’ payments for the entire year to draw up the accounts and close the books,” he said. “Retrieval of past cheques is expensive ... Eventually, the costs of recovery exceeded the ‘savings’ from engaging a cheaper managing agent.”

‘WE NEED A SHERIFF’

Current laws and proposed amendments also do not guard against disputes between residents and developers, especially in the first year after the estate obtains its Temporary Occupation Permit.

Under the law, the developer acts as the management council during this period.

Some residents who are upset with the way things are handled at this time said they have nobody to turn to.

The proposed amendments will widen the powers of the Commissioner of Buildings to appoint an independent official to manage the estate during an “emergency or critical situation”, if such an application is supported by home owners comprising at least 20 per cent of the aggregate share value of the total lots in the estate.

While stakeholders consulted by the BCA said this was a “good safeguard”, they sought greater clarity on what amounts to an “emergency and critical situation” and how much it will cost to appoint this independent manager.

At Sea Esta, for instance, penthouse owners upset with gondola mount points built in their balconies said they have “exhausted their options” seeking help from various authorities, such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority and National Environment Agency, but they have not had any recourse. “Most of them say that because it is a private agreement between the subsidiary proprietors and the developers, the authorities cannot interfere,” said resident Gregory Ngoh.

Each penthouse unit has up to eight gondola mount points (measuring 0.5m by 0.5m) in their balconies and terrace areas, and some residents were concerned that the deployment of gondolas via their balconies may pose safety risk, especially to young children.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari raised the issue in Parliament in February last year, seeking clarification on what recourse home owners have to “request developers to use alternative gondola systems that are not installed at the expense of families’ safety”. In response, then-Senior Minister of state for National Development Desmond Lee said that the request to alter systems is a “contractual matter (that) home buyers need to settle with the developer and, subsequently, the management (council)”.

Apart from safety issues, the mounting points at Sea Esta also lead to accumulation of stagnant water on rainy days. “These are problems the developer ‘gave’ us,” Mr Ngoh said. A group of 14 penthouse owners plan to write to the newly-formed management council, suggesting an alternative arrangement for deploying gondolas, he added.

With the power equation tilted in favour of the developers, some want more help from the authorities. “We feel like we are stuck in no man’s land. There is no sheriff in town we can turn to,” said Mr Shawn Lee, 40, who stays in a condominium in Tampines.

While the impending legislative changes would go some way to ease their headaches, the residents whom TODAY interviewed believe that more needs to be done to fix the MCST system.

Few can argue with the premise of having condo residents elect representatives from among themselves to take care of matters relating to property. But as the litany of issues faced by these residents show, disputes and clashes are inevitable. But sometimes residents may not need a “sheriff in town” when they can resolve the situations themselves. The problem is getting enough people to go beyond complaining, and actually doing something about the issues.

Mr Oo noted that a “small fraction” of residents attend the AGMs at his condominium. What more when it comes to assuming responsibilities on the council, he said.

Nevertheless, he pointed out that it is no easy task. One has to be “fairly well-versed in many disciplines from fire safety to landscaping”, he noted.

“Before I joined the council, I did not know there was so much involved ... The residents may talk a lot, but who wants to serve? Nobody wants to serve on the council because it is a thankless job," he said.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Not my intent to attack judiciary, Li says in new Facebook post

Straits Times
05 Aug 2017

Mr Li Shengwu, nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, failed to meet yesterday's deadline by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to remove a Facebook post which allegedly attacked the independence of the Singapore judiciary.

Instead, Mr Li, 32, responded with another Facebook post, saying he had not intended to attack the judiciary in the July 15 Facebook post.

He said: "It is not my intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

"Any criticism I made is of the Singapore Government's litigious nature, and its use of legal rules and actions to stifle the free press.

"However, to avoid any misunderstanding of my original private post, I have amended the post so as to clarify my meaning."

His amended post was not made public on his Facebook page.

The AGC had written to Mr Li on July 21 asking that he remove the offending Facebook post, which it said was in contempt of court.

It also asked Mr Li to sign and publish on Facebook a public apology.

In the earlier post, made on a "friends only" setting, Mr Li shared a Wall Street Journal article that gave a summary of the dispute his father Lee Hsien Yang and aunt Lee Wei Ling had with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over the Oxley Road house of his late grandfather, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Yesterday, Mr Li said in his Facebook post: "If my private post is read in context, it is evident that I did not attack the Singapore judiciary."

In the context of sharing the WSJ article, he said he had "intended to convey that the international media were restricted in their ability to report on the recent crisis, due to the litigious nature of the Singapore Government, and the different legal rules with respect to press freedom in Singapore as compared to countries such as the United States".

"There is also flexibility in Singapore's defamation laws - they just have different boundaries from the defamation laws in other jurisdictions. The Government makes use of these legal rules to restrict unfavourable reporting," he added.

He said an "unauthorised screenshot" of his private post was taken and given to others who did not have access, leading to it being republished without his consent. "No one who published or republished my private post had approached me to clarify what I meant. Curiously, the Singapore media had time to seek statements from a senior minister of state and the AGC, but did not even do basic fact-checking - they inaccurately reported that the post was taken down, because they did not bother to contact me."

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

What a distinction an 'M' makes in battle of tablets

Straits Times
18 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Chinese firm can now register its 'MI PAD' after Apple fails in bid to block its move

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has won the move to register its trademark "MI PAD" here for its computer tablet products after a Singapore registrar overruled strong objections from rival Apple to protect its "IPAD" mark.

Principal assistant registrar of trademarks Tan Mei Lin, in noting the "MI PAD" name was independently derived from Xiaomi's own housebrand, held the rival mark was not similar on the whole.

"If I were wrong in this and were to accept that there is marks-similarity, I would be inclined to say the (MI PAD) mark is only marginally more similar to the 'IPAD' mark.

"Hence, this factor in the likelihood of confusion lies in (Xiaomi's) favour - the lesser the similarity between the marks, the lower the likelihood of confusion," said Ms Tan in decision grounds last week.

Xiaomi Singapore, backed by parent company Xiaomi Inc whose products include Mi 1 and Mi Note, had applied to register the "MI PAD" mark in 2014 for tablet computers, among other items.

Products by Apple include the iPhone, iMac, and iPod, among others. For the current proceedings in particular, their tablet computers are sold under the "IPAD" mark, which was registered as a trademark in Singapore in 2010 for various goods and services indicated.

Both parties came to the May 8 hearing before the registrar on the back of stellar records.

Xioami is one of the world's fastest-growing smartphone companies and most valuable start-ups, with a valuation of about US$45 billion (S$61 billion) as at 2014, noted Ms Tan. US-based Apple is a world-leading manufacturer of mobile communication and media devices, she added.

The company relied on its earlier "IPAD" mark registration and added it had also successfully opposed Xiaomi's application in several jurisdictions such as the European Union, China and Australia.

At issue was whether the marks were similar in terms of overall impression, whether the goods or services for which registration is sought are similar and whether there is a likelihood of confusion arising from the similarities.

Apple's lawyers Lim Ren Jun and Nigel Bay argued among other things that the marks had strong visual similarity because all the letters of the "IPAD" mark are found in Xiaomi's application mark, in the same sequence.

But Xiaomi's lawyers Regina Quek and Shawn Poon countered that letters common in both should not lead to an automatic finding that the marks are visually similar.

They added the common element in both marks is the word "pad" which is descriptive and non-distinctive and would therefore be given little weight by consumers who will look to other parts of the marks which are distinctive.

Ms Tan, who ordered the registration for "MI PAD" to proceed, said: "Having considered all the pleadings and evidence filed and the submissions made in writing and orally, I find the opposition fails on all grounds."

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

Ezion seen restructuring over US$1b in debts

Business Times
12 Aug 2017
Tan Hwee Hwee

Aim is to protect fresh equity financing needed to ride out the O&M downturn

Mainboard-listed Ezion Holdings is expected to table a restructuring plan soon for over US$1 billion in debts so as to ring-fence any new equity as the group ride out what may be the tail-end of a protracted offshore and marine (O&M) downturn.

Observers also pointed to fresh equity being needed to revamp Ezion's erstwhile profitable liftboat-focused business, now facing heat under excess capacity conditions.

Ezion has largely thrived on supplying refurbished and modified liftboats to oil and gas (O&G) clients at what were considered competitive contract rates. The group has managed to stay in the black through to Sept 30 2016, but its erstwhile thriving business now faces bottomline risk.

A report compiled by offshore brokerage KennedyMarr reflected an almost sevenfold expansion in the global operating fleet of liftboats since 2010 to 69, with 20 more under construction. This 69-strong fleet is struggling to contest against other marine asset classes for the same contracts.

David Palmer, chief executive of Pareto Securities Pte Ltd, noted that in recent O&G tenders, liftboats were often sandwiched between ship-shaped inspection, repairs and maintenance vessels and semi-submersible construction vessels. He also observed that, in general, liftboat owners-operators are not spared the pain of impairing assets on their fleet with asset valuations under pressure as a result of drastically lower daily operating rates.

While oil prices stabilising in the US$40-50 range has encouraged a revival of certain offshore O&G projects, Ezion and its peers need to keep their fleet working to stay relevant in the market. The group has previously indicated that capital expenditure had been set aside for fleet high-grading so as to put more assets to work.

Yet, what is complicating this high-grading exercise is the fast-ageing profile of Ezion's service rigs. Ezion has not responded directly to a previous BT enquiry on this matter, but an industry consensus is that significant capex is required for fleet modernisation, assuming the group's rigs were built over 20 years ago.

With fresh debt funding hard to come by for O&M players, Ezion is expected to turn to the equity market to fund its fleet high-grading exercise. One potential source of new equity will be private equity though Mr Palmer warned that these funding sources may come attached with aggressive terms that would seem unpalatable to existing company stakeholders.

To begin with, Ezion needs to seek buy-ins from its creditors and the group is said to have appointed audit and tax consultancy, RSM Singapore, as financial adviser (FA) for its outstanding liabilities, which stood at over US$1.6 billion as at March 31 2017.

Observers also expect the upcoming debt restructuring plan to be tabled by the FA to actively engage two major classes of creditors - noteholders and bankers, which account for over US$385 million and US$766 million of Ezion's total liabilities as at the end of Q1 FY17.

One legal expert further argued that given the 70:30 split between senior debt and outstanding notes on Ezion's books at the end of March, the group's noteholders stand to gain a louder voice compared to previous restructuring exercises for Singdollar denominated notes in the O&M sector.

Ashok Kumar, director of BlackOak LLC, noted that no one class or group of creditors can now cram down and force others to accept a plan unless a majority representing 75 per cent of the value of total debt of all classes of creditors are in support of the plan. This is one of the new provisions extended under Singapore's updated debt restructuring law.

But Mr Kumar suggested that noteholders need to stand as a galvanised group in order for them to gain a solid seat at the bargaining table.

Ezion has issued six tranches of Singdollar notes maturing in stages from 2018 through to 2021. DBS Bank, as the sole and joint bookrunner for all six tranches, has extended a committed funding facility for S$120 million of the issued notes.

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

NUS suspends academic whose PR was cancelled

Straits Times
05 Aug 2017
Royston Sim & Danson Cheong

University cooperating fully with MHA and does not tolerate acts of foreign interference

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has suspended academic Huang Jing without pay with immediate effect, while the university works with the Home Affairs Ministry on the matter.

A spokesman said that his employment at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy was conditional on him having the necessary work permits.

Dr Huang, who had his permanent residency cancelled, can thus no longer work here.

"As these permits have been cancelled, we would not be able to continue with his employment," the spokesman said.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that it had permanently banned him and his wife Shirley Yang Xiuping from Singapore, and cancelled their PR status. It said that Dr Huang had worked with intelligence organisations and agents from a foreign country to influence Singapore's foreign policy and public opinion.

The 60-year-old was also the director of the Centre on Asia and Globalisation and Lee Foundation Professor on US-China relations at the LKY School.

The NUS spokesman said the matter is of serious concern, and it is cooperating fully with MHA.

"NUS does not tolerate such acts of foreign interference, even as we continue to value and uphold the diverse and international character of our university," she said.

Associate Professor Bilveer Singh, from the NUS Department of Political Science, said Singapore's policy of staying open to the world means "all kinds of elements" can enter the country, including its academic institutions.

He warned that the current incident is "the tip of the iceberg", and said the country has to exercise vigilance.

"Singapore is an influential soft power country - that is why people would want to influence us," he added. "If we are not careful, we will unwittingly become victims of agents of influence who want to do us in."

MP Vikram Nair, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, said the case is a reminder that "espionage is a reality of life".

On the attempts to influence Singapore's foreign policy, he said: "It is a back-handed compliment that Singapore's opinions actually matter, that we are well respected on the world stage."

Associate Professor Antonio Rappa, who heads the management and security studies programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, drew parallels between this incident and the Hendrickson affair in 1988.

In that case, Mr E. Mason Hendrickson, first secretary of the United States Embassy, was expelled from Singapore for interfering in local politics.

On why foreign powers want to try and influence Singapore's foreign policy, Prof Rappa noted that Singapore has been punching above its weight.

"For small countries to survive, we need to be seen and heard. Singapore, despite being tiny, is always on the radar, so people would want to influence us," he said.

Cases of foreign countries employing agents of influence are not uncommon, said Associate Professor Bernard Loo of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. "These things happen not just between enemies, but also between friends."


Eight things about LKY School professor banned from Singapore

EXPERT ON CHINA POLITICS

Dr Huang Jing, who was banned permanently from Singapore yesterday, is an academic known for his expert views on China's politics and foreign policy, as well as US-China relations.

US CITIZEN WHO WORKED AT NUS

Until the ban, Dr Huang, a United States citizen who was born in 1956, was the Lee Foundation Professor on US-China relations at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKY School), where he also headed the Centre on Asia and Globalisation.

LONG LIST OF ACHIEVEMENTS

His curriculum vitae, available on the LKY School's website, chronicles a long list of achievements in academia and the study of international relations.

He has authored three books and many journal articles, book chapters and policy papers on China's politics, development strategy and foreign policy, as well as US-China relations, China's military and security issues in the Asia-Pacific.

HEAD OF PROJECTS

Dr Huang, who received his PhD in government from Harvard University in 1995, spearheaded a number of projects while at the LKY School.

These include a consortium studying the development of Russia's far east, an effort that involves leading think-tanks from such countries as Russia, China, Japan and Singapore.

He also chaired projects studying China-India relations, and the energy policies of China, Japan and the US.

NEWSPAPER COMMENTATOR

Dr Huang is also a frequent commentator in the Singapore media, including The Straits Times and Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao.

His latest commentary for The Straits Times, published in June, was on the interdependence of the US and China.

SITS ON BOARDS

Besides his academic work, Dr Huang is on the board of several organisations, including Keppel Land.

He is on the steering committee of the NUS Research Institute in Suzhou as well.

STINTS IN HARVARD, STANFORD

Before joining the LKY School, Dr Huang lectured at Harvard University from 2013 to 2014.

He also lectured at Stanford University.

He had been a senior fellow at think-tank Brookings Institution and an academic at Utah State University. He has a master's degree in history from Shanghai's Fudan University, and a degree in English literature from Sichuan University in China.

INVOLVED IN ROW WITH CABBY

A dispute between Dr Huang and a cabby in June last year resulted in the police being called.

Lianhe Wanbao reported that Dr Huang demanded that the taxi driver step out of the vehicle at the end of a trip to the LKY School and "show respect" to him, after he gave the cabby a $1 tip.

A video recording of the incident also circulated online.


NEED TO BE ALERT

Singapore is an influential soft power country - that is why people would want to influence us. If we are not careful, we will unwittingly become victims of agents of influence of those who want to do us in.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR BILVEER SINGH, from the NUS Department of Political Science.


A NATION WITH INFLUENCE

 

For small countries to survive, we need to be seen and heard. Singapore, despite being tiny, is always on the radar so people would want to influence us.

 

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR ANTONIO RAPPA, head of the Singapore University of Social Sciences' management and security studies programme, on why foreign powers would want to try and influence Singapore's foreign policy.

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

Doc in cough-mixture case loses appeal

Straits Times
18 Aug 2017
Ng Huiwen

Singapore PR continued with illicit sales even while he was under investigation

The High Court has dismissed appeals by the prosecution and also by a "defiant" doctor against his sentence for selling codeine cough mixture, even while he was under investigation for doing so.

Tan Gek Young was fined $130,000 and will begin serving his sentence of two years' jail on Sept 4, after his request for a deferment was granted.

Although the total sentence remained, Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin varied the individual jail terms for some of the charges in his decision yesterday.

Tan, 61, a Singapore permanent resident, sold more than 2,300 litres of cough mixture at his Bedok clinic between January 2014 and June 2015. This was one of the highest quantities among such illegal sales. It was also the first case of its kind to reach the High Court on appeal.

Both Tan and the prosecution appealed against the sentence, with prosecutors also urging the court to lay down a sentencing framework.

But Judge Chao said yesterday that there were insufficient precedents at the moment, making it difficult for the court to formulate detailed sentencing guidelines.

He cited how six previous similar cases were prosecuted under different criminal provisions in the Poisons Act and Medicines Act.

However, Judge Chao agreed that the illicit sale of codeine cough mixture has become a "prevalent problem", citing figures by the Health Sciences Authority. The number of cases investigated reached a high of 67 in 2015, compared with between 43 and 61 in the three preceding years. There were 53 cases last year till November.

Deterrence should be the primary sentencing consideration, he said. In his written judgment, he raised several issues with the sentencing range proposed by the district judge, which would increase in proportion to the quantity of codeine cough mixture involved.

The prosecution had also suggested that a jail term and fine must be imposed on doctors who profited from such illicit sales, even if the quantity supplied was small.

In addition, a stiffer sentence is required if the quantity sold indicates that it is for the purpose of resale.

For instance, the prosecution had said that the sale of a 3.8-litre canister of cough mixture must be for the purpose of resale, while a 900ml bottle would not suggest this.

Judge Chao said it was unclear why this must be so, adding that it would not be "wise" to lay down sentencing bands tied to the quantity of codeine cough mixture supplied, as suggested by the district judge and prosecution. "Whether a transaction was for resale would depend both on the quantity involved and the way the transaction was carried out," he added.

However, Judge Chao listed aggravating factors that may be relevant for sentencing, such as the offender's role, whether the offences took place during investigations, and the amount of profit made.

Thus, an offender who sold codeine cough mixture to buyers, who in turn resold them to individual abusers, is more culpable than one who sold them only to individual abusers, he added.


2,300

Litres of codeine cough mixture sold at Tan's Bedok clinic between January 2014 and June 2015.

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

Worker who sued despite compensation offer loses case

Straits Times
11 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Chinese national who rejected MOM payout couldn't prove claim, must pay $35k in costs

An injured worker was offered compensation under the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica) but declined the sum and opted to sue in court instead. He failed to prove his claim and now finds he must pay $35,000 in costs instead.

The case could serve as an eye-opener for workers who spurn the compensation that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) offers them. The ministry has asked such workers to "consider carefully" before they opt to go to court as the burden of proof there may be different.

The issue has come under the spotlight following the case of Chinese national Xu Zhenbing, who claimed that he suffered injuries on his right wrist when carrying out reinforcement works of metal rebars in a lift shaft at an Alexandra View worksite in 2014. He was 43 years old at the time.

Defendants Sen Lin Construction and Daewoo Engineering & Construction, represented by lawyer Hong Heng Leong, contested his claims in the High Court trial.

Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim ruled last month that Mr Xu was not able to show, on balance, that "he was performing metal rebar works at a lift shaft on Sept 27, 2014".

The records did not indicate rebar works done at the lift shaft and it was "more likely" that he was doing rebar works at the water pipes as documented, the judge said.

Mr Xu had claimed that he told a senior company employee about the accident at around 9pm on the same day at the workers' dormitory.

But the employee testified that he did not make such trips down to the dormitory, "much less on a weekend and so late at night".

Judicial Commissioner Lim also found it strange that the worker told the doctor in January 2015 that the fracture occurred only about two months after he had hurt himself.

"Xu's claim on how he sustained the injury rested essentially on his own oral assertions," added the judge. She also made it clear that MOM's findings on the case did not affect her findings as there was no evidence on how rigorous the assessment was.

Mr Xu, represented by lawyer Eric Liew, was ordered to pay $35,000 in legal costs.

Ms Kee Ee Wah, director of MOM's Work Injury Compensation Department, said that Wica was a no-fault regime that admitted claims as long as the injury arose in the course of employment.

"The worker need not prove fault or negligence on anyone's part," she said.

In Mr Xu's case, none of the four witnesses produced by the employer could show that the injury was not work-related and the claim was admitted.

Noting that about 800 injured workers annually withdraw their Wica claims to pursue them in court instead, Ms Kee urged injured workers to "consider carefully between claiming under Wica and filing a suit under common law, as the evidential requirements are different".

Workers can still re-apply for Wica claims within a year of the accident after losing their lawsuit, but in Mr Xu's case, that deadline has already passed.

According to MOM's website, for accidents before Jan 1 last year, involving permanent incapacity, the compensation payable varies between $73,000 and $218,000.

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

Parallel import cars in the spotlight after report on Uber case

Business Times
05 Aug 2017
Samuel Ee

Company says it has worked with LTA, technical experts and ensured it has hands on deck to respond to vehicle recalls

Apart from disappearing deposits and shuttered shops, there could be another cautionary tale behind patronising parallel importers - ignored safety recalls.

The after-sales service for parallel import (PI) car models has come under scrutiny, after private-hire company Uber was exposed for not taking action to repair some of its Singapore vehicles that had been involved in a recall.

Uber managers in Singapore had rented out more than 1,000 Honda Vezel cars to drivers, despite knowing that the model had been recalled in April 2016, and even after one caught fire in January, said The Wall Street Journal.

The report said the fire broke out after the Uber driver had dropped off a passenger. The flames melted the interior of the car and left a hole in the windscreen.

In response, an Uber spokesman said: "As soon as we learned of a Honda Vezel from the Lion City Rental (LCR) fleet catching fire, we took swift action to fix the problem in close coordination with Singapore's Land Transport Authority as well as technical experts. But we acknowledge we could have done more - and we have done so.''

The company added that it has introduced "robust protocols and hired three dedicated experts in-house at LCR, whose sole job is to ensure we are fully responsive to safety recalls".

It added: "Since the beginning of the year, we've proactively responded to six vehicle recalls and will continue to do so to protect the safety of everyone who uses Uber."

Uber is estimated to have bought more than 1,000 Honda Vezel cars a year over the last three years, propelling the PI model to the top of the sales chart as Singapore's all-round No 1 model in 2015 and 2016. And after the first six months of 2017, the Honda compact crossover continues to lead the pack. The Vezel is a domestic Japanese model. Its PI popularity comes from its costing less than the export version of this model, namely, the HR-V brought in by authorised Honda distributor Kah Motor.

The HR-V is unaffected by the recall.

Kah Motor general manager Nicholas Wong said: "The Vezel is a domestic model and not approved for export, unlike the HR-V."

The HR-V has a higher open market value or OMV, and a lower rebate under the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) - S$5,000 versus the Vezel's S$10,000 rebate.

Mr Wong said that consumers are "free to buy from anyone they choose", but added: "'Buyer beware' still applies and at Kah Motor, we are the authorised distributor in Singapore who will definitely take care of any vehicles purchased from us, including recalls and warranties."

Buying a car is not like buying an electronics item, he said. "You need follow-up and after-sales. We are not always 100 per cent perfect, but as soon as we detect a problem, we initiate a recall with prompt measures to fix it."

Vincent Tan, managing director of VinCar, one of Singapore's biggest parallel importers, said that despite regular reports of PI salesmen running off with customer deposits and PI operations going out of business, it is still safe to buy a parallel import.

"It depends who you buy it from, because some dealers may ignore the recall or some may have gone bust." He said that by law, a car dealer has to participate in a recall by replacing any defective parts. "So you should buy from a reputable dealer."

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

Co-op seeking to recover funds after probe

Straits Times
18 Aug 2017
Danson Cheong

The cooperative which was defrauded of $5.1 million by two former employees is waiting for a Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) probe to be completed before deciding on civil remedies to recover its funds.

The Singapore Statutory Boards Employees' Co-operative Thrift and Loan Society (SSBEC) yesterday told The Straits Times the CAD was "currently carrying out investigations to recover the money".

Its spokesman said it will "decide on the civil suit options to recover the money once we know the outcome" of the investigations.

Two female employees of the cooperative were jailed on Tuesday for misappropriating $5.1 million in funds between 2008 and 2013.

Assistant manager Arni Ahmad, 42, and administrative executive Hanati Jani, 50, falsified documents to deceive the co-op into disbursing funds to phantom members' bank accounts. They were jailed for 12 years, and nine years and eight months respectively.

They had used the money to fund an extravagant lifestyle - including buying luxury staycations at five-star hotels and gym memberships with personal trainers.

A 2014 inquiry by the Registry of Co-operative Societies found that the fraud had placed the co-op in a vulnerable financial position.

After the inquiry, the registry instructed SSBEC's management committee to strengthen the co-op's governance and internal controls, and protect the interests of its members, said its spokesman.

"These steps include tightening of its processes and ensuring that new and existing members are aware of the situation," the spokesman said.

The SSBEC's 4,000 members are employees of statutory boards - mainly from national water agency PUB and the Housing Board. It also has members from Singapore Power. Founded in 1925, the co-op takes deposits and disburses loans to members, who make monthly contributions of at least $10 to specific deposit accounts.

The industry body, the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF), said the SSBEC case was an isolated one and "has not affected the confidence and trust of members in other credit cooperatives".

The case comes amid an ongoing move to change laws to strengthen the governance of co-ops and better safeguard their members' funds.

Earlier this year, the Registrar of Co-operative Societies had sought public feedback on proposed amendments to the Co-operative Societies Act.

There are 84 registered co-ops in Singapore, with a total membership of about 1.5 million.

Experts said it can be difficult for co-ops to completely prevent such fraud cases from taking place, but having a robust system of checks in place will help detect wrongdoing.

Dr R. Theyvendran, who chairs the TCC Credit Cooperative which has 44,000 members, said co-ops here have been strengthening governance over the years.

For instance, the Registry of Co-operative Societies and SNCF jointly issued a code of governance and a governance evaluation checklist last year. These provide guidelines on how co-op officers should act, and how credit co-ops should assess their state of governance.

"We must look at things objectively, and look for solutions and how improvements can be made," said Dr Theyvendran.

Said Mr Ang Hoe Kiat, chairman of the Straits Times Cooperative which has more than 1,600 members: "The only thing we can do is put in a robust system of checks."

He cited how every cheque the ST Co-op issues to members has at least three signatures.

Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee said having checks to verify whether accounts are legitimate can help ensure there are no phantom ones.

"Any organisation without a robust system of internal controls or a system of internal audit opens itself to a higher risk of things going wrong," he said.

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

Ex-manager gets 18 months for CBT

Straits Times
11 Aug 2017
Elena Chong

He kept sale proceeds and money for rent and utilities totalling $25,880

About a month after he started work, an operations manager pocketed about $20,000 from a coffee shop instead of putting the money in the business' bank account.

Han Khang Teng, 48, used the money to settle debts and pay for other expenses. When questioned, he lied, saying he lost the money.

Yesterday, he was jailed for 18 months after he admitted to criminal breach of trust of sale proceeds and money for rent and utilities totalling $25,880.

A second charge of misappropriating $6,200 was taken into consideration during sentencing.

Han started work on April 7, 2015, at Marina (GU), a food and beverage business that manages various outlets. His duties included collecting sale proceeds from a Pagoda Street coffee shop and depositing them in the firm's bank account. He was also responsible for collecting rent and payment for utilities from two tenants - The Bread Board in Temasek Polytechnic, and 473 Coffee Shop in Fernvale Street. He was supposed to hand the money to the firm's chief operating officer.

The court heard that between May 4 and May 17, 2015 - about a month after Han started work - a worker at the Pagoda Street outlet handed to him money from sales amounting to a total of $19,623. The cash was kept in two bank bags, and the bags were sealed.

Two daily bulk cash transaction reports were also given to him.

However, instead of depositing the money into the firm's bank account, Han used it for his personal expenses and to pay off his debts.

About a year later, he returned $1,000 to Marina (GU).

Between August 2015 and February last year, The Bread Board tenant handed over to Han a total of $6,257. The money was payment for rent and utilities but Han used the money to pay off his debts, among other things.

To cover his tracks, he lied to the firm's chief operating officer, saying he did not receive the tenant's rental and utilities payment because The Bread Board's business was poor. But, in June last year, the tenant told the chief operating officer that he had already handed over the money to Han. That was when his offences were discovered.

In September the same year, Han returned $6,648 to Marina (GU).

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

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

SGX, MAS draw further fire over Noble saga

Business Times
05 Aug 2017
Andrea Soh

Market observers agree with Iceberg Research that regulators didn't do enough to protect investors

Singapore stock market regulators are coming under pressure, with market observers on Friday joining Iceberg Research in saying that more could have been done to protect investors in the long-drawn Noble Group saga.

Their comments come as the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) responded on Friday morning to Iceberg's criticism, saying that it will follow up with listed companies to investigate any allegations of irregularities.

Corporate governance advocate Mak Yuen Teen, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, said Iceberg's criticism is not without merit.

He told The Business Times: "While I can understand the regulators being hesitant to do anything, especially when there is no clear wrongdoing - and bearing in mind that Noble has been receiving clean audit opinions - there is a sense among investors that the regulators are too passive and react only when problems have reached a point when it's a little too late to protect investors."

There are also regulatory gaps for foreign listings, whether in applying laws and rules or effectively enforcing them, he added.

Noble has, for instance, passed the audit by EY, but this was done from the Hong Kong office, which does not have the same public oversight that Singapore auditors are subject to.

"This may affect audit quality," said Prof Mak.

External auditors in Singapore undergo audit inspections, also known as the practice monitoring programme, by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).

The programme is rigorous and serious deficiencies can result in sanctions, Prof Mak noted. "It is probably the one area in corporate governance that we are ahead of Hong Kong, which is moving towards that."

In sum, Singapore's regulatory framework "is not really fit for the purpose of foreign listings, while we continue to try to attract such listings", he said.

Meanwhile, the MAS told BT on Friday that it will follow up with listed companies to investigate any allegations of irregularities.

"MAS will also investigate potential breaches of the law that have been referred to us," said its spokesman. "Should MAS's own investigations uncover any violations of our regulations, we will not hesitate to take the necessary enforcement actions."

Iceberg had said on Thursday that the Noble saga revealed the "complete failure" of the regulators in Singapore due to their inaction.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) and MAS should not have allowed Noble to raise more money on a balance sheet, which had attracted questions over its veracity, it said.

SGX responded on Thursday, saying that it has consistently applied the same approach to companies that were the subject of negative commentary.

"The company has the right of first reply and should respond as quickly and comprehensively as possible," said an SGX spokesman.

"We will review the company's response to see if it has addressed all the points of concern. However, if the response is inadequate, we will query the company or oversee the appointment of a third-party professional to ensure proper disclosure to the market."

The exchange would, at the same time, review the negative commentary to see if it contains false or misleading statements that warranted a referral to the relevant authorities, she added.

The responses by SGX and MAS drew flak from former investment banker Michael Dee. He pointed out that Noble has neither responded comprehensively nor addressed all points of concern, and yet has not received any query from SGX.

He also asked about the investigations MAS has done, and the conclusions drawn from them, if any.

Iceberg said in response to SGX and MAS' replies: "Their reaction won't satisfy the shareholders who have been misled and lost almost everything."

Shares in Noble Group slipped a further 0.5 cent, or 1.33 per cent on Friday to close at 37 Singapore cents, extending its 5 per cent decline on Thursday.

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

FMSS says all payments received were proper

Straits Times
18 Aug 2017
Tham Yuen-C

The former managing agent of the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) said it had not received any improper payments from the town council, challenging findings to the contrary by the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) and audit firm KPMG as unmeritorious, inaccurate and incorrect.

The claim by FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) and its owner, Ms How Weng Fan, was made in a 16-page statement of defence filed in the High Court on Wednesday, in which they said that they had acted in good faith as managing agent and had not caused any losses to the town council.

FMSS and Ms How are being sued by AHTC over improper payments that the firm received from the town council from July 15, 2011, to July 14, 2015. Also being sued by AHTC are five of its own town councillors, including Workers' Party MPs Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang and Pritam Singh, who are said to have breached their fiduciary duty in appointing FMSS as managing agent, a charge they deny. The five had filed their defence in the High Court on Tuesday.

The town council, represented by Shook Lin & Bok, had initiated the legal action last month under the direction of an independent panel it appointed in February to help recover improper payments. It has pinpointed the rushed appointment of FMSS in 2011, without a tender being called, as the start of AHTC's accounting woes, and has said that $33,717,535 in payments made to the managing agent were improper and invalid.

In making its claims, AHTC referred to the findings of the AGO - which conducted a special audit of the town council after it failed to submit clean financial statements since it was formed after the 2011 General Election - and those of KPMG, which AHTC had appointed to look into its books following an order from the Court of Appeal. Both the AGO and KPMG found a flawed system of governance at the town council that was absent of any checks and balances to ensure payments to FMSS were legitimate. Ms How and her late husband Danny Loh, FMSS' owners, were respectively general manager and secretary of the town council and had approved payments to their own company.

FMSS and Ms How - by herself and in her capacity as the representative of Mr Loh's estate - are represented by law firm Netto & Magin. They also charged that the findings are "allegations without merit" and denied its "correctness and accuracy".

Ms How has never publicly commented on the audits implicating her company in the saga since WP took charge after it won Aljunied GRC in 2011.

In her joint defence with FMSS, she also asserted that the town council is barred, or stopped, from getting back its money from FMSS. This is because AHTC had voluntarily entered into a contract with FMSS, paid for the managing agent services in accordance with contractual terms, and benefited from the services provided, the defence argued.

It is "unconscionable for (AHTC) to impute fault" on FMSS, Ms How and Mr Loh and to demand they cough up money legitimately received under the contracts awarded by AHTC itself, said the defence.

AHTC had said in its claim that FMSS and Ms How had knowingly received payments known to be improper. But FMSS and Ms How said they had "acted honestly and reasonably and ought to be excused by the court", even if they had breached any trust.

FMSS and Ms How also denied any wrongdoing in the rushed appointment of FMSS, and the appointment of Ms How and Mr Loh to decision-making positions, saying this was done in good faith to avoid the disruption of services to residents caused by the town council's then managing agent, CPG Facilities Management, prematurely terminating its services.

They also said: "Sylvia Lim and Low were of the view that the functions of the secretary would not cause a conflict of interest as transactions would have to follow safeguards contained in... (the) Town Councils Act and Town Council Financial Rules."

They further said they did not owe any fiduciary duties to the council, especially since they were not council members, had no voting rights and merely acted on the instruction of town councillors like Ms Lim and Mr Low. And even if Mr Loh and Ms How could be considered fiduciaries, they "cannot be held to a standard equal to that of town councillors".

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Criticism of regulators over Noble is misplaced

Business Times
11 Aug 2017
R Sivanithy

Frontline stockmarket regulator SGX (Singapore Exchange) and its supervisor MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) were criticised by research firm Iceberg Research last month for not acting over the past 30 months during which the shares of commodities firm Noble Group crashed by more than 90 per cent following publication of Iceberg's first attack on Noble's financials in early 2015.

The main point of contention is that Noble's alleged overly aggressive accounting should have been flagged earlier by SGX and MAS, with the implied suggestion that had this been done, the market's interests would have been better served

Could regulators have done more? Critics will say yes, but it certainly isn't clear that this is the case.

First, it has to be noted that SGX adopts an evidence-based regulatory approach, which means that it would intervene or take action only if the evidence warrants it.

As pointed out by Securities Investors Association of Singapore (SIAS) president David Gerald in his letter published in BT on Thursday ("Iceberg's criticism does not take note of improvements by Noble"), Noble received clean audit reports in 2015 and 2016 and it also adopted the practice of discussing "Key Audit Matters" (KAMs) a year before they were made standard practice.

The KAMs Noble featured were the topics of concern raised by Iceberg, namely accounting policies for marked-to-market commodity contracts, impairment assessments for various assets and the fair value of long-term contracts.

In other words, faced with unqualified audit opinions from professional accounting companies whose reputations were on the line and proactive efforts by the company to increase transparency in its disclosures, would it have made sense for SGX to have then intervened on the basis of accusations from an anonymous research firm?

Consider, for example, that the consequences of SGX or MAS action are always very serious - whenever major regulatory intervention occurs, not only does the stock involved crash but there is always spillover negative effects on the broader market as confidence is eroded and panic selling ensues.

Cause problems

Mindful of this, regulators also know that their actions can cause problems for target firms by the signal sent. For example, an announcement that a company is the subject of an official investigation will definitely drive up that company's cost of capital and simultaneously bring down its credit rating, and this could very well inadvertently bring about the very outcome that regulators might have sought to avoid in the first place, namely, financial difficulties, constrained cash flows, reduced profits and a stock price decline.

Regulators have therefore to be very sure of what they are doing when either issuing warnings or suspensions and in this case, with no evidence from independent third parties that any fraud had occurred, it would not have been prudent to have undertaken any major official actions.

Second, what of that other part of the regulatory eco-system that hardly ever gets mentioned - the research analysts who covered Noble?

The stock was an institutional favourite and was widely tracked by several brokers, many of whom regularly recommended a "buy". Surely these individuals and their houses should also come under increased scrutiny for the role they played in elevating Noble to the level it occupied in the years leading up to 2015?

Or are we to accept that policing the market is wholly the preserve of regulators and no one else?

This is not to say that Iceberg's assertions were mischievous or frivolous. The identities of the parties behind the firm may be unknown but its reports on Noble have brought to light various accounting issues that were likely glossed over by others - as noted earlier, the stock was among the market's favourites for many years.

So entities such as Iceberg, opaque though they may be, do serve a useful - sometimes whistle-blowing - function.

However, the fact that it correctly predicted Noble's share price collapse does not automatically mean that all its assertions should then be accepted as being valid.

There is an inconvenient truth about markets and that is that when stocks are rising, no one ever complains, but when the music stops and selling kicks in, the finger-pointing starts and the most common targets are regulators.

In some cases, criticism is justified; in others, it is not. For Noble, it might look like the former but closer examination suggests the latter.

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

Para-athlete awarded $1.23m in damages for 2011 AYE accident

Straits Times
04 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

He suffered multiple fractures and had left leg amputated due to 2011 accident on AYE

Local para-canoeing pioneer Tan Hun Boon was awarded $1.23 million in damages by the High Court on Monday for the amputation of his left leg and other consequences that accrued from a 2011 accident on the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE).

Mr Tan, 40, a Public Service Commission Overseas Merit Scholarship holder, was a senior consultant with Accenture Management when the accident occurred on June 23, 2011. He had stopped his car on the AYE road shoulder to help another driver, who had pulled over because of a flat tyre. But as he walked back to his car, a bus owned by Rui Feng Travel barrelled into a parked Expressway Monitoring Advisory System (Emas) truck that had been called for assistance.

The impact caused the Emas truck to collide with the distressed car, which then hit Mr Tan.

He suffered multiple fractures in his left leg and left hip, and required emergency surgery at the National University Hospital, including an amputation above the knee. He consequently developed severe phantom limb pain.

In September 2014, the bus owner accepted 100 per cent of the blame, and High Court hearings before Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau were held last September.

Mr Tan, through lawyers Lim Hui Ying and Mike Chiam, had sought some $2.2 million in all for medical costs, pain and suffering, and loss of earnings, among other things.

Defence lawyers Loh Kia Meng and Kelvin Toh argued that Mr Tan was entitled to just over $500,000 in damages.

One of the issues was over the Ottobock C-leg prosthesis worth some $80,000 that he is fitted with and which is replaced every five years. Each C-leg is equipped with a micro-processor in the knee joint to control the hydraulics and enable more safety and a more natural gait.

The judge rejected defence suggestions that the C-leg be downgraded to a mechanical prosthesis once Mr Tan reaches retirement age, and ruled that there be provision for 4.5 C-legs for Mr Tan's use over the years, amounting to $362,326 .

The judge noted that relying on the prosthesis, Mr Tan now "walks with a noticeable limp". He is not able to run, squat or kneel at all and required high doses of pain medication to make it through the day.

According to the Singapore Canoe Federation website, Mr Tan picked up para-canoeing in 2012 when it was introduced in Singapore, "to improve my fitness and morale after a major accident".

"The sport is full of hidden charms and I began training regularly," he added, hoping then to encourage more people to take it up.

He went on to become a national para-canoeing champion and a national para-cycling champion. He started Coachcraft in 2014 to offer freelance career coaching services.

The bus driver responsible for the accident was convicted after pleading guilty to causing death by a negligent act and jailed for four weeks in 2012, and disqualified from driving for five years. The Emas truck driver, who was knocked down by the bus, died of his injuries.

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

Tan Hun Boon v Rui Feng Travel Pte Ltd and another [2017] SGHC 189

MAS slaps 7-year ban on former OCBC Securities dealer

Business Times
18 Aug 2017
Angela Tan

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has issued two prohibition orders against Prem Hirubalan, a former representative of OCBC Securities, banning him from performing any financial advisory services, among others, for seven years.

Under the prohibition orders which take effect from Thursday, Hirubalan is also prohibited from any regulated activity, and taking part in the management, acting as a director or becoming a substantial shareholder of any capital market services firm under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA).

He is also banned from taking part in the management, acting as a director or becoming a substantial shareholder of any financial advisory firm under the Financial Advisers Act (FAA).

Hirubalan was a representative of OCBC Securities from May 2010 to May 2011.

MAS said during that period, he conducted unauthorised share trades in the trading accounts of three customers and misappropriated a sum of around S$81,000 from one of these customers.

On June 24, 2016, Hirubalan was convicted of charges under section 201(b) of the SFA and section 406 of the Penal Code for these offences. On Aug 8, 2016, he was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment.

OCBC Bank said it had terminated the employment of Hirubalan upon discovering the fraudulent transactions. Its brokerage unit OCBC Securities made a police report in April 2011. "We do not tolerate any form of improper conduct and expect the highest ethical and professional standards from our employees," said the bank's head of group corporate communications Koh Ching Ching.

Under section 201(b) of the SFA, no person shall, directly or indirectly, in connection with the subscription, purchase or sale of any securities engage in any act, practice or course of business which operates as a fraud or deception, or is likely to operate as a fraud or deception, upon any person.

Under section 406 of the Penal Code, whoever commits criminal breach of trust shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or with a fine, or with both.

Lee Boon Ngiap, assistant managing director (Capital Markets), MAS, said: "MAS expects all finance professionals to act honestly and with integrity. To protect consumers from fraudulent and dishonest behaviour by representatives, MAS will not hesitate to bar any individuals who do not meet fit and proper criteria from the financial industry."

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MAS and CAD sound warning over digital tokens and related investment schemes

Business Times
11 Aug 2017
Siow Li Sen

More than 100 police reports have been filed since 2015 over such schemes, though not all are cases of fraud

The authorities have warned the public about the risks tied to investment schemes involving digital tokens, even as the fast-growing industry attracts believers - and enlarges the pool of those who could end up losing their money.

A Singapore Police spokeswoman told The Business Times that since 2015, more than 100 reports related to digital-token investment schemes have been lodged with the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

Of course, not all these were fraudulent cases, BT understands, as some people, upset that they had lost money, filed reports.

The CAD and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in a joint statement on Thursday: "The CAD and the MAS advise consumers to be mindful of potential risks of digital token and virtual currency-related investment schemes."

The two agencies were referring to the spate of initial coin offerings (ICOs) and other investment schemes involving digital tokens in Singapore.

A digital token is a cryptographically-secured representation of a token-holder's rights to receive a benefit or to perform specified functions; one type of digital token takes the form of virtual currency like Bitcoin and Ether.

Digital tokens have, however, evolved beyond being virtual currencies; they have since come to be used to represent ownership or a security interest over the token seller's assets or property, or a debt owed by the seller, said the joint statement.

Digital tokens offered through an ICO are usually specific to the seller, and such tokens are typically sold to consumers in exchange for a widely-used virtual currency (such as Bitcoin or Ether) or cash.

Sellers typically set out their business proposal in a "White Paper" published online, and market the digital tokens as investment opportunities, noted the statement.

On Aug 6, Real Estate Asset Ledger or REAL, a real-estate crowdfunding company based in Singapore, launched a sale of its tokens, through which investors can put money in its real estate using cryptocurrency. The announcement was on the Bitcoin.com website.

REAL has its eye on disrupting the world of real estate by applying blockchain technology to an industry that is historically inefficient and illiquid, it said.

Last month, two Singapore "proptech" companies, FundPlaces and Reidao, said they are using blockchain platforms to "tokenise" property - that is, to create tokens backed by real estate which investors can buy.

A blockchain is basically a way to maintain a database without a central authority. It makes it feasible to have a fully distributed database in which users always have access to the most updated version.

It is a pioneering move that is nascent even globally - and is such a new idea that there does not seem to be explicit existing legislation in Singapore governing these digital instruments.

The CAD and MAS therefore urge consumers to ensure that they fully understand the benefits and risks of the product or service before committing their funds to it. Consumers should also assess whether the features of the product or service offered meets their needs.

The CAD and MAS point out that the valuation of the digital tokens are usually not transparent and highly speculative.

When digital tokens do not hold any ownership rights to the seller's assets, it means the tokens are not backed by tangible assets. Such tokens would be merely speculative investments; their traded price can fluctuate greatly within a short period. There is a high risk that a consumer could lose his entire invested amount.

The two agencies said that, before committing to an investment, consumers should confirm the seller or its representative's credentials via MAS's Financial Institutions Directory, or its Register of Representatives and Investor Alert List.

MAS-regulated entities are subject to conduct rules. If consumers deal with entities that are not regulated by MAS, they forgo the protection afforded under laws administered by MAS, said the statement.

Market observers say the authorities are correct to draw attention to the risks involved in these new investments which - barring instances of fraud - work only when investors believe in them.

Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking in Singapore, said: "It's small but growing in the overall scheme of things . . . regulators are rightly nervous. We are in a digital age and digital tokens seem a logical extension, and while regulators like to see new things, the risks are high. The concept behind virtual currency is acceptance - or as long as everyone believes."

TSMP Law joint managing director Stefanie Yuen-Thio said that the consumer advisory issued on Thursday was aimed at raising awareness among retail investors, to give them a more fleshed-out description of the risks and issues. "There has been a lot of talk about virtual currencies in the press, with reports of how the value of Bitcoin has grown exponentially over certain periods. This may lead investors to put their money in securities with a 'blockchain' or 'digital token' label, for fear of missing out.

"Just because 'ICO' sounds like 'IPO', and these offerings have a White Paper - which investors may think is akin to a prospectus - does not mean that investors have the same degree of protection. There's no certainty that the White Paper contains relevant and sufficient disclosure, or that the information has been properly verified."

Anson Zeall, chair of ACCESS, the Singapore Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Industry Association, said: "ICOs are an exciting new opportunity, but we advise consumers to conduct rigorous due diligence before making any investment."

CIMB's Mr Song added: "These are 'extremely alternative' investments within alternative investments."

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

Davinder steps down as Drew & Napier CEO

Business Times
04 Aug 2017
Chin Yong Chang

Cavinder Bull is new CEO; Davinder takes on new role of executive chairman

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, whose name is synonymous with top Singapore law firm Drew & Napier LLC, has stepped down from his role as CEO to become the firm's new executive chairman.

The Business Times understands that the firm did not have an incumbent executive chairman prior to Mr Singh's appointment.

Mr Singh, who has been CEO for 20 years, assumed his new position with effect from Aug 1, the firm told BT on Wednesday.

Replacing him as the firm's CEO is Cavinder Bull SC. Mr Singh and Mr Bull will lead the firm together with the firm's new deputy chairman Jimmy Yim SC, and new deputy CEO Sushil Nair.

Deputy chairman of WongPartnership LLP Rachel Eng said that it was not uncommon to see large law firms having both its chairman and CEO sharing the management responsibilities of the firm. This is because members of the management team would still be practising lawyers with other non-managerial responsibilities.

The new appointments made by the firm are therefore not necessarily indicative of any changes to the scope of responsibilities of the Drew & Napier lawyers.

She added that only in the very largest of law firms would there likely be a dedicated management team with minimal participation in the legal work of the firm.

Ms Eng said: "As more law firms are becoming larger, where members of senior management are still practising lawyers, it is becoming more common to have both a chairman and a CEO both sharing management responsibilities and still doing legal work."

When asked about the firm's plans, Drew & Napier said that it was focusing on four key areas for growth: dispute resolution and international arbitration, competition and regulatory practice, restructuring, and data protection.

It also said that it was especially strong in dispute resolution and international arbitration. The value of arbitration disputes it handled from May 2016 to May 2017 exceeded US$4.7 billion.

NUS law professor and former dean of the faculty Tan Cheng Han said that the changes in the appointments were a "good signal" from the firm. "I think the new appointments are not representative of a leadership crisis, and it is just a case of natural progression and transition for an old firm like Drew.

"I don't think Davinder Singh will be stepping down or taking a smaller role in the firm, and Cavinder Bull taking the reins as CEO will definitely not be harmful to Drew as he is also a highly-qualified lawyer."

In December last year, Mr Singh became the chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

One of Singapore's top lawyers, he has taken on several high profile cases which included representing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a defamation action against blogger Roy Ngerng.

Mr Singh, who joined Drew & Napier after graduating from NUS in 1982, is recognised as a top litigator and arbitration counsel by various local and international legal publications. He has an active international arbitration practice involving complex commercial disputes and multiple jurisdictions.

Mr Bull has no lack of qualifications and achievements either.

Last month, he was recognised by London-based legal publication Who's Who Legal as among worldwide thought leaders in arbitration. He and WongPartnership's SC Alvin Yeo were two Singaporeans recognised in the inaugural list of 33.

Mr Bull has an active practice in complex litigation and international arbitration. He is engaged in trial and appellate advocacy at all levels of the Singapore courts, and has appeared as counsel in international arbitration in various countries.

He practised as a litigation associate with Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, before he was made partner of Drew & Napier in 1998, and a director of the firm in 2002.

Mr Bull, a graduate of Oxford law school and a post-graduate of Harvard University, has also taken on several high-profile cases including representing Nine Squares in the Ku De Ta dispute in 2012, and successfully defending a S$20 million suit made against a bank in June.

Mr Tan said: "Both Davinder and Cavinder are capable lawyers, and them working together to manage the firm may be a good thing for Drew & Napier."

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

Tax system needs to keep up with disruptions: Indranee

Straits Times
18 Aug 2017
Annabeth Leow

Call to ensure level playing field for traditional, digital businesses

For the sake of fair competition, the Singapore authorities aim to ensure traditional and digital businesses are taxed on a level playing field, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah has said.

Singapore's tax system must keep up with digital disruptions, as companies will face more uncertainty in global business if different tax jurisdictions take different approaches to the digital economy, she added.

Her comments at a conferenceyesterday underscored the Republic's focus on crafting and sticking to international tax standards to promote a stable business environment.

"Digitalisation is now challenging conventional notions of taxation," she said, citing bricks-and-mortar retailers' push towards e-commerce.

"Jurisdictions across the world, including Singapore, are grappling with how to deal with taxation of digital economy and studying this closely. Some jurisdictions have taken steps to adjust their GST (goods and services tax) system to ensure a level playing field between their local businesses which are GST-registered and foreign-based ones which are not. We are studying how we can do likewise."

Ms Indranee said that tax neutrality would aim to establish "fair competition" between traditional and more heavily digitalised businesses, because "there should be fairness in terms of the taxes paid by businesses, regardless of their extent of digitalisation".

She emphasised that a level playing field for businesses across the world is a priority for the Republic.

"Having a consistent set of international tax standards, which is respected and abided by all jurisdictions, helps encourage greater cross-border trade and investments," Ms Indranee told the audience at the Singapore Management University and Tax Academy of Singapore's SMU-TA Centre for Excellence in Taxation conference. She noted Singapore's membership in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Task Force on the Digital Economy, which is mulling over policy solutions to nascent digital tax issues.

PwC Singapore tax partner Paul Lau told The Straits Times: "Neutrality is one of the hallmarks of a good tax regime - this is to help ensure that business decisions are not dictated by tax outcomes... As such, it is sound policy to maintain tax neutrality between traditional and digital business models."

Meanwhile, Baker Tilly TFW tax partner Loh Eng Kiat said that with the increasing prominence of indirect taxes like GST in the digital economy, some countries already have rules that take aim squarely at e-commerce transactions. "Considering these trending developments, international consensus is likely to become a key driver that shapes future GST changes in Singapore," he said.

KPMG Singapore's head of tax, Mr Chiu Wu Hong, noted that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat previously said Singapore will study how to tweak the tax system for GST-registered local businesses to compete fairly. "(Ms Indranee) has confirmed that this study is ongoing, and we are likely to see some tax policy changes on this front," he added.

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

Rules for strata property management can be tweaked further: Voices

TODAY
11 Aug 2017

After three rounds of public consultation over five years, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has come up with a set of 57 proposed changes (Stricter controls on MCSTs proposed to beef up governance; Aug 2).

I had offered suggestions to the National Development and Law ministries in 2011 and hoped that the BCA and the Strata Titles Board would consider my feedback on a scenario that is plainly ridiculous.

While a subsidiary proprietor’s immediate family member can be elected to an estate’s management council and can hold any of its key offices, the same individual otherwise can be barred from attending council meetings as a proxy observer.

Separately, the 30-minute postponement of annual general meetings if no quorum is met at the appointed time — after which the meeting may proceed with those present — could be cut to 15 minutes.

My observation is that a full quorum is rare, while a few stragglers who are all too familiar with this scenario arrive afterwards.

The BCA’s proposal that the Commissioner of Buildings should have the power to appoint an independent official to manage a Management Corporation Strata Title during an emergency or critical situation is logical.

But as such appointees are unlikely to come cheap, subsidiary proprietors should be made aware of what it would cost them.

Lastly, the amendment requiring council nominees to give their consent before an election seems to be a non sequitur. A nominee who is present would accept or decline straight away, and one who is not would surely have consented to the proposer and seconder.

Narayana Narayana

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Taxi body asks for rule change on deliveries, LTA will review rules if necessary

Straits Times
04 Aug 2017
Christopher Tan

Taxi availability won't be affected and courier jobs are complementary, says group's adviser

A day after it came out strongly against taxis and private-hire vehicles being used for delivery services, the Land Transport Authority has said that it will review the rules if necessary - right after a taxi association lobbied for change.

"LTA will monitor recent trends to see if these regulations need to be reviewed," an LTA spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday.

Association adviser Ang Hin Kee said taxi availability for passengers would not be adversely impacted by courier delivery services, which would be a complementary business for drivers.

He told ST: "As it is, there is excess capacity during off-peak hours. This would reduce empty cruising."

The National Private Hire Vehicles Association has also called for a review. "The transport industry is going through rapid transformations and disruptions, and it is getting extremely competitive as private-hire drivers strive to make a decent living," said the association's executive adviser S. Thiagarajan.

"The National Private Hire Vehicles Association calls on LTA to review its position on not allowing private-hire drivers to be couriers or deliverymen for goods if there is no passenger on board."

The LTA had long stood firm on its rules, meant to prevent taxi drivers from being distracted by non-fare tasks.

"Taxis and private-hire cars are public service vehicles licensed to carry passengers for hire and reward," the LTA spokesman noted.

Mr Anthony Chey, an insurance partner at law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, agreed, noting: "The paramount consideration for public transport vehicles is to ensure that commuters have access to the public transport.

"Anyone can do courier services, but not everyone can pick up a passenger from the street."

But most other experts saw it differently. National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng said rules must reflect the "sharing economy".

He said the taxi industry faced stiff competition from private-hire operators, and "we have seen the decline of taxi ridership and therefore the decrease of taxi driver income".

"If unhired taxis can be utilised for courier purposes, it is in a way contributing to the overall service productivity," Dr Lee said.

With more than 40,000 private-hire vehicles and 26,000 taxis on the roads, supply to commuters was unlikely to be dented by them also providing courier services.

Dr Walter Theseira, an economist and senior lecturer at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, also noted that the transport sector had evolved, and taxis were not the only ones serving commuters.

"Under the implied new regulatory stance, it would seem more consistent to me if all vehicle drivers and all vehicles were allowed to provide any reasonable transport service except in cases where there are policy concerns," he said. The exceptions would include the carrying of dangerous goods such as chemicals.

Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport chairman Sitoh Yih Pin said he hoped LTA would assess the situation and make changes where necessary.

Cab commuter Arthur Elfin Chiang, 39, said he does not see why cabbies should not take on courier jobs and the issue of availability could be resolved if "a parcel can be paired with a passenger". "This is killing two birds with one stone," he said.

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

Four High Court judges appointed: Prime Minister's Office

Business Times
17 Aug 2017
Lee Meixian

The appointments will take effect on Sept 30

Four new judges of the High Court have been appointed by President Tony Tan Keng Yam on the advice of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The Prime Minister's Office said on Wednesday the new judges, who will assume their role from Sept 30 are Judicial Commissioner (JC) Valerie Thean Pik Yuen, JC Hoo Sheau Peng, JC Debbie Ong Siew Ling and JC Aedit Abdullah.

With the appointments, the Supreme Court - which comprises the High Court and Court of Appeal - will have a total of 22 judges (including five Judges of Appeal and the Chief Justice), four Judicial Commissioners, five Senior Judges and 12 International Judges.

JC Thean has served in the Courts, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) and the Ministry of Law. She was appointed the Senior District Judge of the Family and Juvenile Justice Division of the State Courts in March 2014, before assuming her current position as JC of the Supreme Court in September 2014.

She concurrently held the position of Presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts since October 2014. Her term as a JC and Presiding Judge will expire on Sept 29, 2017. As Presiding Judge of the FJC, she has helped in the development of family law and practice, both in Singapore and the region.

JC Hoo has served in the legal service for over 20 years. She was the Deputy Chief Counsel (Civil Division) of the AGC before she was appointed JC of the Supreme Court in September 2014. She is also the first woman judge to hear criminal cases in the High Court, having presided over 16 criminal cases in 2016, five of which were capital punishment cases.

JC Ong was appointed a JC in November 2014. Before that, she was an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, specialising in family law. Having gained experience in handling both civil and family law cases in the High Court, JC Ong will be appointed Presiding Judge of the FJC when JC Thean's term ends.

JC Aedit has legal experience ranging from civil to criminal matters, including complex financial matters. He became Senior Counsel in 2012, and was the Chief Prosecutor (Criminal Justice Division) at the AGC, before assuming his current appointment as JC of the Supreme Court in November 2014.

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Some older buildings could need safety upgrades

Straits Times
11 Aug 2017
Toh Wen Li

The question of whether Singapore's older buildings are safe from fires is under the spotlight, following a deadly tower block fire in west London in June.

And the answer depends on who one asks. The managements of some buildings constructed prior to 1974 - exempting them from current fire safety rules - say they are safe as they have been renovated over time. These older properties need to get fire safety upgrades only if they have had major renovations. If not, they do not have to adhere to the Fire Code, created in 1974 after the Robinsons Department Store fire that year, which killed nine.

The Straits Times checked seven pre-1974 buildings but could access only three: People's Park Complex, People's Park Centre and Afro Asia Building. These have features required by the code, such as fire lifts, hose reels and emergency lighting.

But experts pointed out that their implementation may not be up to date due to factors such as cost and technical constraints.

There could also be other old buildings that have not undergone major renovations and are in need of fire-safety retrofitting. These could have design issues such as inadequate fire compartmentation - which prevents fire from spreading - and outdated automatic fire sprinkler systems, said SD Architects & Associates founder Chan Kok Way.

Mr Chong Kee Sen, former president of The Institution of Engineers, Singapore, noted that older Housing Board blocks have had upgrades such as installing dry risers on each floor. These allow firemen to connect their hoses to draw water. But some pre-1974 buildings may not have had similar upgrades.

In the near future, they may all have to. Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament last month that the authorities are mulling over legal amendments to require pre-1974 buildings to perform fire-safety upgrades whether or not upgrading works were done. He did not give a timeline.

The authorities were unable to say how many pre-1974 buildings there are. Some have taken action already.

At People's Park Centre in Chinatown, completed around 1973, a building management spokesman said it has been retrofitting the building with fire protection systems from "day one". It has a full stock of features such as wet risers, a firemen lift, an automatic fire sprinkler and a fire alarm system. It employs a building fire safety contractor to ensure all the features are in satisfactory condition, and an engineer does inspections and testing every year.

The spokesman said: "As a mixed development project which comprises residential apartments, retail spaces and offices, all these fire suppression and warning systems are important and necessary."

But he admitted that too few of its elderly residents take part in annual fire drills, which aim to familiarise them with the evacuation process. Under a quarter of its 400-plus residents turn up each year for the drills, raising concern that some may be helpless in a real emergency.


AFRO ASIA BUILDING

Commercial building.

Completed in the 1960s.

The building, where a homicide by fire occurred in 2011, was observed to have smoke detectors, a fire alarm system, fire hoses and a fire lift.

PEOPLE'S PARK CENTRE

Mixed-use residential and commercial building.

Completed around 1973.

According to its building managers, it has an automatic fire sprinkler system, a wet riser system, an automatic fire alarm system and a fire lift.

PEOPLE'S PARK COMPLEX

Mixed-use residential and commercial building.

The commercial block was completed in 1970, and the residential block in 1973.

The commercial shopping mall area of the complex has automatic sprinklers, fire hoses, extinguishers and alarms. The residential building also comes with a fire lift and a wet riser system.

In neighbouring People's Park Complex, completed in 1973, longtime resident A.P. Soo, 70, did not even realise a fire in her building's carpark in 2010 had triggered a mass evacuation. She remained in her 18th-floor corner flat, learning of the incident only later from the news. The flames did not affect her level.

Said Madam Soo, who lives alone: "If there really is a fire, I don't know if I am able to descend all the floors to ground level."

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

Insurance can help Asia cut economic losses from disasters: MAS chief

Business Times
04 Aug 2017
Claire Huang

Technology, innovation, research and an integrated Asean market can close the protection gap, says Ravi Menon

With the increasing frequency and severity of natural catastrophes striking Asia, the region needs to close the wide protection gap through insurance to lower the financial impact of natural disasters and raise disaster resilience, said Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

Speaking at the Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management (ICRM) Symposium on Thursday, he noted that, going by United Nations data, the number of natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific has grown from an average of 44 a year in the 1970s to 146 in the 2000s.

Growing urbanisation has increasingly concentrated Asian wealth in small, over-populated megacities, many of which are found in the Philippines, China, Japan, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Over the last 20 years, Asia has accounted for almost half the world's economic losses from natural disasters, amounting to more than US$900 billion. Yet, under 5 per cent of economic losses in the developing region were insured.

In developing countries, the figure is 40 per cent.

Mr Menon said: "This means governments in Asia have had to finance the cost of recovery by raising revenues, issuing debt or relying on donations from abroad, on an ex-post basis." (The Latin phrase means "after the fact", in other words, actual returns.)

This is not sustainable and comes at the cost of economic development, he added.

Asked why Asia is still underinsured in this area, Kent Chaplin, chief executive of Lloyd's Asia-Pacific, put it down to the lack of data with which to price risk accurately.

"In terms of product offerings, there is a need for innovative products that meet local demand, such as crop- and weather-related insurance," he said. There is thus a need to raise awareness of the vital role insurance plays in building resilience, protecting communities, companies, individuals and governments.

Mr Menon said insurers can play a bigger role in providing emergency relief after disasters and that insurance is an ex-ante (Latin for "before the event") financing solution.

He suggested that the wide natural-catastrophe protection gap can be narrowed through four key enablers - technology, product innovation, research and development (R&D) and an integrated Asean market.

Technology: Sensors, satellites and Internet of Things (IoT) devices can capture more data on the causes and impact of natural disasters.

Big-data analytics enable better quantification and risk pricing, in turn strengthening ex-ante risk resilience measures.

For example, Singapore's natural catastrophe data-analytics exchange (Nat Cat DAX) monitors economic loss and exposure data, which helps assess natural catastrophe risks in the Asia-Pacific, Mr Menon said.

Product innovation: Unlike traditional insurance which indemnifies against actual losses, product innovations such as parametric insurance solutions calculate payouts based on catastrophic events hitting pre-defined parameters such as hurricane wind speed or the magnitude of an earthquake.

This removes the need for loss adjusters to survey the extent of losses, enabling insurers to reap cost savings while policyholders get faster payouts.

"We are also seeing increasing use of alternative risk-transfer mechanisms such as insurance-linked securities (ILS) in disaster-risk management," Mr Menon said, noting that this diversifies the insurance industry's exposure to natural perils.

R&D: This builds disaster-risk resilience, he said. Improving market access in Asean countries would enable greater risk diversification beyond national boundaries.

One Asean market: The Asean member states have made a commitment to liberalise by 2025 the cross-border supply of international maritime, aviation and goods-in-transit insurance, catastrophe reinsurance and the remaining classes of reinsurance.

Mr Menon said advances in technology, innovation, research and market integration places Asia in a strong position to implement mechanisms for effective assessment, management and transfer of disaster risks.

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

Creative awarded $36m in damages in Huawei lawsuit

Straits Times
17 Aug 2017
Grace Leong

High Court holds China firm liable for misrepresentation and breach of contract, and dismisses counterclaim

Singapore soundcard maker Creative Technology has scored yet another legal victory against a technology giant - this time against China's Huawei, one of the world's largest telecom equipment makers.

Creative yesterday said the company and its subsidiary, QMax Communications, were awarded $36 million in damages over a failed nationwide wireless broadband project in 2012.

Its lawsuit alleged misrepresentation and breach of contract by Huawei after it pumped around $30 million into the network and then was forced to abandon it.

It sought to recover "wasted" payments made - US$9.4 million (S$13 million) to Huawei and $19.5 million to various third parties for installation, leases and other operating costs, blaming Huawei for miscalculating and misrepresenting the cost of the network.

Huawei in turn countersued for outstanding payments for services and equipment, and damages for alleged wrongful termination of the contract.

In 2009, Creative explored the possibility of building a wireless broadband network using WiMax technology after acquiring broadband infrastructure firm QMax. WiMax is a fourth-generation (4G) technology for high-speed mobile communications.

In response to Creative's tender, Huawei submitted a proposal to design, build and operate a WiMax network to cover Singapore.

After several rounds of negotiations, Creative told Huawei that it had a budget of US$20 million. Huawei said it could meet the budget by providing nationwide coverage with 225 base stations.

But the Chinese tech giant later said the figure of 225 was a "mere expression of opinion" and that its representative had warned Creative that while Huawei could meet its budget, it would translate into a lower-quality network.

The High Court, in a judgment yesterday, found Huawei "liable for misrepresentation and was grossly negligent". Huawei was also held, in the alternative, liable for breach of contract.

Huawei was ordered to pay US$9.3 million and $15.6 million with interest, totalling $36 million, and its counterclaim was dismissed. In addition, costs of the proceedings were awarded to Creative and QMax.

Creative noted that if Huawei does not appeal, then the judgment award will be recognised in the firm's financial statements for the quarter ending Sept 30.

Creative requested that a trading halt be lifted after the release of the announcement. The stock last traded at $1.05.

Previously, Creative had scored at least two legal victories against iPhone giant Apple. In 2005, it won a landmark US$100 million settlement with Apple over patent infringement claims, and in 2015, its unit ZiiLabs Inc won another case alleging that several ranges of iPhone, iPad and iMac products infringed 10 of its patents. As part of the settlement, Apple obtained a licence for ZiiLabs' patents.


225

The number of base stations Huawei said it could provide with the given budget. The Chinese tech giant later said the figure was a "mere expression of opinion", and that while it could meet its budget, it would translate into a lower-quality network.

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

Creative Technology Ltd and another v Huawei International Pte Ltd [2017] SGHC 201

ADV: Temporary Finance Project Officer

Singapore Law Watch
11 Aug 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

ADV: Corporate Support Officer / Executive (SMC) (Full time / Part time)

Singapore Law Watch
04 Aug 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

Jannie Chan 'reinstated automatically' as director

Straits Times
17 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Setting aside of bankruptcy order on appeal has effect of restoring her to position, court rules

High-profile businesswoman Jannie Chan, whose bankruptcy was set aside last December, has won reinstatement as director of the family holding company she ran with her former husband.

The High Court ruled that she was automatically reinstated as a permanent governing director of TYC Investment after her bankruptcy was set aside.

The case dealt for the first time here with what happens when the court sets aside an order to bankrupt a company director on appeal and its effect on his directorship.

Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim said the various authorities show the effect is in general the same as when a bankruptcy is annulled, which means "the bankruptcy is treated as not having occurred".

"The fact that the bankruptcy order has been set aside on appeal should have the effect of restoring Jannie Chan to her original position as though no bankruptcy order has ever been made against her," she explained in judgment grounds issued on Tuesday.

Ms Chan, 72, together with then husband Henry Tay, had incorporated TYC as a family holding company in 1979 with each holding a founder share of 44 per cent and 46 per cent of voting rights in TYC respectively. Their three children share the remaining 10 per cent voting rights in varying amounts.

The judge noted that TYC was set up to hold shares in The Hour Glass and other "not insubstantial" family assets for themselves and their children's benefit.

The couple, who co-founded luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass, had ended their 41-year marriage in 2010. After the divorce, there was an agreement in May 2012 which provided that neither would sign a cheque on TYC's bank accounts unless the other party has signed an approving voucher.

Ms Chan's bankruptcy order was set aside last December, some three months after she was made bankrupt by a bank.

TYC, represented by lawyer Chu Hua Yi, argued there was no provision for her to be reinstated and sought the court's sanction that remaining director Henry Tay be allowed to name a replacement based on the articles regulating the company. Together with Mr Tay, represented by Senior Counsel Chelva Retnam Rajah and lawyer Megan Chia, they submitted that the order setting aside her bankruptcy did not have "the effect of retrospectively annihilating Jannie Chan's bankruptcy for the purpose of rendering the vacation of her office as director void".

Ms Chan, defended by lawyer Bachoo Mohan Singh, counter-claimed that she remained a permanent governing director of TYC.

Mr Chu said if the relevant article is interpreted in such a way that the setting aside of the bankruptcy order results in automatic reinstatement of a company director, "all companies would be held hostage to such a construction".

TYC suggested her reinstatement meant that every company whose director is adjudged a bankrupt runs the risk that the director's office may be restored (however long it takes), even though the constitution of the board or the company's business may have undergone radical changes.

Judicial Commissioner Lim made clear "each case turns on its facts". She noted that there was no evidence that TYC had undergone any "radical changes" since Ms Chan's bankruptcy and the order to set it aside.

She added that TYC is not a public company which has to take into account shareholders and investors' interests but a private family holding company for a small group.

The judge ruled Ms Chan was automatically reinstated as governing director of TYC and stressed that had her bankruptcy not been set aside, her office of director would have remained vacated.

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

TYC Investment Pte Ltd v Chan Siew Lee Jannie and another [2017] SGHC 202

How S'pore's oldest firms stay relevant

Business Times
10 Aug 2017
Chin Yong Chang

They have survived crises over a century and more; to some, merit is key consideration for succession

Singapore may have just turned 52, but many homegrown businesses have been around for far longer. Greatearth, Boustead, Drew & Napier, Braddell Brothers, Haw Par, Eu Yan Sang and Yeo Hiap Seng - to name a few - have existed for more than a century.

A chief concern for old companies is succession planning. Whether it is a family business trying to balance lineage with meritocracy or a company working to retain its talent pool, succession considerations is something no company can ignore. This might mean welcoming outsiders into management of family firms or promoting talented personnel to senior management roles.

For instance, Drew & Napier's Davinder Singh last week moved up from CEO to become executive chairman, making way for Cavinder Bull to assume the CEO's position. The firm also appointed Jimmy Yim as its deputy chairman and Sushil Nair as its deputy CEO. At Yeo Hiap Seng, CEO Melvin Teo is neither a member of the founding Yeo family nor part of owner Far East Organization's Ng family. Eu Yan Sang CEO Richard Eu's successor, Aaron Boey, is also not a member of the founding Eu family.

These firms, as well as others The Business Times spoke to - such as Boustead, Greatearth, Haw Par and Braddell Brothers - have said merit is a key consideration for succession. It is an especially poignant issue for family-run businesses which often have to consciously decide the degree to which the firm would continue to remain within the family's ownership and management.

Singapore Management University's Business Families Institute academic director, Annie Koh, said family-run businesses tend to have an advantage over others as the owners of these firms tend to be driven by "long-term horizons" and "a sense of purpose" behind their businesses, rather than just being motivated by maximising shareholder value.

A prominent example would be Eu Yan Sang, whose CEO Richard Eu - who will step down on Oct 1 to be its non-executive chairman - is the fourth generation of the founding Eu family.

Even though Eu Yan Sang will no longer be headed by a member of the Eu family, Mr Eu said it was important for the family to remain as the firm's owners. This is so that they can provide the "corporate memory" and retain the DNA of the company. However, he acknowledged the company needed to transcend family boundaries for it to keep going, and whoever was running the company needed to be capable, whether or not they carried the Eu family name. "You want to make sure that they can do the job, and it's not just because of their surname."

He cited the Toyota family in Japan and the Ford family in the United States as models on which to base the future ownership and management structure of Eu Yan Sang, where outsiders would manage the company while the family would continue to own a substantial stake in it.

Although CYC Company Pte Ltd - famous for being the tailor of choice for Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew - is younger than Eu Yan Sang, it has also been run by family since it was founded in 1935. Its owner, managing director Fong Loo Fern, said that she intends to let her niece take over the business in the future.

And for Leung Kai Fook Medical, its managing director, Leong Mun Sum, is the son of the company's founder, Leung Yun Chee. Both these family-run businesses, like Eu Yan Sang, have non-family members working together with family members in running the business.

The line between a family firm and a non-family firm may sometimes be blurry. Although Boustead Singapore was not founded as a family firm, CEO Wong Fong Fui has two children who occupy management positions. Both the children rose through the ranks based on merit, the firm said. Wong Yu Loon is the executive director and deputy group CEO, while Wong Yu Wei is the deputy chairman and senior deputy managing director of Boustead Projects.

Prof Koh said: "Family firms recognise that they don't have a monopoly of talent if they just source their human capital from the family. So having loyal professionals aligned to the values and vision of the family are critical to the sustainability of the family enterprises. That is why getting the human resources right is so critical."

Apart from succession planning, these firms have also had to weather events such as financial crises, technological disruption and globalisation. Many old companies have reinvented themselves to stay relevant. The legal sector, for one, has seen its share of difficulties, including competition from foreign firms and the threat of automation.

Braddell Brothers managing partner Edmund Kronenburg said that it was becoming necessary for law firms to specialise in a few select areas, rather than provide very many different types of legal services. Mr Kronenburg said that his firm underwent a re-boot and re-branding exercise in 2009, and is now focusing on corporate and commercial litigation and arbitration, medical negligence, and corporate insolvency.

Drew & Napier's Mr Singh said that the firm focuses on dispute resolution and international arbitration, competition and regulatory practice, restructuring, and data protection as its four areas of growth going forward. As for firms such as Yeo Hiap Seng and Eu Yan Sang, their CEOs said that the key lay in adapting to current trends.

The deputy director of Nanyang Technological University's Institute for Asian Consumer Insight, Lewis Lim, said that for firms to survive, they often have to modernise their products while keeping their authenticity.

Whether it is Yeo's providing "healthier choice" options for its sweetened drinks, or Eu Yan Sang making easy-to-swallow pills or ready-made bottled drinks instead of just selling raw herbs, adapting their product is one way these firms have remained relevant over the years.

Firms such as Leung Kai Fook Medical or Haw Par have not changed their flagship products - Axe oil and Tiger balm, respectively - in the same way, but have managed to turn themselves into global brands. Haw Par has also since diversified into healthcare and leisure, and invests in securities and properties.

When asked how local businesses, including family-owned firm, weather crises and remain sustainable, Prof Koh said that these firms display resilience, work to remain relevant and crucially "needs to be rejuvenated at every generation as if it was the first, creating value with the entrepreneurial zest just like the founding generation".

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

Court orders review of drug conviction

Straits Times
03 Aug 2017
Selina Lum

Nigerian's drug smuggling case reopened as IMH report revealed 'unique turn of events'

In a rare move, the Court of Appeal yesterday ordered a review of its decision two years ago to convict a 32-year-old Nigerian man who was initially acquitted of bringing nearly 2kg of methamphetamine into Singapore.

This comes after the defence filed a criminal motion to reopen the case by relying on a psychiatric report prepared by the prosecution for sentencing arguments.

In a written judgment, the same panel of three judges who had overturned the acquittal of Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi said they agreed to allow the request by his lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam to review their decision "due to the unique turn of events" at a very late stage of the proceedings.

The report by Institute of Mental Health (IMH) psychiatrist Jaydip Sarkar, issued in March, said Ilechukwu suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - a result of childhood trauma that came from witnessing tribal killings.

Dr Sarkar said PTSD symptoms were triggered after Ilechukwu was told by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers that he faced the death penalty, causing him to lie in his statements.

The psychiatrist said the disorder was "likely to have led to an overestimation of threat to his life, which could have prompted him to utter unsophisticated and blatant falsehoods in order to save his life".

The court said Dr Sarkar's opinion contradicted key parts of its 2015 decision to convict Ilechukwu after it found no explanation for his lies other than "his realisation of his guilt".

The court - comprising Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Andrew Phang and Tay Yong Kwang - said it was prepared to accept this report, until proven otherwise, as "compelling" material that warranted a review.

The court referred to its judgment in the high-profile case of Sarawakian murderer Jabing Kho, in which it ruled that review of concluded criminal appeals would be allowed "only in truly exceptional cases". Kho was hanged last year after a series of failed attempts to reopen his conviction.

Yesterday, the court said: "The present motion is, in our view, such a 'truly exceptional' case because of the unique turn of events.

"It is entirely fortuitous that the IMH report... has raised a matter which has a crucial bearing on our decision."

The court added that it was not making a finding that Ilechukwu does indeed suffer from PTSD or that he was affected by it when he made his statements to the CNB.

"We are likewise not implying that he is innocent. His guilt or innocence is a matter to be determined at the subsequent review of our decision," the court said.

The case will be sent back to the trial judge to receive evidence and make findings on several issues, including whether Ilechukwu indeed suffered from PTSD and the extent of its impact on statements.

Ilechukwu, who arrived in Singapore from Nigeria on Nov 13, 2011, passed a suitcase to Singaporean Hamidah Awang, who placed it in her car and drove to Woodlands Checkpoint, where the drugs were found in the bag.

Ilechukwu was arrested in his hotel room the next day.

In November 2014, Ilechukwu was acquitted by Justice Lee Seiu Kin, who accepted that the Nigerian did not know the suitcase contained drugs. The prosecution appealed to the Court of Appeal, which overturned the acquittal.

The Government recently proposed measures aimed at preventing abuse of the court process and the waste of judicial resources by people trying to reopen their criminal cases after exhausting all avenues of appeal.

Mr Thuraisingam told The Straits Times: "My client looks forward to vindicating his position before the trial judge with the fresh evidence."

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

Ex-financial adviser fined for data breach

Straits Times
17 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

A former financial consultant was fined $1,000 for breaching data protection laws by disposing of clients' insurance policy-related documents in a rubbish bin in a residential estate.

The Commissioner for Data Protection had launched a probe after receiving a complaint on Oct 10 last year that Prudential folders were recovered from a bin at a multistorey carpark at Block 821A, Jurong West Street 81.

Ang Rui Song admitted he had disposed of the folders containing data belonging to a dozen insurance policyholders, claiming he did so at the clients' request and had placed the documents in a plastic bag before throwing it into the bin.

The data included names, identity card numbers and sums assured, among other things. Ang had possession of his clients' folders while he was a financial consultant with Prudential Assurance Company. But by the time he dumped them, he had already left the firm.

In decision grounds issued on Monday, the Commissioner made clear that Prudential was neither to be blamed nor held responsible for the data breach that occurred or the way the documents were disposed of in the incident. "Prudential had reasonable policies in place which dealt with proper and secure disposal of clients' policy documents," wrote the Commissioner.

He noted that Prudential policies required the return of client data to the insurer when individuals cease being financial advisers. Alternatively, the company requires them to dispose of the data securely - for instance, by shredding.

Ang, as a financial adviser, was an independent contractor and not a Prudential employee under the engagement terms, noted the Commissioner. Before leaving Prudential, he was told to return the documents to it but had failed to do so. When asked why he did not use the locked console boxes for shredding provided by Prudential, Ang said the boxes were in the Prudential main office while he was working at the branch office.

The Commissioner rejected this, ruling Ang's disposal method "inappropriate given the sensitivity of the information found in the documents". In imposing the $1,000 penalty, the Commissioner took into account the sensitive nature of the data contained in the 13 insurance certificates and two letters found. But he also noted that the documents were "not disposed of in a high traffic area such as a busy street or shopping mall".

The Commissioner stressed that "organisations should take a very serious view of any instance of non-compliance under the Personal Data Protection Act" and will not "hesitate to take enforcement action".

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

Ang Rui Song [2017] SGPDPC 13

Workplace safety: The next frontier

Straits Times
10 Aug 2017
Toh Yong Chuan

The record on work safety is mixed. After rapid progress from 2004 to 2014, the numbers slipped in 2015 and 2016, although they improved in the first half of this year. What's needed for Singapore to scale the next level of the worker-safety bar?

The year 2004 was a pivotal one for workers' safety in Singapore. That was the year the Nicoll Highway collapsed on April 20, killing four workers and injuring three others.

Just nine days later, the collapse of a steel structure at the Fusionopolis worksite on April 29 killed two workers and injured 29 others. A month later, a fire on board the ship Almudaina on May 29 at the Keppel Shipyard killed seven workers and injured three.

These three accidents triggered a round of soul-searching.

It also led to sweeping changes in workplace safety.

Workplace safety numbers improved dramatically after that, from 2004 to 2014. But they started dipping in 2015 and last year, although the first six months of this year have seen lower rates of accidents and deaths than last year.

One recent accident has put the spotlight on worker safety issues again, raising the question of whether it is time to push for even higher workplace safety standards.

On July 14, a section of a Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) viaduct under construction in Upper Changi Road East collapsed. One worker was killed and 10 others injured.

What more can be done to make workplaces safer in Singapore?

A GOOD DECADE

A look back to measures taken after the 2004 accidents is instructive.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) reviewed the workplace safety framework. Its staff visited Britain, Germany, Sweden and France to study their laws and practices.

It announced a new occupational safety and health blueprint in Parliament on March 10, 2005, to cut workplace deaths by one-third in five years and by half in a decade, or 2015.

On Oct 17, 2005, the ministry proposed new legislation in Parliament - the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act - to replace the Factories Act to regulate occupational safety and health.

When the proposed law was debated in January 2006, then Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen said the three high-profile accidents had "added new impetus and urgency" to MOM reforming the Factories Act - which it had started studying how to do so five years earlier. The new legislation was passed and enacted that year.

In November 2005, the MOM also set up a Workplace Safety and Health Advisory Committee to help industry efforts to raise occupational safety and health standards. The committee became the WSH Council in 2008 and it continues to champion workplace safety and health today.

These multiple efforts bore fruit.

By 2010, workplace fatalities fell to 2.2 per 100,000 workers, achieving the target to reduce such deaths by half - five years ahead of schedule.

A new target to further reduce the deaths to 1.8 per 100,000 workers was set on 2009, and achieved on 2014. Workplace fatality rates have fallen from 4.9 per 100,000 workers in 2004 to a record low of 1.8 in 2014.

However, the improvements were not sustained and workplace fatalities crept up in 2015 and last year. In both years, the fatalities crept up to 1.9 per 100,000 workers.

The number of workplace injuries also fell gradually from 460 per 100,000 workers in 2007 to 364 in 2015, before creeping up to 382 last year.

Singapore's record is mixed compared with other countries'.

It fares better than the United States, which had 3.38 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2015. But it lags way behind Britain, which had 0.43 deaths per 100,000 workers from April 2016 to March this year.

If Singapore were a member of the European Union, it will roughly be at the lower middle half of the 28 member states in terms of workplace fatalities, coming in behind countries like Britain, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, which had fewer than one death per 100,000 workers.

Official statistics released last week showed that 19 workers died on the job between January and June this year, down sharply from 42 in the same period last year.

Similarly, the number of injured workers declined from 6,245 to 6,151 in the same period.

COMMON CAUSES OF WORKPLACE FATALITIES AND INJURIES

If Singapore is to keep up the trend of reducing workplace accidents and deaths, it needs to have a clearer picture of the top causes of such injuries and deaths.

In Singapore, the top causes were slips, trips and falls, and being struck by moving vehicles. Most fatalities were from the construction sector.

A study of overseas trends found similar patterns. Last month, the Health and Safety Executive, the British government body responsible for workplace safety and health, released data which showed that the construction sector was the most deadly in the United Kingdom, from April last year to March this year. The two top causes of death for workers were falls from height and being struck by moving vehicles.

The US also has a similar pattern. In 2015, the construction sector had the most number of fatal work injuries, and the two top causes of deaths were transportation incidents, and falls, slips and trips.

What is also telling is that no country has been able to cut workplace fatalities to zero on a sustained basis.

LOOKING AHEAD

To bring worker safety to the next level, Singapore needs to go beyond reducing work falls and accidents.

We need to review the regulatory environment too.

In the case of the recent PIE viaduct accident, the main contractor for the work was Or Kim Peow Contractors (OKP). It was awarded the contract in November 2015 despite another fatal accident having taken place just two months earlier, at the company's worksite at another flyover.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said in Parliament last week that the contractor was given "a low safety performance score" when the Land Transport Authority (LTA) evaluated the bids, but its "lowest tender price and good track record in completing many similar infrastructure projects over the past 10 years" outweighed its low safety score.

In other words, low price won over safety concerns.

The LTA should rethink the balance between price and safety.

If it tilts the balance further in favour of contractors without safety lapses, it gives contractors a financial incentive to keep their workers safe.

This is not the only area that the authorities ought to review. Another area is the WSH Act itself.

UPDATING THE LAW

The last major update of the WSH Act was in 2011 when main contractors were made responsible for worksite safety and MOM officers were given more powers to investigate worksite hazards.

The MOM started reviewing the law earlier this year.

It is looking at enhancing deterrence against worksite accidents, improving the industry's learning from such accidents through the release of accident reports, and raising the maximum administrative fine for offences that result in serious injuries or deaths from $20,000 to $50,000.

Labour MP Melvin Yong said the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) supports tougher punishment.

"It acts as a deterrence and sends a strong message that any WSH breaches are not to be taken lightly," said the NTUC director for workplace safety and health.

The Government can consider imposing a custodial sentence or unlimited fines as deterrence, said Mr Vernon Voon, employment and labour relations partner at law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing.

He pointed out that in the UK, "corporate manslaughter" is an offence that can lead to jail time for the company's executives if they are found to be criminally responsible for the deaths, and the courts can impose unlimited fines at 5 to 10 per cent of a company's turnover.

"In cases where an industrial death occurs from the gross negligence of the company's officers, the Government could perhaps look into legislating a minimum custodial sentence on the company," he said.

Besides updating the law, another approach is to rope in more parties to lower workplace injuries.

So far, the WSH Council has focused primarily on the three-way partnership of the Government, unions and employers.

Insurers are another player that can help in reducing workplace injuries and fatalities.

Insurers monitor workplace accidents and, in particular, companies with poor track records to understand what is going wrong, said Mr Karl Hamann, chief executive of QBE Insurance Singapore.

"We also have a role in holding companies to account, making it clear that having insurance should not make safety an afterthought," he added.

If the authorities can learn from insurers how they gather information and assess workplace risks, then it can have a more complete picture of risk assessments and, logically, improve risk prevention.

Thirteen years ago, the horrifying Nicoll Highway collapse and series of high-profile industrial accidents triggered sweeping action that made the workplace safer for workers.

The PIE viaduct collapse last month is an early warning bell.

We should not wait until more deaths pile up before we are spurred to do more to prevent more workers from getting injured or dying on the job.

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

Uber-owned firm's case against supplier dismissed

Straits Times
03 Aug 2017
Adrian Lim

The High Court has dismissed an application by Lion City Rentals, an Uber-owned car leasing firm, to place one of its car suppliers under court supervision.

Lion City Rentals, which rents out vehicles to Uber drivers, alleged that Sunrita failed to deliver an order of more than 2,400 cars on time, for which it paid over $130 million.

The firm applied to the court for Sunrita to be put under judicial management.

While businesses can continue operating under such a order, it will have to be with the court's supervision. In the meantime, they can try and turn their businesses around.

The dispute was heard on July 21, and Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy dismissed Lion City Rentals' application, with costs payable to Sunrita.

In a statement yesterday, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, which represents Sunrita, said no contractual obligations between its client and Lion City Rentals were breached, as there was "no stipulated delivery date or deadline in the contract".

Lion City Rentals, however, claimed in its court application that all the vehicles should have been delivered by Dec 31 last year. The Straits Times understands that the orders were placed between March and June last year.

Sunrita, in written submissions to the court, said it delivered 2,186 of the 2,463 cars, and 277 cars were outstanding as of June 23 this year. At the time of the hearing, there were 171 cars left to be delivered.

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing partner Sivakumar Murugaiyan, speaking to The Straits Times, said: "Our client's position throughout has been that Lion City Rental's application for judicial management is misconceived.

"Leaving aside the merit of disputes between the parties, Sunrita has been in existence for nearly 50 years, and is financially sound, with significant assets."

Mr Murugaiyan added that the directors and shareholders of Sunrita are "very gratified" that the judicial management application has been dismissed.

The court also heard that Sunrita was "profitable and had net assets in excess of $20 million", said RHTLaw Taylor Wessing.

Sunrita's main business is property investment in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Britain but it diversified into the car business last year.

Asked about the court's decision, Lion City Rentals said it will "study the verdict and explore the next steps".

Lion City Rentals was formed in early 2015 by Uber. The firm has been tight-lipped on its fleet size, but an ST report said in March that it had nearly 10,000 cars.

There are more than 42,000 private-hire cars on the roads now.

In 2012, before ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab entered the market, there were only close to 500 private-hire cars, which were mainly operated by limousine firms.

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

Workers’ Party MPs file joint defence against AHTC lawsuit

TODAY
17 Aug 2017
Kelly Ng

Three Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament (MPs) have filed their defence against allegations that they acted in breach of their fiduciary duties as town councillors of the Aljunied and Hougang constituencies.

Laying out the “difficult circumstances” faced in taking over the town council, party chief Low Thia Khiang, Aljunied-Hougang town council (AHTC) chairman Pritam Singh and vice-chairman Sylvia Lim said they had “at all times, acted in good faith and in accordance with (their) duties as town councillors”.

“Our actions had the best interests of the residents of AHTC at heart and sought to ensure that AHTC was able to fulfil all its functions and duties, notwithstanding the difficult circumstances that we were faced with,” they said in a joint statement on WP’s website on Wednesday (Aug 16) evening.

The MPs, represented by lawyers from Tan Rajah & Cheah, stressed that Mr Low and Ms Lim had acted “in the best interests of (their) residents” in appointing FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) as the town council’s managing agent.

The lawsuit — brought against them by a three-member independent panel on behalf of AHTC — had accused the MPs of setting up a faulty system that allowed the appointment of FMSS, and made it possible for the company and/or its officers to benefit themselves.

It also charged that the MPs entered into contracts with architects in breach of duties owed to AHTC.

The lawsuit was filed last month by the panel, consisting of senior lawyers Philip Jeyaretnam and N Sreenivasan as well as accountant Ong Pang Thye.

They were appointed in February to recommend the recovery actions the AHTC needs to take over the large sums of improper payments that it had made from its funds. The payments were flagged by the town council’s auditor KPMG in October last year.

In annexes to their defence made available on WP’s website, the MPs laid out challenges they faced after taking over the Hougang Single Member Constituency and Aljunied Group Representation Constituency from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

After Mr Low took over Hougang in 1991, for instance, he was told that the incumbent managing agent would be terminating its contract with the town council. Upon taking over Aljunied in 2011, Mr Low “knew (that) the continuity of essential services by the existing service providers was at risk in light of his earlier experiences”, according to court documents.

“Their best chance of success, in (Mr Low’s) assessment, was to depend on the existing staff and IT system in Hougang Town Council,” it said.

He was “proven right”, it added, when none of the three players in the HDB township management prior to the 2011 General Election, which had been serving PAP town councils, submitted bids in an open tender the WP called in 2012 for managing agent services.

“They felt it was disadvantageous for them should they choose to work for opposition town councils since all town councils have political connections. It is therefore unlikely and difficult for them to be willing or sincere in helping the opposition to manage a town well, as that would increase the political clout of WP as a credible opposition party,” the three MPs argued.

In 2011, the WP was also confronted with the termination of a town council management system by Action Information Management, a company fully owned by the PAP.

It needed to upscale existing computing and accounting systems in Hougang to avoid disrupting its services to residents.

There was therefore an “immediate and urgent need” to appoint a replacement, said the MPs.

They “did not have the luxury of time” to call for an open tender because doing so “could result in a real danger that services to the residents would be disrupted in the meantime”, they added.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Faster patent process now with new automated system

TODAY
10 Aug 2017

Platform helps cut tedious tasks, frees up examiners to do more value-added work

When Innosparks, an incubator set up by ST Engineering, produced its Air+ Smart Mask, which has its own micro ventilator, it filed three patents in Singapore around two years ago.

Last year, the company moved to take its product overseas by launching in China, where it is also preparing to file for a patent, said its head of engineering, Mr Jerome Lee.

“The piracy issue comes up a lot in China, and we have already taken action,” said Mr Lee.

Its Air+ Smart Mask, used in times of haze or air pollution has a micro ventilator to draw out heat, moisture and carbon dioxide, a valve, and a measuring gauge to enable users to estimate the size of the mask for a better fit.

For companies such as Innosparks, intellectual property (IP) rights are an important asset.

A faster process to grant patents could mean a world of difference in terms of getting ahead of competitors, or to take more timely action against pirates.

Such businesses can look forward to a new patent examination platform created by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) and the Government Technology Agency.

The new system will not only cut man-hours, but free up patent examiners — those who decide whether to grant patents for products — to do more analytical and value-added work.

Rolled out in June, the new platform has cut down between 30 and 50 per cent of the lengthy and sometimes complex process of assessing the patent application — which can take months. Previously, when a company filed a patent, examiners had to manually search through hundreds of documents just to see if there were already similar patented products.

Now, with this new system, the search is automated, cutting down a lot of tedious, manual work.

In an interview with TODAY, Ipos chief executive Daren Tang said: “It is about working more efficiently, reducing the amount of mechanical work.

“Then the examiners can spend time on making the assessment on whether the product is novel enough to be granted a patent.

“If we give something that does not deserve to be patented a 20-year monopoly it creates inefficiency in the economy because it is undeserving.

“Doing a better job of assessment also means that the patent is less likely to be challenged by other companies,” he pointed out.

The entire patent process can take up to a couple of years.

“A faster patent process would allow us to commercialise our IP faster, and it is also a selling strength as consumers would find our products more credible,” said Mr Lee of Innosparks.

“Having a faster grant also gives us the option of taking action against companies which try to pirate our products, especially for (some of) those in China which do not care about IP,” he said.

Singapore-headquartered companies, as a rule, have to file patents here first before doing it overseas.

In Singapore, the number of applications for patents has risen rapidly in the past 10 years.

In 2006, the number of patents filed by local companies was just 626 and this has jumped to 1,601 last year.

In total, the number of patents registered by local and foreign companies was 10,980 last year.

Mr Tang said that the growth in the IP industry also reflected how the economy has changed.

“We are seeing a lot of patents driven by tech trends such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles.

“We are beginning to see a very strong start-up community, and hope to see more patents from the community. The focus is to encourage more IP commercialisation, which is important for the future economy,” he said.

In April, Ipos teamed up with local private equity firm Makara Capital Partners to create the Makara Innovation Fund to invest S$1 billion to help innovative companies develop their businesses and expand overseas.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Soh saw weak case against him but believed he would be charged nonetheless, court told

Business Times
03 Aug 2017
Kenneth Lim

He wants prosecution to furnish all information, documents he deems relevant to bail application

The man accused of masterminding the 2013 penny stock crash told a remisier before he was arrested in November 2016 that he did not think investigators had a strong case against him, but he believed they would still find a way to charge him and seek a prison sentence, it was revealed in arguments before the High Court on Wednesday.

Lawyers for John Soh Chee Wen want the court to compel prosecutors to provide documents, including all recordings of conversations between Soh and that remisier, that they say are relevant to their client's bail application.

The prosecution, however, argued that the application is tantamount to fishing for evidence.

Justice See Kee Oon said that he wanted time to consider the arguments made on Wednesday before giving his ruling, and has adjourned the case to Aug 8.

Soh is seeking all audio recordings of conversations between him and remisier Gabriel Gan; and evidence and statements obtained by investigators from Mr Gan, former analyst Ken Tai and former LionGold executive Peter Chen that are relevant or contradict the prosecution's arguments during a previous bail application in the lower court.

The earlier bail application was denied by a district judge in February this year, when prosecutors said that Soh was a flight risk and capable of tampering with witnesses.

In Wednesday's hearing, Soh's lawyer, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng of Wong Partnership, argued that, in the interest of "justice and fairness", Soh needed access to the totality of evidence that is being used against him in his bail application, otherwise the prosecution could selectively present only the evidence that was detrimental to Soh.

Mr Tan's position relied on a recorded conversation between Soh and Mr Gan that was obtained following Soh's arrest in November.

According to a transcript read in court, Soh told Mr Gan: "I'm quite confident. Going forward, nothing has changed. They've got f**k all to charge me, but of course they will find something to charge me."

Soh also said: "The case against me is very weak . . . Of course, against (former Ipco International chief executive Quah Su-Ling) and the rest, it's stronger."

Asked by Mr Gan whether prosecutors will push for jail, Soh said: "Of course they will push for jail sentence."

Mr Tan argued that prosecutors had only used parts of the conversation that supported their stance, which was that Soh did not bother to leave Singapore prior to his arrest not because he was not a flight risk, but because he was so confident that investigators had no case against him. It was therefore possible that other information that the prosecution has not shared could support Soh's application, Mr Tan said.

The prosecution, presented by Deputy Public Prosecutor Peter Koy, countered that Soh had already been provided with six recordings of converations between Soh and Mr Gan for the earlier bail application.

Soh's request for records of all other conversations between him and Mr Gan, and for all additional evidence that may contradict the prosecutor's case, was too broad, Mr Koy said. It would also wrongly take the bail proceedings into the realm of a trial, which is where the evidence is supposed to be tested.

"This is in effect a fishing expedition," Mr Koy said, noting that the burden of proof lay with the accused in a bail hearing. "He is asking us to open our covers in the hope that they will get something . . . The application is telling us I don't have anything more than I already have and used in the bail hearings, but please give me all that you have so that I can see if there's anything there."

Mr Tan argued that the prosecution was trying to set an impossible standard of specificity given that Soh has no way of knowing what statements investigators had obtained from others.

"It is precisely because in a criminal matter we do not have this open exchange of documents that the prosecution is not entitled to take a restrictive view of their obligations," he said. "This is not a game of catch me if you can. This is not a battle of wits. While the criminal process is adversarial, both parties in this process are parties to the fair administration of justice."

Soh faces 188 charges related to the penny crash, in which the collapse of Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group), Blumont Group and LionGold Corp in October 2013 triggered a massive sell-off in low-priced stocks on the Singapore Exchange. Quah and former Ipco interim chief executive Goh Hin Calm have also been charged in the case.

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

Firm with lower bid for projects 'significantly less efficient'

Straits Times
17 Aug 2017
Royston Sim

The Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) had awarded contracts to a contractor with a higher bid as it had found the firm with a lower price to be "significantly less efficient", said members of its tenders and contracts committee.

In their defence filed in court on Tuesday, Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Chua Zhi Hon and Mr Kenneth Foo denied that they had breached Town Councils Financial Rules for 10 construction projects.

A lawsuit against the members claims they had breached the rules by failing to call a tender for each project and not accepting the lowest bid for seven projects - thereby costing AHTC an extra $2,794,560.

The members said they appointed LST Architects for seven projects even though it charged higher fees as they found that Design Metabolists was "significantly less efficient than LST, resulting in project delays to the detriment of the residents".

They noted that AHTC had called a tender around September 2012 to appoint consultants to a panel for a period of three years.

LST Architects and Design Metabolists - the only two firms that made bids - were appointed.

AHTC then entered into separate agreements with each firm to provide certain services at pre-agreed rates for three years, they said.

The tenders and contracts committee was chaired by Mr Singh, the current chairman of AHTC. Ms Lim is Workers' Party (WP) chairman, Mr Chua was a former member of the WP Youth Wing executive committee, while Mr Foo was WP deputy organising secretary and a candidate in Nee Soon GRC in the 2015 General Election (GE).

The members contend that "there was no longer an obligation to call tenders for consultancy services for each of the 10 projects" as AHTC had complied with the requirement under the Town Councils Financial Rules and called a tender for consultants to be on the panel.

They also noted that the former Aljunied Town Council had appointed four firms, including Design Metabolists, to a panel of consultants from April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2012. Despite having pre-agreed rates for its panel, the town council chose to ignore these rates and awarded Design Metabolists three projects based on rates in fresh quotations or tenders, they said.

They said these projects were awarded to Design Metabolists before the 2011 GE, and AHTC had inherited them after Aug 1, 2011.

They added that the committee's role was limited to vetting tendering specifications drawn up by the managing agent, evaluating bids received and awarding the tender.

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

Cyber Security Bill's success lies in how rules apply to each sector

Straits Times
10 Aug 2017
Shaun Wang

We live in an age of rapid digitisation where mobile communication and cloud computing have dramatically increased cyber connectivity. We

The economic benefits of digitisation are shown by leading companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Tencent and Alibaba. Digitisation has, however, produced economic threats such as hacking, cyber espionage and fake news.

As a result, cyber security has become a key concern for countries, businesses and consumers. More than just a technical issue, cyber security is economically important. Cyber risk management involves controlling the negative aspects of the digital economy and protecting its benefits. Singapore's ability to manage the myriad of fast evolving threats to cyber security will determine its future economic trajectory.

On July 10, Singapore's Government released a draft Cyber Security Bill for public consultation that ended recently. The Bill proposes handing broad authority to the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) to coordinate efforts and to designate owners of critical information infrastructure (CII). It formalises the duties of CII owners in ensuring their own cyber security, including conducting regular audits of compliance and making regular assessments of cyber threats. Failure to comply is a criminal offence carrying a maximum fine of $100,000 or a 10-year jail term, or both.

The Bill focuses on CII owners, but its impact is much broader because many organisations have business ties with CII owners.

The Bill shows that Singapore is taking a holistic approach to cyber threats to protect the system of CII.

Although the Bill is comprehensive, it is unrealistic to expect it to cover all aspects of cyber threats or enumerate every possible situation. The Bill largely addresses computer systems, and less so false information and fake news on social media. It also does not seek to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of cyber crimes, which the law enforcement authorities are responsible for.

Research reveals that the efficacy of rules-based regulation declines when complexity increases, and the marginal benefit of compliance decreases when the cost exceeds a threshold. As such, we must weigh the cost of compliance and the economic benefit from strengthening cyber security.

To be sure, the Bill carries risks and rewards should it be passed into law. On the upside, the Bill will help Singapore become a Smart Nation by enhancing its cyber security and information security technology. That will give the country a competitive edge and secure its leadership as a regional centre of finance, shipping and aviation.

The downside is that the costs of regulatory compliance and audits may hurt Singapore's economic competitiveness and deter international investors.

The public needs to be kept apprised of how the Bill's regulatory demands would be met, and an analysis of the economic costs and benefits. Singapore needs to set practical parameters and focus on pragmatic solutions. Regulatory compliance by itself is not enough to tackle cyber criminals from around the world, and spending more on bolstering cyber security may not always work. Companies should, nevertheless, be encouraged to step up their cyber defence capability.

What will become most relevant are regulations specific to individual sectors. The efficacy of Singapore's cyber security will depend on how the legislative Bill is translated into sector-specific regulations. The Government says it will impose reasonable regulatory requirements on CII owners, and harmonise current sector-specific regulations with the Cyber Security Bill.

No matter how much effort is invested in drafting the legislative Bill, there is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution to cyber security, as CII varies in importance. There are also questions on how small and mid-sized companies - many of whom provide services to CII owners - would be affected by cyber attacks. Some software vendors and cloud service providers operate internationally, and it is not clear how the Bill would affect them. Perhaps the Bill can give more leeway to the commissioner of the CSA in carrying out his work.

The real benefit of the Bill will be seen in how it is translated to regulations for individual sectors.

It could spur Singapore to develop innovative risk management solutions by using the expertise of insurance and information security firms in a cost-effective way. That would ease CII owners' regulatory burden and provide them with prevention measures and post-breach recovery plans.

Indeed, legalising the Bill could help Singapore to develop a robust cyber security system and risk management industry. The success of the Bill hinges on whether it enables business solutions to enhance cyber security.


Dr Shaun Wang is Professor of Actuarial Science and director of the Insurance Risk and Finance Research Centre at Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

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

IPP Financial Advisers fails in appeal for lower CCS penalty

Business Times
03 Aug 2017
Claire Huang

The appeal of one of 10 financial advisory (FA) firms slapped with fines for collectively infringing the competition law has been dismissed.

The Competition Appeal Board (CAB) on Wednesday said that it has thrown out IPP Financial Advisers' appeal to substantially reduce its fine of S$239,851 imposed in March last year by the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS).

The board also ordered IPP to pay the original financial penalty amount, together with interest and costs of the appeal.

"On 18 July 2017, IPP paid the outstanding financial penalty of S$239,851 together with interest as ordered by the CAB," said CCS.

IPP and nine other FA firms were found to have come together on May 2 and 3, 2013, to force a competitor, iFAST, to withdraw its offer of a 50 per cent commission rebate on life insurance products on its website Fundsupermart.com.

The 10 firms were fined a total of S$909,302 by the CCS in March last year for violating Section 34 of the Competition Act, which prohibits "any...agreements and/or concerted practices which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction of distortion of competition within Singapore".

CCS had found that the leveraging of iFAST's established online platform to reach out to its wide client base allowed iFAST to save on distribution costs that could have been passed on to consumers through a significant commission rebate.

But a few days after the collective pressuring, iFAST withdrew the Fundsupermart offer.

In its decision dated June 29 this year, the board found that the object of the "infringing conduct was clearly to prevent the entry of a new competitor into the market for individual life insurance products in Singapore, and to prevent the competitor from providing a cheaper alternative product that would affect its own business".

This, it said, is injurious to competition by its very nature as it would result in the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition in the relevant market.

The CAB also noted that "the market never returned to the state of competition that would have existed had the Fundsupermart offer not been withdrawn".

Toh Han Li, CCS' chief executive, said the disruptive entry of a new competitor with an innovative offering would inevitably cause displeasure and outcry among existing market players.

"However, market players need to decide their own individual competitive response. In this case, colluding to collectively pressure a competitor into withdrawing its innovative offering prevents consumers from enjoying significant benefits such as greater choice, greater convenience, more competitive prices, and prevented the market from becoming more competitive," he said.

"CCS will take the necessary enforcement measures to allow new entrants to fairly compete with the existing market players on a level playing field, such that the market becomes more efficient, innovative and responsive to consumer's needs," he added.

The CCS said that the other nine FA firms, including PIAS and Financial Alliance, paid the financial penalties imposed on them within two months of the date of their receipt of the infringement decision.

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

Condo residents fume over 'ban' on smoking on their balconies

Straits Times
17 Aug 2017
Cheow Sue-Ann

Meadows@Peirce cites rule against nuisance acts, but some say move affects private property

A dispute is brewing at a condominium in Upper Thomson Road over whether or not residents can smoke on their own balconies.

The management agent of Meadows@Peirce recently sent out a circular telling residents they should not smoke on their balconies and in window areas, in addition to common areas where smoking is already prohibited by the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The advisory cited a clause from the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act (BMSMA) that prohibits owners from doing anything that can be a nuisance to others.

The move has triggered arguments on the residents' Facebook group over whether or not the condominium management has a say in activities on private property.

Mr Ivan Wang is one resident who believes the notice had gone too far.

He said he is not alone in believing that the management has overstepped its boundaries and the definition of what can be considered a serious nuisance.

"But as usual, there are people who just feel like controlling what other people want to do," said Mr Wang, who is in his 30s and works in export sales.

"Unfortunately, the definition of what is considered a nuisance is not clearly stated."

Ms Karen Law Krygsman, 46, a credit manager, said: "Residents are blindsided as they have no idea of the context of the advisory.

"The management should send a friendly reminder to all residents first. Only when repeated reminders fail, then more hardball tactics can be employed. They should also try to mediate between opposing parties, like HDB does.

"Using the clause was heavy- handed - it should not have been invoked so soon."

Some residents agree with the idea of encouraging residents to refrain from smoking in open-air areas, but said homes were a different matter.

Ms Karen Chan, 45, who works in IT, said: "It is a good thing to have such a notice, but at the end of the day, the balcony is still someone's private property."

When The Straits Times called the management committee at Meadows@Peirce, a representative said the circular was just meant to urge residents to be considerate towards one another, and a reminder of NEA guidelines on areas where smoking is forbidden.

Still, the episode has touched on an issue that is increasingly heated as Singapore continues its move towards being a smoke-free nation.

Earlier this year, dozens wrote to ST on the issue of neighbours smoking in surrounding Housing Board flats.

HDB and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) told ST that smoking in private residences is legal.

Lawyers said condominium management committees may not be able to enforce rules that are based on the clause cited by the management of Meadows@Peirce.

Mr Francis Goh, partner of law firm Eversheds Harry Elias, said there are no criminal penalties for breaches of the particular clause under the BMSMA, but the management of a condominium has the option of creating a by-law.

The management can then apply to court for an order to restrain the breach of the by-law and seek appropriate penalties for those who do so.

When asked, BCA said the management of a condominium may make by-laws. This can be done through a vote at a general meeting.

Every by-law made by the management is binding on its subsidiary proprietors, lessees and occupiers, said BCA.

However, BCA said the management should seek legal advice on any by-law to ensure it is keeping with the provisions of the BMSMA.

On the other hand, residents of HDB flats are free to smoke on their balconies.

Under HDB's ruling, balconies come under private property and are therefore not included in the NEA's list of non-smoking areas.


The episode at Meadows@Peirce has touched on an issue that is increasingly heated as Singapore continues its move towards being a smoke-free nation. Earlier this year, dozens wrote to The Straits Times on the issue of neighbours smoking in surrounding Housing Board flats.

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

ADV: Project manager, Legal Technology (5-Year Contract)

Singapore Law Watch
10 Aug 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

Contempt of court: 2-week suspended jail term for Hour Glass co-founder

Straits Times
03 Aug 2017
Selina Lum

Prominent businesswoman Jannie Chan, 72, was given a two-week suspended jail term yesterday for flouting a court order by sending her former husband hundreds of allegedly defamatory e-mails.

It was the third time Chan's former husband Henry Tay, 73, has pursued contempt of court proceedings against her. He dropped the case the first time after she apologised, and she was fined $30,000 the second time.

The couple, who co-founded luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass, ended their 41-year marriage in 2010.

Yesterday, the High Court sentenced her to two weeks in jail for her latest breach, but suspended the prison term for a year, provided she stops sending Dr Tay e-mails, continues to undergo psychiatric treatment once a month and keeps her former husband updated about each session.

If she complies with the conditions within the year, Chan does not need to serve any jail time.

However, if she fails to comply, Dr Tay can go to court to lift the suspension, which means Chan could end up in jail.

Dr Tay first filed a lawsuit against Chan in 2014 for sending him 1,260 e-mails between November 2013 and September 2014, which, he alleged, were defamatory or amounted to harassment.

Some were sent to other recipients, including family members, friends, employees and Cabinet ministers.

Throughout the proceedings, multiple court orders were issued to restrain Chan from defaming Dr Tay and harassing him by sending him e-mails without his consent. But she repeatedly flouted the orders.

The latest breach involves nearly 500 e-mails sent between March last year and February, and between April and last month.

Chan appeared in court last month to explain the e-mails. She said they were mainly to update her former husband about matters relating to their daughter Audrey and Audrey's children, and the companies owned by her and Dr Tay.

During the hearing, she veered off topic several times, and raised grievances against her former husband's "Korean lady friend".

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

Jail, caning for British trio who sexually violated woman

TODAY
16 Aug 2017
Alfred Chua

Lambasting three Britons for their “reprehensible” conduct towards a drunk and unconscious woman they took turns to sexually violate, a High Court judge on Tuesday (Aug 15) sentenced them to jail for five-and-a-half to six-and-a-half years, and five to eight strokes of the cane.

Vu Thai Son, 24, Khong Tam Thanh, 22, and Michael Le, 24, had on Monday pleaded guilty to reduced charges of aggravated outrage of modesty, four days into their trial for rape. It was not mentioned in court why their charges were reduced.

Vu, who had the stiffest sentence of six-and-a-half years’ jail and eight strokes of the cane, was the most culpable of the three, said Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng.

He did not use a condom when he was sexually assaulting the woman, exposing her to “the risks of an unwanted pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted disease(s)”.

Khong was sentenced to six years’ jail and eight strokes of the cane, while Le, 24, was jailed five-and-a-half years with five strokes of the cane.

Khong and Vu were also convicted on Monday of an additional charge of molesting the victim, who cannot be named due to a court order.

JC Hoo noted the “disturbing facts” of the case and said the men took advantage of their victim’s vulnerable state. “While she was asleep, and quite unable to protect herself, they took advantage of her vulnerable state so as to commit these serious sexual crimes,” she said. “Purely to obtain sexual gratification, they violated the victim. In doing so, they showed no respect for her dignity and autonomy, and no regard for any harm and hurt they might cause to her.”

The three men, who are of Vietnamese descent, arrived in Singapore with friends on Sept 9 last year to celebrate Khong’s brother’s stag-night. The group stayed at Carlton Hotel and went to Zouk nightclub that night. A member of the group, Mr Ahn Viet Trinh, also known as Richard, met the 23-year-old Malaysian woman and later had consensual sex with her in his hotel room.

The woman fell asleep and Mr Ahn later let Khong into the room, where he molested and sexually assaulted her. Khong left the door ajar and Vu went in to molest and have unprotected sex with her.

Le was the third to enter the room and the victim woke up and saw him sexually penetrating her. The victim later called a friend to pick her up and a police report was made.

The judge, however, noted the trio’s remorse — each writing a letter of apology to the woman — and lack of violence or premeditation.

JC Hoo also noted their plea of guilt, which “spared the victim the agony of testifying and being subject to cross-examination by three defence lawyers”, and said it was a “weighty mitigating factor”.

The prosecution had sought a six-year jail term, with caning, for Le, and seven years’ imprisonment, with caning, for both Khong and Vu. The families of Khong and Le, including the former’s daughter and the latter’s nephew, were present in court yesterday.

Khong will start his sentence on Aug 22 after the judge allowed him to spend a week with his family, who had flown in from the United Kingdom.

Le will start serving his jail term on Aug 18, after spending a few days with his family. Vu, who has been in remand since Sept 21 last year, will have his sentence backdated.

For aggravated outrage of modesty, each faced a jail term of two to 10 years, and caning.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Penny crash trials: Court rejects Soh's bid for documents

Business Times
09 Aug 2017
Kenneth Lim

The man accused of masterminding the 2013 penny stock crash has failed to force prosecutors to hand over documents that he said could support his bail application.

Justice See Kee Oon on Tuesday agreed with the prosecution that John Soh Chee Wen's request was overly broad and amounted to a "fishing expedition" for evidence in the prosecution's possession.

Soh, whose earlier application for bail had been denied by a lower court, is seeking bail through the High Court, and had sought documents from the prosecution that he believed could support the latest bail application.

Those documents included all recordings of conversations between him and a remisier, Gabriel Gan; and evidence and statements by Mr Gan, former analyst Ken Tai and former

LionGold Corp executive Peter Chen that are relevant or that contradict what the prosecution had said in Soh's earlier bail application.

Addressing an argument made by Soh's lawyer, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng of Wong Partnership, the judge said that it was incorrect to try to expand the scope of the prosecution's obligations to produce evidence for bail applications.

The burden of proof rightly lies with the accused during bail applications since the burden of proof lies with the prosecution during trial, Justice See said. The prosecution should not be placed in a position of effectively aiding defendants to discharge that burden, and disclosure obligations that apply to trial should not be extended to pre-trial matters outside of the existing legal framework, the judge said.

Justice See also disagreed with Soh's argument that a recorded conversation between Soh and Mr Gan before Soh's arrest in November - a transcript of which was provided by prosecutors to Soh's lawyers during the earlier bail application - suggested that prosecutors were only selectively sharing evidence that boosted the prosecution's case.

"There's no inherent contradiction" between the released transcript of the conversation and the prosecution's argument that Soh was confident that investigators would not have a strong case against him, the judge said.

The transcript showed a "palpable measure of defiance, even smugness" from Soh, Justice See said.

Soh faces 188 charges related to the events surrounding the October 2013 crash in the stock prices of Asiasons Capital (now known as Attilan Group), Blumont Group and LionGold Corp, which triggered massive sell-offs in a number of penny stocks. Former Ipco International chief executive Quah Su-Ling and former Ipco interim chief executive Goh Hin Calm have also been charged in the case. Quah and Goh are out on bail.

A hearing date for the latest bail application has not been set.

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

A curious case about ABSD

Business Times
03 Aug 2017
Joanna Yap

Additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD) – introduced as part of a series of measures aimed at moderating properties prices in Singapore – caught many by surprise as it took effect the day after it was introduced on Dec 7, 2011. In essence, ABSD is an additional tax payable on top of the usual stamp duty on the acquisition of a property. The rate to be applied to the purchase of the residential property broadly depends on three factors:

i) whether the purchaser is a Singapore citizen, permanent resident or a foreigner;

ii) whether the purchaser is an individual or an entity; and

iii) the number of properties owned by the purchaser at the material time.

In anticipation that residential property may be purchased under a trust arrangement, the law provides that the purchaser shall be the benefcial owner of the residential property. With respect to trust arrangements, there are broadly three categories of trust:

i) bare trust: the benefciaries and their entitlements are fxed;

ii) discretionary trust: the benefciaries and/or their entitlement to the trust assets are not fxed; and

iii) charitable purpose trust: for furtherance of charitable objects, without named benefciaries.

While the application of the ABSD regime to bare trusts is relatively clear, for example parents acquiring residential property for their child, the same cannot be said of discretionary trusts and charitable purpose trusts. In fact, there appears to be a lacuna in the law, which was seen in a recent landmark Singapore High Court case of Zhao Hui Fang and another v Commissioner of Stamp Duties (2017) SGHC 105.

Briefly, a late Settlor of a charity, which was established under a trust, (the Charity) had provided in his last will that his family home shall be made available to his surviving members for use as their personal residence during their lifetimes and, once the family home was no longer required, the family home may be disposed or leased, and any proceeds thereof shall be paid over to the Charity.

The Settlor's surviving spouse subsequently decided that she no longer wished to use the family home as her personal residence and, together with the rest of the family, agreed to turn the family home to the Charity on the condition that the Charity would acquire a residential property for the late Settlor's surviving spouse.

The Charity, although registered with the Commissioner of Charities, was unincorporated, and was administered and legally represented by four individual Trustees. Upon acceding to the family's request, the Trustees proceeded to obtain the relevant court application and approval from the Commissioner of Charities.

Subsequently, the Trustees executed a sale and purchase agreement for a residential property where the Commissioner of Stamp Duties decided to levy the ABSD rate of 15 per cent of the purchase price (S$984,000) payable on the agreement. Under the ABSD regime, the rate of 15 per cent applies to foreigners and entities acquiring residential properties. Dissatisfed with the decision by the Commissioner of Stamp Duties, the Trustees appealed to the High Court.

Charitable purpose trust

The High Court held that ABSD was not chargeable on the sale and purchase agreement as the residential property was a property of a charitable purpose trust, under which the benefcial interest of trust assets is suspended. In arriving at this decision, the High Court took the view that the concept of "benefcial owner" was a concept not statutorily derived, instead left to be determined in accordance with the general laws and principles.

As the charitable trust is a trust for purposes not persons, neither the persons who factually beneft from the charitable objects under the trust deed, nor the individuals who were Trustees, nor the public, as contended by the Commissioner of Stamp Duties, were the benefcial owners of the property held under a charitable purpose trust. Therefore, there is no active or extant benefcial ownership of the residential property and accordingly, nothing for ABSD to attach to. As such, the High Court ordered the Commissioner of Stamp Duties to refund the ABSD which was paid under protest by the Trustees.

Although the High Court case dealt with a charitable purpose trust, it is highly arguable that the reasoning by the High Court could also be applied to the purchase of residential property by the Trustees of a discretionary trust. Under a discretionary trust, the benefciaries and/ or their entitlement to the trust assets are generally not fxed until such time the trustees exercise their powers of appointment according to the criteria set out in the trust deed. Hence, there is no benefcial owner under the discretionary trust for the ABSD to attach to.

While there appears to be a window of opportunity for charitable purpose and discretionary trusts to acquire residential property without having to pay ABSD, the window is likely to be limited to exceptional circumstance such as those in the case of Zhao Hui Fang and another v Commissioner of Stamp Duties. After all, the Singapore tax authority could rely on the anti-avoidance provision to defeat schemes and arrangement whose primary purpose is for tax avoidance.


Joanna Yap is Partner, Withers KhattarWong

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

Former co-workers jailed for cheating Stat Boards co-op of over S$5m

TODAY
16 Aug 2017
Alfred Chua

Two ex-workers of the co-operative for government employees, who made the headlines previously for filching more than S$5 million over five years, had blown all their loot by the time the law caught up with them, it emerged on Tuesday (Aug 15) as a district judge sentenced them to jail.

Arni Ahmad, 41, who was sentenced to 12 years behind bars, pocketed around S$4.3 million which she splurged on sprucing up her home, taking her family on vacations, and staycations at top hotels here, among other things, a district court heard.

Her accomplice, Hanati Jani, 50, took over S$1.9 million and spent the money on gym memberships and jaunts to five-star hotels here, as well as transferred unspecified sums to Malaysian accounts. She was sentenced to jail for nine years and eight months.

Combined, the pair stole S$5.1 million from the Singapore Statutory Boards Employees’ Co-operative Thrift and Loan Society between 2008 and 2013 — the sums do not tally because some of the charges each woman faced overlapped.

Hundreds of charges, such as cheating and criminal breach of trust as a servant, were pressed against them. They each pleaded guilty to 20 counts, with the remaining taken into consideration for sentencing.

The co-operative, founded in 1925, has about 3,000 members who are employees of statutory boards and the Civil Service. Members pay S$10 monthly in subscription fees, which are deposited in a savings account frozen until the termination of the membership. They can also save more in a separate deposit account that members can freely withdraw cash from, while the co-operative also gives out loans.

Arni joined the co-operative in 2005 and was promoted to the post of assistant manager in January 2008. She was responsible for processing loans, deposits, withdrawals, and the maintenance of account movement records of members. She was also the main person in charge of processing payment for membership termination, and the collection of monthly subscription fees.

Hanati, who joined in April 2008, was responsible for recovering loans, and covering Arni’s duties in her absence. Months after she started work at the co-operative, the pilfering began. The women used the identities of phantom members to dupe the co-operative into disbursing money. Arni made use of more than 60 of her friends and relatives for this purpose, while Hanati called on more than 30.

The lengths to which they went to included creating fake documents like termination letters, payslips, and withdrawal or loan applications.

After the money was paid out to their friends and relatives made use of as phantom members, Arni and Hanati would instruct them to withdraw the money and hand it to them. The pair cooked up all sorts of tales to explain why the money had to circle through their accounts. For instance, they claimed this was to dodge income tax, or Arni lied that she was trying to hide her savings from her husband.

Their ruse was exposed on Oct 28, 2013, when the honorary secretary of the co-operative discovered the false and forged documents.

In arguing for a sentence of at least 12 years’ jail for Arni, and at least 10 years’ jail for Hanati, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin said a deterrent sentence was warranted, in light of the various aggravating factors, such as the abuse of their positions and the high levels of premeditation. The two had also hatched an “elaborate scheme” to avoid detection.

In sentencing, District Judge Lim Tse Haw noted the “staggering” amount cheated and the lack of restitution made. For cheating, they could have faced up to 10 years’ jail and a fine for each count.

What the two women splurged on

Arni Ahmad, 42, took S$4.3 million from the Singapore Statutory Boards Employees’ Co-operative Thrift and Loan Society over five years. Among the things she spent the loot on were:

Personal shopping expenses;

Telegraphic transfers amounting to over S$540,000 to unspecified accounts in Australia and Indonesia;

Family holidays in Europe and Malaysia;

Multiple staycations at five-star hotels including Capella Hotel Singapore, Amara Sanctuary Hotel Singapore, and Rasa Sentosa Shangri-La Singapore;

True Fitness memberships, with personal training sessions;

Monthly rentals for a condominium unit at Savannah Condopark; and

Home renovation works

Hanati Jani, 50, spent the S$1.9 million she stole on:

Personal expenses and bills;

Telegraphic transfers of unspecified sums to unspecified accounts in Malaysia;

Multiple staycations at five-star hotels like Amara Sanctuary Hotel Singapore, and Rasa Sentosa Shangri-La Singapore; and

True Fitness memberships, with personal training sessions

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Legal eagle who leads judiciary's tech drive

Straits Times
09 Aug 2017
Ng Huiwen

Justice Lee Seiu Kin
Judge of the Supreme Court
The Meritorious Service Medal

For his contributions to the legal sector, Supreme Court judge Lee Seiu Kin was recognised with one of the seven Meritorious Service medals handed out this year.

The 63-year-old started out as State Counsel at the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in 1987, after attaining a Masters of Laws from the University of Cambridge. He had read law at the National University of Singapore.

At AGC, he rose through the ranks and was Senior State Counsel from 1994 to 1997.

In 1989, he oversaw the computerisation of the AGC as director of the computer information systems department. He later took on the role of project director of LawNet, an information portal for the legal community. He became Second Solicitor-General in 2002.

He was appointed Judicial Commissioner in 1997, then was appointed a judge in 2006.

Justice Lee currently chairs the One Judiciary (IT) Steering Committee, which charts the implementation of technology in the courts. He also heads the Singapore Academy of Law's (SAL's) Legal Technology Cluster.

Justice Lee told The Straits Times that he was "deeply humbled and honoured" to receive the award. He also paid tribute to his colleagues in the judiciary, Legal Service Commission and the SAL.

He said that his efforts to infuse technology in the work processes in the Government and judiciary had received unstinting support from the Attorney-General and Chief Justice, past and present.

"I have also been blessed with dedicated and talented colleagues who have helped to translate our visions into reality in those areas," he said.

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More employers should get on board improved terms for contract workers

Business Times
03 Aug 2017

With the rise of ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Grab, e-commerce providers such as Amazon and Lazada and other platforms that enable sellers of goods and services to connect directly with buyers, contract workers and the self-employed are likely to comprise an increasing proportion of the workforce.

Even leaving aside technology platforms, contract-work arrangements are becoming more commonplace, as companies across various industries rely on staffing agencies to supply them with workers on demand.

This makes sense for companies. By using contract workers, they do not need to maintain as many permanent employees on their payroll, which keeps costs down. Contract workers also enable companies to conveniently cater to temporary periods of peak demand.

But as Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo has pointed out, while contract-work arrangements serve employers well, they do not always do so for employees, who often end up being shortchanged on both wages and benefits.

She was speaking at the launch of a tripartite standard on employment of term-contract employees on Monday. The standard, a step towards more progressive employment arrangements for contract workers, was developed by the Ministry of Manpower, the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation. Given the changes afoot in the labour market, it is an initiative that comes not a moment too soon.

The initial response from companies has been lukewarm. Almost 300 employers have signed up for the new standard, but they account for around 26,000 contract employees - only 15 per cent of the 170,000 such employees in the workforce. Mrs Teo called this a good start, but it is "not good enough if we want to make an impact".

In rolling out the standards, the tripartite group is proceeding in stages. The first set of standards cover the issues of leave benefits and termination notice periods for contract workers. Employers must recognise cumulative length of service fairly to determine leave entitlements, and must serve termination notices in advance, with longer notice periods for longer-serving contract staff. Four more sets of standards are expected to be rolled out by the end of this year.

There are certainly more issues that deserve consideration, including medical benefits, CPF (contract workers retire too) and opportunities for career advancement and merit bonuses. The tripartite group has decided that a gradual approach will be more effective in getting employers to sign up.

To hasten the process, trade and industry associations should encourage their members to adopt the new standards; government-linked companies should do so. Staffing agencies should also negotiate better benefits for their contract workers with their client companies.

And workers themselves should, as far as possible, be discerning about the companies they choose to work for. There may also be a case to create a public fund from which contract workers can draw for certain benefits.

Finally, there is the option to legislate it so that employers provide a baseline minimum of benefits to contract workers. The ultimate goal should be a labour market in which inequalities and other disparities are minimised between contract workers and full-timers.

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

Scrapping quarterly reporting a bad move

Business Times
16 Aug 2017
Mak Yuen Teen & Chew Yi Hong

It'll worsen information disparity between insiders and investors; neither continuous disclosure nor stronger regulation is a substitute

On April 28, Noble Group held its annual general meeting (AGM) for the financial year ended Dec 31, 2016, then shocked the market at 10.37 pm on May 9 with profit guidance for its unaudited 2017 first-quarter results indicating a likely net loss of around US$130 million. By the end of the next trading day, its shares had fallen about a third. The company released its unaudited first quarter results after the close of trading that day. Noble blamed "dislocation in the coal market" - presumably this has nothing to do with President Donald Trump.

Various analysts rushed to cut their price targets by 50 per cent or more after the profit guidance. Shareholder Mano Sabnani said in a Straits Times article that the announcements were ". . . 'puzzling' after the annual and special general meetings in April . . . there were plenty of positive notes and the impression given was that the share consolidation was the last piece needed before a sustained turnaround". When the chief financial officer was asked why the issue was not disclosed by management earlier, he said that the answer to that question was "not relevant".

If Noble did not have to report its results on a quarterly basis, one wonders when management would have deemed the new information to be relevant and disclosable to shareholders. Would it be when the half-yearly results were due to be released? In the meantime, those with knowledge of this information would have been dealing at an advantage over current and potential investors without such knowledge.

To be fair, Noble was more timely with its profit guidance for the second quarter results, releasing it about two weeks prior, which signalled a total net loss of US$1.7-1.8 billion.

Let's consider another example - the Catalist-listed, Bermuda-incorporated S-chip, Sinocloud, which has a current market capitalisation of just over S$10 million. On June 28, 2013, Sinocloud (then trading as Armarda) paid a HK$27.5 million refundable deposit for a PRC project. Based on the threshold tests in Catalist rule 1006 for determining if acquisitions and realisations are disclosable or require shareholders' approval, the deposit constituted 8.7 per cent of the market capitalisation at that time and 28.6 per cent of the latest audited net tangible assets of the group as at March 31 2012 - well above the thresholds for disclosure. The "catch" is whether it is considered "an acquisition . . . which is in, or in connection with, the ordinary course of its business or of a revenue nature", in which case it is not covered by the rules.

Then there is the "Continuous Obligations" requirements in Chapter 7, supplemented by Appendix 7.1 "Corporate Disclosure Policy", setting out subjective and objective criteria for continuous disclosure. But here again, there is considerable room for discretion by issuers as to whether to disclose certain information.

Sinocloud did not make any announcement at the time of the deposit, which first appeared in the breakdown of its prepayments and receivables in its first quarter results on Aug 14, 2013 - or 11/2 months after the deposit was made. It went on to increase the deposit twice, converted the then HK$50.05 million deposit into a HK$84 million convertible loan, extended the maturity date of the loan by 12 months, and took other actions - with disclosure in each instance made well after the event or when quarterly results were announced.

These two cases are by no means outliers. Spindex Industries, Swiber and YuuZoo are other recent examples of possible lack of timely disclosures or other disclosure lapses. Our concerns with the quality and timeliness of disclosures led us recently to allude to "a lackadaisical attitude towards compliance with listing and regulatory requirements on the part of some issuers."

Given this, should SGX be using the continuous obligation to make timely disclosures of material events and the enhancement of our securities regulation with regard to what constitutes "material" information as arguments for doing away with quarterly reporting, as it has done?

Mark Posen of MIT and Robert Pozen of Harvard Law School said on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation: ". . . with companies going dark for six months (with semi-annual reporting), the gap between inside information and public information will widen - increasing the temptation for insider trading."

INFORMATION ASYMMETRY

A 2016 doctoral study at Yale University explains how quarterly reporting reduces information asymmetry by reducing the time over which the information advantage of informed traders is able to grow and accumulate. Empirical tests using data from US, Europe, Singapore and Japan supported the impact of quarterly reporting on reducing information asymmetry. Another 2012 US study found that an increase in reporting frequency reduced information asymmetry and the cost of equity capital.

There is no consistent empirical evidence that quarterly reporting creates managerial myopia, as some have argued. For example, a recent UK study found that the initiation of mandatory quarterly reporting in 2007 had no material impact on the investment decisions of UK listed companies. Instead, analyst coverage of listed companies increased and the accuracy of analyst forecasts of company earnings improved. When quarterly reporting was no longer required in 2014, the levels of corporate investment of the companies that stopped quarterly reporting were no different from those that continued quarterly reporting. Rather, there was a general decline in the analyst coverage of stoppers and less of such decline for companies continuing to report quarterly.

While there are studies that show otherwise, it is difficult to see how extending reporting frequency from quarterly to semi-annually would cause management to be less myopic.

A study by three professors from the University of Munster using Singapore data found a decrease in firm value, suggesting that mandatory quarterly reporting imposes a net burden on small firms, and no improvements in liquidity for firms around the S$75 million threshold. The study focused on the impact of mandatory quarterly reporting around the time of its introduction almost 15 years ago but the mix of companies today is fundamentally different. For instance, the S-chip wave had not yet hit our shores and there were far fewer foreign listings then. Chinese companies listing on the Chinese stock exchanges or the Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) in Hong Kong - or companies listing on almost any other Asian exchange - would have to report quarterly. In fact, quarterly reporting could be even more important today for our market than when it was first introduced.

A study by two NUS Business School professors, based on 9,900 quarterly reports from Q1 2007 to Q3 2015, found strong evidence of the usefulness of quarterly reporting. Using daily return volatility and trading volume, they found strong market reaction to the release of quarterly results, with the reaction strongest for small firms, followed by medium firms. The market also reacted positively to an increase in quarterly earnings and negatively to a decrease.

In the Business Times report, "Corporate governance reaches new high but better stakeholder engagement needed" (Aug 2), Tan Cheng Han, chairman of SGX Regco, cited widespread views that quarterly reporting adds little value and gives rise to significant compliance cost.

Those "widespread views" presumably came mainly from issuers and directors. For example, it was reported that a poll of conference delegates at a Singapore Institute of Directors' Conference in September 2014 found overwhelming support for abolishing the quarterly reporting requirement. Directors have access to regular management reports, often on a monthly basis, and are not the target users of quarterly reporting information. Directors may prefer less frequent public reporting because increased frequency means more work and greater responsibilities.

If there are concerns about whether quarterly reporting in its present form adds value, regulators should also consider how to improve it, and not just consider dropping it. For example, they could consider improving the information required to be disclosed or encouraging or requiring quarterly reports to be reviewed by auditors. Of course, this may increase costs. However, if the exchange and SGX RegCo do not consider these alternatives carefully, it would suggest that reducing requirements to attract more listings or prevent more delistings is what is driving the review of quarterly reporting.

The president of the Small and Middle Capitalisation Companies Association has said that the costs of mandatory quarterly reporting can be very taxing for smaller listed companies. We have sympathy for high compliance costs for smaller companies, but costs must be balanced against the benefits. SGX could consider other measures to help smaller companies with costs, such as changing the requirement for Catalist companies to retain a continuing sponsor in perpetuity or exempting smaller companies from having to produce sustainability reports.

The GEM market requires companies to retain a compliance adviser for two years after listing, not for as long as it remains on that board. If a Catalist company can demonstrate that it has developed adequate internal capacity for good governance and compliance, and supported it through clean audit opinions and compliance records, perhaps they should be given the opportunity to stand on their own. This may also give Catalist companies an incentive to get their act together. A compliance adviser can be appointed on an ad hoc basis if they find themselves unable to meet the requirements or for special situations.

While companies need to behave responsibly to all stakeholders for their long-term success, and institutional investors are focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, there is the question of whether sustainability reports should be imposed on smaller companies that often count mainly retail investors, rather than institutional investors, among its public shareholders. In our view, sustainability reports can be just public relations exercises that bear little resemblance to how seriously a company takes sustainability issues. It is puzzling why SGX would cite cost for reconsidering quarterly reporting, yet push through sustainability reporting that in our view has less proven cost-benefit tradeoffs for smaller companies.

IMPROVE BENEFITS

SGX could also look at measures to improve the benefits of listing for smaller companies, such as improving coverage of such firms or encouraging the development of small-cap governance-focused funds.

In May, we did a simple online survey on quarterly reporting which was completed by 69 retail investors and seven institutional investors. Overall, 58 per cent said that quarterly results were critical in their investment decisions, and 30 per cent said that they used quarterly results with other sources of information. Some 12 per cent said that they did not use quarterly results for their investment decisions but still looked at them, and none said that they did not look at quarterly results at all.

When we asked whether continuous disclosure of material information reduces the need for quarterly reporting, 79 per cent said no; and only 8 per cent said that it should be abolished. Finally, 70 per cent said that if quarterly reporting were abolished for certain companies, they would be less likely to invest in those companies. We do not claim that our results necessarily represent "widespread views" but we would be surprised if quarterly reporting is not valued by most serious investors here.

In our view, quarterly reporting is important in Singapore because of the participation of retail investors and the disparity of information available to insiders and public investors. We do not agree that the continuous disclosure obligation or the strengthening of securities regulation are in any way a substitute for quarterly reporting.


The writers are, respectively, an associate professor at the NUS Business School specialising in corporate governance and an active investor and corporate governance researcher

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Police investigating lawyer M. Ravi over alleged assault

Straits Times
09 Aug 2017
Danson Cheong

A police report has been made against lawyer M. Ravi after he allegedly assaulted fellow lawyer Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss outside her office at The Adelphi yesterday.

Mrs Chong-Aruldoss, 54, said she was walking to her office at Eugene Thuraisingam LLP at about 11am yesterday when Mr Ravi, a non-practising human rights lawyer, allegedly accosted her with "three big-sized thugs" and pushed her to the ground.

A staff member from the law firm called the police after the incident.

The police confirmed that a report was made and they are investigating the incident.

Mr Ravi was formerly head of knowledge management at Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, but was fired in June.

He allegedly tried to enter the firm's People's Park Centre branch office after that and was charged with criminal trespass.

Describing yesterday's incident, Mrs Chong-Aruldoss, an opposition politician, told The Straits Times that Mr Ravi was "ranting incoherently" at her while one of his companions videotaped the incident on a mobile phone.

He told her the video was being broadcast on Facebook Live, and she turned to walk away as she was not comfortable with that, she said.

That was when Mr Ravi shoved her on her shoulders, causing her to stagger backwards and fall, she added.

"It was a violent push. Luckily I had the presence of mind to break my fall with my elbow. I was so shocked I was lying on the floor," said Mrs Chong-Aruldoss, adding that she does not know why her one-time friend pushed her as she "did not have any outstanding issues with him".

She said she also dropped three bags she was carrying when she fell, and Mr Ravi picked up her things and threw them at her.

"I remember him declaring that I had touched him, which caused him to push me - that part hurts the most. It's as if he (is saying he) had to push me to defend himself," said Mrs Chong-Aruldoss, who also wrote about the incident on Facebook.

She added that the commotion attracted people who came to her aid, including Mr Nakoorsha A. K., a fellow partner at the law firm.

"I was genuinely afraid he was going to assault her, so I tried to stand between her and Ravi, and told him as calmly as I could to leave," said Mr Nakoorsha.

"It is quite shocking because up till today, (Ravi) has never laid hands on anyone, not me, or any of my staff."

Mr Ravi could not be reached for comments by press time.

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

Work visa scheme for foreign entrepreneurs enhanced

Business Times
03 Aug 2017
Vivien Shiao

Aim is to attract global startup talent; new assessment criteria include business network and key achievements

The EntrePass scheme - a work visa for foreign entrepreneurs keen to start a business in Singapore in areas such as deep technology - will be enhanced to attract global startup talent.

This was jointly announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), Spring Singapore and Startup SG on Wednesday.

Starting on Aug 3, new criteria such as entrepreneurial and investment track record, business network and key achievements in their areas of expertise will be used to assess applicants, going beyond the existing four innovation criteria during the business exploration stage.

Under the current innovation criteria, applicants have to:

have funding/investment from a government-recognised venture capitalist or business angel; or

hold intellectual property; or

have a research collaboration with an institute of higher learning or research institution in Singapore; or

be an incubatee at a government-recognised incubator/accelerator.

Other key enhancements to the EntrePass scheme, announced earlier during the MTI's Committee of Supply debate in March 2017, include the removal of the S$50,000 paid-up capital requirement to recognise the non-monetary contributions of global startup talent such as expertise and relevance to industries.

Additionally, the validity period of each EntrePass will be extended from one to two years after the first renewal to provide more certainty for global entrepreneurs in scaling up their businesses.

In addition to Spring Singapore, the enhanced EntrePass scheme will see the inclusion of two new partner agencies: the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the National Research Foundation, supported by SGInnovate. These agencies will work with MOM to evaluate the applications in their respective sectors.

The joint announcement said that the enhanced scheme would strengthen and add vibrancy to Singapore's tech startup ecosystem to position it as a leading startup location. The changes also aim to create jobs in Singapore.

According to the Department of Statistics, as at 2015, foreign startups employed more than 19,000 people.

From 2013 to 2015, local employment in foreign startups increased by an average of 500 per year.

Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said that startups are becoming increasingly important as the nation transforms into an innovative economy. "These enhancements are part of the government's efforts to develop a vibrant startup landscape that is attractive to global startup talent while promoting our local startups to establish and build innovative businesses, thus creating new industry sectors and job opportunities."

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

Human rights at sea: using animation to educate

Business Times
16 Aug 2017
David Hughes

UK charity's film series to bring new angle, style to public awareness on abuses of crew rights

The overall living and working conditions for crew at sea are generally good and much better than they were 20 or 30 years ago. That needs to be said very clearly. Most shipping companies and, nowadays very importantly, ship managers treat their crews well.

That all said, there is undeniably a dark side to shipping. In fact, perhaps there are three dark sides. Though not always true, substandard vessels and poor treatment of crew often go together. That is where we find perhaps the most obvious dark side.

There is another place where exploitation and dangerous practices are all too common but rarely come into view. That is on fishing vessels. Then there is how seafarers are treated on occasions by the authorities in the port their ships call.

Fortunately, there are several organisations that support seafarers including, for example, the Mission to Seafarers and the Apostleship of the Sea. A relatively recent organisation campaigning for seafarers' rights is the UK-based Human Rights at Sea (HRAS). It has just released the first film in a new educational series titled An Introduction to Human Rights.

HRAS says the short animated film is a first for the charity as it continues its on-going public advocacy in "highlighting the explicit need to openly and transparently discuss the full range of human rights issues applicable in the maritime environment".

The aim of the short animation films will be to bring a new angle and style to public awareness surrounding human rights abuses at sea that often occur out of sight and out of mind, and the protections to which everyone is entitled to under established national and international law.

The film was made through partnerships with Bristol University Human Rights Implementation Centre and Marlins, the training business of global maritime service provider V.Group, which is major player in the ship-management market. V.Group's involvement is significant as it shows that concern for human rights and running a high-quality ship-management operation go together.

HRAS chief executive David Hammond said: "The charity continues to innovate, advocate and lead on the explicit issue of human rights in the maritime environment. This new film series will fully explore all aspects of our work through close academic and industry partnerships to ensure balanced representation of the issues exposed."

I have seen the first video and it comes over as quite effective. It pushes a simple message very clearly and is likely to be understood by seafarers whose first language is not English. It will be interesting to see how HRAS follows up its first film.

Meanwhile, there has been a promising development in the fishing sector. Following a long campaign by environmental group Greenpeace, Thailand-based major fishing company Thai Union Group PCL has committed to measures that will tackle illegal fishing and overfishing.

Thai Union owns well-known tuna brands globally, including Chicken of the Sea, John West, Petit Navire, Mareblu and Sealect. Crucially, the new agreement should also improve the conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the company's supply chains.

As well as a whole raft of measures that should help safeguard fishing stocks, Thai Union has agreed to develop a comprehensive code of conduct for all vessels in its supply chains, to complement its existing and strengthened Business Ethics and Labor Code of Conduct, to help ensure workers at sea are being treated humanely and fairly, and to third-party independent audits with publicly accessible results and clear timelines to ensure its requirements are being met.

The agreement has been welcomed by global transport unions' organisation International Transport Workers' Federation. It says that Greenpeace and Thai Union have demonstrated that environmentalists and corporations can commit to working together to protect our oceans and the men and women who work on them.

It adds: "Transhipment at sea and unmonitored and unregulated fishing practices have led to the abuse of both our fishing stocks and the workers who bring those fish to our markets".

Signing a declaration is one thing. Delivering on it is another. But it is certain that Thai Union's practices will now come under great scrutiny as the company puts into practice what it has agreed to.

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

Banned academic appeals against expulsion from S’pore

TODAY
09 Aug 2017
Siau Ming En

Academic Huang Jing, who has been identified by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as an “agent of influence of a foreign country”, has appealed against the Government’s decision to revoke his and his wife’s permanent residency status.

“Yes, my wife and I did it (on Monday) at 11am,” Professor Huang said in an email reply on Tuesday (Aug 8), when asked to confirm media reports about his appeal. He declined to say more about the allegations, which he has denied.

“Please understand that given the situation, I really can’t talk too much because I do love Singapore!” added the academic, who is still in the country.

When contacted, the MHA declined to comment.

Under the law, those whose permanent residency is revoked have seven days from the time they are notified to appeal in writing to the Minister of Home Affairs. The minister’s decision on the appeal is final.

Last Friday, the ministry announced that Prof Huang, a US-China expert with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), “knowingly interacted” with intelligence organisations and agents of a foreign country and cooperated with them to influence the Republic’s foreign policy and public opinion here.

The ministry did not name the country in question but said Prof Huang engaged prominent and influential Singaporeans and gave them what he claimed was privileged information about that foreign country, so as to influence their opinions in favour of that country.

Prof Huang used his senior position in the LKYSPP to “deliberately and covertly advance the agenda of a foreign country at Singapore’s expense”, the MHA said. “He did this in collaboration with foreign intelligence agents. This amounts to subversion and foreign interference in Singapore’s domestic politics. Huang’s continued presence in Singapore, and that of his wife, are therefore undesirable.

"Both will be permanently banned from re-entering Singapore."

The Controller of Immigration acted after Prof Huang was deemed an “undesirable immigrant” under the Immigration Act, for engaging in activities contrary to the Republic’s national interests, the ministry said.

Prof Huang’s wife, Ms Shirley Yang Xiuping, also had her permanent residency revoked last Friday. The couple, who are United States citizens, will not be allowed to re-enter Singapore.

Prof Huang, who got a PhD in political science from Harvard’s Department of Government, had researched and authored books, as well as journal articles, on Chinese politics, China-India relations, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and security issues in Asia-Pacific, among other topics.

In the past year, he had written extensively for the local press and foreign publications, including Global Times, on US-China relations and China’s role in the world.

The LKYSPP said later that he has been suspended without pay with immediate effect. Prof Huang has also resigned as an independent director of Keppel Land.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Stricter security measures for National Day Parade

Straits Times
03 Aug 2017
Yuen Sin & Ng Huiwen

No unauthorised flying of UAVs in 'special event' area; special zone marked out for security checks

This year's National Day Parade has been gazetted as a "special event" under the Public Order Act, the police said yesterday.

That means there will be stricter security measures in place in and around the venue.

The order, which will be in effect for 24 hours on Aug 9, will prohibit, among other things, the unauthorised flying of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) like drones in the area.

The NDP this year will be held at The Float@Marina Bay. Superintendent Tay Wee Li, assistant director of the police's major security events division, said there will be stricter enforcement against drones this year as there has been a worldwide trend where "adversaries will use drones as a means of attack for any event or crowd congregation area".

As there will be an aerial display during the show, the police have stepped up enforcement out of safety considerations, she added.

This year, there were 12 breaches involving UAVs during the National Education and preview shows, said the police in a statement yesterday. The cases have been referred to the authorities for investigations.

The authorities have also designated the area around Marina Bay as a special event area, and its boundaries include Marina Boulevard, Victoria Street, Middle Road, Beach Road and Marina Barrage carpark.

Within this event area, a special zone has been marked out for security checks. This zone is bounded by Marina Boulevard, Connaught Drive and Bayfront Avenue, among others. The police can conduct security checks on any person and vehicle entering the special zone or inside it. The police can also refuse entry to or remove a person from the special zone if necessary.

Besides unauthorised UAVs, members of the public are not allowed to take into the site items such as flares, explosives, paint, arms, aerosol paint, flammable material and loudhailers.

Any person found guilty of doing so may face a fine of up to $20,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months, or both. The items will also be seized.

It is also an offence to fly a UAV outside of the special event area in a way that "disrupts, interferes with, delays or obstructs" the NDP.

The NDP reserve date - in the event of poor weather conditions - is Aug 12, and the gazette will take effect on that day should the parade be held on that day, the police said.

In 2015, a 27-year-old man who flew a drone at the War Memorial Park on National Day was given a stern warning by the police. He was believed to have been trying to take photographs of the NDP fireworks.


$20k 

The maximum fine that a person found guilty of bringing items such as flares, explosives, paint, arms, aerosol paint, flammable material and loudhailers, or flying an unauthorised drone, will face - or jail for up to 12 months, or both. The items will also be seized.

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

Man jailed for role in illegal money transfers

Straits Times
16 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

He received US$420k from woman he knew online, and transferred sum to third parties

Divorcee Osborn Yap was so smitten with a Laura he had only ever "met" through an online date, he agreed to use his company's bank account to receive US$420,000 (S$574,700) from her. Yap, 47, then transferred the money to third parties as instructed by her.

For that, he was sentenced to 30 months in jail after being convicted on six charges. These involved receiving money from an overseas account that was fraudulently remitted to his bank account, and which he subsequently transferred out.

In judgment grounds released on Aug 4, following a four-day trial that ended in February, District Judge Eddy Tham made the point that love should not trump reason.

He wrote: "While I accept that the accused clearly harboured hopes of a new romantic relationship, nonetheless, (he) was still expected to be in possession of a rational mind and could not use the excuse of being overwhelmed in love to become an unthinking simpleton and swallow everything that was fed to him."

The fraud was detected by HSBC Bermuda Bank about a month after the money was transferred from the victim's account on May 15, 2013.

The next day, after Yap received the money in the DBS Bank account of the firm he controlled, he cashed out $450,000 in two batches as instructed by Laura and handed the sums over to one Mary Natha, using a code number to identify her.

He handed Mary another $43,000 the following day and subsequently withdrew $9,200 to be placed in two other persons' accounts as instructed by Laura. There was no restitution and only $18,360 was surrendered to the police.

His lawyer Louis Lim urged the court to consider a non-custodial sentence, given that Yap had been manipulated into committing the offences, and that he did not personally benefit and had cooperated fully.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhamad Imaduddien pressed for a deterrent sentence, citing precedent cases to send a "clear signal" to those who sought to conduct money-laundering activities here.

Judge Tham said he would not hesitate to bear heavily upon foreign criminals like Laura who target Singapore's financial system "as a conduit to siphon off ill-gotten gains".

"Instead, we have here an offender who, in a sense, was a victim himself, having been duped into thinking (Laura) was a damsel in distress," he said.

He added that Yap was dealing with "an online persona and common sense would have dictated that caution should be exercised".

Yap, currently on bail, is appealing. The prosecution is also appealing against the sentence.

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

Passenger not liable when driver falls asleep at wheel

Straits Times
08 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

The High Court has dismissed a claim by the defence that a passenger should share the blame for injuries he had suffered because he did not do enough to stop the driver, whom he knew to be sleepy.

Before Mr Leow Ban Yee lost control of the van and ran into a tree in a slip road along Upper Thomson, his passenger Raymond Ang saw that he had fallen asleep while his hands were on the steering wheel of the moving vehicle.

The court heard that when Mr Ang called out to him, Mr Leow opened his eyes, but the issue is whether Mr Ang saw him doze off again, and if he was bound to keep watch on the driver. The case called into question a point with no apparent local precedent - the contributory negligence of a belted passenger in a scenario where the driver has fallen asleep at the wheel.

Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau yesterday found the defendant company and the van driver wholly liable in this case and awarded Mr Ang about $390,000 in damages payable.

Mr Ang, 61, had sued the van owner, ABT Medical Products, and Mr Leow for multiple injuries suffered in the July 20 accident two years ago, seeking compensation for medical expenses, loss of earnings, and other current and future costs. The former operations assistant now walks with a limp which dampens his job prospects.

The defendants represented by lawyer Mahendra Prasad Rai argued, among other things, that Mr Ang was also to blame as he had failed to act in time to ask the driver to stop when he noticed him dozing off, or to ensure he did not fall asleep again. The driver was not called to testify during the three-day trial in January.

Lawyers Viviene Sandhu and Joyce Ooi, in denying the claims, pointed out in submissions that their client Mr Ang had testified he had asked the driver to let him out of the van when he saw the driver falling asleep, but Mr Leow refused.

Judicial Commissioner Pang said it would be "intolerable and bordering on the unreasonable" for the court to impose a duty of care on a passenger in such circumstances, as Mr Ang had done what he could under the circumstances.

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

Cybersecurity Bill - the work starts now

Straits Times
03 Aug 2017
Vincent Loy

It is important for the public and private sectors to work together, and to get everyone on board - from pre-schoolers to employees to organisations

Excitement surrounds Singapore's journey to becoming a Smart Nation. Driverless cars, artificial intelligence, fintech and the Internet of Things (IoT) offer great promise for a brighter future.

But recent global incidents such as the WannaCry and Petya cyber attacks are stark reminders that opportunities do not come without risk. That is why nations need to be both smart and secure. It is against this backdrop that the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) and Ministry of Communications and Information launched the draft Cybersecurity Bill on July 10 for public consultation. It follows an announcement last October of a cyber security strategy that includes strengthening global partnerships and directing more funds to plug security gaps in critical information infrastructure (CII), such as those that run essential services like telecommunications, transport, healthcare, banking and energy.

The Bill is an integral and important step for Singapore's cyber defence game plan, and lays the foundation to be cyber secure.

It attempts to strike a balance between allowing the CSA to deal with the cyberthreats swiftly, flexibly and effectively, while not being overly intrusive.

This is a tough balancing act, but necessary to protect CII.

However, if Singapore is to be successful in dealing with the ever evolving and increasing threat landscape, it falls on each person on this island, whether as individuals, employees, business owners or public servants, to implement what the Bill sets out.

It is the next level of detail that will determine if Singapore as a whole is forward-looking or just reacting to threats. It is absolutely important for everyone to be forward-looking as there will be more unknowns and more powerful threats as the world becomes more connected and digitally enabled.

Here are some relevant parts of the cyber security strategy launched last year which complements the proposed Bill:

INVOLVING PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS

The Bill confers power on CSA's chief as Commissioner of Cybersecurity to investigate threats and incidents to ensure that essential services here are not disrupted in the event of a cyber attack. However, while the Bill gives clear authority to the Commissioner, it is important for everyone from organisations down to individuals to do their part in order for Singapore to be successful in dealing with cyberthreats.

The cyber world is interconnected, and while the new Bill is a step in the right direction, it is not a silver bullet.

To use a sports analogy, the commissioner is the "coach" but if the players don't work together, coordinate or don't know the different defence plays, the strategy will never work. For example, information sharing, which is one of the most fundamental cyber defence strategies, is often an area which is very difficult to implement.

The commissioner needs to work with companies on the type of information to be shared, and how and when it is shared so that competitive advantage and confidentiality are not lost. On top of that, often the most difficult and time-consuming part of information sharing is how to build trust.

There are examples of effective public-private partnership models in Singapore and around the world. For example, in the financial services sector, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has worked with it successfully in dealing with some of the issues being faced.

The MAS' Technology Risk Management Guidelines and Outsourced Service Providers Guidance are examples of how the public and private sector can come together to solve difficult and systemic issues facing the industry.

This has not only provided clarity to help stakeholders deal with current issues but has also set Singapore as the leader in the globally competitive financial services industry.

Other industries can learn from this successful example in implementing governance and guidance within their own industries.

DEVELOPING THE CYBER SECURITY INDUSTRY

The Government has taken a bold first step to consider licensing the cyber security industry. There is merit to this as it provides some level of assurance and quality on the industry practitioners.

It is important that this is implemented judiciously so that it does not prevent Singapore from getting the best practitioners to work here. To be best in class, cyber security experts must work with the best and see what the best looks like.

Singapore also needs to consider how this part of the regulation supports aspirations to promote cyber security as one of the growth industries as highlighted in the Committee on the Future Economy report.

In addition, the Government needs to consider how to enhance the standing of the cyber security professionals and look at how self-regulation can have a role to play. Other professionals like lawyers and accountants have done that and lessons can be learnt.

The Government should also bear in mind that traditionally the public sector has been slower than the private sector in responding to industry trends, especially in the case of the fast-moving cyber security sector.

It could also consider if and how licensing could apply to the IoT which would both enhance Singapore's cyber security global standing while supporting the Smart Nation agenda. This could potentially give Singapore an edge, given the fact that there is considerable room for improvement in the IoT risk management space globally.

THE HUMAN FACTOR

Even if the best technology, processes and policies are implemented, one important aspect that will determine success or failure is the people aspect. It is often the most vulnerable, but also the most powerful prevention against cyber security incidents.

Singapore will need a sustained and comprehensive cyber awareness strategy covering each segment of society, starting with children at pre-schools, reinforced at work and through to senior citizens. Kindergartens, schools, workplaces, businesses, governments and community centres all have a role to play in fostering cyber security awareness.

In addition, these campaigns would need to be focused, continuous and, most importantly, reinforcing to be effective.

The new Cybersecurity Bill puts Singapore in a good position to deal with threats and shows that Singapore is forward-looking and brave enough to tackle cyber security head on.

Cyber security risks are a clear and present danger. The potential for cyber attacks is the new reality.

A team is only as strong as its weakest player, and the coach and players must perform their role in developing a strong defence strategy. Now the hard work begins.


The writer is financial crime and cyber leader, Asia-Pacific and Singapore, for PwC Singapore.

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

Man awarded $4m after bad reference cost him new job

Straits Times
15 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Apex court had ruled earlier that ex-employer AXA breached duty of care to insurance agent

The High Court has awarded $4.026 million to a former insurance agent after a scathing letter of reference from a previous employer cost him the chance to join the insurer Prudential.

The award was for loss of earnings from the negligence on the part of AXA Life Insurance Singapore for whom the agent, Mr Ramesh Krishnan, had previously worked.

Justice George Wei noted yesterday that the stands of both parties had been "polar opposites" when it came to damages. Mr Ramesh had sought $63 million, while AXA urged he should be awarded only a nominal sum of $1.

The Court of Appeal had asked the High Court to determine the damages after ruling last year that AXA had breached its duty of care to Mr Ramesh.

The 47-year-old, described as "one of AXA's best-compensated advisers", had accused AXA of defaming him in 2012 when providing references on his work performance.

He lost the defamation suit in the High Court in 2015, but the Court of Appeal later ruled that AXA had breached its duty of care to him.

Industry sources had then said the apex court ruling was significant in making clear the standard of care an employer was required to observe while preparing a reference. Reasonable care had to be taken to ensure that the requirements of truth, accuracy and fairness were met.

The Court of Appeal had also noted AXA's breach of duty led Prudential Assurance Company Singapore not to hire Mr Ramesh.

When Prudential asked AXA for the reference, it wrote back to say that his outfit "showed a very poor 13th month persistency rate" - meaning that many of his clients did not stick with their policies - and "we are very concerned as to whether the clients have been provided with proper advice".

The Court of Appeal said this would have given the mistaken impression that Mr Ramesh was not competent, and did not square with the evidence that he was one of AXA's best financial services directors and it had earlier persuaded him not to resign.

Mr Ramesh's lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam argued that Prudential would have hired him but for AXA's negligence. However, AXA's counsel Pillai Muralidharan countered that he would merely have stood a chance of being hired.

Justice Wei decided to use the package conditionally offered by Prudential as a conservative guide.

Starting from April 2011, this included a commencement allowance of $675,000, and an initial monthly salary of $65,625 for the first 12 months and $43,750 for the following months till July last year. He also looked at loss of future earnings between August last year and July next year at a discounted rate.

From this, the judge deducted the salary Mr Ramesh earned from working, in the meantime, at a vegetarian cafe.

An AXA Singapore spokesman said yesterday it is seeking legal advice on the judgment.

"Providing for and protecting our policyholders is our top priority and we remain committed to ensuring that our appointed representatives are fit and proper and meet the competency, financial soundness and integrity standards required by us and the MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore)."

Mr Ramesh said: "People must know that justice is served. Somebody must go out there and make a point."

He hopes to kick-start his 15-year-long insurance career again.

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

Ramesh s/o Krishnan v AXA Life Insurance Singapore Pte Ltd [2017] SGHC 197

Condo MC gets nod from court to remove cooling towers

Straits Times
08 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

The management corporation (MC) for Leonie Towers off Grange Road can go ahead and remove the central cooling towers servicing its 35-year- old air-conditioning system, over the objections of a resident.

In the High Court, Justice Lee Seui Kin ruled in the MC's favour after hearing the arguments of both parties yesterday.

In doing so, he set aside the Strata Titles Board decision in March that was in favour of dissenting unit owner Yap Choo Moi.

The court held that the MC had the power to remove common property such as the cooling towers by way of a special resolution under Section 29 of the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, but found it had been passed as a by-law under Section 32, which was not the correct section to enact the by-law.

The MC's proposal had been backed by 84 per cent of unit owners at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) last year, at which the by-law under the Act was enacted to empower the MC to proceed.

But Madam Yap successfully applied to the Strata Titles Board to invalidate the by-law and stop the move by the MC. Represented by lawyer Valerie Ang, she argued that the Act provided for the making of by-laws that performed a regulatory role but not for the disposal of common property.

The MC's lawyers Toh Kok Seng and Daniel Chen conceded that the special resolution presented at the EGM to make a by-law under Section 32 might not have been appropriate and that it should instead have been presented under Section 29(1)(d), which empowers the MC to proceed with removal of common property if it constitutes an improvement to the estate.

The judge agreed that the issue was a technicality and the special resolution would have been cleared if it had been presented to the Strata Titles Board under the appropriate section of the Act.

He held that the resolution to remove the towers was validly passed.Madam Yap was ordered to pay $3,000 in costs.

Leonie Towers comprises 92 units in two tower blocks of 25 storeys each. Consulting engineers hired to study the cooling system reported corrosion in the steel piping, which required expensive replacements. The system was also operating at a below-average level as 60 per cent of residents were using their own air-conditioning units.

The general body that voted to remove the system last year was told that major repairs would cost $520,000, a replacement system would cost $750,000, while removing it would cost only $85,000.

MC chairman Pearl Lim said removal would save about $50,000 in maintenance costs a year.


$520k

Cost of major repairs to central cooling system.

$750k

Cost of a replacement system.

$85k

Cost of removing the system.

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

Parliament mulls curbs on property management committees to rein in ugly spats

TODAY
02 Aug 2017
Kelly Ng

Amid nagging complaints of abuse of power by management committees of strata-titled properties, a series of curbs was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday (Aug 1), including limiting the use of proxies to gain control of management.

If passed, this set of 57 proposed changes, which comes after a review spanning more than five years and would mark the first revision to the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act since it came into force in 2005, will spell greater transparency and regulation in what is now a relatively laissez-faire industry.

Chief among the amendments is a cap on the total number of proxy votes one can hold at annual general meetings — to either 2 per cent of the total number of lots in the development or two lots, whichever is higher — to curb proxy wars where owners garner hundreds of votes to push their agenda.

Currently, there is no restriction on the number of proxies one can hold, leading to ugly spats at some properties. For instance, an uproar ensued at Mandarin Gardens in 2008 when an en-bloc sales committee collected enough proxy votes to push through resolutions deemed unfavourable to the estate, such as to slash the management council’s limit for expenses on urgent matters from S$300,000 to S$50,000.

In 2013, it was reported that waterfront condominium The Sail @ Marina Bay convened an extraordinary general meeting to remove three property agents who had elected themselves as council members and allegedly misused their powers to further their careers. Their bid failed, as the trio collectively held more than 60 per cent of the proxy votes.

During public consultations on the proposed legislative changes, some had called for the cap to be lower than the 2 per cent proposed, or for proxy holders to be residents or related to owners in the estate. Some also wanted the proxy system scrapped.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) decided on the proposed limits so that residents who cannot attend general meetings can “still have their interest or decision represented”. But it proposed a safeguard in response: Both proxy giver and holder must sign consent forms to ensure transparency.

Other proposed changes in the Bill include barring double-hatting in management committees — commonly known as Management Corporation Strata Title, or MCSTs. This means the treasurer, for instance, cannot concurrently hold the office of chairperson and/or secretary. MCSTs with 10 or fewer lots will be exempted from this rule.

Currently, almost 10 per cent of MCSTs, or 305 out of 3,400, have office-bearers wearing multiple hats.

The BCA is also seeking to make it an offence for MCSTs to prevent owners from installing safety fixtures, such as safety grilles to protect children, when there are no design guidelines for the development.

There have been recent cases of management councils forbidding owners from carrying out such installations on the basis that it would “affect the building’s appearance”. In January 2015, the Strata Titles Board — which mediates in disputes involving unit owners and management councils — ruled in favour of a family that was twice refused permission to install a grille in the balcony of their 13th-level unit in One North Residences, located at 7 One-North Gateway, after seeing their four-year-old daughter try to climb over it. Among other things, the MCST argued that the grilles would not keep up the building’s appearance, as stipulated under its by-laws, and would obstruct the maintenance of a glass wall.

But the board found that the “children’s safety must be paramount, even if the grilles may affect the appearance of the building”.

The amendments also require developers to get approval from the Commissioner of Buildings for maintenance charges, and to present them upfront to prospective buyers. Should there be a need to increase these charges, developers must seek all buyers’ consent before revision.

They must also ensure that funds transferred to the MCSTs at the end stage of a new real estate development are in surplus, an amendment that supportive stakeholders felt “would protect subsidiary proprietors and encourage developers to be more mindful of expected expenses when proposing ... maintenance charges”.

Other amendments include requirements for council nominees to give their consent prior to an election and giving the Commissioner’s power to appoint an independent official to manage the MCST during an “emergency or critical situation”.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Common practice to give reference but info 'must be accurate'

Straits Times
15 Aug 2017
Shayna Toh & Tristan Jeyaretnam

It is common practice for employers across all industries to provide references to their former workers' prospective employers, say human resource experts.

But the employee must be informed and his consent secured.

Sensitive information such as salary, address or marital status should also not be divulged, in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Act. Information that is confidential to the company should not be given out as well.

What a reference check should contain is information about a former employee's performance - an appraisal that is often subjective.

In the case of former AXA insurance agent Ramesh Krishnan, AXA suggested to his prospective employer Prudential that he had been involved in serious misconduct.

But the Court of Appeal found that information regarding this "misconduct" was incomplete, and insufficient details were provided.

Mr David Ang, director for corporate services for Human Capital (Singapore), told The Straits Times that when AXA made reference to the purported misconduct, it should have elaborated and given evidence, unless such details compromised the confidentiality of the company.

He added that while former employers can decide what information to include in references, they should ensure that the information given is accurate.

Mr David Leong, managing director of People Worldwide, said reference checks are more commonly conducted on employees in more senior positions.

Typically, prospective employers do not directly obtain references from former employers, but go through recruitment agencies.

Mr Leong said former employers are not legally obligated to give reference checks.

However, specifically for the financial services sector, it is a regulatory requirement for prospective employers such as Prudential to conduct reference checks on employees with former employers, noted an advisory by law firm Baker McKenzie which is not involved in Mr Ramesh's case.

The prospective employers have to obtain a Representative Notification Framework licence from the Monetary Authority of Singapore for new hires. This licence certifies that financial advisers are in good standing.

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

Lawyer fined $6k for contempt of court

Straits Times
08 Aug 2017
Selina Lum

He had criticised judges in online poem just hours before his client was to be executed

Hours before his client was to be executed for drug trafficking, a "demoralised" lawyer posted a 22-line poem on his Facebook page.

In his post at about 12.55am on May 19, Eugene Thuraisingam, 42, alleged that "million-dollar men", including judges, have "turned blind" to a cruel and unjust law and are more preoccupied with acquiring financial wealth and material goods.

For that, the lawyer of 16 years was fined $6,000 for contempt of court yesterday.

Thuraisingam's client, Muhammad Ridzuan Mohd Ali, 32, was hanged on May 19 for trafficking 72.5g of heroin.

On May 26, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) filed an application to commit Thuraisingam for scandalising the judiciary in his Facebook post. It also lodged a complaint with the Law Society.

On June 5, after he was notified by the Law Society that his post was contemptuous in nature, Thuraisingam took it down and posted a public apology on his Facebook page the same day.

Yesterday, Senior State Counsel Hui Choon Kuen sought a $10,000 fine, arguing that Thuraisingam's statement posed a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice.

Mr Hui argued that being Ridzuan's lawyer, Thuraisingam's statement would have carried more weight than that of a member of the public. He also argued that Thuraisingam used gratuitous and offensive words in his post, likening judges to "rats" who thought only about acquiring new cars.

Mr Hui noted that publication of the post was widespread. The post garnered 476 reactions and was shared 357 times, as of May 26.

Senior Counsel Ang Cheng Hock, acting for Thuraisingam, argued that he was emotionally distressed and not in the right frame of mind at the time. He said what Thuraisingam intended to mean was that those in the "upper echelons of society" did not care about the death penalty because those facing the gallows for drug trafficking are, by and large, the poorer members of society.

In an affidavit, Thuraisingam said his final meeting with Ridzuan on April 26 still haunts him.

"I was demoralised that there was nothing further that I could do for him as his lawyer. He was young and there was so much more that he could have done with his life," he said. Ridzuan was his fourth client to be sent to the gallows.

Mr Ang also pointed to Thuraisingam's long history of voluntary work in representing underprivileged accused persons and those who are facing the gallows.

Justice See Kee Oon said he appreciated the mental strain that Thuraisingam faces in handling capital cases on a regular basis, but found it difficult to accept that the post carried no ill intent.

"I find that it was a regrettably deliberate attack on the integrity of the judiciary, which (Thuraisingam) now accepts was completely baseless," said the judge.


BASELESS ACCUSATION

I find that it was a regrettably deliberate attack on the integrity of the judiciary, which (Thuraisingam) now accepts was completely baseless.

 

JUSTICE SEE KEE OON, even as he appreciated the mental strain that Thuraisingam faces in handling capital cases regularly.

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

City Harvest case: Judgment reserved for criminal reference hearing

TODAY
02 Aug 2017
Faris Mohktar

The High Court’s recent decision to cut the jail terms of six former City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders has upended a long-held principle of having heads of organisations who commit criminal breach of trust (CBT) face the harshest penalties available, argued prosecutors on Tuesday (Aug 1).

It means directors now get off with a “slap on the wrist, whereas their subordinates would suffer significantly harsher punishment”, said prosecutors.

The five-member Court of Appeal reserved judgment at the end of the hearing, which lasted more than five hours.

The prosecution, led by Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair, argued that the High Court’s split 2-1 decision in April was wrong.

It convicted the six CHC leaders of CBT under Section 406 of the Penal Code, which carries a maximum jail term of seven years — instead of Section 409 of CBT by an agent, which carries a higher maximum jail sentence of 20 years.

Two of the three judges on the panel found that an “agent” under Section 409 must refer to “professional agents”, who offer their agency services as a “commercial activity” — which the CHC leaders did not.

As a result, the offenders — including charismatic founder Kong Hee — had their jail terms significantly slashed. The new sentences ranged from seven months to three-and-a-half years, down from the jail terms of 21 months to eight years earlier imposed by the State Courts.

With 16 reported cases of directors convicted under Section 409 in the past 40 years, the High Court’s decision on the CHC leaders “gives rise to a conflict of judicial authority in Singapore”, argued the prosecution in its a criminal reference seeking clarity on questions of law of public interest.

The church leaders were convicted of misappropriating about S$50 million of church funds through sham bond investments and other transactions.

Five of the six former leaders have begun serving their jail terms, while CHC’s former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 56, has yet to begin serving his sentence.

Kong, 52; his former second-in-command Tan Ye Peng, 44; former CHC finance committee member John Lam, 49; and former finance managers Serina Wee, 40, and Sharon Tan, 41, appeared in court in purple prison garb.

The men had had their hair reduced to a buzz cut, but it was Kong, who had not previously appeared in public with white hair, who stood out.

His wife, pop singer Ho Yeow Sun, was not present, but other church supporters filled the public gallery after queuing for tickets from as early as 7am. They waved at the five when they appeared in the courtroom and gave them a thumbs-up of encouragement.

Several times during the hearing, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang asked Mr Nair as well as the defence lawyers if they agreed there was a “lacuna”, or gap, in CBT laws.

Justice Phang agreed with Mr Nair’s argument that the court should always avoid absurd results — except to avoid violating the language of statutory provisions.

But the courts cannot “work backwards” and the “ends do not justify the means”, he said.

“Directors” were not among the groups of people specified in Section 409, noted Justice Phang, who was flanked by Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash and Justices Belinda Ang, Quentin Loh and Chua Lee Ming.

Mr Nair argued that the High Court had not defined “agent” based on previous decisions, in Singapore or elsewhere.

The High Court had also erred in its interpretation of Section 409’s description of an agent committing CBT “in the way of his business”.

A commercial activity done for profit is not the only meaning of the phrase, which Mr Nair argued should also encompass actions “in the course of one’s regular duties or functions”.

The intent behind aggravated CBT offences was to punish more severely, breaches of trust by “persons of higher station in whom great trust and confidence is reposed”, he argued.

“For the past four decades, Section 409 has been an important deterrent against directors betraying the trust reposed in them by committing CBT. The gravest and deepest betrayals of trust were visited by the harshest punishments available under the law on CBT,” the prosecution said in its written submissions. “However, the majority’s decision has turned things on its head. No longer would directors, standing at the apex of their organisations, be subject to the most serious punishment ... As interpreted by the majority, Section 409 makes a mockery of the law.”

Lawyers representing the former church leaders readily agreed there was a gap in CBT laws.

Mr Nair’s arguments constituted “lawmaking” — which is beyond the courts’ purview — instead of interpretations of the law, argued Tan Ye Peng’s lawyer N Sreenivasan.

Lam’s lawyer Kenneth Tan said the prosecution was “asking the court to design a square hole and put a round peg” into it.

In joint-written submissions, the defence also claimed the prosecution was seeking to use the criminal reference to “appeal the High Court’s decision”.

“It is furthermore an abuse to ask the Court of Appeal to consider fresh issues relating to the merits of the case,” said the lawyers.


What is a criminal reference?

A Criminal Reference is a type of legal hearing before the apex court, which is limited to criminal cases in which a question of law of public interest arises in a High Court decision on an appeal.

When the question is before the Court of Appeal, the judges hearing the case can decide whether to answer it, based on the merits of the question.

The court may also revise the High Court’s decision after the Criminal Reference hearing.

Criminal References are held in open court, and the decision of the Court of Appeal in the matter is final.

Recent high-profile examples included the Brompton bikes case, where the Public Prosecutor had sought clarification from the Court of Appeal in 2015, on whether a jail term should be the default starting position for convicted public servants who provided false information during investigations into improper procurement or the abuse of power.

It filed the Criminal Reference after a High Court dismissed its appeal against a S$5,000 fine for former National Parks Board (NParks) assistant director Bernard Lim Yong Soon.

The judges hearing the Criminal Reference felt that it was not a question of law of public interest and did not disturb the High Court’s ruling.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

CJ lauds legal publishing arm for 'great strides'

Straits Times
15 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Academy Publishing marks 10 years of law reports, academic journals, law books with commemorative work

While the books they write may not be a hit with commercial publishers driven by profit, the material they publish is steered by the needs of Singapore's legal community.

"Academy Publishing was not established with the primary intent of making a profit but instead was established with the mission to serve the legal profession," said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at an event last Friday to mark its 10th year.

Founded in 2007 as the publishing arm of the Singapore Academy of Law by then Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, Academy Publishing (AP) has grown its market share of local legal publications to become a leader in this field and "has elevated Singapore (in the context of the legal community) to a level of publishing comparable to other primary legal jurisdictions", said National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor Jeffrey Pinsler.

Its 10th anniversary was celebrated with a commemorative work titled Imprints Of Singapore Law: A Brief History Of Legal Publishing In Singapore. The book traces the history of legal publishing in Singapore since the 19th century.

Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, in a foreword to the book, said it was important to take stock of legal publishing in Singapore.

He noted that it was imperative to remember "our foundations" and that legal publishing here was an integrated effort involving various other publishers as well, like Lexis Nexis, Thomson Reuters' Sweet and Maxwell, and Marshall Cavendish.

Speaking at last Friday's event at the Supreme Court building, CJ Menon lauded "the great strides" AP had made in the past 10 years on the three publication fronts: law reports, academic journals and law books.

Among other things, he noted AP now reports about 6,800 pages of judgments in the Singapore Law Reports every year and its SAL Journal has "done very well" in being accredited Tier 1 by NUS' Office of Research for its high-quality scholarship.

Industry players weighed in to underscore AP's efforts, like Singapore Management University (SMU) law dean Goh Yihan, who hailed the publisher for "creating a much needed library of local publications in Singapore". He said this was needed to develop local jurisprudence and its eventual spread beyond Singapore shores.

Rajah and Tann lawyer Kala Anandarajah agreed the critical difference made by AP was to provide literature on Singapore-based law.

NUS law associate professor Eleanor Wong added: "The other thing that AP does really well is to support publications about Singapore's legal history. This is an important role in reminding us that it (our appreciation of law) is about context, the larger perspective. It's not just about the black letter rules."

As for SMU law student Lyndon Seow, "the most important point about an AP book is I can go there and I can get what I want and that's it, I'm done".

Also launched by AP at its 10th anniversary event was the Academy Publishing Awards, presented by CJ Menon to seven "magnificent" contributors for their "untiring efforts" to help build AP's work.

"I am so proud of AP. I think they have done a phenomenal job over the last 10 years and if they can do as well over the next 10 years I will be over the moon," said CJ Menon.


THE LARGER PERSPECTIVE

The other thing that AP does really well is to support publications about Singapore's legal history. This is an important role in reminding us that it... is about context, the larger perspective.

NUS LAW ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR ELEANOR WONG

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

Credit blacklist effective in getting defaulters to pay up

Straits Times
08 Aug 2017
Theresa Tan

For years, the authorities have been scratching their heads trying to find ways to get deadbeat husbands to pay the maintenance owed to their former wives and children.

And they have found one method that works - putting defaulters on a credit blacklist, making it harder for them to get credit cards and loans such as for housing. Some 80 per cent of the 229 claimants so far on this scheme recovered at least some of the money owed to them.

A credit information and debt recovery firm has collected about $2.5 million on their behalf since the scheme started in 2011, its spokesman told The Straits Times.

The DP Information Group was appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development to track maintenance debts.

A person who is owed maintenance can take the court order to DP's SME Commercial Credit Bureau, which will record the debt and share the information with its more than 800 members, which include banks, retailers and moneylenders.

Being on the blacklist makes it harder for these individuals to obtain loans, said those interviewed.

A DP spokesman said: "In Singapore, most people place great value on having a good credit standing. Knowing that a record of your matrimonial maintenance debts is kept by a credit bureau will motivate defaulters to keep up to date with their obligations."

But one limitation is that not many women want to put their former spouses on the credit blacklist, The Straits Times understands. Some may also not be aware of this avenue. This explains why there are just 200 or so claimants so far.

The sums owed range from $100 to $3,600 a month. The largest sum paid was a one-time settlement of $180,000. DP declined to say more about this case. DP staff often act as mediators to establish alternative arrangements for those who cannot afford to pay, for example, if they have lost their jobs. They may negotiate for the maintenance to be paid in smaller sums, which will increase once the former spouse finds a job.

Many claimants are housewives with no income. After the divorce, with their limited education and skills, they can find only manual or hourly paid jobs that often pay less than $1,200 a month. But a few claimants are men seeking maintenance from their former wives for their children.

Lawyer Lim Chong Boon calls the scheme "highly effective", as eight in 10 applicants got at least some of their maintenance.

Lawyer Malathi Das said: "These days, many people live on credit. For example, once a person is blacklisted, it may be a hassle for him to get loans or credit cards and this puts the onus on defaulters to pay."

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

Amending law should be left to Parliament: Defence

Straits Times
02 Aug 2017
Selina Lum

In 1993, Malaysia's equivalent provision on criminal breach of trust (CBT) as an agent was amended by Parliament, with the currently contentious phrase "in the way of his business" replaced with "in his capacity".

This was cited by the defence yesterday as it supported the Singapore High Court's judgment that it was up to Parliament to amend the law if there was a gap to be plugged regarding the definition of agent.

In April, the majority of a three-judge High Court panel ruled that the six people convicted of misappropriating millions in City Harvest Church funds can be punished under only plain CBT and not CBT as agents, which carries a heavier punishment.

The court agreed that it was "intuitively unsatisfactory" that directors, who occupy positions of power, trust and responsibility, would be liable for only plain CBT, while an employee would be liable for the more aggravated offence of CBT as a servant.

"This does not, however, mean that we can ignore the wording of the section," the High Court had said, adding that the task of rewriting the law should be left to Parliament.

Yesterday, Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, who acts for Tan Ye Peng, noted that the prosecution is asking the gap to be "filled up by judicial construction".

He said that, despite being aware of "how badly its interpretation will meet with normal instincts", the High Court decided to give the provision its literal meaning and "not to bring in what you want a statute to be".

He said the prosecution's submissions "would make a wonderful second reading speech for amendments to (Section) 409 but it is not what 409 means".

Later, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang asked Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair which is the appropriate institution to determine the issue.

"We can go the Malaysian way or the Indian way," replied Mr Nair.

In a landmark case cited by the prosecution to support its arguments, the Indian Supreme Court rejected the argument that "agent" under CBT law has to be a professional agent. The phrase "in the way of his business" also remains in the relevant provision in the Indian Penal Code.

"A Singapore court will go the Singapore way," said Justice Phang, to laughter in the courtroom. He added: "We have to be grounded in legal principles. We can't amend the statutes."

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

Why many survivors do not report sexual assault

Straits Times
15 Aug 2017
Nabilah Husna

In 2015, 162 rapes were reported to the police in Singapore. While low numbers of sexual crimes may seem like a good thing, in reality, that can mask the fact that many survivors simply do not report their assault.

The Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC), Singapore's only specialised centre for sexual assault survivors, found that approximately seven in 10 clients who reached out for help last year did not make police reports.

Recently, the state has taken welcome steps to improve the process of reporting sexual crimes to address this problem of under-reporting. The recent proposed changes to the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) and Evidence Act would ensure protection from publicity the moment a sexual offence is reported, with a gag order on the survivor's name - putting to bed a common concern many survivors have about exposure of their case through the media.

But so much more can be done to address the major concerns many survivors have about reporting, including fear that they lack evidence of the assault, and unsupportive reactions from friends and family.

Because most survivors know their perpetrators, "evidence" in sexual assault is not just about proving injury or weapon use, or bringing forward eyewitnesses of the assault. They would also have to rely heavily on their memory, which adds to the fears many may have about reporting.

For example, many survivors freeze during the ordeal and are not able to fight or seek help immediately. Questions like "Why didn't you fight back or scream?" or "If you didn't want sex, why didn't you leave?" are common, and when survivors are put through such inquiries, it can add to the confusion and guilt they may already be feeling.

Moreover, no two people respond to assault in the same way - some may visibly show that they are upset or angry, and some may not - but all reactions are valid. Survivors may grapple with their own memory of the experience, knowledge of the details, self-doubt, or feel immense guilt or shame. All of this adds to the distress of making a decision to report.

Jo (not her real name), a client of SACC, shared how she was "in a dilemma about reporting", that she "lost clarity" of her experience after months of struggling to accept the assault, and managed to break through the fog in her memory only with the support of a friend. She said: "Those images and thoughts that I pushed away were popping up all over the place in my head, disorganised and unwanted. It was a struggle. All I wanted was to organise them so that I could somehow detach emotions and work things out logically, so that I could be clear and prepare a report."

Another difficulty is when the criminal justice system - and wider society - expect sexual assault survivors to report their cases immediately. Sometimes, when they do step forward, their delays in reporting are used against them.

Take for example a recent court case where a man was acquitted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. The court, in acquitting the accused, found that the victim was not "prompt in her complaints" and "there were no reasons for her not to confide in members of her family".

Such assumptions ignore the reality of what survivors struggle with and the psychological impact of trauma. When we question the validity of what survivors can recall or invalidate their experience because of when they chose to speak up, we risk discouraging and disempowering them further.

By taking into account the well-established realities of sexual assault, first responders such as police officers, doctors, counsellors, friends and family can ensure that survivors receive the help they need when they do choose to speak out.

Many survivors worry how family and friends would react. Some may even fear how others would be emotionally affected by the knowledge of their assault. SACC clients have shared how their own families have responded with disbelief, judgment, resentment or discouraging comments. To encourage reporting, we all need to better recognise how social attitudes and fear of victim-blaming can affect survivors' willingness to report.

Concerned friends and loved ones can effectively support survivors with a simple "It's not your fault", offer resources for counselling or accompany them to make a report or seek medical help.

The authorities have a responsibility to proactively provide referrals to counsellors and agencies such as SACC to support the survivor mentally and emotionally as well.

The problem of under-reporting is not one that can be solved with a few changes to court procedures. At the crux of it, we need to tackle our social attitudes and understanding of sexual assault and how survivors are affected. Our words and actions can create a culture where survivors receive the compassion and protection they deserve.


TOUGH PROCESS

Those images and thoughts that I pushed away were popping up all over the place in my head, disorganised and unwanted. It was a struggle. All I wanted was to organise them so that I could somehow detach emotions and work things out logically, so that I could be clear and prepare a report.

JO (not her real name), who shared how she was "in a dilemma about reporting", that she "lost clarity" of her experience after months of struggling to accept the assault, and managed to break through the fog in her memory only with the support of a friend.


The writer is communications senior executive, Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

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

Tougher for ex-spouses to skip paying maintenance

Straits Times
08 Aug 2017
Theresa Tan

But challenges remain, say lawyers, with over 2,000 enforcement applications filed yearly

Part-time clerk S. Chia has been waging a 16-year battle.

Since her divorce in 2001, she has been trying to get her former husband to pay the monthly maintenance of $500 for herself and their two children aged 18 and 20.

Following amendments to the Women's Charter in 2011, a new measure implemented by the authorities gave her extra ammunition: She was able to apply to court to get his employer to pay her directly from his salary. He was then working as a manager.

But he resigned the next month.

So she had to go back to court to apply for yet another enforcement order. He owes her about $10,000 in maintenance arrears.

"He won't pay until I take out an enforcement order. It's very tiring to keep taking out such orders," laments Ms Chia, who earns just over $1,000 a month.

Her headache underscores the continued challenges that some broken families face in compelling breadwinners to provide financial support, despite more efforts since 2011 to make them do so.

Last year, there were 2,651 applications for the enforcement of maintenance orders. This is a drop of 11 per cent from the 2,979 applications filed six years ago.

Lawyers say the number of enforcement applications has been gradually falling since 2011, when a host of measures were implemented to tackle the problem.

For example, the courts can direct an employer to pay the defaulter's wages to the person entitled to it, as Ms Chia did.

Defaulters can also be ordered to attend financial counselling or perform community service.

Host of measures to tackle maintenance payment woes

Divorcees who are remarrying must also make a statutory declaration if they have any maintenance arrears. This is to remind them of their obligations to their former partners and to ensure their new spouses are aware of this.

If the person refuses to make a declaration or if the Registry of Marriages (ROM) suspects he or she is not telling the truth, the ROM will not issue a marriage licence for the couple, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Social and Family Development, under which the ROM comes.

The Straits Times understands that the ROM has not denied anyone a marriage licence so far because of this.

As of last December, 1,646 people who were remarrying have declared their maintenance arrears.

Lawyer Rajan Chettiar said of the falling numbers: "I think more people (who are supposed to pay maintenance) realise they cannot play punk and get away with it."

Lawyer Ivan Cheong notes that in recent years, more couples are settling their divorces and ancillary issues such as maintenance through mediation, instead of a more adversarial approach where they fight it out in court and a judge makes orders deciding who gets what.

When the couple agree during mediation on terms such as the amount of maintenance to be given each month, they are also more likely to comply with these terms. Hence, they may be fewer defaults, he said.

However, lawyer Malathi Das pointed out that not getting maintenance is still a major problem for many people, with over 2,000 enforcement applications filed a year.

Besides monetary woes, this often leads to other problems, lawyers say. For example, some women block their former husbands from visiting their children since they are not paying maintenance. And the children become estranged from their fathers.

Almost three in four applications last year were filed by women to get their former husbands to pay the sums meant to support them, their children or both. The rest of the applicants included current wives, and men who were chasing their former wives for financial support for their children.

An application for enforcement can be filed when at least one payment is not made.

Last year, the law was also amended to allow men incapacitated by illness or disability and who are unable to support themselves to ask for maintenance for themselves from their wives or former wives.

However, no man in such circumstances has filed for maintenance yet, a Family Justice Courts spokesman told The Straits Times.

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

OKP won PIE viaduct job with highest price-quality score: Transport Ministry

Business Times
02 Aug 2017
Lee U-Wen

The main contractor involved in the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) viaduct collapse in mid-July was awarded the tender even though it was deemed to have a low safety performance score, Parliament was told on Tuesday.

Days before the fatal incident at Upper Changi Road East that killed one worker and injured 10 others, Or Kim Peow Contractors (OKP) was convicted over a separate fatality at a Yio Chu Kang work site in 2015.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min, who was responding to a slew of questions by MPs (Members of Parliament) on the PIE viaduct collapse, noted that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) was still investigating the 2015 incident when the Land Transport Authority (LTA) was evaluating OKP's bid.

Dr Lam told the House that while OKP's bid was not disqualified, the company was given a low safety performance score during the evaluation process. "We did not know exactly what was the cause and what liability OKP had (in the 2015 incident) . . . but this was taken into consideration when we evaluated the tender, and as a result OKP scored the lowest for quality in its project submission," said Dr Lam.

He noted that OKP had the lowest tender price of all the bidders, and also had a "good track record" in completing many similar infrastructure projects over the past decade.

Overall, OKP obtained the highest price-quality score and was eventually awarded the contract, said Dr Lam, adding that OKP had taken steps to improve its safety record after the 2015 accident.

In his speech, Dr Lam said that the LTA follows guidelines issued by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) when considering the price and quality of bids. The BCA's guidelines for the price-quality ratio range from 60:40 for more complex projects, to 80:20 for simpler ones. For the construction of the PIE viaduct, the LTA used a ratio of 70:30, which is commonly used for such complex projects. Dr Lam also revealed that a tightening of the evaluation process two years ago led to 16 bids from 10 different contractors being disqualified based solely on their poor safety performance record.

Over the past three years, the LTA called a total of 175 tenders for construction workers, which received more than 1,100 submissions. Of these, 69 were from contractors which had serious workplace safety lapses. Just two of these bids were successful in the end.

"Both these bidders had submitted the lowest price bid and received the highest overall price-quality score. For these two cases, the winning price bids were 27 per cent and 6 per cent lower than the second-lowest bids," said Dr Lam.

OKP was one of the two cases - its winning bid for the PIE viaduct project was S$94.6 million, much lower than three other bidders that had sums of between S$129.7 million and S$193.7 million.

Dr Lam said that the investigations into the cause of the collapse are ongoing and will be concluded this October. The project will remain on hold until then.

The preliminary investigations, however, indicate that the corbels - the brackets that help support beams - supporting the deck slab had given way, but the exact cause will only be known once the probe is finished.

Separately, Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan explained why OKP was not included in the Business Under Surveillance (BUS) programme after its fatal accident in 2015. This scheme helps companies with poor workplace safety and health records to develop or improve on their safety and health management system.

Mr Tan said that the MOM had inspected all of OKP's worksites to check if the accident reflected a wider systemic failure of the company's safety management. The inspections found no such evidence.

"If a company has encountered a certain worksite accident, and the cause of the accident is not because there's no proper WSH (workplace safety and health) regime put in place, but because of certain human error or oversight, that is considered as an isolated and not systemic failure," he added.

Mr Tan said that OKP has since been placed under the BUS programme after the PIE viaduct collapse, as the criteria now requires any company with a stop-work order or any number of fatalities to be included.

A company that wants to leave the BUS programme must show it has taken remedial steps to improve its WSH performance, and this includes conducting refresher training for all workers on any unsafe practices found. This process takes at least one year on average.

"Many companies which went through our BUS programme have exited and attained good safety standards. Some have even won safety and health awards locally and internationally," said Mr Tan.

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

Illegal data access: Ex-Iras temporary worker jailed

Straits Times
15 Aug 2017
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

A former temporary tax assistant at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) was yesterday jailed for six months for accessing the agency's database without authorisation.

Jasmine Ab Kadir, 35, went into the database 238 times over three days to get information on his wife and family members. He committed the offences between May 16 and 23 last year. He and his wife were going through a divorce at the time.

Jasmine, who is also known as Jake Kadir, pleaded guilty to 12 charges under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act in July.

Another 226 charges for similar offences were take into consideration during sentencing.

The court heard that Iras uses a database system called the Inland Revenue Interactive Network (Irin) to manage information related to property, individual income, corporate matters, and goods and services tax.

Jasmine started working at Iras on Feb 23 last year. His job scope included attending to phone and e-mail inquiries from taxpayers.

He was given an Irin account to access the system, which allowed him to access a person's personal particulars and financial details.

Jasmine's lawyer Amolat Singh said his client was going through a difficult time then as his wife had accused him of having an affair.

Mr Singh said: "Matters came to a head when (she) left the matrimonial home suddenly on May 11, 2016... And she had taken the couple's three-year-old son with her. He was at a total loss as to how to locate his son, whom he loves and missed very much." Mr Singh said Jasmine committed the offences "out of sheer desperation".

On May 16, 19 and 23 last year, he accessed the system to retrieve information on 14 people and organisations, including his wife, her father, her uncle and the business she owns.

Jasmine was caught after a director at the Iras Department of Individual Income Tax lodged a police report on July 8last year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Thiagesh Sukumaran yesterday urged District Judge Dorothy Ling to sentence Jasmine to eight months' jail. He said the offences were difficult to detect and the information accessed was meant to be secret.

Mr Singh, however, pleaded for the minimum possible sentence. He said: "No financial loss was caused to anyone. Equally, there was no financial gain for the accused." Jasmine is now an engineer at the Land Transport Authority.

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

LTA sheds light on grey carpool sector

Straits Times
08 Aug 2017
Christopher Tan

Public also urged to avoid carpool services they suspect to be illegal

Grab has finally ceased its year-old GrabHitch Inter-Country Service - a service the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had deemed illegal soon after it was launched.

On June 21, the ride-hailing app posted a notice on its website that it would no longer provide matching services for drivers and passengers carpooling across the Causeway to Johor.

The LTA said, when the service was first launched, that carpool drivers are not allowed to provide cross-border services for any fees.

So as not to contravene LTA's rules, Grab decided to offer such a service on its platform as a "fare-free pilot". It is unclear if passengers and drivers still negotiated payments between themselves for these rides.

Carpooling is legal within Singapore, but drivers can collect only enough "to cover costs incurred for making a trip". Also, they cannot offer more than two trips a day.

Offenders face stiff penalties of a fine of up to $3,000, a jail term of up to six months, or both, for "driving a public-service vehicle without a public-service vehicle licence".

In addition, they may face penalties for "driving a public-service vehicle without a vocational licence". This attracts a fine of up to $1,000 or a jail term of up to three months for first-time offenders, and $2,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months for repeat offenders.

Offenders may also risk having their vehicles forfeited, the LTA noted.

Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported last month that Grab had terminated the services of some 200 GrabHitch drivers for breaching carpooling rules.

The LTA, in response to queries by The Straits Times on how it was policing carpooling operations like GrabHitch and Ryde, advised commuters not to use a carpooling service if they suspect it is illegal.

"We encourage the public to use taxis or duly-licensed chauffeured private-hire cars affixed with decals and which display Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational Licences or concession letters, if they are unsure if private car owners are offering carpooling trips within the ambit of the law," an LTA spokesman said.

As at June 30, there were 63,259 private-hire cars here. Of these, 43,385 were chauffeured private-hire cars and 19,874 were self-driven private-hire cars.

The LTA, however, was unable to say how many cars were providing carpooling services.

"LTA adopts a light-touch approach to carpooling, as it is done on a non-commercial basis," said the LTA spokesman.

But lawyer Anthony Chey, an insurance partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, said: "The same concerns and problems before LTA rolled out the regulations for the 'regular' private-hire drivers exist in the case of these 'carpooling' drivers.

"These include the identity and experience of the drivers, and whether there is sufficient insurance coverage. LTA should adopt a uniform approach to regulate all private-hire services and not have an exception for 'carpooling' drivers."

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

Workplace safety laws under review

Straits Times
02 Aug 2017
Toh Yong Chuan

MOM looking at enhancing deterrence, raising maximum penalties

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has started a review of laws on workplace safety and aims to complete the exercise by the end of the year.

It is looking at enhancing deterrence against worksite accidents, improving the industry's learning from such accidents through the release of accident reports, and raising the maximum penalties for offences that result in serious injuries or deaths.

Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan spoke about the review of the Workplace Safety and Health Act in Parliament yesterday, in response to a question from labour MP Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC).

His comments come after a viaduct under construction at the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) collapsed last month, killing one worker and injuring 10.

More than 10 MPs asked parliamentary questions about the worksite accident at the sitting.

Responding to the questions on workplace safety, Mr Tan said that fatalities from construction site accidents have fallen.

There have been four deaths so far this year, compared with 24 last year and 27 in 2015. He added that the MOM has stepped up enforcement checks at construction sites, and has conducted about 16,000 inspections a year.

Besides this, the ministry also has a demerit points system and a blacklisting regime, Mr Tan said.

Since 2015, the MOM has issued demerit points to 223 companies for safety violations.

Among them, 25 were barred from hiring foreign workers until they improve their safety record.

In May last year, the MOM also enhanced the blacklisting regime for construction companies, said Mr Tan. Companies are now put on a "Business Under Surveillance" programme immediately after a worksite death occurs.

There are now 25 companies on the blacklist, and they are supervised by MOM closely until they have fixed their safety lapses, including putting their workers through refresher safety training.

One of the companies is Or Kim Peow Contractors (OKP), the main contractor of the PIE viaduct project.

A fatal accident had happened at the company's Yio Chu Kang flyover worksite in September 2015, but it was not immediately blacklisted then, said Mr Tan, adding that this was before the MOM tightened its blacklisting regime in May last year.

"MOM inspected all of OKP's worksites to check if the accident reflects a wider and systemic failure of the company's safety management. However, no evidence of systemic safety lapses were found from the inspections," said Mr Tan, explaining why the company was not put on the blacklist after the worksite death.

He said safety regulations and laws are reviewed regularly to keep them updated, and added that the MOM will continue to monitor developments and refine its regulatory framework.

"If there is a need to further tighten, we will continue to do so," he said.


FATALITIES FROM CONSTRUCTION SITE ACCIDENTS

4

So far this year.

24

Last year.

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

Singapore revokes first bunker licence since enforcing MFM system

Business Times
15 Aug 2017
Tan Hwee Hwee

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has revoked the bunker craft operator licence of Panoil Petroleum Pte Ltd with effect from Monday, in what is considered as a move to uphold the integrity of Singapore's mass flow metering-based bunkering system.

MPA said that checks conducted between January and March 2017 revealed that unauthorised alterations were made onboard five bunker tankers operated by Panoil.

The unauthorised alterations were made on the pipelines of the bunker tankers between the mass flow meters (MFMs) and the flow boom.

MPA said that such alterations allow bunker that has been measured by an MFM to be siphoned out and undermines the accuracy of the readings of the MFM system. Panoil is thus deemed as breaching the terms of its bunker craft operator licence and it will no longer be allowed to operate as a bunker craft operator in the Port of Singapore, MPA said.

The Business Times understands that this is the first time MPA has moved to revoke a bunker craft operator licence since the use of MFMs was enforced for bunkering operations in Singapore.

In March, MPA temporarily suspended the harbour craft licences of five bunker tankers on Panoil's fleet after irregularities were detected during spot checks.

In the then statement to BT, Panoil had attributed the irregularities to "technical deficiencies".

The use of an automated MFM system to measure and transfer bunker through metered pipes is touted for resulting in significant time savings and enhancing operational integrity by removing human intervention needed in the conventional sounding method.

Singapore is the first bunkering port to mandate the use of MFMs.

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Earlier intervention, tougher action needed from regulators

Business Times
08 Aug 2017
Kenneth Lim

Singapore's financial market regulators can and should do a better job of holding management and companies accountable for misinformation.

They should consider tougher and more targeted sanctions for wrongdoing, and look into earlier intervention measures, such as imposing tighter checks and balances on problematic companies when there is sufficient reason for concern.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) have come under fire for not intervening enough to protect investors from listed companies where aggressive accounting and other grey-area activities have taken place.

The most recent complaints came from Iceberg Research, the outfit that for the past two years has been raising questions about the accounting practices at commodity trader Noble Group.

Iceberg argued that regulators did not do enough to prevent Noble from raising more capital from the market, and failed to shield investors from ongoing exposure to the company's over-optimistic assessment of its financial health.

Perceived regulatory inaction is not restricted to Noble. Just to name a couple of examples, shareholders have also expressed frustration about Singapore Post, where the issuer failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest between a director and strategic investments, and YuuZoo Corp, where the company's aggressive accounting policies led to significant restatements, write-offs and impairments.

If the criticism holds any ground, it is with the perception that companies and management are rarely taken to task when there is a problem with inaccurate or misleading information. In instances when they are held responsible, the sanctions are often trivial compared to the loss to investors.

At Noble, for instance, nobody from the company has been held accountable for the group's early insistence on the strength of its business, which has turned out to be flimsier than previously indicated.

YuuZoo, which for several quarters painted a picture of its finances that was too rosy for auditors to accept, has not been taken to task for its aggressive accounting practices.

ISR Capital continues to be able to pursue deals, including one riddled with conflicts of interest and wildly inconsistent valuations, even as investigations continue into whether the company was previously under the surreptitious control of external parties.

At SingPost, former director Keith Tay got off with a reprimand after the company failed to disclose his potential conflicts of interest related to certain deals.

Some of the criticism about weak penalties is admittedly dated. It was only in 2015 that rule changes broadened the powers of SGX's independent Disciplinary Committee. The new rules, which allow the imposition of fines, will help.

But perhaps the regulators can also consider some form of collective action available to investors. This would not only deter wrongdoing, it would also allow investors affected by the action to get some compensation. The threat of stronger sanctions, especially against individuals, might deter companies and management from trying to stretch the limits of proper disclosure and accounting.

It may also be worth looking into enforcement actions that can mitigate concerns with-out having to resort to full-blown sanctions. This could be in the form of more stringent checks and balances when there is sufficient cause for concern but not enough for full-blown sanctions. For example, at Noble, regulators could have forced the company to disclose more information about its valuation methods and assumptions on a regular basis. At ISR, regulators could lower the hurdle for when proposed deals must obtain shareholder approval, or insisted that the company use a different independent adviser on the deal.

Ultimately, however, critics need to recognise that it is impossible for the regulators to prevent questionable practices, and when those occur, to prevent losses by stakeholders.

Take Noble, for example. In the two years since Iceberg issued its first critical report on Noble, the company's business has taken a hit as a number of the key valuation concerns raised by Iceberg turned out to be correct. But the circumstances that gave rise to those concerns and the subsequent impact on business existed before regulators and the broader market were aware of them, and even if the regulators had tried to step in, shareholders would still have lost value eventually.

Contrary to Iceberg's griping, SGX's use of "trade with caution" notices and disclosable queries has evolved over the years into a highly useful enforcement tool.

Just like compulsory checks and balances, "trade with caution" and exchange-initiated queries allow the exchange to signal to the market whenever it is uncomfortable with some issue, without running into the realm of false accusations. With queries in particular, SGX has gotten companies to disclose more information about certain issues that the exchange felt was worth highlighting. While SGX has never given an opinion on whether the replies to its queries are logical or rational, just the fact that there is a response from the company allows the market to make up its own mind on the issue being discussed.

Investors need to recognise these red flags when they are put up. If they continue to buy into these companies without proper regard for the risks, they have only themselves to blame if those warnings eventually become reality.

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

MAS to regulate crowdfunding involving digital tokens

Business Times
02 Aug 2017
Jamie Lee

Digital tokens can represent debt or an offer of units in a collective investment scheme, and these fall under the Securities and Futures Act, it says

Most emerging forms of crowdfunding in Singapore involving the use of digital tokens, including cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, will likely be regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, which stepped in on Tuesday to clarify its stance on these newfangled methods of fundraising.

The authority said it is responding to the recent rise in number of initial coin offerings (ICOs) launched as a way of raising funds, and that such digital tokens may be considered an offer of shares or units in a collective investment scheme under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA). Digital tokens may also represent debt owed by an issuer and be considered a debenture under the SFA, it added.

Such tokens are secured through cryptography, or the use of code to protect digital information and process instructions. Online sites launching these so-called ICOs have digital tokens representing rights such as membership into an investment pool, a fractional value of an asset or the promise of a return.

WongPartnership's head of the asset management and funds practice Low Kah Keong said many recent ICOs in Singapore have purportedly issued digital tokens that are collective investment schemes or securities, and would fall squarely within the ambit of the SFA.

"Just by electronically syndicating an investment product and requiring payments in Bitcoin or Ether instead of legal currencies in an offering exercise should not render our Securities and Futures Act inapplicable."

TSMP Law's joint managing director Stefanie Yuen-Thio said the MAS is sending a strong signal to the market that it is focused on the substance of the transaction, and will apply current regulations accordingly.

"Sexy terms like 'cryptocurrency' and 'blockchain' may mask the fact that underlying the ICO is a transaction that falls into one of the regulated baskets - shares, debt instrument, or a collective investment scheme," she said.

MAS's clarification means that under the SFA, companies looking to issue digital tokens that are in effect structured as forms of securities must issue a prospectus as part of the offer. Issuers may skip doing this if existing exemptions apply, such as if theirs are small offers, private placements or offers to accredited or institutional investors.

If such tokens are then traded on secondary platforms, such platforms must be approved or recognised by the MAS.

Issuers or intermediaries of such tokens would have to hold relevant licences and uphold applicable requirements on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism.

MAS is still assessing ways it can regulate money laundering and terrorism financing risks linked to activities involving digital tokens that do not function solely as virtual currencies.

The authority had said earlier that while virtual currencies are not regulated, intermediaries in virtual currencies would be regulated for money laundering and terrorism financing risks.

The nascent ICO market is roughly estimated at US$250 million globally, reported tech magazine Wired. This amount is small by many standards; for example, it is roughly only an eighth of this year's NetLink Trust initial public offering.

But MAS said ICOs are vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing risks because of the anonymous nature of the transactions and the ease with which large sums of monies may be raised quickly.

TSMP's Ms Yuen-Thio said MAS's position is aligned with those in major markets, including the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which clarified that ICO offerings must fall in with federal securities laws.

MAS itself has not identified any particular platform here that will not come into the regulatory fold, but a handful of start-ups have latched onto the digital token trend.

The Business Times reported late last month that "proptech" firms FundPlaces and Reidao plan to create tokens backed by property in which investors can invest, by buying digital tokens that hold a right to the cashflow of an underlying real estate investment. BT also reported last month that another platform, FundYourselfNow, is to launch a platform for entrepreneurs to raise funds for their projects by issuing tokens sold for virtual currencies. These digital tokens entitle project backers to a share in the profits of the venture or rewards.

Darvin Kurniawan, co-founder of Reidao, said: "I think it is good news in a way that MAS has taken a stance on the ICO situation... We will revisit our model and structure to make sure that we are working within the regulatory boundaries."

A Russian company has also said it would set up a Singapore-based special-purpose vehicle called Cross Coin to raise some US$5 million via an ICO; the money is to go into an accelerator to fund eastern European frontier-technology companies seeking expansion into the US.

Cross Coin, which called Singapore an "ICO-friendly jurisdiction" on its website, said each digital token is issued at US$1. The company plans to use the net profit from investing in the accelerator's portfolio companies and the assets remaining to buy back the tokens at market price.

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

ADV: Difficulty Managing Cross-Border Transactions?

Singapore Law Watch
15 Aug 2017
Thomson Reuters

ADV: Programme manager For Legal Technology Innovation (5-Year Contract)

Singapore Law Watch
08 Aug 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

New rules for Muslim minors who want to wed

Straits Times
02 Aug 2017
Charissa Yong

Marriage prep classes among key changes to Muslim Law Act

A Muslim couple have to attend a marriage preparation programme before tying the knot if one of them is a minor below the age of 21.

The parents or guardians of the minor must also give their consent.

These are among the key changes to the Administration of Muslim Law Act, which Parliament debated and passed yesterday.

The law, enacted almost 50 years ago to govern Muslim affairs, was last amended in 2008.

The latest changes are to strengthen Muslim families, reinforce Muslim institutions and better manage Muslim assets.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said the changes are "to better protect Muslim families because they are the very building blocks of a strong and resilient community".

The number of Muslim marriages involving minors has been declining steadily but such marriages are still vulnerable.

Recent cohorts of Muslim marriages with younger grooms experienced 1½ times the divorce rate compared with older grooms, said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information.

For this reason, the specialised programme for couples with minors will have consultations to help them better understand and address concerns they and their families may have about the marriage.

The programme will also have marriage education workshops for young couples to develop essential skills and knowledge to build a stable marriage and family.

Similar courses exist for other groups, but the Government is making it mandatory for couples with minors first as they need support most, said Dr Yaacob.

The approach is similar to that adopted for marriages involving minors under the Women's Charter.

Requiring the parents of the minor to consent to his or her marriage also underscores the importance of their support.

"Their guidance, especially in the crucial initial years of the marriage, is critical to help younger couples build strong marriage foundations (that last) a lifetime," he said.

Currently, only the wali's consent is needed. The wali is the lawful guardian of the bride-to-be and, in some cases, may not be her father.

Divorcing couples and their children will also get more support, although Dr Yaacob said divorce rates have been "relatively stable".

The Syariah Court can soon require couples seeking a divorce to first attend its marriage counselling programme, to see if the marriage can be saved.

More than 33,000 couples have been counselled since 2004, and almost half the marriages were saved, said Dr Yaacob.

Also, men will be able to apply for a divorce without having to first say "talak", a declaration of divorce.

"With this amendment, a husband who applies for divorce before uttering the talak can seek help for his marital woes, and the court may try to save the marriage by directing the couple to attend counselling," he said, adding that the talak can still be uttered. Generally, uttering the talak is perceived to have sealed a divorce as long as the Syariah Court says the divorce is valid.

New rules will also ensure Muslim endowments or wakafs, which generate millions of dollars in revenue annually, are run well.

Nine lawmakers, including seven Muslim MPs, raised issues such as caring for children of divorcing couples (Mr Zainal Sapari of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), and resolving wakaf disputes (Mr Faisal Manap of Aljunied GRC).

Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) and Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) also lauded the changes.

Said Mr Yam: "These efforts show the community is progressive and realistic... and that it has always been keen to strengthen itself."


HELP TO SAVE MARRIAGE

With this amendment, a husband who applies for divorce before uttering the talak can seek help for his marital woes, and the court may try to save the marriage by directing the couple to attend counselling.

DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, who is also Minister for Communications and Information, on getting help for married Muslim men.

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More firms closing amid tough economy

Straits Times
14 Aug 2017
Chia Yan Min

Past two years see rise in closures across sectors, but retail one of hardest hit: Study

The percentage of businesses and companies shutting down has increased in recent years amid a challenging economic environment, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

The increase in closures of businesses as well as companies was recorded across sectors but retail was one of the hardest hit, said the study, which made use of data from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

Companies are defined as entities incorporated under the Companies Act consisting of at least a director, a secretary and a member.

Businesses are sole proprietorships and partnerships consisting of two to 20 members.

Companies are separate legal entities - so, directors are not personally responsible for debts - while business owners are accountable for any obligations borne by the entity.

Companies and businesses made up around 64 per cent and 33 per cent of total business entities respectively last year, with the remaining 3 per cent comprising limited liability partnerships and limited partnerships.

The data showed a slight pickup in the cessation rate of companies in recent years, from 7.3 per cent in 2014 to 7.6 per cent in 2015 and further to 7.8 per cent last year.

"This could be due to the economic slowdown in 2015 and 2016 as well as ongoing economic restructuring," said the study, which was contributed by MTI economist Reuben Foong and released last Friday alongside the latest Economic Survey of Singapore.

Still, the cessation rate last year came in below levels recorded in 2011 and 2012, "suggesting that the overall corporate health of companies has not deteriorated significantly".

When it comes to businesses, however, cessation rates spiked over the last two years to reach 22 per cent last year.

"This suggests that businesses may be more vulnerable to economic slowdowns than companies, as they likely have weaker balance sheets and may lack access to financing to tide over a period of slower economic growth," the MTI study noted.

This could be the case for younger businesses, as a significant proportion of the businesses that ceased operations in 2015 and last year was less than two years old.

The data also showed that the increase in company closures in 2015 and last year was broad-based, with all sectors recording a larger number of exits in these two years.

In particular, the business services and wholesale trade sectors contributed the most to the overall increase in company cessation in that period.

Notably, the number of company closures in the retail trade sector also went up significantly, rising 20 per cent per year on average in 2015 and last year, higher than the 9.3 per cent seen in 2014.

For businesses, while all sectors saw a rise in business cessation in 2015 and last year, most of the increase in the period could be attributed to retail as well as transportation and storage.

The rise in business cessation in the retail trade sector "reflects the sluggish business environment faced by retailers in recent years, and also comes on the back of the spike in the number of new businesses formed in the sector in 2014", the study noted.

Meanwhile, the increase in the number of transportation and storage businesses that shut down could be due to drivers providing private car-hire services leaving after trying out the sector.

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

25 crimes that shook Singapore

Straits Times
08 Aug 2017
Olivia Ho

A collection of 25 true-crime stories that have shaken Singapore since 1965 has hit the bestseller list

Adrian Lim, the "medium" who tortured and murdered two children with the help of his "holy wives".

Tan Chor Jin, the half-blind gangster, dubbed the "One-Eyed Dragon", who gunned down a nightclub owner and then conducted his own (failed) defence in court.

Mimi Wong, the dance hostess who became the first woman in Singapore to get the death penalty, for fatally stabbing to death her Japanese lover's wife.

These are some of the names that grabbed headlines and chilled Singaporeans at one point in time. Now, their faces leer up at readers from the grungy cover of Guilty As Charged, a collection of 25 true- crime stories that have shaken Singapore since 1965.

This gallery of rogues was first put together as an e-book by The Straits Times in collaboration with the Singapore Police Force in 2015.

It has now been published by Straits Times Press as a physical book, which hit shelves at the end of last month and today makes its debut on the ST bestseller list for non-fiction.

ST associate news editor Abdul Hafiz Abdul Samad, 44, worked with the police to narrow down a list of crimes that left their impact on Singaporeans.

"In the early years after Independence, Singapore was very different from how it is today and policing it was very different too," he says.

"There were gun battles at Bras Basah, gangsters who were not afraid to kill or be killed."

The stories in the book were written by 11 ST reporters based on old articles from news archives and edited by Mr Hafiz, who is married with a son.

He was also given the opportunity to view never-before-seen crime scene photos, such as of the interior of Lim's flat and the implements he used to kill his young victims.

ST executive multimedia designer Sally Lam, 49, who designed the book, used stark typography and a multitude of black- and-white photos to take the reader through a visual journey of the crimes.

The mother of three often had to work on the book in the wee hours and found it "creepy", especially the stories about the murder of children such as Nonoi, two, who died after being repeatedly dunked in a pail of water by her stepfather.

Mr Hafiz says he was astounded by the sheer audacity of some of the criminals featured, such as cop- killer Lim Ban Lim, who was the most wanted gunman in Singapore and Malaysia in the 1960s.

Lim underwent plastic surgery and even dressed as a woman to disguise himself during his nine-year crime spree.

He was so notorious that after he was killed by the police in a pasar malam shootout in 1972, 33 inmates escaped from a reformative training centre just to attend his funeral.

Mr Hafiz was also impressed by the derring-do of the police officers who put their lives on the line to catch these criminals.

In a 1973 ambush of young gangster Hoo How Seng, for instance, policemen disguised themselves as noodle sellers and petrol station attendants.

When Hoo drew his revolver, an officer jammed his finger against the trigger to prevent him from firing. He broke his finger, but his colleagues were eventually able to shoot Hoo dead.

Says Mr Hafiz of the crimes in the book: "This was an important slice of history and we wanted to remind people of Singapore's darker side.

"It reminds us of our mortality and how anything could happen at any time, so we should not take our safety for granted."


Memorable cases

THE SWIMMING TRUNK GANG (1975)

This gang of four robbers had a unique modus operandi - they would break into homes wearing nothing but swimming trunks and rob families at knifepoint.

They were believed to have been responsible for 500 offences over 30 months. Their total haul by the time they were arrested was nearly $500,000, an all-time local record.

They were sentenced in 1975 to a total of 64 years in jail and 144 strokes of the cane. In their mitigation, all four blamed the high cost of living.

THE RITUAL MURDERS (1981)

Charlatan medium Adrian Lim and his two "holy wives", Catherine Tan and Hoe Kah Hong, kidnapped, tortured and killed children in a series of murders that terrified the nation.

The first victim, nine-year-old Agnes Ng, was abducted from a church and taken to Lim's flat, where she was sexually assaulted and suffocated.

Two weeks later, the body of 10-year-old Ghazali Marzuki was found. He had been lured away from a playground, then drugged, choked and drowned. A trail of blood led policemen from the body to Lim's flat.

Lim, a self-professed "ladies' man", said in court that he had decided to kill small children as a sacrifice to the goddess Kali, who would help him escape an earlier rape charge.

Lim and his "wives" were sentenced to death and hanged in 1988.

HUANG NA'S MURDER (2004)

The disappearance of eight-year-old Huang Na, daughter of a vegetable stall worker from China, sparked one of Singapore's biggest manhunts.

More than 20 days later, her badly decomposed body was found stuffed inside a brown cardboard box less than half her size at Telok Blangah Hill.

Penang-born vegetable packer Took Leng How, a playmate of Huang Na's, was arrested over her murder.

In his police statement, he said he strangled her after a game of hide-and-seek caused her to go into spasms. He was sentenced to death and hanged in 2006.


Guilty As Charged ($26.75) is available at all leading bookstores. Reader discretion is advised.

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

Merchant ships are not meant for rescue missions

Business Times
02 Aug 2017
David Hughes

Such complicated operations should not be undertaken by the shipping industry but instead be led by warships and other official vessels which are better equipped

Last month, two large merchant ships were involved in widely reported rescues. It is the duty of all vessels, under the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, to rescue anybody in distress if they can do so without putting themselves at undue risk. That sounds straightforward and sensible but rescuing somebody in the water or in a small boat or raft is an extremely difficult operation for large merchant ships, which are not well equipped for rescues.

On July 9, the officers and crew of Evergreen Line's Singapore-flag container ship Ever Diadem joined forces with another ship to successfully rescue 30 seafarers forced to abandon their burning Taiwan-based fishing vessel off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The 4,211 TEU vessel's captain, Tao Yen-tang, immediately notified Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) South Africa and ordered his crew to stand by for a rescue operation. In view of the numbers involved, Capt Tai also requested the Marshall Islands-registered bulk carrier SBI Antares, which was in the vicinity, to join the rescue mission.

The ship's operator, Evergreen Line, notes that the region off the East African coast is notorious for piracy which posed a potential yet serious threat to the rescue operation. However, with the safety of the fishermen paramount, Capt Tai and his crew braved the risks and succeeded in rescuing 16 from one of the lifeboats. Meanwhile, the SBI Antares picked up the men in the other boat.

Those rescued included three from Taiwan, seven Filipinos, four from Vietnam and 16 Indonesians, all of whom went ashore in Durban for repatriation.

Just nine days later, another rescue showed the extent to which seafarers will go to rescue somebody. On July 18, the Höegh-Wallem managed vessel Höegh Singapore, a Pure Car & Truck Carrier (PCTC), manned through Höegh Fleet Services in China, was on its way from Halifax, Canada to Antwerp, Belgium, when the bridge team heard a distress call from a sailing boat in trouble. After a whole day of searching the area in very rough seas, the yacht was finally spotted late in the night. The lone sailor brought aboard the high-sided vessel, which in itself was a difficult piece of seamanship - especially in the dark.

In these two cases, the other seafarers needed rescuing but in the past few years, merchant ships have rescued large numbers of would-be asylum seekers trying to cross into Europe. In theory, that job should be carried out by warships and other official vessels belonging to European Union (EU) countries, under the Operation Triton umbrella.

Border management

Amanda Hastings, claims executive at marine mutual liability insurer UK P&I Club, comments: "Summer is once again upon us and the media coverage surrounding the refugee and migrant crisis in the Mediterranean continues, as do the criticisms of Operation Triton. So has anything really changed since Triton was introduced or do commercial operators still have to step in?"

She explains: "Launched in November 2014, the EU's Frontex Operation Triton has been a controversial replacement for its predecessor, the Italian Mare Nostrum programme. Unlike Mare Nostrum, Triton does not focus on 'search and rescue' missions but focuses its efforts on 'border management'. This means that the area for which government-led rescue efforts are responsible has been significantly reduced, and some have feared that this has led to an increase in casualties.

According to Ms Hastings, a direct consequence of this change, and the associated media coverage, has been an increase in non-governmental rescue organisations such as the Migrant Offshore Aid Station and Sea Watch. While the increase in NGOs tries to fill the gap left by Mare Nostrum, commercial ship operators are still often required to intervene. She warns this may be made worse by the proposed EU NGO Code of Conduct, which may not allow NGOs access to Italian ports unless they sign up. Concerns over the wording and impact of this have been raised by organisations such as Human Rights at Sea.

Once onboard the ship, the rescued persons must also be provided with food, water and shelter until they can be landed. These migrants are desperate to reach Europe and the potential for violence should the rescuing vessel not be able to disembark them promptly is obvious. While ordinary merchant ships have done extremely well in rescuing these migrants, they are, again, not equipped to do so and undertaking the rescues and caring for the often traumatised migrants place a huge burden on the crew.

Wider impact

Unfortunately, Ms Hastings cautions, things could get worse. She says: "There are also potential problems on the horizon with the Defend Europe movement, a right-wing group, who may try to stop the work of NGO vessels - which could place additional pressure on the commercial operators."

She adds: "Ships have an obligation to provide prompt assistance to any person "found at sea in danger of being lost" and to do so promptly. The only caveat to this being, if providing said assistance would cause serious danger to the ship and its crew. Failing to comply with these obligations could result in a fine and imprisonment."

What of course neither the UK P&I Club nor anybody else can satisfactorily define is what constitutes in any given circumstances serious danger to the ship and its crew.

While this is in many ways a European political issue, it impacts the entire global shipping industry. At the International Maritime Organisation's Maritime Safety Committee meeting recently, countries and international organisations affirmed their concern for the humanitarian situation and the loss of migrants at sea and agreed that the way forward was to promote appropriate and effective action at the United Nations. The Committee encouraged Member States and organisations in consultative status to participate in the Global Compact on Migration process underway following the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016.

That is all very well but it appears that, at the moment, the shipping industry is still to a significant extent having to act as international rescue service. That is wrong and not sustainable.

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

Encourage more private home owners to speak out: Forum

Straits Times
14 Aug 2017

When I collected a set of forms for filing a complaint to the Strata Titles Board (STB), I was surprised to be asked if I had a lawyer. This implied that the filing could exceed the $500 application fee, as a layman like me could not present the facts myself. Because of this, I did not proceed with my complaint.

Hence, I agree with Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi (Can strata board charge lower fee?; Aug 5).

We need to encourage more owners to speak out. This will allow the STB to study matters and implement updates to theBuilding Maintenance and Strata Management Act.

At the rate that the Act is being revised, many private home owners are left frustrated or resigned to their fate.

Most Management Corporation Strata Titles (MCSTs) are managed with the help of managing agents.

Some managing agents issue circulars, but close an eye to non-compliance by office bearers.

Some councils are made up of just a few self-serving volunteers. Residents have an impossible task getting by-laws enforced, or are forced to spend time and money filing a complaint with the STB.

Some MCSTs do not circulate the minutes of their annual general meetings and do not inform residents of matters that affect them and their property value.

Owners have a stake in the running of the estate. Hence, more owner participation, without joining the council or receiving any stipends, should be encouraged.

A lower STB fee would help to achieve this.

Lee Kwet Ngiap

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Boost for home owners eyeing safety grilles

Straits Times
07 Aug 2017
Toh Wen Li

If proposed amendment becomes law, they cannot be prevented from installing them

Window grilles are as commonplace in residential homes here as air-con compressors sitting on balconies. They are mainly for safety, to keep children from climbing out of the windows.

Yet some private estates have not allowed grilles to be installed.

This is despite the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) reminding management corporation strata titles (MCSTs) in 2015 that home owners should not be stopped from installing grilles to prevent harm to children.

But it may become the law soon, if a proposed amendment to the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, tabled last Tuesday, is passed in Parliament.

The BCA told The Straits Times that there have been cases where apartment owners had not been allowed to install safety grilles because the management corporations (MCs) "deemed that it would affect the appearance of the building in the development".

Mr Roger Seow, 46, who did not want to take any chances, has spent $1,700 to have stainless steel cables, or invisible grilles, installed before he and his family move into their new apartment at The Vales executive condominium in Sengkang in two months' time.

His estate allows the grilles but looks at their designs.

"It's to prevent my two-year-old from falling out," said Mr Seow, who works in sales. "My son is very active. He likes to climb... It's better to be safe than sorry."

The father of two is one of many apartment owners cheering last week's announcement that MCs may no longer be able to prevent residents from having window grilles installed.

Mr Eugene Lim, key executive officer at ERA Realty, said it will be a good thing. "Grilles do not have an impact on the value of the house. What's important is whether the condo is well-maintained."

Besides, apartment owners "install grilles internally, (and) these are not permanent structures".

At present, some condominiums allow only certain types of grilles. And BCA's 2015 reminder did state that home owners had to have the grille designs approved by the MCs.

At The Esta in Amber Gardens, only "invisible" grilles are permitted, for aesthetic reasons.

Mr Richard Ong, condominium manager for The Esta, said: "We want to preserve uniformity, or else it will be quite unsightly."

Mr David Tan, director of Invisys, a company that sells invisible" grilles, said he has seen a 30 per cent to 40 per cent year-on- year increase in business since opening in 2010. About 70 per cent of his customers live in condos.

These grilles - which keep people from falling out, rather than deter burglars - can usually be installed within a day.

The BCA said that even with the proposed amendment, home owners will still have to "ensure that any such safety equipment installed does not mar the appearance of the building".

"Developers and MCSTs are thus encouraged to provide design guidelines for the installation of safety equipment so that purchasers and subsidiary proprietors can adopt them to maintain a certain uniformity in appearance."


KEEP BUILDING'S LOOK IN MIND TOO

(Home owners will still have to) ensure that any such safety equipment installed does not mar the appearance of the building. Developers and MCSTs are thus encouraged to provide design guidelines for the installation of safety equipment so that purchasers and subsidiary proprietors can adopt them to maintain a certain uniformity in appearance.

THE BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION AUTHORITY, on what home owners still have to do, even after the proposed amendment becomes law.

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

Structure in family business put under spotlight

Business Times
02 Aug 2017
Kimberly Chan

Disputes in family businesses do not always arise from a clash of opinions or personalities. In fact, it is structure - or more precisely, the lack of it - that most often leads to conflicts.

This was highlighted by Peter Leach, Deloitte UK partner and Deloitte global leader family enterprise consulting, at the Family Business Forum on Tuesday, organised by the Singapore Business Federation, to discuss changes and challenges faced by family businesses today.

"I believe that around 90-95 per cent of issues arising in family business arise because of structural issues as opposed to personality issues," he said, adding that while structural problems are the crux, "they manifest themselves as personality problems". He points out that having a good process to manage differences is what makes them "much less threatening, than if you treat them as a conflict".

Structure can take many forms, and the industries of each family business will determine different types of disruptions that will arise today.

"Family values, culture and traditions are added dimensions that family businesses have to manage in their transformation journey," said Teo Siong Seng, chairman of the Singapore Business Federation. Mr Teo is also managing director of Pacific International Lines Pte Ltd.

For Lee Oi Kum, executive chairman of BarterXchange Pte Ltd, it was how she kept the practices of her father in terms of developing an understanding of others that transformed into a habit today. "Its about explaining expectations - and living up to them," she said, on the topic of maintaining this practice through the next generation.

Neo Tiam Boon, CEO and executive director of TA Corporation Ltd, on the other hand, focused on the tradition of bonding. He comes from a family with 11 siblings, and the informal gatherings they have every Sunday as a family has become a sacred business principle. On managing change, he said: "A lot of sacrifice is needed in order to be united as a family - but we must be in unity."

For Shahzad Nasim, group executive chairman of Meinhardt Group International, he had to create a set of values because his family business started with buying over someone else's company. He has put in place structures to ensure a smooth transition from his generation to the next, and noted that the third generation of leaders can include not just his family members, but also his non-family staff.

Mr Leach stressed the importance of "having a shared vision while building a family team". Having a "common vision supported by a very strong sense of shared values" while the family works together as business partners, are ingredients of a family business's sustained success.

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

ADV: Assistant Manager / Manager, Human Resource & Administration

Singapore Law Watch
14 Aug 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

Deal on framework of S. China Sea code

Straits Times
07 Aug 2017
Raul Dancel

Asean foreign ministers also issue joint communique calling for non-militarisation in disputed zone

Foreign ministers from South-east Asia and China have adopted the framework of a code of conduct (COC) to manage disputes in the South China Sea, paving the way for negotiations on an actual code to take place by the year end.

This came as Asean foreign ministers issued their joint communique that called for non-militarisation in the South China Sea and noting concerns by some ministers on land reclamations in the area.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday that "the finalised framework of the COC on the South China Sea brings stability to the issue, demonstrating a positive momentum. This shows our common wish to protect the peace and stability in the South China Sea".

With the situation "stable and (with) no interference from external parties", negotiations could begin when the leaders of Asean and China meet again in the Philippines in November, Mr Wang added, in reference to the Asean Summit.

By the end of the month, he said, "various parties will together explore the thinking, principles and plan behind the actual negotiations of the COC, so as to make necessary preparations to reach a consensus between Asean and China".

The framework has not been made public, but a leaked two- page blueprint says it aims to promote "mutual trust, cooperation and confidence, prevent incidents, manage incidents should they occur and create a favourable environment for the peaceful resolution of disputes".

It also emphasises that the COC "is not an instrument to settle territorial disputes or maritime delimitation issues".

Speaking to reporters, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said of the framework: "This is an important document because it represents, in a sense, consensus and more important than that, a commitment on behalf of all the 10 Asean states and China to make progress on this long overdue issue.

"It doesn't mean all differences have gone away, but by focusing on the overall dynamics of the relationship, we can achieve positive progress, confidence and move forward."

Finalising the COC has acquired urgency following a series of confrontations between China and some of its smaller South-east Asian neighbours with competing claims to the South China Sea.

The joint communique, which had been delayed from Saturday, said concerns were voiced by some members about "land reclamations and activities in the area which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tension and may undermine peace, security and stability".

It "emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint", and also "stressed the importance of undertaking confidence-building and preventive measures" to enhance trust and confidence among parties.

China lays claim to nearly all of the resource-rich waterway, which is also claimed in part by four Asean members - Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Efforts to finalise the code have dragged on for years without any sign that such an accord will ever be achieved.

In place of a legally binding code, China and the 10-member Asean grouping settled for a mere declaration in 2002 that calls on claimants to exercise restraint and stop new occupation in the South China Sea.

That the framework is broad and leaves wide scope for disagreement has critics raising doubts about how effective the COC will be.

The framework does not outline as an initial objective the need to make the code legally binding and enforceable, or have a dispute resolution mechanism.

Asean has long held the position that the COC must be legally binding, but China opposes this.

Speaking to The Straits Times, Asean Secretary-General Le Luong Minh said: "A framework is a framework. But the framework will hopefully pave the way towards meaningful and substantive negotiations towards the conclusion of a COC."

He added: "It must be able not only to prevent but also to manage incidents of the kind that have taken place so far. For that COC to be effective, it will have to be legally binding."

Reacting to criticisms that the code may end up as a toothless document, Mr Wang said: "As long as we put our signatures on them, we have to take on the responsibility and should abide by them."

Some critics and diplomats told Reuters that China's sudden interest in starting negotiations for the COC after 15 years of delays is intended to buy time to complete its strategic objectives in the South China Sea.

It also comes at a time when the United States - long seen as a crucial buffer against China's maritime assertiveness - is distracted by other issues and providing no real clarity about its security strategy in Asia, thus weakening Asean's bargaining position, Reuters reported.

Said Mr Wang, whose country insists that its activities in the South China Sea are for defence purposes: "We should not prejudge its final outcome."


North Korea: What the latest United Nations sanctions entail

EXPORTS

North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood are banned. This will deprive the isolated state of one-third of its export earnings estimated at US$3 billion (S$4 billion) a year.

LABOUR

Countries are prohibited from hiring new North Korean labourers, whose earnings are another source of revenue for leader Kim Jong Un's regime.

INVESTMENTS

New joint ventures with North Korea and any new investment in current joint ventures are banned.

BLACKLIST

Nine North Korean officials and four entities, including North Korea's main foreign exchange bank, are added to the United Nations' sanctions blacklist.

MARITIME

Port calls by designated vessels and chartering of North Korea- flagged vessels are prohibited.

CHEMICAL WEAPONS

The deployment and use of chemical weapons are banned.

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

Condo unit owner fails in bid to end 'noise' from pool pumps

Straits Times
02 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

For over two years, a condo unit owner tried to get his estate's management corporation (MC) to resolve the noise from a swimming pool pump system, which his occupier had found "unbearable".

The unit is located below the rooftop pool at Luma, a 27-storey development in River Valley Grove.

The MC tried everything, from hiring an acoustics consultant to conducting noise tests in the unit, one of 75 in the development. But nothing worked, so owner Lim Yew Loon eventually took the matter to the Strata Titles Board last December to press for more remedial works.

The owner's lawyer, Mr Low Cheong Yeow, argued at the hearing in June that the MC did not do "their utmost" to get to the root of the problem, and that the noise persisted.

In decision grounds issued early last month, the board found it was not "technically possible" to end the noise from the pump system, and there was no guarantee that the unit occupier would not be disturbed if alternative vibration isolaters were installed.

To define what acceptable indoor background noise levels were for apartments, Mr Lim's hired expert suggested using criteria from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers.

The expert found the noise in the unit exceeded the American standards.

But the MC, defended by lawyers Murali Pany and Ng Lip Kai, countered that the National Environment Agency's (NEA's) guidelines ought to be used as a comparison. The MC pointed out that the readings from the unit were within the ranges cited in the NEA guidelines.

The board, comprising Mr Alfonso Ang, Mr Zahidi Abdul Rahman and Mr Tony Tay, noted in its decision: "All parties agree that there is no prescribed noise limit from within residential property in Singapore.

"The board cannot import and apply the American standards. It is for the relevant authorities in Singapore to decide."

The "incessant loud noise" was first noticed in 2014 and the MC took several measures, including reducing the operating hours to between 9am and 8pm daily, to allow the pumps to start later and end earlier.

The MC also hired two specialists last September and in June to conduct noise tests in the unit.

The board found the MC had acted promptly on receiving the owner's complaints, and also recognised the various steps it had taken to reduce the noise impact level on the occupier.

It said the owner had bought the unit with full knowledge of its location below the swimming pool and other amenities.

"Any reasonable man knows or ought to know that these amenities operate on pumps where noise can be expected."

The board added that as the pumps are switched off daily, the occupant has some 13 hours of undisturbed time at night.

Noting that no other units on the same floor appeared affected, the board found that the occupier was "particularly affected" by the noise from the pump system, and the only way to stop the noise completely was to switch off the pumps.

"It has happened before but it deprived the other (owners) of the use of the swimming pool and the other facilities," said the board in dismissing the case.

"This is untenable."

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

S'poreans lead the world in getting financial advice

Straits Times
13 Aug 2017
Lorna Tan

Survey shows 61% consult human financial advisers; many are open to robo-guidance

Singapore leads the world in terms of the proportion of people using the services of a financial adviser, according to a new survey.

The findings indicate 61 per cent of respondents here consult human financial advisers - the highest for the countries covered in the Legg Mason Global Investment Survey.

The figure exceeds the Asia (excluding Japan) average of 56 per cent and easily beats the global average of 46 per cent.

The annual survey covered 15,300 respondents in 17 countries across the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America, the United States and Europe.

Of the total, 900 came from the US, 7,200 from Europe, 4,500 from Asia (including 900 from Singapore), 1,800 from Latin America and 900 from Australia.

OPENNESS TO ROBO-ADVISERS

The online survey, conducted in January and February, showed that the high level of engagement with human advisers here is complemented by a generally high level of openness to using robo-advisers.

Sixty per cent of Singapore respondents are "somewhat" or "very" comfortable receiving financial counsel from a robo-adviser - slightly above the global average of 57 per cent but below the Asia (ex-Japan) average of 66 per cent.

About 53 per cent believe that robo-advisers can "completely" or "to some extent" replace financial advisers at their local bank, insurance company or broker.

The top reasons cited? Robo-advice is not influenced by human emotions, people needing financial advice would be able to make decisions and check performances at any time of the day, and the charges would be lower.

Mr Ajay Dayal, investment director at Legg Mason Global Asset Management, said the survey results point towards Singaporeans considering a hybrid advice model, where technology and online resources could complement advice from professionals.

"Here in Singapore, the results showed a strong preference for a 'human-led and technology-supported' approach to most areas of financial planning and execution," he pointed out.

One exception was in the execution of trades in stocks and shares.

This is the only area where "technology-led and human-supported" services edged out "human-led and technology-supported" services at 31 per cent versus 30 per cent.

SINGAPOREANS COMFORTABLE WITH USING TECH FOR INVESTMENT

The survey showed that an overwhelming 96 per cent of respondents in Singapore were "somewhat" or "very" comfortable doing investment research online, while 88 per cent were "somewhat" or "very" comfortable seeking advice on investment.

However, the level of comfort expressed by Singapore respondents fell significantly when money was put on the table.

Even though 79 per cent indicated that they would be "somewhat" or "very" comfortable buying $2,000 worth of investments online, the figure fell to 57 per cent when the investment sum rose to $20,000.

The findings are a call to financial companies to enhance their digital offerings, said Mr Lennie Lim, managing director and regional head for Asia at Legg Mason Global Asset Management.

He noted: "Investors are increasingly turning to digital services to meet their investment needs, and financial service providers would do well to address this segment of users, while also paying attention to those users who value a personalised touch."

Last year, Legg Mason moved to complement its traditional investment services by acquiring Financial Guard, which delivers robo-advisory services.

SINGAPORE MOBILE USAGE AMONG WORLD'S HIGHEST

The Republic is well positioned for growth in the use of online financial services.

It ranks third globally in mobile Internet use, with 96 per cent gaining access to the Internet on the go via a smartphone or tablet. This figure is higher than the global average of 85 per cent and in line with the Asia (ex-Japan) average of 95 per cent.

However, as might be expected, mobile Internet use in Singapore differs markedly across generations, with the proportion of baby boomers using mobile Internet on the go lagging behind the proportion of millennials.

A significant proportion of respondents continue to access the Internet via their PCs.

In Singapore, 83 per cent of all respondents said that they go on the Internet every day using a PC, with the prevalence rate being relatively even across generations - 81 per cent of millennials and 82 per cent of baby boomers.

Mr Lim noted that such usage patterns have clear implications for financial service providers.

"They suggest that younger investors - those likely to be looking to buy a home or save for retirement - are the key target for application development," he said.

"PC-based services delivered via Web browsers, on the other hand, have to be developed and delivered in a manner that appeals to both millennials and baby boomers and that is accessible to them.

"Baby boomers are likely to be thinking more about retirement income planning than home purchases," he said.


53%

Respondents who believe that robo-advisers can "completely" or "to some extent" replace financial advisers at their local bank, insurance company or broker.

79%

Respondents who would be "somewhat" or "very" comfortable buying $2,000 worth of investments online.

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

Steer system of handling medical complaints away from punitive justice: Voices

TODAY
07 Aug 2017

I am grateful to the Members of Parliament who highlighted the implications of the punishment dished out to a paediatrician for failing to diagnose a child with Kawasaki disease (Concerns in Parliament over ‘defensive medicine’ after doctor’s suspension; Aug 2).

I agree with Senior Minister of State (Health) Lam Pin Min, who cautioned doctors against practising “defensive medicine”, as this would increase healthcare costs unnecessarily.

Governing bodies and healthcare leaders should, however, actively set the pace and platform for good clinical practices to thrive.

Kawasaki disease is difficult to diagnose. It has stumped many a paediatrician. In medical school, we are coached to think about it, but it is relatively uncommon compared with the viral fevers we see from day to day.

Many children with viral fevers also have mouth ulcers and skin rash.

In the report “Recognising Kawasaki disease in UK primary care” in the British Journal of General Practice, the authors wrote: “Kawasaki disease is a rare childhood illness that can present non-specifically.

“(It) is a challenging and difficult diagnosis to make in primary care. A GP may see only one case within their working lifetime, and most children may present initially with only a rash or fever.”

Asia sees a higher incidence of Kawasaki disease, but hindsight is always 20/20, it is said. No one wants to be suspended for missing a diagnosis, even an uncommon one, and I fear that doctors will be nudged towards defensive medicine.

I have worked with many doctors and healthcare professionals who care deeply, volunteer their time in treating the needy, make an extra effort at work and spend time teaching their juniors. But an incident like this jolts the goodwill.

Perhaps censure would have been more appropriate here. Perhaps the current system of handling complaints is too geared towards punitive justice, when what we could do is to have more restorative justice, so that we can learn and improve.

I hope that the Singapore Medical Council and the Health Ministry will clarify this for the public and healthcare personnel. We need education and dialogue about setting expectations when we uncover such incidents.

I fear that dishing out suspensions in such situations will up healthcare costs for patients and our nation.

Tan Lai Yong 

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Judgment reserved on Tan Cheng Bock's election appeal

Business Times
01 Aug 2017
Lee U-Wen

No date set for judgment to be delivered; CJ Menon says panel will get back to the court 'as soon as possible'

Singapore's highest court has reserved judgment on the appeal by former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock against the basis and timing of the upcoming reserved presidential election.

This after a five-member panel from the Court of Appeal, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, heard the case before a packed courtroom.

Monday's hearing was adjourned after about three hours, and it was unclear when a judgment would be delivered. CJ Menon would only say that the panel would get back to the court "as soon as possible".

He was also the chairman of the high-level Constitutional Committee that was tasked to review the Elected Presidency system.

The four other judges involved in Dr Tan's case are Judges of Appeal Steven Chong and Judith Prakash, and Justices Kannan Ramesh and Chua Lee Ming.

Dr Tan told reporters after the hearing: "Singaporeans must fully understand the issue, not just accept it. Let's wait and see. If in the end, we are found to be wrong, then we accept it. That is what democracy is about."

He later wrote on Facebook, stressing the importance of allowing the public and the media to hear the full legal arguments for themselves.

"On the whole, I felt the Court gave my case a good hearing. Judgment is now reserved. This means the Court will call the parties back for the result when it is ready. The CJ has said judgment will be out as soon as possible. I look forward to the outcome."

Dr Tan, 77, is a former People's Action Party member of parliament. He served in the single seat of Ayer Rajah for 26 years from 1980 to 2006.

At the last presidential election in 2011, he got the second-highest number of votes at 34.85 per cent among the four candidates, losing narrowly to current President Tony Tan Keng Yam after a recount of the ballots.

It was in May this year when Dr Tan filed an application to challenge the basis of the government's decision to reserve the next election for Malay candidates. He also called for the election to be "open", which would enable him to contest again.

Recent amendments to Singapore's Constitution state that if a specific racial community has not had a president for five consecutive terms, the next election would be reserved for candidates from that community.

Dr Tan lodged his appeal to the apex court after his initial legal challenge was dismissed on July 7.

On that date, Justice Quentin Loh had said: "In my judgment, the recent constitutional amendments reflect a re-emphasis on the president's unifying role and the conviction that, in order for the president to fulfil that role, that office must reflect the multiracial character of our country."

Dr Tan had disagreed with the government's decision to count the late Wee Kim Wee as the country's first elected president. The elected presidency system came into effect in 1991, during Dr Wee's term.

The late Ong Teng Cheong was the first popularly-elected president in 1993, and Dr Tan insists that the counting of the five consecutive terms should have begun with Mr Ong. This would have meant that the first reserved election would take place only in 2023.

As things stand, however, all signs point to Singapore having a first Malay president in 47 years, the last being the late Yusof Ishak who died in office in 1970.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob recently said she is considering whether to throw her name into the hat to be the next head of state.

Among the other presidential hopefuls who have collected their application forms are Salleh Marican, CEO of Second Chance Properties, and Farid Khan Kaim Khan, chairman of marine service provider Bourbon Offshore Asia.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is expected to issue the writ of election some time in August. The application process, which began on June 1, will close five days after the writ is issued.

A poll will be taken in September if the Presidential Elections Committee gives the green light to at least two candidates.

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

Don't rush into investments linked to virtual currencies

Straits Times
13 Aug 2017
Lorna Tan

Understand the potential risks of complex products before jumping in, warn experts and the authorities

In recent years, virtual currencies such as bitcoins - and the huge gains these digital tokens have achieved - have made headlines globally. They started as virtual currencies but some have evolved to involve investment schemes.

Before you rush in, you should heed the advice of financial experts and the authorities who are urging investors to understand the potential risks of these complex products.

On Thursday, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) warned retail investors not to throw caution to the wind when dealing with such investment schemes. They noted the emergence of initial coin (or token) offerings (ICOs), and other investment schemes involving digital tokens here. Some recent ICOs were TenX in June and Cross Coin last month.

Since 2015, a little over 100 police reports have been filed here involving five such investment schemes. And since January last year, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has received five complaints over digital currencies, such as bitcoin. The complaints focused on the lack of payouts after investing or unsatisfactory services.

The consumer advisory follows a recent clarification from MAS on its regulatory stance on digital tokens. MAS had said that the current securities regulatory framework requires that any offering of shares, debt instruments, or units in a collective scheme will have to comply with prospectus requirements, or exemption requirements (if any are applicable).

The statement "was a strong reminder, to clarify to the market that transactions falling within one of the above categories would be regulated. This is to ensure that the market understands that just because there's a cryptocurrency, digital token or blockchain element, it does not exempt it from regulations", said TSMP Law Corporation joint managing partner Stefanie Yuen Thio.

Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) Professor David Lee said he has invested in digital tokens not to get good returns, but to learn and be involved in the digital token community. He declined to disclose the sum he had invested.

"I enjoy the inclusive nature of the community and the potential of blockchain... The invested amount will not prevent me from sleeping. If returns come, then (it shows) you are good at identifying what technology will scale and which will benefit mankind and be very valuable," he said.

Simply put, a blockchain is a way to maintain a database without a central authority.

According to financial research provider Autonomous Research, more than US$1.2 billion (S$1.6 billion) in cryptocurrency was raised through ICOs in the first half of this year around the world.

Besides hoping for high returns through appreciating token prices, advocates of digital tokens see the new technology as an enabler of the growth of community projects, particularly in areas where financial services infrastructure is lacking. Others like the transparency and liquidity opportunities.

Potential pitfalls

Like any investment product, it is prudent to understand it first. When sellers of digital tokens fail to highlight the risks, consumers should make the effort to find out more information about the underlying project, business or assets. Look out for these eight risks.

1. FOREIGN AND ONLINE OPERATORS

The CAD and MAS warned that you are exposed to heightened risk of fraud when investing in schemes that operate online or outside Singapore as it would be difficult to verify their authenticity.

Should the scheme collapse, it would be difficult to trace the scheme's operators. The recovery of invested monies may also be subject to foreign laws or regulations, which may not be the same as Singapore's.

Mr Low Kah Keong, a partner at WongPartnership, said: "It will be difficult to get an effective legal remedy if an issuer breaches its promises but has no substantive assets in Singapore to compensate an investor who obtained a court judgment."

2. SELLERS WITHOUT A PROVEN TRACK RECORD

Sellers of digital tokens may not have a proven track record, making it hard for one to establish their credibility. As with all start-ups, the failure rate tends to be high.

3. INSUFFICIENT SECONDARY MARKET LIQUIDITY

Even if digital tokens are tradable in a secondary market, in practice, there may not be enough active buyers and sellers or the bid-ask spreads may be too wide. This means you may not be able to exit your token investments easily.

In the worst-case scenario where no secondary market develops, you may not be able to liquidate your token holdings at all. The exchanges or platforms that facilitate secondary trading of digital tokens may not be regulated by MAS.

4. HIGHLY SPECULATIVE INVESTMENTS, PRICE VOLATILITY

The valuation of digital tokens is usually not transparent, and is highly speculative. Transparency could be limited as there might be little publicly available information that could help you gauge the fair value of the virtual currency.

This could lead to speculative forces driving up unit prices resulting in volatile price swings.

Where digital tokens do not hold any ownership rights to the seller's assets, the digital tokens would not be backed by any tangible asset. Such tokens would be merely speculative investments and their traded price can fluctuate greatly within a short period of time.

There is a high risk that you could lose a portion or your entire investment amount. In the worst-case scenario, the digital tokens could be rendered worthless.

5. INSUFFICIENT SECURITY PRECAUTIONS

The platforms or persons you deal with may not have taken enough security precautions and this could lead to theft through hacking.

For example, in the case of bitcoin exchange Mt Gox, 850,000 bitcoins were stolen in February 2014 (valued at more than US$450 million at the time), leading to its subsequent bankruptcy and closure.

6. FRAUD AND SCAMS

Fraud has also occurred in relation to companies that claim to offer virtual currency payment platforms and other virtual currency-related products and services.

For example, in December 2015, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission charged two bitcoin mining companies with conducting a Ponzi scheme.

7. INVESTMENTS PROMISING HIGH RETURNS

Be wary of investment schemes involving digital tokens that promise high returns. The higher the promised returns, the higher the risks.

High returns could come in the form of high referral commissions, that is, promising consumers benefits for referring additional participants. In fact, such commissions would increase operating costs, which could lower the chances of achieving the returns.

8. MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING

Funds invested in investment schemes involving digital tokens are prone to being misused for illegal activities due to the anonymity of transactions, and the ease with which large sums of monies may be raised in a short period of time.

As such, you would be adversely affected if law enforcement agencies investigate any alleged illicit activities related to the token investment scheme you have invested in.

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

ADV: Programme manager for Legal Technoloy Vision (5-Year Contract)

Singapore Law Watch
07 Aug 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

Deputy A-G, lawyer tussle over true intention of Parliament

Straits Times
01 Aug 2017
Danson Cheong

Parliament had made a policy decision in choosing the term of President Wee Kim Wee to begin the count of five consecutive presidential terms needed to trigger a reserved election, Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair said yesterday as he set out his arguments in the Court of Appeal.

And it had done so to end the long hiatus of Singapore not having a Malay president, he added. In fact, he said, this was Parliament's intention when it passed changes to the law to ensure minority representation in the highest office in the land.

Mr Hri Kumar was rebutting the argument of Senior Counsel Chelva Retnam Rajah, who contended that Parliament's true intention was to fix the problem of minority candidates not winning open elections.

Given this, said Mr Rajah, only the terms of presidents who were popularly elected could be considered in the count. He is representing former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock, who challenged the timing of the upcoming presidential election reserved for Malay candidates.

Mr Wee was in office when the elected presidency took effect in 1991. After him, there were four other presidential terms, including the term of current President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Pointing to Article 164 in the Constitution, Mr Hri Kumar said the law gave Parliament unfettered and "full discretion" to decide from which president's term to start the count needed in triggering a reserved election. He referred to the speech made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a parliamentary debate last November, in which PM Lee explained why the Government was starting the count from Mr Wee.

"If he was selected, the next election will be reserved for Malays and the reason for that was to break the hiatus... That was what Parliament was endorsing when it passed the Act," said Mr Nair.

Singapore has not had a Malay president since Mr Yusof Ishak died in office in 1970.

But Mr Rajah argued that the Government had made that decision because it was acting on the bad advice of the Attorney-General.

As as result, he said, it was not the true intention of Parliament to start the count from Mr Wee's term when it passed the amendments into law.

But Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who was among five Court of Appeal judges hearing the case, said it would be "invidious" for the court to be put in the position of deciding whether the A-G's advice was right or wrong when the court had not seen the advice.

He said if the court agreed with Dr Tan's reading of the Constitution, it would not matter what the A-G had said, as this would not change the legality of the Government's decision. Similarly, if the court agreed with the Government's reading, it would matter even less what the A-G had said, said the Chief Justice.

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

Consumer checklist

Straits Times
13 Aug 2017
Lorna Tan

Financial experts say it is worthwhile putting in the time to educate ourselves on initial coin (or token) offerings (ICOs) and other investment schemes involving digital tokens. After all, digital is the future - but that does not mean that every digital currency-related investment will make money. Nor is it a suitable asset class for everyone.

TSMP Law Corp's joint managing partner, Ms Stefanie Yuen Thio, advised consumers not to be seduced by sexy terms like "cryptocurrency", "ethereum" or "bitcoin" and think that this is a sure-win money-spinner. "Unless you know the arrangers of the transaction to be reputable and regulated, which can be verified against the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) website, investors should proceed with extreme care," she said.

"A white paper does not provide the same degree of information as a prospectus. We shouldn't let the new nomenclature make us believe that an ICO has the same protection as an initial public offering."

Ms Chung Shaw Bee, head of deposits and wealth management, Singapore and the region, at UOB, cautioned there are a number of uncertainties that could confuse prospective investors. These include the technology which is the medium of the exchange of value, the real value of the virtual currency and the real value of the underlying assets. "The technology of and behind the virtual currency does not necessarily guarantee the substance, quality or even existence of the investment's underlying assets. Neither does it provide for certainty of returns," she said.

Mr Nizam Ismail, head of regulatory practice, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, said that if the coins offer some form of securities (for example, with rights similar to that of shares and bonds) or collective investment schemes, the issuer has to have a prospectus lodged with MAS. "If there is no prospectus, then the offer of securities may be an illegal one and could give rise to a criminal offence. If the coins do not offer securities, it would still be prudent for an investor to find out from the white paper, or from their own due diligence, how the company intends to use the proceeds from the ICO," he said.

For those already invested in such schemes, Mr Anson Zeall, chairman of local trade body Access, suggests asking whether the coins issued to you are securities, that is, they give you rights similar to shares (ownership in a company), or debt (promise of return of coupon/interest), or a collective investment scheme. "If they do, the issuer should be regulated and cannot issue coins without a prospectus lodged with MAS. If you suspect that these are securities and there has been no prospectus, you should obtain legal advice or contact MAS," he said. Access represents the Singapore Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Industry Association.

Mr Low Kah Keong, a partner at WongPartnership, recommends that an investor also consult his legal adviser to find out available remedies, including the right to cancel the agreement.

The Sunday Times compiles a checklist from financial experts:

Do you understand what business the ICO issuer is doing?

Does the firm have a website that sets out what it does?

Does the ICO issuer have a legitimate business presence in Singapore, or is planning to have one? Any track record?

Be aware that if it is a foreign firm, there may be practical legal difficulties in suing the firm or enforcing judgment.

Who are the persons running the company, the shareholders and what is their track record?

How is the issuer planning to use the proceeds of the ICO and has it set out its projected financials?

What sort of rights you are entitled to as the holder of a coin?

Has the issuer disclosed risks relating to the ICO and are you able to accept those risks?

What is your investment risk appetite? Coin or token investments carry risks and may be more volatile than other investment products. Are you prepared to write off the coin investment substantially or completely?

Do the coins give you rights similar to shares (ownership in a company) or debt (promise of return of coupon/interest) or a collective investment scheme? If they do, the issuer should be regulated and cannot issue coins without a prospectus lodged with MAS, said Mr Nizam.

Do you understand how to exit from your coin investments?

Are the coins going to be listed on an exchange to allow you the ability to convert the digital tokens into cash?

Is the person or entity regulated by MAS?

The laws administered by MAS require disclosure of information on investment products being offered to consumers. They are also subject to conduct rules aiming to ensure they deal fairly with consumers.

To find out whether an entity is regulated by MAS, consumers can check the authority's Financial Institutions Directory on the MAS website. Consumers can also look up the MAS' Investor Alert List for a non-exhaustive list of entities that may have been wrongly perceived to be regulated by MAS. Consumer alerts on the MoneySense website also has tips on avoiding scams.

Consumers who suspect an investment scheme involving digital tokens could be fraudulent should report such cases to the police.


WHEN IT MAY BE ILLEGAL...

If there is no prospectus, then the offer of securities may be an illegal one and could give rise to a criminal offence.

MR NIZAM ISMAIL, head of regulatory practice, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing.

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A-G taking lawyer to court for contempt over Facebook post

Straits Times
05 Aug 2017
K.C. Vijayan

The Attorney-General is taking prominent lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam to court for contempt over remarks made on Facebook in May that allegedly scandalised the judiciary.

The High Court had earlier granted leave for the hearing to proceed next week in this rare case of contempt action against a lawyer.

Mr Thuraisingam, 41, had posted the offending remarks just after midnight on May 19 - the same day that convicted drug trafficker Muhammad Ridzuan Md Ali was executed at Changi Prison after having exhausted all avenues of appeal.

He subsequently took down the material from his Facebook page after being alerted by the Attorney- General's Chambers (AGC) and Law Society that it was in contempt of court. He also apologised unconditionally to the courts and public, and withdrew the statements unequivocally in remarks on Facebook.

At issue is whether portions of the May 19 posting risked undermining public confidence in the integrity of the Singapore courts and the administration of justice. The AGC's counsel is expected to argue in court that his conduct amounted to contempt, and seek the possible penalties at the hearing.

Mr Thuraisingam, to be represented by Senior Counsel Ang Cheng Hock at the hearing, said yesterday: "I made a mistake and I unconditionally apologised for and withdrew what I wrote. As I made a mistake and am in the wrong, I will accept responsibility for it in court and respect the outcome. I would like to put this behind me quickly and focus on fighting hard for my cases in court pro bono under the Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences (Lasco)."

Over the years, he has represented accused people facing the gallows under the scheme. Last year, he received the Lasco Award for his commitment and service to the scheme.

Earlier this week, the Court of Appeal ordered a review of its decision two years ago to convict Nigerian Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi after he had been acquitted of bringing nearly 2kg of methamphetamine into Singapore. Mr Thuraisingam, who defended Ilechukwu, had filed a criminal motion to reopen the case by relying on a psychiatric report prepared by the prosecution for sentencing arguments.

The contempt case may be one of the last under the common law, based on precedents, before codified contempt laws under the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act passed by Parliament kick in. The Law Ministry said yesterday the Act will commence in the near future.

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Arguments over definition of president at appeal hearing

Straits Times
01 Aug 2017
Danson Cheong

Lawyers from both sides cross swords over how Article 19(B)1 in the Constitution should be read

Lawyers for former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock and the Government yesterday argued in the apex court about how the Constitution defines a president.

Senior Counsel Chelva Retnam Rajah said a president must be someone who was popularly elected, while Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair said the constitutional definition of president included those who were elected by Parliament and by the people.

The two men were arguing about how Article 19(B)1 in the Constitution should be read.

The provision allows the Government to reserve a presidential election for candidates from a particular community if it has not been represented in the highest office in the land for five consecutive terms.

The upcoming September election has been reserved for Malay candidates, and former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock is challenging the timing and basis of this.

The High Court had, on July 7, dismissed his challenge.

Appealing this yesterday, Dr Tan, who was represented by Mr Rajah, said it was unconstitutional for the Government to start its count of the five terms needed to trigger a reserved election from the term of President Wee Kim Wee.

Mr Rajah said that for the purposes of this count, a president must be elected by the people in an open election.

President Wee, who was the first president to be vested with the powers of the elected president, was elected by Parliament. He was followed by President Ong Teng Cheong, who was elected by Singapore citizens in the first presidential election in 1993.

If Mr Rajah's arguments prevail and the count starts from President Ong's term, the reserved election would start in 2023 at the earliest.

It would mean that Dr Tan, 77, who lost narrowly to current President Tony Tan Keng Yam in 2011, could apply to stand in the election, although the updated eligibility criteria mean he is unlikely to qualify.

He had made known his desire to contest the election in March last year.

The Court of Appeal, with five judges presiding, including Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, had reserved judgment on the case.

Chief Justice Menon - who headed a constitutional commission set up to look into changes to the elected presidency - said a decision would be made "as soon as possible".

In arguing against the count, Mr Rajah cited articles from the Constitution and the Interpretation Act to show that the definition of "president" had changed since the elected presidency was introduced in 1991. He said "to be included in the count, you have to be a president who falls within the meaning of president that exists in the Constitution as it appears today".

This means that the Government can start its count only from the term of presidents who were popularly election, starting from President Ong, he added.

But Mr Hri Kumar, representing the Government, said the argument was an attempt to limit the definition of president so as to delay the reserved presidential election set to take place in September .

He said Mr Rajah was putting the definition of president into a "smaller and smaller box" for the sole purpose of disqualifying President Wee's term from the count.

The constitutional definition of president had not changed since 1965, when Singapore became independent, he argued, and covers presidents elected "under this Constitution".

He said the definition of "president" was not affected by how a president was elected, the length of his tenure or power he holds, only that he was elected under the Constitution. This necessarily allows the Government to consider Mr Wee's term in the count of the five terms, he added.

He said Mr Rajah's efforts to "draw a bright red line" to exclude him was "nonsensical".

Taken to its logical conclusion, he added, this would mean that presidents elected before the latest constitutional change last year were no longer considered presidents.

Mr Hri Kumar said the issue was whether the Government had acted legally in starting the count from Mr Wee's term, adding it was legally and fully entitled to do so.

He also said that the Government was not proclaiming Mr Wee a popularly elected president in starting the count from his term, contrary to what people have been saying online.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Menon asked Mr Rajah if Article 163 of the Constitution had any bearing at all on whether Mr Wee could or could not be included in the count.

The Article provides for Mr Wee to be treated as if he was elected by Singapore citizens when the elected presidency came into effect in 1991, midway through his second term in office.

Mr Rajah said the Article was a "transitional provision" and "it doesn't make him or deem him to be an elected president".

He also argued that it was not Parliament's intention, when it passed the changes to the law, to consider the terms of presidents who were not elected at the polls.

Mr Hri Kumar rebutted this, saying the Government had made clear its intention to start the count from Mr Wee's term during parliamentary debates on the issue.

Yesterday's hearing was held in a packed courtroom that included prominent opposition politicians such as Workers' Party chairman and MP Sylvia Lim and former National Solidarity Party secretary-general Lim Tean.

The four other judges are: Judges of Appeal Steven Chong and Judith Prakash, and Justices Chua Lee Ming and Kannan Ramesh.

After the hearing, Dr Tan told reporters: "We got a fair hearing, that's very important... If (the court decides) we are wrong, then we will accept it. That's what democracy is all about - the exchange of ideas. But if we are right, then the Government must also accept it."


The upcoming September election has been reserved for Malay candidates, and former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock is challenging the timing and basis of this. The High Court had, on July 7, dismissed his challenge.

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Redesigning jobs to suit older workers

Straits Times
13 Aug 2017
Xin Yun

Brought to you by the Ministry of Manpower

Age will not slow technician Mohsin Khan down, despite his weakening eyesight and hand-eye coordination.

Mr Mohsin, 73, has been working at Aerospace Component Engineering Services (Aces) for 10 years, and is the poster boy for career longevity.

He says: "Since I first joined the firm when I was 62, I've been involved with the disassembly, inspection, repair and assembly of aircraft hydraulic components."

He also embosses serial numbers onto metal plates that are later installed onto commercial aircraft components for identification and tracing requirements.

Aces fully understood how he was an asset to the firm on top of his tenacity, as he had more than 40 years of experience in the aviation industry.

It began studying Mr Mohsin's pains and difficulties - he says he started using reading glasses in his mid-50s - that threatened to hold him back, and Aces started redesigning his job in November 2015 so he could continue to perform.

Aces general manager Brian Hunter says it took about three months to redesign Mr Mohsin's job.

It introduced the use of laser to engrave what is called 2D dot-matrix codes on blank plates, and "found that the work would be suitable for him due to the large font sizes on the computer screen and the ease of operating the machine".

Mr Hunter adds: "Previously, embossing of data plates with minute font sizes was undertaken by technicians with good eyesight.

"With the new laser-engraving machine, he is now able to perform the task again, giving him a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction."

Mr Mohsin says his work process has improved by leaps and bounds, as he can check serial numbers on a big computer screen first, which allows him to eliminate any mistakes before he starts engraving onto metal plates.

The time it takes to set up the equipment and processes has also been cut by about 25 per cent, compared with older methods of manual embossing work.

Aces says the job redesign has helped to improve productivity and was the first initiative that focused on the needs of mature employees. It has at least 10 workers who are older than 50, out of 47 employees.

Redesigning and enhancing jobs and their processes are part of its "continuous improvement initiatives", adds Mr Hunter.

Aces also tapped Workforce Singapore's WorkPro Job Redesign Grant, which helps reduce costs while companies create physically easier, safer and smarter jobs for workers who are 50 years and older.

A firm can get up to $300,000 under the job redesign grant.

The Ministry of Manpower notes that more than 200 companies have made use of the Job Redesign Grant, and almost 4,000 older workers aged 50 and older should benefit from job redesign efforts.

The aim is also to produce age-friendly workplaces, which in turn aim to promote re-employment and encourage Singapore's growing pool of older workers to continue to contribute to the workforce, as long as they are healthy and able to.

This will help Singapore's ageing workforce and manpower woes as older workers can still contribute greatly with their years of experience. The re-employment age has been raised from 65 to 67 years since July 1.

As Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan said earlier this year: "We also have to make sure that workplaces are age-friendly, so that older workers will be able to remain productive and in turn help companies to remain competitive."

Aces agrees with the need to invest in older workers, which is why it continues to look at job redesigning.

Mr Hunter says: "Standard processes are the easiest to redesign, while those processes requiring equipment and processes specified by the manufacturer to meet airworthiness requirements and regulations are the hardest."

Mr Mohsin appreciates how his job has been redesigned and how it has not been difficult to adapt to, allowing him to enjoy his work more and for as long as he can perform at work.

He says: "Tasks for work are essentially similar - what I am learning on a consistent basis are troubleshooting new problems faced with existing components as well as learning new components."


CHANGES TO RE-EMPLOYMENT LAW

The Ministry of Manpower raised the re-employment age from 65 to 67 from July 1 this year.

The new re-employment age of 67 applies to locals who turn 65 on or after July 1 this year.

Eligible employees can be re-employed by another employer, provided it is done with the older employee's consent and the second employer agreeing to take over all applicable re-employment obligations.

If either condition is not met, the original employer still has to fulfil its re-employment obligations, such as offering an Employment Assistance Payment if the employer cannot find a job in its organisation for the older employee.

Employees who are 60 or older can keep their existing salaries without having their wages cut by up to 10 per cent as before.

JOB REDESIGN GRANT

WHAT IT IS: Provides companies funding support to create physically easier, safer and smarter jobs for older workers aged 50 years and above.

Job Redesign projects can be funded at up to 80 per cent of the project cost or up to $20,000 per older worker, whichever is lower.

FUNDING AMOUNT: Up to $300,000 per company (multiple applications allowed).


Aces says the job redesign has helped to improve productivity and was the first initiative that focused on the needs of mature employees. It has at least 10 workers who are older than 50, out of 47 employees.

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