21 April 2014
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Worker sues employer, gets $275,000 settlement

Straits Times
21 Apr 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Technician had been offered $4,500 under work injury Act, but rejected it

AN AIRCRAFT technician offered $4,500 under the Work Injury Compensation Act opted instead to sue in the High Court, where a $275,000 settlement was reached last week.

Mr Jason Lee, 37, had injured his back six years ago while lifting cabin seats and later sued his employer SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC), which does aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, for alleged negligence.

The aeronautical engineering technician and a dozen other colleagues had been told to dismantle and remove cabin seats of an aircraft on April 18, 2008. The plane was at Changi Airport outside a hangar, with an aerial platform attached to a truck.

The group was told to finish the job as soon as possible, so the plane could be relocated elsewhere.

According to court papers, when work resumed after lunch, Mr Lee felt a sudden sharp pain in his back while lifting a 30kg two-person seat with a colleague. But as they had to complete the work quickly, he continued, placing the seat on a trolley and pushing it to a plane door so it could be loaded onto the aerial platform. On returning to dismantle and then lift another seat with his colleague, he felt another sharp pain. This time, he stopped and rested. But the acute back pain did not go away and he sought treatment.

He was diagnosed with a spine-related lower-back joint dysfunction that required injections to reduce the pain. The back pain is expected to be permanent and the treatment ongoing. The injury meant Mr Lee had to be re-deployed to office work that does not entail heavy load work.

His lawyer, Mr A. Perumal, had alleged when the suit was filed in 2011, that the company had failed to take practical steps to avoid foreseeable risks at the worksite. SIAEC's lawyer Niru Pillai had then disputed the claims in defence documents, arguing that Mr Lee was adequately trained on safety procedures for carrying cabin seats, and the work system was safe, well-planned and organised.

It is understood Mr Lee had sued for more than $700,000 in damages for continuing medical expenses, loss of future earnings, and pain and suffering, among other things. The $275,000 settlement between the parties before Senior Assistant Registrar Wendy Yap in the High Court last week meant a week's court hearing fixed in June was no longer needed.

But the case could have helped clarify the liability of employers where injuries occur not from a mishap but in the course of work by an employee.

Under the Work Injury Compensation Act, the maximum sum payable is $180,000. In 2009, an assistant commissioner of labour from the Manpower Ministry had found Mr Lee's claim to be valid and ordered $4,500, or about 2.5 per cent of the maximum, based on the medical assessment.

Lawyers point out that under the Act, compensation payouts for work-related injuries are no-fault claims. This means the injured party does not have to prove negligence.

If a party rejects such a compensation and files a civil suit instead, he has to prove negligence by the other party for the court to decide and damages to be assessed.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

New rules for those doing statutory filing

Straits Times
15 Apr 2014

ACCOUNTANTS and other corporate service providers will soon need to register as filing agents before they can perform statutory filings with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) for their customers.

Professionals employed by filing agents will also need to be registered as qualified individuals, under a new Bill passed in Parliament yesterday.

The stricter regime comes as Singapore moves to comply with accounting standards of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global standard-setting body for anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.

Corporate service providers will be required to fulfil various criteria, including standards of conduct and service levels, and will have to renew their registration annually.

They will also be obliged to perform due diligence and transaction monitoring on customers, and to consider whether it is necessary to file suspicious transaction reports.

The amendments also introduce enforcement powers for Acra to sanction registered filing agents and qualified individuals who breach their legal obligations.

While corporate service providers do not typically handle services that involve large amounts of cash, "there is a risk that the companies they help to incorporate may be abused by criminals to set up complex or unusual business structures to conceal beneficial ownership, and reduce the transparency of transactions", said Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo.

There were about 3,000 businesses and 3,600 individuals registered with Acra as corporate service providers as of last month.

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

Man gets jail, caning 22 years after knife attack

Straits Times
09 Apr 2014
Elena Chong

He had slashed three men in a Clementi flat in 1992, then fled to Batam

TWENTY-TWO years ago, an Indonesian national attacked three Malaysians with a knife in a flat and fled to Batam.

There, he turned over a new leaf and became a religious teacher. But his past caught up with him as he was leading a group of pilgrims from Batam to Mecca last June, when he was arrested at HarbourFront Centre.

Yesterday, Khairul, 45, who goes by only one name, was sentenced to four years' jail and seven strokes of the cane after he admitted to causing grievous hurt to Mr Lim Bu Chuan.

Khairul was 24 when he slashed Mr Lim, then 23, in the neck, leaving him paralysed, at a flat in Clementi Avenue 2 at about 2am on Sept 26, 1992.

He also slashed two men living with Mr Lim at the flat - Mr Cho Chee Heng, then 20, and Mr Puah Seng Yap, then 30. These charges were considered during sentencing.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Lydia Goh said that at the time Khairul had been visiting Singapore to attend a refresher course for his company Mayor Batam Indah, which produces electronic cables. The victims were here on social visit passes.

Mr Lim and Mr Cho had befriended Khairul and invited him to their flat to watch television. By the time they got there at about 11.30pm, Mr Puah was already asleep.

Mr Lim went to bed first while Mr Cho and Khairul watched TV and chatted before Mr Cho also turned in. At about 2am, Khairul sneaked into the bedroom and attacked Mr Lim with a fruit knife he found. Awakened by the commotion, Mr Puah saw someone in a sarong squatting beside Mr Lim, but did not recognise Khairul as he had not seen him before. Mr Puah shouted and was knifed several times.

Mr Cho woke up and tried to help Mr Puah, but was also slashed. Mr Puah then ran out of the bedroom to switch on the lights in the living room.

Khairul fled the flat and headed to Batam. His victims were taken to hospital, where Mr Cho and Mr Puah were treated as outpatients. Mr Lim was operated on, then transferred to a hospital in Johor Baru.

Defence lawyer Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed said his client, a father of three, had a "mysterious call" while watching TV. He had suddenly remembered a recent bank robbery in Indonesia where a group of Malaysians shot dead a cop and a security guard.

In a rush of anger, he attacked Mr Lim with the fruit knife before Mr Cho and Mr Puah attacked him with a hammer and a broomstick, injuring him.

District Judge Marvin Bay said Khairul must recognise that what he did to his victims could not be reversed. "They had extended hospitality to you, unwittingly inviting you to the sanctuary of their home, where they were viciously attacked," he said.

Khairul could have been jailed for up to 10 years, fined or caned for causing grievous hurt.

elena@sph.com.sg

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Should failing to act diligently be a crime?

Business Times
21 Apr 2014
Adrian Chan

MOST people think that so long as they do not cheat, steal or act dishonestly, they would have carried out their duties as directors under the law.

However, this is not the case in Singapore and it should be realised that the standard of governance for directors sets a much higher bar than that.

What's more, the penalties for failing to exercise proper due diligence can be very high. In fact, it can be criminal.

Criminal sanctions

The 2008 case of Chuan Soon Huat Industrial Group Limited is an important example. It is the first time that independent directors were convicted of a crime and punished for management's failure.

Chuan Soon Huat was a timber door maker, listed on the Singapore Exchange. The board of directors failed to disclose that the executive chairman was ill and no longer discharging his duties, and that there had been a change in effective control of the company.

This omission was deemed to be a breach of the obligations of a listed company to announce any information likely to materially affect the value of its securities.

Several directors including the two independent directors were charged and found guilty of the omission. The independent directors were fined and disqualified from acting as directors for a period of time. Chuan Soon Huat was eventually delisted from the Singapore Exchange.

A year later, in the AirOcean Group Limited case, Ong Chow Hong, the non-executive chairman and independent director, was found guilty of failing to use reasonable diligence in the discharge of his duties by approving the release of a public announcement by a listed company without reviewing the contents of the announcement. He was fined and disqualified from acting as a director.

Both these cases illustrate the application of Section 157(1) of the Companies Act. This provision places an obligation on directors to act honestly and to use reasonable diligence in the discharge of the duties of their office. The breach of this duty may constitute a criminal offence punishable by a fine and/or a jail sentence.

Put simply, under Section 157(1), one does not necessarily have to be guilty of fraud or negligence or show any loss to shareholders to be charged and convicted. Just failing to act diligently can be criminal.

The question is: should this be so?

Decriminalising directors' duties

There is a clear distinction between fraud and dishonesty versus failing to act diligently.

When a director acts fraudulently or dishonestly, he or she usually derives a personal benefit. In contrast, failing to act diligently is not ordinarily prompted by personal gain.

Understandably, failing to act diligently can result in the company or other parties suffering losses. However, this can be addressed by having adequate safeguards to compensate for such losses and holding the director accountable for the loss.

Civil penalties and other compensatory remedies suffice for this purpose.

The present onerous provisions of the Companies Act can deter good candidates from becoming directors. In practice, it can also lead to directors conveniently stepping down at the first sign of trouble, rather than staying to help the company move forward.

The present regulatory framework should therefore be changed to ensure a proper balance between compensation, deterrence and punishment. Unfortunately, the recently proposed amendments to the Companies Act still do not decriminalise directors' duties.

As these amendments are debated in Parliament later this year, this matter should be revisited. At the minimum, we should institute mitigating measures to exempt directors from liability. Already, corporate and securities laws recognise situations where a director is not liable, such as when he acts honestly and reasonably.

The Companies Act gives the Court discretion to excuse a director from liability for negligence in civil proceedings under such circumstances.

The Securities and Futures Act has provisions for instituting civil (rather than criminal) proceedings where there is no fraud or dishonesty involved.

A practical deterrent can be found in the Court's ability to disqualify directors who have failed to act diligently from acting as directors or management of companies for a prescribed period (as is presently the case for criminal convictions under Section 157). The concept appears to have worked well in the context of securities regulation and is a viable tool for regulators to take action against errant directors without resorting to criminal sanctions.

After all, the breach of a director's duty to act with reasonable care and diligence is no longer a crime in several other common law jurisdictions such as the UK and New Zealand. The time has come to adopt the same position in Singapore.

The writer is the First Vice-Chairman of the Singapore Institute of Directors.

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Ex-Amex employee fined for e-mailing client data to himself

Straits Times
15 Apr 2014
Elena Chong

A CORPORATE sales manager with American Express e-mailed almost 800 confidential files from his company laptop to his personal e-mail account before he resigned to join a rival bank.

Permanent resident Ricky Suparman, 27, had intended to use the data in his new job, but was found out when his supervisor checked his e-mail account. He was fined $24,000 yesterday after pleading guilty to eight charges of computer misuse.

The Indonesian had been working for American Express International when he was offered a job at United Overseas Bank (UOB) as a business financial manager.

Amex company policy dictates that when employees quit to join a competitor, they must leave on the day of their resignation. Its staff also sign contracts which safeguard confidential information about their customers.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tang Shangjun said Suparman tendered his resignation on Feb 27, 2012. He told supervisor Belinda Ann Koh Yew Cheng that he would be joining a rival bank.

While Ms Koh was reviewing his e-mail account to reassign Suparman's clients to other team members, she found the e-mail he had sent which contained attachments of confidential client information belonging to Amex.

He was immediately placed on gardening leave for a month and asked to leave the premises.

Mr Tang said the files Suparman gained unauthorised access to were of a "highly sensitive" nature, such as the amounts charged by clients to their cards, personal particulars of customers and confidential financial documents. Most of the company accounts he managed at Amex related to those with annual revenues of up to $20 million.

District Judge Low Wee Ping said most of the files pertained to financial records of individuals or companies that, if misused, would have caused "considerable harm" to the clients. He said he would have considered a short jail term if the prosecution had requested it.

Suparman could have been fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to two years on each charge. He joined UOB in March 2012, in a job which involved selling loans and trade services to small and medium-sized enterprises. He left in July last year and is now a market researcher.

elena@sph.com.sg

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

Online vice ring: 35th man jailed

Straits Times
09 Apr 2014

A 28-YEAR-OLD man was jailed for nine weeks yesterday for having commercial sex with a minor.

Desmond Quek Jin Yang is the 35th man to be convicted and jailed in a high-profile online vice ring case. He was one of 51 men taken to court in 2012 to face charges of commercial sex with the underage escort, who was below the age of 18.

Quek, who was a director of a fashion company, had come across pimp Tang Boon Thiew's website offering escort services.

He contacted Tang through the mobile phone number listed on the website and arranged a meeting with the 17-year-old girl at Hotel 81 in Bencoolen Street on Oct 29, 2010.

Quek had sex with her in a room at the hotel some time between 5.10pm and 6.42pm that day, and paid her $500. He did not verify the girl's age, which was advertised as 18 on the website, before they had sex.

Quek is the latest to be sentenced in the underage prostitute scandal.

Last month, 50-year-old businessman Nguyen Van On was jailed for 12 weeks. He paid the highest sum of $850 for the girl's sexual services. A fortnight before that, Choo Yao Chuen, 36, was also jailed 12 weeks for paying $450 for sex with the minor.

Since 2008, it has been illegal to have paid sex with a girl below the age of 18. The maximum penalty is seven years' imprisonment and a fine.

YEO SAM JO

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Get fair deal for shareholders in takeovers

Straits Times
21 Apr 2014
Goh Eng Yeow

What the independent directors can do is ask a lot of tough questions

THE pace of trading has quickened again in recent days as a fresh wave of takeovers sweeps across the market.

One observation about this takeover fever is that companies are not overpaying in order to acquire other businesses or realign their capital structure by taking private units they already control.

But the gripe is that the premiums they offer may not be attractive enough to entice investors, hence the attempts being made to frustrate these privatisation drives.

Take the move by United Industrial Corporation (UIC) to buy up the rest of Singapore Land, in which it holds an 80.4 per cent stake. UIC had offered an 11.24 per cent premium to SingLand's undisturbed price.

However, that still priced the offer at a hefty 33.1 per cent discount to SingLand's book value. This got the Singapore Exchange to ask ANZ, the offer's independent financial adviser, on how it arrived at its assessment that the offer was fair and reasonable.

But it was the effort by SingLand's second biggest shareholder, Silchester International Investors, to foil UIC's privatisation efforts that was really eye-catching.

SGX listing rules require a listed firm to keep at least 10 per cent of its shares in public hands. Since Silchester had owned 8.16 per cent of SingLand, this meant the developer's free float was only 11.48 per cent, once UIC's 80.4 per cent stake is factored in.

Silchester moved to pare its stake to below 5 per cent, which increased the public float. "This is likely to significantly impair the efforts of UIC to delist the company. Taking these steps helps to safeguard part of our client's interests," it said, before going ahead with the sell-down.

As of last Thursday, UIC had secured acceptances which increased its stake in SingLand to 87.3 per cent. The offer is extended till today, with its price kept unchanged.

The privatisation wave also includes CapitaLand and its $3.06 billion effort to buy out the rest of CapitaMalls Asia (CMA), in which it already owns about 65.2 per cent.

CapitaLand's offer price of $2.22 apiece gives an investor an attractive 23 per cent premium to CMA's last-traded share price of $1.805 before the takeover was announced.

But one question being raised is whether the $2.22-a-share offer would be attractive enough for investors who have held CMA shares since its 2009 IPO, given the risks they had taken, as they would only be rewarded with a 4.72 per cent premium over the IPO purchase price of $2.12.

This is considering the great strides made by CMA in building up its business. When it was listed in November 2009, it had 86 retail properties - 59 completed malls and another 27 under development - in Singapore, China, Japan, Malaysia and India.

But as at the end of last year, that number had risen to 105 malls - 85 in operation, four to be opened this year and another 16 under development.

CMA's net asset value had also grown 37.7 per cent to $7.3 billion during the period.

So, given the considerable debate triggered over the fairness of the recent takeover offers, the onus falls on the independent directors of the takeover target to come up with recommendations to shareholders so that they can make an informed decision as to whether to accept the offer.

As it is, the takeover code requires the target company's directors to appoint an independent financial adviser (IFA) to assess the merits of the offer. But all will agree that the starting point for them should be to act in the best interests of the company and how to get the maximum value for shareholders in the event of an outright sale.

In the case of Fraser & Neave, its previous board went beyond just merely assessing the IFA's advice. It created a competitive bid situation using a $50 million break fee as a device to attract a competing bidder, a move that ultimately led to Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi sweetening his offer in order to win control of the company.

Some will argue that creating a similar competitive bid situation will be tough as many of the recent takeover targets are already more than 51 per cent controlled by a single shareholder. In such a situation, what the independent directors can do is ask a lot of tough questions. In extreme cases, they should even make it clear to the bidder that they would not be prepared to make any recommendation until the best possible deal is put on the table.

As one corporate lawyer observed, once a company is put in play because of a takeover, the duties of the board should change from one of managing the business to maximising its value at a sale for shareholders' benefit.

That, in a nutshell, is how a takeover should be handled - to ensure shareholders get a fair and reasonable price for parting with their stock.

engyeow@sph.com.sg

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

‘Medical regulations not complied with’: Inquiry into liposuction death

Straits Times
15 Apr 2014
Hoe Pei Shan

Doc who performed operation did not follow proper procedure: Lawyer

THE doctor of the woman who died following a liposuction operation last year may not have fully complied with procedural regulations, her family's lawyer told a coroner's inquiry yesterday.

Dr Edward Foo, who treated Madam Mandy Yeong, 44, at TCS Clinic on June 28 last year to remove fat from her abdomen and smooth out hollows in her thighs, failed to ensure that his patient was monitored properly during the procedure, Ms Kuah Boon Theng charged.

Under the Ministry of Health's licensing conditions for liposuction, a registered nurse or doctor with training in sedation administration and monitoring "must be present during the procedure solely for the purpose of monitoring the patient".

The regulations also stipulate that there should be "at least one person on site to assist the doctor in the procedure".

But according to Dr Foo's case notes, he appeared to have had only one nurse straddling both duties. This led Ms Kuah to accuse him of having neglected the monitoring of Madam Yeong's vitals - such as heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels.

There were also discrepancies in Dr Foo's recollection of events and statements taken from other clinic staff, which suggested there may have been an unusually long delay between the first signs of distress and the call for emergency responders, said Ms Kuah.

Shortly after Madam Yeong's two-hour surgery concluded at about 2pm that day, the mother of two sons began to show signs of deterioration, with her oxygen saturation levels plummeting. But an ambulance was called only about 50 minutes later.

For almost all of that period, Madam Yeong's vitals were largely ignored. Dr Foo attributed this to having "all hands on deck" in his efforts to save the patient.

Ms Kuah pointed out, however, that a clinical assistant tasked with keeping records said in her statement that she had, in fact, been standing in the operating theatre simply watching the resuscitation process.

Dr Foo said the employee in question had been on her lunch break and was therefore not required to keep monitoring.

He also insisted that Madam Yeong's actual collapse - the moment he thought she needed emergency attention - and the call for an ambulance occurred "almost simultaneously".

He admitted to several instances of poor recording, including "an oversight" that led him to omit one administration of a local anaesthetic drug from his case notes. The doctor also could not explain why certain photographs of the liposuctioned fat had not been taken, as required by the licensing regulations.

He had also failed to fill out a pre-anaesthesia assessment form for Madam Yeong, pointed out State Counsel Bhajanvir Singh.

The form was instead marked with the letters "NA", which Dr Foo insisted was short for "no abnormalities", meaning Madam Yeong was perfectly healthy.

State Coroner Imran Abdul Hamid is scheduled to present his findings on April 21.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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ADV: Limited Seats! Lexis Affinity workshop!

Singapore Law Watch
09 Apr 2014
LexisNexis

To reduce uncertainty, compile guidelines on divorce judgments: Voices

TODAY
21 Apr 2014

I refer to the report, “Divorce procedures to be more efficient, ‘less adversarial’” (April 17). It was suggested that presiding judges ought to play a more proactive role during the divorce dissolution process.

The changes to be introduced could be a very important step in the right direction.

At the moment, however, many seem to be in the dark as to what constitutes a fair divorce judgment.

The authorities should look into educating the public and increasing transparency with regard to divorce judgments.

One way to achieve this is by compiling guidelines on judgments and making them public. The guidelines could be drawn up based on standard factors such as the age and income of both spouses as well as the age and number of children.

Although cases vary and no two cases are exactly alike, having publicly-accessible guidelines would help ensure that parties going for a divorce do not end up with a rude shock when the judgments are not made in their favour.

More importantly, it greatly helps in ensuring consistency and reducing the current cloud of uncertainty surrounding divorce judgments.

Oo Choon Pen

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Mitigating risks in third-party relationships

Business Times
15 Apr 2014
Lawrance Lai

WITH the number of serious fraud incidents occurring across Asia, it is surprising to note that companies are still falling short of mitigating avoidable risks when managing third-party relationships. The risk of fraud, bribery and corruption escalates substantially where business partnering relationships are in place.

EY's latest Asia-Pacific Fraud Survey 2013, "Knowing your third party", revealed that many companies across Asia-Pacific are failing to adopt even the most basic controls, with 26 per cent of survey respondents yet to put systems or processes in place to manage and monitor third-party relationships. A weak control system exposes businesses to the threat of procurement fraud by third parties.

Given that many companies operating in Asia are highly reliant on external parties to do business, especially when navigating new markets where the need for local contacts and procurement expertise is extensive, the level of compliance monitoring processes is worrisome.

This begs the next question - which third-party groups represent the biggest risk to businesses? According to the EY survey, two distinct groups pose the biggest risks: vendors and suppliers (57 per cent), those supplying the goods or services to a company; followed by agents (22 per cent), those authorised to act on the company's behalf.

Recently within Asia-Pacific, we have seen examples of businesses and even public sectors falling prey to such third-party frauds, which constitute breaches of anti-bribery and corruption policy as well as contravene local laws. In Asia-Pacific, such cases are often linked to the cultural practice of gift-giving and entertainment - which are part and parcel of the business culture - thereby making it difficult to separate the two.

Closer to home, recent public and corporate cases in Singapore have shown an increasing number of breaches resulting from corrupt collaboration between employees and third parties, with the employees seeking personal gratification by exploiting existing weaknesses in the company's control system.

Risks and costs

Prevalent in both public and private sectors, organisations need to be cautious of these practices, as it may lead to fines and reputational risk in the longer term.

Above and beyond that, these organisations also bear hidden penalties such as investigation costs, diversion of management resources, reputational damage, loss of business opportunities while undergoing the investigation, the risk of class action litigation and the cost of remediation. Much is at stake and more needs to be done.

To mitigate these risks, organisations need to tackle these issues by taking steps to structure and maintain their anti-bribery/anti-corruption (ABAC) policies, review their ethics and compliance framework, and conduct frequent compliance audits.

The use of forensic data analytics can also be used to enable companies to transform large volumes of transactional data into valuable actionable business insights that can be presented in interactive reporting dashboards for review and analysis.

Besides identifying areas of risk and possible incidents of fraud, this approach allows companies to continually evolve and adapt internal policies and procedures to mitigate risk from the onset, leading to a proactive response to potential issues rather than reactive investigations.

Risk profiles

While assessing which third parties to partner with, business heads should aim to understand cultural and business norms, prior incidents of frauds, previous litigation and adverse press as a form of due diligence on an industry and its geography.

Using this knowledge, comprehensive risk profiles can be developed - leaders can then step back and make more informed decisions based on the commercial rationale for engaging a third party.

Some examples of red flags include multiple payments just below the authorised level, generic description of expense reimbursement claims, overly close relationships within a small group of local vendors, absence of trading history information or an suspicious business address in a non-commercial zone or at service office suites.

Irregularities in the tendering process should also be taken seriously - for example, the acceptance of late bids, bids being accepted despite failings in technical specifications or scoring, or bids at or very close to set budgets.

The risks involved with dealing with third parties should not act as a deterrent for companies that rely on them for their operations. The valuable role third parties perform in assisting companies venturing into new territories as well as those expanding in home markets cannot be disputed, but any third-party dealings should be entered into with high awareness.

Ultimately, companies that proactively manage third-party risks will face fewer challenges down the road.

The writer is partner, Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services, at EY in Singapore.

He has led investigations into questionable transactions, debt financing, receivables and cash balances involving Singapore-listed entities with overseas subsidiaries and operations

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Government proposes changes to law to tackle Web piracy

Business Times
08 Apr 2014
Michelle Quah

Aim is to better protect Internet users, rights owners

[SINGAPORE] The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) is proposing changes to the Copyright Act, which it hopes will better protect the rights of rights owners as well as the interests of Internet users.

The move comes at a time when data suggests that Internet piracy in Singapore is at a worrying level. It has been reported that Singapore has the highest incidence of per-capita peer-to-peer infringement of motion pictures out of the whole of Asia, and that half of all Internet users here access unlicensed sites.

The proposed changes to the law - which will be open to public feedback - will allow rights owners, or the exclusive licensees of the work, to directly apply for a court injunction to block off public access to the pirated material.

For example, if a company such as Sony finds that its copyrighted movies or music are being made available for public download here on a site such as The Pirate Bay, Sony can apply for an injunction with Singapore's High Court to prevent the public from accessing the movies or music on the piracy site here. It can also apply for an injunction to block access to the entire site, if it shows the infringement is extensive and widespread.

This is a departure from the current system, in which rights owners have to first issue a "take-down" notice to a network service provider (NSP) or Internet service provider (ISP), asking it to disable access to or remove copyright infringing material. Using the example above, it would mean that Sony would have to first send notices to an ISP such as StarHub, asking StarHub to prevent access to the material on its network.

If the ISPs do not respond, rights holders will then need to sue them for copyright infringement - which has not been a viable course for many - before they can seek an injunction.

MinLaw believes that the proposed changes will make the whole process more efficient, as it will allow rights owners to tap the judicial system immediately and avoid implicating the ISPs unnecessarily.

Notably, the proposed changes to the law are targeted at those who clearly and blatantly infringe copyright - such as Pirate Bay, and sites such as Torrentz - and not at search engines, such as Google or Yahoo, or websites based primarily on user-generated content, such as YouTube.

The proposed amendments to the statute also suggest that the court look at a non-exhaustive list of factors when deciding on the merits of an injunction application. These factors include: whether the online site's primary purpose is to commit or facilitate copyright infringement; whether the owner of the online site demonstrates a disregard for copyright; and whether access has been disabled by orders from courts in other countries.

Only rights holders or their exclusive licensees can apply for the injunction; site owners, ISPs or rights holders can also apply to the court to overturn an injunction. Applicants can also vary the original injunction if the original website has assumed a different IP address or URL.

Such an approach echoes the one adopted by the United Kingdom and member states of the European Union under The Copyright Directive, which harmonises aspects of copyright law across Europe.

The High Court in London, for example, issued orders in May 2012 requiring five ISPs to block their customers from accessing The Pirate Bay. It was estimated that traffic to the site dropped by some 70 per cent as a result.

MinLaw said that it chose to follow the UK and European approach, rather than those adopted elsewhere in the world. Spain and Malaysia, for example, use an administrative site-blocking approach where rights holders can apply for site-blocking orders from a government-appointed body. France has introduced a "graduated response" system where individual Internet users are notified of their infringing activity by the ISP, and can be penalised if they continue despite repeated notifications.

"The government considered these possible alternative measures but decided against them because they are too intrusive on Internet users," MinLaw's statement said.

The proposed changes are the result of work done by the Media Convergence Review Panel, chaired by Koh Boon Hwee and appointed by the government in March 2012. The panel studied the issues impacting consumers, industry and society in the converged media environment and made its recommendations on how to deal with the challenges.

The public consultation paper on these changes is available on MinLaw's website (www.minlaw.gov.sg). The public consultation closes on April 21.

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Good start to securing personal data

Straits Times
21 Apr 2014
Irene Tham

SINGAPORE'S new Personal Data Protection Act was more than a decade in the making. So when it was finally passed in Parliament in October two years ago, the public got excited.

They were especially happy with the national Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry, which lets them block telemarketing calls, SMSes and faxes. They could finally say goodbye to pesky telemarketers.

The Registry went into force on Jan 2 this year and has 595,000 local numbers - there are about eight million local mobile numbers here.

The Personal Data Protection Commission, which manages the Registry, is investigating 3,000 complaints that are valid.

While the new law has been welcomed by consumers, does it give them enough protection in areas of the greatest need?

For sure, it does tackle one key annoyance: unwanted marketing phonecalls, which have interrupted meetings, disturbed sleep at ungodly hours and even taxed consumers' wallets - one gets charged for incoming calls while roaming overseas.

With the new rules, telemarketers who call phone numbers listed in the Registry risk a fine of up to $10,000 for each offence.

But the protection does not fully extend to phone or fax messages though.

Some consumers are unhappy over a last-minute exemption that allows firms to send text and fax messages to existing customers without checking with the Do-Not-Call Registry. This is as long as customers are given an option to unsubscribe to the messages via the same channel.

Consumers criticised the Commission for caving in to business pressures - a charge it denied. They also took issue with the exemption being introduced without public consultation.

Despite some loud complaints, others say it may be useful to be kept informed via SMS of promotions and deals from companies.

A credit card user, for instance, may want to be informed by his bank about promotional tie-ups with retailers. Similarly, a mobile, pay-TV or broadband subscriber may want his telco to inform him of discounts or freebies for renewing his subscription.

Said 36-year-old engineer John Wong: "I would like to know if there is a discount in a bookstore. The channel of passing useful information like this can be killed by the DNC Registry but the exemption allows for some flexibility."

In any case, phone messages are deemed less intrusive and less painful on the pocket, as messages received while roaming overseas are free.

The Registry rules are only one part of the new Act though; other provisions that deal with the way organisations may collect, use and disclose personal data kick in only from July 2.

Here, it may be worthy to note that the new Act does not have long arms to protect the general privacy of individuals.

For instance, owners of buildings such as malls do not need the individual's consent to record security camera footage - even though the images are considered personal data. Shopkeepers who take smartphone pictures of customers for promotional reasons also do not need consent.

The Commission feels that camera phones are now widely available and their use can be "reasonably expected". So, a notice by shopkeepers or building owners informing customers that photographs might be taken would suffice.

Also, government agencies are exempted from the new law. Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim had said government agencies are subject to their own set of rules on protecting personal data and these are sometimes more stringent than the new law - but these rules have not been made public.

What the Act does cover is the indiscriminate collection of data.

For instance, a 7-Eleven counter employee verifying the age of customers buying cigarettes or alcohol may record in the computer system only customers' birth dates - but not other information such as identity card number or name.

In another example, a lucky draw organiser may not be allowed to ask participants to disclose their household income if the information is not necessary.

The Act also protects consumers from inappropriate use and disclosure of their information.

For instance, if the lucky draw organiser wants to disclose the personal data of contest participants to third parties or use it for marketing - differing from the original intent - it must get participants' consent.

Failure to do so could mean a breach of the Act. The fine for violating general data protection provisions goes up to $1 million.

One loophole, though, is that Singapore has no jurisdiction over overseas companies with no local set-ups. It will need to work with other countries in this aspect.

Overall, while the law will always play catch-up to theft and misuse, Singapore's new Personal Data Protection Act is a good start in trying to protect people's personal data.

And judging by how the Commission has gone after at least three organisations for violating the new rules, it looks like it is taking the protection of personal data very seriously indeed.


Firms can text, fax ads to consenting customers

IN SINGAPORE, vendors are given one crack at texting or faxing customers - including those listed on the Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry - with relevant promotional materials.

If the customer says no - by unsubscribing via the same channel the message is received - vendors have to stop the marketing.

This major concession was introduced a few days before the DNC Registry kicked off on Jan 2.

Some had criticised the exemption, saying it was back-pedalling on the Registry. But the Personal Data Protection Commission, which administers the Registry, defended its move, saying the exemption has a narrow scope and does not apply to voice calls.

Actually, Singapore's DNC Registry is not the only system in the world with exemptions. It is in line with practices in countries like Britain, the United States and Australia. In Britain, SMS marketing is treated the same way as e-mail marketing.

While the blanket rule states that consent from consumers is required before organisations can market to them, there is a "soft opt-in" exception to the rule.

This exception lets organisations send marketing materials as long as the information is related to what customers had bought.

But recipients must be given a simple means of refusing the use of their contact details for such marketing purposes. And it should be free except for the cost of transmission.

The US National DNC Registry, which covers only voice calls, also contains an exemption for businesses that have an existing relationship with customers.

itham@sph.com.sg


Background Story

While the law will always play catch-up to theft and misuse, Singapore's new Personal Data Protection Act is a good start in trying to protect people's personal data.

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

RBC joins Goldman in suing clients after Singapore crash

Straits Times
14 Apr 2014
Andrea Tan & Jonathan Burgos

This Bloomberg article was first published on 11 April 2014 in the Singapore English broadsheet, The Straits Times.
SLW obtained permission to reproduce the article to give the legal community a broader view of legal reports from various news syndicates.

Trio owe $80m in total, Royal Bank of Canada says in court papers

Royal Bank of Canada sued three private wealth clients in Singapore, joining companies including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. seeking money owed by customers after an October stock rout.

Blumont Group Ltd. (BLUM)’s Executive Chairman Neo Kim Hock and Executive Director James Hong and businessman Nelson Fernandez owe the Canadian bank a total of $63.3 million, according to lawsuits filed in the Singapore High Court. The men refused to pay after shares in companies such as Blumont, Asiasons Capital (ACAP) Ltd. and LionGold Corp. (LIGO), held as security, tumbled in the October crash, the bank said in court papers.

This brings the total banks and brokers are seeking to recover from the crash to at least $210 million. Singapore’s central bank and white-collar crime agency last week widened their probe into suspected stock-trading irregularities around the plunge of the three commodity companies that erased $6.9 billion in market value. Investigators are seeking electronic data from Neo, Hong and executives from six other companies.

“There seems to have been a coordinated effort to bring about the rout that wiped out that much market value in such a short period of time,” said Desmond Chua, a Singapore-based strategist at CMC Markets. Investigations have still not explained the crash, he said.

Royal Bank is seeking $22.8 million from Neo, $17.8 million from Hong and $22.7 million from Fernandez. All three men applied to open accounts with the bank in April 2013 and had as much as $30 million each in credit facilities, according to court papers.

‘No Prospects’

The bank’s lawsuit against Hong “has no prospect of success” and should be dismissed as it’s frivolous, Hong said in his defense filed March 21.

Neo and Fernandez haven’t filed their defenses and didn’t reply to three e-mails each or return calls seeking comment. Hong and Peter Hoflich, a Singapore-based spokesman for Royal Bank, declined to comment.

Bank lawsuits against Neo have locked up his remaining Blumont shares, leading Alexander Molyneux, who has been appointed to succeed Neo as chairman, to abort a plan to buy 135 million shares of the company.

Neo faces at least another three lawsuits over the stock crash. Coutts & Co. and Interactive Brokers LLC sued Neo for a total of S$46.4 million ($37.1 million). Phillip Securities Pte, Singapore’s biggest brokerage by clients, sued on Feb. 24 after he refused to pay S$1.42 million.

Shareholders

Phillip Securities filed at least three other lawsuits on the same day, claiming it’s owed a total of S$5.86 million by Fernandez, Blumont shareholder Ooi Cheu Kok and Lee Chai Huat, according to court papers. The men haven’t filed their defenses to the brokerage’s lawsuits. Ooi didn’t reply to two e-mails or return a call seeking comment. Lee and Kevin de Souza, a lawyer for Phillip Securities, declined to comment.

Blumont in July announced it bought Lee’s stake in Powerlite Ventures Ltd. for $7.9 million. Fernandez held a 19 percent stake in Acadian Mining Corp. before LionGold took the Canadian gold miner private in October, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The sudden slump after Asiasons, Blumont and LionGold reached record highs in the past year triggered trading curbs and proposals for tighter rules. The average value of shares traded in Southeast Asia’s largest equities market fell 20 percent in the three months ended Dec. 31 from a year earlier.

Blumont fell 7.7 percent to close at 3.6 Singapore cents, its lowest close since Aug. 7, 2012. LionGold declined 6.4 percent to 10.3 Singapore cents, the lowest since March 10 and Asiasons fell as much as 2.1 percent before ending unchanged at 4.7 Singapore cents.

‘Pump and Dump’

As part of their wider probe, Singapore investigators asked Annica Holdings Ltd., Magnus Energy Group (MAGE) Ltd., Innopac Holdings Ltd., ISR Capital (ISR) Ltd., ITE Electric Co. and Ipco International (IPCO) Ltd. or their units to assist in the investigations.

Interactive Brokers, a Connecticut-based online broker, has accused Neo, Ipco Chief Executive Officer Quah Su Ling and six others of a “pump and dump” plan to rig shares of the three companies, according to a lawsuit seeking to freeze S$79 million of their assets. At least two of the eight have claimed the brokerage was involved in a “commission-generating scheme,” which it denies. The eight haven’t otherwise commented on the accusations.

Quah didn’t reply to two e-mails seeking comment.

Goldman Suit

Goldman Sachs has denied claims by Blumont’s Hong and Ipco’s Quah in London that it dumped shares of Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold held as collateral after they couldn’t meet repayment demands. It countersued in December to recover $26.8 million. Edward Naylor, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Goldman Sachs, declined to comment.

About two dozen lawsuits have been filed by companies including Julius Baer Group Ltd. (BAER), Bank of East Asia Ltd., Malayan Banking Bhd. and AMInvestment Bank Group’s AMFraser Securities Pte. over the October crash.

The cases are Royal Bank of Canada (RY), Singapore branch v James Hong, S132/2014. Royal Bank of Canada, Singapore branch v Nelson Fernandez, S1135/2013. Royal Bank of Canada, Singapore branch v Neo Kim Hock, S1133/2013. Phillip Securities Pte v Lee Chai Huat, S211/2014. Phillip Securities Pte v Neo Kim Hock, S212/2014. Phillip Securities Pte v Ooi Cheu Kok, S213/2014. Phillip Securities Pte v Nelson Fernandez, S214/2014. Singapore High Court.

Used with permission of Bloomberg L.P. Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

S'pore eyes more shipping sector capital issues on SGX

Business Times
08 Apr 2014
Malminderjit Singh

SINGAPORE is looking to attract more shipping companies into the local capital markets even as Norway and the US continue to lure the bulk of IPOs and bond issues from the sector.

The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore assistant chief executive (Development) Tan Beng Tee yesterday acknowledged that such a deficit exists and that work is being done to narrow this gap.

"Indeed, the listing in Singapore for shipping companies is a bit slow. From MPA, we are working with the SGX (Singapore Exchange) and the industry, to see what more we can do to profile the exchange (SGX) as a good place for companies which would like to list."

Ms Tan, however, said these efforts would take some time to yield results.

Speaking as part of a panel at an industry insights briefing yesterday ahead of the launch of Sea Asia 2015, Ms Tan suggested that a reason for the relatively lower listing rate of shipping companies in Singapore could be historical.

"If you compare between Singapore, Oslo and the US, in a way they have a longer history of listing of maritime stocks as compared to Singapore."

Moreover, she said that Singapore may not be attracting many listings from companies in deep sea shipping, as the stocks in this segment are still languishing in line with the relatively weak market. "But if you look at the offshore sector, then the number of stocks that have been listed in Singapore, and their showing, has been pretty good," she added.

She illustrated the listing of Pacific Radiance last year as an example of an offshore shipping stock where the "uptake of the stock was good" and the "share prices were also to the expectation (of the company)".

As the broad shipping sector recovers from a slowdown from the 2009 global economic crisis, corporate activity in the industry has been significant. More than US$16 billion of capital has been raised for the global shipping and offshore segments since January 2013, according to Rahul Khemka, director (strategic advisory) at DNB Markets. The trend is still strong this year as Mr Khemka pointed out that until March 26, this year alone, approximately US$3 billion has already been raised by firms in these segments.

"A majority of the (capital markets) activity has been focused on the shipping sector, reflecting improving market fundamentals and investor sentiment across several shipping segments," Mr Khemka said at DNB's Asia Maritime Conference 2014 recently.

However, the majority share of capital raised since January 2013 has been done through the Norwegian and US capital markets - which, he revealed, together account for about 90 per cent of all equity capital markets activity in these sectors.

"Over 30 per cent of these issuances have been by new issuers via IPOs or private placements, suggesting that the market is open to new and good quality cases," Mr Khemka noted. The segments that have seen key corporate activity in the shipping sector in 2013 were the dry bulk, product tankers, cruise, LPG, drilling rigs and diversified offshore services. For this year, the dry bulk, LPG and crude tankers have been the stand-out segments in terms of the level of corporate activity.

Even Singapore-based LPG shipping company Epic Gas tapped into the Norwegian market to raise US$75 million through the private placement of new shares this January.

Shipping finance people believe that part of the lure of shipping companies to Norway and the US is because these markets have traditional maritime sectors.

"(Despite) there being a great skills base here, with the banks and the owners all here (in Singapore), it remains an Oslo and New York-based business. Investors there are very experienced, and they have been through a number of cycles," Nigel Anton, global head of shipping finance at Standard Chartered, said at a recent Standard Chartered Shipping Finance media roundtable.

Others suggest that the reasons could be more regulatory. A shipping finance professional, who chose to remain unnamed, said that while the marketing and business development side of the SGX understands and values the importance of attracting shipping companies to the markets here, more flexibility may be needed by the SGX on the regulatory side of things to achieve this.

Still, as Mr Anton noted, the authorities here are keen to see more shipping corporate activity here and are in discussion with industry professionals to see how they can do that. "There is no reason that can't change. That can happen but it will take time, but in the meantime, companies will just go to the market that have done so well - Norway and the US."

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

Moneylenders could face stricter rules by end-2015

Straits Times
21 Apr 2014
Toh Yong Chuan

Bureau will be set up for compulsory credit checks; lending caps to follow

LICENSED moneylenders face the prospects of tighter lending rules from late next year.

The authorities are looking to set up a Moneylenders Credit Bureau by then, which money-lenders must use to run compulsory credit checks on potential borrowers.

Lending caps will kick in a year later. This means the total amount a person can borrow will be fixed, regardless of how many moneylenders he borrows from.

It is understood that these details were disclosed by the Law Ministry when it sought views from interested parties on the credit bureau last week.

But the ministry declined to give further details. Its spokesman said: "We are currently reviewing the moneylending regulatory regime and we will share more information when ready."

The setting up of the bureau was first announced by Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah in Parliament last month, when the ministry's annual budget was debated.

Besides using the bureau to curb lending, the authorities are likely to use the data collected to track industry trends and improve controls over the sector, said a source, adding that no taxpayer money will be involved in setting up and running the bureau.

The ministry is understood to have made clear to prospective operators that they would bear the full cost of setting up and running the bureau, by charging moneylenders and borrowers.

Although licensed moneylenders give out less than 1 per cent of consumer loans, the sector has come under recent fire for high interest rates and service fees.

Several MPs such as Mr David Ong, Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Mr Zainal Sapari have called for tighter controls on these moneylenders in the past months, noting late payment interests amounted to a whopping 40 per cent per week.

The ministry said it has stopped issuing new licences for moneylenders since 2012 and safeguards like interest rate caps exist for borrowers earning less than $30,000 a year. There were 209 licensed moneylenders as at 2012.

Mr David Poh, president of the Moneylenders' Association of Singapore which has more than 150 members, said compulsory credit checks will not pose problems for the industry. "Some of us are already doing it," he said.

He is worried about possible curbs on interest rates and charges. "If the interest is too low, it will not be viable (for us). We need to have a certain percentage, we must be a bit more expensive than the banks," he said.

Lending caps should kick in earlier, feels Mr Zainal. "Two years is a bit long... It could have been earlier, perhaps by the middle of next year," he said. "It will be good if the ministry could explain the reason behind those deadlines."

At least one borrower does not mind some curbs. "If I cannot control myself, I don't mind letting the Government control how much I can borrow," said Mr Lee, a taxi driver in his 50s. He declined to give his full name as he does not want his family to know he borrows from moneylenders occasionally to bet on 4-D and Toto, spending about $300 each week.

tohyc@sph.com.sg

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Court voids firm's curbs on ex-worker

Straits Times
14 Apr 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Clause that forbade ex-manager from working in same trade 'unreasonable'

A SALES manager who resigned from her job with a flowers and gifts company to set up a business in the same line will get to compete against her former company, thanks to a High Court ruling.

Ms Lek Gwee Noi, 52, had sought a legal declaration that a clause in her contract with former employer Humming Flowers & Gifts Pte Ltd was void and unenforceable.

The clause forbade her from working in the same business in Singapore, Malaysia or any other country where the company has offices, for two years after she resigned. It also barred her from taking away customers of the company who bought from it during her employment.

Ms Lek - who has been in the flowers, gifts and hampers trade all of her working life - had resigned in December 2011 and sought to start her own business in the following month.

However the company, a wholly owned subsidiary of market leader Noel Gifts International, threatened to sue her if she breached the clause.

Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy, in his 90-page judgment grounds released last week, found the clause was "too wide" and "unreasonable".

Such clauses are known as restrictive covenants. They form a key area of employment law but one with few court precedents.

The judge noted that the law is stricter about restrictive covenants in job contracts than it is in business sale contracts.

In this case, Ms Lek's job contract contained a restrictive covenant but so did the sales deal by which the owners of Humming House Flowers & Gifts sold its business to Noel Gifts and Humming Flowers. Ms Lek worked for Humming House before the sale in 2008 and continued employment with Humming Flowers after the sale.

In job contracts, restrictive covenants are void unless they protect a legitimate interest of the employer and are reasonable in the interests of the parties and the public. "It is the nature of the interest and how it arises which calibrates the court's approach to enforcing that covenant," the judge said. "This case offers a neat illustration."

Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming and lawyer Tan Yee Siong argued that Humming Flowers needed to protect its confidential information, which Ms Lek would have been privy to, and protect its trade connections.

But the judge ruled there were already other clauses in the contract that prevented the company's confidential information from being used by her.

The judge, however, agreed the company had trade connections to protect and this was a legitimate interest.

Ms Lek, represented by Senior Counsel Tan Tee Jim and lawyer Freddy Lim, had conceded that she had established personal relationships and rapport with her former company's customers and had argued she should now be free to use these for her own business.

Justice Vinodh found the restriction on Ms Lek unreasonable as it was too wide in scope and area. The clause had prevented her from competing in any business which the company took up.

He said such a "blanket ban" was "far too wide to preserve (Humming's) trade connection with a finite set of customers of whom (Ms Lek) has knowledge and over whom she has influence". He added that including Malaysia in the restrictions on Ms Lek also made the clause unreasonably wide in order to protect Humming's legitimate interest.

The judge ruled that the two- year ban on Ms Lek was also "unreasonably long" after hearing arguments from both sides. Humming is appealing in the case.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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To view the judgment, click <here>.

Hearing starts for first man to claim trial

Straits Times
08 Apr 2014
Hoe Pei Shan

THE first man to claim trial among 25 foreign workers facing charges for their role in the riot in Little India on Dec 8 last year was in court yesterday for the start of his hearing.

Construction worker Mahalingam Thavamani, a 27-year-old Indian national, was initially accused of rioting, but now faces an amended charge of obstructing a police officer that night.

Under Section 152 of the Penal Code, anyone who obstructs a public servant in the course of his work dispersing an unlawful assembly or suppressing a riot could be dealt a jail term of up to eight years and/or a fine.

His original charge of rioting carried a maximum sentence of seven years and caning.

Thavamani allegedly obstructed Deputy Superintendent of Police Subramaniam N. when he defied orders to leave an area near Belilios Road where Special Operations Command troopers "were trying to flush the remnant rioters out", said investigating officer Lee Tian Huat on the stand yesterday.

Inspector Lee, of the Criminal Investigation Department, is overseeing the cases and was the first of two witnesses called by the prosecution yesterday.

His cross-examination by defence counsel B.J. Lean became heated when he was unable to provide some details - such as where Thavamani was arrested exactly, and how precisely the worker had obstructed the officer. He said such information would be best asked of Thavamani's arresting officers, who are expected to take the stand today.

Mr Lean told the court the allegations made against Thavamani were false. "There was no obstruction created by my client," he said.

Instead, Thavamani had been taken to a "holding area" in Race Course Road with the other accused men after being arrested in Belilios Road. The police had "made a mistake charging him with rioting", argued the lawyer.

He asked if Insp Lee had "any evidence that the accused man had used any force or any behaviour that prevented the officer from discharging his duty", to which the latter replied, "No".

The trial was adjourned not long after DSP Subramaniam took the stand late in the afternoon.

The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabala, has lined up another half dozen witnesses, including Assistant Superintendent of Police Jonathan Tang, who was one of the first officers at the scene; the two officers who arrested Thavamani, one of whom is DSP Subramaniam; and an unnamed "intelligence officer".

The accused is the sole witness to be called upon by the defence.

Six other Indian nationals have pleaded guilty to failing to disperse and were sentenced to between 15 and 18 weeks' jail each. The remaining 18 have their cases pending in court.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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Competition panel clears proposed SIA-Air NZ tie-up

Business Times
18 Apr 2014
Nisha Ramchandani

[Singapore] THE Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) has cleared the proposed strategic alliance between Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Air New Zealand (Air NZ), noting that competition concerns which could arise from the tie-up would be offset by net economic benefits to Singapore.

In January, the two airlines unveiled a partnership which would see an expansion of capacity between Singapore and New Zealand, while giving each carrier access to specific destinations in the other's network. It also would mark Air NZ's re-entry into Singapore after it pulled out in 2006.

The two airlines said earlier this year their alliance would increase the total number of flights by them between Singapore and Auckland from 12 to 14 per week, stepping up competition on a route that is also operated by rivals such as Qantas. In time, the two Star Alliance members are looking to raise their capacity between Singapore and New Zealand by up to 30 per cent year round, SIA's CEO, Goh Choon Phong, had said previously.

As part of the deal, the joint revenue-sharing tie-up means that SIA's passengers will have access via codeshare travel to Air NZ's domestic network and selected international destinations.

Similarly, the Kiwi carrier will be able to widen its reach to markets on SIA's network in Europe, India, South-east Asia and Africa, in addition to cities served by SIA's regional wing, SilkAir.

There would be "varying levels of coordination" between SIA and Air NZ with respect to revenue sharing, pricing as well as coordination on capacity and scheduling, the CCS said yesterday. It added that it had sought feedback from various stakeholders, including the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, the Ministry of Transport, Changi Airport Group, and Vital Shared Services, a department under the Ministry of Finance. It also conducted a public consultation.

The alliance is contingent on regulatory approvals in both Singapore and New Zealand.

nishar@sph.com.sg

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Pursuing a passion for intellectual property law: Andy Leck

Straits Times
14 Apr 2014
Rennie Whang

Managing principal finds the field interesting because of its diversity

HE HAS specialised in intellectual property (IP) law for about 20 years, but lawyer Andy Leck still finds it as interesting as he did on day one.

"I've always enjoyed my work. I've never gotten bored or frustrated with my practice," said Mr Leck, the managing principal of Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow.

His unflagging energy has been recognised by his firm, which appointed him managing principal eight months ago to replace Mr Edmund Leow, who is now Judicial Commissioner. Mr Leck also heads the firm's IP practice.

"Many managing partners hope to leave a legacy, but Judicial Commissioner Leow left immensely huge shoes," said Mr Leck in an interview with The Straits Times late last month. He also spoke of the significant challenges that lie ahead in his new role.

The growth of international arbitration and ongoing efforts to transform Singapore into an IP hub present opportunities for law firms, but also problems in recruiting and retaining staff, he said.

"We've been lucky in our recruitment efforts with universities... Also, we try to strike a good work-life balance."

His firm offers structured professional development with training in technical and soft skills. It sends some associates for stints at its overseas offices.

The firm is also looking to develop new capabilities. "We've seen a lot of focus in private wealth management... So our tax group, for instance, has been augmenting its capabilities in terms of financial wealth management."

And as companies increasingly set up regional headquarters here, more complex transactions are taking place with the firm's corporate and finance practice, he said.

"We're trying to gear up our lawyers, whether in the energy or finance sector."

Within IP law, Mr Leck is looking to strengthen the firm's capabilities in disputes, financing and securitisation.

Mr Leck said he was always fascinated by IP law at the University of Bristol, from which he graduated in 1988. "I wish it was vision, but I don't think it's entirely the case. But even in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I could see we were moving towards a knowledge economy. This aligned with my area of interest."

The fun of IP law is in its diversity - spanning trademarks, copyright, patents and registered designs - and the fact that it changes frequently, driven by shifts in technology, he said. For example, copyright laws will have to change to keep up with how music is being distributed.

He added he has always enjoyed the cut and thrust of litigation. "In litigation, the fact scenarios always change and the issues are always different."

There also exists a forensic element: "You try to uncover the evidence and understand what motivated people to do certain things."

Mr Leck started out as a trainee lawyer at another leading law firm in 1992 and began practising IP law after a year. He joined Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow in 1997 and was seconded to the Hong Kong office two years later, where he was admitted to the Hong Kong Bar.

"It was like a new lease of life - a new environment, a new set of laws. It revived my interest and love for the job," he recalled.

He added he has been "fairly blessed" in his work.

"I've had a series of three very good mentors. You really just need the one to help set you on your path to success... The guidance offered was priceless and I've been very lucky to have three."

While all his cases are different and special to him, one of his more interesting ones involved going up against a former mentor at the Court of Appeal.

"I was happy when we succeeded, and he was very kind. He came over and congratulated me and said how proud he was... That was a nice moment, to be recognised by someone who had really tutored me and tutored me well."

On the other hand, he noted there is sometimes acrimony in the legal industry.

"Some lawyers get caught up in the moment; maybe they are fighting hard for their clients. It gets a little tense and I think we should try to keep that in check."

To unwind, Mr Leck - who typically returns home at about 8.30pm - spends time with his family, a housewife who used to be a corporate consultant, a 14-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter.

Asked if his children want to follow his path, he laughed at the suggestion. "In fact, my daughter is a little unhappy over my long hours! I think my son is more stoic, but that may be because he's in his teens and doesn't talk too much."

As for the added tasks of his new role as managing principal - having to manage the entire office and participate in more strategic meetings - Mr Leck said he is coping. "So far so good... Both the administrative team and the partners are helping me shoulder this responsibility. I admire Judicial Commissioner Leow because he seemed to be able to do all this and never seemed flustered."

Mr Andy Leck, managing principal of law firm Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow, is looking to grow the firm's capabilities in financial wealth management, corporate and finance law, and IP law. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

wrennie@sph.com.sg

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Speeding ticket saga: Surgeon suspended

Straits Times
08 Apr 2014
Salma Khalik

Medical council suspends Woffles Wu for 4 months

WELL-KNOWN plastic surgeon Woffles Wu has been suspended from practice for four months, following his conviction for abetting another man to take the rap for a speeding offence.

In a strongly worded statement yesterday, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said it did not believe he was not aware of the seriousness of his wrongdoing, adding that what he did was to "save his own skin".

Dr Wu was caught driving at 91kmh in a 70kmh zone but allowed another man, aged 83, to claim he was driving the car at that time.

The Subordinate Courts had fined him the maximum of $1,000 in June 2012 for the offence, which also carried a jail term of up to six months.

His sentence led to accusations on the Internet, and in Parliament, that Dr Wu got off lightly because of his standing and wealth.

The allegations were refuted by the Attorney-General's Chambers in a media statement in June, and by Law Minister K.Shanmugam in Parliament two months later.

Yesterday, the SMC's disciplinary tribunal explained that the penalty it chose was to deter other doctors from committing such an offence that would lower the standing of the medical profession.

His seniority and standing in the medical profession was an aggravating rather than a mitigating factor, it added.

As for his not knowing the seriousness of his actions, the tribunal said: "We find it completely incredible that the respondent committed the offence out of naivete and ignorance of the law."

It "cannot possibly fathom" that Dr Wu "lacked the mental faculties to appreciate that his wrongful act" was to "save his own skin", the statement added.

As for his defence that he had not given it a "second thought", the tribunal said if that was indeed true, then "he was plain callous in his conduct at best".

It also said the court's decision not to jail him has "absolutely no relevance" on its decision to suspend him.

On the public outcry, the tribunal said: "It is evident that our society would be outraged by acts of dishonesty committed by medical practitioners, especially those that are held in high esteem by peers and the public."

What Dr Wu did, it said, involved "dishonesty with some degree of premeditation, preparation and calculated to save his own skin. We cannot over-emphasise that every medical practitioner is expected to carry the hallmarks of integrity and honesty, whether in his professional or personal capacity".

All doctors, it added, must have the moral and professional courage to face and accept the legal consequences of their own actions. "The medical profession expects it. As witnessed in this saga, our society expects it too."

As for imposing a four-month suspension, the tribunal noted that a doctor was suspended for three months for a tax offence. Dr Wu's offence is more serious, it said.

Another doctor was suspended for five months for forgery in making $10,000 worth of claims from the Defence Ministry. That was a more serious offence, it added.

Dr Wu said he is not appealing as he "respects the decision" of the disciplinary tribunal. His clinic will stay open and locums will attend to his patients, he added.

Meanwhile, he will go on holiday and prepare for the World Masters Squash Championship in Hong Kong in July, he said.

salma@sph.com.sg

www.facebook.com/ST.Salma

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Couple drops suit against developer over penthouse size

Straits Times
18 Apr 2014
Walter Sim

Developer also dropped allegations couple falsely under-declared combined income when applying to buy unit

A COUPLE who sued an executive condominium (EC) developer for more than $1 million , claiming they were misled into buying a penthouse which was smaller than they believed, have dropped the lawsuit.

The developer, Grand Isle Holdings, a subsidiary of City Developments Limited (CDL), has also dropped its allegations that the couple falsely under-declared their combined income when applying to buy the unit.

"In the light of this, the parties to the suit have agreed to a mutual withdrawal of their respective claim and counter-claim," said the two sides in a joint statement yesterday. "This brings the dispute to a close."

IT manager Toh Her Chiew, 42, and accountant Ling Mee Chow, 43, had paid $56,050 for an option to purchase the $1.1 million penthouse unit at Blossom Residences in Bukit Panjang in 2011.

In their lawsuit, they said that they were misled into thinking the EC had a floor area of 167 sq m. But in reality the unit had a usable floor area of 147 sq m. This includes a second-floor rooftop terrace over the first floor except the living and dining area, which has a high ceiling of 4.2m.

The other 20 sq m referred to the empty space on the second floor not taken up by the terrace.

The duo then decided not to carry on with the purchase. CDL refunded them 75 per cent of the booking fee as required by their agreement. This came to $42,000. But the couple went to court saying the issue cost them the chance to buy another EC, as their combined income, by that time, had exceeded the $12,000 cap.

CDL maintained that there had been no misrepresentation as the option to purchase as signed by the couple had clearly stated the area of 167 sq m included the air-conditioner ledge, roof terrace and the void area.

The developer also wanted the $42,000 back, alleging that the couple under-declared their combined income by $370 in their application form for the purchase of the EC unit.

waltsim@sph.com.sg

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SMU second again in top moot court contest

Straits Times
14 Apr 2014
Ian Poh

TWO attempts and two finals appearances - this is the track record of Singapore Management University (SMU) at the international rounds of the world's largest moot court competition.

On Saturday, the university, which set up its law school only in 2007, finished runners-up for the second consecutive year at the 55th Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.

Some 600 schools take part in the event - which simulates court proceedings - each year.

More than 100 teams from around the world took part in last week's international rounds in Washington, DC. SMU's team comprised final-year students Kenny Lau, 25, Chua Wei Yuan, 26, Yeo Gek Min, 24, Carren Thung, 23, and Nicholas Liu, 28.

On the way to the championship round of the 55-year-old event, SMU beat teams from top institutions such as Oxford University and King's College London before losing on Saturday to Australia's University of Queensland.

SMU's team captain Mr Chua said he was proud to represent Singapore. "It was fulfilling to watch my teammates grow as oralists and keep supporting one another from start to finish," he said.

Participants in a moot represent opposing sides in a hypothetical legal dispute. They make written and oral arguments to a panel of judges.

SMU Assistant Professor of Law Chen Siyuan, 31, who coached the team, said international moot competition standards have risen "exponentially" in the last decade.

He said preparing for such contests helps to produce top lawyers, but added that a "macro strategy" for both law schools here - the other being the National University of Singapore (NUS) - was needed to further improve an already "excellent" support structure for mooting.

Singapore has the third-best track record in Jessup behind the United States and Australia, with four first-place and nine second-place finishes.

The Republic's last championship, won by the NUS, came in 2001. Last year, SMU made it to the final round on its first attempt.

It lost to the National Law School of India University.

Notable Jessup alumni include Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah.

pohian@sph.com.sg

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Longer wait for lawyers to renew Practising Certificate under new system

TODAY
07 Apr 2014
Amanda Lee

Supreme Court reviewing prospect of opening application process earlier next year

SINGAPORE — A new e-filing system has been rolled out by the Supreme Court to provide a “one-stop shop” for lawyers to renew their Practising Certificates but, for some, this annual process is taking longer than before, resulting in them having to ask for adjournments on their cases until their certificates are renewed.

The certificates expired on March 31. While some lawyers have been able to renew their certificates within days, others told TODAY they are still waiting after two weeks.

The new system commenced last month. The new system requires lawyers to make only a single application using their SingPass on the Supreme Court’s e-filing platform. Previously, lawyers had to go to the Singapore Academy of Law and The Law Society before they applied electronically with the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court said the waiting time under the new system is three weeks. In comparison, the renewal took four to five days under the previous system, said lawyers.

Lawyer Lim Biow Chuan, who is also Member of Parliament for Mountbatten, said: “Under the old system, once (an) application (was filed), I would receive the Practising Certificate immediately via email. Under (the) new system, (I) have to wait for (about) one week plus.”

All lawyers are required to hold a valid Practising Certificate and it is an offence to practise without one. A lawyer, who requested not to be named, said she had to ask the court for permission to continue a trial at a later date.

“I had to inform the court that I didn’t have my Practising Certificate and seek leave from the judge to continue (with the hearing) or ask for an adjournment,” she said.

Another lawyer, who also declined to be named, said the new system is too slow. “After getting used to the previous system, every lawyer has been caught off guard by the sudden slowness in processing,” said the lawyer, who has been in practice for 17 years. He was also concerned about the waiting period for his Practising Certificate as lawyers had been charged for practising without a valid certificate, he said.

In responses to queries, the Supreme Court said as of April 2, 83 per cent of lawyers who have valid Practising Certificates have submitted their certificate applications. Application figures change every year as not all lawyers renew their certificates while others return to practice.

Lawyers had been briefed on the expected three-week time frame for processing the applications, said a spokesperson.

Noting that applications are expected to continue flowing in this month — as is usually the case — the spokesperson said certificates issued any time this month would be deemed to be in force from April 1, as provided for under the Legal Profession Act.

“Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we expect all applications to be processed by April 30,” he added.

To enhance the process, the Supreme Court is reviewing the possibility of opening the application process earlier for next year’s renewal exercise, he said.

Lawyers said that, while waiting for their applications to be approved, they would seek leave from the court or ask for a short adjournment. If necessary, they would ask other lawyers from their firms to sign letters for their clients.

Despite longer waits for some, most lawyers had praise for the new system, noting that it is easily accessible on the go and involved fewer steps on their part. Teething problems are expected, given that the system is new, they added.

Lawyer Amolat Singh said: “Like any new system, some may encounter difficulty as most may be unfamiliar. But once you get a feel of what the template (is) ... it does not pose any additional difficulties.”

However, some noted that they now have to file applications personally through SingPass while, in the past, their firms could file on their behalf as a group.

Lawyer Peter Low suggested that the system allow legal managers to file the applications on behalf of their lawyers for greater convenience.

Copyright 2014 Mediacorp Pte Ltd | All rights reserved

CEO cites divorce in bid to free assets

Straits Times
18 Apr 2014
Grace Leong

Penny stock fallout exec wants to transfer 2 properties to ex-husband

AN EXECUTIVE caught up in the scandal over last October's penny stock crash has invoked a divorce court order to try to free up two Singapore properties frozen by creditors.

Ms Quah Su-Ling, chief executive of Ipco International, wants the High Court to allow her to meet the conditions of an interim judgment made by the Family Court on Nov 4.

This called for her to transfer a unit at the Country Grandeur in Upper Thomson and another in Orange Grove Residences in Tanglin to former husband Tan Kien Giap within three months from Feb 13.

That was when the interim judgment became final.

Recent sales transactions suggest the properties could fetch around $5 million, agents estimate.

United States-based Interactive Brokers won a court order on Nov 11 to freeze $10.2 million of Ms Quah's assets.

The brokerage is suing her and seven other clients to recover more than $79 million in trading losses stemming from the penny stock meltdown.

Ms Quah has asked the High Court to vary this order, in other words, to allow the properties to be transferred.

The Straits Times understands that at least one of the other clients sued by Interactive has filed for divorce, this time in Malaysia. The client has also made a similar request to Malaysia's High Court.

Ms Quah contends that the Family Court ruling on Nov 4 - made seven days before the Interactive order was issued - should take precedence.

She said she would be in contempt of the Family Court and risk having enforcement proceedings brought against her if she fails to transfer the properties.

But Interactive's lawyers, in court papers seen by The Straits Times, objected to the transfer, saying Ms Quah "proceeds at her own peril".

They argued that the freezing order may be varied only if both parties agree in writing.

Ms Quah described Interactive's objection as "unreasonable". Court documents show that Ms Quah started divorce proceedings on Oct 21 last year and her marriage of 26 years was dissolved on Feb 13 this year.

She told the High Court that she had not disclosed to Interactive her divorce proceedings or her obligations to transfer the properties to Mr Tan because "quite frankly, it had slipped my mind until recently in late January 2014".

She said the decision to get a divorce "had been decided some time before Oct 2, when all my troubles began and the prices of my shares in the companies, namely Asiasons Capital, Blumont Group and LionGold Corp, collapsed".

She said: "The family decided that I would retain all my stock and shares in the various public listed companies I owned and my ex-husband would take over my rights, share and interest in all real property, including the (two) properties.

"After the share price collapse and my troubles began, I was overwhelmed by legal proceedings and the divorce proceedings became secondary to me because everything had already been agreed."

The shares of the three listed firms rocketed to record levels last year before going into a tailspin on Oct 4, wiping out about $8 billion in stock market value.

Ms Quah said Mr Tan began pressuring her at the end of January to transfer the properties to him. But she said she held him off in the hope that the emergency arbitrator in the Interactive case would not uphold the freezing of her assets.

"Regrettably, the interim award of the emergency arbitrator is not in my favour, and I now have no choice but to comply" with the Family Court order, she said.

gleong@sph.com.sg

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British court jails S'porean banker for failing to return son to mother

Straits Times
13 Apr 2014
K.C. Vijayan

A Singapore bank executive has been jailed for 18 months by a London court for failing to return his 21-month-old son to his estranged wife.

The man, who cannot be named, ignored three court orders to return "M" and was found guilty of contempt.

Justice Alison Russell found the banker "deliberately planned and contrived to keep M in Singapore with his parents and away from his (the boy's) mother".

M lives here with his paternal grandparents but his Mongolian mother obtained a British court order last month which held that the child's habitual home is in London. It instructed the father to return the child to her care.

After the first order for him to return the boy, issued on March 14, was breached, he was given a second chance. However, he failed to have his son flown back in time for a March 21 deadline.

The man claimed his parents in Singapore would not return M and produced E-tickets for flights that were not used. To meet the concerns of the grandparents, the court ruled the child be returned to London in his care, at the suggestion of the mother's lawyers.

A day before a third deadline on March 28, he hired a lawyer to apply to another judge to discharge the order to return M and adjourn to a further hearing date, all without notifying his wife's lawyers.

This also came after he claimed he could not afford a lawyer to defend himself in the contempt hearings.

A judge refused the application and told him to apply to Justice Russell.

"It was a deliberate attempt to undermine and subvert due process," said Justice Russell. "Moreover, the fact that he paid lawyers to make this wholly misconceived application gives lie to his claim he is without funds."

She found him guilty of breaching the three court orders and jailed him for six months on the first breach and 12 months each, to run concurrently, on the others.

Justice Russell ordered the judgment papers be forwarded to Singapore ahead of an application by the grandparents for temporary custody of M due this week.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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S'porean ordered to return son to London

Straits Times
07 Apr 2014
K.C. Vijayan Senior Law Correspondent

British judge finds man in child custody case 'devious and cruel'.

A SINGAPOREAN booted out his Mongolian wife from their flat in London in the middle of a cold February night.

The police were called and when a cop arrived at their home, he settled the violent row by flipping a coin to decide who should stay and who should leave.

This episode last year did not sit well with a British Family Court judge hearing the wife's application for their 20-month-old son to be returned to London.

The boy has been living in Singapore since last July with his paternal grandparents.

Justice Alison Russell said the "curious approach to domestic abuse cases by the Metropolitan Police" prevents the court from following up on the incident.

Still, she took the word of the housewife.

She gave, among other things, a "graphic and convincing description of being assaulted and put out of the house into the cold", Justice Russell said in giving the grounds for her judgment, which was made public last Thursday.

Finding her husband, a bank executive, to be "underhand, devious and cruel" and his evidence not credible, Justice Russell ordered him to return the boy to his "habitual residence", London.

The couple, who cannot be named under the law as there is a child involved, met and married in Singapore in June 2011 and their son was born in July 2012.

But their marriage fell apart early last year and they are in the midst of finalising their divorce.

Both, however, chose to remain in England; she to study and he to work.

Last year, they agreed to take the baby to Singapore to be cared for by the man's parents for a limited period. But when they arrived in Singapore, he filed for divorce and child custody.

He also applied for a court order to stop her from taking the child out of Singapore but he failed in his bid to serve it on her at Changi Airport in late January when she was about to fly home to London.

Further, he did not tell her he had quit his job in London and before they flew to Singapore, and took out a "substantial sum" from their joint bank account without her knowledge.

He also admitted in court that he had returned to Singapore with an empty suitcase to hide his intentions from his wife.

His claim that he and his wife had both agreed that their son remain in Singapore was rejected by Justice Russell, who found that he had deliberately sought to remove the mother from the child and intended to do it permanently.

Pointing to the evidence of a social worker, the judge also rejected his claims that his wife was a "neglectful mother and poor parent".

His wife, in her application to the court, had argued that the child was "habitually resident" in London and had been "unlawfully retained" in Singapore.

To counter it, he said he was "bullied and coerced into doing things against his will", like when she made him prepare documents for her and and buy return plane tickets against his will.

But Justice Russell found that independent evidence showed "it was he who was believed to be the bully and the manipulator".

Meanwhile, London police are investigating the husband for alleged sexual assault of his wife.

He was arrested in February and taken for questioning.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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Organisations required to protect personal data: Forum

Straits Times
18 Apr 2014

I REFER to Mr Nicolas Leong's letter ("Credit card applications: Set guidelines to safeguard data"; Sunday).

On July 2, the data protection provisions of the Personal Data Protection Act will come into force.

Under the "protection obligation" of the Act, organisations are required to make reasonable security arrangements to protect personal data in their possession or under their control, in order to prevent unauthorised access, collection, use, disclosure, copying, modification, disposal or similar risks.

Organisations collecting personal data should review their business processes to ensure compliance with the Act by July 2, which will also help them build the trust of their customers when collecting, using and disclosing personal data.

If the Personal Data Protection Commission finds an organisation in breach of any of the data protection provisions in the Act, it may require the organisation to pay a financial penalty of up to $1 million and undertake rectification measures.

Evelyn Goh (Ms)

Director, Communications, Planning & Policy

Personal Data Protection Commission

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MAS takes supervisory action against bank

Business Times
12 Apr 2014
Siow Li Sen

THE Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has taken supervisory actions against Standard Chartered Bank over the theft of bank statements belonging to some private-banking clients.

MAS said yesterday that it has done so over the theft, which occurred at a third-party service provider.

"MAS generally does not disclose details of its supervisory actions," said a spokesman.

The MAS has a range of supervisory actions, including reprimands, regulatory sanctions and/or financial penalties for banks which fail to meet MAS regulatory or supervisory requirements.

The spokesman added that MAS takes a serious view on the safeguarding of customer information, and has reminded all financial institutions to ensure that robust controls are in place, including those for operations outsourced to third-party service providers.

A StanChart spokeswoman said the bank is very sorry over the incident.

It had stunned customers last December with the announcement that some of its clients' data had been stolen; 647 bank statements of private-bank clients had been found on a computer belonging to alleged hacker James Raj Arokiasamy.

The documents were stolen in March 2013 from a server at Fuji Xerox Singapore, which prints these statements for StanChart's private-banking customers.

The spokeswoman for the bank said: "We will continue to work closely with the MAS to identify any gaps there may be in the third-party outsourcing process and further tighten the guidelines.

"This incident is a lesson for us; we have since further strengthened both our internal and external controls and processes to prevent similar incidents from happening again."

lisen@sph.com.sg

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Fewer divorcees defaulting on maintenance

Straits Times
07 Apr 2014
Janice Tai

Fall in number of defaulters jailed, applications for enforcement orders

FEWER divorcees have been defaulting on maintenance payments since landmark amendments were made to the Women's Charter three years ago.

Last year, 19 people were jailed for failing to pay up, compared with 45 in 2011.

The number of court applications for enforcement orders compelling former spouses to maintain their ex-marital partners and children has also dropped from 1,900 in 2009 to 1,700 last year. A small number of these cases involved women paying their former husbands.

"These figures show that we are seeing an improvement," said senior divorce lawyer Tan Siew Kim.

In 2011, the Women's Charter - which oversees marriage, divorce and maintenance issues - was amended to allow the courts to impose new sanctions beyond fines and imprisonment.

They include financial counselling, community service and attachment of earnings orders, which make the person's employer pay the maintenance money from his monthly wage.

Complainants can also get a credit bureau to list the debt in a defaulter's credit report, which can be accessed by banks and financial institutions. This makes it tougher for a defaulter to take out loans or sign up for hire- purchase schemes.

Since the new measures were introduced, the court has issued an annual average of 118 attachment of earnings orders and two banker's guarantees. It has also made 10 people go for financial counselling and two for community service each year.

Family lawyer Malathi Das, first vice-president of the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO), said the drop in number of those being jailed may mean that defaulters are paying up to avoid imprisonment, or that the court has been able to secure payment through other means.

"Counselling can be useful in helping the person recognise the consequences of not paying up," she said. "Community service orders may have a deterrent effect if he feels embarrassed."

However, figures show that many divorcees still have to go through the hassle of repeatedly applying for enforcement orders each time their former spouses fail to pay up.

From 2008 to 2011, about half of those granted enforcement orders had to apply for at least another one within two years.

"Wives have to work or have children to take care of and cannot keep on applying for leave each time to go down to the Family Court or SCWO's Maintenance Support Central to file such orders in person," said family lawyer Rajan Chettiar.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development told The Straits Times one common reason defaulters cannot pay up is that they are unemployed or have other financial obligations.

In such situations, the ministry said that the defaulter can seek to reduce the amount of the maintenance order from the State Courts or obtain financial aid from its social service offices.

Once every three months, Siti (not her real name), 31, makes the trip from her one-room rented flat in Toa Payoh to the Family Court in Chinatown to file for an enforcement order.

Her former husband is supposed to pay her $800 a month to support her and their three children since their divorce three years ago. But the money does not come through every month.

"It is very tiring for me to know that I have to do this all over again every few months," said the housewife, who has to take along her eight-year-old autistic son each time.

Last year, the SCWO called for a new central agency to collect and disburse maintenance money so that both parties can concentrate on rebuilding their lives. This is how countries such as Australia and Britain deal with the issue.

Lawyer Ms Tan backed this idea, adding: "Now, the burden of proof to show that her ex-husband is working for the attachment of earnings to be issued lies on the woman. But the onus should not be on her since it is her partner who defaulted."

jantai@sph.com.sg

*****************Background Story *****************

IT'S A HASSLE

Wives have to work or have children to take care of and cannot keep on applying for leave each time to go down to the Family Court or SCWO's Maintenance Support Central to file such orders in person.

- Family lawyer Rajan Chettiar, on the application for enforcement orders

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

Marine oil cheat gets jail for $153k scam

Straits Times
18 Apr 2014
Elena Chong

Chief engineer of tanker hatched scheme to 'steal' 200 tonnes of fuel

A CHIEF engineer of an oil tanker was yesterday sentenced to 18 months' jail for dishonestly misappropriating 200 tonnes of marine fuel oil worth about US$125,400 (S$153,359 at the time of the offence).

Greek national Pittis Stavros' bail was doubled to $120,000 pending his appeal against conviction and sentence.

After a 13-day trial, the 58-year-old was found guilty last week of criminal breach of trust while he was entrusted with the fuel, as chief engineer of MV Sakura Princess, a ship chartered by V8 Pool, which runs a fleet of vessels.

On Jan 10 last year, bunker company Constank was nominated to supply 1,800 tonnes of marine fuel oil to Sakura Princess, the prosecution said. A bunker clerk on board the Coastal Saturn was deployed to supply the vessel with 500 tonnes of oil, as the vessel claimed it needed fuel urgently.

Stavros struck a deal with an independent surveyor and the bunker clerk to short-change his vessel of 200 tonnes of fuel.

He told the two men separately he wanted "business", meaning that he wanted to enter into a buy-back arrangement with them, where fuel is sold back to the supplier.

He sold 200 tonnes of oil for US$40,000, which was meant to cover both his payments as well as the surveyor's, as the latter had also asked for a fee.

The fuel in question was contracted at a price of US$627 per metric tonne. Thus, the total value misappropriated was US$125,400.

Arguing for a deterrent sentence yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani said Stavros had instigated the buy-back scheme, and the offence had been committed with sophistication and planning to avoid detection.

Singapore being the top bunkering port in the world, he said there is a strong need to deter illegal activities in the bunkering industry to safeguard and maintain the country's reputation as a premier bunkering destination.

He also said offences involving dishonesty related to bunkering cases are becoming more prevalent. In 2011, 11 people were prosecuted for such offences. This rose to 19 last year, and in the first quarter of this year, it had already hit 13.

In passing sentence, District Judge Eddy Tham said Stavros played a pivotal role and the offence could not have occurred if not for his involvement.

He also considered the public interest element in cases like this in order to make sure that the bunkering industry is clean. Stavros could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.

elena@sph.com.sg

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

Judge says role of impulse key in sentencing man who took upskirt videos

TODAY
12 Apr 2014
Neo Chai Chin

SINGAPORE — Are diagnosed voyeurs seized by their impulses when they plan to commit an offence? A High Court judge posed this question yesterday when he heard the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ appeal to increase the sentence of a voyeur who took multiple upskirt videos.

The offender, a 30-year-old former government ministry employee, was sentenced to probation with conditions for 17 charges pertaining to possession of obscene films and filming of upskirt and hidden-camera videos of women and children.

Prosecutors, however, are pressing for jail time for the offender, a diagnosed voyeur and fetishist. He cannot be named so as to protect the identity of his victims.

Justice Chan Seng Onn said whether the offender was compelled by impulse when he installed a hidden camera at his girlfriend’s house would have “serious bearing on sentencing”. He adjourned the case so that psychiatric expert witnesses can be called to address the question.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tang Shangjun argued that a custodial sentence is warranted, given the seriousness of the offences and how they were planned and premeditated.

The offender was caught taking an upskirt video of a woman at Giant Hypermarket in IMM Shopping Mall in January 2011.

More offences surfaced during investigations: He was found to possess more than 10,000 obscene videos and had also used a hidden camera between August 2010 and January 2011 to film his girlfriend’s family members — including two girls aged 10 and 12 — showering at home.

The offender knew the family would switch on the water heater before showering and would wait until they did so before going into the toilet to place the camera, which was disguised as a cigarette lighter, the court heard. He would retrieve it after they had showered.

He had also taken upskirt videos of his colleagues at the ministry.

Of the 17 counts he faced, six were proceeded on and the remainder taken into consideration for sentencing.

The outcome of this case has “significant implications on how well the privacy and modesty of women are protected in an era when miniaturised and hidden digital video recording devices are increasingly available”, said Mr Tang. He added that sentencing the offender to probation “tilts the balance too heavily in favour of (him)”.

Despite the offender’s mental condition, the rehabilitory aspects of the punishment should take a backseat to deterrence and retribution, the prosecutor said.

The offender, who was red-faced and looked down throughout the hearing, is receiving treatment at the Institute of Mental Health, his lawyer told the court.

The maximum penalty for taking an upskirt or hidden-camera video of women is jail for up to one year and a fine.

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Many decline reward for exposing tax cheats

Straits Times
06 Apr 2014
Theresa Tan

Tax authority finds that most whistle-blowers just want to right wrongs or are out for revenge

Most whistle-blowers who report tax cheats are not doing it for the money.

Eight in 10 people who tip off the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) do not want a reward, now worth up to $100,000.

Since 1992, when the cash reward for whistle-blowers was introduced, only three have accepted $10,000 each.

Miss Loh Lee Kim, Iras assistant commissioner of investigation and forensics, told The Sunday Times: "We think most informants don't want the reward because they feel that something wrong is happening and they just want the right thing to be done."

But some may be out for revenge against the tax cheat for some personal reason, she said. Tip-offs come from business rivals, employees, family members, neighbours and cheated spouses, among others.

Iras receives about 900 tip-offs each year, looks into all of them, but investigates only about 5 per cent as the bulk turn out to be unfounded allegations.

"It's very common for people to tell us, 'Mr A is very rich, I think he didn't declare his taxes, go and check on him'," said Miss Loh. "Of course, we will do our due diligence, but what we want is a very specific description of the modus operandi and, where possible, documentary evidence."

The whistle-blower reward used to be 10 per cent of the tax recovered subject to a maximum payout of $10,000. In 2010, the reward was raised to 15 per cent of the tax recovered, or up to $100,000.

Nobody has received the bigger payout, but Miss Loh expects a few whistle-blowers to be offered about $100,000 each soon. She declined to say more.

She said Iras guards the identity of informants closely and only a few officers handling a case know who they are. Whistle-blowers are paid a reward only if the information they provide leads to tax being recovered.

One whistle-blower who did not ask for monetary compensation alerted Iras to a Filipino salesman working in a jewellery shop.

He was the mastermind of a syndicate targeting the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme that lets tourists claim a refund of GST paid for purchases.

He printed receipts from genuine jewellery sales to forge refund tickets, then got his Filipino accomplices to use them to claim the GST refund.

The scam went on for about a year and the salesman made at least $14,000 before he was caught. He was jailed for a year in 2012 and had to pay a penalty of about $43,000 - three times the sum cheated. One accomplice was also fined.

The whistle-blower could have received a reward of close to $2,500 if he or she had wanted it.

Dr Ernest Kan, chairman of the Singapore Institute of Accredited Tax Professionals, said the effectiveness of the whistle-blowing programme lies in getting people to report suspected abuse, but awareness remains generally low.

Whistle-blowers can e-mail ifd@iras.gov.sg or write to Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, Investigation & Forensics Division, 55 Newton Road, Revenue House, Singapore 307987.

To inform the taxman of your tax errors or omissions made in the past, e-mail iit_compliance@

iras.gov.sg

theresat@sph.com.sg

*****************Background Story *****************

WHEN HIGH-VALUE PURCHASES EXCEED INCOME

When the taxman goes after potential tax cheats, all sorts of human situations get uncovered.

Like people who admit they have a "sugar mummy" or "sugar daddy" providing cash for large purchases they are unlikely to be able to afford on their income.

Or a married man who pays for an apartment in his lover's name.

So if you buy a condominium apartment or a car that is priced completely out of proportion to your income, expect the taxman to pop by asking where the money came from.

You could receive a "Source of Funds" letter from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras). Since 2009, it has been sending such letters to people suspected of under-declaring their income.

Iras assistant commissioner of investigation and forensics division Loh Lee Kim told The Sunday Times: "If you buy assets and we compare the value of your assets and the amount of income you have declared and they are not in sync, you will be on our radar."

Iras has sent out 4,285 letters over the past five years to query individuals about the source of their money.

These taxpayers had bought "high-value" assets such as property and cars between 2008 and 2012, yet declared small incomes that made such purchases unlikely, Ms Loh said.

They are advised to check their past income declarations and come clean if they had erred or omitted declaring some income, she said.

Most people have been able to justify their purchases, she added. They said their family or loved ones had given them the money. Or they had made money from investments, or were tapping on savings.

As for those with "sugar mummies" or "sugar daddies", Miss Loh said: "These people tell us they have someone who gives them money. But I wouldn't say their numbers are very large."

Take, for example, a woman in her late 30s who did not declare any income for several years, then bought a property in the eastern part of Singapore.

Queried by Iras, she said a married man in his 50s had bought the property for her and that she was his "second wife".

She produced the bank loan agreement showing that she and the man were borrowers. Iras established that her lover had the means to finance the mortgage.

From its audits, only 6 per cent of the taxpayers queried had under-declared their income.

They include a married couple who run employment agencies. The couple bought a property even though their declared income suggested they could not afford it.

Queried, they claimed they had savings but could not produce any evidence to back this up. Iras investigated and found that they had omitted almost $2 million from their declared income over six years.

They were made to pay taxes and penalties amounting to $258,000.

Mr Chiu Wu Hong, a partner at auditing firm KPMG, said that Iras has wide powers to check on individuals' income and assets.

It can get data from banks and other agencies if it is investigating someone. It can also seize documents it needs.

Mr Wu said: "These 'Source of Funds' letters should serve as a warning to potential tax cheats that tax evasion is an offence and they should come clean and report any under-declaration of income."

The tax filing period is until April 18.

Theresa Tan

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Maid's age an issue, says defence counsel: Nancy Gan murder case

Straits Times
18 Apr 2014
Hoe Pei Shan

Indonesia probing alleged falsification; the minimum age to work here is 23

THE age of an Indonesian maid accused of murder came into question in court yesterday with the defence counsel saying it was "an issue".

Defence counsel Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed asked the court if the prosecution would be amending the charges on account of client Dewi Sukowati's "change in age".

The police prosecutor, however, said she was not aware of any amendments but would check with the investigating officer.

The case against Dewi, who is accused of killing socialite Nancy Gan at a Victoria Park bungalow on March 19 - just over a week after her arrival from Indonesia - will be heard again on May 15.

The chargesheet tendered when she first appeared in court on March 20 had indicated that Dewi was 23 years old.

The minimum age for a foreign domestic worker to work in Singapore is 23.

Dewi's lawyer, who was appointed by the Indonesian Embassy here, told the court that the embassy had brought her father to Singapore over the weekend for interviews with the investigating officer.

The father also met psychiatrists who were assessing Dewi during her psychiatric evaluation.

The psychiatric report is expected to be completed next month, and results from DNA testing by the Health Sciences Authority are scheduled to be ready by September, the court heard.

Throughout the exchange in court, Dewi stood unflinching in the barred dock, dressed in a white T-shirt and with her bob of hair tucked behind her ears.

She was led away after having a quick word with her lawyer.

The domestic worker's father, a 49-year-old farmer, was accompanied on his trip here by a manpower official from Indonesia and a Member of Parliament from the family's hometown.

Dewi is the oldest of three daughters in the family - the other two are aged 15 and two.

Her lawyer said the Indonesian police are also investigating an alleged falsification of Dewi's age.

Indonesian Embassy counsellor Sukmo Yuwono told The Straits Times that Dewi had been hired directly by Ms Gan and had not undergone any training prior to working in Singapore.

Dewi received her work permit on March 12 and worked for Ms Gan for barely a week before the latter was found dead at home.

Ms Gan, a mother of two, was formerly married to former Hong Kong Legislative Council politician Hilton Cheong-leen.hpeishan@sph.com.sg

 

*****************Background Story *****************

 

On psychiatric assessments

PSYCHIATRIC assessments are used to determine whether an accused was legally insane at the time of the offence, and is competent to stand trial.

Courts can refer suspects to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), where most evaluations are carried out, although some cases can be seen by other psychiatrists from both public and private sectors.

Such assessments "ensure fairness, as mentally incompetent individuals would be at a disadvantage when conducting their defences or assisting their counsel", IMH's chief of general and forensic psychiatry, Dr Jerome Goh, said yesterday in response to queries from The Straits Times.

His department carries out evaluations through specialists trained in forensic psychiatry, medicine, social work, psychology and the law.

"The forensic examination is important to help the courts understand mental health issues that are involved in certain cases, and assist in sentencing decisions," he added.

An assessment involves a few direct examinations, lasting about an hour each depending on the complexity of the case.

The psychiatrist will rely on interviews and observations of the suspect's behaviour, the nature of the alleged crime, as well as information obtained from those who know the accused. In the ongoing case of Indonesian maid Dewi Sukowati, who has been accused of murdering socialite Nancy Gan, such persons will include her father.

The evaluation includes assessments of the accused's propensity to use violence, her IQ and personality. The psychiatrist would then review the data and furnish a report, which can take between two and four weeks to complete, to the courts.

An accused deemed legally insane could be sent for treatment instead of having to face punitive measures, such as jail and caning.

HOE PEI SHAN

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GST evasion: Firm ordered to pay more than $170,000

Straits Times
12 Apr 2014
Ian Poh

Company owed $154,535 in GST; to pay penalty of 10% of that amount, plus a $5,500 fine

DOOR and window manufacturer Creative Engineering Works has been ordered to pay more than $170,000 in taxes and penalties for failing to register for goods and services tax (GST).

It is the second company to be charged in court for the offence this year, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) said in a statement yesterday.

Registration is compulsory for any firm with a turnover of more than $1 million.

The company owes $154,535 in GST from the period between June 2006 and Dec 31, 2008 that it had not accounted for, after failing to notify Iras it had become liable for registration.

On top of this sum, it was also ordered to pay a penalty of 10 per cent of that amount, plus a $5,500 fine.

Investigations showed that the total value of all the firm's taxable supplies made for the four quarters ending on March 31, 2006 exceeded $1 million.

This meant Creative Engineering Works was required to notify the Comptroller of Goods and Services Tax of its liability to register for GST by April 30, 2006 - or 30 days later. But it failed to do this.

Furthermore, Iras added, the firm had deliberately cancelled genuine invoices amounting to almost $600,000 to avoid registering.

Therefore, Creative Engineering Works became liable to account for tax totalling $154,535. It should have collected this from its customers if it had promptly registered for GST.

The company could not be contacted for comment.

Two weeks ago, Iras said sports and concerts event firm Midas Promotions had been ordered to pay almost $800,000 in taxes, penalties and fines for the same offence.

Firms which fail to register for GST can be fined up to $10,000 and ordered to pay a penalty of 10 per cent of the tax due from the effective date of registration.

IAN POH

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Tax cheats target govt scheme

Straits Times
06 Apr 2014
Theresa Tan

Taxman has recovered or blocked $3m in payouts for fake productivity claims

A scheme that gives businesses cash payouts when they act to boost productivity has turned up a growing number of cheats.

Since the Productivity & Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme was introduced in 2010, the tax authority has probed 158 cases and either recovered or blocked payouts in 49 cases involving a total of almost $3 million.

Under the PIC scheme, companies qualify for tax deductions or cash payouts if they invest in areas such as staff training, information technology or automation equipment, as well as research and development.

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) caught businessmen trying to cheat by:

Using fake documents to claim for non-existent purchases or inflating how much they had spent;

Creating a shell company to claim for purchases of equipment, when there was no business activity and no such purchase;

Listing relatives and friends as staff, when they did not work for the company, to meet the minimum number of local staff required to qualify for the scheme.

As more such cases surfaced, Iras set up a nine-member task force last August to focus on busting PIC fraud.

Miss Loh Lee Kim, Iras assistant commissioner of investigation and forensics, told The Sunday Times: "The task force often visits businesses to check on them. For some businesses, the minute we arrive at their office, they withdraw their claims."

So far, two men have been jailed for PIC fraud.

Last September, the director of an IT firm was jailed for two months for fraudulently claiming a cash payout of about $58,000.

The 34-year-old had used fake invoices and lied that his firm spent almost $200,000 on computer equipment it never bought.

He had to pay a penalty of about $232,000 - four times the sum fraudulently claimed - and the firm had to pay the same amount, plus a $10,000 fine.

In February, a 47-year-old man was jailed for five weeks for faking a $60,000 claim on automation equipment costing almost $170,000 he had never bought. In fact, the company he set up was never in business either. He and the firm had to pay a penalty of $180,000 each and the firm was fined a further $8,000.

Miss Loh said Iras will be prosecuting more suspected cheats, but declined to elaborate. She warned those trying to abuse the scheme that "they should really sit up because we are looking at them".

Businessmen interviewed said some may try to cheat because the scheme is broad-based, applies to all businesses and offers generous cash payouts.

For example, if a company buys $100,000 worth of IT equipment, it can apply to get back $60,000 in cash - or 60 per cent, subject to a maximum expenditure of $100,000 a year.

Mr Chan Chong Beng, chief executive of interior furnishings firm Goodrich Global, said he would not be surprised if there were vendors who inflated their prices on paper to let their clients claim larger PIC payouts.

"Small and medium-sized enterprises are facing a cash crunch now and some people who are desperate for cash would resort to anything to solve their problem," he said.

In its last five financial years, Iras investigated 691 cases involving all types of tax fraud, and recovered about $248 million in taxes and penalties.

theresat@sph.com.sg

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Divorce procedures to be more efficient, ‘less adversarial’

TODAY
17 Apr 2014

Judges to take on hands-on role to speed up process and minimise stress on children

SINGAPORE — Instead of filing lengthy affidavits filled with trivial grouses one party has with the other, aimed at winning over the judge in granting custody or assets, divorcing couples could — as early as the end of the year — be permitted to submit only a one-page document containing key information, such as their respective incomes.

Judges will also take on a more hands-on role in considering issues pertaining to the split, say, by personally enlisting the help of non-partisan experts, such as psychologists, rather than relying only on arguments by both parties’ lawyers.

These are examples of changes being mulled over by a committee looking at ways to minimise ugly, drawn-out tussles between estranged couples, Law Minister K Shanmugam disclosed yesterday.

“(There will be) a substantial simplification of the process, a substantial cutting down on the kinds of affidavits and allegations and arguments that need to be made ... significant increase in the role of the judge, less adversarial,” he said. “Instead of the lawyers arguing with each other and clients having to pay a huge amount, the judge takes a central role. Psychologists come in, counselling is given to support the children.”

Speaking at a National University of Singapore Society ministerial dialogue held last night, Mr Shanmugam said the objectives behind the review of the family justice system — by a committee co-chaired by Senior Minister of State (Law) Indranee Rajah and Judge of Appeal VK Rajah — are to make such legal proceedings more efficient, as well as better protect the children caught in the middle.

The review comes against the backdrop of a marked increase in divorces and family disputes here: Since 1980, divorce numbers have more than quadrupled to 7,237 in 2012.

Noting that family law cases under the current process can spiral into emotionally-charged fights, with parties tending to “add salt and sugar” in their claims, which have little utility in resolving the legal issues, Mr Shanmugam said: “Whatever little possibility of reconciliation, of taking care of children together, goes by the time all these allegations are put into black and white ... children (also) suffer because often children are forced to take sides.”

Elaborating on the revised role envisioned for family judges, the minister added: “He takes an interrogative role; a hands-on role, and then you can deal with it very quickly and very efficiently with the least amount of stress on the children and the parties. And it’s a much more sensible system.”

Mr Shanmugam also said the courts, lawyers and social service professionals will work more closely together to help families resolve disputes. For instance, he cited the possibility of the Ministry of Social and Family Development stepping in earlier when there are signs of familial distress or providing counselling support through the course of the legal proceedings.

The Family Justice Committee was set up last year to look at how to change the system into a “problem-solving” one.

Its recommendations are due by the end of this month, while the changes could kick in by year-end, said Mr Shanmugam.

Family lawyers TODAY spoke to agreed that there was a need to streamline the system and make the process less contentious.

Said Mr Yap Teong Liang: “There is sometimes a tendency for parties to relate the history and problems which may be relevant to the question of the breakdown of the marriage but are not relevant to the issue of the division of matrimonial assets or custody care, and control and access of the children.”

Mr Rajan Chettiar cited examples such as accusations over a small scratch on the child and feeding the child unhealthy food.

Ms Devi Haridas added: “That incident may have left an indelible ugly mark which, to the client, is a must-have to show the ugly attitude of the adverse party. That would trigger more such not-so-relevant but scarring incidents that the adverse party may want to float for the very same reason.”

On enhancing social support, Mr Yap suggested better education to direct parties to available options, while Mr Chettiar felt that counselling could kick in earlier, such as the moment a divorce writ is filed, to help the couple settle their emotions.

Association of Women for Action and Research Executive Director Corrina Lim said the hiring of lawyers could be a daunting episode and suggested simplifying the process to the extent that lawyers are not needed in less complex cases.

Fei Yue Community Services senior social worker Iris Lin added that there can be more comprehensive support for the families if the legal system and social services are better integrated, such as having a case manager overseeing the process.

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

No plastering over this blemish: Woffles Wu conviction

Straits Times
12 Apr 2014

THE case of a senior doctor who got an elderly employee to lie to the police - so the former could duck two speeding offences - raised issues of considerable import, like lay perception when punishment meted out by the courts fails to assuage public disquiet and proportionality on legal grounds. Attorney-General Steven Chong noted at a forum that in the inglorious case of plastic surgeon Woffles Wu, "much of the furore stemmed from a lack of understanding of criminal procedure and criminal law".

Many views were aired within a few days following Dr Wu's conviction and fine of $1,000 - including a blog by the head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, Mr Hri Kumar Nair, who asked for the grounds of the decision to be made public. The Attorney-General's Chambers subsequently explained why a more serious charge was not preferred on the facts of the case and the need for aggravating features to invite a jail sentence. The matter, including the legal precedents, was also discussed in Parliament two months later where Law Minister K. Shanmugam stressed that no one is above the law.

Few doubt that. Even so, given the dishonesty shown by a professional of some standing, a moral judgment cried out to be articulated, particularly because of the doctor's singular "lack of remorse". That expectation was fulfilled by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) when it suspended the prominent doctor from practice for four months and published the grounds of its decision.

The views of the council should be required reading for practitioners and students alike as it sets out why doctors must be held to account in non-medical matters as well, in this case, for subverting the course of justice. Though ethics in the profession date back to the Hippocratic Oath, one might well wonder why the doctor, with 28 years of experience, gave "no second thought" to his egregious actions and even alleged that other doctors also gave false information for similar offences. Instead of spending part of his suspension on community work or reflecting - perhaps at the Centre for Medical Ethics and Professionalism - on the discussions his case provoked, he reportedly plans to write a musical, play the piano, train for squash tournaments and go on a holiday. Such a response suggests that the SMC's bitter medicine has not had its desired effect. The SMC was right to emphasise that "every medical practitioner is expected to carry the hallmarks of integrity and honesty whether in his professional or personal capacity". The profession must uphold the highest standards if it is to continue to enjoy the trust and respect of the public.

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Legal tangles add to woes of half the execs under investigation

Business Times
05 Apr 2014
Anita Gabriel

Affected firms try to convince market business is as usual, but realities tell something else

Singapore

THE companies in the news over the probe by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) are eager to persuade the market that it's business as usual. But no one's convinced. Fund-raising plans have been scrapped or cut down, big buys shelved or left hanging and many investors have stomped out of these firms since the punishing event last October involving shares of Asiasons Capital, Blumont Group and LionGold Corp.

Now, the firms' top executives and several subsidiaries are entangled in probes involving possible trading irregularities in the trio's shares. The CAD is working with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in the investigation. Those in CAD's cross hairs are mostly low-key individuals. Adding to their woes is that half of them are also caught up in legal tussles with banks and brokers expecting to recover hefty losses following the penny stock rout.

Blumont

Executive chairman Neo Kim Hock, a Malaysian certified land surveyor with properties and construction interests in Malaysia and the United States, landed with an opportunity to invest in Singapore in 2003. The calling came in the form of struggling Adroit Innovations, now called Blumont. Mr Neo, 67, funded the deal by selling one of his companies partially to Ipco. A month after Mr Neo emerged as substantial shareholder, a board revamp ensued. Enter James Hong Gee Ho, the firm's executive director. Mr Neo's reach here has also widened. In 2006, he owned a 26 per cent stake in Magnus Energy, then listed on Sesdaq. As for Mr Hong, 47, he baffled the market in 2005 when he emerged as Greatronic's white knight. Why invest in a troubled company months after it had called in the CAD to investigate its Malaysian unit for inflating receivables?

LionGold

Independent director Lynne Ng Su Ling is also Ipco's company secretary. Up until November, a month after the penny stock fiasco, when she unexpectedly stepped down, she was also Blumont's independent director. The gold miner's business and corporate development director Peter Chen Hing Woon's association with the group began in 2002. Magnus Energy, then called Strike Engineering, disposed a big stake in listed cable solutions firm Lantrovision to five people. Mr Chen was one of them. So was Mr Hong.

Annica Holdings

Annica, the counter which has been on a two-day trading halt, was the last of the eight to reveal details of the probe. It also seemed to have been the worst hit - so far. Its largest shareholder and executive director, Indonesian businessman Edwin Sugiarto, has had his passport impounded and is now on police bail after being "interviewed" by the CAD. Lim Meng Check, 43, stepped down as Annica's CEO in January 2013 to pursue other business opportunities. He held the post for four years and was also Ipco's independent director. He is also under probe. Mr Sugiarto first emerged in Annica in 2008 when it was called Oculus and was roiled by some $15 million in missing funds. Two years ago, he ran foul of the securities law and was fined by the MAS for late notification of the changes in his deemed interest of Annica. He was also a substantial shareholder of Australia-listed Merlin Diamonds, a firm which Innopac tried to take over in mid-2013.

ITE Electric Co

CEO Ho Cheng Leong, also the firm's shareholder, kicked off his career in the insurance sector and later joined Malaysia's MBF Group of Companies, then a huge diversified conglomerate and now a pale shadow of that. Mr Ho was also one of the placees of Annica Holdings' share placement in 2012, another related firm. ITE independent director Goh Hin Calm also handles Ipco's finance and administration matters and has been involved in other deals related to Innopac. Yesterday, Annica said Mr Goh, an independent director, is assisting the CAD with the investigations involving the firm. Ang Cheng Gian, 47, an accountant by profession, was appointed ITE's COO in 2005.

ISR Capital

CEO Quah Su-Yin, a Malaysian, has served the firm since 2011 when it was called Asiasons WFG Financial. She used to be head of institutional funds and client relations at Kuala Lumpur-based stockbroker AmInvestment. Insiders say Ms Quah and Ms Ng - both are qualified lawyers - were schoolmates, with Ms Quah's sister and Ipco CEO, Su-Ling.

Innopac

Wong Chin-Yong has been Innopac's boss since 2001 and began his career in treasury management at several international banks here before he joined the MAS as a senior officer. This is not his first run-in with the CAD. In 2001, CAD seized Innopac's stake in dredging firm Links Islands, a counter that was suspended after the Singapore Exchange discovered that it was cornered.

Magnus Energy

 

Executive director and chief operating officer Koh Teng Kiat joined in July 2004 from listed L&M Group Investments, where he was general manager of finance. The chartered accountant, 58, sits on the boards of all Magnus subsidiaries here and overseas, including the ones being investigated. Magnus chief financial officer Luke Ho Khee Yong's career path in the firm is patchy. He served as CFO between 2009 and 2011, left to join Asiasons WFG (now called ISR) and in less than a year, rejoined as CFO.

Retiree loses latest tussle with relatives

Straits Times
17 Apr 2014
Selina Lum

Court dismisses claim over entire $11.5m belonging to partnership

A 69-year-old retiree, embroiled in an 18-year battle with his relatives over a prime plot of land on which the iconic Mitre Hotel used to stand, has lost his latest court battle.

The current tussle started by the retiree, Mr Chiam Heng Hsien, is over a sum of $11.5 million which made up a tenth of the $121 million the Killiney Road property was sold for in 2009. It has since been redeveloped into a condominium.

The $11.5 million belonged to Mitre Hotel Proprietors, which owned a 10 per cent stake in the land.

The partnership was formed in 1952 by Mr Chiam's father and four uncles to run the two-storey hotel.

Mr Chiam said he was made a partner in 1974. Since all the founding partners had died, he believed he was entitled to the entire $11.5 million as the "sole surviving partner".

The children of his uncles however argued that the proceeds should be divided based on the respective shareholdings set out in the 1952 partnership agreement.

Mr Chiam then sued his cousins - Mr Chiam Heng Chow, Mr Chiam Heng Tin, Ms Chiam Mui Ken and Mr Chiam Heng Suan.

The case was heard in the High Court over five days in January.

Yesterday, Justice Tay Yong Kwang dismissed Mr Chiam's claim saying that he had not proved his case against the defendants. The judge did not give reasons for his decision.

This paves the way for the sales proceeds to be distributed to the respective estates of the partners.

Asked for comment, Mr Chiam said he plans to appeal the decision as he found it a "surprising" outcome.

His tussle with his relatives over the property goes back to 1996 when he resisted their moves to sell the land, the bulk of which was owned by members of the Chiam family.

Mr Chiam himself owned 10 per cent of the land in his own name - apart from his stake through Mitre Hotel Proprietors.

In 1996, the High Court ordered the site to be put up for sale but refused to grant an order to compel Mr Chiam to vacate the premises.

He continued staying in the run-down pre-war building, which stopped letting rooms in 2002, and the sale plan fell through.

The case went back to court in 2006 with Mr Chiam opposing bids by his relatives to sell the site.

In 2007, the High Court ruled against him and ordered the property to be sold and the occupants to clear out.

This was upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2008, ending the 12-year dispute over the sale of the site. But the fight was far from over.

After the land was sold, Mr Chiam Heng Chow and Mr Chiam Heng Tin applied to the High Court in 2010 for the partnership's share of the proceeds to be distributed. This led to the current suit by Mr Chiam.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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Ex-property agent gambled away over $500,000 of client's money

Straits Times
12 Apr 2014
Elena Chong

A FORMER property agent accused of misappropriating more than $500,000 from an elderly client admitted losing all the money in a casino.

Terence Yan Khek Yong, 29, insists that the five cheques worth $559,200 had been given to him by 91-year-old Chan Kee Kok, who died last year, as a reward for his work.

The prosecution alleges that the money was entrusted to him in 2010 to buy a condominium at Eastpoint Green in Simei.

Taking the stand for the first time on Thursday, Yan said: "We are like friends... more than friends because Ah Kong (Mr Chan) treated people quite good. We can talk about everything. We chit-chat. He told me about his family members and personal things also."

He added that he would occasionally give wheelchair-user Chan and his daughter, who is intellectually disabled and in her 60s, a ride to Changi General Hospital for medical check-ups as he lives near them.

Under cross-examination, Yan said he did not tell Mr Chan that he was using the money to gamble at the Resorts World Sentosa casino, which he frequented.

When Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Wing Tuck asked why not, Yan replied: "Firstly, Ah Kong did not ask me. He did say that this is for me."

He added that Mr Chan was also not in favour of gambling.

Yan said his bets were worth "thousands" of dollars, but denied they were between $3,000 and $12,000 each time, saying it depended on the game.

He also denied owing the casino money in 2010 and 2011.

Mr Chan, who was blind in one eye and had significantly poor vision in the other, had lived in the Modena condominium in Simei with his daughter and an Indonesian maid before moving into Eastpoint Green, which he paid $740,000 for in cash.

His Modena flat was sold for $1.05 million.

Yan, then with HSR International Realtors, said the first cheque payment of $59,200 dated Sept 25, 2010, was for helping Mr Chan to move house and renovate the Eastpoint Green apartment as well as his commission.

He also said cheques of $100,000 and $150,000 were "gifts" from Mr Chan for his help to oversee the house move and renovation - although by November, Mr Chan's son-in-law had taken over the matter.

The court also heard yesterday how Yan tried to deposit a $200,000 cheque from Mr Chan at the White Sands POSB branch on Oct 12 but failed.

Two days later, Yan obtained another $200,000 cheque from Mr Chan but again failed to cash it.

That was when officers from DBS Bank visited Mr Chan to find out why the cheque was issued. The police were then called in.

The hearing, which entered the 10th day yesterday, has been adjourned by District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt to a date to be fixed.

elena@sph.com.sg

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SGX talking to Jardine firms over LSE listing status

Straits Times
05 Apr 2014
Jonathan Kwok

Concern over plan to downgrade to standard listing

THE Singapore Exchange (SGX) is talking to the Jardine group over its plans to downgrade from a premium to a standard listing in Britain to sidestep tougher rules there.

Some commentators had said the move could be taken to mean the firms would have only a secondary listing in Britain. The five Jardine companies now have premium listings in London and secondary listings in Singapore and Bermuda.

But Mr Mohamed Nasser Ismail, SGX head of issuer regulation, said in response to queries from The Straits Times that a standard listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) should not be confused with a secondary listing.

He said SGX places foremost importance on good governance and shareholders' interests in all its dealings with listed companies and market participants.

He noted that premium and standard listings in London refer to different criteria to qualify for a primary listing. "A standard listing on the LSE is based on European Union standards as prescribed through the European Union directives," he said.

"Premium listings have requirements which differ from the EU standards."

On discussions with the Jardine group, he said: "We are unable to discuss our dealings with individual companies."

The five Jardine companies said last month that they want to downgrade their listing status on the LSE.

They are Jardine Matheson Holdings, Jardine Strategic Holdings, Dairy Farm International Holdings, Hongkong Land Holdings and Mandarin Oriental International.

The LSE rules will get tougher for premium-listed firms later this year. Changes include requiring all controlling shareholders to keep an "arm's length" distance from the company and not interfere with day-to-day control, The Financial Times reported.

The Jardine companies have decided against this, and want shareholders to approve their transfer to standard listings in London. The change is "in the light of anticipated changes to the regulation of premium-listed companies with a controlling shareholder", they said last month.

The companies will continue to maintain their secondary listings in Singapore and Bermuda. Three of the five seeking a downgrade are on Singapore's Straits Times Index: Jardine Matheson, Jardine Strategic and Hongkong Land.

However, corporate governance expert Mak Yuen Teen, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore Business School, wrote a letter to The Business Times this week raising concerns.

"Premium listings and standard listings were introduced in Britain in 2010 to replace the previous categories of primary and secondary listings respectively," he said.

"Therefore, with the proposed downgrade, these companies will have a secondary listing in Bermuda, a standard listing in Britain which is equivalent to a secondary listing, and a secondary listing on the SGX.

"The SGX rules on secondary listings are clearly intended for issuers with a primary listing on another reputable exchange and complying with the listing rules of the home exchange."

Prof Mak also raised concerns over the listing requirements for Britain's standard listings, which he said are "clearly well below the SGX listing requirements for primary listings".

He said that a company with a secondary listing on SGX generally does not have to comply with SGX's continuing listing requirements as long as it complies with the requirements of the home exchange and a few other conditions imposed by SGX.

Thus, he raised questions over whether the Jardine group of companies would still satisfy the requirements for a secondary listing in Singapore, and whether the lower disclosure and governance standards would create additional risks for investors.

jonkwok@sph.com.sg

 

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Storage firm to pay damages for art collector's mouldy works

Straits Times
17 Apr 2014
Melissa Tan

SELF-STORAGE operator Extra Space must pay damages to an art collector whose paintings and sculptures were affected by mould at the firm's Boon Keng outlet.

But the $35,381 in damages awarded to Ms Fiona Bartholomeusz was far less than the $62,578 she had sought in the lawsuit filed last year.

District Judge Koh Juay Kherng yesterday said Extra Space had breached its "duty of care" to her.

Ms Bartholomeusz claimed in her suit that all 34 artworks that she had kept in a storage unit at Extra Space Boon Keng had an "infestation of mould". She also alleged that one painting by a Cultural Medallion winner went missing, likely due to poor security at the facility.

The judge said there was a "lack of any proper supervision" by Extra Space when construction work was carried out at the Boon Keng outlet.

Installation works on the ceiling of Ms Bartholomeusz's storage unit that gave rise to dust and dirt were partly responsible for the damage to the artworks, he noted.

Other factors included windows and doors left open in the storage facility and a breakdown of the air-conditioning condenser, he said.

However, he pointed out that Ms Bartholomeusz had been storing artworks there since August 2007 but it was not until after August 2010 that the issue of the facility's suitability arose.

The judge added that even though there was a "clear deficiency" in Extra Space's security system, it could not be said that this caused the loss of the missing painting since Ms Bartholomeusz had also given a third party access to her storage unit.

He said this was why he did not include the value of the allegedly missing artwork in the damages awarded. He also awarded her $12,000 in costs.

Both Ms Bartholomeusz and Extra Space's new chief executive, Mr Kenneth Worsdale, were present for yesterday's ruling at the State Courts.

Mr Worsdale told The Straits Times yesterday that the firm will "move on and focus on the business", adding that it would "continue ensuring that we have the very best security, very best climate control in place". He said he had taken over from former chief executive Mike Hagbeck this January.

Ms Bartholomeusz told The Straits Times yesterday: "Large companies like Extra Space... still have a responsibility to deliver an agreed standard of consistent service. The primary purpose of even engaging a company like this to store one's items is really to have peace of mind over the long term, and this is something that can't be quantified monetarily."

Ms Bartholomeusz was represented by Mr Michael Palmer and Mr Chew Kiat Jinn of Quahe Woo and Palmer, while Extra Space's lawyer was Mr Arivanantham Krishnan of Ari Goh and Partners.

melissat@sph.com.sg

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Audits the world over riddled with problems

Business Times
12 Apr 2014
Michelle Quah

International body's survey reveals persistent deficiencies in critical audit areas

[Singapore] SEVERAL years on since the global financial crisis, audits of the world's largest companies and financial institutions, conducted by the world's largest audit firms, are still plagued by copious failings, according to an international body of audit regulators.

And it's about time more is done - by both auditors and audit regulators - to improve the quality of audits out there.

The International Forum of Independent Audit Regulators (IFIAR) - made up of 50 independent audit regulators from around the world - released its 2013 Inspection Findings Survey on Thursday in Washington.

The report showed persistent deficiencies in critical audit areas, raising concern among regulators around the world.

"The high rate and severity of inspection deficiencies in critical aspects of the audit, and at some of the world's largest and systemically important financial institutions, is a wake-up call to firms and regulators alike: more must be done to improve the reliability of audit work performed globally on behalf of investors," said Lewis H Ferguson, IFIAR chair and board member of the US Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (which oversees the audits of US public companies).

The report was released at IFIAR's 14th plenary meeting, attended by delegates from over 40 independent audit regulators, including Singapore's Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).

IFIAR's report is a compilation of audit inspection reports, submitted by 30 IFIAR members, that were issued during the members' most recent annual reporting periods that ended by July 2013. It summarises key inspection results from audits of public companies, including systemically important financial institutions.

IFIAR's report showed that - for inspected audits of listed public interest entities, or public companies - the main areas of deficiency were in auditing fair value measurements, internal control testing, and procedures to assess the adequacy of financial statement presentation and disclosures.

For the audits of systemically important financial institutions, including global systemically important banks, the key deficiencies were in auditing of allowance for loan losses and loan impairments, internal control testing, and auditing of the valuation of investments and securities.

These inspection findings are deficiencies in audit procedures that indicate that the audit firm did not obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to support its opinion.

IFIAR's report also found that the audit firms' own quality control systems had the highest number of inspection findings in the areas of engagement performance, human resources, and independence and ethics requirements.

The audit firms covered were the six largest international audit firm networks, ie the Big Four - Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC - as well as BDO and Grant Thornton.

"The survey makes clear that these important inspection findings are prevalent across many nations and firms," Mr Ferguson noted. He added that IFIAR has taken steps to improve global audit quality, including meeting global network audit firm leaders to discuss inspection results and actions the firms will take to show demonstrable improvement in audit performance. It has also used the survey results in members' home countries to inform their respective inspection and standard-setting activities.

Of the global audit firm leaders, Janine van Diggelen, IFIAR vice chair, and head of the Audit & Reporting Quality Division at The Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets, said: "The firms should develop robust root-cause analysis to gain a clearer understanding of the factors that underlie inspection findings and to take appropriate remedial actions.

"Only with a thorough understanding of the underlying factors that have led to findings can audit firms take appropriate measures. These measures should be aimed at improving their auditing techniques, as well as their oversight policies and procedures, but also consider the cultural and behavioural influences in the firms that were relevant to the deficiencies. Both audit firms and regulators must do more to improve audit quality."

It was also announced at the Washington meeting that Singapore's Acra has joined IFIAR's Investor and Other Stakeholders Working Group (IWG) that engages investors and other stakeholders with an interest in improving audit quality.

Acra's chief executive, Kenneth Yap, said of the regulator's inclusion: "It is vital that we ensure audit and audit regulation continue to provide value to investors. We look forward to encouraging greater participation from investors, audit committees and other stakeholders in the drive to improve audit quality."

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Mothership team 'will register with MDA'

Straits Times
05 Apr 2014
Robin Chan

THE company behind news website Mothership.sg said yesterday it will register with the Media Development Authority (MDA), a move that will prohibit it from receiving foreign funds.

"The concern that foreign funding or any form of foreign influence impinging on our site's activities, integrity or operations has never been an issue," the Mothership team said in a statement yesterday.

"The core team behind Mothership.sg are Singaporeans who care deeply about issues that affect our country and Singaporeans. It is also our policy to post the identities of our editors and writers on our website."

The statement added that after having spoken to stakeholders, Mothership would clarify its position "regarding our registration with MDA as soon as possible".

"We will accede to MDA's request to register under Section 9 of the Broadcasting Act," it said, adding that the company will comply as well with all laws, rules, regulations and codes of practice that regulate broadcasting in Singapore.

"We also hope that this move will bring us a step closer to obtaining full accreditation as a media in Singapore and help in our effort to become a viable and sustainable enterprise."

Launched last August, Mothership has four full-time staff, and counts former foreign minister George Yeo among its contributors.

It is backed by a social enterprise called Project Fisher-Men, chaired by Mr Philip Yeo, a veteran leader in the public sector.

MDA told Project Fisher-Men last month to register with it by April 11 as it propagates, promotes or discuss political issues on Singapore.

Also, its structure as a corporate entity makes it susceptible to foreign influence through foreign funding, the MDA said.

chanckr@sph.com.sg

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Buyers who turn down warranties still protected by lemon law: Court

TODAY
17 Apr 2014
Ashley Chia

SINGAPORE — Even though a buyer had turned down the extended warranty offered by a seller, he is still protected under the “lemon law”, the High Court has ruled.

This law allows the consumer “over and above” any rights that he may already have — such as the usual contractual remedies — as the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act clearly envisions the consumer in a weaker bargaining position compared with the vendor, said Judicial Commissioner George Wei in a judgment released yesterday.

The judicial commissioner dismissed Speedo Motoring’s appeal against a Small Claims Tribunal ruling that ordered the used car dealer to pay S$4,500 for the partial reimbursement of the expenses incurred by Mr Ong Gek Sing.

The lemon law, which came into effect in September 2012, compels businesses to repair or replace a product found to be defective within six months from point of purchase. Mr Ong had purchased a second-hand hybrid Lexus GS 450 for S$138,000 on Sept 5, 2012, but had to fork out almost S$7,000 over the next five months to replace the car’s defective hybrid battery, front rotor discs and tyres. The buyer also later found that the car had not been serviced by authorised agent Borneo Motors since March 2011.

Mr Ong approached the Consumers Association of Singapore and commenced proceedings at the Small Claims Tribunal after he did not receive any reply from Speedo Motoring, despite several attempts to reach the company. The dealer said it had given Mr Ong a S$1,800 discount as he had “opted out” of the extended warranty offered, but the tribunal found that “the car was not ... in good condition” and awarded Mr Ong S$4,500, about half of the amount he had originally claimed.

The judicial commissioner said in his 39-page judgment that the hybrid battery was “an integral component”, even though Speedo Motoring had attempted to characterise the battery as a component that was subject to wear and tear. Furthermore, the car was “relatively new” — its mileage was around 53,842km at the material time. And even though the dealer had tried to ascertain the condition of the vehicle by sending it for a third-party evaluation, the test did not involve an examination of the hybrid battery, the judicial commissioner added.

The judicial commissioner said it was prudent for a used car seller to document and highlight to a buyer any potential defects before a contract is made. “The buyer will be placed in a better position to decide whether to proceed with the sale and the seller will be able to avoid further disputes down the road,” he said.

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Better protection for thrill-seekers

Business Times
12 Apr 2014
Kara Quek

AMUSEMENT rides located in private clubs and residential estates will now be regulated by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) through the Amusement Rides Safety Act. Such rides include water slides installed at swimming pools in some condominiums and clubs.

Their inclusion comes with a recent revision of the Act, in an effort by the BCA to further improve safety standards. The amendments to the Act took effect from April 1.

There are currently around 80 amusement rides in Singapore, offering thrill-seekers a myriad of options ranging from indoor skydiving to reverse bungee-jumping. One such ride is the Torpedo, a free-fall ride at water park Wild Wild Wet that was launched in November last year.

As thrill rides may be dangerous for the rider if they do not meet safety regulations, the Act was introduced in 2011 to regulate amusement ride safety. More recently, some amendments were made to it following a review conducted by the BCA.

"Safety regulations are not static," wrote Khaw Boon Wan, Minister for National Development, in his Housing Matters blog. "They have to evolve to meet new safety standards, respond to new incidents and keep pace with introduction of new rides."

Mr Khaw raised the example of water-walking ball operators, who were previously allowed to operate in pools of up to 0.5 metres in depth. Now, however, they can be used in pools as deep as 1.2 metres, if there is a lifeguard present.

The Act applies to all amusement rides, including existing ones, and covers the installation, operation, modification, maintenance and repair of such rides. Prior to the opening of the ride, the BCA's engineers work with the ride operator to ensure that the ride complies with safety standards. In addition, the BCA conducts spot checks on the operators' daily maintenance routines, along with surprise audits, or "mystery shopper" inspections.

"We will stay updated with best industry standards and latest safety technologies," wrote Mr Khaw, adding that ride-goers themselves should also play their part in ensuring their own safety by following safety guidelines.

karaquek@sph.com.sg

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Bring copyright laws in line with global norms: Forum

Straits Times
05 Apr 2014
Barbara Wong

WE REFER to Dr Edmund Lam's letter ("Tune in to copyright protection"; March 25) in response to Mr Chen Yongjie's letter ("Lax enforcement of music copyright laws"; March 22).

As the collective licensing body representing record companies in Singapore, the Recording Industry Performance Singapore (Rips) echoes the need for the introduction of public performance and full broadcast rights for sound recordings.

This will bring Singapore in line with long-established international norms, as well as allow for record companies to invest in local talent development and incentivise the establishment of a vibrant local platform for artists to flourish.

With the pervasiveness of high-speed Internet connectivity, rights owners are fighting a losing battle against rampant piracy.

In response to these challenges, various countries have already enacted laws to allow for more effective measures to be taken against online infringement, and Singapore should likewise also amend its Copyright Act.

At the same time, Rips remains committed to public education and engagement on copyright licensing.

In this regard, we note that Dr Lam mentioned in his letter that "when a commercial shop plays a CD for background music... these outlets do not need a licence" from Rips.

Copyright licences may, in fact, be required from Rips, depending on how the sound recordings are played and the methods used for packaging and delivering sound recording content. For example, if computerised music servers or other online delivery methods are used to deliver content from our repertoire, licences will typically be required from us.

Business owners should check if their suppliers of such computerised or online systems are so licensed.

Apart from reproduction licences for sound recordings, Rips also administers licences for public performance of music videos and karaoke videos.

Members of the public are welcome to inquire with us if they have any questions relating to the use of sound recordings.

Barbara Wong (Ms)

General Manager

Recording Industry Performance Singapore

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Firms' AGMs delayed due to probe

Straits Times
17 Apr 2014
Grace Leong

TWO of eight listed companies caught up in the Commercial Affairs Department's (CAD) sweeping investigation into possible breaches of securities laws have had to delay their annual general meetings (AGM).

ISR Capital and Innopac Holdings have both asked the Singapore Exchange for more time to hold the meetings.

ISR was scheduled to hold its AGM on April 28 but will postpone to June 27 if the Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority approves.

The fund management firm told the SGX on Monday that the launch of the CAD probe was "so close to the time for finalisation of the annual report".

It added that its directors "require additional time to assess the full impact these investigations may have on its annual report and whether additional disclosures (if any) are required".

The CAD seized computers, data storage devices, files and financial records from ISR, Innopac and other firms on April 2 as part of a probe into trading irregularities in clobbered penny stocks Asiasons Capital, Blumont Group and LionGold Corp.

To date, eight listed firms and their subsidiaries as well as 13 executives have been asked to provide all of their corporate data and documents for the period from Jan 1, 2011 through April 3. Asiasons said none of its units or directors have been asked to assist in the probe.

ISR, which is majority-owned by Asiasons, said the regulator had sought information from chief executive Quah Su-Yin, five wholly owned entities and two funds managed by its subsidiary.

"In addition to determining the disclosures required, the directors will also need more time to assess if the investigations have any impact on the going concern of the company," it stated.

"Furthermore, (ISR) auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers has indicated that additional time will be required to review such additional disclosures and to assess if there would be an impact on the auditor's report."

Innopac, an investment holding firm whose shareholders include Blumont and Ipco International, has asked the SGX for a two-month extension to hold its AGM by June 30.

The company cited delays in completing its audit report and annual report for the 2013 financial year as the CAD had seized most of the data needed for their preparation. It has since obtained copies of the documents to prepare its reports.

Innopac said the CAD had asked chief executive officer Wong Chin-Yong for access to relevant data and documents. Mr Wong has also surrendered his passport.

Meanwhile, Asiasons, Blumont and Annica Holdings - which appears to be the worst hit so far - are proceeding with their AGMs, which will be held by the end of the month.

Annica's largest shareholder and executive director, Mr Edwin Sugiarto, has had his passport impounded and is on police bail after being interviewed by the CAD.

Mr Sugiarto was also a substantial shareholder of Australia-listed Merlin Diamonds, a firm that Innopac tried to take over last year. Innopac's Mr Wong is also a shareholder in Annica.

Former CEO Lim Meng Check, who resigned in January last year, and Mr Goh Hin Calm, a non-executive and independent director, are also being investigated.

CAD has also sought records and equipment related to Mr Goh from ITE Electric, where Mr Goh is a non-executive and independent director.

Annica and two other subsidiaries were asked to provide data belonging to current directors and that of Mr Lim and Mr Sugiarto.

gleong@sph.com.sg

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Justice Chao reappointed Judge of Appeal

Business Times
11 Apr 2014
Raphael Lim

THE Supreme Court said yesterday that Chao Hick Tin has been reappointed as a Judge of Appeal for two more years, effective today. And a new judicial commissioner of the High Court, See Kee Oon, has been appointed to the Supreme Court Bench for three years starting on April 14.

Justice Chao was first appointed Judge of Appeal on Aug 2, 1999, before being appointed the Attorney-General of Singapore on April 11, 2006. He returned to the Supreme Court as a Judge of Appeal two years later and has held that appointment since.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon has also reappointed Justice Chao as vice-president of the Court of Appeal.

Mr See was appointed Chief District Judge of the State Courts (formerly known as the Subordinate Courts) in October. Concurrent to his appointment as judicial commissioner, he has been appointed the first Presiding Judge of the State Courts, a re-designation of the Chief District Judge title.

The Subordinate Courts were renamed State Courts and the Presiding Judge of the State Courts was elevated to one held by a judge or a judicial commissioner of the Supreme Court as part of an amendment to the Subordinate Courts Act to reflect the primary role lower courts play in the judicial system and the growing complexity of the cases before them.

As a judicial commissioner of the High Court, Mr See will have the powers of a judge of the High Court. In addition to administrative oversight and management of the State Courts, he will hear matters in the Supreme Court, including appeals from the State Courts.

With the reappointment of Justice Chao and the appointment of Mr See, the Supreme Court will have 13 judges - inclusive of CJ Menon - and five judicial commissioners. Both Justice Chao and Mr See will take their affirmation of office at the Istana on Monday.

raphlim@sph.com.sg

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Manager did not breach fidelity to firm: Judge

Straits Times
05 Apr 2014
K. C. Vijayan,

She helped husband outbid employer to take over lease of pharmacy space

A PHARMACY manager who was sued by her ex-employer after she helped her husband outbid the company to take over the store's lease has been cleared by the High Court.

Judgment grounds were released yesterday from a three-day case, heard in February and March, that helped to clarify employment laws.

Ms Tracey Yong, 37, worked for Trident Pharm, which had run a retail pharmacy at the National Dental Centre (NDC) for about 10 years before its lease came up for renewal in 2007.

In October 2006, Ms Yong helped her pharmacist husband, Mr Thomas Wan, 40, to prepare a bid to take over the lease.

He registered a firm called The Dental Pharm, which went on to win the tender, beating Trident and a third bidder. Ms Yong, who had worked for Trident since 2004, ran the new store after it opened in 2007.

NDC executive director Kwa Chong Teck testified to the court that Mr Wan's bid won on merit, adding that Trident would not have won even if Dental Pharm had not tendered a bid. He said Trident did not meet the minimum requirement that would have required NDC to give it any further consideration.

However, Trident's lawyer, Mr Michael Moey, claimed Ms Yong used confidential information to help her husband's bid.

But Justice Choo Han Teck found there was insufficient evidence to show she was "in breach of any duty of confidentiality". He noted, among other things, that product prices submitted by Trident to NDC in relation to the tender were not confidential as they would have been known to Trident's customers.

The judge added that the tender terms were set by NDC so nothing Trident provided was crucial. Dental Pharm would not have known who else competed for the tender.

Justice Choo made it clear that an employee's duty of fidelity to his employer is different from a director's fiduciary duty to their company.

The employee's duty, he said, does not generally preclude him from taking preparatory steps to compete with their employer. He added that the duty does not require the employee to "subjugate" his own interests to those of their employer.

The judge ruled that even if there was a breach of fidelity, Trident's claims had to be dimissed as its loss was not caused by such a breach. The terms of her contract with Trident also did not forbid her from competing with it even after she had left it.

Ms Yong, defended by lawyer R.Chandran, had explained that she was worried she would lose her job if Trident failed to renew its lease and wanted to continue running the pharmacy by helping her husband succeed. Justice Choo ruled this was only a "preparatory step" towards competing with Trident. "If the only evidence of infidelity was her joining a rival bid and failing to disclose that act to (Trident), I would find that was not sufficient to constitute breach of fidelity as an employee," he said.

Dental Pharm succeeded in renewing its tender for the premises in 2012 and continues to operate at the NDC.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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T+3 settlement period should remain: remisiers

Business Times
17 Apr 2014
R. Sivanithy

They also ask MAS, SGX to require collateral only for big trades

THE Society of Remisiers (SOR) has asked the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to retain the present settlement period of T+3 and to require collateral only for trades above $50,000, two recommendations which, if accepted, would help preserve some contra trading.

In its feedback to the MAS-SGX consultation paper issued in early February that proposed reducing settlement from T+3 to T+2, where T is the transaction day, SOR said that T+3 had been in operation for more than 10 years and had a proven track record in facilitating efficient market operations.

"At present, this is the shortest settlement period acceptable to retail investors," said SOR. "We cannot follow international standards and practices without due regard for the uniqueness in our trading culture and our relatively small market size."

It went on to argue that the local market needs investors as well as speculators to thrive. "In our context, shortening the settlement period is akin to reducing the contra period. We feel this would seriously curtail the participation of speculators."

Contra trading is the offsetting of a buy with a sell within the three-day settlement period without payment for the initial purchase. After netting off the purchase and sale prices, the trader either receives the contra profit or has to pay the contra loss.

MAS and SGX proposed reducing the settlement period in response to claims that contra trading contributed to last October's penny stock crash. The consultation paper had been issued as part of the reforms proposed in the wake of that crash.

Among the measures MAS-SGX proposed was 5 per cent collateral for all trades. SOR said that since trades which influence price are usually large, it believes collateral should only be for trades above $50,000. Trades below this amount can be seen as relatively insignificant and do not pose any systemic credit risk to remisiers and broking houses, it felt.

To compensate for not requiring collateral for trades under $50,000, SOR recommended raising the broking fee for these trades from 0.5 to 0.75 per cent.

As for short-selling, because MAS-SGX has proposed aggregate position reporting for short sales and public disclosure of short positions, SOR recommended removing the need to mark short sales under $50,000 and withdrawing the $1,000 penalty for settlement failures for these trades.

"Why harass small investors (and turn them away) by imposing a blanket requirement on all, for administrative convenience, when they are not the culprits behind market crashes?" said SOR.

In response to the MAS-SGX proposal to impose a minimum trading price, SOR said that if companies fail to meet this price, there should be a viable alternative trading platform for shareholders.

"At present, Catalist appears as the only suitable alternative platform but it is a poor solution for two reasons: one, finding a sponsor is not easy owing to a scarcity of sponsors, and two, sponsorship costs may also be too prohibitive for ailing firms to bear."

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Singapore firm in spotlight over $2.5b 'stolen' from Nigeria

Straits Times
11 Apr 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Assets linked to cash allegedly taken by late dictator Abacha

A SINGAPORE connection to US$2 billion (S$2.5 billion) which may have been swiped from his country's coffers by late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha has came under scrutiny in a London court.

The court has ordered a continued freeze on assets sought by the US government which are linked to 11 parties, including two in Singapore - Blue Holdings(1) and Blue Holdings(2).

In 2012, the Nigerian government asked for US assistance to get back the stolen money, under the UN Convention against Corruption. More than US$1.2 billion has been recovered by the west African country so far.

The United States alleges these assets originated from corrupt misappropriations by Abacha and his relatives or associates which were then laundered and are liable to be seized.

The US is seeking the injunction in a British court as five of the 11 are London-based banks and financial institutions alleged to be holding assets for six defendants. No allegations of wrong-doing have been made against these institutions. The US had applied to renew an injunction first issued in February until a court hearing in the US rules on the theft allegations.

Abacha ruled Nigeria as de facto president from 1993 until he died, amid murky circumstances, of a heart attack in 1998 aged 54.

The US claims the money was stolen in a "Security Votes Fraud" from the Central Bank of Nigeria under cover of orders from Abacha.

The orders were falsely approved on the basis that the money might be needed for emergency security reasons.

In judgment grounds released on Wednesday, British High Court judge Richard Field held it "not in dispute" that proceeds from the fraud could be traced to assets held by Blue Holdings, which lists its address as Penang Road. The assets were in accounts at two London wealth management firms.

The 11 defendants include the late leader's son, Mr Mohammed Sani Abacha, 46, and Mr Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, 52, who is an associate of both father and son. Other parties include the Ridley Group and Mecosta Securities, located elsewhere.

The US alleges Mr Abacha and Mr Bagudu took assets belonging to Nigeria on the late president's orders, or on their own, out of the country, and now control them.

Mr Bagudu is a senator in the Nigerian Parliament. His brother Ibrahim is director of Blue Holdings - investment holding companies with total share capital of almost ¤100 million (S$172million) according to company records. The two companies are owned by a trust for the benefit of Mr Bagudu's family, said the judge.

Blue Holdings' lawyer, Queen's Counsel Paul Stanley, argued among other things that it would be "wholly inconsistent" for the US to forfeit the assets of Blue Holdings since Mr Bagudu had already entered a settlement with the Nigerian government on behalf of the Nigerian people.

But Justice Field ruled that even if there were a settlement agreement, it would not be "inexpedient" to keep freezing the assets, "in order to hold the ring", until the outcome of the US court case is determined. He said it was for the US court to decide if the settlement is a defence or if the assets should be part of the claim.

"Corruption, like other types of fraud, is a global problem and it and its consequences are only going to be dealt with effectively if there is cooperation and assistance not only between the governments of states but also between the courts of different national jurisdictions," said Justice Field.

Blue Holdings, via company secretary Lisa Cumberbatch, declined to comment when contacted by The Straits Times.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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XMH unit ordered to pay $3.47m in damages to Pacific Marine

Business Times
04 Apr 2014
Malminderjit Singh

A SUBSIDIARY of XMH Holdings has been ordered by the Singapore High Court to pay S$3.47 million in damages to Pacific Marine & Shipbuilding for supplying it with defective parts.

The marine engine and generator distributor said yesterday that the court had ruled in favour of Pacific on March 31 in legal proceedings brought against its wholly owned subsidiary, Xin Ming Hua Pte Ltd, to settle the claims Pacific had made, while dismissing the unit's counterclaim.

The suit came about as Pacific had alleged that the subdidiary had supplied it with four defective marine propulsion units, which comprised a marine diesel engine with gearbox and related components, as part of a sales contract entered into between both parties in June 2010.

Pacific filed a suit claiming 65.6 million yen (S$797,565) as recovery of the purchase price of the equipment; S$645,748 plus US$307,188 for charges incurred in investigations, testing and survey, insurance premium, port and berth charges and liquidated damages arising out of the termination of shipbuilding contracts; and S$2.44 million less 65.6 million yen as the loss and damage it suffered for the loss of the shipbuilding contracts.

The subsidiary counter-claimed against Pacific for S$180,696.43 plus diminution in value of the equipment, on the basis that it incurred expenses in the course of the investigations it carried out and in attempting to rectify the defective units. The trial took place in January this year and the written submissions of the parties were exchanged and submitted in February.

In a statement to the Singapore Exchange yesterday, XMH revealed that it is considering its options with regard to an appeal against the decision of the High Court and will announce further updates when there are any material developments. It also confirmed that it will make the necessary provisions for the liabilities under the suit in its full year accounts ending April 30, 2014. "This claim is expected to have a material impact on the company's financial performance for the financial year 2014," the statement said.

msingh@sph.com.sg

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Doc who molested patient charged with making false declaration

Straits Times
17 Apr 2014
Elena Chong

A VETERAN doctor and motoring writer already convicted of molesting a patient was charged yesterday with knowingly making a false declaration when trying to get his practising certificate.

Winston Lee Siew Boon, 70, is accused of stating that he had not been the subject of an inquiry nor any police probe since his last declaration, which he knew to be false.

The alleged offence was made in writing on July 23 last year to the Singapore Medical Council when he tried to get a practising certificate under the Medical Registration Act.

The doctor of 40 years was charged in April last year with molesting a 34-year-old sales representative in June and October 2011.

After a seven-day trial, which started last November, District Judge Lim Tse Haw convicted him last month of squeezing the woman's breast at Thong Hoe Clinic in Bukit Batok Street 11.

The judge found the complainant's evidence to be "unusually convincing" and her emotion, "real and telling".

He agreed with the prosecution that the complainant had no motive to bring false allegations against Lee.

Lee, he said, had been an untruthful witness. His mitigation plea will be heard on Wednesday.

Yesterday, his lawyer Charles Lin asked for a pre-trial conference, and said he would be making representations on the latest charge. The case is fixed for a pre-trial conference on May 16.

Under the Medical Registration Act, the maximum penalty for making a fraudulent declaration is a $10,000 fine and two years in jail.

elena@sph.com.sg

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Bigger, faster, cheaper but not better: Protection of plant varieties

Straits Times
11 Apr 2014
Andy Ho

YOU probably paid scant attention to the recent amending of a law to protect every plant variety found or bred in Singapore.

It's also likely that few of us noticed when that law was first passed in 2004 to protect 15 varieties of plants. That was when Singapore ratified a treaty that protects new plant varieties, usually created through cross-breeding or genetic modification (GM).

That treaty - which is referred to as UPOV, the French acronym for the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants - required Singapore law to protect all plant varieties by 2014.

The law offers monopoly rights in the form of a "grant of protection" of 25 years' duration to any entity that discovers, breeds or develops a new plant variety. If a plant is protected, then others may not produce, sell, import, export or use it to make a hybrid or a different variety.

The issue is not directly important to Singapore, given its minuscule farming sector. But it has to do with the world's food security and, in that sense, is of some interest to Singapore, which imports most of its food.

The recent amendment to the law reminded us again about that obscure treaty, which mainly benefits Big Agribusiness. Unfortunately, it is also Big Agribusiness' practices that have led to a diminishing biodiversity in the food supply chain in past decades.

And biodiversity is important for food security in this manner: If one crop variety fails in a drought or because of a disease, a more robust variety might not fail, thus staving off food shortages.

Historically, the devastating effects of a lack of crop biodiversity were seen in the Irish Potato Famine of 1845 to 1849. A fungus wiped out Ireland's potato crop because the Irish had brought in only a few varieties of potatoes from the Andes of South America and all of these varieties were not resistant to the fungus. As the Irish relied mainly on potatoes as their staple food, that lack of biodiversity led to famine and death.

So diminished biodiversity in the food chain as a result of industrial agribusiness practices can only pose an insidious threat to food security in the long run.

Why then did Singapore ratify this treaty and pass a domestic law to enact it? It had to, as one of the United States' preconditions for inking a bilateral free trade agreement in 2003. And it also had to protect all new varieties of plants by 2014.

It is Big Agribusiness that is likely to make new varieties of seeds that may be exported to Singapore, a trans-shipment hub for many goods, including GM seeds.

So it is the interests of big agribusiness firms of the developed West that this treaty protects the most. The firms that dominate the world's food supply chain today are mainly huge US corporations that make new GM seed varieties which are food crops used to produce the many foods that fill supermarket shelves, ranging from corn oil to cookies and chips.

Here is how Big Agribusiness' bigger, faster, cheaper approach to food production is bad for biodiversity in the food supply chain:

Traditionally, small farmers save the seeds from one crop cycle to replant in the next cycle. They keep the seeds of the best plants in their fields - those that are high in yield, resistant to disease or pests, or tolerant of poor soil or high altitudes, for example.

When such plants cross-pollinate, new varieties are produced. Small farmers also sell, buy or exchange their seeds with one another. In these traditional ways, the small farms help to preserve, protect and promote biodiversity in the food supply chain.

This is why some 4,000 known varieties of potatoes exist in the Andes, where potatoes originated.

By contrast, the Big Agribusiness approach involves taking such genetic resources from small farms and subjecting the seeds to GM to get desired traits such as high yield or disease resistance.

But this is difficult work even for experts, and successes are few and far between. This work also costs lots of money. As a result, even these giant corporations can produce only a limited variety of GM commodity crops such as corn, soya bean, canola or alfalfa, with a desirable trait like high yield.

Unfortunately, what this limited variety translates into is a diminished biodiversity in their seeds. These seeds are then used in what is called intensive industrial farming. Here, a single type of crop, say, corn, is planted year after year in huge fields to make your everyday food items, from corn oil to breakfast cereal.

Maximising harvestable land in this manner maximises profits. But it also leads to soil exhaustion over time, something that does not happen in traditional farming, where different crops are planted on the same plot by rotation in different cycles.

Also, traditionally, farmland was not just one crop from fence to fence, but a mix of grazing land, orchards, wetlands and forests, all of which increased biodiversity in the whole landscape.

In contrast, industrial farms need to correct the exhaustion of nutrients in the soil by using more and more fertilisers.

Moreover, as biodiversity diminishes, disease and pests adapt more easily to such genetically homogeneous crops found in this sort of intensive industrial farming. Such crops become more vulnerable to disease and pests. If so, as biodiversity drops, more and more pesticides are needed too.

But pesticides and fertilisers are complex chemicals that can become incorporated into the crops and therefore the food we eat.

Some of these chemicals leach into the groundwater and pollute bodies of water such as rivers and streams, in which flora and fauna, including fish, may die as well.

The use of pesticides called neonicotinoids in the last decade in US industrial farms has led to a collapse in their bee populations. These pesticides have been found to have accumulated in the bodies of the bees, which are critical to the pollination of many food crops. This may presage the collapse of many crops in the future.

In sum, whole ecosystems can be affected by this over-reliance on pesticides and fertilisers by these big agribusiness firms that dominate the world's food supply chain.

Without any change to these practices, things do not look too good for the world's food security over the long run.

andyho@sph.com.sg

 

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As biodiversity diminishes, disease and pests adapt more easily to such genetically homogeneous crops found in intensive industrial farming... more and more pesticides are needed too.

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

Penny stock investigations widen

Business Times
04 Apr 2014
Anita Gabriel and Kenneth Lim

More than 10 top execs from seven firms, several subsidiaries being probed for possible breaches of Securities and Futures Act

[SINGAPORE] A day after the Republic's white-collar fraud fighters swooped into the offices of three Singapore-listed firms, the net was cast wider as they delved deeper into possible trading irregularities in three battered penny stocks.

The Commercial Affairs Department's (CAD) latest move brings the tally to more than 10 top executives - many which are Malaysians - from seven firms and several subsidiaries which have been singled out.

They are being investigated for possible breaches of the Securities and Futures Act (Cap 289) involving trading in the shares of Asiasons Capital, LionGold Corp and Blumont Group, whose shares plunged in last October's sell-off after rocketing to record peaks earlier.

CAD's move, which caught market watchers by surprise on Wednesday, triggered a flurry of trading halt requests followed by revelations that the firms or their subsidiaries had received notices from CAD asking for information and documents belonging to key executives. The firms were Innopac Holdings, ITE Electric Co, Ipco International and ISR Capital.

These firms are connected through a web of complex cross shareholdings and common directors - past and present - to Asiasons, Blumont and LionGold. Annica Holdings, a firm majority owned by Indonesian businessman Edwin Sugiarto and also linked to these firms, was halted from trading pending an announcement.

There was nothing light about the CAD's touch. The Business Times understands that several individuals were questioned and one was arrested and placed on police bail.

Only Asiasons put out a note to clarify that the CAD did not come knocking on its doors. Asiasons shares, which were on trading halt for the the first half of the day, closed 5 per cent lower at 5.5 cents.

Asiasons-linked firms and several broking firms were not as lucky, though. Market sources revealed that the CAD team had "visited" several broking houses and walked away with computers and hand-held devices belonging to remisiers, possibly to pore into the trading details of those being investigated.

"The message is that the regulators will not tolerate flagrant violations of the rules," said remisier Alvin Yong.

Yet there is some disenchantment that this could have happened sooner. "It is about time, after so many months," remarked an avid investor.

The investigation comes six months after the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Singapore Exchange (SGX) revealed that they were extensively reviewing trading in these three stocks that had tumbled and wiped out billions of dollars over just a few days.

But there may have been good reason for the time taken, said a legal expert. "It is likely that preliminary investigations have already been done and the authorities think they now have prima facie evidence to proceed further," he said.

Similar to the notices sent out on Wednesday to Blumont, LionGold and Magnus Energy, the firms involved in the latest sweep were asked to hand over all corporate electronic data from January 2011 until now, and information technology equipment and data storage services belonging to several individuals and subsidiaries.

Innopac, an investment holding firm that counts Blumont and Ipco as shareholders, said CAD had asked its CEO, Wong Chin-Yong, to give access to relevant data and documents. "The board understands that these CAD investigations may be protracted and there is no certainty of an outcome," said Innopac in a note to SGX.

Innopac shares fell 6 per cent to 1.5 cents before trading was halted about half an hour after the market opened.

Catalist-listed ITE Electric, part-owned by Blumont, joined the fray. It said CAD was seeking data on the firm's CEO and largest shareholder, Ho Cheng Leong, chief operating officer Ang Cheng Gian and non-executive, independent director Goh Hin Calm and wholly owned ITE Assets.

Not spared was ISR Capital, majority owned by Asiasons, which said the regulator had on Wednesday sought information of its CEO, Quah Su-Yin, five wholly owned entities and two funds managed by its subsidiary.

Once-upon-a-time market darling Ipco, which owns 6.6 per cent of Blumont, said it and four subsidiaries - IPCO Constructors, Friendship Bridge Holding Company, Nueviz Investment and Sino Gas Holdings - were also being investigated.

Meanwhile, construction firm Swee Hong clarified that LionGold's non-executive independent director Lynne Ng Su Ling and employee Peter Chen Hing Woon - the two are also under CAD's investigations - were no longer in the firm's top 20 largest shareholder list as at March 25.

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

WP town council to fight summons in court

Straits Times
17 Apr 2014
Hoe Pei Shan

WORKERS' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim said the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) "will present its case" in court as it fights a summons for holding an alleged illegal trade fair.

The trial will likely begin on June 2, added the town council's lawyer Terence Tan, after a pre-trial conference yesterday.

The fair, held in Hougang Central from Jan 9 in the lead-up to Chinese New Year, was into its third week when the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced it did not have a licence.

Six of the fair's stallholders were issued summonses for illegal hawking. Five of them received a single summons each, and have already paid composition fines of $300, said Mr Tan.

Ms Lim, who is also AHPETC chairman, said she understood why the residents decided to pay up after speaking to them, adding that "it is inconvenient for them to go to court".

The sixth stallholder, 63-year-old Goh Kwee Leng, received three summonses over three days at the fair, and was not offered a composition fine, said Mr Tan. He is being represented by the town council's lawyers in a separate case.

Mr Tan, who is assisting lead defence counsel Peter Low and will not be claiming legal fees as he is also a WP member, said they are seeking an offer of a composition fine or a withdrawal of the summonses for Mr Goh.

When asked why Mr Goh did not take AHPETC's cue in pursuing the matter in court, Mr Tan declined comment.

Referring to the town council, he said his clients "are seeking a just and equitable determination of this matter by this court".

Between 2011 and January this year, NEA had taken operators to court for running fairs without valid licences on 15 occasions - 11 of which resulted in fines of up to $800.

According to Section 35 of the Environmental Public Health Act, "no person shall promote, organise or stage any temporary fair... without first obtaining a permit from the Director-General (of Public Health)".

Anyone who contravenes any of the Act's provisions could, where no penalty is expressly provided, be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or a jail term not exceeding three months.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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

MAS 'ready to help' foreign regulators with forex probes

Straits Times
11 Apr 2014
Yasmine Yahya

SINGAPORE'S central bank said it is ready to help regulators overseas with investigations into foreign exchange rigging.

"We have been in touch with financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank, on these investigations," the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in a statement yesterday.

"MAS is looking into all allegations of inappropriate behaviour," it added.

The statement came after a Wall Street Journal report said Deutsche Bank put a London- based currency saleswoman named Kai Lew on leave last month for "inappropriate communication" with MAS.

The report did not include further information about this communication and neither MAS nor Deutsche Bank shared any details.

Deutsche Bank said in a statement that it had received requests for information from regulators investigating currency trading and is cooperating with them.

It added that it "will take disciplinary action with regard to individuals if merited", without naming any individuals or regulators.

Regulators in the United States, Europe and Asia have been investigating major banks for possible manipulation of foreign exchange rates.

More than 30 traders at various banks, including a few in Singapore, have been placed on leave, suspended or fired as regulators pursue their investigations.

Traders from Citigroup, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS and Barclays are among those affected by the probes.

However, none of the banks or traders has been accused of wrongdoing.

These investigations come on the back of an earlier one into the rigging of benchmark interest rates.

A year-long investigation here that ended in June last year found 133 traders from 20 banks had been involved in trying to rig the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (Sibor), to which many loans are pegged.

MAS has proposed making such actions a crime and said it intends to regulate the activities related to the setting of the Sibor, the Swap Offered Rate (SOR) and foreign exchange levels.

yasminey@sph.com.sg

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

NParks officer ordered to give his defence

Straits Times
04 Apr 2014
Ian Poh

THE National Parks Board (NParks) assistant director on trial for lying to auditors has been ordered by a district court to give his defence.

The court ruled yesterday that the nine witnesses who testified so far had given enough evidence against Bernard Lim Yong Soon to continue with the trial, which began on March 11.

Bernard Lim, 42, oversaw a controversial $57,200 deal to buy 26 Brompton bicycles in 2012 from supplier Bikehop.

He is charged with lying to the National Development Ministry (MND) that he did not know Bikehop director Lawrence Lim Chun How before the firm put in the sole bid to supply the foldable bikes.

He is also alleged to have instigated Mr Lawrence Lim to perpetuate the lie.

Mr Lawrence Lim, who was the first to take the stand, had testified that he had met Bernard Lim at a cycling event in 2011, and that Bernard Lim tipped him off about the tender and revealed its budget, and later told him over the phone not to tell anybody about their relationship.

Three MND staff had told the court that Bernard Lim told them he first met Mr Lawrence Lim in March 2012. An anti-graft officer, meanwhile, testified last week that Bernard Lim told him that he had lied out of fear of being disciplined.

Yesterday, defence lawyer Lawrence Ang said his client will take the stand to give his side of the story.

On Tuesday, he had urged the court to acquit Bernard Lim without calling for his defence.

He said his client had not broken the law even if his actions might have been "morally reprehensible". The lawyer also said there were deficiencies in the prosecution's case, such as vagueness in the charges, the auditors' lack of authority to investigate the relationship between the two men, and lapses during a probe by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). Mr Ang said Mr Lawrence Lim had testified that Bernard Lim asked him to "try not to tell anybody" that they knew each other but the lawyer said this was, at best, a "request of a general nature" to hide the relationship, rather than an instigation to lie to the auditors.

However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy yesterday said Bernard Lim covered up his relationship with Mr Lawrence Lim and told him not to reveal the link because he feared being investigated and disciplined - something Bernard Lim later admitted to the CPIB.

Bernard Lim's act in asking Mr Lawrence Lim not to reveal their relationship, he said, should be understood in the context of the scrutiny the deal received following a newspaper report. Then, Bernard Lim's superiors wanted to know whether the two men were Facebook friends. He had also asked Mr Lawrence Lim to "unfriend" him on Facebook.

"There is no requirement that the accused needs to have battered the first witness into submission," the DPP said.

Bernard Lim, who is suspended from his job, does not face any corruption charges. If convicted, he can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $5,000. The trial, before District Judge Marvin Bay, resumes on April 14.

pohian@sph.com.sg

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

Fostering respect for IP critical: Forum

Straits Times
17 Apr 2014

THE challenges faced by copyright owners and users in the digital age are global in nature, as aptly noted by Mr Bruno Poh Teck Boon ("Raise public awareness of copyright laws"; April 9).

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) tracks legislative and industry practices across the world to ensure that our intellectual property (IP) system remains robust.

Public education remains our main effort in dealing with copyrights in the digital age. Ipos has organised outreach events and tailored programmes for youth and the community over the past 10 years.

The annual World IP Day celebration on April 26 and the new IP Expedition skit for primary school children, which reached out to 60,000 pupils, are examples of such outreach programmes.

Renowned artists such as JJ Lin and Michelle Chong have helped to bring IP lessons closer to home.

Our schools' new Cyber Wellness modules and Character and Citizenship Education include IP education to engender healthy respect for IP and making IP our way of life.

Last year, the IP Academy trained more than 2,000 executives from the business, technology and legal sectors. It is working with industry partners to impart IP knowledge to more than 3,000 participants through seminars, workshops and case-based training this year. It also co-hosts Singapore's premier IP event, IP Week@SG, to educate and discuss frontier IP issues with international IP communities annually.

For local businesses, creators and innovators, the newly minted one-stop IP service centre, IP 101, in Bras Basah Road will provide a comprehensive suite of IP services to address their needs.

Maintaining good flow of information on the Internet and encouraging respect for IP is critical for Singapore. Ipos, the IP Academy and IP 101 are committed to bringing more Singaporeans on board this mission.

Christina Lim (Ms)

Director, Communications & Engagement Department

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore

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

Builders' pain is arbitrators' gain

Straits Times
11 Apr 2014
Rennie Whang

Tighter cash flow due to less work is driving up cases of payment disputes

TIGHTER times in the building trade and developments on the legal front are likely to lead to more payment disputes between developers and sub-contractors.

Cash flow is slowing down fast as buyers put the brakes on the residential housing market but it is also generating more work for arbitrators.

Industry sources estimate that around 100 cases were lodged with the Singapore Mediation Council (SMC), the body which administers the adjudication process, in the first quarter.

The Straits Times understands from industry estimates that this probably represents around a 50 per cent increase from the same quarter last year.

More than 250 cases were filed last year, sources say, a record number and well up on the 134 lodged in 2012.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said disputed amounts have ranged from $4,900 to $116.3 million between April 2005 - when the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment (SOP) Act was enacted - and December last year.

Cases are adjudicated under the SOP Act, which was enacted to provide contractors and sub-contractors a fast and cheap way to resolve payment disputes.

The Act outlawed the "pay when paid" clause, once common to contracts. This allowed main contractors to wait until they had been paid before they settled sub-contractors' invoices.

Mr Chow Kok Fong, chairman of the SMC's construction adjudicator accreditation committee, said the increasing case file is due in large part to less private sector construction work.

Private construction demand totalled $21 billion last year, but is forecast to be in the $12 billion to $16 billion range this year.

"When the amount of work they have suddenly shrinks, it generates cash flow issues. When cash flow is tight, they become more vigilant in trying to recover as much as possible what is due to them," said Mr Chow.

Two Court of Appeal decisions - in November 2012 and May 2013 - have also opened the doors for payment dispute cases.

One removed a one-month time bar previously in place for claimants to bring claims.

The other allowed for claims previously dismissed as untimely to be made again.

"This unlocked cases previously held back, because claimants thought the timeline and requirements of the Act to be more restrictive than they actually are," said Mr Chow.

Law firm Wong Partnership saw its construction-related claims business rise by 30 per cent in the first quarter of the year, from the fourth quarter of last year.

Partner Christopher Chuah, who heads its infrastructure, construction and engineering practice, expects the number of cases to rise further as cash flow tightens and people get more accustomed to the process.

"They turn to it because it's the cheapest means of enforcing payment," he said.

Adjudication fees for most cases range from $2,000 to $7,999.

A contractor who wanted to be known only as Mr Yan, 61, added: "Cash flow has always been a problem in our industry... (but) with many professional institutions conducting seminars on the Act, a lot more people are aware of the Act (as an avenue)."

But the rising number of such disputes does not spell doom for the construction sector, said DMG & Partners Research head Terence Wong.

"Margins have been crimped over the last couple of years as the Government forces the industry to be productive," he noted.

"It definitely will not be easy for the smaller firms. But there will be a continual flow of orders in the next 10, 15 years, especially in public works. The larger firms have economies of scale and would be able to overcome margin issues."

wrennie@sph.com.sg

 

 

*****************Background Story *****************

 

MONEY MATTERS

When the amount of work they have suddenly shrinks, it generates cash flow issues. When cash flow is tight, they become more vigilant in trying to recover as much as possible what is due to them.

- Mr Chow Kok Fong, chairman of the SMC's construction adjudicator accreditation committee. He said the increasing case file is due in large part to less private sector construction work.

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

News website told to register

Straits Times
04 Apr 2014
Robin Chan

Editors of Mothership.sg mulling over 'next steps'

THE website Mothership.sg has become the latest online news platform to be asked by regulator Media Development Authority (MDA) to register, a move that will forbid it from receiving foreign funds.

Mothership counts former foreign minister George Yeo among its contributors, and is backed by a social enterprise known as Project Fisher-Men, which is chaired by a top public-sector leader, Mr Philip Yeo.

Its editors said in a Facebook post yesterday that they are "mulling our next steps".

"Registering is not as scary as it sounds because The Independent Singapore and Breakfast Network were previously asked to do the same," they said.

"If we comply and register, we will go the way of The Independent Singapore, who are still around, writing and publishing. If we don't comply, we will go the way of Breakfast Network, which is now defunct."

The two sites were asked by the MDA to register last year.

Yesterday, the MDA said Project Fisher-Men was informed on March 27 to register by April 11, under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification, which comes under Section 9 of the Broadcasting Act.

The class licence, enacted in 1996, is automatically given to Internet content and service providers. It lets them operate in Singapore and requires them to follow the rules on banning offensive content under the Broadcasting Act.

But some are also required to register. Mothership has to do so because it is deemed to be engaging "in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore", an MDA spokesman said.

It is also "structured as a corporate entity which is deemed to be more susceptible to coming under foreign influence through foreign funding", she added.

She also said registration will not affect what Mothership can publish on its site.

In December last year, The Independent Singapore submitted its forms and has since been registered, the MDA confirmed yesterday. In the same month, Breakfast Network was ordered to close down its website and Facebook page after it refused to register.

Mothership went live last August. In February this year, it upgraded its server and relaunched the website to increase story contributions and visitors.

Last month, it had 604,170 unique visitors, its editors said.

And since January this year, it has received a monthly average of 404,219 unique visitors and 956,860 page views. This is an increase from an

average of 219,749 unique visitors and 337,879 unique page views for the five months before that.

With a mixture of humour, commentary and news, Mothership gives a daily brief on what it considers the important news headlines of the day.

chanckr@sph.com.sg

Copyright © 2014 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Chief Justice lays down sentencing guidelines for cigarette smugglers

TODAY
16 Apr 2014
Neo Chai Chin

CJ Menon reduces offender’s sentence, dismisses reasons cited by district judge for ‘manifestly excessive’ penalty

SINGAPORE — Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon yesterday laid down sentencing guidelines for those who smuggle in more than 2kg of contraband cigarettes, after noting that there is no consistent or clear sentencing trend for such offences.

This is the second time the top judge has outlined sentencing guidelines; six months ago, he did the same for first-time drink-driving offences.

Referring to the sentences meted out in previous cases of smuggling of duty-unpaid cigarettes, in which he noted jail terms meted out for comparable amounts ranged from eight to 24 months, CJ Menon said: “This variance is simply too great to warrant a conclusion that there was any consistent practice in this matter.”

The framework is, however, meant to be a guide — only for those who have pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and whose role is limited to importation — and judges should calibrate accordingly to the circumstances of each case, stressed CJ Menon.

“The duty remains on the sentencing judge always to ensure the final sentence remains proportionate to the overall criminality of the offender.”

The guidelines came as CJ Menon reduced the prison term of a Malaysian man, who brought in 161.4kg of cigarettes, from 24 months to 15 months, on appeal.

Writing in a 40-page judgment, he said the reasons cited by the trial judge in deciding Malaysian Yap Ah Lai’s “manifestly excessive” punishment “do not ... bear scrutiny”.

Yap, 72, was caught at Woodlands Checkpoint on Oct 25 last year for smuggling 161.4kg of cigarettes into Singapore.

He had been asked by someone called Ah Ong to do so for RM2,000 (S$772).

Excise duty for the 7,670 packs of cigarettes was valued at S$56,812.80, which means the judge could have fined him between S$852,192 and S$1,136,256.

The district judge said Yap had imported a massive amount of duty-unpaid cigarettes to Singapore and had thereby “flooded the market for illegal cigarettes”.

However, CJ Menon said this reason is not sustainable as Yap’s smuggled cigarettes formed a small fraction of the total seized last year (2.9 million packs).

He also disagreed with the trial judge’s approach in arriving at Yap’s sentence: Basing it on the default jail term that would have been imposed when an offender is unable to pay fines of such amounts.

CJ Menon pointed out that fines should generally not be imposed when they are beyond the means of the offender to pay and that default prison terms are meant to punish the non-payment of a fine, not to serve as a substitute form of punishment for an offence.

The Chief Justice also took issue with the district judge using three identical paragraphs when deciding sentences for two different cases — Yap’s and that of a 41-year-old who had imported 182.04kg of duty-unpaid cigarettes and tobacco.

The weights of tobacco in the two cases “differed materially” and mitigating circumstances raised were different, wrote CJ Menon.

 “A sentencing judge runs a considerable risk when he reproduces entire passages either from the submissions of the parties or, as in this case, from another of his decisions without attribution or explanation,” he said.

“The main objection is that, when the similarities are discovered, the parties and other readers are left with the impression, whether or not this was intended, that the judge did not after all consider each matter separately, thoroughly or even sufficiently.”

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Vital step towards respecting copyright laws on the Internet: Forum

Straits Times
11 Apr 2014

I COMMEND the Government's proposal to tweak the Copyright Act, easing the legal process for compelling Internet service providers to block copyright-infringing websites ("Proposed law could make ISPs block piracy websites"; Tuesday).

Under the proposed law, rights holders can apply to the High Court to block Internet sites, without having to first prove that the ISPs have infringed their rights.

ISPs are generally on the side of rights holders, and the proposed amendment corrects the current anomaly.

A rights holder has to provide ample material evidence to support his application. ISPs and owners of affected websites have a procedural right to challenge any subsequent injunction imposed.

The initiative should not be wrongly interpreted as a restriction on Internet use or censorship; it is strictly about pursuing those who violate intellectual property rights.

The move will help stop users who illegally share, stream or download music, movies, broadcasts and television shows.

One may argue that it will not be a fully effective measure as some users would go out of their way to circumvent the technological barriers.

In a similar vein, we have strict anti-littering laws and yet there are still litterbugs.

In tandem with the proposed legislation, there will be public education and increased avenues and ease for consumers to access the creative content they seek.

It is logical for the creators and publishers of music, films and books to be rewarded for their efforts. I would welcome any arguments on why people should not pay for creative content.

Of course, independent artists, especially emerging ones, can still offer their music for free online, such as through their own webpages, as part of their marketing campaigns. However, they should still be allowed to maintain their right to decide what to do with their works in the future.

This crackdown on piracy is an important step towards respecting copyright laws on the Internet; it injects clarity into a complex process of enforcing rights in the online world.

Edmund Lam (Dr)

Chief Executive Officer & Director

Composers and Authors Society of Singapore

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

Beauty salon slammed for linking free package to SRA

Straits Times
04 Apr 2014
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

Retailers association distances itself from offer and threatens legal action

A BEAUTY salon has come under fire for linking a free facial package worth $180 to purchases made through the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA).

Calling it a "scam" by Absolute Skin using SRA's name to "boost business", SRA on Wednesday made it clear it had no part to play in the offer.

The salon had texted or called customers saying it was offering the package, which included a scrub, detox and a collagen mask, because they had made regular purchases from SRA using ePayments. SRA was listed as "Singapore Retail (sic) Association" in the text.

But SRA, which has fielded about four calls since last Thursday asking about its links with Absolute Skin, insisted it is only a trade association, and does not sell anything to the public or have any sort of loyalty programme.

It wrote to Absolute Skin on Wednesday evening, telling it to stop the claims immediately.

If it does not, SRA will take legal action, executive director Lau Chuen Wei told The Straits Times. The letter was sent by post to the salon's International Building address as the manager declined to reveal her e-mail address.

"In such cases, even one complaint is sufficient to make the company the culprit of misrepresentation - which is a serious offence," said Ms Lau. "Sad that they feel they need to resort to such tactics."

Last year, another beauty treatment outfit claimed it was offering free treatments paid for by the SRA to selected customers. SRA, after warning of legal action, has not heard any complaints against the company since.

When The Straits Times called the number listed for Absolute Skin on streetdirectory.com, a staff member answered inquiries curtly, and gave scant information. She said questions about the offer should be directed to the "call centre" instead, but refused to give a contact number.

One of the texts sent to a customer was signed off by an Absolute Skin employee named Sarah. When The Straits Times tried this number on Wednesday and yesterday, the phone was switched off.

Part-time tutor Chua Bee Lian had called SRA to check on the offer after getting a call from Absolute Management on Wednesday, which told her it was calling on behalf of the salon. "They told me, 'It's a joint effort with SRA. We are not a scam'," said the 52-year-old.

"Maybe they pulled in SRA to make it sound more convincing. But I find it very suspicious. If I take the offer and go down to the clinic, they'll probably pester me to buy more packages."

A check with the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) showed one complaint was made in 2012 against Absolute Management, the administrative arm of Absolute Skin.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon called Absolute Skin's tactic unfair, and said consumers can approach Case for help in seeking redress under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act. "There is no such thing as a free lunch in this world. Gifts are generally tactics used by marketers to attract consumers and such offers should always be treated with extra caution," he said.

If customers receive offers from businesses using the SRA's name, they should call the trade association on 6295-2622.

asyiqins@sph.com.sg

Copyright © 2014 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

Ex-president sues club over legal bills

Straits Times
16 Apr 2014
Selina Lum

THE ousted president of Singapore Swimming Club, Mr Freddie Koh, has sued the club, arguing that it should foot his legal bills from a long-running defamation suit that he lost.

Mr Koh, 68, is relying on an indemnity resolution, passed by the club's management committee in 2009, which states that the club will assume liability in legal actions brought against its office bearers.

But the club has countersued Mr Koh for the return of $1.5 million in legal costs that it paid for him as the club's members voted at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to put a stop to it.

The club contends that the resolution is void, and even if it was valid, was only intended to cover office bearers who were properly carrying out their duties.

The club also said Mr Koh is not covered because the Court of Appeal found in 2011 that he had acted with malice.

This meant he was not carrying out his duties when he made the defamatory statements.

The case opened in the High Court yesterday for a six-day hearing.

Mr Koh was president of the club from May 2008 to March 2012.

In 2009, he was sued for defamation over remarks he made at two management committee meetings, minutes of which were published on the club's notice board.

Mr Koh said the previous committee had misrepresented facts to influence the ratification of a $168,800 plan to install water filtration systems at the club's swimming pools and Jacuzzis.

The four who sued him sat on the previous management committee.

In 2010, the High Court dismissed the suit against Mr Koh.

But in 2011, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision, saying Mr Koh and his committee were on a "witch hunt" against the plaintiffs.

Because of the indemnity resolution, the club had been paying Mr Koh's legal costs.

But at the EGM in March 2012, members voted to remove Mr Koh, recover the legal bills paid for him and stop further payment.

Mr Koh's lawyer, Mr Paul Seah, argued that the indemnity resolution was valid and binding on the club to cover him for the legal costs.

He pointed out that the resolution was re-affirmed by the management committee in December 2011 in spite of the Appeal Court's decision.

But the club, represented by Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, said the resolution was not valid because Mr Koh had got it passed by withholding information, including the fact that the defamation suit was excluded from insurance coverage.

The club argued that the indemnity resolution was self-serving because the management committee was mindful at the time that they could be implicated by Mr Koh's remarks.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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Prosecutors 'cherry-pick evidence': Match-fixing trial

Straits Times
11 Apr 2014
Walter Sim

As their case is full of holes, accused doesn't need to testify, says defence

DEFENCE lawyers acting for alleged match-fixer Eric Ding Si Yang had harsh words for the prosecution yesterday.

Launching into a laundry list of supposed failures by prosecutors, the defence accused them of "cherry-picking" evidence.

The 32-year-old former freelance football tipster with The New Paper (TNP) is accused of bribing three Lebanese match officials last year by offering sex with prostitutes in return for fixing an undetermined future match.

The trio were in Singapore to officiate an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) match. They have been deported after serving time here for accepting bribes.

On Monday, Ding chose not to give evidence despite the court ruling there was enough evidence to proceed with the trial. His silence means that adverse inferences can be drawn against him.

However, his lawyer Hamidul Haq yesterday insisted there is no need for Ding to testify as there were "too many gaping holes" in the prosecution's case. "It is not for Ding to help the prosecution prove its case or to close gaps in it through speculative cross-examination premised on inferences the prosecution chooses to draw."

He further argued that several of Ding's former colleagues, testifying as prosecution witnesses, have "already independently set out the key facts of Ding's defence". The defence claims that Ding is a freelance journalist doing research on match-fixing with the intention of writing a book.

Mr Haq said it is "too fantastic a notion (that) Ding was a double agent taking part in match-fixing and at the same time working with the press to potentially combat and expose such syndicates".

Sole defence witness Jegathesan Rajagopal, TNP sports editor from 2000 to 2010, said he once asked Ding if he knew any sources with information about match-fixing for a story in 2009.

Ding provided brief information but no names of anyone in Singapore match-fixing syndicates, the court heard.

Mr Jegathesan said he did not know what Ding was up to at the time of the alleged offences. TNP editor Dominic Nathan previously testified that he never asked Ding to work on match-fixing stories.

Mr Haq pointed out yesterday that none of the hostesses have admitted to being hired for sex with the officials and that no contact was ever made between Ding and their mamasan. The court had previously heard arrangements were made through two other intermediaries including Dan Tan Seet Eng - described by Interpol as "the leader of the world's most notorious match-fixing syndicate".

The defence wrapped up its case yesterday. The prosecution is applying to call two more witnesses - the chairman of the AFC disciplinary board and the investigating officer from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.

The judge will deliver his verdict on July 1.

waltsim@sph.com.sg

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Fewer gripes against timeshare firms as new rules kick in

Straits Times
04 Apr 2014
Mok Fei Fei

TIMESHARE companies hope the new rules that kicked in on Tuesday will help them shed their reputation as the bad boys of the property sector.

The regulations aim to give more protection to consumers, who have long complained about the high-pressure sales tactics employed by timeshare agents.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) noted this week that it received 315 complaints in the first quarter of this year, down from the quarterly average of 378 last year.

There were 1,512 gripes logged last year, down from 1,870 in 2012, but still enough to make timeshare the seventh most complained about sector.

The new rules could stem the flood. Companies are now not allowed to collect any payments during a mandatory five-day cooling-off period that starts only after the consumer has access to the product information.

Firms also have to provide key product information such as the terms and obligations before a contract is signed.

Case president Lim Biow Chuan told The Straits Times: "The cooling-off period does help people to make independent decisions."

Industry players applauded the new rules but expressed concern that over-regulation could hamper growth.

They said sales could be impacted with customers changing their minds without making a downpayment.

Mr Adrian Lee, the managing director of timeshare exchange company RCI Asia Pacific, said: "There are concerns that certain aspects of the regulations may adversely impact the industry and ultimately the local economy, as has occurred in other parts of the world."

The flood of complaints about the way timeshare units are sold was likely behind the Trade and Industry Ministry's move to introduce the new rules. Case routinely gets more gripes about timeshare firms than any other sector, with around 2,000 complaints filed a year from 2004 to 2010.

Timeshare businesses typically sell consumers the ownership right to a holiday home overseas for a specific period each year.

"Our unhappiness is not the product itself, but the way some of the less scrupulous companies sell the products through pressure tactics," Mr Lim said.

He noted that consumers have told horror stories of how they were unable to get out of hours-long sales pitches unless they agreed to buy the product.

Mr Lim added: "Timeshare can be a good product if sold properly and if the product is good, the consumer can have time to think about it and subsequently go back to the company to make payment."

feimok@sph.com.sg

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Woman fails in bid to claim maintenance

Straits Times
16 Apr 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Court rules she has enough to live on with 41% share of matrimonial assets

A FORMER business consultant has failed to get a cent in monthly maintenance from her ex-husband as a court ruled she had enough to live on after their assets of almost $9.3 million were split.

Ms Chan Wing Sun, 49, had claimed that her lecturer husband, Professor Anthony Guo, 52, used to maintain her on $6,500 a month when they were married.

But High Court Justice Belinda Ang made clear that an applicant for maintenance must "appreciate the new realities that flow from the breakdown of a marriage and should not expect to get all she asks for".

In judgment grounds released on Monday, she added: "The applicant is expected to exert reasonable efforts to secure gainful employment and contribute to preserve her pre-breakdown lifestyle."

The Chinese couple's total disclosed assets were $9.28 million, of which Ms Chan was given 41 per cent, or $3.8 million.

The couple married here in 2002 but lived apart after the former Nanyang Technological University lecturer went to work in Monash University's Malaysia campus as an engineering professor seven years later. He filed for divorce and interim judgment was given in 2011.

At issue before the High Court was how much each should get from the division of their joint matrimonial assets and what he should pay her in maintenance.

Prof Guo was the sole breadwinner and Ms Chan did not take up a full-time job when she came to Singapore from Beijing in 2004.

The pair set up a home-based business consultancy for Chinese firms in 2004. Emboldened by its success, they went on "a property-buying spree" in 2007.

Justice Ang found that Ms Chan, through her business savvy, helped to raise the value of their joint assets more than Prof Guo could have achieved alone.

The judge also criticised both for their submissions - faulting Prof Guo for unfounded claims and taking issue with Ms Chan for raising irrelevant matters.

Prof Guo, represented by lawyer Yap Teong Liang, argued against any maintenance and claimed that his former wife had personal wealth and was capable of making her own living. Ms Chan, defended by lawyer Tan Cheng Kiong, contested the case.

Justice Ang found Ms Chan's claims "without merit" and cited a past apex court precedent that called for a "common-sense, holistic approach" to maintenance.

"There is no denying that (Ms Chan) is an able and enterprising individual with good business acumen," she said. "I am satisfied that despite her age, she would be able to enjoy economic independence to support her lifestyle."

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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To view the judgment, click <here>.

Father of maid accused of murder to help with probe

Straits Times
11 Apr 2014
Yeo Sam Jo

Psychiatrist wants to interview her parents to complete report, says lawyer

THE father of an Indonesian maid accused of murdering her employer will be coming to Singapore to help with investigations, a district court heard yesterday.

The lawyer for Dewi Sukowati also told The Straits Times after the hearing that she may be younger than her reported age of 23. Dewi is alleged to have murdered 69-year-old socialite and philanthropist Nancy Gan Wan Geok at her Victoria Park Road home on March 19.

Ms Gan, who was also a porcelain artist, was found dead in her bungalow's swimming pool with head injuries.

Yesterday, Mr Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed, who was appointed by the Indonesian Embassy to represent Dewi, told the court that the psychiatrist who evaluated Dewi had asked to interview her parents to complete the psychiatric report.

He said the embassy will provide their accommodation here. He later told The Straits Times that as Dewi's mother is ill and unable to travel, her father will come alone to Singapore.

During the hearing, he also said that he wanted Dewi's age to be verified. A report on Indonesian news portal Aktual.co last month suggested her age might have been falsified. It arose after visits to Dewi's family by Mr

Imam Suroso, an MP who deals with manpower issues, and officials of the Central Java office of the agency for the handling, placement and protection of Indonesian migrant workers.

They found she may have been born on Aug 5, 1995 - making her 18 - instead of Aug 5, 1990 as given in her passport.Her middle-school certificate and birth certificate also suggest she will turn 19 this year, the report added. The minimum age for a foreign domestic worker to work in Singapore is 23.

Indonesian Embassy counsellor Sukmo Yuwono told The Straits Times last month that Dewi, who is from the Pati regency in Central Java, was hired through an agency not accredited by the embassy to recruit maids. She received her work permit on March 12 and worked for Ms Gan for barely a week.

Dewi, who spent the past three weeks undergoing psychiatric evaluation, will be remanded at Central Police Division till next Thursday, when her case will be mentioned again.

Meanwhile, the case against ano-ther Indonesian maid accused of murder also came up for mention in court. Yati, who goes by one name, is charged with murdering Madam Aandi Abdul Rahman Rasheeda Begam, 77, at a Serangoon North flat on Jan 14.

A pre-trial conference has been set for June 3, and she is expected to appear in court again on June 17. The 26-year-old is also represented by Mr Mohamed Muzammil.

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg

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Former exec sues HP for more than $600,000

Straits Times
03 Apr 2014
Selina Lum

A FORMER sales executive at Hewlett-Packard Singapore (HP) has sued the IT giant for more than $600,000 in commission for closing a deal with electronic payments operator Network for Electronic Transfers (Nets).

The main issue in dispute is whether the $5.4 million Nets contract is considered "new business", which would entitle her to the commission.

Ms Corinna Chin, 52, contends that she had won Nets back as a customer from rival IBM and the contract qualifies as new business. But HP, which rejected her claim for the commission, contends that it had never lost Nets as a customer.

Ms Chin, now unemployed, joined HP in 2005 and was paid a basic salary and incentive compensation based on performance.

For the financial year 2012, a new way of measuring performance was introduced for "new business".

In March 2012, Nets bought new computer hardware and software from HP. Nets had been using a computer system from HP but in 2010, it decided to buy new servers from IBM.

Ms Chin's lawyer, Mr P.E. Ashokan, said in his opening statement that she got many congratulatory e-mails from HP's management for winning Nets back as a customer. In April 2012, she submitted a claim for commissions but it was rejected. On June 8, she lodged a complaint against the sales director for the rejection.

Ten days later, she was retrenched. HP, which did not consider the Nets contract as new business, calculated the commission due to her as $229,370.60.

But Ms Chin said she should get $856,740.14 as the Nets deal qualifies as new business and sued her former employer for the difference of $627,369.54.

HP, represented by Mr Gregory Vijayendran, said even though Nets bought servers from IBM, it continued to use HP's servers, had an ongoing agreement with HP to maintain the servers and paid software licence fees for them.

The case opened in the High Court on Tuesday for a five-day hearing.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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Duty bound to help abandoned sailors

Business Times
16 Apr 2014
David Hughes

While amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 cover abandonment, flag states should play their part too

UNLESS the situation has changed radically, the Panamanian-flag B Ladybug, a 27,003-dwt vehicle carrier managed from Singapore, remains adrift off the coast of Malta about a year after its owner got into financial difficulties.

International Labour Organization (ILO) representatives visited the ship's crew and made a film about the case.

That film was shown to the 300 representatives of seafarers, shipowners and governments, meeting at the ILO's headquarters last week. They agreed that the first amendments to the ILO's Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, (MLC) will protect abandoned seafarers as well as provide financial security for compensation in cases of death and long-term disability due to occupational injury or hazard.

The amendments were developed over nearly a decade by a Joint Working Group established by the ILO and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1998 and will strengthen the 2006 convention. They establish mandatory requirements that shipowners have financial security to cover abandonment, as well as death or long-term disability of seafarers because of occupational injury and hazard.

"These legal standards will provide relief and peace of mind to abandoned seafarers and their families wherever they may be," said Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, director of the ILO Labour Standards Department. "In addition, by adopting these amendments to the convention, shipowners and governments are also strengthening its provisions aimed at ensuring a level playing field for quality shipping around the world."

Under the new provisions, ships will be required to carry certificates or other documents to establish that financial security exists to protect seafarers working on board. Failure to provide this protection may mean that a ship can be detained in a port.

As at March 2014, the ILO's Abandonment of Seafarers Database listed 159 abandoned merchant ships, some dating back to 2006 and still unresolved.

"The new measures will guarantee that seafarers are not abandoned, alone and legally adrift for months on end, without pay, adequate food and water and away from home,' Ms Doumbia-Henry said. "They also clearly make flag states responsible for ensuring that adequate financial security exists to cover the cost of abandonment, and claims for death and long-term disability due to occupational injury and hazards."

A further set of amendments was also agreed on, regarding shipowners' liability to ensure financial security is provided, certified and inspected, in order to deal with contractual claims as quickly as possible.

The MLC came into force on Aug 20, 2013 and so far 57 ILO member states, representing more than 80 per cent of the world's global shipping tonnage, have ratified the convention.

For the shipowners, International Shipping Federation (ISF) spokesman Arthur Bowring said ISF members were particularly concerned to see the new ILO video on the B Ladybug, where the crew has been without financial or welfare support from the shipowner for well over 12 months.

He said: "This is the sort of deplorable situation that the new amendments to the MLC, 2006 will help to speedily address. The MLC 2006 is intended to bring social justice and fair competition to the shipping industry and the lack of a specific reference to abandonment in the mandatory instruments of ILO and IMO was an omission that needed comprehensive action."

He added: "Shipowners have a responsibility for seafarers under their contractual employment arrangements, and the problems created when the seafarers are abandoned needed specific legislative measures. The new amendments not only provide that safeguard but also recognise the role to be played by flag states and labour supply states."

Mr Bowring said that while only a "very tiny proportion" of the world's seafarers experience the despair of abandonment, "that does not make the occurrence any less serious for the affected seafarers and their families".

International Transport Workers' Federation president Paddy Crumlin said the vote "represents a genuine turning point for the convention". He continued: "It proves that seafarers, shipowners and governments are committed to continuously reviewing the implementation of the MLC in order to ensure that it is a truly global and living instrument for the protection and benefit of all seafarers. Abandonment is a particularly dark stain on the industry and the new amendments are real and concrete relief for seafarers facing that dire predicament."

Whether there will be any speedy relief for the B Ladybug crew remains to be seen. Most probably the only help they will get will be from voluntary organisations that still provide a much-needed safety net for the industry. But the amendments should help prevent such occurrences in the future. Therefore, they should be welcome. We will only know how well the financial guarantee system will work in practice when actual abandonments occur after the amendments come into force.

But really the situation is morally quite straightforward. On the high seas ships are the territory of the country whose flag they fly, and that country benefits from the registration fees it charges the shipowner.

When things go very wrong, is it right for the flag state to just stand back and watch? I don't think so, and that is the case whether or not the MLC explicitly puts a duty on the flag state.

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Mandatory training for condo managing agents likely soon

Straits Times
11 Apr 2014
Melissa Tan

MANAGING agents for condominiums may soon be required to undergo training in a move to raise standards in the strata management industry.

"We are considering introducing a training requirement for all managing agents," a senior Building and Construction Authority (BCA) official said yesterday.

Mr Chin Chi Leong, the commissioner of buildings, told a conference that mandatory training would be "one of the most effective ways" to improve professionalism.

For instance, managing agents need to have "good working knowledge" of the rules and requirements for strata-titled properties. They should also be able to provide simple technical advice on building maintenance to the property's management corporation strata title (MCST) council.

"Most management corporation council members are lay persons and rely heavily on their appointed managing agents to help them self-manage their estate," added Mr Chin, who was speaking at an inaugural conference on strata management held by the Association of Property and Facility Managers, an industry body for managing agents.

The number of active MCST councils islandwide has grown from about 2,700 in 2009 to slightly more than 3,000 last year, he noted, adding that over 60 per cent of those councils engage a managing agent to help them run their estate.

The association's president, Professor Lim Lan Yuan, told the conference at York Hotel that it would launch a certified training programme on strata management and management corporations.

Entrants will have to study topics such as strata law, property maintenance and conflict management.

"There is a need for more competent and knowledgeable property and facility managers who are familiar with the legal, management, financial and technical aspects of strata developments," he said.

"Property and facility managers will do well by helping to resolve...disputes without resorting to litigation," he added.

Mr Alfonso Ang, deputy president of the Strata Titles Board, said home owners embroiled in a dispute should seek mediation first and only go to the board for adjudication as a "last resort".

melissat@sph.com.sg


Background Story

Managing agents need to have good working knowledge of the rules and requirements for strata-titled properties. They should also be able to provide simple technical advice on building maintenance.

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Lacoste can use L.12.12 as trademark

Straits Times
03 Apr 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Intellectual Property Office finds no similarity with Herrera's 212 marks

FRENCH polo-shirt maker Lacoste was allowed to register "L.12.12" as a trademark in Singapore, riding over objections by New York-headquartered fashion and lifestyle boutique Carolina Herrera.

Herrera had claimed that the mark would be similar to the one it uses for its perfume-related products, such as 212 On Ice, 212 VIP and 212 Sexy.

But Assistant Registrar of Trade Marks Diyanah Baharudin of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) found no "visual, aural or conceptual similarity between 212 and L.12.12".

Her judgment released on Tuesday found " insufficient evidence to show that the consumers in Singapore identify the (Herrera's) 212 marks or their '212' signs as a family or series of marks".

Lacoste has at least 11 retail outlets and various distributors here for its clothing, watches, belts and other items. It launched a perfume with the same name as its L.12.12 polo shirts worldwide in 2010.

Herrera, with several pending and registered trademarks in various countries that contain the 212 numerals, argued that the numerals in the Lacoste marks are similar to its own as they are the "common and dominant" element in these marks.

Its lawyer Angeline Raj said the number 212 is unique for its perfume items, as such products are usually referred to by name and a combination of numbers is not common. Herrera said it is the only proprietor of the 212 marks in the three classes of goods for the trademark here sought by Lacoste.

Lacoste lawyer Sue-Ann Li said that as Herrera had not registered the 212 trademark in and of itself, or simpliciter, but with added elements such as "SEXY" and "Carolina Herrera", it should not have a monopoly on the number. She said Herrera had registered 212 in and of itself in Britain and the US, giving it rights there but not in Singapore.

Ms Diyanah said there was limited evidence to show consumers in Singapore recognise 212 as a family or series mark for Herrera.

She found, among other things, that the two marks sounded different from each other. For instance, when comparing the product 212 by Carolina Herrera and L.12.12, the former was pronounced with 11 syllables while the latter had five at most.

Ms Diyanah ruled that as two marks were found to be not similar, there was no need to consider if the goods of both parties are similar or whether there would be likely confusion between the two.

Lacoste won a trademark dispute with Singapore-based Crocodile International in New Zealand last year over its right to exclusively use its crocodile logo in the territory. But a Wellington court ruled in October that Crocodile can file an appeal.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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To view the decision, click <here>.

To view the case summary, click <here>.

Proposed human trafficking Bill to cover deceptive recruitment

TODAY
16 Apr 2014
Ng Jing Yng

Participants in consultation sessions say law should provide greater compassion and protection for the innocent

SINGAPORE — A person may agree to work here as a waiter, only to be forced into becoming a sex worker, with little recourse for justice.

These individuals — and those forced into other kinds of labour — could be protected under the proposed Bill against human trafficking, said Member of Parliament Christopher de Souza yesterday, as he outlined some aspects of the Bill, which he hopes to table in Parliament in November.

Speaking ahead of a public consultation session for the proposed Prevention of Human Trafficking Bill, Mr de Souza noted that such cases of deception across all types of human trafficking offences would be covered under the Bill. Perpetrators will be taken to task accordingly upon investigation.

 “(The Bill) is wide enough to cover a situation where, if a lady gives her consent to a situation of wanting to be a waitress ... and is deceived and forced to carry out sexual services ... that would be caught by the Act, because she did not consent to that exploitation,” he said.

Mr de Souza is working with the Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons to draft legislation to better protect human trafficking victims. A total of four public and private consultation sessions were held, including the final one yesterday.

A common theme that emerged from views gathered from more than 200 individuals — which included activists, academics and students — was compassion and protection for the innocent. Participants felt that all parties involved in the human trafficking process should be prosecuted, while others suggested that consent supposedly given by victims for labour should be investigated further.

Many agreed that the Bill should be gender neutral and pointed out the need for heavy penalties that are commensurate with the severity of offences. They also asked for a lower threshold of proof in cases involving child victims and proposed that definitions and terms of trafficking be nuanced to suit the local context. Participants also suggested support for victims, such as provision of shelter, counselling, identity protection during trial and immunity from prosecution in deserving cases.

Mr de Souza agreed with the view that there should be enhanced support for victims during the prosecutorial process, adding that he was seriously exploring guidelines to provide rehabilitation for victims during the investigation process.

On why such provisions should be introduced as guidelines rather than laws, Mr de Souza said this would give ground officers the flexibility to assist victims appropriately. He added that investigations could span up to more than a year and urged caution in providing a slew of rights before a victim’s case is proven.

Also floated by participants was whether forceful exploitation could come under the Bill or be better supported by existing legislation such as the Women’s Charter.

He said: “ The motivation of the Bill is to protect and proffer compassion to helpless victims, but it is also about deterring trafficking syndicates and trans-shipment through Singapore. We need to do both.”


Activists concerned that proposed law not comprehensive enough

SINGAPORE — Several civil society activists who took part in the consultation exercise on the proposed Bill against human trafficking have issued a joint letter, citing concerns that it would not adequately address issues of deceptive recruitment, loss of liberty and debt bondage.

Based on the handouts and discussions during various consultation sessions, the group — which includes Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics Executive Director Jolovan Wham, Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) Executive Director Corinna Lim and Workfair Singapore’s Vincent Wijeysingha — was concerned that the Bill would not be comprehensive enough in its protection.

In November last year, Member of Parliament Christopher de Souza mooted a Private Member’s Bill to enact a Prevention of Human Trafficking Act. Since then, together with the Singapore Inter-Agency Taskforce on Trafficking in Persons, four public and private consultation sessions were conducted to gather views from the public.

In the joint letter — which was posted on AWARE’s website — the activists said it was encouraging to see that the proposed Bill would adopt the broad and comprehensive United Nations Trafficking-in-Persons Protocol. However, they highlighted that with regard to labour trafficking, they had been told that the Bill would not address current exploitative practices, such as poor working and living conditions, wages and restriction of movement, as these issues are already covered under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA).

 “Many of us who have worked extensively on migrant worker issues have come across several cases whereby the EFMA has been unable to deliver justice to workers,” they said. “Unless these issues are considered, the proposed Bill will not be comprehensive in its protection, as it is now contingent on an inadequate EFMA to cover gaps.”

They were also concerned about the identification of victims under the proposed Bill, noting that the absence of criteria to determine victims of trafficking — and leaving this decision to the judgment of individual officers — would leave victims vulnerable.

To better support victims, the activists called for more measures such as finding alternative employment and arranging a temporary stay visa.

Asked about the joint letter yesterday, Mr de Souza noted that the proposed law would lay the foundation for enforcement and that there should not be too many elements. Gaps could be reviewed after the gestational period, he said.

A spokesperson from the task force said it would take the feedback and views by the civil society groups into consideration as the Bill is being prepared.

NG JING YNG

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Call for feedback on changes to law for new court

Straits Times
10 Apr 2014
Selina Lum

AN AMENDMENT to the Constitution to appoint a new class of judges, known as International Judges, is one of the proposed changes to four laws for which public feedback is being sought.

These judges will hear cross-border business disputes and have the same powers as a High Court judge. The Law Ministry's proposals are to pave the way for the setting up of the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), which is being created to reinforce Singapore's position as a centre for dispute resolution.

The idea was first floated by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in January last year. A committee was set up to study the creation of a court specialising in international commercial cases. It released its report last November.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced the SICC's establishment the following month, and last month told Parliament that his ministry was preparing various changes to the law to set it up.

On Tuesday, the Law Ministry said it plans to table four Bills to change the relevant laws necessary for the initiative to go ahead. It proposes to amend the Constitution to provide for the President to appoint, on the advice of the Prime Minister, a person who has the qualifications, experience and professional standing to be an International Judge.

It also proposes changes to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act so that the SICC can be established as a division of the High Court. A proposed change to the Evidence Act will allow judges to take judicial notice of foreign law and do away with proof of foreign law in certain situations. Finally, it proposes that the Legal Profession Act be amended to allow foreign lawyers to appear before the SICC and, if the case goes higher, the Court of Appeal.

The consultation version of the Bills is available on www.minlaw.gov.sg and www.reach.gov.sg. Feedback can be posted from now until April 30 to the Ministry of Law or e-mailed to MLAW_Consultation@mlaw.gov.sg

selinal@sph.com.sg

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Jewel firm pays for defaming rival online

Straits Times
03 Apr 2014
K.C. Vijayan

Comments were made on popular forum using acquired identities

A JEWELLER who fabricated malicious comments about a rival on a popular forum using third-party accounts has been ordered to pay $85,000 in damages and costs by the High Court, in the first such case in Singapore.

The court order issued last month also barred Vivo Diamonds from using the two accounts for further defamation, through its officers or agents.

There have been lawsuits involving defamation in cyberspace but this is the first reported case in Singapore of a company found liable for online defamation made through a third party.

JannPaul, a bespoke jeweller dealing in precious gems and diamonds, had sued Vivo for spreading malicious falsehoods on popular forum Hardware Zone (HWZ).

JannPaul is derived from the names of founders Jann Tan and Paul Hung and its products are marketed at a unit in Far East Shopping Centre in Orchard Road.

Last October, it won an award for small and medium-sized enterprises, conferred jointly by the Trade & Industry Association (Singapore) and Asia Business Journal. It also sells more than 100,000 diamonds online.

Its competitor, Vivo Diamonds, which has a showroom at Tanjong Pagar Road, also operates a website offering access to more than 60,000 diamonds.

Vivo had made the offending posts on HWZ in 2012 by using identities allegedly purchased from credible forum users.

Vivo posted an advertisement titled "Make Money, Sell your hardware zone forum userid" in October 2012, seeking to purchase existing accounts of good reputation. It offered up to $200 for accounts that are more than three years old.

Three of the offending messages against JannPaul were posted on a popular HWZ forum thread "Wedding Bells, Proposal Ring Part 2" under the "feitonglong" identity that Vivo had acquired. Another six appeared under an account named "sacredsoul".

The posts, made between October and November 2012, variously referred to JannPaul, two of its senior officials and its products.

The accounts were used by Vivo to allegedly mislead forum readers about JannPaul's products, stated court documents.

JannPaul hired digital forensic specialist RP Digital Security to ascertain if the posts were fabricated.

In a probe from November 2012 to March last year, the specialist traced some 98 e-mails responding to the advertisement on buying HWZ accounts to eventually identify Vivo as the advertiser, using the IP address uncovered and other leads.

The previous owner of the "feitonglong" account helped JannPaul clarify the issue by posting a disclaimer on the same thread in January last year.

Through Drew & Napier lawyer Wendell Wong, JannPaul followed up with a High Court suit against Vivo and a settlement was reached in February before Assistant Registrar Paul Quan.

Mr Jann Tan said the firm felt relieved that "our names have been cleared".

"Those few months were extremely hard and stressful for us," he said.

"We put a lot of effort into building relationships with each client and these defamatory posts undermined the trust consumers have in our brand."

vijayan@sph.com.sg


VIVO DIAMONDS' MODUS OPERANDI

Advertised on Gumtree to buy existing Hardware Zone accounts; willing to pay up to $200 for credible accounts more than three years old.
Used identities of two Hardware Zone accounts acquired to fabricate malicious comments and defame rival on popular Hardware Zone forum threads.

HOW IT GOT CAUGHT

• Digital forensic sleuth probed e-mail to Gumtree advertiser and traced identity of advertiser.

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Ex-director fined $2m over duty-unpaid beer, rice wine

Straits Times
16 Apr 2014
Walter Sim

A FORMER company director who tried to pass off shipments of duty-unpaid beer and rice wine as goods such as instant noodles and vinegar has been fined almost $2 million - the biggest penalty of its kind here in five years.

China-born Singapore citizen Qi Shuai, 28, is serving a jail sentence of 29 months and three weeks as he was unable to pay the sum. He is still a shareholder of Tita Logistics.

In May 2012, he imported a container to Pasir Panjang Terminal, which was sealed by Customs officers for further checks. They were acting on a tip-off.

Qi had not applied for Customs supervision to unpack it. Officers then conducted an on-site inspection at his company two days later and found that the seal had been broken and the goods removed.

Officers seized a total of 15,780 bottles and 8,448 cans of duty-unpaid beer and 1,500 bottles of duty-unpaid rice wine that had been unloaded from the container.

Another 1,766 bottles and 4,025 cans of duty-unpaid beer and 120 bottles of duty-unpaid rice wine were seized after Qi failed to produce documents to show tax had been paid for them.

Two weeks later, another consignment imported by Qi was inspected. Instead of finding soft drinks, seasoning and seasoning wine as declared, Customs officers uncovered 750 bottles of duty-unpaid rice wine.

Further investigations showed that Qi had sold 10,860 bottles and 720 cans of duty-unpaid beer and 6,795 bottles of duty-unpaid rice wine between December 2011 and May 2012.

The total duty and goods and services tax (GST) was more than $198,000. It was the largest evasion of alcohol duties since 2009, when the Italian head of a liquor distribution firm evaded $450,000 in duties and tax. He was fined $2.52 million.

Anyone who evades tax or duties can be fined up to 20 times the amount evaded.

Qi also pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorised breaking of a Singapore Customs seal. Six other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Mr Wan Boon Oon, head of trade investigation at Singapore Customs, warned: "There will be no let-up in enforcement efforts against those who try to evade duties on liquor products. Offenders will be caught and dealt with severely."

Mr Liu Jiannan, a Singapore permanent resident, took over as company director of Tita Logistics last month.

"Business has not been affected and we're striving to put this episode behind us," he told The Straits Times in Mandarin. "We came to Singapore for entrepreneurship and being a new company at the time, we did not know the country's laws well.

"We've learnt a valuable lesson. We don't have anything to hide and so we won't be changing our company name."

Just 2,130 litres of liquor were seized last year, down from 33,020 litres in 2012, according to Singapore Customs statistics.

waltsim@sph.com.sg

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AmFraser suing former client over trading debts

Straits Times
10 Apr 2014
Grace Leong

Brokerage seeks $1.89m repayment over losses from share meltdown

LOCAL brokerage AmFraser Securities is suing a former client for $1.89 million in trading debts run up in last October's penny stock crash.

AmFraser, which reportedly faced potential losses of up to RM120 million (S$46.6 million) after the crash, is seeking the funds from building firm executive Goh Cheng Yu.

But the brokerage has hit a roadblock in action it has initiated against five other clients who owe it about $4 million.

The legal moves, which could be the first of many from local brokerages, come amid a sweeping investigation just launched by the authorities into the scandal.

The shares of Asiasons Capital, LionGold Corp and Blumont Group rocketed to record levels last year before going into a tailspin, losing more than 90 per cent of value in a matter of days.

The crash wiped out about $8 billion in stock market value.

AmFraser is demanding that Mr Goh repays $1.89 million in trading losses racked up during the share meltdown.

Singapore Exchange filings show that Mr Goh is assistant project manager of Wee Hur Development, a wholly owned unit of construction group Wee Hur Holdings, in which his family is prominent.

Mr Goh said in court papers that he was not liable for the losses because the shares in Blumont, Asiasons and the International Healthway Corp - a firm not involved in the meltdown - were bought under his AmFraser trading account on Oct 2, 2013, "without his instruction, authorisation or knowledge".

He said the investments were allegedly made by Mr Heng Gim Teoh, an AmFraser trading representative.

Mr Goh claims Mr Heng admitted that he had not been authorised to carry out the investments and that he had increased Mr Goh's trading account limit without his clearance.

Mr Goh contends that AmFraser has "no basis to make any claim against him and that the brokerage failed to establish proper procedures to supervise Mr Heng".

AmFraser said in its court filings that Mr Heng is not an employee and was paid based on transactions conducted on behalf of his clients, including Mr Goh.

AmFraser's other legal move seems to have hit a roadblock in the form of court action taken by another party.

AmFraser is trying to recover about $4 million from five clients, including Blumont executive chairman Neo Kim Hock and Ms Quah Su Ling, chief executive of Ipco International, which owns 6.6 per cent of Blumont.

Mr Neo and Ipco International are helping the Commercial Affairs Department and the Monetary Authority of Singapore with their investigation into the share crash.

The other three targeted by AmFraser are Mr Tan Boon Kiat, a director of investment holding company JK Yaming International, Mr Lee Chai Huat and Mr Kuan Ah Ming.

Court papers filed by AmFraser last month said the five had engaged the brokerage to open trading accounts and provide dealing services.

"Due to various dealings made by (Interactive Brokers) on behalf of the (five), they are indebted to (AmFraser)," AmFraser said.

The broker alleges the five struck a deal last December to repay the $4 million but they had breached the agreement.

AmFraser's move to recover the money has stalled as the five customers are among eight people being pursued by Interactive Brokers for $79 million in trading losses from the meltdown.

Interactive, a global broking giant, had won a court order to freeze their assets.

AmFraser tried to get the High Court to vary this order but withdrew the action after Interactive's case went into arbitration.

The likely outcome is that AmFraser's action will be on hold until arbitration is completed.

gleong@sph.com.sg


 

What AmFraser's legal actions involve:

1 It is demanding that building firm executive Goh Cheng Yu repay $1.89 million in trading losses racked up during last October's penny stock crash. Mr Goh is assistant project manager of Wee Hur Development.

2 It is trying to recover about $4 million from five clients, including Blumont executive chairman Neo Kim Hock and Ms Quah Su Ling, chief executive of Ipco International, which owns 6.6 per cent of Blumont.

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

CAD probes trades in penny stock rout

Business Times
03 Apr 2014
Anita Gabriel & Kenneth Lim

It has asked for access to all data and equipment belonging to senior execs

[SINGAPORE] Singapore's white-collar crime-buster, the Commercial Affairs Department, launched what is possibly the widest-scale investigation involving three listed firms yesterday in connection with the penny stock rout that gripped the local market last October.

A joint statement by the Singapore Police Force and the Monetary Authority of Singapore said that the CAD has started investigating possible breaches of the Securities and Futures Act (Cap 289) arising from suspected trading irregularities in the shares of Asiasons Capital, LionGold Corp and Blumont Group.

The CAD is working jointly with the Monetary Authority of Singapore in the investigation.

The statement is the first clear indication of what may have led to last year's free fall in the three penny stocks that swept up a staggering $5 billion in market value within the first trading hour on Oct 4 after they had risen on a super high octane in the preceding months.

This latest remark about the CAD coming into the fold follows a probe by the MAS and Singapore Exchange which began late October last year into the events that could have led to the penny-stock meltdown which left many investors burnt.

Separate announcements by Blumont and LionGold, which had requested for trading halt around noon yesterday, show that the investigations involve their firms' top executives and directors.

The CAD has asked the firms and their respective wholly-owned subsidiaries for access to all data, equipment and data storage devices belonging to four individuals who are connected in one way or another.

They are Blumont executive chairman Neo Kim Hock and executive director James Hong Gee Ho and LionGold's non-executive, independent director, Lynne Ng Su Ling, and employee Peter Chen Hing Woon.

All four are involved in legal tussles with the US banking and broking giants involving hefty claims as a result of the losses suffered following the penny stock fallout last year.

There was neither any announcement nor trading halt request by Asiasons.

Later in the day, Magnus Energy, somewhat connected via a web of cross holdings and common directors, also announced that two subsidiaries and a former subsidiary had received notices from the CAD to cough up all information and data belonging to the firm's executive director, Koh Teng Kiat, and chief financial officer Luke Ho Khee Yong.

Blumont said that its wholly-owned G1 Investments was asked by the CAD yesterday for access to all corporate electronic data from Jan 1, 2011 to date, information technology equipment and data storage services belonging to Mr Neo and Mr Hong.

Mr Hong, who has been asked to assist the CAD in the probe into a possible infringement under the SFA, has indicated full cooperation, said Blumont.

Blumont shares, which resumed trading at 4.45pm, fell 0.9 cents or 16 per cent to 4.9 cents.

The CAD also issued similar notices to LionGold and its wholly-owned LionGold Investments for all data and relevant documents over the same period belonging to Ms Ng and Mr Chen. Ms Ng was formerly a Blumont director while Mr Chen is LionGold's business and corporate development director.

Interestingly, both names also appear in construction firm Swee Hong's list of top 20 largest shareholders.

LionGold said that the board was "not aware if any offence has been committed" and has not heard from the two individuals in respect of the investigations.

Based on data from Handshakes, a firm which analyses networks in the capital markets, Blumont's G1 also owns interests in LionGold, Asiasons, Innopac Holdings, China Fibretech and Catalist-listed ITE Electric Company and Chaswood Resources.

The web of connections in the penny stock realm doesn't end there. Asiasons owns 64 per cent of Chaswood and 8 per cent of LionGold and also has interests in ISR Capital. On the other hand, Innopac Holdings is 7.2 per cent owned by Ipco International.

Magnus' largest shareholder is Wira Dani Abdul Daim who also owns 15 per cent in ISR Capital. Asiasons is ISR's largest shareholders.

Sources say several individuals were called up for questioning yesterday by the CAD and that more announcements involving them and companies they are linked to could ensue in the following days.

A legal expert said given the events that have taken place involving the shares of these firms, trading irregularities could mean a lot of things.

"A chunk of the SFA covers trading-related offences such as insider dealing, manipulation of share prices, false trading, wash sales, among others," said the legal expert. "Some times, one particular action can also cover a few offences," he added.

kenlim@sph.com.sg

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Attempted breach at Woodlands Checkpoint: Case handed to AGC

TODAY
16 Apr 2014
Claire Huang Jingyi

Driver’s case will be heard on April 22; his brother, friend say they intend to bail him out

SINGAPORE — The Malaysian driver who was charged on Monday after he failed to stop his car for immigration clearance at the Woodlands Checkpoint will have his case handed over to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the court heard yesterday.

Koh Chin Had, 42, was driving a Malaysian-registered car at 12.20pm last Sunday when he allegedly tried to evade immigration clearance by tailgating a car in front of him at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said an officer activated an alarm and the Arrival Car Zone was locked down immediately. Koh’s car was trapped in the zone and he was arrested by officers. He also faces a second charge of failing to present his passport to the authorities.

For failing to stop a vehicle at the Woodlands Checkpoint, Koh could be jailed for up to six months and fined S$2,000. The prosecution had previously indicated that the second charge of failing to present a passport would be taken into consideration for sentencing.

During the short hearing yesterday, Koh’s brother and a friend were seated in the public gallery. They told the media they intend to bail out the accused. Bail was set at S$20,000 and his case will be heard again on April 22.

The incident last Sunday came after two breaches at the same checkpoint this year.

Last month, a Malaysian delivery driver managed to drive off in his Singapore-registered car while undergoing security checks, sparking off a five-hour search before he was arrested. Tan Chu Seng, 64, allegedly drove over a cat-claw security barrier that was activated to stop him.

In January, a Malaysian teacher gave immigration officers the slip by tailgating another car at the checkpoint. She was arrested three days later when she entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs compound. The 27-year-old from Kedah was later declared to be of unsound mind.

Copyright 2014 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

S'pore firms urged to ensure tax systems ready for global stage

Straits Times
10 Apr 2014
Melissa Tan And Tee Zhuo

Local companies need to ensure their tax systems are ready for the global stage, says an international expert.

"In a perfect world, the tax laws would be aligned between each country... completely in sync," said Mr Dan Lange, the global managing director of tax and legal for consultancy Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

However, countries tend to have different tax systems and may choose policies unilaterally, he told The Straits Times yesterday.

This has led to a "heightened degree of concern over taxes" for firms with overseas operations, he said.

If one country decides to forbid firms from claiming tax deductions for certain interest expenses, for instance, their overall tax liabilities could go up, he added.

Mr Lange was speaking on the sidelines of a global tax conference held by Deloitte at the Ritz Carlton Millenia hotel. About 370 people attended.

Law Minister K.Shanmugam told the conference that a tax treaty with the United States could be on the cards but might not materialise soon. He was responding to a question from the floor during a dialogue.

He said Singapore companies have increasingly begun to invest overseas so it makes sense both ways. "We've talked about it with the Americans, we have arrangements and we've asked for them to be looked at, but I think it will take a little bit of time," said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The current political tumult in the US "is not going to be very conducive for double tax agreements" because there is "a feeling that their companies are moving offshore", he added.

Mr Shanmugam also spoke of his personal confidence in the Asean economy, describing it as "bullish".

"Connectivity is increasing... I expect this momentum will gather pace," he said, citing developments such as the future high-speed rail link between Malaysia and Singapore.

"As long as there is relative peace and stability... and there is some certainty to the rules and laws, I think the future is pretty bright."

melissat@sph.com.sg

teezhuo@sph.com.sg

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Firm in rent spat also facing suit over car leases

Straits Times
03 Apr 2014
Christopher Tan

A MEDICAL supplies company that was recently in the news over unpaid rent for an upscale bungalow is facing another lawsuit for allegedly reneging on the leases of two Mercedes-Benz limousines.

Singapore-based Aluminaid is accused of breaking the cars' two-year leases just months after signing the contract with motor firm Privilege Leasing.

According to court documents obtained by The Straits Times, Aluminaid signed the leases last July but returned the two Mercedes S-class vehicles in November and December respectively.

In a counterclaim filed in court, the medical supplies firm alleged the cars were not of the right colour, not of the right age and were not fitted with navigation as promised. It also complained that one had a strong odour, and one had technical glitches.

Privilege Leasing, represented by lawyer Vijai Parwani, said the colours, features and age of the cars were as specified or agreed upon by Aluminaid. It found no strong smell in the car which Aluminaid had complained about, but offered to send it for grooming anyway.

Aluminaid, represented by Mr Nigel Pereira of Rajah & Tann, apparently turned down the offer, saying it would get an independent assessment on its own. Privilege Leasing did not get the report, according to court documents.

Privilege Leasing also said it had sent the purportedly faulty car to authorised Mercedes dealer Cycle & Carriage to be serviced.

The two cars have since been returned to Privilege, which is suing for lost earnings and costs.

Said its manager Samantha Chia: "We are new in the leasing business, and these were our first two leased cars."

One of the cars is said to have been used by Aluminaid chief executive Joseph Marten.

Mr Marten told The Straits Times: "We have every confidence in the Singapore legal system, and that the court will rule in our favour."

The CEO lives in a bungalow that is the subject of a separate legal dispute.

Owner Wee Ee Chao, son of banking tycoon Wee Cho Yaw, is suing Aluminaid for allegedly failing to pay rent amounting to $646,000 on the Chatsworth Road property.

Aluminaid countersued, saying the 26,000 sq ft house was in a dilapidated state and infected with mould making it unsafe, reported Bloomberg, quoting court documents.

Mr Marten, who is still residing there, told The Straits Times that his company had not missed any rental payment.

christan@sph.com.sg

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NParks officer chooses not to testify in own defence

Straits Times
16 Apr 2014
Lim Yan Liang

Defence, prosecution have till May 15 to exchange submissions

THE National Parks Board (NParks) officer behind the Brompton bicycle procurement fiasco in 2012 has chosen not to testify, after previously indicating that he would take the stand in his own defence.

Defence counsel Lawrence Ang told the court yesterday that his client, Bernard Lim Yong Soon, had weighed his options and wished to remain silent.

He added that the defence would not be calling any witnesses.

Earlier this month, Mr Ang had urged the court to acquit Lim without calling for his defence because there were deficiencies in the prosecution's case and that the law had not been broken.

But the court ruled that the prosecution had made a prima facie case against Lim for lying to auditors.

This means that there was sufficient evidence given by witnesses against the NParks assistant director, who has been suspended from his job, for the case to continue.

Yesterday, District Judge Marvin Bay concluded the trial and gave the defence and prosecution until May 15 to exchange their submissions for the case.

Both parties will then have another week to respond to the submissions.

The next mention of the case will be on May 29, and the court is expected to deliver its verdict then.

Lim, 42, oversaw a controversial $57,200 deal for NParks to buy 26 Brompton bicycles in 2012 from supplier Bikehop Singapore.

He tipped off the director of Bikehop Singapore, Mr Lawrence Lim Chun How, in late 2011 about the upcoming bicycle tender, and gave him specifications that the board was looking for.

This resulted in the sole and successful bid of $2,200 per bicycle by the company, which until then was not in the business of selling bicycles.

When the pricey bikes made the news in June 2012 and online chatter about them grew, Lim asked the Bikehop Singapore director to "unfriend" him on social network Facebook to hide their friendship.

Lim faces two counts of providing false information to officers from the Ministry of National Development, who were conducting an internal audit into NParks' purchase of the bicycles in 2012.

The charges allege that Lim's lies caused the auditors to omit looking into the relationship between Lim and the director of Bikehop Singapore.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Andre Jumabhoy told the court earlier that the accused had covered up his relationship with Mr Lim, and had told the Bikehop Singapore director not to reveal it because he feared being investigated and disciplined - which he later admitted to the CPIB.

But Mr Ang told the court that while Lim's actions might have been "morally reprehensible", they had not broken the law.

While Lim had told the Bikehop Singapore director - whom he had known since 2011 - to "try" not to tell anyone that they knew each other, this was, at best, a "request of a general nature", rather than an instigation to lie to auditors, Mr Ang said.

Lim does not face corruption charges.

If convicted of the two charges that he faces, he can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $5,000 for each charge.

yanliang@sph.com.sg

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Accused fed auditors a pack of lies: Prosecution

Straits Times
10 Apr 2014
Feng Zengkun

Prosecutor says there is enough evidence for the defence to be called

THE prosecution in the City Harvest Church case mounted a stinging rebuttal yesterday as it sought to prove it had presented enough evidence for the trial to continue.

Tearing into arguments by the defence, Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh strived to show again that the six accused had varyingly cooked deals to misuse church funds, "fed a pack of lies" to auditors and "created false appearances in City Harvest's books".

"There is clearly enough evidence for the defence to be called," she said, after taking the court through a summary of the prosecution's case.

She was responding to defence lawyers who had argued that, despite 42 days of trial since last May and 14 prosecution witnesses, the prosecution had failed to show enough evidence for the charges against their clients.

The defence wants the case thrown out. The judge will rule on that on May 5.

Church founder Kong Hee and five others are accused of misusing about $50 million in church funds in total. While their lawyers had consistently said auditors vetted and approved allegedly suspicious transactions, Ms Chionh said relying on this defence was "misconceived at best and disingenuous at worst" as the prosecution believes the accused hid information from the auditors.

She pointed to church auditor Sim Guan Seng, who had said earlier in the trial that he would have "raised some red flags" about certain transactions had he been privy to more information.

The defence said some of the information had existed in his audit firm Baker Tilly TFW's archives.

By relying on the auditors' approval as a defence now, the accused were "like the fraudster who manages to hide his own crimes, then tries to rely on his success in hiding that crime to exonerate himself", Ms Chionh said.

She also disagreed with lawyer Andre Maniam's assertion that his client, former finance manager Serina Wee, had not been dishonest and could not be guilty of criminal breach of trust since the "church money was used for church purposes".

While part of the allegedly misused funds was spent to advance the pop music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, defence lawyers said the church had accepted her music as a form of evangelism.

Ms Chionh said the evidence showed the money had been illegally taken from the church's building fund.

While the defence lawyers said the prosecution had taken e-mails and messages among the accused out of context and misinterpreted them, Ms Chionh disagreed, adding that "the totality of the evidence was sufficient" to call for the defence.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

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SingPost fined $30,000 for Woodlands mail theft

Business Times
03 Apr 2014
Joyce Hooi

[SINGAPORE] SingPost has incurred its largest fine in history - $30,000 for an estimated 400-500 pieces of mail that were stolen in September last year.

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) levied the fine on SingPost yesterday, finding the latter in breach of its Public Postal Licence condition.

The mail in question, meant for six blocks of flats, was stolen at Woodlands Circle on Sept 5 last year after a neighbourhood postwoman left her trolley with mail in it unattended because she had to use the washroom across the street. When she returned, the trolley and its contents were gone. The mail has not been recovered and no arrests have been made.

IDA noted yesterday that SingPost, "had not issued any lock or chain for trolleys used by its postmen", then. Also, the nylon bags used to carry mail were "only slightly water-resistant".

The postwoman had not taken the trolley across the street with her because she did not want the letters to get wet as it was raining heavily. Since then, she has been counselled and sent for retraining, SingPost said.

Since the mail theft, SingPost has introduced lockable water-resistant canvas bags and lock-and-chain sets for these trolleys. It is also designing a new customised mail trolley which will be introduced in the second half of this year.

SingPost said yesterday that it "takes its public service obligations seriously", noting that it had previously committed to invest $100 million on improving service quality over the next few years.

Last year, SingPost was fined $10,000 by IDA for falling short of the regulator's postal quality of service standards.

joyceh@sph.com.sg

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Review our penalties for corporate misconduct: Mailbag

Business Times
16 Apr 2014

IT is heartening to learn that the regulators are making directors more accountable by increasing the sanctions for directors who breach basic statutory requirements ("Stiffer penalties for directors in tax, AGM cases", BT, April 15).

As noted, these statutory requirements are important to ensure transparency in our market. However, breaches of such administrative duties by directors are relatively easy to detect and enforce - a bit like offences relating to parking and misuse of bus lanes. What is harder to enforce but arguably more important breaches by directors are those relating to their substantive duties, such as the duty to act honestly and to use reasonable diligence in the discharge of their duties under section 157 of the Companies Act.

It is important for our regulators to investigate and enforce breaches of substantive duties while they continue to enforce breaches of administrative duties. There is an urgent need to review the penalties for breaches of substantive duties. Currently, section 157 provides for a maximum fine of $5,000 or an imprisonment term not exceeding 12 months, which is far too low in today's context and disproportionately low when compared with the penalties now being imposed for breaches of administrative duties.

In the report, "Aussie regulator wants tougher corporate fines" (BT, April 10), the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has called for substantial increases in penalties for corporate misconduct in Australia, highlighting a substantial gap compared to countries such as US, UK, Canada and Hong Kong. We should similarly review our penalties for corporate misconduct to ensure that they act as sufficient deterrents.

Mak Yuen Teen

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Court reserves judgment on third bid to reopen inquiry into inmate’s death

TODAY
09 Apr 2014
Amir Hussain

SINGAPORE — The apex court has reserved judgment on the third bid by a woman fighting against the discontinuation of a coroner’s inquiry into her son’s death in prison.

An inquiry into Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah’s death under custody on Sept 27, 2010, which had originally been slated for July last year, was called off by the State Coroner after a senior prison officer pleaded guilty to and was convicted for negligence in overseeing a botched restraint operation that led to the 21-year-old’s death.

Madam Selvi Narayanasamy subsequently wrote to the Attorney-General’s Chambers requesting the inquiry into her son’s death to be reopened. When she was turned down, she went to the High Court seeking a judicial review of the chambers’ decision.

Her case was thrown out again, leading her to bring it to the Court of Appeal.

Yesterday, Mdm Selvi’s lawyer M Ravi argued that the State Coroner had acted “illegally or irrationally” in discontinuing the inquiry since there had been no full hearing — due to the prison officer pleading guilty — and evidence relating to the cause of and circumstances surrounding Dinesh’s death was not heard, he said.

A coroner’s inquiry was therefore “absolutely indispensable to bridging evidential gaps”, he added.

Mr Ravi also argued that the State Coroner’s jurisdiction should be wider than that of a forensic pathologist. Instead of just determining the most plausible immediate cause of death, a coroner should conduct a “conclusive investigation of the manner in which the deceased died, as well as the underlying circumstances surrounding his death”, he added.

Mr Ravi also argued that the State Coroner, in deciding to discontinue the inquiry, had not taken into account statements that prison officers had initially made in preparation for the inquiry.

In response, Senior State Counsel Tai Wei Shyong said the contention that the State Coroner had failed to consider these statements was “unsupported by any evidence”.

He also reiterated that Mdm Selvi had not raised any objection at the first instance when the State Coroner announced the discontinuation of the inquiry.

Criminal prosecution — in the form of the prison officer Lim Kwo Yin being fined S$10,000 — had been concluded and the Government had also written to Mdm Selvi to admit liability for Dinesh’s death, noted Mr Tai.

And with a civil suit having been taken out by her against 10 prison officers, including Lim, for intentional assault and wrongful act causing the death of her son, reopening or continuing the inquiry would result in two sets of proceedings with the same witnesses being called to testify and cross-examined in court, Mr Tai added.

Copyright 2014 Mediacorp Pte Ltd | All rights reserved

MOM will enforce Act professionally: Forum

Straits Times
03 Apr 2014

THE headline and lead-in to Tuesday's article ("Bosses who don't pay staff face arrest on the spot") could give rise to the misleading perception that Ministry of Manpower (MOM) officers arrest employers without prior investigations or due care. This is not the case.

First, the Employment Act amendments pertaining to the powers of inspectors are not the "low-profile change" that the article portrayed them to be.

The powers of inspecting officers, alongside enhanced penalties, are to better facilitate the enforcement of the Employment Act provisions.

Prior to the recent Employment Act amendments, similar enforcement powers were already accorded to MOM officers under other workplace legislation, such as the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Second, most employers are cooperative in assisting the MOM's investigations into a salary claim or complaint.

For the minority of employers who are persistently uncooperative, for example, those who wilfully refuse to comply with orders to attend investigation sessions, MOM officers can now arrest them to assist in investigations.

Above all, the MOM will enforce the Employment Act in a professional manner.

Then Yee Thoong

Divisional Director

Labour Relations and Workplaces Division

Ministry of Manpower

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nTan sues SunMoon over advisory fees

Business Times
15 Apr 2014
Cai Haoxiang

It says fees relate to securing investors for the company

FRUIT distributor and food ingredients maker SunMoon Food Company has been sued by nTan Corporate Advisory for 2.06 billion shares, or $2.06 million, in allegedly unpaid fees.

The fees relate to services provided by nTan - set-up by restructuring specialist Nicky Tan - in "identifying and securing investors pursuant to a letter of engagement dated November 14, 2006".

A statement of claim seen by The Business Times said that the fee came from 5 per cent of the first $25 million raised, plus 4.5 per cent of the next $25 million, plus goods and services tax.

nTan invoiced SunMoon on Oct 7, 2013 for fees relating to about $40 million raised, the statement said.

SunMoon said that the fees claimed by nTan are without merit and it has a good defence.

"The company is currently in discussion with its legal advisers, TSMP Law Corporation, to determine the next course of action and intends to vigorously resist the claim," it said.

SunMoon listed in 1997 as Fook Huat Tong Kee, or FHTK Holdings.

In 2000, Mr Tan, then a partner at Arthur Andersen Associates, was appointed to help FHTK and its bank creditors in a debt restructuring.

Mr Tan had shot to prominence in 1995 by helping the government investigate the infamous Barings Bank scandal here.

He set up AA Corporate Advisory in 2001, which became nTan Corporate Advisory a year later.

He was involved with FHTK again in end-2004, when the company appointed nTan to restructure its debt.

FHTK was eventually saved from liquidation by a $60 million convertible loan from investors in 2007. It changed its name to SunMoon that year.

A key lender was private equity firm First Alverstone Capital (FACL), which now owns 39 per cent of SunMoon.

FACL was in an investment vehicle known as FACT 2006 along with QAP Capital, held by Mr Tan's sisters.

Last September, SunMoon settled its remaining $24.4 million of legacy debt through a cash and share settlement to creditors.

SunMoon closed at 0.1 cent, down 50 per cent, before the announcement was made. The company, whose shares fluctuate often between 0.1 cent and 0.2 cent, is proposing to consolidate every 100 shares to one share.

haoxiang@sph.com.sg

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Prosecution's case lacks sufficient evidence: Lawyers

Straits Times
09 Apr 2014
Feng Zengkun

Not enough proof for charges against clients, says defence

DEFENCE lawyers in the City Harvest Church case sought to prove that prosecutors had not done enough to even merit a defence as the trial resumed yesterday.

They questioned why no executive members of the church had been called to substantiate claims that they had been misled about the use of funds.

City Harvest auditors, trustees and directors of companies allegedly involved in sham deals were among the prosecution witnesses to give evidence.

But their lawyers said the prosecution had failed to show sufficient evidence for each of the charges against their clients.

Church founder Kong Hee and five others are accused of misusing about $50 million of church funds in total to finance Kong's pop singer wife Ho Yeow Sun's career and to cover this up.

Lawyer Michael Khoo, representing ex-church investment manager Chew Eng Han, said several of the accused did not have the power to decide on use of church funds by themselves, contrary to prosecution claims.

If statements had been recorded from the other board members but were not offered to the defence, and the members were not called to court, "the adverse inference must be drawn that if they had been called, their testimony would have debunked the prosecution's case", he said.

Mr Edwin Tong, representing Kong, said the prosecution had not called any church executive members to substantiate its claims.

"These (executive members) are not accused persons," he said. "The prosecution has chosen not to call any (executive members) to make good their point that they have been misled."

While Mr Khoo called on the prosecution to disclose whether it or the Commercial Affairs Department had taken statements from people other than those called as witnesses, Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh said he had "no legal basis" to make such a request.

The prosecution is expected to address the defence lawyers' arguments today after Mr Andre Maniam, representing former finance manager Serina Wee, wraps up the defence's arguments.

The lawyers also sought to show yesterday that the prosecution had misinterpreted e-mails and text messages between the accused or taken the communications out of context.

Mr Tong disagreed with the prosecution that sham investments were used to funnel the funds illegally.

Referring to one allegedly suspicious transaction, he said auditors were aware of "all the salient features" of the investment and two large law firms in Singapore had advised on it.

While the money from the transaction had gone to Ms Ho's music career, this was in line with the church's "widely embraced" mission of using it to evangelise, he said. "The truth is... no one misappropriated the money for their own use. No one has complained," he said. The trial continues.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

*****************Background Story *****************

About the case

CHURCH founder Kong Hee and five others face varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts.

They allegedly misappropriated church funds of $24 million in sham bond investments in two companies run by long-time supporters - music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna - to bankroll the pop music career of Kong's singer wife Ho Yeow Sun.

They are also accused of trying to cover that up by "round-tripping" $26.6 million, so as to avoid the auditor's scrutiny.

Criminal breach of trust is punishable with a life sentence, or up to 20 years' jail and a fine. Falsification of accounts carries up to 10 years in jail, a fine, or both.

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Tighten SGX's gatekeeper role in placements

Business Times
03 Apr 2014
R. Sivanithy

UNDER section 806 of the Singapore Exchange's Listing Manual, shareholders can grant a general mandate to their managements to raise capital via shares or convertibles provided the number of shares eventually handed out does not exceed 50 per cent of issued shares excluding treasury shares.

Whenever this fund-raising avenue is tapped, there is a consequent dilution of existing shareholdings, so the assumption has to be that it was done with the company's best interests in mind. This is a fair assumption since the intent of this section is clearly to allow managements the flexibility to raise money quickly to capitalise on promising business opportunities that might suddenly present themselves. This is also to avoid the time-consuming route of calling for a full-fledged rights issue since this requires shareholder approval at a general meeting.

Of course, not all business ventures that appear attractive at the start actually turn out to be that way. But it would be reasonable to expect managements that have been given a general mandate by their shareholders to provide clear details of the use of funds when that mandate is actually employed - after all, if shareholders are going to have their holdings diluted, they should at least be told why.

So far, so good. But what if the general mandate is used to raise money for non-specific or, on the face of it, general, non-urgent uses?

Stated differently, if companies are unable to provide clear uses of funds, then shouldn't the Singapore Exchange (SGX) either a) require better disclosure, and/or b) be given discretionary powers to impose a moratorium on the sale of the instruments that are issued before approving the listing of those instruments?

These were issues raised a year ago in this column ("SGX needs discretionary power for moratorium on placements" - March 15, 2013) but so far, they have not been addressed by regulators. Since then, there have been dozens of placements that needed some form of regulatory intervention to protect shareholder interests, yet have been allowed to pass.

Consider, for example, the case of Albedo Ltd, which is currently embroiled in a high profile deal with Malaysian firm Infinite Rewards involving the injection of major Johor land assets into Albedo.

The party who introduced Albedo to Infinite Rewards was Choo Yeow Ming, a former substantial shareholder of Albedo and currently executive chairman of funeral parlour operators Asia-Pacific Strategic Investments, which like Albedo is listed on Catalist.

On Dec 13 last year, Albedo proposed placing out 260 million non-listed, non-transferable warrants under its general mandate to Dr Choo and existing shareholder Terry Leong at 0.1 cent each, split into 90 million for Dr Choo and 170 million for Mr Leong.

The figure of 260 million was just about the maximum allowed since the company said the limit beyond which the general mandate could not be employed was 262.2 million. The exercise price of each warrant was set at 4.338 cents, a 10 per cent discount to Albedo's market price at the time.

Also in its Dec 13 announcement, Albedo said the net proceeds of $160,000 raised ($260,000 less $100,000 expenses) from the issue and the $11.3 million that it would receive if all the warrants were converted would be used for "working capital which includes, inter alia, the repayment of trade payables and borrowings in the ordinary course of business".

Both men were said to be subscribing to the placement for "personal investment purposes" and the company said its existing working capital was enough to meet present requirements.

The placement was concluded on Jan 24 this year, at which time it was announced that Mr Leong exercised 60 million of the 170 million warrants he was granted. At that time, Albedo's shares traded at about 6 cents and assuming the new shares were immediately sold, the profit from this portion is estimated to be just about $1 million.

On Feb 11 and Feb 28, Albedo announced that Dr Choo exercised 45 million warrants on each day. Assuming the resultant shares were also sold immediately, the profit is estimated to be about $1 million.

Everything was done by the book, so there can be no complaints on this front. Moreover, Albedo has received cash totalling around $6.5 million from the two warrant holders, which would help boost its working capital and aid in its "repayment of trade payables and borrowings in the ordinary course of business".

However, there is some room for justifiable shareholder unhappiness, not only because of dilution from the issue of millions of new shares but also because the Johor deal now hangs in the balance and the shares have crashed to around 2.8 cents.

Moreover, since the placement appears to have been for non-urgent, non-specific business ventures, some might quite legitimately ask whether SGX should have either requested more details on the use of the money, or imposed some restrictions on the exercise of the warrants, or both.

The bigger issue raised by the Albedo example is that there is scope for SGX to play a greater gatekeeping role in terms of looking after shareholder interests when companies exercise their general mandates to raise money, a role that assumes greater importance when there is no specific or urgent need for the money.

Since placees are usually described as being interested in investing in the issuing company, introducing a moratorium of, say, three to six months should not be too objectionable. The discretion for requiring this, of course, would rest with SGX and would only be on a case-by-case basis.

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More protection against false F&B claims: Geographical indications

Straits Times
15 Apr 2014
Kenny Chee

A NEW law will beef up protection for consumers from businesses that falsely advertise their food and drink as being from brand-name locations, such as wine from Bordeaux or beef from Kobe, when they are not.

But it will not protect local businesses such as the famous Katong Laksa against false claims. That is because the ingredients of the laksa dish are likely not from Katong.

That emerged from an exchange between Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah and Mr Christopher De Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), who is also a lawyer, during the debate on a Bill to improve protection offered for the labels known as "geographical indications" (GIs).

GIs are used by businesses to identify a product with the town or region it comes from, such as Darjeeling for the well-known tea leaves grown in the Indian hills.

GIs are protected here under the GI Act.

Ms Indranee said yesterday that for a product to qualify as a GI, its components would have to be grown or originate from the region the GI represents.

So for "Katong" to qualify, Ms Indranee said, "the laksa leaf would have to be a Katong laksa leaf, the rice flour (used) would have to come from rice grown in Katong and the taupok (soya bean puff) would have to come from the soya bean that was grown in Katong.

"The clams would have to be harvested there as well."

She was replying to a call by Mr De Souza to not leave out popular dishes in Singapore from being similarly protected.

The Bill passed yesterday allows businesses to register for GIs with a registry under the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore.

Previously, GIs did not need to be registered here.

Ms Indranee said registration would help improve the certainty of protection for GIs.

This is because, without it, the label can only be "conclusively determined that it is a GI through a court ruling in a civil suit", she said.

Under the Bill, owners of a GI product can also request the Singapore Customs to seize goods - to be imported into or exported out of Singapore - which are suspected of violating a protected GI.

The date the Bill changes will be implemented depends on the progress of the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.

kennyc@sph.com.sg

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Air steward sues SIA, claiming cabin bag fell and injured him

Straits Times
09 Apr 2014
Selina Lum

A SINGAPORE Airlines (SIA) air steward, who says he was injured when a bag fell from the overhead compartment, is suing the airline for around $500,000.

But SIA has countered that 42-year-old K. Jotheeswaran Kaniyasan is lying and that the incident never happened. Instead, air stewardess Hezrin Hilmi, who Mr Jotheeswaran said saw the 2009 incident, has filed an affidavit stating that she did not.

SIA has also alleged that her signature on the cabin crew accident report which the steward submitted to the airline was forged.

In his lawsuit, which opened yesterday and is scheduled to run for 12 days, Mr Jotheeswaran said that on July 8, 2009 he was helping passengers as they boarded a plane at an airport in Chennai, India.

That was when a bag fell from an overhead compartment and landed on the back of his neck.

Despite treatment for back pain, his condition did not improve.

Five months later, he had spinal surgery. But even after this and physiotherapy, he said he still suffers from neck pain and numbness in his left arm. He said in his claim that he has developed a degenerative disease in his spine.

Mr Jotheeswaran, represented by Mr Subbiah Pillai, is accusing SIA of being negligent and breaching its duty of care as an employer.

But the airline, represented by Mr Niru Pillai, disputes that such an incident even occurred.

The steward had included Ms Hezrin's name as a witness in the accident report, but two handwriting experts concluded that the signature on the form was not hers.

After the report was submitted, Mr Jotheeswaran purportedly got a typewritten statement from her recounting what she saw. SIA contends that he prepared the document and pleaded with her to help him make a false claim.

Cross-examining the steward yesterday, Mr Niru Pillai pointed out that when he sought treatment in July 2009 for pain in his neck, medical records stated that there was "no history of trauma".

The lawyer contended that if the pain was indeed from a bag falling on his neck, he would have told the doctors about the incident.

Mr Jotheeswaran disagreed.

The airline said that even if the incident occurred, it did not breach its duty of care to the steward.

SIA believes it has complied with international standards relating to safe stowage of cabin baggage and that the rate of crew injuries from falling cabin bags is extremely low.

It is relying on past court decisions to argue that the practicality of precautionary measures against falling baggage has to be weighed against the risks of such incidents.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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Only repeat offenders face arrest: New law against errant bosses

Straits Times
03 Apr 2014
Toh Yong Chuan

MOM targeting persistently uncooperative employers who do not pay their staff

FIVE months after Parliament changed the law to empower officials to arrest bosses who do not pay their staff, the authorities have clarified that only repeat offenders will be arrested.

The Manpower Ministry told The Straits Times yesterday that it is targeting "employers who are persistently uncooperative".

"MOM officers can now arrest them to assist in investigations," said MOM's divisional director Then Yee Thoong.

His clarification came after this newspaper reported on Tuesday that MOM officials enforcing the Employment Act have new powers to arrest errant bosses on the spot without warrants.

The change was debated in Parliament last November, when Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said that the powers will allow officials to "arrest any person reasonably believed to be guilty of the failure to pay salary".

But Mr Then made it clear that the ministry will not arrest bosses without prior investigation or due care.

He gave the assurance: "MOM will enforce the Employment Act in a professional manner."

Firms and experts welcomed the ministry's clarification.

"There may be some bosses, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who may have hit a rough patch and delayed salary payments," said Mr David Leong, managing director of recruitment firm People Worldwide Consulting.

"To be arrested on the spot for running into a bad economic cycle or other business failures would seem harsh."

But some business owners felt that tough action should not be restricted to salary payments.

"I strongly support this new ruling, but I am sad to say there is no ruling to nail bosses who refuse to pay customers on (their) outstanding invoices," said Ms Lilian Tan, a director at home-grown heavy machinery leasing firm HSL Construction and Trading.

"I hope the relevant authorities can look into this issue and help SMEs," she added.

tohyc@sph.com.sg

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Stiffer penalties for directors in tax, AGM cases

Business Times
15 Apr 2014
Michelle Quah

They failed to file annual returns and hold AGMs on time

THREE company directors were hauled to court and fined a total of $17,800 yesterday for failing to file their annual returns and hold their annual general meetings (AGMs) on time.

This stiffening of fines - between double and triple of what has been meted out before - comes as Singapore's companies regulator gets tougher on such offences.

Patrick Teng Chee Wai and Mary Lim Mee Lin, directors of Indigoz ICHQS (Asia) Holdings Ltd, and Doreen Lee Guat Beng, a director of Rebecca Pte Ltd, were convicted and sentenced in the State Courts yesterday, for what was described as "two basic statutory requirements" under the Companies Act.

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) argued for stiffer penalties to deter large companies which have been persistent repeat offenders.

"Transparency is the lifeblood of the market. Directors need to take their statutory duties on annual reporting seriously. Acra will spare no effort to ensure that the business information on our register is accurate and reliable, for the benefit of all market players," said Acra's chief executive, Kenneth Yap, in a statement yesterday.

Acra said there are currently more than 260,000 "live" companies on its register, and that every year, it issues about 10,000 summonses to offenders, 40 per cent of which are repeat offenders.

The typical fine levied out in the past for such offences ranged from $400 to $600 for each charge.

In this instance, Indigoz's Lim was fined $1,200 on each of six charges she was convicted of, making a total fine of $7,200. Indigoz's Teng was fined $1,100 on each of six charges, totalling $6,600.

As for Rebecca's Lee, she was fined $1,000 on each of four charges, making a total of $4,000.

They will have to serve jail time if they default on these fines.

All three directors had pleaded guilty to the charges.

Giving an indication of a continued tough stance on such offences, Acra's senior director of Legal Services and Prosecution Division, Andy Sim, said: "Acra will continue to press for high fines for repeat offenders, especially those involving large companies with multiple breaches. Errant companies can also expect the amount of composition offered by Acra in lieu of prosecution to go up across the board."

This is not the first time Indigoz has run afoul of the law. In 2005, then known as Indigoz Exchange, it breached the Banking Act by issuing stored-value cards without approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The firm was fined $10,000 and went into judicial management with $1 million in debt.

In 2008, it left thousands of customers on its "i-chqs" loyalty programme stranded because restaurants would no longer accept the company's stored-value dining cards.

michquah@sph.com.sg

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Han's Cafe sues Japanese restaurant over name

Straits Times
09 Apr 2014
Selina Lum

Local cafe chain says use of word 'Han' is likely to confuse the public

HAN'S, the well-known local cafe chain, is trying to stop a Japanese restaurant from calling itself Han, saying it might confuse the public.

Han's Cafe, which has 21 outlets in Singapore selling Hainanese and Western food, has accused Gusttimo World, which owns Han, of infringing on its trademark.

It is seeking a court order to restrain Gusttimo World from using the name "Han" and its Internet domain name www.han.com.sg

A three-day trial opened in the High Court yesterday.

Since opening its first outlet at The Arcade in 1980, Han's Cafe has expanded to a chain of eateries and bakeries.

Gusttimo World owns a group of food and beverage businesses including Korean restaurant Sarang at Science Hub, Italian restaurant Gusto at Ion Orchard, and Han at Odeon Towers.

Han, which opened in 2012, specialises in kushikatsu, or skewers of deep-fried food.

In its lawsuit, Han's, represented by Mr Mark Goh, contends that the use of the word "Han" is likely to confuse the public.

Han's Cafe has been in business for more than three decades and over time, people have associated the name "Han's" with its chain of eateries and bakeries, the plaintiff contends.

The plaintiff asserts that "Han's" has built up "goodwill" - or reputation - in the food and beverage industry. And when people see any eatery called Han, they will believe it is Han's.

But Gusttimo, represented by Mr Suresh Damodara, argues that its Han brand is dissimilar to the Han's trademark and the public is not likely to mix up the two.

The defendant also said it had several reasons for using "Han" in its brand. The word has long been associated with the family of its director and majority shareholder, Dr Lee Se Heon, who is originally from South Korea.

Dr Lee's late father started a glass production company called Hankuk Glass Industries, which eventually evolved into the HanGlas group and he decided to revive the "Han" name with the restaurant venture.

It contends that in Japanese, the Han character represents Osaka, which is where kushikatsu originates from. In the Korean language, the character represents the Korean people, which is appropriate as both shareholders are Korean.

Gusttimo contends that patrons of Han's are able to distinguish between the service provided by the cafe chain and its restaurant which serves old Osaka cuisine in a kaiseki - or traditional multi-course Japanese dinner - style.

The hearing continues.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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COI ‘will not interfere’ in court cases over riot

TODAY
03 Apr 2014
Amir Hussain

Committee notes that it is not allowed to decide on guilt or innocence of those charged

SINGAPORE — The Secretariat of the Committee of Inquiry (COI) on the Little India riot said it has not interfered and will not interfere with ongoing criminal proceedings in relation to the Dec 8 riot.

In a statement yesterday, the committee also noted that it is required by law to focus solely on its Terms of Reference (TOR) and is prohibited from determining the civil or criminal liability of any person.

 “The guilt or innocence of those charged has no relevance to the COI’s TOR and, accordingly, the particular conduct on the night of the riot of those charged was not the subject of the evidence led at the public hearing.”

Appointed by Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean in December last year, the committee’s terms of reference are to establish what led to the riot and recommend how to improve the management of such incidents and reduce the risk of similar incidents.

 “The COI will continue to fulfil its TORs as appointed to do so,” it said.

The committee’s statement came a day after lawyer M Ravi, who is representing five accused persons in relation to the riot, submitted a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs, addressed to COI Secretary Chow Chee Kin, requesting for the inquiry to be discontinued.

The letter, a copy of which was sent to the media, alleged that the inquiry “necessarily renders the matter subjudice”, a legal concept referring to words or actions that may affect or prejudice the outcome of court proceedings. Subjudice is an offence.

The letter further alleged that the inquiry prejudices Mr Ravi’s clients’ rights to a fair trial under the Constitution and that the conduct of the COI is also in breach of “relevant articles under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” which guarantee the right to a fair trial.

The letter added that Mr Ravi’s clients will apply to have the criminal charges against them set aside, by way of a criminal motion to the High Court.

Six Indian nationals have so far been sentenced to between 15 and 18 weeks’ jail for charges relating to the riot. The cases of 19 others accused of rioting are ongoing.

The COI, which concluded its inquiry last week after a 24-day hearing, will submit its report by June 13.

amirhussain@mediacorp.com.sg

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Trading halts: Better procedures needed

Business Times
15 Apr 2014
R. Sivanithy

TRADING halts are one of the most common occurrences in daily market life and are mandatory when listed companies make material announcements such as mergers, rights issues or placements. Yet despite their significance, it is surprising to see that the rules as they stand today are not at all clear and leave plenty of room for uncertainty and, possibly, even opportunity for unfair profit. It is time the Singapore Exchange (SGX) addressed this.

First, according to the exchange's Practice Note 13.1 "Procedures for Trading Halt and Suspension", companies can call for a halt at any time and must give the market at least 30 minutes to absorb the information before trading resumes.

Note that there is no specified time between halt and announcement, but this is fair enough - business negotiations sometimes drag on longer than expected and companies cannot be expected to give an exact time as to when the news is to be issued.

However, although half an hour after issue is probably just about enough time for the public to study complex announcements, it assumes that everyone has kept their eye constantly on the company announcements page on SGX's website from the time the halt was announced.

If trading resumes, say, 31 minutes after an announcement is released, then someone who is lucky enough to read a material announcement just after it is posted would have a huge advantage over someone who notices it after 30 minutes.

To ensure everyone has an equal chance to digest the information at the same time, SGX should introduce an alert or prompt on its website's home page and on dealing screens when releases are despatched after a halt. This may still not afford everyone equal time and opportunity to figure out the implications of the announcements as some investors could miss it if they are not watching the home page, but it would go some way towards levelling an uneven playing field.

Second, with regard to the lifting of the halt, the field is even more lopsided because there are no guidelines other than the one that trading has to resume at the quarter-hour mark, eg, 9am, 9.15am, 9.30am and so on. Note that in an eight-hour trading day, this results in a possible 32 points between 9am and 5pm when trading halts can be lifted - arguably too many. More on this later.

Since trading halts are lifted at the request of companies with no minimum time period required between the time the request is issued and the time trading actually resumes, it is possible for companies to request that trading be resumed only a few minutes after the request (this is actually the case; the shortest time we found is an absurd 28 seconds).

Those privy to the request or who see it first would then hold a big advantage over those who have to constantly check SGX's website for when the halt might be lifted.

A hypothetical example would better illustrate the flaws in the current arrangements. It is in theory possible for a company to call for a halt at, say, 9.30am on a Monday, issue a material announcement on Wednesday at 10.44am, then file a request at 11.14am that same day for trading to restart just one minute later at 11.15am. Since trading resumed at the quarter-hour mark and since the market had at least 30 minutes to study the release, all requirements have been met.

The potential for unfair advantage should be obvious. Since the announcement was made two days later, many traders might not have been monitoring the exchange's announcements page and would be at a disadvantage to those who knew of its release or saw it first.

The same applies to the request to lift the halt since a) nobody other than companies themselves would have any idea when this might be, and b) only allowing a minute's - or a few minutes' - reaction time is not really good form, is it?

As it stands, the entire procedure is cumbersome and shrouded in uncertainty. Apart from the prompt/alert suggestion earlier, the first step in reducing uncertainty would be to require companies to state when trading will resume at the time when the announcements are made.

This would immediately reduce the number of company releases from three (request for halt, announcement, request for lifting of halt) to two (request for halt, announcement that incorporates lifting of halt), resulting in a more streamlined and transparent system.

It would then be worth considering replacing the 32 possible resumption of trading points with just two - either 9am or 2pm. This way the market knows that if a halt has not been lifted at 9am, it simply has to watch for a lifting at 2pm. The ultimate goal has to be to give everyone an equal opportunity to trade on significant information, which does not seem to be the case now.

sivan@sph.com.sg

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