27 April 2018
A | A

Competition watchdog says entry of new players will be a factor in assessment of Grab-Uber merger

Straits Times
27 Apr 2018
Adrian Lim

SINGAPORE - Singapore's competition watchdog said on Thursday (April 26) it has noted the news of potential new entrants into the ride-hailing industry, as it continues its probe into the Grab-Uber merger to assess if any competition laws have been infringed.

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS), which issued orders two weeks ago to stall Grab's acquisition of Uber's operations here, told The Straits Times that the "entry of players into the market is a factor for consideration" in its assessment.

For new entrants to be considered as a "sufficient competitive constraint", three conditions must be satisfied - that "the entry must be likely, sufficient in extent and timely", the CCCS said.

With the impending departure of Uber from Singapore, a trio of start-ups have announced plans to start their own private hire car service, two of them as early as next week.

Local car-pooling app Ryde said on Thursday (April 26) that it will launch its RydeX private-hire car service on May 2, while the Singapore-headquartered MVL (Mass Vehicle Ledger) Foundation targets to roll out its blockchain-based ride-booking concept at the end of July.

Indian firm Jugnoo, which specialises in auto-rickshaw bookings, intends to make its foray into the private hire car business on May 1 with a Singapore launch.

Their plans come amid reported talks of a possible tie-up between Indonesian ride-hailing firm Go-Jek and Singapore's taxi giant ComfortDelGro.

The CCCS said of its ongoing probe into the Grab-Uber merger: "We will determine if there is substantial lessening of competition in this case when we complete our assessment of the investigation, taking into account all relevant facts and circumstances."

The new players are taking the fight to Grab, with lower commission fees for drivers and new options for customers.

Ryde said on Thursday it will allow users to request their preferred driver when making a RydeX booking. It will also offer users an average 5 per cent cashback and advance bookings of up to seven days, Ryde's chief executive Terence Zou said at a press briefing.

Ryde CEO Terence Zou said his car-pooling company will take only a 10 per cent commission from drivers.

Mr Zou said his firm has already recruited 5,000 drivers and will take only a 10 per cent commission from them. Grab takes 20 per cent.

In contrast, MVL Foundation's founder Kay Woo said it will not take any commission. Instead, its drivers will earn points from, say, driving safely. The points are traded for MVL's own cryptocurrency, which can be converted to cash later on. Mr Woo said to generate revenue, the data acquired from drivers and their vehicles will, for instance, be sold to car rental firms or insurance companies.

Meanwhile, Jugnoo's reverse bidding system will allow drivers who are in the customer's vicinity to offer competing bids, which the customer then selects. Jugnoo's chief executive Samar Singla said the exit of Uber provided an opportune time to enter the market.

"Singaporeans are now confused about what is going to happen to Uber, will prices for Grab be increased? A lot of drivers I've spoken to don't like to be on Grab but don't have a choice," he said in a phone interview from India.

MP Ang Hin Kee, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said he hopes the new players will not just "fill a gap that Uber left behind but offer added services" and give commuters more choice.

Asked if the new players will change the CCCS' assessment of the competitive landscape, Singapore University of Social Sciences transport economist Walter Theseira said: "The number of players is not relevant, but (what is relevant is) whether the players have enough market share to make the market contestable."

Noting that the ride-hailing business is one in which firms need deep pockets to attract a critical mass of drivers and passengers, Dr Theseira said: "I do not predict that the entrants will be able to amass enough market share to make a material difference."

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

Discussion on new genetics-linked tech welcome

Straits Times
20 Apr 2018
Linette Lai

Bioethics panel mulling over technology to help babies avoid inheriting serious defects

The Bioethics Advisory Committee has to consider the dilemmas associated with a new technology which allows a child to be born without serious genetic defects, but with three genetic parents.

Mitochondrial genome replacement technology involves combining the genetic material (DNA) of a couple - who would otherwise be unlikely to have healthy children of their own - with that of a female egg donor.

That would mean the child would have the genetic make-up of three people, although the donor's contribution would account for less than 1 per cent of the child's DNA.

Even though the technology is still in its early stages, Singapore needs to start a conversation about it, said former senior district judge Richard Magnus, who leads the committee.

"Singapore needs to be able to do good science; ethical science," he said. "We want to be able to provide and get ready a framework of legal, ethical and social principles with regard to the science of it."

Formed in 2000, the committee makes recommendations to the Government on the regulation of human biomedical research. It has launched a public consultation to discuss the issues related to the treatment. The public consultation starts today and ends on June 15.

Most inherited DNA is found in the nucleus of human cells. However, some is also found in structures outside the nucleus, which are known as mitochondria.

This mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from a baby's mother, and as far as scientists are aware, do not affect a person's physical or personality traits. Abnormalities in this type of DNA can cause serious problems, as mitochondria produce energy that cells need to function.

Most healthy people have a certain amount of abnormal mitochondrial DNA. However, because a randomly selected portion is passed on, a child may end up with a large amount of abnormal DNA.

These typically affect the heart and nervous system, and can contribute to epilepsy, blindness, deafness and some form of mental deficiency.

In severe cases, it can involve multiple organs, and lead to an early death.

The technology aims to solve this problem by combining nuclear DNA from a woman who is at risk of passing on such a disorder, with the healthy mitochondrial DNA found in a donor's egg.

Britain was the first country to legalise this technology in 2015. However, the technique is so new that no formal clinical trials have been conducted among humans yet.

Since 2016, three babies have been born - one in Mexico and two in Ukraine - using this technology, but their current health status is unknown.

In Singapore, research involving human eggs and embryos is restricted under the Human Biomedical Research Act.

However, the committee is relooking the issue in the light of recent scientific advancements and their potential to help prevent serious mitochondrial disorders.

The committee will talk to scientists, doctors, members of institutional ethics review boards and representatives from religious organisations to get their views on the topic.

It will also be holding a public dialogue on April 28 at the National Library, between 2pm and 4pm.

Those interested in attending the session can contact the committee at bioethics_singapore@moh.gov.sg.


STARTING A CONVERSATION

Singapore needs to be able to do good science; ethical science. We want to be able to provide and get ready a framework of legal, ethical and social principles with regard to the science of it.

MR RICHARD MAGNUS, who leads the Bioethics Advisory Committee, about mitochondrial genome replacement technology.


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

Communications Stop Order a big step to prevent information leaks

Business Times
11 Apr 2018

At the last parliament sitting in March before prorogation, the House passed the new Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill. First tabled by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in February, the legislation sparked much discussion for one of its key features - a Communications Stop Order (CSO) - that can be triggered during serious or emergency incidents such as a terrorist attack.

In a nutshell, the CSO - once activated - makes it illegal for people, even members of the media, to make, exhibit or communicate pictures or films of the incident location. They are also not allowed to communicate text or audio messages about the ongoing security operations in the area. The media outlets that are granted official access to incident areas can record and film the events for future use, such as for post-incident reporting.

It is understandable why the authorities have taken such measures to prevent the unnecessary spread of misinformation during a crisis situation. As Second Home Affairs Minister Josephine Teo pointed out during the debate on the Bill, "the best laid plans of the police can be thwarted by a stray tweet or social media live stream".

The MHA has made the right move to introduce the CSO as part of the police's powers, if only to prevent a repeat of what transpired during terror attacks overseas that jeopardised the safety of security forces who were responding to the attacks.

During the Mumbai attacks 10 years ago and the Paris supermarket attacks in 2015, a leak of crucial information to the terrorists - as the incident was unfolding - endangered the lives of both the police officers and members of the public as the terrorists were able to better anticipate the actions of security forces on the ground. Throughout the deadly mass shooting incident on the Las Vegas strip in 2017, the city's police department had to repeatedly urge the public not to live stream or share information such as the tactical positions of officers at the scene.

With almost everyone in Singapore owning a camera-equipped Internet-enabled phone these days, it is so easy to capture an image or type a text and share that content with thousands of other people instantly on numerous social media feeds or via online messaging apps. One can even say that it is already second nature for a person to whip out his phone and start recording videos or snapping photos whenever something interesting is happening, even though his safety might be at risk.

It is reasonable to expect that, in a major crisis, there will always be that demand for immediate information, be it from a media outlet or someone who wants to know if his loved ones are safe. While it is not possible for the CSO to completely eradicate the spread of sensitive information - whether accurate or false - the measure will go some way to at least reducing such instances, especially when the incident is still taking place.

There is a greater onus on the authorities, however, to act more quickly to disseminate the most updated and accurate information. The Singapore Police Force already has its various social media channels in place; and these should be as widely used as possible and give updates in a timely manner, as well as to debunk any false information that may already be making its rounds.

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

MAS proposes guidelines for FIs on accountability and standard of conduct

Business Times
27 Apr 2018
Angela Tan

It seeks feedback on its ideas, and aims to foster ethical behaviour and responsible risk-taking in the financial industry

MORE than 10 years on from the Global Financial Crisis, major financial institutions (FIs) have been transformed from being the under-capitalised, over-leveraged and inadequately supervised bodies that they were in 2007.

But in recent years, regulators worldwide have pushed for a culture of personal accountability at the top of financial firms.

So while Singapore has not witnessed the excesses in other places, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) nevertheless unveiled on Thursday its proposed guidelines to strengthen individual accountability of senior managers and raise the standards of conduct in FIs.

These guidelines are a key part of MAS' efforts to foster a culture of ethical behaviour and responsible risk-taking in the financial industry. They are targeted to be issued in the fourth quarter of this year.

"Globally, there has been an increased focus on the manner in which FIs conduct their business and interact with their customers and other stakeholders. Incidents of misconduct and egregious risk-taking in the financial industry has undermined public trust and confidence in FIs, with poor culture being one of the root causes," MAS said in a consultation paper. It is now inviting comments from FIs and interested parties on the content of the paper.

The guidelines include requiring financial institutions to identify senior managers who are responsible for core management functions and to clearly specify their individual accountabilities. FIs should ensure that senior managers are fit for their roles and hold them individually responsible for the actions of their staff and the conduct of business.

Employees in material risk functions that can significantly affect the safety and soundness of the FI, or cause harm to a significant segment of its customers or other stakeholders should also be identified and subject to an appropriate incentive structure and risk governance, MAS is proposing.

A proper framework that promotes and sustains the desired conduct among all employees should be in place; appropriate incentive systems and effective feedback channels such as whistle-blowing mechanisms should also be available.

Ong Chong Tee, the deputy managing director of Financial Supervision at MAS, said: "Clear accountability and proper conduct are important elements of good governance and sound business practice."

The proposed guidelines are not designed to be prescriptive. They are instead principle-based. It is ultimately the responsibility of each FI to hold its senior managers accountable for their actions and ensure proper conduct among their employees.

FIs will be given the flexibility to decide how they want to achieve the desired outcomes of proper accountability and conduct, and the MAS will monitor implementation through regular supervisory engagements.

"This has been an important aspect of our pre-emptive and anticipatory supervision, as timely identification and diagnosis of weak culture and poor ethics can mitigate the impact and risks of downstream control deficiencies and misconduct," it said.

When there are lapses in risk management, conduct or breaches, MAS can exercise a wide range of actions. These range from issuing warnings and imposing supervisory conditions to directing a FI to remove a director or referring the case to the Attorney-General's Chambers for criminal prosecution.

Various jurisdictions have introduced regulatory frameworks to strengthen individual accountability and conduct in the financial industry. These include the United Kingdom's Senior Managers and Certification Regime and Conduct Rules, Hong Kong's Managers-in-Charge Regime, and Australia's Banking Executive Accountability Regime.

MAS' latest proposal supplements existing legislation and guidelines that address many elements of these jurisdictions' accountability and conduct regimes.

Warren Lim, chief executive officer of Finexis, welcomed the move.

"It is a good initiative for MAS to give greater clarity, yet allowing the FI some autonomy to decide what level of risk to take. The penalties are also clear. To me, it's still all in the best interest of the customers.

"And because it is so clearly laid out, including also the coverage of who is impacted - whether the banks, insurers or FIs - it levels the playing field," he told The Business Times.

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

Role of in-house lawyers must evolve, says judge

Straits Times
19 Apr 2018
Grace Leong

General counsel will have to give strategic business advice as well as legal advice

Nearly one in five general counsel in Singapore harbours ambitions of becoming a chief executive or chief operating officer, a new study has found. But many in the profession may have to reinvent themselves to rise further.

Judge of Appeal Steven Chong yesterday gave in-house counsel pointers on what they need to do in their evolving role, while not losing sight of certain core issues.

Only 18 per cent of general counsel say they are doing work that has "greatest strategic value to their business", although 52 per cent expect to be doing such work within five years.

To meet boardroom expectations, a mindset shift is needed, Justice Chong said at an event unveiling a study of local general counsel by the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association and global law firm CMS. The study involved 40 of 200 general counsel or heads of legal departments.

Among other things, in-house counsel must be prepared to evolve beyond their traditional role of providing just legal advice to giving strategic business advice as well, noted Justice Chong, who heads the Singapore Academy of Law's professional affairs committee.

With businesses becoming more sophisticated and regulations growing in complexity, corporations find themselves operating in an "uncertain space where acceptable and unacceptable corporate behaviour seem to shade into one another".

"This has driven corporations to involve their in-house lawyers more directly in the implementation of business decisions so that risks are properly identified and managed," he said.

Further, general counsel's role is not only to influence management, but also to determine the direction, values, and culture of the business.

The study found that some 60 per cent of those surveyed felt their influence in the boardroom was strong, and 18 per cent very strong, compared with 5 per cent who considered it to be weak.

"Measuring lawyers' contribution is still an issue with management. They struggle to grade us," said Ms Rose Kong, head of legal for Royal Golden Eagle Group.

While in-house lawyers continue to shoulder more responsibilities, including managing litigation regulation, compliance and contracts, they must "never compromise on their core identity as keeper of the corporate conscience", Justice Chong said.

In-house counsel must always be mindful of the tension inherent in their role as gatekeeper and strategic adviser to the company. And whenever the two roles are "in seeming conflict, the former must prevail", he added.

It is also critical for in-house lawyers to develop knowledge of different national laws as the region undergoes economic integration through proposed trade agreements that could lead to even more multinational companies setting up regional bases in Singapore.

Justice Chong stressed that "technological competence is not merely an optional extra but a vital component in a lawyer's make up".

He cited a Ministry of Law note that found that only 9 per cent of local small and medium law firms interviewed as part of a consultancy study use technologically enabled tools.

"In other words, an astounding 91 per cent do not! These numbers are certainly a source of great concern," he added.


18%

Of general counsel surveyed said they are doing work that has "greatest strategic value to their business".

60%

Felt their influence in the boardroom was strong, and 18 per cent very strong, compared with 5 per cent who considered it to be weak.

9%

Of local small and medium law firms use technologically enabled tools, according to a Ministry of Law note. Judge of Appeal Steven Chong said this was a concern.

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

ADV: Career Opportunities at NUS Faculty of Law

Singapore Law Watch
11 Apr 2018
NUS Faculty of Law

MPA steps up measures to align marine fuel industry with new rules

Business Times
27 Apr 2018
Tan Hwee Hwee

SINGAPORE has stepped up efforts to align its marine fuel industry with an upcoming regulation aimed at cutting ship emissions.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore's (MPA) assistant CEO for operations M Segar said at an industry dinner on Thursday that the regulatory body will impose the use of mass flow meters (MFMs) for delivering cleaner-burning distillates bunker to international ships from July 2019.

To help marine fuel suppliers ready their fleet for the MFM mandate on distillate bunker delivery, MPA has set aside S$9 million to co-fund the costs of MFM adoption, Capt Segar said at the IBIA Asia Gala Dinner 2018.

The MFM mandate for distillates bunker will kick in about six months ahead of the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) global sulphur cap.

In October 2016, the IMO reached a decision to proceed with its plan to enforce a 0.5 per cent cap on sulphur content in marine fuels in 2020. The intent of this global sulphur cap is to cut the emissions of sulphur dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is harmful to human health. Switching from marine fuel oils (MFOs), the current de facto marine fuel choice, to distillates bunker is one option for shipowners to comply with the IMO 2020 global sulphur cap.

Capt Segar's announcement on Thursday also signals the extension of MPA's MFM mandate to the delivery of distillate bunkers after it was enforced on delivery of MFOs in January 2017.

Singapore Shipping Association's executive director Michael Phoon said that the shipping community here welcomes MPA's move, which he viewed as an expansion of the "bunker offerings" here.

Shipowners have already benefitted from faster turnaround times for refuelling their vessels with MFO since the MFM mandate was introduced. The use of MFMs, or essentially metered pipes, reduces human intervention in measuring marine fuel being transferred between buyers and sellers. It has helped reduce disputes between sellers and buyers, and has bolstered the efficiency of MFO bunkering operations at the Port of Singapore.

Capt Segar also said that MPA has set aside S$9 million as co-funding to help defray the costs that bunker suppliers would incur in adopting MFM systems for supplying distillates bunker. "All existing bunker tankers that are registered with MPA as being used for distillates delivery as at today would be eligible for a co-funding incentive of S$60,000 per vessel."

In 2017, MPA invested almost S$17 million to help the industry implement the mandatory use of MPA-approved MFMs for the delivery of MFOs. There are 135 bunker tankers carrying MFO that are fitted with MPA-approved MFMs as at April 1. MPA had extended a grant of S$80,000 for each bunker vessel fitted with MFMs for MFO delivery.

The MFM grant extended for MFO tankers is higher than that announced for distillate bunker tankers. The difference is partly due to the MFM requirement for each fuel type, one observer said.

Regional manager of International Bunker Industry Association Simon Neo noted that current MFO bunker tankers are generally bigger than those being used to supply distillates bunker. By his estimate, the MFM system for a distillates bunker tanker of 1,000 dwt would cost about S$90,000 when compared to S$150,000 for an MFM system used in the average MFO bunker tanker, he said.

Singapore bunker sales hit a new record high of 50.6 million tonnes in 2017, defusing earlier uncertainty over how the MFM mandate may impact bunkering volumes here.

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

Court orders more than $1.5m to be confiscated

Straits Times
19 Apr 2018
Lydia Lam

Sentenced to nine months' jail in 2013 for storing more than 307 cartons of contraband cigarettes, Tan Hock Chwee also had cash, a luxury watch and bank deposits confiscated from him then.

Now, the 68-year-old has been issued a confiscation order for more than $1.5 million by the High Court after a further probe - $800,000 of which had been used to buy a terrace house, and the rest coming from the increase in value of the house.

After Tan was sentenced in 2013, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) found that he had "significant wealth that could not be satisfactorily accounted for".

In a joint statement with the police and Singapore Customs, the CAD said it established that Tan had accumulated $875,288.70 of unexplained wealth between Jan 1, 2009, and July 25, 2012. He used part of this to buy a terrace house in 2010 which subsequently experienced a capital gain of around $700,000.

"This capital gain is also regarded as part of Tan's benefits from criminal conduct," said the agencies.

Anyone who is convicted of a serious offence under the Second Schedule of the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act can have the benefits derived by him from criminal conduct confiscated.

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

High Court dismisses bid for by-election in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC

Straits Times
10 Apr 2018
Yuen Sin

The High Court has dismissed a legal challenge that called for three MPs to vacate their spots in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, and for a by-election to be held.

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) assistant treasurer Wong Souk Yee had made the application to the High Court after Madam Halimah Yacob resigned as an MP from the constituency to run in last September's presidential election.

Speaking after the ruling, SDP chairman Paul Tambyah said SDP is "very disappointed" with the ruling. The party will study the judgment and consult Dr Wong and lawyer Peter Low on whether to appeal.

In his ruling yesterday, Justice Chua Lee Ming said there is no legal provision for sitting MPs to be compelled to leave their seats, when one spot in their GRC is vacated.

He disagreed with Mr Low's claim that there is inconsistency between the Constitution and Section 24(2A) of the Parliamentary Elections Act.

Mr Low argued that if a by-election is not called, the Parliamentary Elections Act should be interpreted such that all MPs of the GRC have to leave their spots when one seat is left empty, or when no remaining MP is a minority candidate.

He cited Article 49(1) of the Constitution, which states that when "the seat of a member... has become vacant for any reason other than a dissolution of Parliament, the vacancy shall be filled by election".

But the judge, who heard the application in January, rejected Mr Low's reading of Article 49(1).

The Constitution does spell out - in Article 46(2) - the circumstances under which a seat becomes vacant, and none of them applies to the remaining MPs in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, he noted.

These circumstances include an MP giving up his Singapore citizenship or leaving the political party he represented at the election.

Justice Chua concluded that there is no legal basis to require the other MPs in the GRC to vacate their seats, adding that there is no inconsistency in the law.

"The applicant's argument is simply that because Article 49(1) has triggered a by-election in the present case, the remaining MPs must vacate their seats by resigning because otherwise a by-election cannot be held. In my view, this is a circuitous argument," he noted.

He also disagreed with Mr Low's view that a by-election must be held as voters have lost their right to be represented. It is the GRC team that represents the GRC, he said, and voters continue to be represented by the team, "albeit comprising one MP less".

The ruling preserves the legal status quo, which requires by-elections when single seats are vacated, but not when one MP in a GRC leaves the seat. In a GRC, by-elections are required only when all MPs vacate their seats.

This is the first time a legal challenge has been mounted to determine whether a by-election is mandatory when a seat has been vacated in a GRC. A previous challenge in 2012 involved a single seat.

The three remaining MPs in Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC are National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, Mr Ong Teng Koon and Mr Alex Yam. MP Zaqy Mohamad from the nearby Chua Chu Kang GRC has taken on the role of grassroots adviser to the ward Madam Halimah had served in.

The PAP-held GRC was contested by SDP in the last General Election in 2015. PAP got 68.7 per cent of the vote against SDP's 31.3 per cent.

Although SDP pulled out of the legal challenge last November when the Attorney-General argued it had no standing in the issue, Dr Wong, who is a resident of the GRC, remained as sole plaintiff.

Yesterday, the court also ordered Dr Wong to pay the State costs of $10,764.35. Dr Wong was not in court for the ruling. Dr Tambyah and SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan were present.

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

SGX objects to Henn Tan as Trek CEO; orders EGM on the matter

Business Times
27 Apr 2018
Chia Yan Min

THE Singapore Exchange (SGX) has "serious concerns" about Trek 2000 International's chief executive Henn Tan continuing in his role and has ordered the company to call an extraordinary general meeting to vote on his appointment and that of other key executives - including that of Foo Kok Wah as president of operations, sales and customised solutions.

In addition, the bourse regulator has barred Mr Tan as a director or executive officer in any listed company for the next three years. It also banned Mr Foo, as well as executive directors Poo Teng Pin and Gurcharan Singh, from being appointed as directors or executive officers in any listed company for the next three years.

The notice of compliance slapped on the mainboard listed technology company followed the implication of key executives in a recent forensic review of the company's dealings which uncovered potential breaches of various Singapore laws against round-tripping, misappropriation, forgery and fraud.

SGX said the company's audit committee and nominating committee chairman Chay Yee Meng has informed the bourse that Mr Tan and Mr Foo have been removed as cheque signatories for the company.

The exchange said it requires confirmation from every member of the board that internal procedures to safeguard the group's cash are adequate and effective.

This confirmation has to be submitted to the exchange by May 4 and will apply to future directors appointed by the company, until further notice.

Citing concerns about the effectiveness of the company's internal controls, the exchange also instructed the company to appoint independent professionals to undertake a review of its corporate governance practices.

Earlier this week, forensic accountants from RSM Corporate Advisory released findings on various suspect transactions involving current and former senior company officers, including chairman and chief executive Henn Tan, who founded the company.

Trek had appointed RSM in June 2016 to conduct an independent review into certain interested party transactions, as well as review suspicious transactions which were the subject of Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) investigations.

Among other things, RSM raised issues involving possible round-tripping transactions, fabrication and alteration of transaction documents, as well as possible fraudulent and erroneous claims under the Productivity and Innovation Credit tax scheme.

Mr Tan has denied financial impropriety and said he had not been aware of certain business dealings, including the fabrication of some documents as well as certain transactions that RSM deemed fictitious.

In its notice, the bourse regulator said it has "immediate and serious concerns" about the suitability of Mr Tan and president of operations, sales and customised solutions Foo Kok Wah to continue in their roles.

The company must hold an extraordinary general meeting "as soon as practicable" for shareholders to vote on their continued appointment, SGX said. Those implicated in the report, as well as their associates, must abstain from voting.

Trek 2000 unveiled its ThumbDrive storage device in 2000, the same year it was listed on Sesdaq, Singapore's then junior board.

On Thursday, its shares recovered S$0.001 to S$0.152 after plunging 33 per cent on Wednesday.

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

Man charged with causing hurt to MP, criminal trespass

Straits Times
19 Apr 2018
Cheryl Tee

A man was charged yesterday with voluntarily causing hurt to Jurong GRC MP Tan Wu Meng during a Meet-the-People Session in Clementi.

Mohammad Ameen Mohamed Maideen, 32, is also accused of criminal trespass.

Ameen entered a first-floor unit at Block 334 Clementi Avenue 2 at around 10.10pm on Monday, the court heard.

He grabbed Dr Tan forcefully around the neck, slammed him backwards against the wall and punched him multiple times, according to court documents.

Ameen, who is now remanded at the Institute of Mental Health, will be back in court on May 10, said District Judge Adam Nakhoda.

Dr Tan gave an account of the incident in a Facebook post on Tuesday, writing that a young man had rushed into the interview area during the session and started hitting him.

"I was with another resident, and suddenly found myself being hit and fell to the ground," he wrote, adding that the attacker was quickly restrained by residents and volunteers. Dr Tan suffered bruises on his arm and abrasions on his neck.

After a check-up at the National University Hospital, Dr Tan said he returned to the session to continue writing appeal letters for residents, including for his alleged attacker.

"Police are investigating. But whatever the outcome under the law, I hope he can get back on track and will try to help him do so," he said.

If convicted of voluntarily causing hurt, Ameen could be jailed for up to two years, fined up to $5,000, or both. A criminal trespass conviction can bring a jail term of up to three months, fines of up to $1,500 or both.

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

Competition watchdog to conduct studies to launch protection role

Business Times
10 Apr 2018

Singapore

SINGAPORE'S competition watchdog launched its new consumer protection role on Monday with the announcement of two market studies - on online travel booking and the transfer of personal data.

In one study, the renamed Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) will focus on the online booking of flight tickets and hotel accommodation in Singapore, given the growing popularity of the medium.

It will examine the types of commercial arrangements entered into between third-party online travel-booking platforms and service providers, and how they compete with each other.

The second is a joint study with the Personal Data Protection Commission to examine consumer protection, competition and personal data protection issues which may arise if a data portability requirement is introduced in Singapore.

Data portability enables consumers to request that data, such as photos and videos, they provide to a service provider be transferred to a competing provider that they switch to. Several jurisdictions overseas have provided for or are considering providing for such a right. This will foster competition among service providers by easing the process for consumers to switch, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon on Monday.

He announced the two studies at the launch of the watchdog's new role, at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The Competition Commission of Singapore was renamed the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore on April 1, when it took over the enforcement of rules related to retailers who persist in unfair trade practices under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act (CPFTA).

Spring Singapore, which previously administered the Act, merged with trade agency International Enterprise Singapore on the same day to form Enterprise Singapore.

This new merged agency focuses on providing support for local businesses, while continuing to oversee regulations involving safety requirements for consumer goods.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) will remain the first point of contact for complaints against errant retailers.

CCCS chairman Aubeck Kam said at the launch that more than 70 per cent of such complaints handled by Case are successfully resolved through mediation, allowing disputes to be resolved without unnecessary cost.

Retailers who do not stop their unfair practices, however, such as making false claims, will be referred to the commission for investigation.

It is empowered to gather evidence against such businesses, file injunction applications against them and enforce compliance with injunction orders issued by the courts.

It will also work closely with the police so that cases involving criminal acts such as cheating are dealt with seamlessly, said Mr Kam, who is also Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Manpower.

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

Divorce court cannot decide asset claims by third parties

Straits Times
26 Apr 2018
Selina Lum

Apex court says civil suit to decide ownership must be started before proceedings over asset division continue

Singapore's highest court has ruled that a Family Justice Court does not have the power to hear or determine claims made by a third party on property involved in divorce proceedings. The ruling comes in a landmark judgment yesterday by a five-judge Court of Appeal.

The matter centres on a dispute over the ownership of a divorcing couple's matrimonial home. The wife's mother claims the property, which is now valued at more than $5 million, belongs to her.

But the apex court ruled that under the Women's Charter - the law that provides for marriage and divorce - a Family Justice Court only has power to divide assets in the specific context of matrimonial proceedings involving the two spouses.

A separate civil suit has to be started to determine the ownership of the disputed property before proceedings to divide matrimonial assets can continue before a Family Justice Court.

The Court of Appeal recognised that there have been past cases in which judges dealing with the division of matrimonial assets have determined the ownership of assets claimed by third parties. These cases were "wrongly decided", it said.

The decision arose out of a long-running case that started in 2008 when the husband, a foreigner in his 50s, filed for divorce from his Singaporean wife, who is in her 40s.

In July 2015, the wife's mother applied to intervene in the divorce proceedings. She wanted to dispute the husband's claim that a house that was in her name can be counted as a matrimonial asset as she was holding it in trust for the couple.

Then Judicial Commissioner Debbie Ong ruled that the matrimonial proceedings should be stayed to allow the husband to pursue a civil action to determine the ownership of the disputed property.

The wife's mother appealed. In February, the Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal, upholding the lower court's decision.

The court's detailed grounds, penned by Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash, was released yesterday. The court also comprised Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang, Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong.

The court acknowledged arguments by the wife's mother that it will save time and costs to deal with the issue in the same set of proceedings, but emphasised that the jurisdiction of the court is governed by legislation.

"We cannot arrogate jurisdiction to ourselves where the legislature has not conferred it," said the court.

The judgment also set out the options available when a third party wants to stake a claim to a disputed asset in divorce proceedings.

The husband, who is represented by Mr Salem Ibrahim and Ms Kulvinder Kaur, has since filed a civil suit, seeking a declaration that the property is a matrimonial asset.

Among other things, he contends he paid a "very substantial" portion of the purchase price of the house, which was bought in 2003.


$5m

Current value of the property, the dispute over which led to the ruling.

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

UDA v UDB and another [2018] SGCA 20

Mr Bean's foray into local food sours

Straits Times
19 Apr 2018
Jan Lee

Fans of yong tau foo say the chilli sauce can make or break the dish.

This, together with the ingredients and cooking methods, is at the heart of a legal food fight between a popular yong tau foo food shop in Tiong Bahru and operators of the Mr Bean chain.

The people behind Tiong Bahru Yong Tau Hu shop in Eng Hoon Street claim the chilli sauce, ingredients and cooking methods as their trade secret.

After setting up a joint venture, the Mr Bean chain started selling yong tau foo at its outlets using the Tiong Bahru shop's recipes.

But then things turned sour. Now the shop's operators - Mr Yeo Kee and Ms Yen Fan Ching - want a court injunction to stop the Mr Bean chain from using and disclosing their trade secrets.

They have named Mr Loh Jwee Poh and Mr Koh Thiam Soon of Bean United, Mr Simon Lim of Super Bean, Bean United and the joint venture - 118 Tiong Bahru Yong Tau Hu - as defendants.

Super Bean operates the Mr Bean chain while Bean United was set up by the company which owns the Mr Bean chain to facilitate the joint venture.

Mr Yeo and Ms Yen went into the joint venture with Bean United in 2015. As part of the agreement, Ms Yen became one of the shareholders of 118 Tiong Bahru Yong Tau Hu while Mr Yeo held the trademark of Tiong Bahru Yong Tau Hu, which he secured that same year.

Among other things, the deal meant Mr Bean would be allowed to sell yong tau foo using the pair's recipes at Mr Bean outlets.

But things went bad from December 2015.

After an initial $30,000 investment, Ms Yen says she was told the joint venture was profitable and to pump in another $90,000 to expand the business.

But Ms Yen claims she was not given substantive updates and was later told the business was making losses. She further claims that she was told she was personally liable for the losses.

She and Mr Yeo both claim the defendants knew they could not understand English well and did not have prior experience in joint ventures.

She is suing to get the $120,000 back.

As for Mr Yeo, he claims Bean United withheld royalty and technical fees meant to be paid to him. He says this was done because he did not sign over the master licence to Bean United.

The master licence would have given Bean United the rights to sell products using the Tiong Bahru Yong Tau Hu brand name.

He is demanding a true and full account of royalty and technical fees, and damages owed. He also wants an injunction to stop Bean United from using and disclosing Tiong Bahru Yong Tau Hu's trade secrets.

He claims that Mr Bean outlets were still selling his yong tau foo after the joint venture was terminated in April last year.

The defendants say Ms Yen and Mr Yeo are not entitled to any such claims.

Among other things, the defendants also deny Ms Yen's claims that the joint venture had initially exceeded profit expectations. The case has yet to be heard in court.

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

New rules clear way for use of in-facing cams in cabs

Straits Times
10 Apr 2018
Irene Tham

Guidelines will help protect private-hire drivers and cabbies from abuse, fare cheats

Taxi and private-hire car drivers scored a victory against fare cheats and abusive passengers with the roll-out of new rules that allow drivers to insist on the use of inward-facing video cameras.

The rules, which kicked in yesterday, clarify the use of such cameras against the backdrop of privacy laws.

Passengers who do not want to be recorded can choose not to use the transport service, Singapore's privacy watchdog, the Personal Data Protection Commission, said in its new advisory guidelines on in-vehicle recording by transport service providers.

The National Taxi Association had been lobbying for the use of inward-facing video cameras in taxis since 2015 to tackle unruly passengers and fare evaders.

Said the association's executive adviser, labour MP Ang Hin Kee: "The cameras will provide a greater sense of security, especially for female drivers, and help resolve disputes."

He holds the same position with the National Private Hire Vehicles Association, which represents the interests of Uber and Grab drivers.

While there has been no rule against the use of inward-facing cameras in private-hire vehicles and cabs, privacy laws have created some uncertainty.

The image or voice of a person constitutes personal data, and in 2016, the privacy watchdog started a series of closed-door consultations with taxi and private-hire driver associations, the Vehicle Rental Association, and taxi and car rental companies to address the use of such data.

After several months, the privacy watchdog, working closely with the Land Transport Authority (LTA), developed the guidelines.

LTA assured consumers that taxi and private-hire car drivers need to seek its approval before installing these inward-facing cameras. LTA requires safeguards to be in place. Transport service companies and drivers must also abide by the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), fully in force since July 2, 2014.

For instance, transport service providers must put in place adequate security measures to protect consumers' personal data or risk fines of up to $1 million under the PDPA.

The new advisories also require transport service providers to display a prominent notice about the use of inward-facing video cameras.

While commuters understand that drivers need protection - the Public Transport Council said there were 240 cases of fare evasion in 2015, up from 68 in 2012 - some are worried about privacy intrusion.

Teacher Jerena Tan, 30, said: "What if the driver takes videos of children or women, and uses the recording privately? "

Online bookstore owner Jiang Meiru, 36, added: "Although I use a nursing cover when nursing my baby in the cab, I will still feel uncomfortable with a camera."

Privacy advocate and engineer Ngiam Shih Tung, 51, said there must be rules that govern access to the videos, adding: "In the past, only one driver could see you. But now, there could be thousands of eyes."

ComfortDelGro had, in 2013, installed inward-facing cameras in the mobile data terminals in its taxis, but has since removed all the cameras. Said spokesman Tammy Tan: "We are currently reviewing the new guidelines and will work with our drivers to best look after their interests."

Mr Andrew Chan, head of GrabCar Singapore, welcomed the new guidelines. "(They) could also pave the way for new policy development to better protect the welfare of all our driver-partners and passengers, such as reducing instances of fare evasions," he said.


Passengers' rights

• Transport service providers must display a prominent notice to inform passengers that inward-facing video cameras are deployed, and to explain their purpose.

• Passengers who do not want to be recorded can choose not to use the transport service.

• Passengers can withdraw the consent for the use of the recording. Even so, privacy laws carry exceptions allowing the videos to be used in official investigations, including those conducted by transport operators to settle disputes between passengers and drivers.

• Drivers are not allowed to upload such videos on social media.

• Passengers can request to view or be given such recordings. The cost is borne by the transport company, but if the company deems it too expensive to retrieve the recording, it can refuse the request.

• Transport service providers must also have adequate security measures to protect consumers' personal data or risk fines of up to $1 million under the Personal Data Protection Act, fully in force since July 2, 2014.

Irene Tham

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

Missing words in statement of claim cost property agent, firm

Straits Times
26 Apr 2018
K.C. Vijayan

Eight missing words in a statement of claim cost a property agent and her firm a share of the commission from a $1.3 million property sale.

In a case which had the High Court reminding lawyers of the need to follow legal procedure, Justice Choo Han Teck dismissed the property firm's application for an appeal, adding "this case is a tragic-comedy of minor proportions".

Not only that, the firm Edmund Tie & Company (SEA) was also ordered by the High Court to pay $1,500 in costs.

The case revolved around a commission its agent Lim Chee Mei, who represented the buyer of the property, was supposed to receive. She had worked out a co-broking deal with the seller's agent Fong Kok Hung, where she was to receive $13,385 or $6,225, whichever is more. But they had a spat, and she was not given anything.

Her firm then took the Savills Residential agent to the State Courts to sue for $13,385, but was unsuccessful. The firm's lawyers had missed out eight words in the statement of claim. In leaving out "or such sum as the court deems fit", her claim became an all or nothing legal spat.

Mr Fong produced the original documents where he had agreed in writing to pay her a fee of $6,255 plus GST. Another line - or 50 per cent of the commission payable by the seller to him, whichever is higher - was struck out in the original document.

This line would have entitled Ms Lim and her firm to the $13,385 fee.

In Ms Lim's copy of the document, the words that would have entitled her to the higher commissions were there, but she wrote it in.

The district judge held she was not entitled to the $13,385 fee, and since she argued for the higher sum, "no more, no less", she would receive nothing.

Her firm Edmund Tie then applied to the High Court for permission to appeal the case, arguing "grave injustice" had been done.

In the High Court hearing earlier this month, her lawyer Tan Bar Tien argued that she should be given the $6,225 sum, at the very least. He added that he had pleaded for "such further relief as the court deems fit" but the judge found this was of no help as it was sought as a separate relief meant to help facilitate any main orders.

Mr Fong's lawyer Kenny Khoo countered that she had tied her own hands in the trial on an "all or nothing" basis.

Justice Choo said it was a "straightforward" case but procedure was not followed. In judgment grounds issued last week, he refused the appeal, ruling the trial judge had made the correct order in not granting something she did not ask for.

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

Edmund Tie & Company (SEA) Pte Ltd v Savills Residential Pte Ltd [2018] SGHC 84

Passenger-facing cameras: Encrypt recordings and restrict access

Straits Times
19 Apr 2018
Irene Tham

Rules are needed to safeguard passenger privacy if cab and private-hire car drivers are allowed to install in-facing cameras

Singapore's privacy watchdog, the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), caused a minor furore on Monday last week when it said cab and private-hire car drivers can use passenger-facing video cameras as a way to deter fare cheats and abusive passengers.

That bit of information was contained in its new guidelines on in-vehicle recording by transport service providers.

The National Taxi Association has lobbied for at least three years to have such in-facing cameras in taxis to protect cabbies.With privacy issues being raised in more recent months, the PDPC came up with guidelines to require transport service providers to display a prominent notice about the use of passenger-facing video cameras. It also wants transport service providers to have adequate security measures to protect consumers' personal data or risk fines of up to $1 million under the Personal Data Protection Act.

Commuters were quick to respond with more privacy concerns such as whether drivers can access the recorded footage and how long the data can be kept.

"Just as drivers are guarded against random passengers, the drivers are also complete strangers to us. How can I be sure that my footage is in the right hands? " said Mrs Sakura Yin, 44, a housewife.

"We are aware that people take photographs of children and work with trafficking syndicates overseas," she added.

But as it turns out, the PDPC might have been jumping the gun a little.

This is because the Land Transport Authority (LTA) that regulates transport service providers has not firmed up its rules on such in-facing cameras.

For example, it is looking into whether the driver or transport service provider is the one who should be responsible for such cameras' installation and footage, and who is authorised to access and view such video.

In the interim, at least one thing is clear: It is an offence to install or use an inward-facing camera in any public service vehicle without the LTA's approval. First-time offenders can be fined up to $1,000 or jailed up to three months, or both.

Commuters can relax for now.

But when the rules are set, what might a reasonable regime look like for regulating such in-facing camera use? Here's a look at what might work, drawing from other countries' experiences.

SANCTIONED EQUIPMENT, AUTHORISED ACCESS

In Queensland, Australia, the Department of Transport and Main Roads needs to approve the equipment for use in personalised transport vehicles including taxis and limousines.

A similar rule is also adopted by New Zealand's Transport Agency.

In Queensland, all images and audio files must be encrypted. If the camera system has removable storage drives such as SD cards, they must be fastened within the system cabinet by specialised security screws that prohibit easy access.

The two regulators also require the installed camera systems to be certified independently by registered third parties to ensure compliance with these official specifications.

Access is tightly controlled so that the drivers cannot download or view the recordings independently. For instance, in Queensland, access to video footage can be triggered only when a valid complaint is made to the local authorities. After a report is filed and an application made to retrieve the video, an approved third party then downloads the recordings from the in-vehicle camera system. Investigations into driver assault, passenger molestation or fare evasion are then done by the Queensland Police Service.

Video recordings cannot be stored indefinitely. Technical specifications laid out by the Queensland and New Zealand transport authorities require the certified camera systems to store about 168 hours, or seven days, of video before the oldest data is overwritten by new recordings. Because of the storage cap, drivers and passengers are advised to lodge complaints as soon as an incident has occurred to allow for time to retrieve the recorded information in the cameras.

In the same way, Singapore's authorities can appoint vendors to manage camera data download, store the data securely in the cloud and restrict access to it.

Lawyer Gilbert Leong, a senior partner at Dentons Rodyk & Davidson, said it will be easier to manage and enforce personal data protection if the Singapore authorities outsource equipment installation and data storage and retrieval to a vendor.

"Live streaming of encrypted content can be done to a central, secure server," he said.

Unlike Singapore's PDPC, Hong Kong's privacy watchdog, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, specifies that the in-vehicle camera storage system has to be encrypted. In Hong Kong, the rule is that such recorded content can be kept for up to one month, and can be accessed only after gaining consent from the Association of Taxi Industry Development, formed by taxi firm owners and involving 5,000 cabs.

The LTA should also require all recordings to be encrypted and ensure drivers do not have the security keys to access the footage.

NOTIFICATION PROCESS

People should be adequately notified that they are being filmed before they get into a hailed cab.

Singapore's privacy watchdog, however, does not prescribe the manner in which transport service providers should notify consumers about the use of passenger-facing video cameras. Having a standard notice might be desirable.

A common sign is easier to spot. For instance, Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads requires notification signs to be 10cm by 4cm in size, and placed at each door of the vehicle and in another place within the vehicle so passengers can readily see the sign.

The message is standardised too: "Security cameras are fitted. You will be photographed and conversations will be recorded. Image and audio recordings may be used for authorised purposes under passenger transport legislation, including by police for law enforcement. For more information: www.tmr.qld.gov.au."

Singapore's LTA could mandate a standard sign for cab drivers to display. The authority could also require ride-hailing apps such as Grab to include a feature that flags the cars fitted with these cameras so consumers can cancel the ride if they object to being recorded.

PRIVATE-HIRE CARS

There is no precedent for regulating the use of passenger-facing cameras in Uber or Grab cars in Australia, New Zealand or Hong Kong.

For one thing, moves last year in Queensland, Australia, to mandate the installation of passenger-and driver-facing cameras in Uber cars failed.

Drivers of private-hire cars, such as those on Uber, are less likely to be assaulted than drivers of taxis hailed along the road by commuters. This is because passengers are known individuals when they book an Uber ride and can be identified easily for any wrongdoing.

While the LTA is not likely to mandate that all cab and private-hire car drivers in Singapore install these cameras like in Queensland, it also does not make sense for the authority to have separate rules for cab and private-hire car drivers like what is happening in Queensland.

Here is perhaps where the LTA can break new ground.

In-vehicle recording is not a new concept in Singapore - buses and trains have them. The difference is that big groups of people are recorded at a time in the bus or train, and the audio recorded is diffused. In a private car or cab, that recording focuses on one or just a few individuals, raising the intrusion level.

It is not likely that the LTA will go the way of Queensland to make it mandatory for cabs or private-hire cars to install passenger-facing cameras. But as its permission is needed before any such camera is installed, it is in a powerful position to come up with rules that protect drivers' interests while safeguarding passengers' concerns.

It should spell out minimum standards required before it will grant approval for such cameras to be installed. These standards should apply to both cabs and private cars for hire:

• Insist on recordings being encrypted, ensuring that drivers have no access unless the access is granted by local authorities.

• Insist on those recordings being stored securely for a specified length of time, such as not more than a week.

• Restrict access so recordings are viewed by authorised people only when needed for law enforcement or complaint management, and cannot be accessed for casual viewing.

• Determine who has to pay for the service and apply it to both cab and private-hire car drivers.

• Require both cab companies and ride-hailing apps such as Grab to include a feature that flags the cars fitted with such cameras, so consumers can cancel the ride if they object to being recorded.

Having a set of standard, and sensible, rules could level the playing field and go a long way to protect consumers.

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

Workers' Party Constitution amended in major update

Straits Times
09 Apr 2018

The Workers' Party (WP) has amended its Constitution in its first major update in six decades.

Cadres voted for changes that include inserting a call for "diverse representation" in its central executive council (CEC).

This replaces a clause stating that cadres must "keep in mind the need for genuine interracial cooperation and the representation of the workers" when electing its party leaders.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim had earlier told The Straits Times that the party has been "reasonably successful" in electing a multi-ethnic team of leaders, but party politics has traditionally been male-dominated, especially in the leadership.

Yesterday, she said that encouraging women to come on board has and continues to be a challenge.

She noted that the new CEC has just two women among its 14 members - herself and former Punggol East MP Lee Li Lian. There was just one other woman - Ms Cheryl Loh - among the 23 candidates who contested.

"It's too few. We have to pull up our socks and give the men a challenge," said Ms Lim with a laugh.

The meeting also deleted references to "colonial exploitation" and "seeking unity of workers of Singapore" in the party's objectives. These were part of WP's founding belief that it would be a party exclusively for trade unionists. It has since widened its reach.

The WP Constitution had not undergone a major review since it was drafted in the 1950s.

A focus group and two open sessions were conducted on the changes, according to a report by outgoing party chief Low Thia Khiang that was circulated yesterday.

Ng Jun Sen

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

‘Severely limited’ options in sentencing intellectually disabled offenders: High Court in teen rapist case

TODAY
26 Apr 2018

SINGAPORE — While criminal laws here provide for offenders of unsound mind, there are no provisions for the intellectually disabled who are not of unsound mind, a High Court judge said.

Last month, he lamented the "severely limited" options available while sentencing a teen rapist to reformative training.

For crimes with a minimum jail term, the court has no discretion to reduce the term on account of the offender's intellectual disability, Justice Woo Bih Li wrote in his grounds of decision for the case, which was made public on Wednesday (April 25).

The court also lacks discretion to reduce the number of strokes of the cane for such offenders, where a minimum number is specified by the law.

While men above the age of 50 and women are spared caning, there is no exception for people with intellectual disability, Justice Woo noted.

Prosecutors, who are appealing the decision, had pushed for 15 to 18 years' jail and at least 15 strokes of the cane for the 17-year-old, who was 14 when he committed the crimes in November 2014.

The teen, who was not named, has an IQ of 61 and scored 43 in his Primary School Leaving Examination.

He was studying at Assumption Pathway School in Upper Bukit Timah, which offers a special curriculum for students who cannot get into mainstream schools.

The victim, a 16-year-old girl, is also intellectually disabled and from the same school.

While out in Bukit Panjang on Nov 21, 2014, the boy spotted his victim at a traffic light junction, tailed her to a housing block where she lived, followed her as she was reaching her home, and sexually assaulted and raped her along a corridor.

He pleaded guilty to aggravated rape and two charges of sexual assault by penetration. Six other charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

REFORMATIVE TRAINING VS JAIL TIME

Justice Woo explained why he sentenced the teen to reformative training even after a prison psychiatrist said that there was a 75 to 80 per cent chance he would not benefit from the regime, which requires "a certain level of cognitive functioning".

Such training applies to offenders below 21 and lasts between 18 months and three years.

Even if the teen is sentenced to 18 years' jail, as the prosecution proposed, "what would become of (him) and of those around him when he is subsequently released in his early 30s? Would society be better protected when (he) is released from incarceration, stronger and bigger, but lacking insight into the consequences that his choices and conduct carry?", Justice Woo questioned.

"It was for this reason that I considered rehabilitation important, not as an extravagant ideal but rather a practical longer-term solution to the issues that would inevitably confront the accused and implicate the broader society," he explained.

A prison official had testified that reformative training officers would try to help those with intellectual disabilities, although there were time and resource constraints.

The case raises a more fundamental issue of the limited sentencing options for such offenders, Justice Woo said.

The defence's expert, Dr Bosco Lee, had testified that the teen should ideally be warded in a mental institution with special treatment programmes and facilities.

Another expert, veteran child psychiatrist Cai Yiming, had said it was important to keep him safely in a structured environment and focus on helping him overcome disability in a way he could understand.

Dr Cai suggested an "RTC plus" system where an offender could spend three years at the Reformative Training Centre, and a few more years after that undergoing counselling, learning to reject negative peer influence and doing vocational training.

The law provides for supervision of up to a year, for offenders sentenced to reformative training for the maximum three years, Justice Woo noted.

Dr Cai doubted whether reformative training would be able to rehabilitate the teen.

When informed that a jail term would come with caning, Dr Cai asked if the caning could be modified, the judge wrote.

"The question arises as to whether reformative training should remain available to young persons with intellectual disabilities. If not, why not, and what other options should then be put in place," Justice Woo added.

"In my view, it cannot be right that a young offender with intellectual disability is to be sentenced, by default, as if he was an adult because of his intellectual disability."

Reformative training has been imposed before on young sex offenders. The Singapore Prison Service prepares reports to determine the suitability of such training for offenders. Out of 830 reports done from Jan 1, 2015 to Nov 20, 2017, 11 offenders including the teenager were convicted of offences of rape, sexual assault by penetration and/or outrage of modesty. Nine, excluding the teen, were sentenced to reformative training.

Among the 830 reports, there were 19 offenders who had sub-normal IQ, of whom eight were assessed to be likely to benefit from reformative training and three were given the sentence.

Since his arrest, the teen has been placed at the Singapore Boys' Home and was assessed to be well-behaved. This suggests he was "not as irredeemable as one might have assumed", Justice Woo said.

Copyright 2018 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Public Prosecutor v ASR [2018] SGHC 94

Law firm MD fined $10K for failing to flag suspicious deal

Straits Times
18 Apr 2018
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

Though aware China client's money for house deal was likely ill-gotten, she did not report it

A Singapore law firm director decided to find out more about a "high net worth client" who was buying a house in Sentosa Cove - and discovered she was linked to one of China's biggest Ponzi schemes, involving $10.8 billion.

But Kang Bee Leng, 56, failed to notify the authorities that a sum of almost $5.5 million involved in the purchase could have stemmed from criminal activities.

The managing director of Sterling Law Corp was fined $10,000 yesterday, after pleading guilty to the offence last month. If one has reason to suspect that a property deal is connected to criminal conduct, one is legally obliged to alert the authorities about it.

In October 2015, real estate agent Tan Yen Hsi, 37, referred the purchase of a $23.8 million Lakeshore View property to Kang to carry out the conveyancing work.

The buyer was Zhang Min, former president of Yucheng International Holdings, whose firm launched her country's largest online peer-to-peer lender Ezubao.

To find out more about Zhang, the lawyer conducted online checks on the Chinese national and found out that the Yucheng Group purportedly provided financial services in China and Hong Kong.

Zhang had paid $5,481,180 for items such as conveyance fees to Kang's firm and stamp duties between October and November 2015. However, Kang was unable to contact her on Jan 12, 2016 - a day before the scheduled completion of the property purchase. The lawyer alerted Tan, who told her that, according to online news reports, Zhang had been detained by the Chinese authorities.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jean Ting said: "The accused then did her own online searches to verify this and found news articles to the effect that Yucheng Group was under investigation for fraud in relation to its online peer-to-peer lending platform, and that several suspects had been detained by the Chinese authorities since December 2015."

Some time in March or April 2016, Kang came across news articles in The Straits Times and The Business Times stating that the Ezubao platform was a Ponzi scheme.

"Despite the accused's suspicion that the monies used by Zhang Min for the property purchase could have been derived from the Ponzi scheme, she did not file an STR (suspicious transaction report)," said DPP Ng.

Zhang and 24 others had reportedly been sentenced to between three and 15 years' jail in Beijing over her involvement in financial fraud. The court heard that the property purchase transaction was not completed as the remaining sum was left unpaid.

Tan appeared in court in November last year, after he also allegedly failed to report the suspicious property deal to the authorities. The pre-trial conference for his case will be held on April 26. The Straits Times understands that Tan is no longer a real estate agent.

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

Pritam Singh elected unopposed as Workers' Party leader

Business Times
09 Apr 2018

Aljunied GRC MP Pritam Singh has been elected unopposed as the secretary-general of the Workers' Party, marking a smooth handover of power at Singapore's biggest opposition party.

Party sources said his was the only name nominated - to unanimous and rousing applause - during the WP party conference on Sunday when cadres elected their party chief.

Given that Chen Show Mao, 57, had challenged outgoing party leader Low Thia Khiang for the post unsuccessfully in 2016, there was speculation about whether he would do so again this time around.

But a contest did not materialise.

Party chairman Sylvia Lim, 53, was re-elected to her post unopposed, also to an enthusiastic reception.

The posts of secretary-general and chairman are elected separately.

The last time the WP saw a leadership transition was in 2001, when Mr Low was elected unopposed as party chief to succeed Mr J B Jeyaretnam.

Mr Singh, 41, had been tipped as the front runner for secretary-general ever since Mr Low, 61, surprised Singaporeans last November by announcing that he will be stepping down.

Though Mr Low has not spoken about what future role he will play in the party, many are expecting that he will stay on in its top decision-making body.

Any cadre who is at the meeting, and with a seconder, can be nominated for the other 12 seats on the central executive council. The 12 with the highest votes will be selected.

Cadres arrived at its new headquarters at the four-storey Teambuild Centre at 701 Geylang Road shortly before 2pm. Mr Low was all smiles, saying in Mandarin that he was in a good mood.

"Wah, so many people here. Looks like a general election," he quipped, when he saw the media scrum awaiting him.

Sunday's leadership change marks a new chapter for the WP.

Under Mr Low's charge over the past 17 years, the WP became Singapore's most successful opposition party since independence.

It made history when he led a team to victory in Aljunied GRC in the 2011 General Election. It now has six MPs and three Non-Constituency MPs in Parliament.

Eyes will be on to what extent Mr Singh, relatively inexperienced compared to Mr Low when he took the helm, can maintain WP's electoral performance. The next general election is due by 2021.

But for now, the first order of business for Mr Singh would be two-fold.

Mr Chen's 2016 challenge to Mr Low revealed fissures in the highly disciplined and secretive party. It turned out that Mr Chen's supporters, a group of older members, had been unhappy with Mr Low for purportedly favouring younger members when fielding election candidates.

It will now be up to Mr Singh to heal those rifts. It appears that the faction, which includes senior cadres, is willing to give him a chance by backing his nomination on Sunday.

Mr Singh will also have to contend with an ongoing lawsuit over the WP's Aljunied-Hougang Town Council's accounts.

The town council, through an independent panel, has sued the party's MPs, including Mr Low, Ms Lim and Mr Singh, for over more than S$33 million in improper payments. The case is expected to be set for trial this year.

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

Goldilocks sues to stop Noble AGM and further restructuring work

Business Times
26 Apr 2018
Andrea Soh & Rachel Mui

Ad hoc creditor group's financial adviser warns delay in Noble's restructuring will cause "irreparable damage"

GOLDILOCKS Investment Company has launched two lawsuits against Noble Group to stop the commodity trader from holding its annual general meeting next Monday and from taking any action to further the restructuring support agreement.

The ad hoc creditor group's financial adviser, however, warned that any delay in the timeline for Noble's restructuring will cause the company "irreparable damage".

Goldilocks, the third-largest shareholder of Noble, said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon: "The conduct of Noble, its board and the supporting creditors has left Goldilocks with no other alternatives but to pursue legal action, in order to protect and preserve the rights of all shareholders."

In its first lawsuit, Goldilocks is seeking remedies including declarations that it is entitled to propose directors for election to Noble's board, and to exercise its shareholder rights.

In the second lawsuit, it is asking for Noble to be restrained from taking any further actions to establish connections in the United Kingdom in its effort to move its centre of interest to the country, as well as from making progress on the restructuring support agreement.

These are "regrettable but are necessary as a direct result of coercive actions taken by Noble", said Goldilocks.

The two lawsuits, filed in Singapore, add to another one that Goldilocks launched in late March against the company and several executives, accusing them of inflating profits to raise money and justify extravagant remuneration packages.

They also come as Noble Group chairman Paul Brough on Wednesday morning urged shareholders to support the current board and its restructuring plan, arguing that Goldilocks has not offered a credible alternative.

Goldilocks had earlier nominated five individuals for election as independent non-executive directors of the company.

Noble on Monday rejected the move, saying that Goldilocks is not a member of the company - defined as being a duly registered holder of its shares - because it holds its shares through a depository agent.

"The company's rejection of that notice was in no way an act of bad faith. The board was obliged to reject the notice under Bermuda law," said Mr Brough in his letter to shareholders. "The board cannot exercise discretion where no such discretion is allowed."

In addition, he noted that the current board is the "right board to deliver the restructuring".

"The inference that I have been working to further the interests of the ad hoc group (of the company's senior creditors) is baseless... I hold no interest in the company and will not participate in the management incentive plan for New Noble."

The financial adviser to the ad hoc group of creditors, Houlihan Lokey senior managing director Joseph Swanson, also weighed in on the matter on Wednesday morning, saying that the creditors' goal has been to protect Noble's operating business for the benefit of all stakeholders.

"However, given increasing pressure, any delay in the timetable will cause the company irreparable damage," he said in a statement emailed by Noble's external spokesman. "The proposed restructuring is the only transaction on the table so creditors are focused on getting it done. No one benefits from an insolvency."

The Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX Regco) also entered the fray on Tuesday night, saying that it wants to facilitate an "open dialogue" between Noble, senior creditors and Goldilocks.

"We invite the company, the senior creditors as well as Goldilocks to engage in an open dialogue to resolve this matter substantively rather than through legal form and technicalities. SGX RegCo will facilitate the dialogue between the parties," a spokesman said.

Noble's shares fell 0.5 cent, or 5.1 per cent, to close at 9.3 Singapore cents on Wednesday.

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

Engineering firm loses appeal, fine raised instead

Straits Times
18 Apr 2018
Esther Koh

An engineering company which appealed against its conviction and sentence for a fatal workplace accident had its fine increased instead.

Five workers from Sterling Engineering were installing a steel sliding gate at a Bartley Road worksite on Sept 2, 2014 when the 1,500kg frame toppled, killing a 41-year-old Bangladeshi worker.

The Straits Times reported at the time that the worker was known to friends as Khorim.

In July last year, Sterling Engineering was fined $280,000 under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to "take reasonably practicable measures to ensure the safety and health of its employees".

It appealed against the ruling on the grounds that the design of the gate - which it asserted was the main cause of the accident - was not under the company's control.

The prosecution also filed an appeal to increase the fine.

Both appeals were presented before Justice Aedit Abdullah on April 9 this year.

The judge maintained that it is the company's responsibility, as supplier and installer, to ensure safety at the workplace.

While Sterling Engineering might not have been able to do anything about the design of the gate, it ultimately failed to meet the standards necessary for risk assessment and safety measures during the installation, said the judge.

The High Court dismissed the company's appeal and increased its fine to $330,000, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday.

Mr Sebastian Tan, MOM's director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, said the company had a duty to identify all safety risks and implement the appropriate control measures.

"The company did neither and a worker needlessly lost his life."


While Sterling Engineering might not have been able to do anything about the design of the gate, it ultimately failed to meet the standards necessary for risk assessment and safety measures during the installation, said the judge.

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

Retail giant Courts loses 'big box' trademark fight

Straits Times
07 Apr 2018
Selina Lum

High Court dismisses its appeal to remove trademark, which was registered in 2005 by Big Box mall operator

Furniture and electronics giant Courts has lost its legal fight to prevent a warehouse retail mall in Jurong from using the words "big box" as a trademark.

In a written judgment released on Thursday, the High Court dismissed an appeal by Courts to remove the trademark, which was registered in 2005 by the operator of the eight-storey Big Box mall.

Courts had argued that "big box" was not valid as a trademark, citing evidence that it is a generic term used globally to describe a physically large retail establishment.

However, Justice George Wei said evidence that the words are synonymous today with large retail or warehouse businesses did not necessarily mean that the words lacked distinctiveness at the date of the trademark application.

"Hindsight knowledge or analysis must be avoided," said the judge.

He noted that the case highlighted the difficulties that arise when a trademark is attacked many years after registration on the basis that it was invalid at the date of registration. He said it was understandable that Courts may face practical problems in obtaining evidence on whether the Singapore public, back in 2005, viewed "big box" as a trademark. Nevertheless, the burden lies on Courts to prove its case.

After analysing the evidence, he found that Courts had failed to show that "big box" was descriptive or generic at the time of application.

The decision, however, does not mean that other large retail stores could never use the words "big box" - the law provides a defence for genuine descriptive use.

Big Box Corp and Courts were two of the four businesses that took part in the warehouse retail scheme initiated by the Economic Development Board in 2004. The scheme was aimed at encouraging large retail outlets to be set up in areas designated for warehouse or industrial use.

In 2005, Big Box Corp registered "big box" as a trademark for services relating to the merchandising and distribution of goods. By 2008, construction for Big Box mall was under way and reported in the media, largely in the context of transformation plans for Jurong East. The mall opened in December 2014.

That month, Courts advertised its retail warehouse in Tampines as "Courts Big Box Megastore". The Tampines store was opened two years earlier, in December 2012.

In early 2015, Big Box sent a cease and desist letter to Courts, alleging that the advertisements had infringed its trademark.

Courts failed in an application to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore to invalidate the trademark. Courts, represented by Mr Melvin Pang and Mr Ong Eu Jin of Amica Law, appealed to the High Court. Big Box Corp was represented by Mr Alban Kang and Mr Just Wang of Bird & Bird ATMD.

Justice Wei noted that the Oxford Dictionary made clear the term was "North American informal". He said it was clear that in 2004, the big-box concept was new to the average Singapore consumer and, while some multinational retailers may have been familiar with the concept, he could not conclude that it has become a customary term.


Justice George Wei noted that the case highlighted the difficulties that arise when a trademark is attacked many years after registration on the basis that it was invalid at the date of registration.

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

New lenders emerge as Midas board calls shareholder dialogue

Business Times
26 Apr 2018
Annabeth Leow

MORE lenders have emerged to assail Midas Holdings, which is struggling with unauthorised loans and guarantees involving its Chinese subsidiaries.

And four senior executives in China have resigned, after internal checks found a failure to report material information to the company, Midas said in a series of announcements on Wednesday evening.

The Singapore-listed company has been suspended from trading since February, amid police investigations both here and in China, over financial irregularities such as cash balances that did not tally with records.

Midas said it has received an arbitration application letter from March, filed in Beijing over a loan agreement of 100 million yuan (S$21 million).

It has also got word of an April order from a court in Jilin province, to freeze a share worth less than 30 million yuan in its CRRC Nanjing Puzhen Rail Transport associate. An unknown individual, Chen Gui Zhi, had apparently inked a deal to lend 30 million yuan to Midas unit Jilin Midas Aluminium Industries. She has taken legal action after failing to receive an outstanding amount of 25.6 million yuan on the loan.

But Midas' account does not have a record of either Ms Chen or Zhou Shi Ping, the other plaintiff, the group said. And neither of the two loans, nor their guarantees, had been reported to the board.

Meanwhile, Midas said that it reserves the right to seek legal action against four employees, whose resignations it has accepted, at its Chinese subsidiaries. It added that two others have been linked to financial irregularities but their employment cannot be terminated as Jilin Midas Aluminium Industries, whom they work for, is under judicial management.

The board on Wednesday unveiled a shareholder dialogue "with the aim of addressing shareholders' concerns", to be held at Kebun Baru Community Club in Ang Mo Kio on May 2.

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

China Sports files for judicial management in S'pore High Court

Business Times
18 Apr 2018
Wong Kai Yi

Sportswear maker China Sports International has applied to the Singapore High Court on April 16 to have the company placed under judicial management (JM), it announced late on the same day.

The company, which manufactures sports fashion apparel accessories under the Yeli brand in China, has proposed the appointment of Andrew Grimmett and Lim Loo Khoon of Deloitte & Touche LLP as joint and several judicial managers to manage the company's affairs, business and property during the JM period.

A separate application was also filed on the same day for the appointment of the two individuals above as the interim joint and several judicial managers pending the hearing of the JM application.

The Court has yet to fix the date for the hearing of the application.

On March 20 this year, the company announced that it might be involved in past or ongoing lawsuits which were not previously disclosed.

At the time, the board was seeking further information from chief executive Lin Shao Xiong and will make further announcements when there are material developments.

Its shares have been suspended since Dec 4, 2017, after it requested a voluntary suspension until the commencement of an audit process.

The company failed to convene its annual general meeting for FY17, which led to concern from independent directors. China Sports had sought, but was unable to get, an extension of time.

The company also said in December last year that it had received a statutory demand from the legal advisors of RHT Corporate Advisory Pte Ltd for S$50,839.25 in unpaid fees, and that if it failed to repay the amount within three weeks from Dec 15, RHT would be entitled to commence winding-up proceedings against the company.

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

High Court upholds reformative training for 21-year-old cheat with history of ‘funny’ ideas

TODAY
07 Apr 2018
Wong Pei Ting

A 21-year-old cheat’s appeal for either a jail term or probation was dismissed on Friday (April 6) by a High Court judge, who upheld his sentence of reformative training.

Despite Tan Guan Quan’s pledge not to entertain “funny” ideas and re-offend, Justice Chan Seng Onn was not persuaded that he would change for the better without institutional help.

Incarceration would “remind you, when you start to think of funny ideas, to pull yourself back”, the judge told Tan, who has two previous brushes with the law and was on probation when he went on a cheating spree that landed him with 410 charges this time.

Between July 2015 and January 2016, he cheated 34 people of close to S$38,000. He placed “job” advertisements on online platforms such as Carousell and Facebook, offering to pay S$250 to those who replied “Y” to SMS messages sent to their mobile phones and sent over screenshots of the codes they received.

His victims did not know it, but Tan was actually using their post-paid Singtel phone lines to purchase gaming credits, and the SMS messages were to confirm that they wished to buy the credits.

He also failed to pay his victims for their efforts.

His other charges included unauthorised use of a 20-year-old’s Singtel account to purchase gaming credits in August 2015, and deceiving an 18-year-old two months later into paying him S$95 for 130,000 gaming credits that were never transferred.

Tan was arrested in Jan 2016 and, while under investigation, he stole a SIM card that was left unattended at a Singtel store in July 2016.

Tan told the court he initially committed the offences for thrills but later used the money to fund his diploma studies.

But Tan found himself caught in a lie on Friday when he sought a one-week adjournment for his sentence, saying he needed to settle his son’s school and living arrangements – Justice Chan pointed out that the school year had already started.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Haniza Abnass pointed out his lack of regard for the law and the escalation of his criminal activities over the years.

When he was 16, Tan conspired with a friend to steal SIM cards that were unattended at exhibition booths and dishonestly retained a stolen phone.

He was sentenced to 24 months of probation but about three months before completing the term, he was convicted of gaming in a public place and sentenced to 15 months’ probation.

For cheating, Tan could have been jailed for up to three years and/or fined.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

No malicious intent, financial impropriety: Trek 2000 CEO Henn Tan

Business Times
26 Apr 2018
Yunita Ong

TREK 2000 International's chairman and chief executive Henn Tan is denying financial impropriety, days after a forensic review found that he and current and former senior company officers could have potentially breached various Singapore laws against round-tripping, misappropriation, forgery and fraud.

In a Maxwellization totalling 82 pages, Mr Tan attempted to provide explanations for what RSM Corporate Advisory's forensic accountants deemed as round-tripping involving T-Data and S-Com HK and other suspicious transactions. Maxwellization is a procedure where individuals in an official inquiry are given a chance to challenge critical findings before they are published.

"There was no malicious intent - let the authorities investigate. Yes, there were some shortcomings, but there was no such thing as financial improprieties," an emotional Mr Tan told The Business Times on Wednesday by phone.

In several points in the document, Mr Tan, the inventor of the ThumbDrive, said he had not been aware of certain business dealings, such as aspects of the company called S-Com HK which he acquired in 2008, the fabrication of some documents as well as certain transactions that RSM deemed fictitious.

He also said at the outset of the Maxwellization that he had not had enough time to respond as RSM had provided extracts of the report to him on March 23 and given him only a total of three weeks to respond, including a one-week extension.

An extension of two months was needed because, among other reasons, of the complex nature of matters and that some transactions date back to almost 10 years ago.

Mr Tan said he knew little about S-Com HK after the business declined after 2013, and any potential impact on the company's financial statements would have been insignificant, making it "inconceivable" that Trek or Mr Tan would have engaged in such transactions to boost profit or revenue. He also said email correspondence did not suggest T-Data's business and affairs were being managed by the company's senior management, and that it was untrue the company had used T-Data as a "middle party" to record revenue given the value of it compared to the group's total revenue.

In the case of a certain transaction between Trek 2000 and Party B1 that RSM deemed "likely to be fictitious", Mr Tan denied involvement and personal knowledge, but provided stock movement reports and a job sheet that he said would show the transactions did take place.

Mr Tan also said that to his knowledge, transactions with another party was paid for by S-Com HK because S-Com HK had been appointed by that party to act as a consolidation and collection point before delivery.

While RSM thought crucial facts relating to a US$3.2 million sale of UM1G chips to Indian sign manufacturer Colite Technology could not be established, Mr Tan said it was incorrect to conclude that the shipment did not take place as Colite had returned some of its goods and some residue stock was found in Trek HK's website. He said he was not involved in, and unaware that bank advices amounting to US$250,000 and US$2.4 million had been digitally altered by others so that remittances from S-Com HK and Mr Tan would appear as though they were received from Unimicron. He emphasized that he had never instructed staff to fabricate documents.

Mr Tan also said that patents relating to Trek's FluCard, a wireless SD card, were registered under T-Data to protect the idea under a separate legal entity and because it would be cost-effective for the company to pay patent registration and renewal fees rather than a standard licensing fee.

"I'm being factual, and all the evidence is there. Since Day 1, there are no financial improprieties... the truth will prevail," Mr Tan said.

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

ADV: Career Opportunities at NUS Faculty of Law

Singapore Law Watch
18 Apr 2018
NUS Faculty of Law

Pedra Branca: ICJ to hear Malaysia's challenge in June

Straits Times
07 Apr 2018
Royston Sim

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hold public hearings in June for two cases brought by Malaysia on the sovereignty of the island of Pedra Branca.

In a statement yesterday, the United Nations top court said four days had been scheduled for the hearing of each case: June 11-13 and 18 for the first, and June 18-19 and 21-22 for the second.

In the first case, Malaysia wants the ICJ judgment made on May 23, 2008 to be overturned.

The court had ruled that Pedra Branca belonged to Singapore, a decision that resolved a territorial dispute which began in 1979.

Malaysia has also filed a second request, seeking an interpretation of the 2008 judgment. Both hearings will take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that Malaysia and Singapore have exchanged written submissions on both cases.

The small island of Pedra Branca - also known as Pulau Batu Puteh - houses the Horsburgh Lighthouse, and is located about 40km east of Singapore's main island.

Besides Pedra Branca, the ICJ had also ruled at the same time on the sovereignty over two other maritime features: the Middle Rocks and South Ledge, near Pedra Branca. It said Middle Rocks belongs to Malaysia, but it did not make a definitive ruling on South Ledge, saying it belongs to whoever owns the territorial waters it sits in.

Malaysia's latest application to revise the 2008 judgment was filed on Feb 2 last year. It cited three new documents discovered in the British Archives to argue its point that Singapore's officials at the highest levels did not consider that Singapore had acquired sovereignty over Pedra Branca from Johor in the years following 1953.

In its 2008 judgment, the ICJ had considered correspondence from 1953 between Singapore's colonial officials and Johor as being of central importance.

Johor's top official had written in a 1953 letter that "the Johor government does not claim ownership of Pedra Branca". The court found this showed that while Johor had the original title, "as of 1953, Johor understood that it did not have sovereignty over Pedra Branca".

Malaysia based its application on Article 61 of the ICJ's Statute, which states that an application to revise a judgment may be made when there is discovery of a fact which would be a "decisive factor" and was not known at the time of judgment.

Singapore filed its rebuttal on May 24 last year, contending that the documents Malaysia relied on do not satisfy the criteria under which it applied for a revision.

On June 30, Malaysia submitted another request asking the ICJ to declare the waters around Pedra Branca to be Malaysian waters - and, by extension, that South Ledge belongs to Malaysia.

On Oct 30 last year, Singapore filed its rebuttal to Malaysia's request for interpretation.

Singapore's legal team for the cases is helmed by four people.

Three were in the original 2007 team that argued the country's case: former deputy prime minister and law minister S. Jayakumar, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh and former chief justice Chan Sek Keong. The fourth is Attorney-General Lucien Wong.

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

ADV: SUSS Law - The Human Face of Law

Singapore Law Watch
26 Apr 2018
SUSS School of Law

ADV: Enter the STEP Private Client Awards 2018/19

Singapore Law Watch
18 Apr 2018
STEP UK

Competition watchdog gets new name, bigger role

Straits Times
07 Apr 2018
Tiffany Fumiko Tay

Ensuring that businesses here do not have an unfair advantage is but one of the roles of the newly renamed Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS).

As of April 1, the CCCS, which was previously called the Competition Commission of Singapore, has also taken over the enforcement of rules relating to retailers that persist in unfair trade practices under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.

Spring Singapore, which previously administered the Act, merged with International Enterprise Singapore on the same day to form Enterprise Singapore.

The new agency focuses on providing support for local businesses, while continuing to oversee regulations involving safety requirements for consumer goods.

The CCCS said the Consumers Association of Singapore and Singapore Tourism Board will remain the first points of contact for complaints by local consumers and tourists, respectively.

Retailers that do not stop their unfair practices, such as making false claims, will be referred to the CCCS for investigation. The agency is empowered to gather evidence against such businesses, file injunction applications against them and enforce compliance with injunction orders issued by the courts.

"The complementary nature of competition and consumer protection work allows CCCS to better regulate and promote well-functioning markets," the agency said.

Tiffany Fumiko Tay

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

Make nine-year cap mandatory for independent directors: Sias

Business Times
25 Apr 2018
Angela Tan

THE proposed nine-year threshold for independent directors (IDs) should be set as a hard limit and written into the Singapore Exchange (SGX) Listing Rules, says David Gerald, founder of the Securities Investors Association (Sias).

Mr Gerald, who is also the chief executive officer and president of Sias, says the proposal to have at least one-third of the board consist of IDs should also be made part of the Listing Rules, as should the requirement that the majority of the board be composed of IDs if the chairman is not independent.

"In this connection, Sias would actually prefer to see all boards aiming to be majority independent and that this be expressly written into the Code," Mr Gerald says.

According to the Code of Corporate Governance, a director is independent when he or she has "no relationship with the company, its related corporations, its substantial shareholders or its officers that could interfere, or be reasonably perceived to interfere, with the exercise of the director's independent business judgement in the best interests of the company".

In January this year, the Corporate Governance Council suggested a "nine-year rule" that will reassess whether an ID still qualifies as independent after nine years in the role. Nearly 30 per cent of IDs in Singapore have more than nine years of service under their belts. Some IDs have served for more than 30 years.

The nine-year rule is just one of 12 other "baseline" market practices that the Council wants to add to the SGX Listing Rules for mandatory compliance. Currently, firms are only encouraged to observe these practices under a comply-or-explain regime.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) is seeking public feedback on whether the "nine-year rule" should be written into the Listing Rules as a hard limit, or if the ID's term should be put to an annual two-tier vote. With the second option, the ID would have to win a mandate from all shareholders, as well as from the majority of all non-controlling shareholders. If not, he can only be retained as a non-independent director.

While Sias welcomes the idea of subjecting those serving more than nine years to a non-controlling shareholder vote, it notes that boards may not prefer that as an option. In reality, it is also difficult to vote on whether an ID is independent after serving nine years, with scant information and no insight into board discussions. The association believes that independence is a state of mind, and since the Code is based on a "comply or explain" model, companies should strive to disclose all the relationships that exist.

On the proposal to lower the shareholding threshold for assessing independence from 10 per cent to 5 per cent, Sias believes that even at 10 per cent, these directors cannot influence boards as majority shareholders usually hold more than 50 per cent of the shares.

"However, Sias supports the proposal that the majority of the board comprise directors with no management or business relationships,'' says Mr Gerald, who notes that this is aimed at aligning the Code with the Companies Act.

At the end of the day, investors should be given as much information as possible and companies should observe the maxim "when in doubt, disclose''.

Rather than describe adherence to the new Code as a "comply or explain'' regime, Sias suggests that "comply and explain'' would be more appropriate.

"There is a need to be clear on this point and to differentiate this Code from the previous one since our impression is that compliance with the new Code is deemed not optional," Sias says.

The public consultation on the revised Code closed on March 15. The revised Code will be launched in the second half of 2018.

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

Prudential sues ex-exec over resignations

Straits Times
17 Apr 2018
K.C. Vijayan

Insurer alleges he made remarks on several occasions that led to 230 agents and leaders leaving for rival firm

The first litigation fallout from a dispute over alleged mass poaching of agents has surfaced in the High Court, with life insurer Prudential Assurance suing its former senior financial services manager, Mr Peter Tan Shou Yi.

The Singapore company is accusing Mr Tan, 53, of getting more than 230 agents and agency leaders to quit and move to rival insurer Aviva Financial Advisers.

Mr Tan, while working at Prudential, had been in charge of a group known as Peter Tan Organisation (PTO), which had about 500 agents and agency leaders.

Prudential claims Mr Tan made various representations and remarks to them on various occasions in May and June 2016 that allegedly caused them to leave.

It added that they left when he was still contracted as an agent and agency leader of Prudential.

Mr Tan, represented by lawyers from TSMP Corporation led by Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi, is contesting the claims.

Meanwhile, a preliminary issue on audio recordings of the alleged soliciting of the agents has come before the court.

Prudential's lawyers from Rajah & Tann, led by Mr K. Muralidharan Pillai, had sought to ascertain from Mr Tan if he was the person speaking in the recordings and following objections, this became an issue for the court to decide.

The recordings were allegedly his discussions with Prudential agents and agency leaders at certain meetings, during which he is said to have asked them to leave the firm. Mr Tan's lawyers are challenging the authenticity of the recordings, among other things.

Their arguments were heard by High Court assistant registrar Justin Yeo, who gave his judgment grounds last week. Mr Yeo said he accepted that the recordings' authenticity will be fiercely fought at the trial but the fact that it is in dispute is "not of itself a bar" for the question sought in the interrogatories to be answered by Mr Tan.

" What he has to do is to respond factually, to the best of his knowledge... For instance, if he honestly believes the voice to be his but that his speech had been manipulated to misrepresent what had actually transpired, it is open to him to qualify his response accordingly."

Interrogatories are questions raised that can significantly reduce costs and help in the fair disposal of the matter.

Mr Yeo, however, disallowed a set of secondary queries Prudential wanted Mr Tan to answer. He ruled that they were not necessary at this stage or to save costs.

SC Thio yesterday said his team is studying the judgment grounds when asked if he would appeal.

Mr Tan, who holds five professional degrees and qualifications, has more than 20 companies across Asia, according to his website.

He also, among other things, started a $1 million PTO Endowment Fund at the School of Economics in Singapore Management University for needy students, as well as supported the Yellow Ribbon Project by helping offenders in Changi Prison learn basic skills in logistics management.

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

YuuZoo raided by police in SFA probe

Business Times
07 Apr 2018
Annabeth Leow

Seizure of documents, computer equipment comes on heels of CAD notice

Mainboard-listed YuuZoo Corporation's premises have been raided, and former management staff interviewed by the police, the company disclosed late on Thursday night.

The seizure of documents and computer equipment, which The Business Times understands took place on Monday, came on the heels of a notice from the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD). Chairman and former chief executive Thomas Zilliacus, a Finn, has surrendered his passport upon instructions from the police.

Singapore Exchange Regulation, or SGX Regco, had said - also on Monday - that it had referred findings from an independent reviewer's draft report to the authorities over possible Securities and Futures Act (SFA) breaches by YuuZoo.

Ernst & Young Advisory was engaged last October to carry out an independent review of the online media company. It was to cover a range of issues, including former employees' allegations of wrongdoing, as well as queries by the bourse operator over certain financial items in 2016.

YuuZoo, which is under a trading suspension, said that the authorities have seized copies of various documents, such as records relating to franchises and to companies where YuuZoo had a stake. The material requested by the CAD covers the financial years 2013 to 2016, it added.

General ledgers of the company, its subsidiaries and associates, as well as corporate secretarial documents like management and board meeting minutes, have been taken, alongside hard disks and laptops.

Mr Zilliacus, who was CEO from 2013 to 2015, has had to hand over not just his passport but also all personal diaries, on top of e-mails and information technology hardware, both personal and corporate.

The CAD has also asked for "all relevant information technology equipment and corporate e-mails" from former chief finance officers Fred Lim and Michael Parker, former financial controller Thai Youn Fatt, former CEO James Sundram and former franchise management head Sebastian Zilliacus, Mr Thomas Zilliacus' nephew.

YuuZoo said on Thursday that both the Zilliacus uncle and nephew have been interviewed by the CAD. "The CAD has not disclosed to the company any further details on the abovementioned investigations; and as far as the company is aware, no arrests have been made in respect of the aforesaid investigations," it noted.

Asked on Friday to confirm that no arrests have yet been made in the CAD probe, a police spokesman would tell BT only that it was "inappropriate to comment at this juncture".

YuuZoo said in its Thursday announcement, signed by chief operating officer Mohandas, that "the company will cooperate fully with the CAD in its investigation and will make announcement as and when there are further significant developments with regard to this mater (sic)".

SGX suspended trading in YuuZoo's shares on March 19, over a separate set of queries. The move came after the company's auditors could not give their opinion on the "veracity and reasonableness" of some items in financial statements for the year to Dec 31, 2017 in time for the deadline under a notice of compliance. YuuZoo has been listed on the mainboard since 2014, after a reverse takeover.

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

SGX RegCo says it wants to facilitate 'open dialogue' between Noble and Goldilocks

Business Times
25 Apr 2018
Yunita Ong

IN A significant move, Singapore Exchange (SGX) wants to facilitate an "open dialogue" between beleaguered commodities trader Noble Group, senior creditors and its major shareholder Goldilocks Investment Company.

Noble and Goldilocks have been in a tussle over Goldilocks' attempt to nominate five non-executive directors at its upcoming annual general meeting (AGM) on April 30.

An SGX spokeman told The Business Times on Tuesday night that Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) had been notified of Goldilocks' requisition to Noble on April 22 and had been in contact with advisors from the two companies.

"We invite the company, the senior creditors as well as Goldilocks to engage in an open dialogue to resolve this matter substantively rather than through legal form and technicalities. SGX RegCo will facilitate the dialogue between the parties," he said.

Last week, Abu Dhabi-based investment fund Goldilocks lodged a notice proposing that Ajit Vijay Joshi, Bachir Nawar, Khoo Song Koon, Chow Wai San, and Lim Yu Neng Paul be put up for election as non-executive directors of Noble. It also requested that the company circulate a statement about the proposed nominations.

These were lodged at the company's registered address in Bermuda.

But Noble rejected this on Monday, arguing that Goldilocks holds its shares through depository agents, and is thus not a member of the company as a matter of Bermuda law.

Goldilocks hit back on the same day, arguing that Singapore's Securities and Futures Act directs that shareholders holding stock through a nominee account should be deemed to be members of the company.

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

URA proposes safeguards for short-term home stays

Straits Times
17 Apr 2018
Rachel Au-Yong

80% consent rule and 90-day annual rental cap among suggestions for condominiums

Airbnb-style home-sharing is one step closer to becoming legal here, even as observers said the rules governing short-term stays proposed by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) will present a barrier too high for many to cross.

The URA outlined a list of safeguards in a long-awaited public consultation on short-term accommodation yesterday, making it clear it intends to closely regulate the practice.

"We think it is possible to allow (them) in private residential properties, but subject to appropriate regulation and safeguards," National Development Minister Lawrence Wong wrote in a Facebook post yesterday, adding that the Government studied the matter for some time.

It proposed a new category of short-term accommodation for private residential properties, which existing developments can adopt if they have the owners' consent and are registered as such.

For condominiums governed by management committees, the URA is proposing that owners holding on to at least 80 per cent of the share value agree to the change of use. This is similar to the threshold for most properties seeking to sell en bloc.

In addition, the URA said it would consider the impact of such short-term stays on the surrounding community. Condos, which have management committees and localised security measures, are more likely to be considered favourably for a change of use, especially if they are located in mixed-use areas like commercial centres or business parks, or sites with good traffic infrastructure.

But it said most landed estates were unlikely to be approved for such stays because they are mostly located in areas with relatively quiet and narrow roads, and have no governance structures.

Even for condos that pass the 80 per cent threshold, the authority wants to cap the annual rental at 90 days and have a maximum occupancy of six people per unit. The URA is also proposing that hosts register with the regulator and provide a record of guest details for each stay.

The URA also said management committees can "put in place additional measures to manage potential disamenity", such as introducing by-laws with a lower rental cap than the proposed 90 days, or requiring home-sharing owners to pay additional maintenance fees for common areas and facilities.

Platform operators like Airbnb and HomeAway could also be made to comply with a list of rules, including vetting postings and keeping track of the rental duration.

The move received mixed reactions from home owners and experts, with some observers telling The Straits Times that the rules - especially the collective sale-like threshold - may mean most condos will reject such stays.

Airbnb said it is "committed to reasonable solutions" and welcomed the chance to give feedback.

The consultation ends on May 31.

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

Govt looks to enhancing war on drug abuse: Shanmugam

Straits Times
07 Apr 2018
Selina Lum

The Government is studying how to enhance the Misuse of Drugs Act, including strengthening the rehabilitation process for drug abusers.

It will also look at ways to deal with abusers who commit crimes to feed their habit and to better equip enforcement agencies to deal with threats posed by the drug situation.

Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam disclosed this yesterday at the inaugural Criminal Bar charity gala dinner in aid of the Yellow Ribbon Fund, organised by the Law Society's Criminal Practice Committee.

The fund provides financial support for rehabilitative services for ex-offenders, as well as support programmes for their family members.

The event, attended by more than 300 criminal lawyers and judges, raised more than $470,000.

"What we are dealing with tonight is the downstream, when people have gone in, how do we help them," said Mr Shanmugam.

He recounted how he was once told this was akin to picking up babies in the stream. "But someone is throwing them into the stream in the first place. What can we do to prevent them from being thrown into the stream?"

He also disclosed that an inter-agency committee was formed in January to drive national efforts to address issues of offending, reoffending and rehabilitation.

It involves the Ministry of Social and Family Development, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Education, and councils and self-help groups such as Mendaki and Sinda.

He also said that of the concluded cases in 2016, for drug abusers below 21, seven in 10 were not sentenced to jail. For adult abusers, 45 per cent were not jailed.

He said the Government will come up with a system of differentiated rehabilitation programmes for low-risk, moderate-risk and high-risk abusers.

On rehabilitation in jail, he said the prisons are developing a model - used in Sweden, the Netherlands and Britain - that looks at the offender's reoffending risks, criminogenic needs and responsivity to change.

As for what happens after prison, Mr Shanmugam said he was "heartened" by the results of a public perception survey last year, in which 91 per cent said they were aware of the Yellow Ribbon Project's aims and two-thirds said they were willing to accept ex-offenders.

There are also programmes to support offenders' families, to ensure their children are channelled to the relevant welfare organisations and to prevent inter-generational offending, he added.

He noted that the two-year overall recidivism rate for the cohort of inmates released in 2015 was 25.9 per cent, "much lower" than other countries.

"To me, 25 per cent is still too high. We want to try and bring it down but that number has been very stubborn. Yellow Ribbon helps tremendously," said Mr Shanmugam, who also recounted stories of two offenders who succeeded in turning their lives around.


DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM

What we are dealing with tonight is the downstream, when people have gone in, how do we help them. But someone once told me, this is like picking up the babies in the stream, but someone is throwing them into the stream in the first place. What can we do to prevent them from being thrown into the stream?

MR K. SHANMUGAM, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, on drug abuse and rehabilitating drug offenders

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

Court reverses conviction for sewerage contractor

Straits Times
25 Apr 2018
K.C. Vijayan

It says firm not liable for offence by subcontractor which had damaged a water main, orders refund of $50k fine

A drill worker investigating a site for a new sewerage system struck a main pipe, causing more than 7,000 cubic m of water to gush out - enough to fill three Olympic-size swimming pools.

It took eight hours for PUB engineers to isolate the main, and the contractor was billed for repairs totalling more than $122,000.

Last August, the main contractor for the job - Soil Investigation Pte Ltd (SIPL) - was convicted under the PUB Act as a secondary offender after Mr Parvez Masud, the worker who did the drilling.

However, the High Court has now reversed SIPL's conviction and ordered the refund of a $50,000 fine after the company appealed.

Justice Aedit Abdullah held last week that while SIPL had subcontracted the work to Geotechnical Instrumentation Services (GIS), it neither supervised nor instructed GIS "for the purposes of any employment" - meaning the conviction could not be sustained.

In the first High Court ruling on how Section 56A of the PUB Act is to be interpreted, Justice Aedit said the section "does not allow main contractors such as (SIPL) to be liable for offences committed by subcontractors".

SIPL had been contracted by national water agency PUB to conduct site investigation works for a deep tunnel sewerage system on a stretch of land between Benoi Road and Tuas South. The firm, in turn, subcontracted the work to GIS and on March 16, 2015, the incident occurred during soil drilling works at the Pioneer Road site.

GIS was carrying out bore work, as instructed by SIPL, when it found an obstruction at a borehole after drilling to a depth of about 6.5m.

SIPL looked again at the plan supplied by PUB and other utilities drawings, and instructed GIS to shift about 600mm away from the location, and continue to drill at the "offset location".

GIS complied but when it reached a depth of 6.7m, it again encountered an obstruction. Water then gushed out from the borehole and work was stopped.

PUB officers were called to the scene and they isolated the damaged Newater main, which was 0.9m in diameter. Repair work took eight days.

SIPL was convicted of damaging the water main after a seven-day trial in the State Courts last year.

At an appeal hearing in January, SIPL's lawyer, Mr Faizal Shah, argued that the Act applied only to principals or employers, saying that SIPL was neither to GIS.

He suggested that Section 56A, as worded, would not apply to main contractors like SIPL but others like the GIS driller or his supervisor.

Senior Counsel Francis Ng from the Attorney-General's Chambers accepted that GIS was neither the agent nor employee of SIPL.

However, he pointed out that a third limb under the Act applied, in that GIS was subject to the supervision and instruction of SIPL for the purpose of any employment.

At issue was whether SIPL was supervising GIS when the offence occurred.

Justice Aedit held that the subcontractor's work, instructions and supervision, if any, were based on the contract of services with the main contractor.

"The subcontractor is thus not acting for the purposes of any employment, vis-a-vis the main contractor, in performing its obligations under the contract," he added.

The judge noted that Parliament did not include the term "subcontractor" in Section 56A of the PUB Act to extend secondary liability to a main contractor for an offence committed by its subcontractor.

"In the light of the plain meaning... the court cannot then read in the word 'subcontractor' into the statute," he said.

Mr Shah said yesterday: "The ruling by the High Court provides legal certainty to main contractors in ensuring that they are not exposed to a potentially indeterminate vista of liability."

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

Legal sector gets future-ready

Straits Times
17 Apr 2018
K.C. Vijayan

The Community Justice Centre's launch last week of an online help centre for litigants-in-person - those who are not represented by a lawyer - is in harmony with the push to make Singapore a smart nation.

It will help the man in the street keep pace with how digital technology is changing the way we work and live. "By harnessing technology to improve your operational efficiency, you are delivering better services to litigants-in-person," Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah said at its launch.

The "self-help e-Web" - given the acronym SHeW - guides users to put together basic court documents, and appears to be the latest in the legal sector's digital drive to deliver smart services.

Earlier this month, the Singapore Academy of Law and Corp Agency organised the multi-dimensional Techlaw.Fest 2018, where nearly 500 industry players gathered to address the challenges from technological disruption in legal services.

Separately, Singapore's world leader in arbitration facilities and services, Maxwell Chambers, launched the "Smart Maxwell" initiative, which, according to Ms Rajah, "will take hearing facilities into the digital age and redefine for users and practitioners what a truly world-class hearing experience means".

These efforts are part of an ongoing push to transform the legal sector in the digital era.

Mr Ronald DeKoven, chief executive of myLawyer, a global network of lawyers platformed on an app aimed at revolutionising practice, said 2018 promises to be a breakout year. "This is why myLawyer released its global app in Singapore this month."

Said Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran: "A smart nation needs smart lawyers. The legal industry must future-ready itself to remain relevant in an evolving and complex landscape. We have already started adopting technology-enabling productivity tools, innovation software and artificial intelligence, but we still have some distance to go on our tech journey."

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

Criminal detention: Fine-tuning the scales of justice

Straits Times
06 Apr 2018
Tan Tam Mei

The law to detain criminal suspects is controversial, but given its nature, much care has also gone into ensuring that a right balance is struck between public order and safety and the detainee's rights

Enhancements to a 63-year-old law used to detain criminal suspects without trial were hotly debated in Parliament in February, but some questions remain.

Many MPs, including opposition Workers' Party (WP) MPs and two Nominated MPs who voted against the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Bill, saw the need for the particular law to swiftly deal with those who threaten Singapore's safety, peace and good order.

However, key questions raised during the debate centred on whether changes to the law - which requires Parliament's approval for extension every five years - have expanded or curtailed the minister's powers and introduced enough safeguards to maintain a balance between an accused's rights and preserving public order and safety.

Over the past month,The Straits Times sought out information from the Government, legal professionals and former criminal law detainees to answer some of the questions.

WHAT IS THE CLTPA?

The Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA) was introduced in 1955 when organised crime, especially secret societies and gangsterism, was rife here.

The law allows the authorities to detain and supervise criminal suspects without trial, and the orders are reviewed yearly.

The Act is traditionally used in situations where it is not possible to prosecute in court because witnesses are fearful or unwilling to testify. It has been used against secret societies, drug syndicates and in serious crimes that threaten "public safety, peace and good order".

There were 1,263 detainees held under the Act in 1988. In 2010, there were 317 detainees. But the number has fallen to 103 last year, compared with 109 in 2016 and 118 in 2015. Of last year's detainees, 86 were detained for secret society activities, 11 for unlicensed moneylending and five for drug trafficking.

The Government says the CLTPA is still relevant and vital to enable the police to act against ringleaders of major crimes where prosecutorial action might be challenging due to a lack of witnesses.

In a CLTPA case, the accused and defence lawyers are allowed to make representations during closed-door hearings with the advisory committees that review the case. However, unlike the usual open court proceedings, the witnesses will not be subject to open court trial or cross-examination.

Last year, the Act was used to cripple two gangs and ensure protection for witnesses, said Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam at the Bill's second reading in Parliament. It was the 14th time the Act has been extended. "Where we can, we move to the criminal justice system and use the CLTPA as sparingly as possible," he said then.

MINISTER'S POWERS?

A bone of contention during the parliamentary debate and in The Straits Times Forum pages was whether the changes expanded or curtailed the minister's powers.

A new clause clarifying that the minister's decision to detain or supervise a person - in the interest of public safety, peace and good order - is final has led some to conclude that his powers were expanded. But another enhancement - which introduces a prescribed list of offences under the ambit of the law - was cited by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as a curtailment of the minister's powers, though some parliamentarians and observers disagreed.

WP MP Pritam Singh, a lawyer, had said in Parliament that the finality clause on the minister's decision would limit judicial review as it stops judges from probing into the facts of the case.

However, law professor Thio Li-ann of the National University of Singapore (NUS) explained that judicial review still applies despite the finality clause - something Mr Shanmugam had repeatedly given his assurance on.

Prof Thio said: "You can still go to court to challenge a CLTPA decision on administrative law grounds like bias and relevant considerations. This was the previous position and it continues now."

NUS law professor Jaclyn Neo also believes that the clause would not oust judicial review. She said the idea of a finality clause might make people jump, but the one in the CLTPA is different. "It merely states the minister's decision is final, but does not go on to state, as some other finality clauses have done, that the decision is not open to review or challenge in the courts."

Some also said that listing prescribed offences in the Act would expand the minister's powers. The list includes secret society activities, unlicensed moneylending, drug trafficking and those covered under the Organised Crime Act (OCA).

Speaking in Parliament, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said the OCA covers offences such as fraud and illegal gambling, which should not require detention without trial. She added the new CLTPA would also include transnational crimes, even though its intention is to target offences that threaten public safety, peace and order in Singapore.

Observers see this amendment in the light of the 2015 Court of Appeal's decision to free alleged Singaporean match-fixing kingpin Dan Tan. The court said it did not accept the Act's "loose or open-ended remit", and while Tan may have run an international match-fixing syndicate from Singapore, his activities did not threaten public safety, peace and good order here.

For a detention order to be made, the existing condition is that the minister must be satisfied that detention is necessary in the interests of "public safety, peace and good order" in Singapore.

A new clause in the CLTPA provides that he must also be satisfied the person is associated with a criminal activity on the list. MHA had earlier said the list "restricts" the minister's powers by clarifying the scope of crimes under the Act.

Said lawyer Amolat Singh: "It clarifies and addresses concerns about the arbitrariness (of the Act). It can be seen as the Government imposing limits on itself."

The new condition means the minister must now fulfil two requirements before the case is referred to an independent Criminal Law advisory committee within 28 days of the minister's order.

The committee reviews the case - and can agree or disagree with the minister's order - before making recommendations to the President who can confirm, cancel or vary the order, on the advice of the Cabinet.

The orders are reviewed annually by a different advisory committee.

In assessing an existing detention order, MHA said a "holistic assessment" is done. Among the things to be considered are the nature of the detainee's involvement in the crime and suitability for release.

SUFFICIENT SAFEGUARDS?

Another enhancement to the law to make the process more robust has seen sitting Judges of the Supreme Court chairing the advisory committees from last month.

The committees also include prominent private citizens, such as Justices of the Peace, former judges and senior lawyers.

The Straits Times understands that the hearings usually involve three committee members, along with the accused or detainee, and his or her lawyer. An MHA representative will also be there to present evidence. Evidence is scrutinised and decisions are made independently, said a person with knowledge of these sessions.

While falling detainee numbers might affirm that the law is wielded sparingly, a test of its robustness might be revealed in the number of times when the advisory committee has recommended against the minister's orders, said observers.

Responding to queries, MHA would only say that the committees agree with the minister's issuance of orders in a "vast majority of cases". In "almost all" the cases where the committee has recommended against detentions, the Government has accepted its advice, and imposed police supervision orders instead, the ministry added.

A RIGHT BALANCE?

But the notion of detention without trial continues to unsettle some, and the lack of details and sensitive nature of CLTPA cases do not help.

The Act is an exception to the rule of law and the person is put in a vulnerable position without the protections of an open trial, said Prof Thio.

She and other legal experts agreed that the question was not about the necessity of the law. Rather, the issue is about striking a careful balance between an individual's liberties and maintaining public safety, peace and good order.

The law fills a "lacuna" or gap in a situation where witnesses might be afraid to testify openly for fear of reprisals. Without it, the authorities may have no choice but to let an accused free as he cannot be detained, said Mr Singh.

"It may be a small price to pay, not charging them in open court for the greater good of society."

The particular law has always been seen as an "uneasy balance", said Prof Neo, adding that it is not surprising the new provisions have stirred debate.

The overarching fear is that the law can be subject to abuse and mistakes, said lawyer Dennis Chua, who has represented criminal law detainees. "There is nothing stated in the law that requires the advisory committee to go into detailed investigation of the evidence."

He said the Act lacks prescribed checks on the stages leading up to a detention order. He added that while the accused can apply for a judicial review of his case , the defence lawyer's "hands are tied" as no evidence of purported facts need to be produced by the prosecution to support their case. Observers said concerns may be assuaged with more information showing the effectiveness of the law and its rehabilitation programme.

Of the current criminal law detainees, 17 per cent have been detained more than once as of Jan 31 this year, said the MHA, without giving the year-on-year breakdown of repeat detainees.

Detention and supervision orders are reviewed annually. Detentions beyond 10 years are reviewed by the Criminal Law Review Board.

MHA said all but one of the repeat detainees have been detained for secret society involvement.It said a detainee's rehabilitation programme is based on risks and needs assessed upon admission, and not whether they are repeat detainees. The programme can include work, vocational training and religious counselling. Suitable detainees will attend psychological intervention courses to increase self-awareness of their offending ways and equip them with social skills.

Despite the controversy and concerns over the law, former detainee Teo Beng Kim, 39, said the six years of detention was key to turning his life around.

He was detained in 2007 for heading an unlicensed moneylending syndicate, which had then reaped him a $30,000 monthly income. To his knowledge, he faced two charges - one for running an unlicensed moneylending syndicate and another for gang affiliation.

As with all criminal law detainees, Mr Teo was detained without open court proceedings and was not formally sentenced.

He told The Straits Times, in an interview organised by the Singapore Prison Service:"There was no trial, but I did appear before a committee."

Every year, he would wait for the results of the advisory committee's review on whether he would be released. The good news came in March 2013.

"My six years in prison were meaningful, unlike my 10 years as a loan shark," said Mr Teo, now a social worker at HCSA Highpoint halfway house in Geylang. "Without the detention to turn my life around."


TURNED HIS LIFE AROUND

There was no trial, but I did appear before a committee... My six years in prison were meaningful, unlike my 10 years as a loan shark. Without the detention... I would have never had the chance to turn my life around.

FORMER DETAINEE TEO BENG KIM, who was detained in 2007 for heading an unlicensed moneylending syndicate. He was released in 2013.

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

2 weeks' jail for Hour Glass co-founder to take effect for flouting court order

Straits Times
25 Apr 2018
Selina Lum

The High Court ordered a two-week jail term for businesswoman Jannie Chan to take effect, after she continued to disobey a court order that restrained her from defaming and harassing her former husband.

Chan, 72, who co-founded luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass with former husband Henry Tay, 73, was given the jail term for contempt of court on Aug 2 last year.

The judge, however, had given her a last chance to avoid prison by suspending the sentence for a year, provided that she stopped defaming and harassing Dr Tay, underwent monthly psychiatric treatment and kept her former husband updated about each session.

Merely a day later, Chan flouted the conditions. Over two days, she posted allegedly defamatory comments on Facebook.

Chan also sent hundreds of allegedly defamatory and harassing e-mails to various recipients.

She even turned up at Dr Tay's new home, took photos of it and forwarded them to others, said his lawyer, Ms Megan Chia.

Chan also failed to show proof of three psychiatric appointments.

Ms Chia said even though Dr Tay took steps to re-route her e-mails to his junk folder, he continues to suffer defamation and harassment.

On Monday, the court granted Dr Tay's application to lift the suspended sentence. "Her conduct has been unremorseful and unrepentant. In fact, she has been intentionally sending the harassing and defamatory e-mails to new recipients," noted Justice Hoo Sheau Peng. The judge rejected Chan's contention that the e-mails were meant to elicit a response from Dr Tay and others about the plight of her daughter, Audrey. The court heard that Audrey was facing criminal charges and diagnosed to have a psychiatric condition.

Justice Hoo said she failed to see how Chan's "wilful and irresponsible behaviour" of sending e-mails to other people helped the situation.

Chan was granted a stay on the sentence after her lawyer, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, said she was appealing it.

Chan and Dr Tay ended their 41-year marriage in 2010. He sued her in 2014 for sending e-mails which he said were defamatory or amounted to harassment. The recipients included friends, employees and Cabinet ministers.

The lawsuit was settled and Chan was ordered to stop. However, she persisted in flouting the order.

This is the third time Dr Tay has pursued contempt of court proceedings against her. He dropped the case the first time after she apologised, and she was fined $30,000 the second time.

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

Malaysian to be charged with helping in ex-City Harvest leader's alleged escape bid

Straits Times
16 Apr 2018

A Malaysian man who had allegedly helped in former City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han's alleged bid to leave Singapore will be charged today.

The Singapore Police Force said in a statement yesterday that Tan Kim Ho, 42, was arrested in Malaysia based on a warrant of arrest issued by the Singapore State Courts.

The Royal Malaysia Police had helped in the arrest, a police spokesman said. Local police took Tan into custody last Saturday.

Chew, who is currently in jail for misusing church funds, was nabbed on a motorised sampan during his alleged attempt to escape on Feb 21.

The father of two was arrested at sea with a boatman. About $5,000 in cash, as well as fishing equipment, was also found with them.

Besides Tan, two other men - Malaysian freelance driver Khoo Kea Leng, 45, and boatman Tan Poh Teck, 53 - had been arrested for helping Chew.

Chew was charged on Feb 22 with leaving Singapore for Malaysia from a Pulau Ubin jetty, which is not an authorised point of departure.

On March 1, he began his jail term of three years and four months for his role in the misuse of funds case.

Khoo was sentenced to six months' jail last Thursday after he had pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy with Chew to help him leave Singapore from an unauthorised point of departure.

The pre-trial conference for the cases involving Chew and Tan Poh Teck will take place on May 3.


3

Number of men nabbed for assisting Chew Eng Han in his alleged bid to leave Singapore.

Aw Cheng Wei

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

Tafep seen as toothless if not given legal powers to act

Straits Times
06 Apr 2018

Every employer must abide by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices, or have their applications for Employment Passes subject to scrutiny (Firms adopting unfair employment practices will be placed on watchlist; March 29).

This was according to a joint statement from Mrs Roslyn Ten of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) and Ms Christine Loh from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM),

On the surface, this sounds like a positive step to address discriminatory action.

However, apart from limited provisions protecting older workers or women from being fired because of their age or pregnancy, there is still no legislation concerning workplace discrimination.

Our Government has long acknowledged that ageism is a problem in Singapore.

However, it has maintained that introducing anti-discriminatory laws could increase business costs and undermine our economic competitiveness.

Such an assertion does not appear to be accurate since the global competitiveness of nations with anti-discrimination laws, including the United States, Britain, Germany, the Netherlandsand Japan, remains relatively stable.

Both Tafep and MOM maintain that the prevalence of discriminatory actions against older workers remains low (Action taken in cases of workplace discrimination; March 12).

As long as there are no specific anti-discrimination laws in place, older workers affected by forced layoffs will consider making official complaints a waste of time.

This accounts for the decline in the number of age-related discrimination complaints reported in the past two years.

In a 2013 survey by Tafep, 98 per cent of employers claimed to value highly the knowledge and skills of seniors, and 71 per cent of respondents claimed that older employees do not cost more to hire.

In spite of such politically correct responses, nearly two-thirds of resident employees made redundant in 2015 were aged above 40.

Based on my decades of experience in the corporate world, ageism is widely practised by many employers who consider older workers to be more costly to hire andtougher to train. They would rather invest in training and development programmes for younger staff.

Without legal powers to take errant employers to task, Tafep is seen as a toothless organisation which merely advocates fairness in the workplace.

Aggrieved employees will tell us that such a subdued approach is an exercise in futility.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

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

Midas hit by two letters of demand totalling S$27m

Business Times
25 Apr 2018
Nisha Ramchandani

BELEAGURED railway parts maker Midas Holdings has received two letters of demand in March and April this year totalling over S$27 million, it said on Tuesday.

The first letter, dated March 9, refers to a finance lease agreement entered into on July 22, 2016, by Midas, lessee Luoyang Midas Aluminium Co, lessor Fenghui Leasing Co, Jilin Midas Aluminium Industries Co, Jilin Midas Light Alloy Co (JMLA), former executive chairman Chen Wei Ping, and Beijing Wei Bao Shi Jie Investment Consultant Co.

"The board noted that JMLA had provided the above guarantee without informing the group," Midas said in a Singapore Exchange filing on Tuesday. "The former chairman of the company, Mr Chen, had also extended a guarantee in his personal capacity without informing the group when he was still the chairman."

Mr Chen had been under investigation by China's Economic Crime Investigation Unit relating to certain loans before his resignation on April 2. Midas itself is under investigation by Singapore's Commercial Affairs Department.

The lessee Luoyang Midas Aluminium Co has failed to repay overdue rental charges and owes the lessor outstanding rental, accrued interest and all other sums amounting to approximately 87.3 million yuan (S$18.3 million), the announcement said.

Meanwhile, the second letter of demand, dated April 16, refers to a financing agency agreement entered into by Dalian Huicheng Aluminium Co, CRRC (Hong Kong) Co, and Midas on April 1, 2017.

CRRC acts as Dalian Huicheng's agent to sell aluminium alloy plate to Newport Metals Inc, and the company is liable for any delayed payment from Newport with liquidated damages incurred. Newport has failed to repay for 13 overdue sales transactions. Therefore, CRRC requested Midas to pay approximately US$6.9 million within seven days from April 16, 2018.

Midas said: "The board will issue further announcements as appropriate, as and when there are any material developments in the matter."

Trading in Midas' shares remain suspended.

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

ADV: Career Opportunities at NUS Faculty of Law

Singapore Law Watch
16 Apr 2018
NUS Faculty of Law

Information from 65k S'pore users in hands of Cambridge Analytica

Straits Times
06 Apr 2018
Lester Hio

Information from the accounts of more than 65,000 Facebook users in Singapore might have been "improperly shared" with data analytics company Cambridge Analytica, the social media giant said yesterday, as the total number of affected users nearly doubled beyond what was originally estimated.

It has also prompted Singapore's privacy watchdog to step in and look into the matter.

Facebook said in a statement yesterday that the information of 65,009 Facebook users here was likely affected in the growing data breach involving Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy firm which applies data mining and analysis to elections.

Facebook is now embroiled in a global scandal for its role in the breach, accused of not ensuring the security of its users' personal data. Cambridge Analytica is said to have exploited the data for commercial and political use.

Facebook's chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said in an update on Wednesday that the total number of people who had their information improperly obtained and shared is now estimated to be 87 million, 37 million more than its initial figure of 50 million people.

The bulk of the affected accounts belong to North American Facebook users, which currently stand at over 70 million accounts which had their data compromised.

The Philippines is next on the list, with 1.17 million affected users, followed by Indonesia with 1.09 million and Britain with 1.08 million.

Singapore's Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) is looking into the matter, said a spokesman.

"PDPC is concerned that individuals in Singapore are affected. We are looking into the matter and are in close contact with Facebook," the spokesman added. "Facebook users are encouraged to review their privacy settings in order to control how their information is used or shared."

From Monday, Facebook will also notify users, through a link on their accounts, if they were among those who have had their information shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Mr Evan Dumas, regional director for South-East Asia at cyber-security firm Check Point, said that although the incident has reduced consumer trust in Facebook, people "continue to trade privacy for convenience".

"The reality is we haven't hit an inflection point where consumer confidence is low enough to affect change," he said.

And indeed, when asked about the effects of a campaign to get users to delete their accounts, Facebook chief Mark Zucker-berg said: "I don't think there has been any meaningful impact that we observed."

Similarly, Facebook users here also appear unfazed about the company's treatment of the issue. All 20 of the users The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said they would not delete their accounts despite the privacy controversy.

Student Wang Xi Yu, 19, said: "I would love to delete Facebook, but I can't because of how deeply embedded social media has become for us in society."


NOT SO EASY

I would love to delete Facebook, but I can't because of how deeply embedded social media has become for us in society.

STUDENT WANG XI YU

Additional reporting by Esther Koh and Lee Wen-Yi

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

Forensics on Trek 2000 reveal millions in suspected fake sales, roundtripping

Business Times
25 Apr 2018
Marissa Lee & Rachel Mui

Report by RSM Corp Advisory also finds 'sales' to companies that don't appear to exist and possibly erroneous PIC claims

A FORENSIC review into the dealings of Trek 2000 International has uncovered some damning findings, from the fabrication of sham documents to fictitious sales with companies that do not appear to exist.

Trek 2000's former and current officers, including the inventor of the ThumbDrive Henn Tan, may have breached various Singapore laws against round-tripping, misappropriation, forgery and fraud, wrote forensic accountants from RSM Corporate Advisory in a report.

The report, completed last month and made public late on Monday, covers various suspicious transactions at Trek 2000 between 2007 and 2016. These came to light in May 2016, when various employees were called in for questioning by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

The police confirmed on Tuesday that investigations are ongoing.

The RSM report was based on interviews with Trek 2000 staff and on documents seized by and which remain in the CAD's possession.

One eye-popping finding from RSM was that between 2011 and 2014, Trek HK recorded US$7.8 million in sales to a company suspected by RSM to be fictitious.

In fact, 73 per cent of the purchases made by this company could be traced to S-Com HK, a company incorporated in Hong Kong with strong links to Mr Tan, who is chairman and chief executive of Trek 2000, as well as other members of senior management.

Mr Tan has been the sole director of S-Com HK since April 2008, and its sole shareholder until July 2015, but claimed to have no knowledge of where S-Com HK operated from and its general and day-to-day operations, RSM wrote.

Mr Tan said he relied on former executive director Foo Kok Wah, who had "full control so he should know what is going on".

In all, RSM found five types of suspected round-tripping transactions involving S-Com HK between 2008 and 2014. S-Com HK made profits totalling US$266,647.45, which arose from transactions where its involvement was not properly or reasonably justified, RSM said.

RSM also uncovered evidence that raised serious doubts about the authenticity of sales and purchases done with the subsidiary of one Hong Kong-listed company.

Trek 2000 had fabricated two invoices which were purportedly issued by this Hong Kong company totalling US$1.15 million, and two invoices issued by Trek Singapore for the purported sale to this customer totalling US$1.15 million, RSM wrote.

It is also highly likely that the stocks in these transactions never physically moved, RSM added.

Separately, crucial facts relating to a US$3.2 million sale of UM1G chips to Indian sign manufacturer Colite Technology could not be established, because no one appears to have knowledge or was able to provide the details, RSM said. These include the actual composition of the UM1G chips, how and when these chips were delivered to Colite, and whether the goods were even delivered at all.

Bank advices amounting to US$250,000 and US$2.4 million received respectively from Mr Tan and S-Com HK were also digitally altered by Hengky Gunawan, Trek 2000's manager in the purchasing department, on the instruction of the former chief financial officer Gurcharan Singh, with strong indications that these alterations were performed to deceive and mislead the auditors, RSM said.

RSM also flagged possibly erroneous claims made by Trek 2000 under the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme.

Lead independent director Khor Peng Soon told The Business Times after Trek 2000's annual shareholders' meeting on Tuesday: "The board will discuss the report before we make any comments."

The company said Mr Henn Tan will not be removed from the board.

Mr Tan said of the report: "Were there document deficiencies and shortcomings in my management? Yes... I'm putting in a lot of effort to make sure there will not be a recurrence..."

A Singapore Exchange spokesman told BT: "We will be reviewing the findings (of the forensic accountant's report) and where appropriate, will take the necessary disciplinary action. Our enforcement powers include referral of the case to the independent Listings Disciplinary Committee."

One shareholder who declined to be named told The Business Times that she had bought shares at 24 Singapore cents recently because of the dividends, and because she had heard that the company was doing well. She had not heard of the news until she was at the annual general meeting (AGM), and was surprised.

"Maybe I'll cry on the bus later," she said, half in jest.

Trek 2000 requested a trading halt on Tuesday, with trading to resume on Wednesday. The counter last traded 2.17 per cent lower to close at 22.5 Singapore cents on Monday.

Trek 2000 unveiled its "ThumbDrive" storage device in 2000, the same year it was listed on Sesdaq, Singapore's then junior board.

The ThumbDrive displaced the floppy disk, but the big boys quickly swarmed in and Trek 2000 spent years fighting multimillion-dollar lawsuits against various firms for infringing on its intellectual property (IP) rights.

All resolutions at the AGM were passed, except for the re-election of independent director Neo Gim Kiong. Independent director Lee Chuen Neng withdrew the offer to stand for re-election.

Additional reporting by Kenneth Lim

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

Keppel O&M wants EIG's 2nd suit dismissed

Straits Times
14 Apr 2018
Grace Leong

It says losses by investors in oil giant's unit were not due to its kickback payments

Keppel Offshore & Marine (O&M) is trying to get the United States federal court to dismiss a second lawsuit brought by a US fund manager to recover US$221 million (S$290 million) in lost investments.

In defence papers filed on March 30, the Keppel Corp unit said EIG Management "offered no facts to support proof of intent" by Keppel O&M to defraud investors of their investment in Brazilian oil giant Petrobras unit Sete Brasil, which went bust after Brazil's biggest corruption scandal was exposed in 2014.

EIG filed its second suit in February under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations (Rico) Act, after its first case was dismissed in April last year.

But the latest suit "does not allege a meeting, conversation, event or document showing an agreement among the conspirators to defraud the investors", Keppel O&M said.

Also, the investors' losses were the "result of material false statements and omissions in investor materials made... by Petrobras and Sete, not kickback payments Keppel made to obtain six drillship contracts with Sete," Keppel O&M said.

EIG had alleged that Keppel O&M authorised bribes, from 2001 to 2011, of about US$40 million to Petrobras and Brazil's Workers' Party to secure seven contracts worth US$4 billion. From 2012 to 2014, Keppel allegedly authorised US$14.4 million of bribes to secure six drillship contracts with Sete.

But Keppel O&M argued that EIG had not proven its investors' money was used to underwrite kickbacks by Keppel. The offshore marine unit also disputed allegations that its bribery and money laundering would have continued at least to next year but for the Brazilian government's investigation.

"The only Sete-related payments alleged in the complaint were made between September 2013 through 2014, a period of less than two years," Keppel O&M pointed out.

EIG, in a response filed on April 4, called Keppel a "member of a criminal organisation that conspired to and did carry out a long-running bribery and kickback scheme... in violation of the Rico Act".

It said the overall objective of the conspiracy was to carry out the bribery and kickback scheme via Sete, and a necessary part of that scheme was to solicit investment funds through fraudulent means. When Brazilian prosecutors discovered this scheme, "Sete collapsed into bankruptcy, and EIG's investment in Sete evaporated", EIG said.

Keppel's admission that it committed violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when it reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice in late December "constitutes admissions that it conspired to and did commit the Rico acts of Travel Act violations and money laundering", EIG added. "Keppel, as it admitted in the DPA (deferred prosecution agreement), routed bribes through New York City banks with the intent to promote and conceal its unlawful activity," it said.

The global settlement in late December with the US, Brazil and Singapore related to US$55 million in bribes paid by Keppel O&M from 2001 to 2014 to officials at Petrobras and the Workers' Party to secure 13 contracts with Petrobras and Sete.

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

Make Asean infrastructure financing an asset class: Heng Swee Keat

Business Times
06 Apr 2018
Siow Li Sen

Group has to raise visibility of its investment opportunities and promote itself, says Heng

ASEAN finance ministers came together on Thursday to pitch their respective countries' infrastructure projects and the steps their governments have taken to cushion the risks for investors.

Led by Singapore's Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, they called for a collective effort which would be more efficient in meeting international investors' concerns.

Asean countries have been successful in tapping the private capital market for infrastructure financing, but it is time to step this up, said Mr Heng, who delivered the keynote speech at the World Bank Singapore Infrastructure Finance Summit.

Last year, Indonesia's second biggest power-producer PT Paiton Energy's US$2 billion project finance bond attracted some US$9 billion orders.

"The opportunity set is large but much work is needed to mainstream Asean infrastructure financing as an asset class," he said.

The Asian Development Bank estimates that, for the 15 years between 2016 and 2030, Asean's infrastructure investment needs will total US$2.8 trillion, or US$184 billion a year.

Asean needs to increase the visibility of its investment opportunities and projects, he said.

"We need to showcase the good projects available in each country, as well as promote Asean as an investment bloc."

Asean's energy sector has 77 renewable-energy projects in hydro, solar, wind, geothermal and biomass, geographically spread out across the region.

This sector has tremendous opportunities, given that demand for electricity in Asean is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4 per cent a year from 2014 to 2025.

In transport, rapid urbanisation and increased mobility have raised demand for transport infrastructure and more efficient transport networks. There are 219 road and bridge projects in the pipeline in Asean.

Mr Heng said Asean has to improve the bankability of its infrastructure projects at the individual project level.

"The goal is to draw in private-sector participation on projects that provide reasonable returns with reduced project volatility," he said.

Where the expected revenue may not cover costs fully, governments can step in to increase the projects' bankability by providing co-funding, raising user charges or extracting additional funding from value created from the project.

Where there are sufficient revenues to cover cost but exposure to certain risks remain high, risk-mitigating measures such as government guarantees and credit enhancements can help reduce the risk premium.

Multilateral development banks can play a role too, said Mr Heng, citing the World Bank International Finance Corporation (IFC) managed co-lending portfolio programme. This programme facilitates the participation of institutional investors in infrastructure by allowing institutional investors to invest in infrastructure loans originated by the IFC with some first-loss protection, and to enjoy benefits of scale and diversification through investing on a portfolio basis.

Mr Heng also called for standardised documentation; appropriately drafted public-private partnership (PPP) contractual provisions will provide investors with greater assurance.

Singapore's Infrastructure Asia office, which will be launched this month, will harness the collective capabilities of public-sector agencies and private-sector firms, and partner with key stakeholders across the region to facilitate more project opportunities that meet Asia's infrastructure needs, he said.

One of its key initiatives will be to develop a multi-year capacity-building programme for regional government officials.

Brunei Minister of Finance II Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said his government has teamed up with the private sector to set up a holding company, operating it commercially to raise funds for the country's seaport, telco and transportation projects.

Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said her country has 245 projects in the pipeline costing US$327 billion, but that the government can cover under 20 per cent of the cost; another 20 per cent will come from state enterprises.

"The private participation is really necessary," she said.

The government has taken steps to allay investors' concerns on land acquisition risks, construction risks and government-policy risks, she said.

Ms Indrawati also said it is inefficient for a country's finance minister to contact each institutional investor and called for an Asean institution to showcase the region's infrastructure projects.

"I have to travel and be in Parliament, " she quipped to an appreciative audience.

Thailand's Finance Minister Apisak Tantivorawong said the country's law on PPP has been amended to make it more "promotional" and to allow for the fast-tracking of projects.

The previous PPP had focused on procedures, and some transactions used to take up to 24 months.

The revised PPP law also sets out certain returns for investors, he said. If the returns fall below target, the government will step in with subsidies; if they surpass expectations, there will be profit sharing, he said.

Thailand will also launch an infrastructure fund later this year, he said.

Surya Bagchi, Standard Chartered Bank global head, project and export finance said there is an increasing trend of private-sector investors interested in funding infrastructure projects.

"This ranges from commercial banks who are skilled in assessing projects during their construction phase to infrastructure and pension funds and insurance companies who prefer the long-term stable yields and good credit ratings of completed projects.

"In order to unlock the potential for private funding into infrastructure, projects in the region need to be structured to be bankable so that they can meet the credit-rating guidelines of the private sector," he said.

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

Leaving legal practice, loss of privacy top considerations before taking up political office: Edwin Tong

TODAY
25 Apr 2018
Siau Ming En & Kenneth Cheng

Backbencher Edwin Tong, who will join the law and health ministries as Senior Minister of State in July, said he took some time to consider the move to join the Government, as it entails leaving legal practice as well as the loss of privacy for him and his family.

Speaking to TODAY, the 48-year-old partner at Allen & Gledhill said he was asked to take up political office last year.

“I thought about it very carefully because it’s a decision that affects not just myself and giving up my practice which I’ve done for 25 years but also my family – many of my family members will also be impacted by this because there’s going to be a lot more scrutiny, less privacy and so on,” he said on Tuesday (April 24).

The senior counsel had discussed the matter with his family before coming to a decision. Mr Tong, who has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 2011, said they asked if he would miss legal practice, and wanted to be sure that the appointments were “not something that would put on too much stress” on him.

The family also discussed the potential for new challenges, and a new platform to serve the country.

He will take up his new roles only on July 1 as he has to spend the next one to two months wrapping up his legal practice, and handing over the pending cases to his colleagues. As a transition arrangement, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah will become Second Minister for Law from May 1 till June 30.

While Mr Tong noted that his new role would put him in the “same environment”, it would be an opportunity for him to do something different.

Mr Tong said: “I also see it as a personal challenge for myself because having spent a quarter of a century in the practice of law, I feel ready now for a new challenge perhaps on a different platform but also delivering services to Singaporeans.”

When asked what he will miss most about his current job, he added: “(Legal) practice is multi-dimensional but at the end of the day, I’ll miss the lawyers that I work with at my firm the most.”

Mr Tong was called to the Singapore Bar in 1995, and his areas of practice include corporate and commercial disputes, and international arbitration. He also represented City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee in one of the longest-running trials in Singapore’s legal history.

He was MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC till 2015, before he was elected MP for Marine Parade GRC. He is also the deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law. More recently, Mr Tong was part of the 10-member Select Committee studying deliberate online falsehoods.

While his other post with the Ministry of Health will be in a new sector, Mr Tong said he was excited to take up the challenge.

He added: “Once you decide to serve in public service, you should be prepared to serve in anything. Health is something that interests me and I think partly because it also affects every Singaporean at some stage in their life, so I’m glad to be in a position where I can have a chance to make a big impact.”

While reiterating that stepping up from the backbench would be a challenge, he is ready to get down to work.

“There’s a lot of work to be done. The new fourth-generation leadership needs a lot of support, and I’m happy to provide it,” said Mr Tong.

The decision to promote Mr Tong and other backbenchers has surprised some political analysts.

While former MP Sin Boon Ann was surprised that Mr Tong decided to step up to public service, he did not think that the promotion to Senior Minister of State was unprecedented as the lawyer is a senior member of the Bar.

His appointment would also commensurate – to some extent – to his position as senior counsel at Allen & Gledhill, added Mr Sin, a consultant at Drew & Napier.

Additional reporting by Kelly Ng

Copyright 2018 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Judge acquits man of assaulting condo neighbour

Straits Times
14 Apr 2018
K.C. Vijayan

A judge acquitted a condo resident charged with assaulting another, ruling that the force he used was not criminal but in self-defence.

District Judge Eddy Tham also said that even if he was wrong in his judgment, the harm caused was so minor as to brook no offence.

"I found that, based on the principle... as encoded in Section 95 of the Penal Code, the harm caused is so minuscule or slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm," he added in judgment grounds on Monday.

The accused, condo resident Chan Siew Yin, 53, had admitted to thrusting a wooden stick at fellow resident Lee Gek Leng and kicking him with his right leg, as shown by video footage at the trial.

The spat occurred on June 25, 2016, just before 10pm outside the third-floor unit of a Jalan Loyang Besar condo block where Mr Chan lived and where Mr Lee, who lived directly below on the ground floor, had gone to confront him - allegedly for littering outside his flat and for shouting abuse at Mr Lee's wife and mother.

Video footage taken by Mr Chan's son showed Mr Chan facing Mr Lee through an open door with a thick plastic sheet separating them. Mr Lee stood outside while Mr Chan was inside, holding a stick that he thrust at his neighbour.

Mr Lee challenged him to come out. As the spat escalated, he entered the house, charged at Mr Chan and grabbed the stick.

Police arriving shortly after found Mr Lee pinned down by Mr Chan on a sofa and both shouting at each other. Police seized the stick and broke up the pair.

The court noted the charge was based on what had happened outside Mr Chan's door and not inside.

Mr Chan, defended by lawyers Eugene Thuraisingam, Teo Sher Min and Chooi Jing Yen, pointed to past run-ins between the duo.

These began in 2010 when Mr Chan suspected that Mr Lee had splashed black paint on his front door and the lift lobby area. Among other things, screen grabs showed Mr Lee throwing balls of newspaper from inside a lift to the outside of Mr Chan's unit, which he said he did out of anger and revenge.

Mr Chan recounted these incidents to show his frame of mind when his neighbour came to confront him at the door.

The judge found Mr Chan's action to be a reasonable response to Mr Lee, who was spewing Hokkien vulgarities and "advancing menacingly" towards him.

The judge said Mr Lee was clearly the aggressor at that stage and Mr Chan was "merely exercising his right of self-defence to prevent someone unwelcome from illegally trespassing his home".

The prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutors Andre Chong and Rachel Tan, argued that Mr Chan wanted to escalate the situation when he opened the door and held out the stick, when he ought to have kept the door shut, as he had already called the police.

The district judge disagreed, holding that the numerous past incidents Mr Chan experienced meant he had a genuine fear Mr Lee would cause harm to his property, if allowed to remain at the front door.

"As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, meaning it is easy to know what the right thing to do is after something has happened," he said.

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

ADV: Career Opportunities at NUS Faculty of Law

Singapore Law Watch
06 Apr 2018
NUS Faculty of Law

More than 1,000 employment claims filed

Straits Times
25 Apr 2018
Ng Huiwen

More than 80% of cases closed by March 31 in first year of Employment Claims Tribunals

A total of 1,190 employment claims were filed at the State Courts in the year since the launch of the Employment Claims Tribunals on April 1 last year.

More than 80 per cent of the cases were closed by March 31, with a majority of them concluded within six months, the State Courts said yesterday.

Of these, three out of four claims ended at the case management conference stage without the need for a full hearing.

A total of 732 money orders, which require one party to pay money to the other, were granted, while other cases were either dismissed or withdrawn.

The tribunals, which were set up as a speedy low-cost avenue to help employers and employees in their disputes, hear both statutory and contractual salary-related claims.

Under the Employment Claims Act 2016, the tribunals have the jurisdiction to hear claims of up to $30,000 if the dispute has gone through mediation assisted by the unions.

Employees outside the scope of the Act, such as professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who earn more than $4,500 a month, can turn to the tribunals for help.

They previously had to pursue their claims through the civil courts, "which was not always the most cost-effective option for lower-value claims", the State Courts said.

This group of PMEs formed about 25 per cent of individuals who had filed employment dispute claims since the tribunals' launch.

The State Courts said that about 78 per cent of the claims involved unpaid or short payment of salary or allowance.

An ongoing review by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will further streamline the dispute resolution process for employers and employees.

In 2019, the tribunals are expected to take over the adjudication of wrongful dismissal claims, which are now heard by MOM.

"As dismissal-related claims are usually coupled with salary issues, the affected employee has to go to two different parties to resolve their issues," the statement said.

Those who wish to bring a claim before the tribunals must first register at the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management and undergo compulsory mediation.

Only disputes that remain unresolved may be referred to the tribunals.

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

Self-representing in court? Shew is here to help

Straits Times
14 Apr 2018
Lee Wen-Yi

When Sheila was 33, her husband died from cancer, leaving her the sole breadwinner for her mother, sick grandmother and two children.

When her grandmother's health turned for the worse and died in 2016, Sheila (not her real name) struggled with the medical bills and funeral costs, and misappropriated funds in an attempt to pay off her debts.

Last year, she was charged in court but did not have the money to hire a lawyer. She was eventually represented by one under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, which helped reduce her jail term from five months to three.

But Sheila was worried about how her family would cope. This was where the Community Justice Centre (CJC) played a key role by providing assistance to tide her family over during that period.

Now 44 and released after a month for good behaviour, she has found a job as a cashier and is able to support her family. "I was broken down but CJC gave me courage," she said, recounting the support and encouragement she received.

Sheila is one of the thousands of people who have benefited from the non-governmental organisation (NGO), which provides non-legal assistance such as interim financial support and food vouchers, in collaboration with organisations such as Comcare, and makes referrals to social service agencies for longer-term support.

CJC also dispenses basic legal advice on-site at the State and Supreme Courts through its On-Site Legal Advice Scheme.

Yesterday, the NGO took its activities one step further, launching a new resource to help people who are representing themselves in court, or litigants-in-person, during its fifth-anniversary dinner at the Sentosa Golf Club.

Self-Help eWeb (Shew) features an automated court document assembler (ACDA), which guides users through key court procedures in areas such as bankruptcy, and helps generate the appropriate application form based on answers to a few basic questions.

Other modules now available in the ACDA are deputyship and mitigation pleas. Shew also has a chatbot that gives basic legal information for certain matters.

In addition, the system uses business intelligence to try and analyse the trends of legal issues, which guides decisions on future programmes, said Mr Leonard Lee, CJC's executive director.

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah said at yesterday's launch: "Shew is in line with the national push towards becoming a Smart Nation. By harnessing technology to improve your operational efficiency, you are delivering better services to litigants-in-person."

CJC, which began in 2012, has grown its outreach from fewer than 10,000 in its first year to 17,000 court users last year.

The NGO, run by a team of just 15 members, relies largely on about 600 to 700 volunteers and looks for innovative ways to expedite and improve its services. Shew is one such example.

"Due to budgetary constraints, we cannot hire a lot of people and while we have strong support from volunteers, we need to actively leverage technology for us to be effective, to strengthen our capacity and fulfil our mission," Mr Lee said.

More than $600,000 was raised by the NGO in conjunction with the dinner yesterday, including a charity golf tournament.

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

Judge rules in favour of dead man's estate in tussle over $7m house

Straits Times
05 Apr 2018
K.C. Vijayan

A tussle over a $7 million house in which the judge expressed suspicion that a 97-year-old widow had been coached to testify for one side ended in favour of the other.

The High Court ruled the Glasgow Road property, though registered in the name of the family company, belonged to the estate of one sibling, Mr Tan Tiong Luu, who had died in 2012. His widow had claimed the house, which Mr Tan Tiong Luu had bequeathed her in his will.

Mr Tan Tiong Luu's siblings, however, contended that their father had intended the house for all of them to share.

"This was a case in which documentation and objective evidence on both sides were lacking in many respects," Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau wrote in judgment grounds issued on Monday.

"In the end, after evaluating the evidence and considering parties' submissions, I came to accept the plaintiffs' version of events on the balance of probabilities."

The house had been bought in 1975 by the family's patriarch, Mr Tan Geok Chuan, for Mr Tan Tiong Luu. However, the patriarch had put the legal title in the company's name, Geok Hong Co, because he did not want Mr Tan Tiong Luu's wife, Madam Koh Ai Gek, to get a share should their marriage break down.

The patriarch had arranged this for Mr Tan Tiong Luu, the son who had stayed behind to help with the company's business, thus enabling his younger siblings to study abroad.

Mr Tan Tiong Luu played a key role in the company and drew a salary similar to his father's. He and his wife made major improvements to the house during the 40 years they lived there. They have three children.

In 2012, he contracted cancer. In the final fortnight of his life after a visit by some of his siblings, he became agitated, telling his children that his siblings had refused to return the property to him.

His father had died in 1990, and only his siblings who were fellow directors of the company could transfer the legal title to him. Nine days before he died, he made a statutory declaration of his version of events.

His wife argued it was known the house would go to Mr Tan Tiong Luu, pointing out that the company failed to claim ownership while they lived there.

The company countered that there was no credible evidence of Madam Koh's claims. Among other things, they argued the patriarch ensured each of the children had a similar share in ownership of the company's assets through shares.

The elder Tan had eight children, three of whom had died at the time of these proceedings.

The company called his widow, Madam Ong Bah Chee, 97, who testified he had bought the house not for Mr Tan Tiong Luu only, but for all her children to share.

The judge observed her "general incoherence and haziness" when on the witness stand, but noted she was "surprisingly clear, firm and adamant" that the property belonged and was meant for everyone in the company to share.

"Her evidence on the witness stand directly contradicted her own Affidavit-Evidence-in-Chief, and her behaviour made me strongly suspect that she had been coached and drilled to say certain things by the company's representatives," he said.

In assessing the evidence overall, he found the property was held on trust by the company for Mr Tan Tiong Luu, and ordered its return to the dead man's estate.

The company is appealing.

Madam Koh, when approached at the Glasgow Road house yesterday, referred the matter to her son, who declined comment.

The 9,708 sq ft dwelling is estimated to be worth more than $7 million.

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

Firm that owned Le Meridien hotel hit by financial woes

Straits Times
24 Apr 2018
Grace Leong

Treasure Resort allegedly defaulted on loan amid spat with contractor over unpaid work

When Movenpick Heritage Hotel Sentosa was rebranded as Le Meridien in June 2016, there was much fanfare over the return of the then Starwood Hotels & Resorts brand to Singapore after nearly a decade.

But behind the scenes, Mr Rodney Tan Boon Kian, whose company Treasure Resort owned the luxury five-star hotel, was quietly trying to sell it amid deepening financial difficulties.

Treasure had allegedly defaulted on a loan with its main bank Malayan Banking Berhad since September 2016, which led to the bank demanding repayment of about $200 million, according to court papers obtained by The Straits Times.

Compounding matters was an acrimonious fight between Treasure and its main contractor Sanchoon Builders over unpaid work done on Movenpick.

Sanchoon, which initiated arbitration proceedings against Treasure in 2011, was awarded nearly $15 million in September 2016. It then issued a statutory demand and threatened to wind up Treasure if it did not pay up. The contractor blamed Treasure's persistent delay in making payment over five years for causing it "severe financial hardship".

But Mr Tan managed to fend off its threats and attempts to enforce the award for nearly two years, with claims that Treasure was solvent and that he intended to sell the hotel in order to pay Sanchoon.

In court papers filed in January this year, he claimed that he came close to selling the hotel to two high-profile Chinese buyers. One of them, Fullshare Holdings, allegedly offered $300 million, but the deal fell through in May last year after it was probed by the Chinese authorities for alleged share price manipulation.

Another interested party was Anbang Insurance, Mr Tan said. But that deal collapsed after its chairman Wu Xiaohui was arrested for economic crimes in June last year.

Interest from Fosun International and HNA Group dried up last August after China restricted Chinese companies from making foreign investments, Mr Tan added. But Treasure continued to be in talks with others from elsewhere, he said.

Meanwhile, Sanchoon began winding-up proceedings on Treasure in late December last year. Managing director Shirley Kiu said in court papers that the contractor would have taken action sooner had it known Treasure was "insolvent and in financial difficulties as early as September 2016".

Instead, Ms Kiu said, Sanchoon discovered only late last year that Treasure had defaulted on its loan with Maybank and that the bank had demanded the hotel be sold by March 31 this year, or it would exercise its right to sell.

Despite Treasure's claims that the hotel's sale was "imminent and ongoing", there has not been evidence that it could be sold for more than $270 million to pay off the Maybank loan and Sanchoon's award, she added.

But if there were a forced sale, Mr Tan argued, the hotel might fetch less than $200 million, which meant Sanchoon would not gain anything as it was not a secured creditor.

Mr Tan finally ran out of time on March 23 this year, when Sanchoon won a High Court order to wind up the firm, and Le Meridien came under receivership of professional services firm PwC Singapore. Those interested in the hotel's business and assets should submit bids by June 4.


Ex-owner of Le Meridien made bankrupt

Businessman Rodney Tan Boon Kian, whose family used to own five-star hotel Le Meridien, was made bankrupt last Thursday after failing to pay legal costs.

His company Treasure Resort, which owned Le Meridien, was wound up on March 23 this year and the luxury hotel became the first on Sentosa to come under receivership in recent years.

In 2009, Mr Rodney Tan, group chairman of Cairnhill Group Holdings,was sued by Mr Tan Eck Hong, a minority shareholder in Treasure Resort over his alleged mismanagement of the firm.

"Although Rodney Tan's drive, connections and ideas have assisted the company in its growth from an empty shell to owner of a five-star resort hotel, at the same time he has used his control of the company to benefit himself... and Cairnhill Group in various ways which affected the value of the company, and showed that he preferred those interests over the interests of the company and the minority shareholder," Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash wrote in a judgment issued on Dec 1 last year.

According to the judgment, Mr Rodney Tan had claimed it was because of his personal net worth, reputation and strong relationships with banks that he was approached in 2007 to develop Sijori Resort, a small hotel-cum-club, into Treasure Resort Hotel. That later became Movenpick Heritage Hotel Sentosa until June 2016, when Le Meridien, then a Starwood brand, took over.

Mr Tan Eck Hong was awarded legal costs of about $1 million in late January this year. Mr Rodney Tan and Treasure's holding company, Maxz Universal Development, were also ordered to buy out Mr Tan Eck Hong's shares in Treasure at fair value, the judgment said.

When Mr Rodney Tan failed to pay the legal costs, Mr Tan Eck Hong took out a bankruptcy petition against him in March and the High Court issued the bankruptcy order on Thursday.

Mr Rodney Tan did not respond to requests for comment.

Grace Leong

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

MAS to allow for 'modest and gradual' rise of Singdollar in first policy tightening in 6 years

Straits Times
13 Apr 2018
Vivien Shiao

Singapore's central bank on Friday (April 13) opted to tighten its Singdollar policy as expected, slightly increasing the slope of the Singdollar nominal effective exchange rate (S$NEER) policy band to allow for "modest and gradual" appreciation.

The width of the policy band and the level at which it is centred will be unchanged.

This is a shift away from the neutral policy stance of zero per cent appreciation of the S$NEER band - a position that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has maintained since April 2016. It is also the first time the MAS has tightened monetary policy since April 2012.

The move to normalise the exchange rate policy was widely expected by economists, on the back of a strengthening economy, improved labour statistics, and rising inflation.

The MAS manages the exchange rate against a trade-weighted basket of currencies of major trade partners. The Singdollar is allowed to float within an undisclosed S$NEER band that can be adjusted when monetary policy is reviewed at biannual meetings in April and October.

In its April bi-annual monetary policy statement (MPS), the MAS said: "The Singapore economy has evolved as envisaged since the October 2017 policy review, and should continue on a steady expansion path in 2018. However, an escalation of the US-China trade dispute remains possible, and if it occurs, will have significant consequences for global trade."

Upward pressures on core inflation are expected to persist over the course of this year and beyond, underpinned by an improving labour market. For 2018, core inflation is projected to come in within the upper half of the 1-2 per cent forecast range.

As such, the decision to slightly increase the slope of the S$NEER from zero per cent previously, is "consistent with a modest and gradual appreciation path of the S$NEER policy band that will ensure medium-term price stability", said the MAS.

"The measured adjustment to the policy stance takes into account the uncertainty in macroeconomic outcomes presented by ongoing trade tensions," said the MAS.

Since October 2017, the S$NEER has appreciated in the upper half of the policy band, apart from a brief period of decline in early 2018. This development reflected, in part, broad-based US dollar weakness and depreciation in a number of regional currencies against the SGD.

On Friday, Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry released advanced estimates indicating that the economy expanded 4.3 per cent in the first three months of 2018 on the back of strong manufacturing growth.

The year-on-year rise was in line with economist expectations of 4.3 per cent growth, and beat the 3.6 per cent expansion in the final quarter of 2017.

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

Dog owner's sentence increased after trial

Straits Times
05 Apr 2018
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

Court had allowed her to retract original guilty plea and claim trial over abuse of 3 dogs

A dog owner who was sentenced to 10 days in jail two years ago for mistreating her pets had her sentence more than doubled yesterday after a court allowed her to retract her original guilty plea.

Chng Leng Khim, 45, claimed that the lawyer at her original hearing in February 2016 had pressured her into pleading guilty to animal mistreatment charges, saying she might be remanded at the Institute of Mental Health if she claimed trial. Chng was sentenced to 10 days' jail and fined $3,100.

In October that year, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon accepted the single mother's contention and a new hearing took place.

But after a 12-day trial, in January, District Judge Kessler Soh found the 45-year-old guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to her dogs - a bull mastiff cross, poodle and chow chow - and three counts of owning them without licences.

He also convicted her of failing to comply with a demand by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to give a statement.

She has now been sentenced to four weeks' jail and fined $6,000.

Following the trial, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Zhongshan said in his submissions that Chng and her three children moved out of their Paya Lebar home on June 11, 2013, after failing to pay their rent.

That same day, staff from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found the poodle near the home. It was emaciated and covered with ticks.

Two days later, Chng's landlady found the other two dogs in the unit and alerted the AVA. The animals were thin and infested with ticks.

On July 18, 2013, an AVA officer met Chng at Ang Mo Kio Police Division and passed her a letter, asking her to come to his office and make a statement. She failed to turn up and was arrested on June 30, 2015.

Chng, who was unrepresented, testified during the trial that she did not take the dogs to a vet as they did not have any health issues. She also claimed she had always attended to the animals and fed them well.

DPP Tan urged Judge Soh to sentence Chng to four weeks' jail and a fine of $6,000. He said: "The dogs were in very poor condition when they were found. They were... sickly and suffering. After Chng moved out, the chow chow and bull mastiff were in an environment where there was urine and faeces all over the floor, and which was unsuitable for them to be in."

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

Chng told the court yesterday that she intends to appeal against her conviction and sentence. She was offered bail of $10,000.

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

CFA Institute reiterates warning on dual-class share structures

Business Times
24 Apr 2018
Angela Tan

It says arrangement will weaken system of checks and balances between shareholders and management

JUST days before Hong Kong stock exchange opens its doors to listing applicants with dual-class share (DCS) structures, CFA Institute maintained its stance against weighted voting rights (WVR), warning that the structure will weaken the system of checks and balances between shareholders and management.

The principle of "one-share, one-vote" is considered a bedrock of good corporate governance standards, it says. In contrast, DCS gives one group of shareholders control and voting power disproportionate to their shareholding.

"CFA Institute remains steadfast in our belief that there should not be unequal voting rights as they could allow management or minority shareowners to override the wishes or best interests of majority shareholders for personal benefit and compromise accountability, leading to potential entrenchment issues," said Mary Leung, head of advocacy, Asia Pacific, CFA Institute, the global association of investment management professionals.

Like HKEx, Singapore Exchange (SGX), too, has decided to accept DCS listings. Public consultation is still open and once it closes, the exchange will make the necessary amendments to its rules, and effect them when they are approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. This is expected to occur in the second half of 2018.

As regional stock markets scramble to accept the controversial structure in a bid to woo more initial public offer (IPO) businesses, CFA Institute says six in 10 investment professionals in the Asia Pacific lack experience investing in such firms, flagging the need to educate investors and the public on the implications.

If adopted, there is a need for investor protection safeguards against self-dealing and other misuses of corporate resources by corporate insiders for personal gain.

Measures include the separation of the roles of chairperson and chief executive; the appointment of an independent chairperson; appointment of a majority of independent non-executive directors to the board; time-based sunset provision that automatically converts super voting rights to regular voting rights in three to five years as well as event-based sunset provisions that automatically convert super voting rights to regular voting rights in the event such shares are transferred or sold.

It also suggests that the maximum voting differential be lowered to the ratio of 2:1, or at most 3:1, to effectively hold company management accountable. Key matters such as a takeover offer or a related-party transaction should be decided on a "one-share, one-vote" basis.

"Any further relaxation of the rules and safeguards for a select group of companies will place strains on the market," Ms Leung stressed.

In a survey survey conducted from March 8 to 16, 2018, by CFA institute, respondents across the region are split on the introduction of DCS listings, with respondents in Singapore more inclined to support, while those in Hong Kong are more inclined to oppose.

Respondents recognised that the introduction of DCS listings would bring additional business opportunities, with boosting attractiveness of the exchange as a landing spot for IPO issuers, attracting companies from technology and other innovative sectors, and providing access to funding for pre-profit companies as the most likely benefits.

The top three risks were insufficient or absence of minority investor protection; skewed proportionality between ownership and control; and race to the bottom in terms of corporate governance standards.

Ms Leung said: "Although enhancing competitiveness and profits may be compelling reasons for the proposals, compromising hard-earned credibility in corporate governance and weakening investor protection is not a sustainable growth strategy.

"The introduction of the WVR-structured companies will encourage short termism, and deter long-term capital and high-quality issuers from these markets.''

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

Disciplinary actions require a due process: SGX RegCo

Business Times
13 Apr 2018
Angela Tan

There is no lack of will or ability on the part of Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) to carry out its task of policing the 745 listed firms with a combined market value of S$1 trillion while protecting investors.

In its latest Regulator's Column, the regulator assures the market that it has a range of regulatory tools at its disposal to enforce the Listing Rules and Trading Rules.

It also has a wide range of disciplinary sanctions to deal with relevant persons who have breached the rules. Relevant persons comprise the issuer, its directors, executive officers, and issue managers, and for a company listed on Catalist, its sponsors and registered professionals.

"Some of these are pre-emptive or imposed within a relatively short time-span to put the company on immediate notice to safeguard shareholders' interest, while signalling to investors that rule breaches might have occurred and to factor this into their decision-making.

"Other tools involve processes that may take more time such as a formal investigation and the convening of a hearing before the independent disciplinary and/or appeals committees,'' Tan Boon Gin, chief executive officer of SGX RegCo said.

Upon detecting material concerns in an issuer, SGX RegCo may use its tools to alert the market, contain the situation or ensure accountability of all relevant persons.

"Regardless of how and when each of these tools is deployed, they have the common objective of reminding relevant persons of their duties and obligations to the market and the investing public,'' Mr Tan said.

In alerting the market, SGX RegCo may pose disclosure queries - either privately or publicly on SGXNet - to seek clarification on inconsistencies or information gaps. However, a company must publish its response to a private query via SGXNet when the information is material to the price discovery process or would enable investors to make an informed decision. "Trade with Caution" (TWC) announcements may also be issued to warn the public of irregularities and concerns.

To contain certain risks and prevent them from escalating, the regulator may issue a Notice of Compliance. These must be made public for the establishment of "a fair, orderly and transparent market if necessary", or to enforce compliance by a stipulated deadline.

"We may call upon the authorities to intervene where a company blatantly disregards or persistently doesn't cooperate in complying with our Notices, and if the situation is urgent,'' Mr Tan said.

Nine Notices have been issued since they were introduced in October 2015. Seven of these - two to Datapulse Technology, two to YuuZoo Corporation, and one each to Noble Group, Midas Holdings and Emerging Towns & Cities - were public and two private.

In ensuring accountability, SGX RegCo may take disciplinary action against a breach of the Listing Rules or Trading Rules.

Mr Tan said: "Disciplinary actions require a due process; in keeping with the rule of law, we do not carry out summary justice."

He added that a formal investigation must be conducted and the relevant person given an opportunity to respond and to be heard.

"This will occur either in writing (known as a show cause process) or a full hearing before our independent disciplinary committees and/or appeals committees when we seek the imposition of heavier penalties such as bans or fines."

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

Protester back in court over CBD assembly

Straits Times
05 Apr 2018
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

Less than a year after he was sent to jail for offences including holding a solo demonstration in Raffles Place, a Singaporean man was back in court yesterday for allegedly conducting a similar protest at the same spot in February this year.

Yan Jun, 42, is now accused of taking part in a public assembly without a permit outside Raffles Place MRT station at around noon on Feb 22.

The court heard that when confronted, he behaved in a disorderly manner by repeatedly shouting at Station Inspector Juherman Zaiton. He is also accused of refusing to leave the area when told do so.

Yan stood in the dock with his back facing District Judge Luke Tan on the first day of the trial yesterday. He refused to acknowledge many of the judge's questions and remained standing while prosecution witnesses gave their testimonies.

Station Insp Juherman told Judge Tan he went to Raffles Place with Inspector Siaw Kah Swee, and saw Yan holding a public assembly.

A video taken from Station Insp Juherman's body camera was played in court and it showed Yan holding placards while addressing the lunchtime crowd.

One of them bore a message directed at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Justice Chao Hick Tin. It stated: "PM Lee and Justice Chao: resign over the Terrex conspiracy!"

In 2016 Hong Kong authorities detained nine Singapore Armed Forces Terrex infantry carriers, saying the company transporting them did not have the proper paperwork.

Another placard read: "The opposition: Prove yourself."

The video showed Station Insp Juherman asking Yan to leave.

The officer also tried to give him a "move-on direction", containing a written warning that offenders who disobey the law under the Public Order Act can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $20,000.

The document also stated that Yan had to leave the area and stay away from it for 24 hours.

He refused to take the document and the policeman was seen placing it at Yan's feet. Yan was also heard telling the officers: "It's not the first time I protest here. Arrest me."

The officers arrested him after repeated warnings and he was taken to the Police Cantonment Complex.

Yan, who was unrepresented, also took the stand yesterday.

When Judge Tan asked him to testify, he replied: "My defence is police corruption." In a raised voice, he expressed doubts about the integrity of the police officers.

Judge Tan told Yan to stop when he repeatedly failed to address the incidents connected to his current charges. Deputy Public Prosecutor G. Kannan told the court he will be giving his submissions today.

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

Vard says CEO is 'independent', can offer his view on exit offer

Business Times
24 Apr 2018
Lee Meixian

VARD Holdings on Monday responded to queries from the Singapore Exchange (SGX) regarding contents of its circular sent to shareholders over its proposed voluntary delisting.

Contents of the circular had classified and considered its CEO Roy Reite as "independent for the purposes of making recommendations to shareholders in respect of the exit offer". The exchange thereafter received public feedback questioning Mr Reite's independence.

In response, the shipbuilding and repairing company said that as a starting point, whether Mr Reite is independent for the purpose of making recommendations is determined by reference to the Singapore Code on Takeovers and Mergers, and should not be confused with the "entirely separate" concept of an independent director under the Code of Corporate Governance 2012.

The former requires the board to indicate whether or not it recommends to shareholders to accept or reject the exit offer. This places an obligation on the directors, including Mr Reite, to make a recommendation, unless a director has an "irreconcilable conflict of interest" and has been exempted by the Securities Industry Council (SIC) from making a recommendation.

A conflict of interest could happen, for instance, when a director of the offeree company is also a director, employee or nominee of the offeror or its concert party.

Vard said in its filing to the exchange: "The mere fact that Mr Reite has been in the company's employment for a long period of time or that the company is a subsidiary of Fincantieri Oil & Gas SpA (the entity looking to take Vard Holdings private) does not, in and of itself, mean that Mr Reite faces an irreconcilable conflict of interest. This is an assessment to be made by Mr Reite, and not the company. Mr Reite does not consider himself to face an irreconcilable conflict of interest in this case."

Regarding SGX's query about whether the company had consulted SIC in determining whether Mr Reite is considered independent for making a recommendation, Vard's reply suggested that there was no need to do so. It cited the SIC practice statement which said: "It is not the role of Council to provide such confirmations. Assessments on independence should be made by offeree company directors themselves."

Italy's Fincantieri, which controls slightly more than 83 per cent of Vard, is offering to buy the remaining shares it does not own at 25 Singapore cents apiece, one cent more than its previous offer made in 2016. CIMB had earlier this month assessed that the exit offer is not fair, but reasonable, because among other things, the exit offer price is at a discount to net asset value per share, and that the group's financial performance has improved in fiscal 2017.

Vard's shares closed flat at S$0.25 on Monday.

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

SGX RegCo's tools to keep the investing game clean

Business Times
13 Apr 2018
Tan Boon Gin

They are used as a reminder to market participants of their duties and obligations to the market and the investing public

When a company is listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX), it is obliged to comply with the listing rules.

Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) has various regulatory tools to enforce them. A wide range of disciplinary sanctions are also available to deal with relevant persons who have breached the rules. "Relevant persons" comprise the issuer, its directors, executive officers and issue managers, and where a company is listed on Catalist, its sponsors and registered professionals.

Participants granted access to SGX markets are similarly expected to comply with the trading rules.

Unusual trading activities by any participant won't be left unaddressed when detected. Upon detecting material concerns in an issuer, SGX RegCo may use its regulatory tools to:

Alert the market so that investors and shareholders can make informed decisions;
Contain the situation by highlighting or managing immediate risks to shareholders' interests; and
Ensure accountability of all relevant persons, either through SGX RegCo's disciplinary powers or by referral to the relevant authorities.

ALERTING THE MARKET

Disclosure query

We will pose disclosure queries to relevant persons when a company fails to disclose all material information or has disclosed information which is incomplete or unclear. These queries may seek clarification by highlighting inconsistencies or gaps in the information disclosed, and require the relevant persons to make the necessary corrections. They may also require the issuer to substantiate information disclosed in announcements (such as financial results).

Disclosure queries may be communicated privately or published via SGXNet. The company will be required to publish its response to a private query via SGXNet when such information is material to the price discovery process or would enable investors to make an informed decision.

Trade with Caution

We may also issue a "Trade with Caution" (TWC) announcement to immediately warn the investing public of irregular price or volume movements where we have reason to suspect that a false market exists, and that the market is not operating on a fair, orderly and transparent basis.

Further, there can be no reliable price discovery where an issuer fails to disclose material information in an accurate, complete and timely manner. Such situations raise concerns on whether investors can buy or sell securities on an informed basis. When issuing a TWC announcement, we will provide details of the irregularities we have detected and our specific concerns.

CONTAINING THE SITUATION

Notice of Compliance

SGX RegCo may exercise its administrative powers by issuing a Notice of Compliance. Nine such notices have been issued since they were introduced in October 2015 as part of initiatives to strengthen our ability to enforce the listing rules.

Seven of these - to Datapulse Technology (twice), YuuZoo Corporation (twice), Noble Group, Midas Holdings and Emerging Towns & Cities - were public and two were private.

The notice contains requirements imposed on relevant persons that must be complied with. The requirements are definitive and calibrated to address the circumstances of each case.

For instance, a Notice of Compliance may be proactive in nature to contain certain risks and stop them from materialising into actual harm, or escalating into more serious breaches. And where developments suggest something or someone is preventing independent directors from carrying out their duties to safeguard investors' interest, we may take steps to remove the obstacle by issuing a notice.

Other requirements a notice may impose include the appointment of a third-party professional to review internal controls or an independent financial adviser to advise minority shareholders, the provision of specified disclosures to the market, or any other requirements which we consider appropriate. A notice may also convey our objection to the appointment of certain directors.

We will require the Notice of Compliance to be made public for the establishment of a fair, orderly and transparent market if necessary. In making this decision, we will consider, among other factors:

    • Whether the risk has an immediate bearing on the decision-making of the investing public;
    • The level of urgency in alerting the public of the risk and of SGX RegCo's measures to contain such risks; and
    • Whether disclosure of the risk and SGX RegCo's measures provide transparency of the basis for our Notice of Compliance to the market.

Other factors such as the compliance track record and risk profile of the company receiving the Notice of Compliance, or the transactions contemplated, will also be relevant. We will also consider whether the publication of the notice is necessary to direct a company that has been tardy or demonstrates resistance in complying with our requirements, and to do so by the stipulated deadline.

A failure to comply with the requirements SGX RegCo imposes is deemed a contravention of the listing rules. We may call upon the authorities to intervene where a company blatantly disregards or persistently doesn't cooperate in complying with our notices, and if the situation is urgent.

ENSURING ACCOUNTABILITY

The exercise of SGX RegCo's administrative powers in a particular case doesn't preclude it from subsequently pursuing disciplinary action against a relevant person for a breach of the listing rules or trading rules. Disciplinary actions require a due process; in keeping with the rule of law, we do not carry out summary justice.

A formal investigation must be conducted and the relevant person given an opportunity to respond and be heard. This will occur either in writing (known as a show-cause process) or a full hearing before our independent disciplinary committees and/or appeals committees when we seek the imposition of heavier penalties such as bans or fines.

Issue managers are included as relevant persons in our rules. Should breaches suggest concerns about the quality of due diligence since the original listing of the company, we have the powers to suspend the issue manager or to impose conditions on the work they can do.

Auditors and lawyers may not be relevant persons, but we refer them to their regulatory bodies for disciplinary action where necessary. Opinions, reports or work done by other professionals which are of concern to us are also referred to their regulatory bodies for action.

SGX RegCo has a range of regulatory tools at its disposal to enforce the listing rules and trading rules.

Some of these are pre-emptive or imposed within a relatively short time-span to put the company on immediate notice to safeguard shareholders' interest, while signalling to investors that rule breaches might have occurred and to factor this into their decision-making.

Other tools involve processes that may take more time such as a formal investigation and the convening of a hearing before the independent disciplinary and/or appeals Committees.

Regardless of how and when each of these tools is deployed, they have the common objective of reminding relevant persons of their duties and obligations to the market and the investing public.

The writer is chief executive of SGX RegCo. This is SGX's latest Regulator's Column, published on Friday.

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

Dual class shares: there should be minimum market cap of S$500m at time of listing: Mailbag

Business Times
05 Apr 2018

The consultation paper on the listing framework for Dual Class Shares (DCS) structures recently issued by the Singapore Exchange contains important conditions which can help to protect investor interests.

For companies with DCS, the biggest risks for shareholders are the lack of say on the company's governance and the expropriation danger. Therefore, the main safeguards should be the protection of the public shareholders in these two areas.

The SGX paper proposes that three key board committees - Audit, Remuneration and Nominating - have a majority of independent directors (ID) and be chaired by an ID. In addition, the removal and appointment of any ID has to be on a one-share-one-vote basis. These two conditions, put together, will help to promote independent-mindedness among IDs as well as help ensure that these committees function more independently.

Assuming that under the one-share-one-vote structure, the DCS holders are in the minority, then it is the outside shareholders that have the biggest say in the appointment of these IDs and we should then expect that the IDs will have to safeguard the interests of ordinary shareholders as their appointments are determined by them.

Another important proposal is that there will be a sunset provision whereby in any sale or transfer of DCS, the DCS become ordinary shares. This can help to prevent DCS shareholders from getting a better deal on their shares than ordinary shareholders in a sale situation.

However, there is also a suggestion that a vote be taken on whether the DCS structure can continue after the sale. I would suggest that if this is going to be the case then the DCS holders should not be allowed to vote on the matter due to a conflict of interest.

In order to further protect ordinary shareholders, I suggest that a market capitalisation requirement be imposed on the DCS structure.

(SGX is currently proposing that DCS companies must meet SGX's main board entry criteria. The minimum S$300 million market capitalisation is just one of the three criteria. There are three alternative admission criteria... and the company needs only meet one of the three. For instance, if the company is able to have S$30 million pre-tax profit for the latest fiscal year with an operating track record of at least three years, then there is no requirement to meet the market capitalisation requirement.)

I would think that the very fact a DCS structure exists is to enable DCS holders to hold a small stake in the company while still having large voting rights. Therefore, the holders should still have a rather large "skin in the game" in terms of a high equity value. In other words, I believe that allowing a shareholder to have a controlling voting interest in a company while holding only $10 million or $20 million worth of equity is too low.

Rather, DCS holders should have at least $50 million, if not more, of equity at listing. Working backwards this translates to at least around $500 million or more of a listing market capitalisation for the company.

I feel that while the proposed safeguard conditions can help to protect ordinary shareholders, if my suggestions - particularly the imposition of a market capitalisation minimum of $500 million - can be included, it will go further in helping to balance the needs of DCS holders with those of ordinary shareholders.

Ang Hao Yao

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

Noble rejects Goldilocks' nomination of 5 directors

Business Times
24 Apr 2018
Stephanie Luo

Goldilocks hits back, saying Noble's position on the issue is "oppressive and coercive"

NOBLE Group has rejected substantial shareholder Goldilocks' attempt to nominate five non-executive directors at its upcoming annual general meeting (AGM) on April 30.

This was on the basis that Goldilocks, an Abu Dhabi-based investment fund, is not a member of the company - defined as being a duly registered holder of its shares - because it holds its shares through a depository agent, Noble said in a pre-market open local bourse filing on Monday.

Goldilocks has said that it holds Noble shares through a DBS nominee account with SHUAA Capital as its broker.

Last week, it lodged a notice proposing that Ajit Vijay Joshi, Bachir Nawar, Khoo Song Koon, Chow Wai San, and Lim Yu Neng Paul be put up for election as non-executive directors of Noble.

It also sent a request for the company to circulate a statement to its shareholders about the proposed nominations. The notice and the request were lodged at the company's registered address in Bermuda.

But Noble said on Monday that Goldilocks' notice and request were not in accordance with the company's bye-laws or the Bermuda law.

The company argued that since Goldilocks holds its shares through depository agents, it is actually The Central Depository (CDP) that is listed as a member of the company, not Goldilocks.

"The notice and request served by Goldilocks has been issued and signed in Goldilocks' name. As Goldilocks is not a registered holder, the board has been advised that as a matter of Bermuda law, Goldilocks is not a member," Noble said.

On Monday, Goldilocks responded by saying that Noble has "threatened its standing as a shareholder" of the group, and that Noble's reasoning damages the standing of all shareholders.

Singapore's Securities and Futures Act directs that shareholders holding stock through a nominee account should be deemed to be members of the company, Goldilocks said.

Given that many of Noble's shareholders use nominee accounts, Noble's position "effectively means that only CDP and the 39 individuals listed on Noble's member register will be entitled to assert and enforce rights as members", Goldilocks argued.

"This is oppressive and coercive," the shareholder said.

Later in the day, the Abu Dhabi-based fund also released a statement urging Noble to, among other things, provide full details of when Noble had sought to engage an independent financial adviser (IFA) and explain why it had failed to announce its engagement of the proposed IFA candidate.

This was made in response to an open letter on April 18 by Noble chairman Paul Brough stating that the board had, independently from the Singapore Exchange's directive, already sought an IFA to opine on whether or not the restructuring plan is fair and reasonable to shareholders.

He also said that the IFA report will be included in the circular to shareholders setting out the proposal.

In the statement rebutting 13 points made by Mr Brough, Goldi-locks also said that there is no basis to incentivise management if the restructuring support agreement (RSA) is implemented, as new Noble would only be left with contracts with counterparties in emerging markets such as Indonesia.

"Leaving aside the material risk of an adverse impact to these contracts under the RSA, there is no prospect that existing management will be able to extract value from these contracts," it said. It also requested for Noble to provide full disclosure of all assets in new Noble and how these assets can support debts of up to US$2.355 billion.

Separately, Noble announced on Monday that the long stop date of a proposed disposal by its wholly-owned subsidiary has been extended to May 31.

This is in relation to Noble Resources International's disposal of the marketing and offtake agreement to Tricon Dry Chemicals LLC and the debt contracts to Tricon International.

In response to queries from BT, SGX said: "We remain in active engagement with Noble Group. Updates to the market will be provided when appropriate."

Noble shares closed at 11 Singapore cents on Monday, up 0.5 cent or 4.8 per cent.

Additional reporting by Andrea Soh

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

Dual class listings are a 'go' - but alone won't give SGX its edge

Business Times
13 Apr 2018
Angela Tan

Allowing companies with dual class share (DCS) structures to list on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) is just one of the many factors needed to make Singapore more competitive against its equally progressive regional peers in attracting blockbuster initial public offers (IPOs), experts say.

Farhana Siddiqui, partner at Withers KhattarWong, said attracting quality listings is a function of many factors. These include the exchange's understanding of an IPO aspirant's business, the flexibility of rules to accommodate different businesses, investor education, analyst coverage and experience, as well as the quality of institutional investors.

"The mere fact of allowing dual class listings isn't going to make the SGX competitive enough. However, given that Hong Kong is also allowing it means that if we do not allow dual class listings, we will definitely not be more competitive,'' Ms Siddiqui told The Business Times.

For Singapore, the missed opportunity of hosting Manchester United's listing in 2012 drove the government to undertake a comprehensive review of Singapore's Companies Act. This was endorsed by Parliament in 2014, paving the way for the listing of companies with DCS structures, which gives certain shareholders, typically founders, more voting power.

But experts say in considering where to list, companies look at a variety of factors such as the investor base and business knowledge, proximity to investor base, listing costs, ongoing costs and compliance requirements, among others.

"So definitely, we need to look at these elements in competing jurisdictions and ensure SGX doesn't lag behind," she said.

Tham Tuck Seng, Capital Markets Leader at PwC in Singapore, believes that the size of an exchange does play a part in attracting unicorns - privately held startup companies with valuations of US$1 billion or more.

"New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Hongkong Exchange (HKEx) are large exchanges and their annual IPO funds raised are often 10 times the size of SGX and hence naturally, many large issuers will consider them as their preferred listing destination."

To attract unicorn listings, it is inevitable that SGX continues to innovate and keep up with market needs. This includes accommodating DCS listings.

Ms Siddiqui said: "There needs to be a deeper re-look at how to attract quality listings, particularly from around the region.

"The new companies setting up in Singapore and raising series funding tend to be in the tech space including fintech. Having ease of set up and creating more opportunities and incentives for investment in these sectors ought to create greater possibility of such companies seeking a listing here.''

Mr Tham feels that SGX's proposed DCS listing framework and safeguards are reasonable and flexible enough to attract some new economy stocks here.

"The success of the DCS structure lies in the types of companies that are admitted for a DCS listing. We want to see strong technology and innovative elements, which also includes biotech and life sciences, in the proposed DCS listings. To identify and admit this type of suitable candidates requires a lot of judgement by SGX and the listing professionals. This is a process which has to be fine tuned over time,'' he said.

Ms Siddiqui said: "The pleasing thing about SGX's proposed framework is that it addresses the risks rather than being prescriptive.''

Whether the proposed rules to prevent entrenchment and expropriation are sufficient will depend on how they are effected in practice, but features on automatic conversion of owner's shares to ordinary shares and having a tenor for shares with multi-voting rights are good parameters for early days.

"The rules need to be flexible to adapt to rapidly changing economies and industry needs,'' she said.

Compared to HKEx, SGX's proposed requirements are more flexible.

Mr Tham said: "For example, SGX doesn't require a specific market capitalisation test, (just mainboard entry criteria), no requirement of sophisticated investor participation and no separate set up of a compliance committee.

"Yet, the important ones are there to protect the one-vote shareholders. The proposed safeguards are very much in line with the exchanges in the US, Canada and Europe.''

Ultimately, he said, SGX's proposed framework reflects a delicate balancing act by the regulator to have sufficient safeguards without over-burdening and risking being unattractive to DCS listing aspirants.

So far, companies in the region, particularly those with family holdings, are actively watching this development.

Ms Siddiqui said: "We are regularly getting queries from our clients around the region on when SGX is going to allow DCS listings. What is particularly of note is that this interest is coming from companies which have shied away from listing.''

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

App to aid hearings at Maxwell Chambers

Straits Times
05 Apr 2018
Ilyda Chua

It allows users to check into hearing rooms, request secretarial services and order food

There is a mobile phone application for everything, and now one for dispute-resolution hearings in Singapore.

Not content with being the world's first integrated dispute-resolution complex, Maxwell Chambers is now gearing up to become the world's first smart hearing facility by the end of this year.

The app can be used as an electronic key to get through the turnstile, securely check into hearing rooms and offices, and make requests for secretarial services. It also gives users access to participating eateries in the area for food deliveries.

And for good measure, a robot named Max will deliver files and food within the building, which will incorporate other elements of smart technology.

In a demonstration of the technology's capacities, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah remotely ordered a roast chicken sandwich using the mobile app, which Max promptly delivered.

The technology will be rolled out as part of a "Smart Maxwell" initiative launched yesterday by Maxwell Chambers and the Ministry of Law (MinLaw).

Ms Indranee said the initiative would leverage technology to "enhance convenience, comfort and security for users", and will generate more business opportunities for the legal industry in Singapore.

"Smart Maxwell is also in line with Singapore's Smart Nation effort," she added.

Smart technology will help speed up administrative and finance-related functions and boost productivity, potentially saving over $500,000 a year, said MinLaw.

It will be made available to tenants at no additional cost. However, if they prefer, tenants will be able to opt out of using the technology.

Jointly developed with local tech start-ups Habitap and Techmetics, the technology will also be extended to the adjacent Maxwell Chambers Suites, a 120,000 sq ft expansion that will be housed in the Red Dot Traffic Building when the building is completed next year.

As of now, tenancy figures for the new building remain unchanged from June 2017 at 65 per cent, said a MinLaw spokesman.

Maxwell Chambers houses a number of top firms involved in dispute resolution, which is offered as an alternative to litigation. Last year, a record number of 204 cases were heard at the complex. The Singapore International Arbitration Centre, a frequent user, saw 452 new cases involving some US$4.07 billion (S$5.55 billion) filed last year from parties in 58 countries.

Mr David Bateman, an international arbitrator at long-time tenant 39 Essex Chambers, said: "We require that kind of up-to-date technology in the building for our day-to-day work... but some early-stage wrinkles might need to be ironed out first."

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

Man who duped US songwriter of $792k jailed for a year

Straits Times
24 Apr 2018
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

American conman's case is first time foreign scammer is found guilty of money laundering here

An American conman, who scammed a singer-songwriter behind Faith Hill's hit Breathe of US$600,000 (S$792,000), was jailed for a year in a Singapore district court yesterday in connection with money-laundering offences.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo noted that the case involving David John Plate, 53, marked the first time that an overseas scammer was convicted of such offences here.

The court heard that in July 2014, Plate tricked Ms Mary Holladay Lamar, 50, a fellow American and singer-songwriter, into believing that US$600,000 which she gave to him would be loaned to a company, Globomass Limited. She was promised repayment with interest of at least 30 per cent. Instead, Ms Lamar ended up on the brink of bankruptcy.

In an exclusive e-mail interview with The Straits Times, Ms Lamar said she was introduced to Plate by a long-time friend. She told ST: "(The ordeal) destroyed my business, my relationship with my family. When (the scammers) weren't sending the interest payments, my mother sold her only property and had only US$20,000 left."

On April 9, Plate admitted in court to one count each of abetting an alleged accomplice, who was named in court as Singapore permanent resident Sandrasegaran Vasimuthu, 56, to receive US$45,000 and transfer US$10,000 from this amount to another man. Four other money-laundering charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

After making off with Ms Lamar's money, Plate sent an e-mail on July 22, 2014 to someone named Andrew Philpott from a British firm, Captive Risk, saying that the money would be going into the company's bank account.

Plate instructed Mr Philpott to "turn this around straight away", providing him with details of three bank accounts for the transfer of funds. One of them belonged to Mr Sandrasegaran's Singapore-registered company, Aglobal Management. Captive Risk transferred US$45,000 to Aglobal's bank account three days later.

Later on the same day, Plate e-mailed Mr Sandrasegaran, asking him to transfer US$10,000 to a Bank of America account belonging to one Todd Peterson.

DPP Chong Yonghui had earlier told the court: "The said e-mail also contained the bank account details of two other persons for the accomplice to transfer monies. In total, the accomplice was instructed to transfer monies to five bank accounts including that of the accused."

Ms Lamar flew to Singapore on June 6, 2015 and made a police report. Plate was arrested when he arrived here on a social visit pass on Feb 23 last year.

Yesterday, DPP Khoo urged District Judge John Ng to jail Plate for a year, stressing that he had made no restitution.

Ms Lamar told ST she was ruined financially at an age when she should be retiring. She said: "(Plate) is the man who stole Breathe. I wrote something beautiful. My music changed people's lives, but he has stripped the feeling of that from me." Mr Sandrasegaran has yet to be charged.

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

Driver jailed for role in alleged escape bid by City Harvest man

Straits Times
13 Apr 2018
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

A Malaysian freelance driver was given six months' jail yesterday for helping former City Harvest Church (CHC) leader Chew Eng Han in his alleged Feb 21 escape bid.

Khoo Kea Leng, 45, had pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy with Chew to help him leave Singapore from an unauthorised point of departure.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Vincent Ong said the two first met last October and Chew, 57, asked Khoo if he could transport him illegally to Johor Baru. Khoo declined but offered to check with a friend's uncle from Malaysia who might be able to. Khoo asked Chew for a prepayment and was given $200.

DPP Ong said: "The day after they met, the accused told Chew that he could arrange for Chew to leave Singapore with Chew hiding in the boot of a car and quoted a sum of $18,000 for the arrangement. Chew declined the proposal as it was too expensive but continued to remain in contact with the accused."

Chew called Khoo again on Feb 20 with the same request. Khoo contacted his Malaysian friend, Tan Kim Ho, 42, also known as Rayson, who replied that he knew somebody who could perform the task.

Khoo told Chew and they agreed on a price of $12,000, to be equally divided among Khoo, the boatman and Tan, who is still at large. Chew met Khoo later that day near Block 75 Marine Drive and gave him $8,000. Khoo told him to hand the other $4,000 to the boatman who would take him to Malaysia. Khoo then went to Johor Baru and gave Tan $4,000.

At around 10pm, Singaporean fish farm owner Tan Poh Teck, 53, got a call from a man known as "Lao Bai", who told him to pick Chew up at Changi Village the next day. Tan Poh Teck was told to transport Chew to the waters off Pulau Ubin where Chew would board Lao Bai's boat for Malaysia. Tan Poh Teck was promised $1,000.

On Feb 21 at around 7am, Chew was picked up from his home by his older brother, Chew Eng Soon, 61, who took him to Changi Village. Tan Poh Teck then phoned Chew and asked him to meet at Pulau Ubin instead as police craft had been spotted patrolling the area. Chew took a bumboat to the island before boarding Tan Poh Teck's boat from its main jetty. The pair were travelling east when Police Coast Guard officers caught them just minutes later.

Chew was charged on Feb 22 with leaving Singapore for Malaysia from the jetty, which is not an authorised point of departure. On March 1, he began his jail term of three years and four months for his role in the misuse of millions of dollars in church funds.

The pre-trial conference for the cases involving Chew and Tan Poh Teck will take place on May 3. Chew's brother has not been charged in court.

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

Couple to pay tax on $16m profit from selling bungalows

Straits Times
04 Apr 2018
K.C. Vijayan

They fail in court appeal to have profit from three properties declared as capital gains

A wealthy couple who made some $16 million from buying and selling three good class bungalows (GCBs) within six years will have the profits taxed as income earned.

The couple, whose names were redacted in court papers, had failed in their court appeal to have the profits declared as capital gains.

While capital gains are generally not taxable, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) will also determine if the sellers are in fact trading in properties by considering factors such as frequency of transactions and the holding period of the properties.

The couple, who own a construction company specialising in infrastructure projects, had purchased three GCBs all within 2km of each other.

In June 2005, they paid $5.4 million for one in Wilby Road and sold it nine months later for a gain of more than $580,000. They then bought a house in Brizay Park in October 2009 for $20.4 million and it was sold nine months later for a profit of more than $13.6 million.

In October 2010, they bought a house in Garlick Avenue for $18.7 million and sold it in January 2011 for $21.8 million, netting a profit of about $1.85 million.

The overall profits totalled $16,047,336. When they were hit with claims for income taxes owed, they took their case against the Comptroller of Income Tax to the Income Tax Board of Review, which last October rejected their appeal.

The couple then appealed to the High Court. Their lawyer Ong Sim Ho argued it was wrong for the taxman to have deemed the profits as taxable income.

He said the houses were initially bought as residential homes and the intention was not to make profits and use that as income. Therefore, any profits from resale should be seen as capital gain, and not income, said Mr Ong.

He added it did not matter that they did it three times in less than six years.

The Comptroller's counsel Lau Kai Lee countered that their conclusion was based on evidence provided by witnesses and each property transaction was considered on its own merits.

Justice Choo Han Teck noted in judgment grounds last week that the couple actually bought five landed properties between 1997 and 2012. They were still living in a West Coast Road house, which they bought in 1997, with their four children when they purchased the three GCBs.

They now live in Binjai Park.

They had claimed they bought the properties for family use but found them unsuitable after the purchase.

The judge said that of the five properties, the first was never sold while the three in dispute were turned over and never occupied by them.

"They moved into the Binjai property which was bought in June 2012 - but that was after the Comptroller had started asking questions in February 2012 concerning the previous three properties.

"All this while, and to date, the original home at West Coast remains theirs. This is the forest. The facts found by the Board are the trees," said Justice Choo in dismissing their case.


$580k
 
Gains realised in sale of good class bungalow in Wilby Road.
 
$13.6m
 
Profit from sale of good class bungalow in Brizay Park.
 
$1.85m
 
Profit from sale of good class bungalow in Garlick Avenue.
 
Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Amid heightened threats, 1 in 10 Bills passed related to security and defence

TODAY
23 Apr 2018

SINGAPORE — It has been a busy first half of the 13th Parliament: Since the session opened in January 2016, the House has passed a total of 108 Bills on areas ranging from security challenges and the criminal justice system to the environment, among other things.

The figure was more than a fifth higher than the 89 Bills passed in the first half of the 12th Parliament, and a shade lower than the 111 Bills passed by the 11th Parliament before it took a mid-term break.

Political observers said the quantity and range of Bills passed in the first half of the Government’s current term reflected the increasingly complex society and policy landscape, as well as the global threat of terror.

For instance, almost one in 10 of the Bills were related to national security and defence. These included the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Bill, which grants the police wide-ranging new powers to act during major security incidents, and the landmark Cybersecurity Bill that sought to fortify Singapore’s essential services against cyberattacks. Other examples were the Infrastructure Protection Bill and the Terrorism (Suppression of Misuse of Radioactive Material) Bill.

As with countries around the world, Singapore faces heightened security issues today, noted former People’s Action Party Member of Parliament (MP) Inderjit Singh.

“Whether it is something related to terrorist attacks or cyber security, governments have to react a lot faster than the past. Especially in the area of cyber security, we have already seen cyber-attacks on our public institutions and universities,” he added.

Nonetheless, Mr Singh said the raft of new laws to beef up security has led to concerns among some sections of society that they give greater power to the authorities.

While he did not think the laws were overbearing, the Government has to be vigilant to ensure appropriate use of the powers, said Mr Singh.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan added that much depends on how these laws are enforced as and when the need arises. “Public perception matters and if the laws are seen as unnecessarily draconian, that could affect the legitimacy of those laws,” he added.

Bills were also passed to create new public agencies, which Nanyang Technological University Assistant Professor Woo Jun Jie said reflected efforts by the Government to address policy complexities. These Bills included one that merged International Enterprise Singapore and Spring Singapore into Enterprise Singapore, as well as the SkillsFuture Singapore Agency Bill.

Dr Felix Tan, an associate lecturer at SIM Global Education, noted that there were also several Bills related to the economy and finance which are also of national concerns.

Apart from the regular Supply and Supplementary Supply Bills that cover the expenditure of the public service, there were amendments to the Economic Expansion Incentives Act that extends the tax relief period for foreign firms to set up substantive operations here, and changes to the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act which allows the regulator to resolve distressed financial institutions.

Apart from the Bills, Assoc Prof Tan noted the ministerial statements delivered during the first half of the 13th Parliament. These showed that the Government recognises the need to be accountable and explain its decision on topical matters.

They include statements on the death of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim, the alleged abuse of power surrounding the 38 Oxley Road saga and on the criminal reference on the City Harvest Church court case.

“It’s a signal by the Government that they are taking a matter seriously enough and they are putting out this statement which represents their position or what they plan to do on that matter. That sets the stage for MPs to debate,” added Assoc Prof Tan.

Copyright 2018 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Merger or market-sharing agreement?

Straits Times
13 Apr 2018
Burton Ong

The Grab-Uber merger has implications for competition law and long-term commuting behaviour, and deserve careful scrutiny, say two experts

Now that the Grab-Uber deal is being carefully scrutinised by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore, there is immense public interest in whether, realistically, anything can be done to prevent the market from being monopolised by the reduction in the number of private vehicle ride-hailing service providers from two to one.

This may well depend on how the competition authority chooses to characterise the conduct of the parties, raising interesting legal and policy questions about the intersection between Sections 34 and 54 of the Competition Act.

While many may have described the Grab-Uber deal as a "merger" between these market players, closer scrutiny of the factual details that have emerged may suggest that this may not the most accurate way of understanding the nature of this transaction and that it might be better understood as a market-sharing agreement.

Section 54 of the Competition Act prohibits mergers that have resulted, or may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition within any market in Singapore.

Mergers are defined in the Act as occurring when two previously independent undertakings become one single undertaking; when one undertaking acquires direct or indirect control over another undertaking; or when an undertaking acquires ownership of another undertaking's assets, thereby placing the former in a position to replace the latter in the business that the latter was engaged in before the acquisition.

In the case of the Grab-Uber deal, what exactly does Grab acquire from Uber in exchange for 27.5 per cent of Grab's shares? The transaction has been described by industry watchers as "asset light" because the deal does not entail Grab's acquisition of Uber's vehicles, which are owned by Uber's Lion City Rentals.

Neither does it cover Uber's employees or contracts with Uber drivers. It may or may not cover any of Uber's algorithms - but this is unlikely, given that such trade secrets are of immense strategic value in the other markets outside South-east Asia where Uber will continue to operate.

It may include Uber's customer data, but the value of this asset is not going to be very significant if we assume that most of Uber's customers have already installed Grab's application on their mobile devices, submitting their phone numbers and other personal data through their interactions with Grab. There is no merger of the Uber and Grab mobile apps, and it appears that Grab does not get any rights to use any of the intellectual property rights protecting the Uber brand. Uber simply vanishes from the market.

In the light of the above, even if this were a "merger" that the competition authority was prepared to block for violating the Section 54 prohibition, the remaining market player would continue to reap the economic benefits of the absence of its only serious market rival in the "post-merger" market.

Short of compelling Uber to re-enter the market and resurrect its business operations, it would appear that unwinding this "merger" would do little to rectify the anti-competitive effects of this transaction. New market entrants might try to enter the market, but it seems highly unlikely that they will be in a position to offer a serious competitive challenge to Grab. Any aspiring market entrant would have to be prepared to burn heaps of cash to get drivers and passengers to switch service providers. The relatively small size of the Singapore market, the availability of reliable public transport options and the extensive land transport regulatory framework should make potential competitors think thrice before going up against the incredibly well-funded and well-established Grab.

Might it be more accurate to regard the Grab-Uber deal as a market-sharing agreement instead of a merger? In essence, should the deal be regarded, instead, as Grab "paying" for Uber's exit from the Singapore market with a substantial stake in Grab's business?

If so, then the competition authority has an additional legislative tool at its disposal to tackle the competition problems arising from the transaction.

Section 34 of the Competition Act prohibits agreements that have as their object or effect the prevention of competition. This prohibition would include agreements between competitors to divide up markets between themselves - whether on a 50 per cent to 50 per cent basis or a 100 per cent to 0 per cent basis. Market-sharing agreements are, in essence, agreements between competitors not to compete in each other's "designated" territories. They are specifically identified in the commission's guidelines as paradigm examples of anti-competitive agreements. Uber may be construed to have agreed not to compete with Grab in South-east Asia, while Grab may be construed to have agreed to stay out of other markets where Uber continues to operate in.

In Europe, pharmaceutical companies which manufacture brand-name versions of medicines have had heavy fines imposed upon them by competition authorities for striking deals with generic drug manufacturers to keep the latter out of the market. The proceedings that have been brought against Lundbeck and Servier, drug makers from Denmark and France, respectively, are illustrative of these so-called "pay-for-delay" agreements, where one party essentially agrees to compensate the other for not competing in the market, thereby allowing the former to maintain its position of market dominance and charge higher prices than it would have been able to if it had to face competition. Similarly, paying off one's competitor to exit the market might also be regarded as an anti-competitive agreement that attracts similar legal sanctions.

In Singapore, the competition authority has had plenty of experience levying fines on competitors that have engaged in price-fixing, bid-rigging, the sharing of sensitive price information as well as collusion with each other against a common rival to achieve their anti-competitive objectives. Perhaps the time has come to add a decision on market-sharing conduct to its repertoire?

It is submitted that a substance-over-form approach should be taken when evaluating the conduct of the parties in the Grab-Uber deal. That the parties failed to notify the competition authority of their "merger" before the deal was closed and implemented raises many questions about their underlying strategic motivations.

The challenge for our national competition authority and the competition authorities of all the other South-east Asian jurisdictions affected by the deal (most of which also have similar competition laws prohibiting anti-competitive agreements) is to provide a robust response to this bold, and slightly obvious, attempt to eliminate competition in the private vehicle ride-hailing market.


Burton Ong is Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore.

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

Court upholds acquittal of accused match-fixer

Straits Times
04 Apr 2018

A businessman accused of match-fixing walked out of court a free man yesterday after the High Court upheld his acquittal last year by a district court.

Mr Rajendar Prasad Rai, 44, was alleged to have conspired with his nephew, Mr Shree Manish Kalra, to fix the results of six matches played in Europe in 2013 and 2014.

Mr Manish, then 22, implicated Mr Rajendar and himself in statements to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in 2015.

But during Mr Rajendar's trial, he retracted the statements in court, claiming that he had lied to the authorities to "fix" his uncle.

In July last year, after a trial of more than 30 days, a district judge acquitted Mr Rajendar of all six match-fixing charges, finding reasonable doubt in the evidence of Mr Manish, who was the key witness.

The district judge noted that there was no independent and objective evidence that the six matches were indeed fixed as the prosecution had relied solely on Mr Manish's statements to paint Mr Rajendar as a match-fixer.

The duo were alleged to have fixed the results of the six friendly matches through picking specific match officials for the games.

However, there were no probes conducted into any of the matches and neither was any action taken against parties concerned nor was anyone called as witnesses.

Mr Manish was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal two months after he sought to retract his statements to the CPIB.

After Mr Rajendar was cleared of all charges, the prosecution appealed.

Yesterday, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng dismissed the appeal, saying there were insufficient grounds to overturn the district judge's decision.

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

Regulate use of ever-seeing cameras

Straits Times
23 Apr 2018

Taxi drivers ought to be protected from errant passengers who abuse them or walk off without paying. According to the Public Transport Council, there were 240 cases of fare evasion in 2015, up from 68 in 2012. Cases of assault are more serious. One driver was punched repeatedly in the face when he alighted to check on a door slammed shut during a dispute between a man and his girlfriend. Cabbies have been assaulted by drunks and hit by tourists who think that they have been taken for a ride. In the face of such risks, taxi operators ought to take reasonable measures to protect drivers, especially seniors and women.

However, the unregulated use of inward-facing video cameras in taxis would be clearly unacceptable. And it would be high-handed to tell commuters to get out of the taxi if they don't wish their every move and conversation to be recorded. Of course, cameras do serve a purpose when the causes of altercations are contested. These devices can provide evidence of what took place, at least inside the cab, and the images can help to identify and track down fare cheats. At the very least, the cameras will have a deterrent effect - on both passengers and drivers who are inclined to stray. If recordings are used for only legitimate purposes, passengers might be more willing to tolerate such cameras, as all are entitled to feel safe in public transport.

The other side of the coin, however, is that the use of ever-present cameras by public transport operators could lead to abuses. Many would object to the invasion of their legitimate privacy and worry about the protection of the data gathered. Some assurance has been provided by the Land Transport Authority, which requires taxi and private-hire car drivers to seek its approval before installing inward-facing cameras. Safeguards are necessary as transport service companies and drivers must also abide by the Personal Data Protection Act. Earlier, there was a flap over demands by businesses to capture information from identity cards. In the same way, one should question why and how other personal data is obtained.

Elsewhere, image and voice data collected by taxi cameras has to be encrypted so that drivers would have no access to it, except when it is granted by the authorities. Those recordings should not be stored indefinitely, and they ought to be viewed by authorised people only to enforce the law or manage complaints. If the data is stored within devices in cabs, these must have some security features to protect information. Alternatively, data could be streamed to a central server. Naturally, all such arrangements will incur costs which will have to be borne by consumers and operators. Hence, one should not get carried away with protective measures. Weigh these against the prevalence of the social ills to be avoided.

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

Website's dismissal of foreign meddling refuted by Acra

Straits Times
13 Apr 2018
Yuen Sin

The website New Naratif, run by historian Thum Ping Tjin and freelance journalist Kirsten Han, has dismissed suggestions that it is being used by foreigners to pursue a political activity in Singapore as "unfounded".

In a rejoinder last night, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra), however, said that New Naratif "clearly has a political agenda", and had also confirmed that it received a grant from an entity linked to American billionaire George Soros.

In fact, it added, New Naratif's statement highlighted that it has received subscription fees from over 420 members in 17 countries.

Acra said: "In other words, its political activities in Singapore would appear to be funded by a number of foreigners - not only foreign entities like OSF (Open Society Foundations), but also citizens of foreign countries."

The exchange of words comes a day after the authority said it had refused to register a company to be headed by Dr Thum and Ms Han, OSEA Pte Ltd, which aims to support New Naratif and run activities such as "Democracy Classroom" sessions.

This is because OSEA was to be a subsidiary of British-registered company OSEA UK, which had received a grant of US$75,000 (S$98,000) from Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI), said Acra. FOSI is closely associated with OSF, which is founded by Mr Soros and has a history of being involved in various countries' politics, Acra added. "Singapore's politics should be for Singaporeans alone to determine," it said.

But New Naratif said yesterday that the grant from FOSI was awarded on the basis of the website's project concept and "does not impose any conditions beyond goals that we defined ourselves".

"FOSI and OSF do not have any involvement or input in New Naratif's editorial decisions or the day-to-day running of our start-up," it said.

New Naratif also added that it is substantially supported by revenue from members, who pay subscription fees of between US$52 and US$552 per year. It has over 420 members in 17 countries, and has also received numerous donations from individuals, it said.

To this, Acra said that even if it is true that FOSI or OSF - and possibly all of its foreign donors - are not involved in New Naratif's day-to-day running of the website, or its other activities, this "does not detract from the fact that the registration of OSEA Pte Ltd would amount to allowing a foreign entity or foreigners to fund and influence political activities in Singapore".

"This is contrary to Singapore's national interests," it reiterated.

It also refuted New Naratif's characterisation of its work as being "a platform for journalism, research, art or community building", saying that it is also known to have organised events such as workshops and "Democracy Classroom" sessions.

"New Naratif clearly has a political agenda," said Acra.

Ms Han told The Straits Times yesterday that she and Dr Thum are seeking legal advice and considering the best course of action to take. She said they wanted to register OSEA in Singapore "so that we can operate in accordance with Singapore's regulations".

Registering a company limits an owner's financial liability to the capital that he has paid up if it loses money, said corporate finance lawyer Perry Yuen, a partner at law firm Pinsent Masons MPillay.

This means that the individuals behind it cannot be made bankrupt, unless factors like fraud are involved.

Corporate lawyer Robson Lee, a partner at global law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, said that registering as a company will also insulate discussions and meetings conducted by the organisation from being considered as unlawful assemblies.

Some of the options now available to OSEA include making an appeal to the Finance Minister within 30 days of Acra's decision or seeking a judicial review, said the law experts.

For an appeal to be successful, or to successfully register as a company on a new application, OSEA has to do more than simply return the FOSI grant, said Mr Lee. It will have to convince the minister or the registrar that it will not affect the national security and interests of Singapore, for instance.

Ms Stefanie Yuen Thio, a joint managing partner at TSMP Law Corporation, said:. "You may not receive (a foreign grant) today, but what is going to stop you from taking foreign money tomorrow, for example?"

There could also be the option of filing a judicial review, said Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan. To do this, OSEA has to show that the decision-making process behind Acra's rejection of its registration is flawed.

For instance, OSEA may have to prove that it is not a proxy for foreign influence. The Acra registrar would then have to reconsider the application based on the court's ruling, he said.

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

Two Airbnb hosts fined $60k each for illegal rentals

Straits Times
04 Apr 2018
Rachel Au-Yong

The former property agents earned at least $19,000 from four listings of their units in a Bukit Timah condo

Two men who provided Airbnb-style accommodation in a Bukit Timah condominium were each fined $60,000 yesterday - the first prosecutions under a new rule outlawing short-term rentals.

Former property agents Terence Tan En Wei, 35, and Yao Songliang, 34, admitted four charges in February and were fined $15,000 on each count.

This was the first case of prosecution for a breach of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) rules on short-term rentals that kicked in on May 15 last year.

The men earned at least $19,000 from four listings of their units at d'Leedon near Farrer Road over five weeks last year.

The prosecution had sought to fine each man $80,000, while the defendants hoped to pay a maximum fine of $20,000 each.

District Judge Kenneth Choo said that while a $80,000 fine was too excessive, there were several aggravating factors. The men were motivated by profit when they rented out these units on home-sharing portals like Airbnb and Homeaway.

They set up several companies that were used to rent out the four units for short-term stays.

As former real estate agents, they also should have known that short-term stays were illegal, he said.

The men have had their licences revoked.

Tan and Yao also took steps to avoid detection, including taking their guests to a completely different unit to evade suspicious security guards. After the guards had left, the guests were led to the correct unit.

But Judge Choo noted that the duo were first-time offenders, who pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity, and cooperated fully with the authorities.

Ms Wong Soo Chih, the duo's lawyer, said her clients were satisfied with the outcome. They paid the fine on the spot yesterday.

But Ms Wong noted that her clients could have been sentenced prematurely, given an upcoming public consultation on home-sharing rules. "While ignorance of the law is no excuse, to the layman, it sounds like the authorities are open to home-sharing," she said.

The Government has said that a long-awaited consultation paper, that sets out a regulatory framework for short-term accommodation, will be released soon.

In a letter to The Straits Times Forum page on Monday, URA's group director for development control, Ms Goh Chin Chin, said that it would take some time to work through the consultation process and to amend legislation, if necessary.

In the meantime, home-sharing websites should "remind their users to comply with the existing laws" of a minimum stay of three months, she added.

A URA spokesman told The Straits Times that it will continue to investigate any feedback received on illegal short-term accommodation, and work with management corporations and management agents to gather evidence.

"If investigations reveal that illegal short-term accommodation was operated on a commercial scale or involved recalcitrant offenders, URA will proceed with prosecution. An example of such egregious cases is the one in court today," she said.

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

Nee Soon to get mediation club to help residents

Straits Times
23 Apr 2018
Felicia Choo

Nee Soon group representation constituency (GRC) will be the first constituency here to get its own mediation club within the year. This is part of a tie-up with non-profit organisation International Institute of Mediators (Singapore) (iiM).

The club, which is open to any grassroots leader and resident interested in conflict resolution, will promote the settling of disputes in a more amicable manner, said Ms Lee Bee Wah, MP for Nee Soon GRC.

Ms LeeShe said thatdisputes with neighbours are common and that "we are living in a very condensed environment", citing examples of disputes over noise and second-hand smoke.

"What we hope is that if both parties are willing, and they want to continue to live in the community, perhaps mediation will lead to a better outcome than (taking the legal route)," she said.

Ms Lee was speaking to the media yesterday, after a mediation training conducted for about 100 grassroots leaders by iiM.

The four-hour training, which taught participants how to resolve conflicts using mediation and other informal ways, was held at the Nee Soon South Community Club.

Grassroots leaders already receive in-house mediation training, but this session and the new club will help to further their skills, said Ms Lee.

Members of the club will be able to participate in group discussions, workshops and conferences on conflict resolution, as well as an essay competition to encourage members to share experiences of conflicts between neighbours.

Some basic mediation skills are listening well, knowing when to question the parties involved and using body language effectively, said iiM president Lim Lan Yuan.

He added that the organisation is working to expand the training to other constituencies, such as the Sembawang GRC and West Coast GRC.

Grassroots leader Lai Wee Yeong, 35, who attended the mediation training, plans to join the club when it opens.

"A lot of times when we encounter disagreements between residents, there's a need for a neutral third party because, usually, their first reaction is to go to the authorities, which may make things very bad," said the teacher, who has volunteered as a grassroots leader for less than a year.

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

ADV: Career Opportunities at NUS Faculty of Law

Singapore Law Watch
13 Apr 2018
NUS Faculty of Law

M&O restructuring needs safe harbour

Business Times
04 Apr 2018
Ian Wallace, Christopher Frampton, Scott Greissman and Jonathan Olier

New laws have made Singapore more attractive for companies looking to restructure, but can it become the jurisdiction of choice for Asian debt restructurings?

The maritime and offshore (M&O) sector has endured almost a decade of distress since the global financial crisis. Overzealous ordering of newbuild vessels during the boom years, made available by cheap credit and the lure of increasing global demand, has left many sectors of the maritime industry over-saturated.

Following a study of 44 offshore supply vessel companies, global consulting firm AlixPartners predicted a significant number of insolvencies in South-east Asia in the next 12 to 18 months and highlighted the fact that the current vessel scrap rate is only around 13 per cent of what is required to combat the vessel glut.

Additionally, events in 2016 and 2017 have resulted in looming debt stacks in the face of dwindling cash flows across the sector, particularly in Singapore and Asia-Pacific in general, where the key M&O players have - for the most part - yet to face immediate refinancing pressure. In fact, Marine Money magazine has suggested that between six and eight M&O businesses based or headquartered in Singapore will be seeking a restructuring solution soon. However, there are complexities involved in M&O restructuring which need to be considered.

REDUCTION OF M&O EXPOSURE AND INTRICACIES OF BUSINESSES

Firstly, traditional shipping banks and lenders have been gradually reducing their M&O exposure, which may exacerbate liquidity issues for debtors. To a certain extent, alternative sources such as direct lending, funds seeking exposure to M&O debt, and equity have been able to meet the shortfall, as have banks and fund managers that were not historically active in the sector. These sources have aided a number of proactive debtors and may be able to do the same for others facing a refinancing in the short to medium term.

There has been some criticism that restructurings in the sector are only "sticking plasters" for the problem, rather than wholesale solutions. This is primarily due to the composition of the sector's principal creditors, who have been reluctant to crystallise their position in a depressed market. As a result, a number of restructurings designed to provide additional liquidity and a runway for a company attempting to survive any downturn in fortunes have relied on a recovery in the M&O market - a recovery which has yet to manifest itself.

Secondly, M&O restructurings are often complicated due to the intricacies of the businesses and capital structures for many companies in the sector - and the inherently international nature of the assets. Not only are M&O businesses almost invariably categorised by extremely complex corporate and capital structures covering multiple jurisdictions, many such structures have been rendered even more challenging by previous restructurings.

Cross-border issues often present complications for both creditors and debtors, and it is worth remembering that participants in the M&O sector are highly dependent upon the uninterrupted continuity of their business. This means that restructuring solutions must protect these companies from value-destructive scenarios such as termination of key contracts.

In addition, the interaction between cross-border insolvency law and maritime law is rarely straightforward and often complicated by varying requirements of different jurisdictions where a vessel might be located, the domicile of the business, the governing law of the relevant documents and the jurisdiction where a restructuring solution is ultimately sought.

SINGAPORE'S ATTRACTIONS FOR M&O RESTRUCTURING

Over the next 12 months, M&O players around the globe will be attempting to shore up their balance sheets and emerge from the downturn by taking advantage of developing opportunities. Singapore's newly implemented restructuring regime could prove popular as it creates a viable means to achieve these goals and, under the right circumstances, it may even prove preferable to the well-established M&O restructuring frameworks of the US Chapter 11 and the English scheme of arrangement.

Singapore's restructuring and insolvency laws saw several changes as a result of the Companies (Amendment) Bill, amending the Singapore Companies Act, which came into effect on May 23, 2017. In particular, the law seeks to transpose some of the more powerful tools from Chapter 11 into Singapore law, as well as easing access for foreign companies to the country's restructuring processes (the Judicial Commissioner of Singapore has referred to the "cherry-picking" of restructuring tools in order to produce a hybrid system).

These restructuring tools include rescue financing and an improved framework for schemes of arrangement.

RESCUE FINANCING

The new rescue financing provisions are similar to the US' post-petition financing model, thus enabling Singapore courts to rank creditors contributing to the restructuring process ahead of other parties attempting to recover debt from the relevant company. This financing can be secured against both previously secured and unsecured assets, and on a subordinated, equal footing, or senior basis.

IMPROVED SCHEMES OF ARRANGEMENT

The legislative framework for schemes of arrangement has been modified to increase its utility as an international restructuring tool.

• Moratorium - Singapore courts are now empowered to grant a moratorium - a legal authorisation to debtors to postpone payment - during a company's restructuring negotiations and implementation process, which includes an automatic global moratorium of up to 30 days, as soon as the application is received. The temporary suspension can be extended to related companies such as subsidiaries, and also direct and indirect holdings.

• Cram-down - Furthermore, in certain circumstances, the court can "cram down" creditors that oppose an arrangement or compromise and bind them to accept an outcome - a hybrid of equivalent powers available in English and US Chapter 11.

• Pre-packs - In cases where there are pre-negotiated compromises, the courts may be able to approve these without requiring a meeting of creditors (that is, as a "pre-pack" solution), although safeguards have also been put in place to protect the creditors' rights. In particular, the new regulations increase the transparency of information about a proposed compromise or arrangement, thus enabling creditors to assess the situation more easily. These partners have been given the right to apply to the court to vary or terminate the moratorium and to prevent the company from dissipating its assets.

WHAT SINGAPORE CAN DO TO BECOME A M&O RESTRUCTURING HUB

To compete effectively with established M&O restructuring hubs, Singapore needs to gain the confidence of the sector's businesses, banks, funds and export credit agencies - and the advisers who will ultimately steer them towards a solution.

These stakeholders will require convincing that a restructuring in Singapore would produce a superior outcome compared to Chapter 11 or an alternative process.

The new Singapore regime is a welcome addition to the restructuring toolbox for the Asia-Pacific M&O sector and beyond. Adopting many of the most useful elements of the US and English systems has resulted in - on paper - a robust restructuring regime, with the added benefit of removing one more element of cross-border uncertainty for local debtors and creditors.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Singapore will become the jurisdiction of choice for the Asia-Pacific M&O restructurings in the short term, or whether the market will need more time to mature and develop before large-scale cross-border restructurings become the norm ahead of Chapter 11 or a solution in England.

The deciding factor will be whether market participants believe Singapore's regime is capable of dealing with the very complex nuances of M&O restructurings.

The writers are partners at White & Case Pte Ltd, which is licensed to operate as a foreign law practice in Singapore. Where advice on Singapore law is required, it will refer the matter to and work with licensed Singapore law practices where necessary.

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

Hard on victims despite laws to punish vigilantes

Straits Times
22 Apr 2018
Calvin Yang

There is little comfort for victims who are targeted by online vigilantes, it seems.

While there are laws in place, enforcing them on keyboard warriors may be an uphill task, observers told The Sunday Times.

Lawyers here said there is some recourse for victims, including turning to the Protection from Harassment Act if the vigilantism borders on harassment.

Those who are incorrectly identified as wrongdoers by online vigilantes also have grounds to seek recourse for defamation and retraction.

Singapore Management University (SMU) law don Eugene Tan said the Act, which can be used against keyboard warriors if their vigilante work manifests itself as threatening behaviour, is probably the best approach, but the challenge is always trying to identify the culprits.

Enforcement of the various laws may not be clear-cut.

For one thing, "the anonymity of much behaviour online frequently makes prosecution unrealistic", said National University of Singapore law dean Simon Chesterman.

It may also be difficult to put up an order against many anonymous individuals under the Act, said Ms Gloria James, head lawyer at Gloria James-Civetta & Co.

However, some lawyers believe that there are ways around this.

Lawyer Lionel Tan, who specialises in social media at law firm Rajah & Tann, said a possible course of action for victims "is to identify the most egregious online abuser and to file a claim against the abuser for defamation".

"This may create a deterrent effect that will discourage further abuse by other netizens."

Mr Tan said it is also possible to file legal action and seek the court's assistance to compel the Internet service provider to disclose an anonymous abuser's identity.

Observers said that while there are measures in place, the nature of the online realm makes it tough for victims - it's not easy to stop being associated with an incident.

Those identified wrongly still turn up in search results on past spats.

SMU associate professor Warren Chik said those wrongly accused can request the information to be taken down from Web hosting sites, "but this may not deal with the problem comprehensively as this information can be replicated".

Lawyers pointed to making a police report as the best option for now. In response to queries, the police advised victims of online harassment to not respond to harassing SMSes or phone calls, and to lodge a report with them.

Mr Satwant Singh of Satwant & Associates said what people post online can return to haunt them.

"The Internet can be a bane or a boon, and there is no running away from it," he added. "What is important is that we should not be too quick at the keyboard."


While there are measures in place, the nature of the online realm makes it tough for victims - it's not easy to stop being associated with an incident.Calvin Yang

• Additional reporting by Tan Shu Yan, Ervin Tan and Gracia Lee

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

Apex court upholds Jannie Chan's directorship

Straits Times
12 Apr 2018
Selina Lum

Her TYC Investment seat was automatically reinstated after bankruptcy set aside, it rules

The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld the reinstatement of prominent businesswoman Jannie Chan as a director of the family holding company she ran with her former husband.

The three-judge apex court agreed with an earlier High Court ruling that her directorship at TYC Investment, which holds shares in luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass, was automatically reinstated after her bankruptcy was set aside.

The original bankruptcy order is treated as not having been made when it is set aside on appeal, said the court.

During the hearing yesterday, Ms Chan insisted on addressing the judges, despite being told by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon that the court was not going to let her speak as she had not filed the court papers required by procedure.

He warned Ms Chan that he would instruct security to take her out if she did not obey the court. "There is a way we conduct ourselves in court," he told her sternly.

He had earlier told her to keep quiet when she cleared her throat loudly while Senior Counsel Edwin Tong was presenting arguments in TYC's appeal against her reinstatement. When the judges left the courtroom to deliberate, Ms Chan went up to Mr Tong several times and spoke to him tersely, alleging he had "misrepresented" her case.

"Don't expect me to sign your cheques," she said at one point.

After the court gave its decision, Ms Chan apologised to Chief Justice Menon.

TYC was set up in 1979 to hold shares in The Hour Glass and other family assets. Its co-founders, Ms Chan, 72, and Dr Henry Tay, 73, hold 44 per cent and 46 per cent of the voting rights respectively, and their three children share the remaining 10 per cent.

After they divorced in 2010, the couple agreed, among other things, that neither would sign a cheque on TYC's accounts unless the other had signed an approving voucher.

In September 2016, Ms Chan was made a bankrupt by a bank. She appealed against the bankruptcy order but subsequently reached a settlement with the bank. Her appeal was allowed and the bankruptcy order was set aside in December 2016.

TYC notified the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority that she had been disqualified as a director due to her bankruptcy. TYC filed a legal action, asking the court to allow another director to be appointed in light of the vacated directorship. Ms Chan in turn filed a counter-claim, asking the court to declare that she was still a director.

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

YuuZoo Corp under investigation by CAD

Business Times
04 Apr 2018
Chia Yan Min

Mainboard-listed online media company YuuZoo Corp is under investigation by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) for possible breaches of the Securities and Futures Act.

In an exchange filing on Tuesday night, YuuZoo said that the CAD has asked it to provide access to documents or information related to the company, its subsidiaries and associates from financial years 2013 to 2016, including all records and correspondences related to franchises, franchising arrangements and firms it has a stake in.

Thomas Zilliacus, the company's chairman, also received a notice from CAD related to these investigations.

The company said that it "will cooperate fully" with the CAD on the investigations.

This latest announcement comes after the Singapore Exchange (SGX) referred initial findings from an independent review of YuuZoo to the relevant authorities for possible breaches.

The company has also been slapped with yet another notice of compliance - its second in as many months - from the bourse operator on Monday.

The SGX had suspended trading of YuuZoo's shares in March, after the company missed a disclosure deadline tied to regulatory queries over its full-year results for the 12 months ended Dec 31, 2017.

YuuZoo appointed EY last October to carry out an independent third-party review after a number of claims and allegations were made against the firm. The review would look into issues raised in e-mails to the SGX and in articles in The Business Times referred to in an announcement on July 17, 2017.

These related to claims filed by former YuuZoo employees against its former financial controller, including two different police reports, one of which was filed over alleged extortion. Claims were also raised by the former financial controller in an e-mail sent to the SGX after his services were terminated.

YuuZoo in July had refuted the various statements and claims in the articles, saying that it believed a subsequent decline in share price could be linked to the allegations.

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

Critical points for all parties when navigating collective sales

Business Times
21 Apr 2018
Benedict Teo

Transparency and due diligence are key when buyers and sellers go en bloc

AS 2018 GEARS up to be another bumper year for collective sales, stakeholders in the collective sale process should take some time to understand their respective rights and obligations. The Land Titles (Strata) Act (LTSA), which governs collective sales in Singapore, has been substantially revised since 2007 to introduce more transparency in the collective sale process, and to make it fairer for both objecting and majority subsidiary proprietors (SP). Some key changes include:

• Taking into account the total area of the lots in the property, and not just the share value, held by the consenting SPs when determining whether the requisite number of SPs have consented to the sale;
• Allowing SPs to rescind their agreement within five days of signing the Collective Sale Agreement;
• Imposing restrictions on SPs attempting a new collective sale after a failed attempt. For example, if the motion for the constitution of the collective sale committee (CSC) was defeated at a prior general meeting convened for that purpose, SPs may not form a new CSC for two years;
• Greater guidance on the formation and proceedings of a CSC. For example, certain duties of the CSC are now expressly prescribed, such as convening a general meeting to obtain the SPs' approval for the apportionment of the sale proceeds and the terms of the CSA.

When a collective sale may be refused

The courts will refuse approval of a collective sale which causes an SP "financial loss" or where the transaction is not in "good faith".

Under the LTSA, an SP incurs financial loss if the net proceeds from the sale of his lot are less than the original price that he paid for the lot, after taking into account "such deduction as the High Court may allow".

The underlying rationale is to ensure that none of the SPs lose out financially.

There is no exhaustive list of allowable deductions, but the court will deduct stamp duty paid or payable, legal fees paid by the SP when purchasing the lot, as well as CPF funds used for both the initial purchase price and monthly repayment of the principal amount of the mortgage loan.

Renovation costs and early repayment penalty fees on a housing loan are, however, not allowable deductions.

It is also useful to note that the "proceeds of sale" are not limited to the purchase price, and may include incentive payments which the SP shall receive from the purchaser.

Whether the transaction is in good faith depends on the unique circumstances of each sale.

For instance, the courts have found that the transaction was in good faith even where the CSC had committed to exclusive negotiations with a prospective purchaser to prevent the purchaser from withdrawing interest; or where the CSC had performed its duties hurriedly in order to meet statutorily prescribed timelines.

Conversely, the transaction was not in good faith where the CSC had failed to disclose that certain CSC members had purchased additional units with bank financing while spearheading the sale; or where the CSC had failed to disclose to all SPs that the CSC and the marketing agent were involved in a scheme to make incentive payments to one of the objecting SPs.

As a matter of prudence, CSCs and their individual members should therefore make every effort to act even-handedly, avoid conflicts of interest, fully disclose relevant information, and act conscientiously.

Stakeholders should pay attention to their respective rights and duties, and seek legal advice early when confronting potential disputes, in order to better protect their interests.

  • The writer is a director at Drew & Napier.

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

Raffles Place protester gets jail and fine

Straits Times
12 Apr 2018
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

A Singaporean who held a one-man protest at Raffles Place was yesterday sentenced to a total jail term of six months and two weeks and fined $5,000.

Yan Jun, who used to work as a research assistant, was found guilty of three charges after a trial before District Judge Luke Tan last week.

One was for taking part in a public assembly without a permit outside Raffles Place MRT station at around noon on Feb 22. He was also found guilty of behaving in a disorderly manner for shouting at a police inspector and of refusing to leave the area despite being told to do so.

In sentencing Yan yesterday, Judge Tan said: " The accused has apparently shown no remorse whatsoever from the time of his offences, till he was brought to court, and even while his trial was conducted. His abhorrent behaviour has continued, and his disrespect towards persons and institutions of authority has remained unabated."

Yan was given four months' jail for disorderly behaviour, another 10 weeks' jail for refusing to leave the area, and fined $5,000 for holding a public assembly without a permit.

Deputy Public Prosecutor G. Kannan said in his submissions that one of the placards Yan was holding called for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Justice Chao Hick Tin to resign over the Terrex detention incident.

In 2016, nine Singapore Armed Forces Terrex infantry carriers were detained by the Hong Kong authorities, which said the company transporting the vehicles did not have the proper paperwork.

In an e-mail that Yan sent out on Feb 19, he claimed that the "Terrex detention issue is a carefully laid trap by the PAP (People's Action Party) Government to embarrass China by exposing to the world Singapore's military cooperation with Taiwan and by violating China's sovereignty".

DPP Kannan said that these were "wild-eyed allegations", adding: "The e-mail reveals not a shred of coherence or semblance of proof to substantiate the allegations."

The prosecution also said the Feb 22 public assembly was illegal as Yan had not applied for a permit.

In urging the court to sentence Yan to seven months' jail and to impose a $5,000 fine, DPP Kannan stressed that the 42-year-old had staged seven illegal protests in the past two years.

For behaving in a disorderly manner and for refusing to leave Raffles Place, Yan could have been jailed for up to a year on each charge.

The maximum sentence for taking part in a public assembly without a permit is a fine of $5,000.

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

ADV: Career Opportunities at NUS Faculty of Law

Singapore Law Watch
04 Apr 2018
NUS Faculty of Law

Heavier sentence sought for foreman found negligent

Straits Times
21 Apr 2018
Selina Lum

But he appeals against $15k fine, alleging 'ploy' by firm to pin blame on him after fatal accident

Prosecutors yesterday appealed to the High Court to impose a year's jail on a construction foreman who was fined $15,000 for his negligence in a Fusionopolis worksite accident in 2014 that led to the death of two workers.

Nurun Novi Saydur Rahman, a Bangladeshi national, on the other hand, is appealing against his conviction and sentence for endangering the safety of others with his negligence.

During Nurun's trial, three surviving workers testified that he had instructed them to roll an air compressor onto a loading platform being suspended by a tower crane at the edge of the seventh floor of an 11-storey building so it could be moved one floor up.

The workers had warned Nurun that this was dangerous but they eventually complied with his instructions because he was their foreman.

The air compressor rolled away from the edge of the building after it was loaded, causing the platform to tilt. Two of the workers could not move away in time and fell off the loading platform, together with the air compressor.

The compressor landed on another loading platform on the fifth floor, while the men fell seven storeys to the ground. They were pronounced dead by paramedics.

Yesterday, Nurun's lawyer argued that the three witnesses were giving false evidence as part of a "ploy" by the company, GS Engineering & Construction Corp, to blame him for its lack of safety procedures.

"The company had a duty to identity all the safety risks and implement safety measures. It was GS that allowed all this to happen," argued Mr Anil Balchandani.

The prosecution rubbished the conspiracy claim, arguing that the company and the workers had no motive to frame him.

At the time of Nurun's trial, GS had already accepted liability for the accident; pleading guilty, it was sentenced to a fine of $250,000 after appeal, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Ang Feng Qian.

Two of the three men were no longer working for GS when they testified, and they had no reason to falsely implicate Nurun, she added.

This is the first case before the High Court involving a person convicted of performing a negligent act that endangers the safety of others, an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

The prosecution had originally sought four weeks' jail for Nurun after he was found guilty by a district court. It said it changed its sentencing position after carefully considering the appropriate sentencing framework for such offences.

In December last year, Justice See Kee Oon set out a comprehensive sentencing framework for corporate offenders who breach their duty to ensure employees' safety. This was after the prosecution appealed for a stiffer fine against GS and argued that fines imposed in previous cases had been too low.

Yesterday, DPP Ang urged Justice Chan Seng Onn to build on this framework by setting out an appropriate sentencing framework for individual offenders as well.

Justice Chan reserved judgment and will give his decision at a later date.

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

Graft case: Ex-GM of town council claims trial

Straits Times
12 Apr 2018
Yasmine Yahya

Man who allegedly took bribes totalling $107k plans to contest all charges

The corruption case involving Ang Mo Kio Town Council's former general manager will go to trial, after he pleaded not guilty yesterday.

Wong Chee Meng, 58, also known as Victor Wong, faces 55 counts of corruptly accepting gratification from Chia Sin Lan, director of companies 19-ANC Enterprise and 19-NS2 Enterprise, and Ms Yip Fong Yin, director of 19-NS2.

Wong was general manager and secretary of the Ang Mo Kio Town Council at the time the acts were allegedly committed.

The Straits Times understands that Wong plans to contest all the charges. Chia also pleaded not guilty yesterday. Chia and Wong are currently out on bail of $100,000 each. A pre-trial conference has been set for May 3.

Wong allegedly took bribes amounting to $107,000 from Chia and Ms Yip, in exchange for advancing the business interests of the companies with the town council, court documents show.

The alleged bribes include:

• Remittances to Wong's mistress in China worth $30,600;
• Restaurant bills worth $5,000;
• A $13,500 discount on a Toyota Corolla Altis that Wong bought;
• A spa treatment in Geylang that cost around $1,070;
• Stays at budget hotels Fragrance Hotel and Hotel 81, which cost about $35 and $30 respectively;
• Entertainment expenses of more than $40,000 at various KTV lounges and nightclubs;
• A job for Wong's daughter-in-law Le Thi Hien at the firm 4-Ever Engineering. Chia's company 19-ANC Enterprise paid $8,247.67 towards her salary between March and August 2016;
• Charges amounting to $2,527.76 for Wong's use of an M1 mobile phone line.

The alleged offences took place between December 2014 and September 2016.

Chia, 62, is accused of 54 counts of giving bribes to Wong. He also faces one count of abetment for allegedly conspiring with Ms Yip to bribe Wong by making arrangements for Wong to receive the $13,500 car purchase discount.

Chia's two companies face one charge each of corruption for conspiring to bribe Wong to advance their business interests with the town council.

According to the Building and Construction Authority's directory, both businesses are licensed builders and registered to carry out repair and redecoration works.

As general manager, Wong was the most senior executive in the town council.

His employer was CPG Facilities Management, the town council's managing agent. He was removed from duty after the town council received a complaint about him in September 2016 over the way he handled contracts and dealings in the town council.

He was later investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, and charges were brought last month.

The town council appointed a new general manager, Mr Ang Boon Peng, last April.

If convicted, Wong and Chia could be fined up to $100,000 and jailed for a maximum of seven years on each charge. The companies could each face a fine of up to $100,000 under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

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

Woman with joint custody loses bid to take son on overseas stint

Straits Times
03 Apr 2018
K.C. Vijayan

Move to relocate centres on her career rather than being in child's best interests, court finds

A judge stopped short of calling a mother selfish in denying the single woman permission to take her eight-year-old son with her on a two-year work assignment in London.

The woman - a corporate vice-president earning $560,000 a year - had argued that denying her the chance to relocate would hurt her career and endanger her health. This, she argued, would then affect her ability to care for her son, identified in court papers as R.

She needed permission as she has joint custody, following a court consent order in Singapore last year. The boy's father is an Irish national working in New Zealand as chief executive of a property development company. The married man has two children of his own.

In judgment grounds last week, District Judge Kathryn Thong said: "The mother's case has been run on a very individual-centric, rather than child-centric basis."

The judge stressed that the court's decision has to be in the best interests of the child. "The narrative that emerges from the affidavits is that relocation is necessary for career development, or at least not to jeopardise (the mother's) career, and R's benefiting from this is incidental rather than the driving force behind the relocation," she said.

The court noted that the only time the couple and R resided together was in 2010 in New Zealand. That was when the man's wife and two children were in Ireland for a year.

Between 2011 and 2016, the man flew to Singapore to visit every four to 12 weeks, but in late 2016 the mother ended the relationship as she felt he was not interested in spending time with their son, which the father denied.

The woman's lawyer, Mr Yap Teong Liang, said that after the move to London she would give the father more access to their son than provided for under existing arrangements, adding that the boy was still young and would easily adapt to a new environment.

But the father's lawyer, Mr Ivan Cheong, countered that the woman was concerned with advancing her career and that her case overall suffered from a lack of evidence, including for claims of ill health. The father feared that any relocation would reduce his access to his son and that the boy would be traumatised by being uprooted from Singapore, where his family and friends are.

The court found that the "blossoming relationship" between the boy, who attends school in Singapore, and his overseas-based father would be lost with any relocation. Judge Thong "did not find the mother's wish to relocate reasonable" and noted that the mother had acknowledged that the boy "loves his father and actively sought his approval".

Pointing to the potential loss in relationship to the "left-behind parent", the judge added that "the status quo appears to be working fine enough for the father" and that she saw "no reason to disrupt R's life by allowing the relocation".

The mother is appealing against the court decision.


Pointing to the potential loss in relationship to the "left-behind parent", the judge added that "the status quo appears to be working fine enough for the father" and that she saw "no reason to disrupt R's life by allowing the relocation".

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

Scope for greater consolidation of casino regulation

Straits Times
21 Apr 2018
Lee Wen-Yi

Piecemeal approach won't be adequate to deal with the growing complexities of gambling landscape

Given the increasingly complex gaming landscape in Singapore, there is scope to consider greater consolidation of casino regulatory functions, said Second Minister for Manpower and Home Affairs Josephine Teo.

Today, Singapore has different regulations and agencies governing gambling products such as casinos, remote gambling and fruit machines operated by private clubs, she noted at the annual Workplan Seminar of the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) yesterday.

"This piecemeal approach will not be sustainable or adequate to deal with the growing complexities of the gambling landscape and products," said Mrs Teo at the seminar held at Biopolis in Buona Vista.

The seminar, held in conjunction with the CRA's 10th anniversary, outlined the agency's history and highlighted its future challenges.

One challenge, she said, is that Singapore's casinos face increasing regional competition.

"Competition for tourism revenues will get more intense. Many jurisdictions are keenly studying our integrated resort (IR) concept. Our IRs will be anxious to stay ahead of the competition."

The next challenge is technological disruption. New machines, game types and modes of payment have implications on how casino regulators establish controls, she added.

For example, casinos here use new technology to ensure honest gaming, a key focus of the CRA, said Mr Chan Wei Siang, 37, assistant director of gaming technology, who has worked in the CRA since 2009.

Technology includes using electronic card shoes, which reduce dealer mistakes, and automated card shufflers, to prevent card counting.

To keep up with rapid technological changes, the CRA has been sending its officers to conferences and courses to sharpen their skills, said Mrs Teo. However, more should be done to ensure the officers keep abreast of technology and its impact.

The CRA was formed as a statutory board in 2008, and had to develop and put in place regulations and standards for the casinos. It began as a three-person division under the Ministry of Home Affairs, and has since expanded to a staff of over 160.

Since 2010, when the integrated resorts started operations, casino-related crime has remained a small proportion of overall crime in Singapore - less than 1 per cent.

"We have not detected organised crime linked to casino gambling taking root here," said Mrs Teo.

Problem gambling is also under control, at below 1 per cent, she added. This is lower than problem gambling rates in other places, like the US, Canada and Macau.

Measures to keep the problem in check include a casino entry levy - the first of its kind in the world.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development and the National Council on Problem Gambling also introduced a scheme in which vulnerable individuals can be barred from entry into casinos. Another scheme which limits casino visits has also been introduced.

All these innovations have attracted keen interest from foreign regulators, said Mrs Teo.

She added that regulations can evolve to allow a more holistic and coherent system to maintain the fine balance between leeway for innovation and effective regulation.

This must be a bilateral process, however. Ms He Shujia, 34, head of inspection and compliance, described the trust and shared ownership between casino operators and regulatory bodies like the CRA, in which the CRA regularly engages the operators to assess their inputs on new regulations.

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

South China Sea code 'should be binding'

Straits Times
12 Apr 2018
Goh Sui Noi

This will help manage crises and prevent conflict, say academics

The Code of Conduct (COC) being negotiated between China and Asean should be legally binding to a certain degree, a Chinese scholar on the South China Sea has said.

"I believe that the Code of Conduct as an upgraded version of the DOC should have some legally binding force," said Dr Wu Shicun, head of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a think-tank in southern Hainan province.

DOC refers to the Declaration on the Conduct Parties in the South China Sea signed in 2002 between China and Asean.

It provides guidelines for behaviour in the disputed waters to prevent any escalation of tension.

Dr Wu said in the long run, a rules-based South China Sea order is in line with the interests of all parties, including China. It can solve the urgent issues of crisis management and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea region.

However, he added: "The purpose of the COC is to provide a mechanism to manage maritime crises and should not address disputes over territory and maritime jurisdiction."

Dr Wu was speaking at a session on economic cooperation in the South China Sea on the last day of the annual Boao Forum on Asia that brings together government officials, academics and business leaders to discuss issues in Asia.

He later told The Straits Times that with the DOC not legally binding, Asean would not want a COC that was not binding in any way.

"A binding COC is in line with everyone's interest... if everyone obeys, then there will be order in the South China Sea," he added.

Also referring to the COC at the same session, Mr Jusuf Wanandi, senior fellow at Indonesia's Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said "we are looking forward to a stronger, (legally) binding entity" that could prevent conflict and reduce tensions.

In his speech, Dr Wu noted that the situation in the South China Sea has calmed down following tensions in recent years as coastal states have shifted their focus from territorial and geopolitical disputes to the building of rules and mechanisms to manage disputes.

However, he added that negative aspects that could lead to a re-escalation of tensions still exist.

He proposed that apart from institution building - such as the COC - there should also be maritime cooperation to promote common development in the region. Among the projects he suggested were connectivity building, maritime tourism, and fish farming.

Mr Jusuf pointed out that cooperating with China on its Belt and Road Initiative to build infrastructure could bring about political stability and security in tandem with economic development.

However, Professor Paul Gewirtz from Yale Law School cautioned that the world was watching the South China Sea to see what kind of rising power China is going to be.

"Will China be an expansionist power? If so, it's going to be resisted strongly," he said.

He added that China had succeeded in changing the situation on the ground, giving it a strong hand. While China should consolidate its gains, it should refrain from further unilateral steps that would create tension and focus instead on cooperation that was reassuring.


KEEPING PEACE

The purpose of the COC is to provide a mechanism to manage maritime crises and should not address disputes over territory and maritime jurisdiction.

DR WU SHICUN, head of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a think-tank in southern Hainan province.

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

SGX calls for immediate resignation of two top Midas Holdings executives

Business Times
03 Apr 2018
Chia Yan Min

Troubled railway parts maker Midas Holdings has been hit with a notice of compliance by regulators demanding the immediate resignation of two of its top executives.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) said in the notice that Midas Holdings executive chairman Chen Wei Ping cannot be appointed as a director or executive officer in any listed company for the next three years.

The bourse has also barred Ma Ming Zhang, the legal representative of Midas Holdings unit Luoyang Midas, from being appointed an executive officer in any listed company for the next three years.

These latest blows come after the company's audit committee lodged a police report with Singapore's Commercial Affairs Department last week, over a possible breach of securities laws and other offences linked to irregularities in the group's operations in China.

These included unauthorised loans taken out by the companies' subsidiaries, as well as the provision of unauthorised corporate guarantees.

The guarantees were executed by, among others, Sun Qi Xiang, the legal representative of Jilin Midas Light Alloy, Mr Ma, Mr Chen and Yang Xiao Guang, the legal representative of Dalian Huicheng, another unit of Midas Holdings.

They did not seek approval from the company's board for providing these guarantees.

In view of these developments, there are "immediate and serious concerns" about the suitability of Mr Chen and Mr Ma to continue in their roles, the Singapore bourse regulator said.

The SGX also noted that other executives named in Midas' disclosures about events in China - including Mr Yang, Mr Sun and former chief executive Patrick Chew - have since resigned or been replaced.

Trading in the company's stock has been suspended since early February.

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

Gallop Stable loses appeal in animal cruelty case

Straits Times
21 Apr 2018
Jan Lee

A local stable yesterday lost its appeal to overturn a conviction of animal cruelty towards one of its horses.

Gallop Stable, which manages around 150 horses and ponies in two stables, was found guilty and fined $9,000 last year for cruelty towards a 17-year-old chestnut thoroughbred mare named Sharpy.

The court found that Gallop Stable failed to provide adequate veterinary attention to the mare, causing it unnecessary suffering.

Sharpy was found with severe inflammation and infection in its right hind leg with evidence of necrosis, or death of body cells, and a swollen left hind leg during an unscheduled inspection on May 15, 2013, by Dr Wendy Toh from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

Flies were also feeding on Sharpy's wound and the mare was suffering from cellulitis, a serious bacterial infection with a high mortality rate in horses.

The defence maintained yesterday that Gallop Stable staff had medicated Sharpy before May 15 as they believed it was having a relapse of a pre-existing condition called lymphangitis, which can cause swelling in the legs.

This would not have required a vet, according to stable staff.

But the prosecution argued that, according to all expert witnesses, Sharpy would have experienced symptoms such as lameness, pain and fever for several days before its wound developed necrosis. That meant Gallop Stable should have sought veterinary attention before May 15.

A key point of contention during the appeal hearing was when Sharpy's wound became visible, which would indicate that it required urgent veterinary care.

While both sides could not conclude exactly when the cellulitis would have manifested itself as an open wound, it was noted that stable employee Maneesha Shanker, who tended to the horse, noticed a "bubbly appearance" and "skin peeling" on Sharpy's leg before May 15.

The stable's lawyer Simon Tan said: "This was not put to (Ms Shanker) as an open wound."

But Justice Chan Seng Onn dismissed the appeal and stuck with the original conviction and sentence of a $9,000 fine given by the State Courts in May last year.

Gallop Stable spent $16,000 treating Sharpy despite veterinary recommendations to have it euthanised. The mare has since recovered and is still housed at the stable.

This is not the first time the firm has been mired in controversy.

In 2015, 73-year-old Lim Ah Boey died after being pinned under a 450kg horse following a ride at the stable's now-closed Punggol branch. The death was ruled a misadventure.

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

CAD orders Midas to hand over documents, staff details

Business Times
11 Apr 2018
Jamie Lee

Beleaguered railway-parts maker Midas Holdings - which is under investigation by Singapore authorities - on Tuesday said the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) has ordered the company to hand over financial documents, and a list of certain staff.

The documents include financial documents for the relevant companies in the group, as well as a detailed list of all persons who acted as the legal representative, general manager or financial controller of the relevant subsidiaries as well as specimen signatures of these individuals.

The CAD is also seeking all relevant IT equipment and corporate e-mails of these persons.

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

Midas in February said it uncovered several litigations, enforcement orders and court documents involving companies within the group.

These include an enforcement order filed against Jilin Midas Aluminium Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary in China, for a previously undisclosed liability of 30 million yuan (S$6.3 million).

Midas said this month that its board of directors will be travelling to China to meet the relevant subsidiaries this week to obtain relevant information, including cash validation, litigations and undisclosed subsidiaries. Midas is down to two executive directors, Tong Din Eu and Xu Wei Dong, and non-executive chairman Chan Soo Sen.

It said it did not receive "full cooperation" from the relevant staff in its Chinese subsidiaries Jilin Midas Aluminium Industries Co Ltd, Jilin Midas Light Alloy Co Ltd and Jilin Midas Investments Co Ltd.

Trading in shares of Midas remains suspended.

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

SGX flags possible breaches at YuuZoo, issues 2nd notice

Business Times
03 Apr 2018
Chia Yan Min

The initial findings from an independent review of mainboard-listed YuuZoo Corp have been referred to the relevant authorities for possible breaches of listing rules.

The company has also been slapped with yet another notice of compliance - its second in as many months - from the bourse operator.

In an exchange filing on Monday, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) said a draft report from YuuZoo's independent reviewer, Ernst & Young Advisory (EY), showed that YuuZoo has not given EY necessary access to information and data. The review was also restricted by scope exclusions imposed by YuuZoo which were "inconsistent with the spirit of an independent review", SGX added.

The bourse said it issued a notice of compliance to YuuZoo on Monday, requiring EY to submit an executive summary of their initial findings to SGX as soon as these are finalised. The company will also be required to publicly release these findings.

The bourse had suspended trading of YuuZoo's shares in March, after the company missed a disclosure deadline tied to regulatory queries over its full-year results for the 12 months ended Dec 31, 2017. The suspension will be lifted when regulators are satisfied that "the state of affairs of the company can be ascertained and the shares... can be traded on a fair, orderly and transparent basis".

YuuZoo appointed EY last October to carry out an independent third-party review after a number of claims and allegations were made against the firm. The review would look into issues raised in emails to the SGX and in articles in The Business Timesreferred to in an announcement on July 17, 2017.

These related to claims filed by former YuuZoo employees against its former financial controller, including two different police reports, one of which was filed over alleged extortion. Claims were also raised by the former financial controller in an email sent to the SGX after his services were terminated.

YuuZoo in July had refuted the various statements and claims in the articles, saying that it believed a subsequent decline in share price could be linked to the allegations.

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

The limits of competition policy

Straits Times
20 Apr 2018
Kenneth Khoo

CCCS isn't the only regulator in the ride-hailing market. While it looks into competition issues, other policy considerations can be taken care of by the sectoral regulator, LTA

Much ink has been spilled on how regulators should address the competition concerns raised by Uber's proposed sale of its South-east Asian business to rival Grab.

Recently, some commentators have commended the interim measures taken by the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore (CCCS) to ensure that the market remains open and contestable while CCCS completes its investigations, while others question their effectiveness.

Less attention has been paid to the difficulties the CCCS faces in assessing the competitive effects of the proposed merger between Uber and Grab. Putting aside the difficulties associated with defining the relevant market, this is no easy task.

Under the Competition Act, the CCCS will have to examine whether the merger would result in a "substantial lessening of competition" if it were allowed to proceed. Like all competition authorities around the world, CCCS does not have the benefit of hindsight; and it will have to come up with hypothetical, probabilistic assessments as to what would happen if the merger were to take place.

Nevertheless, this analysis is not conducted in the abstract; it has to be made in reference to a benchmark where the merger does not take place. Known as a "counterfactual" analysis, a competition authority usually compares the levels of competition in this hypothetical situation with pre-existing levels of competition (the counterfactual benchmark) in determining whether a merger should be countenanced under competition law.

In a given typical merger considered by competition authorities, the counterfactual benchmark used is simply the status quo. However, this form of analysis is not suitable for the Grab-Uber merger.

After all, Uber plans to exit the South-east Asian ride-hailing market after experiencing substantial losses, and is likely to do so regardless of the CCCS' final decision. The status quo is no longer the appropriate benchmark for comparison, as pre-existing conditions of competition between Uber and Grab would not prevail, whether or not the merger is prohibited.

A second complication follows from the possibility that the pre-existing conditions of competition between Uber and Grab are unsustainable in the long run. With numerous discount codes on top of already low fares, it is no surprise that Uber has been said to have lost almost US$200 million (S$262 million) a year in its battle with Grab for riders.

Thus, even if Uber had decided not to leave the market, it is unlikely that strong price competition between Uber and Grab in the ride-hailing market would have continued indefinitely.

If the historical pricing strategies of both firms are to be interpreted as costly bids for market dominance, an argument could be made that both firms would be forced to soften this price competition - by reducing promotions, and raising prices to riders - if they want to coexist in the market in a sustainable manner long term.

But when would prices increase to their sustainable levels? And to what levels would they rebound?

With historical pricing being of little relevance to future sustainable levels of pricing, modern industrial economics gives us few clear-cut predictions as to how long-run pricing will pan out. Again, CCCS faces major difficulties in defining the appropriate counterfactual benchmark.

Given the difficulties in assessing the competitive effects of the proposed merger, how best might the CCCS proceed to safeguard consumers' interests?

Given the rapid developments in the ride-hailing market, it is anyone's guess how market conditions will actually evolve over time. What regulators can do for consumers is to ensure that market conditions are favourable for competition to develop. This would explain the CCCS' interim measures thus far that require Grab to maintain and not raise its pre-merger pricing for rides and commissions for drivers, a move that protects consumers' ride prices and drivers' earnings.

The other measures are to prevent Grab from tying drivers down exclusively to its platform, and to prevent "Uber's operational data from being used by Grab to enhance its market position". Both these measures aim to reduce barriers to entry for future new entrants to the market.

But whatever CCCS does can only provide the conditions for contestability; it cannot ensure the realisation of robust competition. This might explain why the conversation so far has largely focused on maintaining the contestability and competitive structure of the ride-hailing market.

This brings us to another more fundamental observation on the limits of competition policy in achieving certain policy outcomes.

Commentators have suggested that the proposed merger between Uber and Grab has raised numerous competition concerns. But the mere existence of these concerns that adversely affect consumers and drivers alike does not necessarily warrant the intervention of competition law.

There is a general consensus among legislators, jurists and practitioners that it would be impracticable for competition law to prohibit rational responses to the structure of the market.

While it may be optimal for both drivers and riders to have Uber continue its operations in Singapore, it is not within the remit of competition law to stop Uber from making a calculated business decision to exit the market.

As early as last year, Mr Toh Han Li, the current chief executive of CCCS, raised the notion that in certain situations, "players in the market may not have infringed the law, but there are some features in that market which are not making it work as well as it should be".

The regulatory framework of competition policy encompasses all markets, but the CCCS cannot be expected to step in every time a market does not "work as well as it should". It is probably more apt to leave other policy considerations that are industry-specific to sectoral regulators.

Competition is not the only important consideration in the market for ride-hailing services; regulators have to address concerns of general affordability while also maintaining standards of public safety and security for both drivers and consumers.

In any case, our sectoral regulators have never been shy to step in to intervene in the market when they have deemed it expedient to do so - the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has already suggested more aggressive forms of regulation in the form of licensing regimes or even price regulation that would balance such countervailing objectives.

The CCCS, in other words, is not the only regulator at play in the ride-hailing market. If LTA's licensing regime or other such regulatory solutions come into force, it is clear a post-merger Grab would still face constraints in its market behaviour vis-a-vis both drivers and consumers.


The regulatory framework of competition policy encompasses all markets, but the CCCS cannot be expected to step in every time a market does not "work as well as it should". It is probably more apt to leave other policy considerations that are industry-specific to sectoral regulators.


• Kenneth Khoo is Sheridan Fellow at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, with research interests in the hybrid areas where law and economics intersect, such as law and economics, empirical (quantitative) legal studies, and in competition law/antitrust issues.

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

Rewarding good corp governance is right move

Business Times
11 Apr 2018
Angela Tan

Earlier this month, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) joined other developed bourses in its move to reward listed companies with good corporate governance (CG) practices and compliance track records with accelerated approval for certain corporate actions.

Such companies will enjoy prioritised clearance for circulars, requests for waiver and applications for share placement. Selection for the SGX Fast Track programme will be based on a company's CG standards, compliance track record and quality of submissions.

Assessment of companies to be included or dropped from the programme will be subject to continuous review, with SGX Regulation (SGX Regco) reserving the right to make changes to the list.

The practice of rewarding good behaviour is not new. In the US, the Securities and Exchange Commission gives out "well-known seasoned issuer" (WKSI) privileges, which gives firms the leeway to issue debt and equity securities to the public without having to jump through costly hurdles. Those who enjoy WKSI status do not need to notify the watchdog of the size of their proposed issuance programmes in advance; they also have the freedom to use simpler factual disclosure documents, and to use a dedicated website to showcase their wares.

Good CG practices should not be under-rated. The essence of good CG includes safeguarding the interests of stakeholders through transparency, accountability, trustworthiness and responsibility. It is incumbent on the board of directors to disclose how the principles subscribed to have been applied in practice. More than a checklist of dos and don'ts, it is an infrastructure of built-in checks and balances, not confined to the top layer of the corporate hierarchy, as governance and processes are intricately inter-linked.

So when a company actually invests time and effort on CG, it should be acknowledged. A company's position on the "honour roll" can also help investors in their portfolio selection, given that research has shown companies with good CG tend to outperform the market.

Offering carrots

It is just as important to have carrots, and not always sticks, to encourage companies to behave. By also offering carrots, SGX can build greater credibility with a market that has often complained about the regulator's heavy-handedness.

It is reassuring that admission to the SGX Fast Track list is objective, rather than subjective, and that there is no room for listed companies to manipulate their way into the list. Companies cannot apply to qualify; it is up to the regulator to decide who makes the cut.

From a glance at the inaugural list of 60 firms that have made it to the SGX Fast Track, it does seem that the regulator endorses the ranking of the Singapore Governance and Transparency Index or SGTI - a collaboration among CPA Australia, the National University of Singapore Business School's Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations, and the Singapore Institute of Directors, supported by The Business Times.

The compilation of the SGTI itself is pretty rigorous, with a 10-page checklist covering areas such as board responsibilities, rights of shareholders, engagement of stakeholders, accountability and audit, as well as disclosure and transparency. Clearly, SGX cross-checks such publicly-available indices and rankings with its internal compliance team before drawing up its own Fast Track list.

But what the SGX Regco gives, it can take away if there are any breaches. There is no room for temporary compliance.

The fact that the list is "subject to continuous review" suggests that just because a company makes the cut in a particular period of assessment doesn't guarantee it a spot every time.

On the flip side, companies with a chequered past should be able to redeem themselves and get on the list if they work hard to improve their CG practices. In the US, a company that loses its WKSI status may take as long as three years to be considered eligible to reclaim its status, depending on the infraction.

At the end of the day, in incentivising good CG practices and compliance, the regulator must ensure it doesn't create an exclusive club, stressed Adrian Chan, senior partner at Lee & Lee.

"It will be encouraging if the SGX can grow the list over time by admitting more companies if they qualify. I hope that there is no pre-conceived limit imposed on the number of companies that may make the list."

Indeed, the list should be one which all listed companies aspire to get on - and stay on.

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

Greatest risk to financial resilience is regulation failure

Business Times
03 Apr 2018
Siow Li Sen

Failure of regulation poses the greatest risk to financial systems, while cooperation among regulators would help to mitigate risks, said former Reserve Bank of India governor Duvvuri Subbarao.

Regulators fail, not because they are incompetent, negligent or stupid but for reasons beyond their control, said the former central banker on Monday at a debate on balancing opportunities and risk for finance.

Arguing his case, Mr Subbarao said regulators have to manage the tension of fostering innovation and preserving financial stability. But if they come down hard on safety, they forgo the benefits of innovaton.

"Regulators have to be vigilant; all want to promote business."

He was among a group of panelists taking part in the 4th OMFIF Asean debate, co-organised with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, an event preceding this week's 4th Asean Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors' meeting.

The collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers 10 years ago set off the global financial crisis, he said and noted the regulator's part in allowing subprime mortgage derivative products. Lehman was the biggest underwriter of mortgage-backed securities which had been seen as innovative hedging products.

When the US government refused to rescue Lehman Brothers, the subprime mortgage crisis in the US soon grew into a global financial crisis and the price is still being paid today, he said. The difficulties regulators face is knowing where the risks lie because financial markets are borderless.

Mr Subbarao said if the Monetary Authority of Singapore suppresses or tightens the regulation on fintechs, these companies can go to India or Indonesia and "if there's a bust-up, it can spread to Singapore too".

"Cooperation among regulators is necessary, but regulators may fail to reach understanding because they are carried away by short term national interests."

On cybersecurity, Mr Subbarao also said it cannot be left to the private sector to police themselves but national regulators and governments have to take charge and be responsible. There must be international cooperation and collaboration among the regulators "but to agree on common standards of cybersecurity is very difficult".

Others on the panel argued for companies to act responsibly or for collective responsibility, but Mr Subbarao said that Facebook's crisis shows up the limitations of leaving it to the private sector.

Facebook is facing a firestorm over how the data of 50 million Facebook users fell into the hands of Cambridge Analytica, the firm which allegedly helped Donald Trump win the 2016 US presidential election.

At the end of the debate, Mr Subbarao's powers of persuasion were evident. Forty-four per cent of the audience voted to agree that failure of regulation poses the greatest risk to financial resilience, up from 25 per cent when the vote was taken before the debate.

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

China to impose anti-dumping measures on synthetic rubber imported from S'pore, US, EU

Business Times
20 Apr 2018
Chia Yan Min

Rubber duties could hit global firms operating synthetic rubber facilities in Singapore

China will impose temporary anti-dumping measures on a certain type of synthetic rubber imported from the United States, the European Union and Singapore, its commerce ministry said on Thursday.

The measures will be effective from April 20, the ministry added.

An anti-dumping duty is a tariff imposed on foreign imports believed to be priced below fair market value.

The measures are based on preliminary findings from an anti-dumping investigation the Chinese authorities launched in August 2017.

China's Ministry of Commerce said producers from the three regions were selling halogenated butyl rubber at a discount to appropriate prices, hurting China's domestic industry.

Halogenated butyl rubber, also called halobutyl rubber, provides the barrier layer in vehicle tyres to maintain air pressure without the need for tubes.

A spokesman from Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said the government is following developments closely and engaging with Chinese authorities as well as affected companies.

Stakeholders can submit written representations to the Chinese authorities within 10 days of the announcement.

China's Ministry of Commerce will hold a hearing on the anti-dumping investigations on May 3, MTI added.

The rubber duties could hit global firms operating synthetic rubber facilities in Singapore.

German petrochemical giant Lanxess opened a 400 million euro butyl rubber plant on Jurong Island in 2013. The 150,000 sq m plant was the largest investment in the company's history, and its first venture in Singapore.

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil has been building a new halobutyl rubber facility at its petrochemical complex on Jurong Island, which will add production capacity of 140,000 tons per annum.

An ExxonMobil spokesman said the group is "carefully studying the preliminary findings and will continue our cooperation with the relevant authorities".

"ExxonMobil and its affiliates are committed to operating ethically, responsibly and in full compliance with the laws, rules and regulations of all countries that are applicable to the business," the spokesman added.

Lanxess did not respond to queries by press time.

China's latest move comes amid an escalating trade dispute with the US. Most analysts believe the two sides will eventually reach a compromise and avoid a full-blown trade war.

Earlier this week, the US banned American companies from selling parts to Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE for seven years, while China on Tuesday announced hefty anti-dumping tariffs on imports of US sorghum.

China's Ministry of Commerce said in a statement that local businesses were "substantially damaged" by American sorghum imports.

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