27 April 2015
Text: A | A

Whither the lead independent director?

Business Times
27 Apr 2015
Adrian Chan

Of the 537 listed firms that should have appointed a Lead ID as recommended by the Code, only about half have done so

THERE are many different types of directors, among them shadow directors, alternate directors, and lately, the digital director. One of the least understood ones is the lead independent director (or Lead ID).

The term was first introduced in Singapore in the 2005 Code of Corporate Governance. In the 2012 edition of the Code, it is stated that a Lead ID should be appointed essentially when the chairman of the board is not an ID (Guideline 3.3).

His role is then described as having to be "available to shareholders where they have concerns and for which contact through the chairman, the CEO or the chief financial officer has failed to resolve or is inappropriate". It is also suggested that all the IDs, led by the Lead ID, "should meet periodically without the presence of the other directors, and provide feedback to the chairman after such meetings".

Beyond this, not much more is stated about what the Lead ID should do. The last mention in the Code is a statement that "the Lead ID, if any, should be a member of the Nominating Committee" (Guideline 4.1). However, it does not explain why and what his role there should be.

The UK has had a longer experience with the equivalent of the Lead ID, what the UK Corporate Governance Code calls the Senior ID.The UK Code prescribes the additional role of the Senior ID as leading the non-executive directors in annually appraising the chairman's performance.

The Senior ID should also "attend sufficient meetings with a range of major shareholders to listen to their views in order to help develop a balanced understanding of the issues and concerns of major shareholders".

So it seems that the Senior ID in the UK has a lot more on his plate than the Lead IDs in Singapore.

Interestingly, the first Lead ID in Singapore was appointed by Keppel Corporation in 2002, even before the Code recognised the concept. At that time, Lim Chee Onn was Keppel's executive chairman and CEO.

The Code recommends the separation of the roles of chairman and CEO. As a check and balance, Keppel's board appointed a Lead ID, Lim Hock San, CEO of United Industrial Corporation. Mr Lim held the position for four years until Tony Chew took over. When Lee Boon Yang succeeded Lim Chee Onn as an independent non-executive chairman in 2009, the board felt that there was no longer a need to have a Lead ID, given the clear separation of the roles of the chairman and CEO.

Lim Chee Onn found the position of Lead ID on Keppel's board to be "an effective and useful one". In his view, the Lead ID should "be diligent, experienced and command the respect of the other IDs. He should be a sounding board for the chairman to bounce off ideas so that blind spots are eliminated".

Some directors wear multiple Lead ID hats. One such director is Ong Kian Min who is Lead ID of BreadTalk Group and Penguin International. Mr Ong feels that the Lead ID's role is more of a moderator between the IDs on the one hand, and the chairman and management on the other. His experience is that when there are sensitive issues to be resolved, the Lead ID can help find common ground and broker an understanding. The Lead ID should not be too confrontational but possess sound judgement to find a balance in a neutral manner.

Both Mr Ong and Mr Lim believe that the Lead ID should be the more senior of the IDs so that he has sufficient standing when interacting with the chairman. Mr Lim believes that the role of the Lead ID should be rotated amongst the various IDs. Mr Ong takes a different approach, pointing out it is more important to ensure that the best person is appointed for the job.

The SID-ISCA Singapore Directorship Report 2014 shows that there are 246 directors in Singapore holding 304 Lead ID positions.

However, among the 537 listed firms that should have appointed a Lead ID as recommended by the Code, only 54.4 per cent have done so. In contrast, 8.7 per cent of the listed firms actually have a Lead ID appointed even when it is not required by the Code.

So, is a Lead ID really necessary?

Mr Lim and Mr Ong noted that the Lead ID's responsibilities are heightened during periods of stress. This could be when the chairman or CEO vacates his position unexpectedly, or when there are disputes between different groups of directors.

Having been a Lead ID of three listed companies myself, I would agree with them. I have also found that the interactions and support built up during the more peaceful periods were useful in either avoiding the periods of stress or in reducing the tensions during such periods.

It is hoped that companies which are required to have a Lead ID should appoint one, and clarify the scope of his duties in his formal letter of appointment or in terms of reference that are approved by the board.

• The writer is the first vice-chairman of the Singapore Institute of Directors.

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

Ex-tour guide contests widow's new will

Straits Times
18 Apr 2015
Carolyn Khew

FORMER tour guide Yang Yin is contesting a rich, elderly widow's new will that cuts him off and leaves him with nothing.

On Thursday evening, Yang, 41, filed a notice of appeal against the Family Court's decision last week to execute a will that leaves most of Madam Chung Khin Chun's assets to charity.

Yang's lawyer Joseph Liow told The Straits Times yesterday: "At this time, we can state only that our client is dissatisfied with the decision and hence has appealed."

They are now waiting for the court's permission to proceed with the appeal, added Yang's other lawyer Daniel Zhu.

Yang had stood to inherit millions, including Madam Chung's $30 million bungalow in Gerald Crescent, after her death, according to a 2010 will made by the 88-year-old.

Madam Hedy Mok, Madam Chung's 61-year-old niece, said yesterday: "We are prepared to fight all the way - no turning back."

Yang, who met Madam Chung in 2008 while acting as her private tour guide in Beijing, moved into her bungalow the next year and claimed the childless widow treated him as her "grandson". In 2010, Madam Chung changed her will so that her fortune would go to him on her death.

Last September, Madam Mok evicted him, his wife and young daughter from the bungalow, and started proceedings to claw back money she alleges he siphoned from Madam Chung.

The court last Monday executed a statutory will on Madam Chung's behalf that had no mention of Yang. According to a 1989 will and the draft of a 2009 will, she had wanted to leave most of her fortune to charity.

Lawyer Peter Doraisamy, who acts for Madam Mok, said this was the first time a Singapore court has executed a statutory will, which is made for a person who lacks the mental capacity to do it herself.

The widow, who is now living with her niece, was diagnosed with dementia last year.

Mr Doraisamy also said after a closed-door hearing at the Family Justice Courts yesterday that Madam Mok has been granted full deputy powers to manage her aunt's assets and welfare. But until Yang's appeal is heard, she has to ensure that she does not make any decision that can affect his interests in the assets.

Yang, who has been in remand since Oct 31 last year, faces more than 300 charges, including two involving criminal breach of trust for allegedly misappropriating $1.1 million from Madam Chung.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

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

Shareholder deadlocks: Complications for directors

Business Times
13 Apr 2015
Abdul Jabbar bin Karam Din

Directors should act methodically, record valid reasons for their business decisions, and take legal advice in cases of doubt

MY ARTICLE last week, "Boardroom dramas: shareholders in deadlock" (BT, April 6, 2015) underscored the primary duty of directors to fulfil their fiduciary duties to the company honestly, reasonably, and diligently over any other duty to opposing groups of shareholders.

In this article, I would like to cast the spotlight on the complications for directors arising from shareholder deadlock situations. There are three common complications:

• when a director is also a shareholder;
• when a director is a nominee of a principal shareholder; and
• when the company is insolvent.

The director as shareholder

When a director is also a shareholder of the company or its related company, must he still exercise his powers in the company's interests? This quandary arises because a shareholder, unlike a director, does not owe fiduciary duties to the company and can generally vote as a shareholder in any manner he wishes.

At all times, the director must be careful not to confuse his roles as director and shareholder. When voting as a shareholder in a general meeting, he can generally act in his own interests and need not justify his decisions.

However, as a director, he must first disclose the nature and extent of his shareholdings to the company in accordance with the Companies Act - if it is not already reflected on the company's register.

Additionally, when acting or exercising his powers as a director or voting as director in a directors' meeting, he must act in the best interests of the company without being influenced by his personal interests as a shareholder. He must do so even if doing so is contrary to his own personal interests as a shareholder. This is often a difficult balance to maintain. If in doubt, a prudent director should abstain from voting at directors' meetings and should always disclose his conflict of interest to the board of directors in a directors' meeting.

The nominee director

Some directors are appointed by a major shareholder, a lender or an investor to represent its interests on the board. The nominee director then faces a dilemma in a shareholder deadlock since the appointer would expect him, as nominee, to favour the interests of his appointor in a deadlock situation.

In such cases, the nominee director must remain impartial even though he may incur the displeasure of his appointor. The law is clear that a nominee director is still subject to the same fiduciary duties to act in the best interests of the company. He has to avoid a position where the company's interests conflict with a third party interest for whom he acts.

In short, a director cannot put his appointor's interests before the company's interests. If necessary, he should abstain from participating in discussions or decisions on the specific issue.

Additionally, the Companies Act prohibits a director from disclosing any information obtained by virtue of his position as a nominee director, to gain advantage for his appointor, or to cause disadvantage to the company.

If a director wishes to disclose information to his appointor, there are specific conditions in the Companies Act that must be fulfilled, such as obtaining authorisation from the board and ensuring that the disclosure is not likely to prejudice the company. Nominee directors should tread carefully as any breaches could result in criminal and/or civil sanctions.

The insolvent company

When the company is solvent, directors owe their duties to the company and not its creditors. However, if the company becomes insolvent or potentially insolvent during the course of the shareholder deadlock, fiduciary duties take on an added dimension.

First, directors are now obliged to consider the interests of the company's present and future creditors as the dominant factor in determining the best interests of the company.

For example, directors cannot dispose of, or exploit, assets improperly to the prejudice of creditors since creditors look to the company for payment. Secondly, directors may be personally liable for payment of any or all of the company's debts.

They may also be criminally liable under the Companies Act if they carry on business to defraud creditors, or cause the company to contract debts without any reasonable or probable expectation of repayment.

In this context, directors cannot make decisions at the expense of creditors, even if the decision may favour shareholders' interests.

The challenge facing all directors is to navigate through tricky issues that may arise from a shareholder deadlock, and to avoid being in breach of their fiduciary duties.

Directors must always be aware of their rights and obligations under the law to enable them to act appropriately. At the end of the decision-making day, directors should, at all times, act methodically, record valid reasons for their business decisions, and take legal advice in cases of doubt.

  • The writer is a member of the Professional Development Committee of the Singapore Institute of Directors.

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

More help for accused who cannot afford lawyers: CJ Menon

TODAY
25 Apr 2015
Kelly Ng

Court expands Guidance for Plea scheme, among other initiatives, to address problem

SINGAPORE — More will be done to help accused persons who cannot afford lawyers to get one at an earlier stage in the criminal justice process, said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon yesterday, as he reiterated the importance of continually improving accessibility to justice.

Speaking at the State Courts’ workplan seminar, he said those who enter the dock without lawyers by their side will “often be at a loss and ... have many unresolved needs for information, advice and support”.
Despite the various legal assistance schemes available, about two out of five State Courts criminal cases at the pretrial stage involve unrepresented accused persons.

In the three initiatives announced by the Chief Justice yesterday to target this problem, the attention was on ensuring lawyers are brought in more for cases that do not go to trial.

For instance, the Guidance for Plea Scheme has been expanded so that pro bono lawyers are assigned to certain cases where the accused person intends to plead guilty.

Judges will identify the types of suitable cases to the Community Justice Centre (CJC) which will then assign lawyers to accused persons, such as those who cannot raise bail, suffer from mental or psychiatric issues, face multiple charges, or face a compulsory or likely jail sentence upon conviction.

Currently, the scheme is only available to those who fail a means test only at the pretrial conference stage.

The Association of Criminal Lawyers in Singapore (ACLS) and Association of Muslim Lawyers will provide these pro bono services.

ACLS president Sunil Sudheesan said the expanded scheme will help accused persons clarify the viability of their defences and, in straightforward matters, advise them to make guilty pleas earlier. “Sometimes, the accused may not be aware of the implications of what they have said (and) those things may jeopardise the outcome of their case,” he said.

Criminal lawyer Josephus Tan, who is a champion of pro bono work, said the move will enhance efficiencies in the legal process.

“It is good to have somebody to handhold the accused persons. The earlier the better,” he said.

Accused persons also need to be advised on the implications of pleading guilty, Mr Tan added. “Sometimes, people don’t understand that the plea must be unconditional,” he said.

The CJC’s executive director Leonard Lee said the Guidance for Plea Scheme has helped resolve 37 cases last year and 21 cases in the first three months of this year.

The other initiative is a pilot to provide legal aid in suitable cases where the defence and prosecution are exploring ways to resolve the matter without a trial.

Lastly, the Primary Justice Project, which currently offers basic legal advice for a fixed fee to parties in divorce matters and civil cases involving low values, will widen its ambit to include criminal cases.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Menon also launched a new Community Justice and Tribunals Division in the State Courts to oversee community and relational disputes.

The new division, which will be supported by five judicial officers and 29 court administrators, will comprise the Small Claims Tribunals and the upcoming Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals. It will also administer matters and applications under the Protection from Harassment Act that came into effect on Nov 15 last year.

The Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals will be set up in the third quarter of this year and hear cases involving spats between neighbours after other efforts, such as community mediation, have been exhausted.

State Courts’ processes to be simpler under new initiative

SINGAPORE — Information booklets, videos on legal processes and self-service kiosks to pay fines and court fees are among initiatives to simplify court procedures for the man in the street, announced at the State Courts’ workplan seminar yesterday.

In his keynote address, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon pointed to providing practical help to all court users as one of the State Courts’ areas of focus this year.

For instance, court users can pay fines and fees using self-service kiosks to be set up within the State Courts, reducing the time spent waiting in line to pay over the counter.

An information booklet, titled Six Things You Should Know About Court 26, will also help family members and friends of accused persons navigate through the criminal mention process that starts in that court.

In the Coroner’s Court, iPads and still photographs will be offered for family members to use in identifying their deceased next-of-kin, as an alternative to identifying the deceased in person.

“The objective is to alleviate the stress and trauma faced by family members in this painful task,” said the Chief Justice.

Apart from these initiatives to ease court users’ experience in the legal process, the State Courts will continue to look at ways to enhance efficacy in resolving lower-value civil cases, he added.

To slash costs and time taken to resolve such cases, a new Order was added to the Rules of Court in November last year. The Order stipulates that for civil claims involving up to S$60,000, parties must file the relevant documents and pleadings upfront and try to negotiate for a resolution to settle cases early, if possible. As of the end of last month, 9,119 writs have been filed under the Order.

The State Courts is now also studying the feasibility of a more “judge-led approach” at simplified civil trials involving unrepresented defendants, said the Chief Justice.

In contrast to the adversarial approach, this new approach, which has been lauded by Members of Parliament and legal practitioners, encourages the judge to be the director of proceedings, rather than a referee between two duelling parties.

The approach has been adopted to tackle family justice and medical cases here.

kellyng@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

S'pore-based Interpol centre creates virtual currency to fight crime

Straits Times
18 Apr 2015
Hoe Pei Shan

THE new Singapore-based Interpol Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) has created its own cryptocurrency in a bid to better combat crimes involving virtual currencies such as the bitcoin.

The complex, which became fully operational earlier this week, houses the international police's first digital crime centre and cybercrime research and development capabilities.

Speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of the biennial security trade event Interpol World, held this week at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, IGCI director of cyber innovation and outreach Madan Mohan Oberoi said his team has already made progress in several projects.

The 30 or so personnel, including officers from the Singapore Police Force, have been working to develop in-house forensic tools within the IGCI.

One of these is the agency's own virtual currency, which can be used in a specially designed simulation-based training game to create scenarios of cryptocurrency use and misuse.

"It's a virtual world that we have created, and personnel can come and operate these things and learn by operating them," said Dr Oberoi, a former inspector-general of police with India's Central Bureau of Investigation, where he headed the cybercrime cell, technical and forensic zone and international police cooperation unit.

"We felt that these things, if you try to teach people from a policing background through PowerPoint presentations, it doesn't make too much sense. Let them play around and learn more," added Dr Oberoi, the Hubert Humphrey Fellow in 2010-2011 under the international Fulbright Scholarship Programme, whose doctorate is in cybercrime.

His team also identified vulnerabilities in virtual currencies that can be used for posting malware, and he oversaw the development of a tracer that could help law enforcement officers track down those behind such acts.

Cryptocurrencies are presenting emerging challenges as they become more widely used, and Interpol is also looking at the policy and law enforcement implications of these virtual currencies.

Seizing virtual currencies, preserving them and presenting them to court are some of the issues that Dr Oberoi's team is exploring.

Next week, Interpol will issue a document that will function as a road map to define its future activities in cybercrime research.

The document is the product of a workshop held here earlier this year with various law enforcement agencies, members of academia and banking and security experts from private sectors around the world.

"The idea was to identify what should be the direction of research in the cyberworld for the law enforcement industry," said Dr Oberoi.

Digital forensics and the ability to measure and forecast cybercrime top the list of priorities set out in this Interpol Cyber Research Agenda.

Dr Oberoi's team is also exploring project ideas with various institutions here, such as the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Said Dr Oberoi: "Cybercrime is a domain where information and expertise lie outside the domain of law enforcement agencies, so we have to reach out to other stakeholders... consult each other and work closely together."

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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

Singapore to toughen laws against unruly air travellers

Straits Times
13 Apr 2015
Karamjit Kaur

Move for wider enforcement part of global push to tackle growing problem

TROUBLEMAKERS on Singapore-bound flights will not be let off the hook in the future simply because of a lack of jurisdiction.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has told The Straits Times that they will face the music even if the offences are committed outside the Republic's air space.

As part of a global push to deal with the growing problem of unruly passengers, Singapore will amend its laws to give police and other legal bodies here the authority to charge and prosecute wrongdoers - a process expected to take about two years.

Under current international civil aviation laws - stipulated by the Tokyo Convention - Singapore is able to take action only if the culprit arrives on Singapore Airlines or other Singapore carriers.

As a result, troublemakers on foreign carriers usually escape unaffected.

The Montreal Protocol 2014, drafted by the global aviation community last year, aims to plug this gap.

Among the offences it lists is refusing to comply with safety instructions and physically or verbally abusing cabin crew.

A CAAS spokesman said that the new protocol will provide better protection for travellers and air crew.

She said: "The ability to take law enforcement action in such cases would be a strong deterrence against unruly behaviour on board aircraft arriving in Singapore. This would enhance Singapore's status as a safe and secure air hub."

The authority is working with government agencies to ratify the Montreal Protocol, which requires an amendment of current legislation through Parliament.

At least 22 states must ratify the protocol before the stricter laws can be enforced. So far, only Congo has done so.

Mr Tim Colehan, assistant director for member and external relations at the International Air Transport Association, said there has been a rise in unruly behaviour on aircraft in recent years.

In 2013, airlines reported more than 8,000 incidents, or one for every 1,370 flights.

From 2007 to 2013, the average was one per 1,600 flights.

SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides confirmed an increasing number of such incidents but did not provide figures. He added that flight crew are trained to detect and deal with such cases.

"Some of these methods include politely declining to serve drinks if the crew discern that the passenger has had too much to drink," he said. "In extreme cases where passengers turn physically violent, our crew are also trained to handle them appropriately."

Mr Colehan said: "It is possible that the worsening situation simply reflects societal changes where antisocial behaviour is increasingly prevalent. However, what is deemed acceptable on the ground takes on a completely different complexion in the confined environment of an aircraft cabin at 35,000 feet."

If ratified by enough nations, the Montreal Protocol will also hold the culprit responsible for costs incurred if a plane needs to be diverted to an alternative airport, which could cost anything from US$6,000 (S$8,200) to US$200,000, Mr Colehan said.

He added: "In some cases, unruly behaviour can be detected at check-in or during screening, and this is where ground handlers and security personnel can assist by alerting the airline, so that it can make an informed decision on whether or not to accept the passenger for boarding."

karam@sph.com.sg

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

AGC seeks to overturn killer's life sentence

Straits Times
25 Apr 2015
Hoe Pei Shan

THE Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) is seeking to get the sentence of life imprisonment given to a convicted murderer involved in the 2010 Kallang slashings overturned.

Malaysian Tony Imba had been part of a gang of four from Sarawak who went on a violent robbery spree in the Kallang area in May five years ago, severely injuring three and leaving another dead.

He and another man from the gang, Micheal Garing, were convicted of murder last year. The prosecution had pressed for the death sentence for both.

On Monday, the High Court sent Micheal to the gallows, and Tony was given life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane. In explaining his decisions, Justice Choo Han Teck wrote that Tony's culpability was "significantly less", noting that evidence pointed to Micheal being the only one to wield the parang that killed the deceased.

An AGC spokesman said yesterday that a notice of appeal against Tony's sentence had been filed.

The prosecution had earlier stated its case in court for sending both men to the gallows, arguing that both were "deserving of the ultimate sanction provided for under the law as their plan for robbery (was) one of the most violent in recent memory".

There "ought to be no distinction drawn between Micheal's and Tony's respective culpability in determining the appropriate sentence to be imposed", the prosecution added, as the latter was "just as culpable as Micheal in causing the deceased's death and exhibited a blatant disregard for human life".

This, the prosecution said, could be seen from several pieces of evidence, including how Tony was the one who began each attack after a victim was identified, as well as how Tony had kicked the deceased off his bicycle, then held him in an arm lock as Micheal delivered the fatal blow to the neck.

The Straits Times understands that both convicts will also be separately filing appeals - Tony against his murder conviction, and Micheal against both his conviction and death sentence.

Of the remaining two from the gang, Donny Meluda, 24, is at large, and Hairee Landak, 23, was sentenced in 2013 to 33 years' jail and 24 strokes of the cane for armed robbery with grievous hurt.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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

Lessons from the KepLand takeover

Business Times
17 Apr 2015
R. Sivanithy

THE Keppel Corp takeover of Keppel Land was a fascinating and instructive study for minority shareholders, the offerors and perhaps even institutions. Now that the deal has been completed, it might be useful to revisit the salient points.

First, the two-tier offer, with one price appreciably higher than the other. This structure is not common but experts say the higher price is one way of encouraging acceptances to attain the compulsory acquisition threshold.

In the early stage of the Keppel Corp offer, there was confusion over what exactly was needed to activate the second price. Most observers assumed it was 90 per cent of KepLand, which is the widely-known compulsory delisting threshold.

However, triggering of the second price was actually dependent on Keppel getting 90 per cent of the shares it did not already own when the offer was launched. Since it owned 55 per cent when the takeover was announced, this meant it needed an additional 40.5 per cent (90 per cent of the 45 per cent it did not own) or a total of 95.5 per cent of KepLand. This was an important distinction.

Minorities of future two-tier offers should therefore check and double check the terms carefully rather than assume that a simple 90 per cent would suffice.

Despite a rather generous three-day extension of the offer closing date when it reached 90.9 per cent ownership of KepLand, Keppel Corp ended with a final stake of only 95.1 per cent, 0.4 per cent short of the second buyout threshold.

As a result, all shareholders will now be paid the lower price while Keppel has the administrative headache of dealing with the 4.9 per cent. Those who held out would be players - including institutions - who may have miscalculated when indulging in their arbitrage strategies, as well as shareholders who might believe the second price is still too low.

The remaining minority shareholders still have the right to require the offeror to acquire their shares at the lower price by serving the required notice.

To avoid the actions of a small minority adversely impacting the rest of minority shareholders and bearing in mind that offerors would have been prepared to pay the higher price anyway, future offerors who want to adopt the two-tier route might wish to consider an "early bird" clause which states that shareholders who accept the lower price within a specified time frame, say the first month, would be guaranteed the second, higher price.

Having this in place would still not assure everyone that the higher price would be triggered. But it significantly raises its likelihood while simultaneously reduces uncertainty throughout the period the offer is open.

In essence, "accept quickly and lock in the higher price; delay and you may not get the higher price".

There is some doubt as to whether such an arrangement is permitted. There is no express exclusion in the Singapore Code on Takeovers and Mergers or the June 23, 2006 Securities Industry Council Practice Statement on Two-Tier Offers but the wording is vague.

Regulatory authorities may therefore wish to study the advantages or disadvantages offered by such an arrangement and if deemed acceptable to then clarify the wording of the Code so as to allow offerors leeway to provide the incentive for early acceptance.

Observers say some market players confident of Keppel Corp attaining the 95.5 per cent threshold could have bought KepLand shares near the closing stage of the offer with a view to accepting the bid but found themselves unable to do so because of the T+3 trading settlement rule.

A second, interesting takeaway from the takeover has therefore nothing to do with the deal itself but with the settlement system.

Although it is widely known that T+3 means share delivery is three working days after the purchase day, not many would have known that the actual time the shares are credited to the buyers' central depository (CDP) accounts varies and is usually late at night on the third business day.

So if a purchase is made on Monday and assuming no public holidays in the interim, the buyer would only receive the shares in his or her CDP account on Thursday night.

If those shares are sold before or on Thursday, then the trade would most likely be classified as a contra and so there would be no complication. However, an interesting issue to consider is whether a buyer can sell into the buying-in market on (T+3) because buying-in starts in the afternoon and is only during trading hours.

This is important because short-selling into the buying-in market carries very severe penalties. The answer is that a sale on T+3 into the buying-in market is possible if payment has been made but it is probably advisable to be absolutely sure by checking with the broking firm's backroom operations first.

sivan@sph.com.sg

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

ADV: Kaplan - Assignment-based Business and Law degree at Kaplan

Singapore Law Watch
12 Apr 2015
Kaplan

Lawyers' letters sent to 2 members: Singapore Recreation Club dispute

Straits Times
25 Apr 2015
Joyce Lim

Resolution for club AGM 'made defamatory claims'

TWO members of the Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) have been served lawyers' letters just days before they are to move a resolution at the club's 127th annual general meeting, which is to be held this afternoon at Raffles City Convention Centre.

The lawyers' letters dated April 20 were sent separately by five members of the management committee to Mr Raymond Lim, 53, and Mr Ron Tan, 58, accusing them of making defamatory claims in their resolution submitted to the club on April 10.

In the resolution proposed by Mr Lim and seconded by Mr Tan, the duo had named the five management committee members and asked them to step down from office for "failing to safeguard the club's monies by allowing the elected committee member, Mr Sam Wong, to award repairs and renovations contracts to his son's company".

The resolution alleged that Mr Wong, 61, who is chairman of facilities and maintenance in the club, awarded the jobs to Brio Construction and Engineering, where he is a director and shareholder, "without any declaration of deemed interest and approval from the management committee".

Mr Wong, an engineer, dismissed the allegations, which he claimed were "incorrect and unsubstantiated".

"I did declare my interest in Brio to the club by submitting our latest Acra (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) company profile. And reminded the club of my connection by e-mail," Mr Wong said in an e-mail to The Straits Times.

He confirmed that Brio was paid $39,804 for a painting job completed last September. In January this year, two more renovation contracts worth $40,216.92 and $7,800, were also awarded to Brio.

Club president Johnny Goh, 76, however, said: "If a declaration was made, it would have been recorded in the minutes of meetings. And I cannot recall reading such a declaration in the minutes."

Last year, a largely new management committee took office at the 132-year-old club located in the Padang. It has about 5,500 members.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, an SRC spokesman said a review was conducted immediately after the resolution was submitted. Interim findings showed that Brio was the only company that had submitted an Acra profile when it tendered for the carpark ramp job last August.

The club has an established tender process where tenders are submitted in sealed envelopes, said the spokesman. These envelopes would be opened just before management committee meetings and witnessed by several members, including the chairman, general manager and finance director. The spokesman added that the management committee, comprising 12 elected members, is the "sole decision-making body" which will review and decide on the award of any tender.

After getting legal advice, the management committee has decided not to circulate materials that are potentially defamatory in order to protect the club from potential liability.

But that would not stop Mr Lim and Mr Tan from raising their resolution at the meeting today. "I am just an honorary club member. If I have a question, I will raise it at the meeting. It was never my intention to defame anyone," said Mr Lim, a sales manager.

joycel@sph.com.sg

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

Killer faces gallows after final plea fails

Straits Times
17 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

CONVICTED killer Muhammad Kadar failed in his clemency plea to be spared the gallows and is due to be executed by the prison authorities today.

His petition for a reprieve was turned down by the President last week after due consideration and on the advice of the Cabinet.

Muhammad, 39, was first sentenced to death for knifing an elderly housewife more than 110 times in 2005 in a Boon Lay Avenue flat. His appeal was rejected by the three-judge apex court in 2011.

But after a 2013 law change - which gave judges the discretion to impose a life sentence and caning instead of the death penalty for certain categories of murder - he was able to launch a fresh bid for re-sentencing to the Court of Appeal last year.

The court refused, making clear he was guilty of the most serious form of murder, pointing to his own testimony and other objective evidence.

Muhammad is believed to be the longest-serving inmate to face capital punishment, having been in custody for about nine years and eight months - which included five years and nine months on death row.

Lawyer Amarick Gill, who had drafted the petition, visited Muhammad in prison on Wednesday and said yesterday that his client looked calm and was "at ease with himself and fully prepared". He added: "He has expressed remorse for what he had done and this was evident at an early stage when he confessed to his role of 'sole involvement', thereby saving his older brother Ismil who was wrongly accused of the crime. His decision to do so effectively meant that he had condemned himself. Even yesterday, he told me 'I made the right decision'."

Today's scheduled execution will seal the long-running case in which Muhammad, together with Ismil, first went on trial in 2006 for murdering their 69-year-old neighbour while they robbed her.

The three-year trial saw many twists and turns, including Muhammad's stunning confession that he was the sole assailant - though he had implicated his brother in police statements. Both were found guilty of murder by the High Court in 2009 and sentenced to hang.

Ismil was freed in 2011 after the Court of Appeal cleared him of murder but Muhammad's appeal was dismissed. He obtained temporary respite when executions were put on hold in July 2011 while the Government began a review of the death penalty regime which led to changes to the law in 2013. "He understands he is the author of his own demise", and accepted that his fate rested in the President's "good hands", wrote Mr Gill in the clemency petition.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

Dead soldier's family sues SAF, 2 officers

Straits Times
12 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Suit accuses SAF of failing to provide safe and conducive training environment

The family of a national serviceman who died in 2012 after an allergic reaction to smoke grenades is suing the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for allegedly failing to provide a safe training environment.

Private Dominique Sarron Lee's platoon commander and the exercise's chief safety officer are also being sued for negligence.

The suit has been filed in the High Court, where claims exceed $250,000. The damages being sought include $34,300 for Pte Lee's tombstone.

The 21-year-old suffered breathing difficulties and passed out during the exercise in Lim Chu Kang in April 2012, which involved the use of six smoke grenades.

The former track athlete from the Singapore Sports School was evacuated to Sungei Gedong Medical Centre before being warded at National University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 2pm the same day.

A coroner's inquiry in August 2013 found that he had died from an acute allergic reaction to zinc chloride, a key compound used in smoke grenades.

The coroner also agreed with the findings of an independent Committee of Inquiry in 2012 which said that the number of smoke grenades used in the exercise exceeded the limit of two specified in safety regulations.

State Coroner Imran Abdul Hamid also pointed out that Pte Lee had "underplayed and underdeclared" his asthma history during a pre-enlistment medical check-up, in which he failed to mention his latest attack.

The plaintiff in the suit, filed by lawyer Irving Choh, has been listed as the estate of Pte Lee.

His parents are divorced.

According to the court papers, Captain Najib Hanuk Muhamad Jalal, then the platoon commander in the 3rd Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment to which Pte Lee was attached, and chief safety officer Captain Chia Thye Siong allegedly contributed to the death of Pte Lee.

It is claimed that the officers were duty-bound to ensure that only the maximum number of smoke grenades allowed under safety regulations were detonated.

It is also alleged that Capt Najib failed to bear in mind Pte Lee's asthmatic condition, which made him more predisposed to suffering an adverse reaction from the smoke.

Pte Lee, who was diagnosed with asthma prior to enlisting in November 2011, had to wear a blue band around his wrist to indicate his condition.

Capt Najib's lawyer R.S. Bajwa has filed a notice of appearance in court to address the case.

Lawyer Laurence Goh Eng Yau is defending Capt Chia.

The Attorney-General is named as a party in the suit, to defend the SAF.

According to the suit, the SAF had a duty to provide a safe and conducive environment for Pte Lee to train in.

This includes providing adequate protective gear for national servicemen during exercises that involve the detonation of smoke grenades.

Among other things, it is claimed that the SAF failed to provide a sufficient system of checks to ensure compliance with regulations, such as the number of grenades which can be used.

In the wake of the incident, SAF tightened its safety checks, including having more safety officers on the ground, and set up an Army Safety Review Board to examine the army's overall safety structure, processes and culture.

An Attorney-General's Chambers spokesman told The Sunday Times that it has "filed an appearance in the action and is presently assessing the matter". A pre-trial conference is due next month.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

Keppel Club allays concerns of members amid fraud probe

Straits Times
25 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

THE Keppel Club yesterday allayed concerns about the validity of memberships acquired during the tenure of an employee currently being probed for membership fraud, and said all members continued to enjoy full privileges.

A spokesman told The Straits Times that memberships would be honoured while the matter was being looked into, and said further comment could not be made as investigations were ongoing.

It is understood that a similar message was conveyed at the club's annual general meeting on Wednesday in response to members' queries about the status of memberships acquired during that period. They were urged to be patient while investigations are being carried out.

About $37 million is said to have been lost in an alleged membership fraud at the club, as a result of suspicious transfers that led to applicants paying monies to someone else other than the transferors or the club, according to a probe report.

As of last month, irregularities were detected in 1,340 membership transfers spanning a decade from 2004. Some purported transferors were fictitious or no longer members.

A 65-year-old golfer who acquired his membership during the affected period said the club would be "shooting itself in the foot" if memberships were made invalid as these members would have paid monthly fees.

A 67-year-old woman who supervised the membership department was sacked last October following the discovery and is now the subject of a police investigation and High Court civil suit.

The short, slightly plump woman declined to comment when approached by The Straits Times yesterday, saying the matter was before the court.

The woman is being sued with six other defendants for alleged

involvement in the scam.

The second defendant, a club member since 1989, is alleged to have been a key accomplice, and has a daughter who is also allegedly implicated. Both are said to have received lump sum payments from numerous applicants in suspicious transfers, and allowed their names to be used as the transferor in some cases.

The duo are also alleged to have helped cover up the fraud when it was discovered by the club.

Two businesses selling and buying club memberships are alleged to have made numerous payments to the duo in relation to various suspicious transfers. They are also accused of having wrongfully received money from transfer applicants, who made payments on the instructions of the 67-year-old woman.

The remaining two being sued are said to be wrongful beneficiaries of the fraud.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

dansonc@sph.com.sg

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

Taxing issues: Evasion and digital economy

Straits Times
17 Apr 2015
Phyllis Ho

TACKLING tax evasion and dealing with the fast-growing digital economy were top of the agenda at a conference on taxation yesterday.

Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport, Mrs Josephine Teo, told the event that the tax authorities around the world are acting to address tax dodges more effectively.

Mrs Teo was referring to a project by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that aims to stamp out tax evasion by multinational companies.

She said: "Driven by concerns over fiscal deficits, the tax authorities are increasingly taking more aggressive actions when scrutinising cross-border transactions and in dealing with transfer-pricing issues."

The two-day Asia Pacific Regional Tax Conference, which opened at Marina Bay Sands yesterday, also discussed issues arising from the emerging global digital economy.

Mr Philip Baker, QC, from the Field Court Tax Chambers in Britain, noted that the digital economy has changed the world fundamentally, as reflected in new forms of doing business.

While current tax systems have to adapt to it, the digital economy can revolutionise and boost tax collection by enabling a massive exchange of information, Mr Baker said.

He added that source-based and residence-based taxation, when meted out, should not simply benefit powerful nations. It should also encourage rather than undermine trade and investment.

Mrs Eng-Tay Geok Lee, chief executive of the Tax Academy, which organised the event with the International Fiscal Association Singapore, noted that some international tax rules are being re-examined.

On the same note, Mrs Teo said that international tax changes should take global interests into account and cultivate a level playing field across all tax jurisdictions.

She said: "It is critical for the reforms to the global tax system to... accommodate legitimate business models, promote global economic growth and trade, and not be used as a disguise for protectionism."

About 200 people are attending the conference to hear 49 tax practitioners, lawyers, policymakers and academics discuss tax issues.

hphyllis@sph.com.sg

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

Veteran lawyer struck off the rolls

Straits Times
11 Apr 2015
Selina Lum

He took loans, shares from client's firm sans approval

A VETERAN lawyer of 35 years, Mr Pascal Netto, has been struck off the rolls for professional misconduct. The 68-year-old had been a nominee director in a client's firm but issued company shares to himself and borrowed some US$158,000 (S$215,000) from the firm without authorisation.

In disbarring Mr Netto on Tuesday, the Court of Three Judges noted his "demonstrable lack of integrity" and said there was a need to protect the public and safeguard the standard of the legal profession.

The court did not place much weight on the fact that Mr Netto, the sole proprietor of Tang & Tan, had been a lawyer for more than three decades "without a blot on his record".

"Age and experience should call for greater circumspection, rather than less," said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who delivered the decision.

In 2010, a Ukrainian businessman who wanted to buy a dormant company was introduced to Mr Netto. Mr Volodymyr Bandurchenko bought a company owned by Mr Netto and his wife Joyce, and renamed it Welldrill.

The couple agreed to hold shares in Welldrill as trustees for the Ukrainian and to be only nominee directors not involved in managing the company. A third director, Ms Olga Volnova, was appointed by Mr Bandurchenko to help him run the business.

In 2011, Mr Bandurchenko decided to transfer the shares held in trust by the couple to his firm in Seychelles. But the lawyer refused to do so. The businessman later discovered that Mr Netto had made 14 withdrawals totalling US$158,654.60 - which he later repaid - between June 2010 and February 2011 from one of Welldrill's bank accounts.

He also learnt that Mr Netto had issued 1,500 shares to himself, removed Ms Volnova as a director and later closed Welldrill's three bank accounts.

Mr Bandurchenko filed a civil suit against Mr Netto in 2012 to get back the shares. The suit was settled by consent judgment.

In 2013, the Ukrainian complained to the Law Society about Mr Netto's conduct. The society, represented by Mr Shashi Nathan, brought six misconduct charges against Mr Netto.

A disciplinary tribunal found him guilty on all six charges last October and referred the case to the Court of Three Judges, which can fine, suspend or strike a lawyer off the rolls.

On Tuesday, Mr Netto's lawyer, Mr Prabhakaran Nair, argued that a suspension was appropriate as this was an "isolated aberration" in his otherwise-unblemished career.

Mr Nathan said it was sad that Mr Netto was facing the ignominy of being disbarred at the tail end of his career but noted that similar cases in the past supported a striking off.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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

Tougher rules on terrorism financing from May

Straits Times
25 Apr 2015
Wong Wei Han

FINANCIAL institutions in Singapore will soon have to meet tougher regulations on money laundering and terrorism financing.

The amended rules were finalised yesterday by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), after its public consultation with the industry since last July.

These changes will take effect in phases, starting on May 24, with a second round kicking in on July 24.

They will require financial institutions to conduct more comprehensive risk assessments on not just individuals but also their companies.

An existing category known as politically exposed persons (PEPs) has also been expanded to now include those working for an international organisation such as the Asian Development Bank or the World Trade Organisation.

Such people are entrusted with prominent public functions so they should be subject to tighter due diligence processes, said MAS.

That means a bank's senior management will have to approve any banking relationships with them, among other requirements.

Other revisions have tightened processes of cross- border wire transfers exceeding $1,500, with requirements for more customer due diligence on occasional transactions and more customer information in the payment instructions.

MAS deputy managing director Ong Chong Tee said in a statement yesterday: "MAS requires financial institutions to implement rigorous anti- money laundering and counter-terrorism financing measures to detect and deter illicit funds."

The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) said many of the new rules have been a norm in the industry.

The updated notices and guidelines "formalise the principles that have been advocated by MAS and which banks in Singapore have been practising", ABS director Ong-Ang Ai Boon said.

DBS' head of compliance, Mr Lam Chee Kin, agreed.

"There are various aspects of these revisions which reflect existing industry best practice, and for these areas we are already in compliance," he said.

He added that the industry will have few difficulties complying with the revised notices after the central bank's close consultation with involved players.

whwong@sph.com.sg

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

Push to lower wedding cancellation fees

Straits Times
17 Apr 2015
Jessica Lim

Watchdog names three hotels with 'unfair and excessive' penalties

THE consumer watchdog has named three hotels for their "unfair and excessive" cancellation fees for weddings - Furama RiverFront Hotel, Riverview Hotel and Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore.

This is the first time the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) is naming such hotels, to prompt hotels to reconsider their wedding cancellation penalties.

The contracts at the three hotels, out of 19 surveyed in a study released by Case last month, charge full price for cancellations made three to five months before the wedding, without mentioning what happens if a replacement is found.

But two of the three hotels named told The Straits Times in response that they do take into account the reason for cancellation.

Case, which has been urging hotels to lower cancellation fees for weddings since 2013, is meeting the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) next week and pushing for industry guidelines on such fees.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said consumers are typically not allowed to negotiate a contract and that most hotels here have cancellation penalties.

For instance, some had deposits - from $1,000 to $8,000 - forfeited despite having found someone to take over their bookings.

"If the hotel is able to find a replacement, they will not suffer a loss, so customers should not be penalised," said Mr Seah. "And if the hotel is not putting in an effort to find a replacement to mitigate its losses, it should not penalise the consumer for that."

Case received two complaints about such penalties in 2011. This rose to eight in 2012, six in 2013 and seven last year.

A Chinese-banquet wedding at a hotel typically costs $35,000 to $55,000.

When contacted, Hotel Jen and Riverview Hotel said they would consider adopting an industry standard. Furama RiverFront did not respond to queries.

"Nowadays, couples book their weddings at least a year in advance or even earlier for auspicious dates. Trying to find a replacement couple at the last minute is tough," said Riverview Hotel spokesman Michelle Tham. Deposits are paid to vendors months ahead to secure them.

The Havelock Road hotel, which charges full price if couples cancel within three months of the event, said it will re-look its cancellation policies. "We don't want to make it tough for our customers. But on our end, we cannot be making a loss," said Ms Tham. The four-star hotel holds about 100 events each year and receives one or two cancellations.

At Hotel Jen, contract terms state that the full price will apply for cancellations made within five months of the event. But its general manager Clifford Weiner said: "We would never at point blank apply a cancellation fee without looking at the reason for the cancellation."

Such fees, he said, have been waived in the past on compassionate grounds. "We will evaluate each case as it is presented to us... We will try our very best to be flexible and understanding, and show compassion whenever we can."

When contacted, the SHA said it will work with Case to come up with guidelines, but it may be hard to get hotels to adopt them.

Each hotel has different fees, said SHA executive director Margaret Heng. "We can only give them a standard they can refer to and adopt if necessary."

She said hotels need such terms and conditions to prevent couples from booking several venues and choosing one only at the last minute. "At the end of the day, when people sign contracts they should not do so blindly."

limjess@sph.com.sg

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

Pick up 'pamphlet of rights' to get it right

Straits Times
11 Apr 2015
Lim Yi Han

It will help public better understand their rights in a criminal investigation

WHEN giving your statement to the police in investigations, if you have any defence that shows you are innocent, you should tell the police and make sure this is written in your statement.

Otherwise, if this is raised for the first time only in court, the judge may not believe it.

This is one of nearly 30 examples on a new four-page pamphlet given out to help the public better understand their rights in the course of a criminal investigation, search or prosecution.

It also includes details of legal aid and pro bono services.

The "pamphlet of rights" is an initiative led by the Law Society of Singapore, which worked with the Attorney-General's Chambers and the Ministry of Home Affairs, with the Law Ministry's support, to produce it.

The idea was mooted in 2012 by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon when he was attorney-general.

After about three years of preparation, some 100,000 pamphlets in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil are now being distributed to police centres and police posts as well as all 107 community clubs and centres.

Members of the public can pick them up for free.

It is also available at the Law Society's Pro Bono Services Office at the State Courts.

Mr Wendell Wong, chairman of the Law Society's Criminal Practice Committee, told The Straits Times that the pamphlet is the first of its kind here and is targeted not just at the accused, but also others such as witnesses.

"You can find this information about rights in various statutes, case precedents, law textbooks, but we thought that the public need to have it distilled in a simple, easy-to-understand format," said Mr Wong, who is also the director of dispute resolution at law firm Drew and Napier.

"This enhances access to information, thereby enhancing access to justice in Singapore... but it is not a substitute for legal advice," he said.

The challenge was to decide what to put in, and to put it down in simple language, he added.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam had said in Parliament last month that the pamphlet will raise awareness of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, which provides legal help to those unable to afford a lawyer.

Said Mr Sunil Sudheesan, acting president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore: "The protection under the Criminal Procedure Code is essentially available to only those who know the law...

"It might be idealistic, but hopefully one day all suspects will be given a copy of the pamphlet at the point of arrest."

Mr Jabez Tan, 41, who was in and out of drug rehabilitation centre and jail for 13 years for drugs and gang-related activities, believes that knowing such information would be helpful.

Mr Tan, now the founder of pork rib soup eatery Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh, said: "When I was arrested, I didn't know what to say or what not to say. Sometimes you may say the wrong things and get yourself into more trouble."

limyihan@sph.com.sg


Background Story

ACCESS TO INFO

When I was arrested, I didn't know what to say or what not to say. Sometimes you may say the wrong things and get yourself into more trouble.

- Mr Jabez Tan, who did time in the past for drugs and gang-related activities, on why the pamphlets are a good idea

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

Equating piracy with theft ineffective: Voices

TODAY
25 Apr 2015

The report “Piracy losing its stigma here” (April 24) again resurrected the issue of whether unauthorised file sharing is tantamount to stealing.

The hare of technological advancement has outpaced the tortoise of legal development. Dr Stuart Green, a Rutgers Law School professor, said copyright infringement is not really stealing at all.

To steal something, one must deprive the legal owner of whatever that thing is. If a person steals my car, then I am deprived of the use of my car. But if one downloads a song, he has made a copy, not stolen the song.

Perhaps the entertainment industry cannot be persuaded to change its stand, but equating file sharing with theft does not resonate with the public at large.

The industry always suggests that every stolen copy is a lost sale, but it should give up its dreams of controlling distribution in favour of collecting fair compensation. What we need is a mechanism that collects money from file sharers and divides it among artistes and copyright owners.

Last year, the European Union Court of Justice ruled that embedding content online is not an infringement of copyright, which implied that streaming sites may not be acting illegally. In 2005, the French Parliament voted to allow free sharing of music and movies on the Internet, and hence set up a conflict with the government and media companies.

Before that, a Dutch court ruled that file-trading developers were not liable for the copyright infringement that occurs when people use file-sharing application Kazaa.

A few years ago, bestselling author Paulo Coelho made a Russian translation of The Alchemist available without permission from his publisher. As a result, downloads of the book in Russia skyrocketed from 1,000 a year to more than a million. Mr Coelho said it also drove up sales. There are some positive effects to “copying”.

The reality is that technology has the edge on traditional media in attracting users, and traditional media companies are struggling to find their way in this new technological landscape. File-sharing networks expose the fundamental weakness behind our copyright laws.

Heng Cho Choon

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Wanted: Feedback on financial advisers

Straits Times
17 Apr 2015
Rachel Boon

What consumers say will affect how they are rewarded under new system

CONSUMERS have a vital role in providing feedback on the performance of their financial advisers, industry bodies say.

A new system this year means the pay for financial advisers and their supervisors will be tied to non-sales key performance indicators as well.

They now stand to have their variable remuneration docked if they fail to make suitable recommendations or disclose information as required to their clients.

But without that crucial consumer feedback, the new system will fall flat. The system is intended to lift standards in the financial advisory industry covering banks, life insurers and financial advisory firms.

The call for consumers to step up was made yesterday by the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS), Life Insurance Association of Singapore (LIA), and Association of Financial Advisers Singapore (AFAS).

Consumers will be asked in phone calls, or via written or e-surveys, or in face-to-face meetings to evaluate recent experiences of buying investment or insurance products.

ABS' director Ong-Ang Ai Boon said: "We seek the cooperation of clients to respond to banks when such feedback is sought. This will help to enhance the standards of professionalism and proper conduct, which will ultimately benefit all clients."

The move to introduce client feedback is part of a new requirement that banks, life insurers and licensed financial adviser firms will be implementing, under the "balanced scorecard framework" later this year.

This balanced scorecard refers to the inclusion of factors such as customer feedback in rewarding financial advisers. Currently, advisers are mostly paid based on their sales results.

The framework was one of the policy proposals of a consultation paper released by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) on Oct 2 last year.

A consultation paper on the Financial Advisory Industry Review was released by MAS on March 5 in 2013, followed by a response by MAS on Sept 30 the same year.

AFAS president Vincent Ee urged consumers not to brush off attempts to get feedback, "as this would prevent the industry from effectively implementing the objectives of the balanced scorecard framework".

He said that the support from consumers will aid in boosting the industry's "professionalism and competency level".

The enhanced framework aims to encourage industry players to continue to provide quality advice and make appropriate investment recommendations.

Ms Pauline Lim, LIA's executive director, said: "Based on feedback shared, the life insurance industry in Singapore will implement additional efforts to improve quality of service as we continue to help individuals better meet their long-term protection, savings, investment and other financial needs."

She said LIA hopes to work closely with everyone to elevate industry standards, and to reinforce Singapore's position as a regional financial powerhouse.

Undergraduate Rendall Cheah, 25, said he would like to give his feedback if asked.

"The idea is good, to give feedback on insurance agents of the banks, insurers and financial advisory firms, as this would show that the companies are making an effort to keep track of their staff performance and services delivered."

rachaelb@sph.com.sg

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

US firm denies accusations of profiteering from downloaders

Straits Times
11 Apr 2015
Irene Tham

Studio's lawyer says rampant piracy hits earnings of its producers, actors

VOLTAGE Pictures, the copyright owner of the Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club, has denied accusations of profiteering by targetting consumers here for alleged piracy.

The Hollywood producer has been criticised since last weekend, after its local representative Samuel Seow Law Corporation began sending letters to Internet users here demanding offers of compensation for downloading and sharing the movie illegally.

Lawyer Robert Raj Joseph of Samuel Seow Law Corp told The Straits Times that Voltage Pictures was not trying to profiteer.

He said that Voltage was merely trying to put a stop to rampant piracy, which affects the earnings of its producers and actors.

"They need to take a stance; they are not a big producer and their profits have been significantly reduced," said Mr Robert.

The move has led many netizens to stand in solidarity with the illegal downloaders.

Demand letters have so far been sent to 77 M1 broadband subscribers, with more expected to go out after the law firm receives subscriber details from Singtel and StarHub. The three Internet service providers (ISPs) were ordered by the High Court to release customer details earlier this year.

Netizens have swarmed online forums like Hardwarezone to accuse the production studio of threatening to litigate for a potential windfall.

Voltage has also gone after illegal downloaders in the United States and Australia. On Tuesday, an Australian court ordered six ISPs to release details of customers linked to more than 4,700 Internet protocol addresses which shared the Dallas Buyers Club online.

"If the company is really not going after the money but is standing up for the principle, it should come out with a more conciliatory gesture," said a retiree, who spoke to The Straits Times on condition of anonymity. "Most would have expected some kind of cease-and-desist warning rather than a demand for compensation on the very first infringement."

A 50-year-old Singtel subscriber, who is anxiously monitoring his mailbox for the demand letter, questioned why Voltage did not go after piracy websites instead.

"The end user does not have the financial means to fight in court," said the administrator, who declined to be named.

Under Singapore's amended Copyright Act, which came into force last August, Voltage could seek a High Court order to get ISPs to block piracy websites.

Meanwhile, netizens have banded together on online forums to organise a meeting to discuss the settlement amount - which was not stated in the letter - and the legal options of those targeted.

Samuel Seow Law Corp said that it has already received and accepted "a number" of settlement offers.

If the matter goes to court, several lawyers The Straits Times spoke to said that Voltage might be ordered to provide a "security for costs" that could run into the millions - a potential deterrent.

Security for costs is provided via a banker's guarantee, which companies like Voltage might have to pay for if defence lawyers ask for it. This normally happens when the firm filing the lawsuit is not based in Singapore, and when the defendants want to ensure that their legal costs are covered if the plaintiff loses the suit.

"The security for costs sought could potentially run into the millions if a substantial number of the defendants decided to pursue such applications," said Mr Lakshanthi Fernando, disputes lawyer and director at Holborn Law LLC.

Digital media lawyer Matt Pollins, of Olswang, said: "Security for costs could certainly present a deterrent."

Intellectual property lawyer Cyril Chua of ATMD Bird & Bird said that subscribers who were wrongfully threatened with a demand letter could also mount a lawsuit against Voltage Pictures for "groundless threat of infringement".

itham@sph.com.sg

SEE SINGAPORE

 

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

 

WHY NO WARNING LETTER?

If the company is really not going after the money but is standing up for the principle, it should come out with a more conciliatory gesture. Most would have expected some kind of cease-and-desist warning rather than a demand for compensation on the very first infringement.

- A retiree who spoke on condition of anonymity

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

Rising medical litigation costs may turn healthcare sickly

Straits Times
24 Apr 2015
Salma Khalik

SINGAPORE needs to come up with a way to keep the cost of medical litigation reasonable without being unfair to either patient or doctor.

Otherwise healthcare here could go the way it has in some Western countries, where doctors either avoid risky cases or refuse to practise high-risk specialties - or do so in such a defensive way that it becomes detrimental to patients.

And, of course, costs will soar. Already, the cracks are appearing.

Obstetricians have had their coverage changed from this month so that it protects them only for reports made while they are members of the London-based Medical Protection Society (MPS).

Previously, the MPS, which covers the vast majority of the 11,000 doctors here, covered them for any incident that occurred while they were members, even if the report was made after they ceased being members.

This means that doctors who deliver babies either have to remain members for an additional two decades or more after they retire, or face the risk of footing their own bills should a patient decide to sue them after they have retired.

Costs of medical litigation today can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, regardless of the outcome. If a patient wins a case, the damages can be even more astronomical.

Other specialists fear they will face the same coverage problems in future.

In fact, Singapore Medical Association president Chin Jing Jih suggests that it is logical that the same thing will happen to other high-risk specialties, such as paediatric neurosurgery and neonatology.

This move by the MPS follows many years of rising subscriptions. Doctors who do high-risk aesthetic surgery now pay almost $37,000 a year in subscription fees to the MPS - more than neurosurgeons, who pay almost $33,000. The $37,000 cost - more than $100 a day - is passed on to patients, at least in the private sector.

Professor Chin suggests that Singapore learns from countries like Australia, which has changed its laws to give more protection to doctors who did their best.

He also likes the way Australia penalises lawyers who instigate suits that have no merit.

According to the MPS, it has successfully defended more than three in four claims made against doctors here. In other words, only one in four claims had merit and was successful.

Aside from civil claims, a number of disciplinary hearing verdicts by the professional watchdog, the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), have been overturned by the appeals court for being legally untenable.

These don't come cheap as even a disciplinary hearing can have teams of lawyers, sometimes headed by senior counsel, representing both parties.

Some of these cases, as pointed out by the three-judge courts that dealt with the appeals, should not have been even heard at the disciplinary level.

Two such cases were guilty findings by two disciplinary committees formed under the SMC against two doctors for aesthetic treatments performed before the guidelines were issued.

Such guidelines cannot be retroactive, so these doctors should not have been hauled up in the first place, never mind being found guilty and having to appeal to the High Court for justice.

This year, the High Court has also started making the SMC pay the costs incurred by doctors successful in their appeal against a guilty disciplinary verdict.

In the first case, the court accused the disciplinary committee of coming to a guilty verdict that was "contrary to the evidence" as well as "relying on facts that it should not have considered".

In the second case, the court again found the disciplinary committee selective in the evidence it looked at without giving reasons for dismissing other evidence.

It is unusual for a Court of Appeal to throw out a case because those sitting in judgment failed to adhere to basic law procedures.

It is good to know that the SMC now has a legally trained person as a member of the disciplinary tribunals who can, hopefully, ensure that judgments are in accordance with the law.

Another step the SMC can take to keep a lid on the high cost of such hearings is to standardise the rate it pays experts for their time.

Today, the bills can vary by huge amounts, as disclosed when they are up for taxation, which occurs when bills are disputed.

At one disciplinary hearing, a medical expert charged $14,000 for one day at the hearing, while his more senior colleague charged less than half at $700 an hour. Similarly, the more senior specialist charged $1,000 for preparing a trial report, while the other specialist charged $6,000.

Perhaps the SMC should discuss with doctors what are reasonable fees to pay such experts, based on their seniority, and establish them as standard fees for all disciplinary hearings to avoid such wildly disparate charges.

Fixing the issue of medical coverage for doctors, making sure the charges the SMC brings against doctors have legal merit and introducing more sanity into fees incurred in disciplinary hearings will go some way to keeping down the costs of medical litigation.

salma@sph.com.sg

facebook.com/ST.Salma

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

Ex-finance manager was also Ho's backup singer

Straits Times
17 Apr 2015
LIM YI HAN

She denies conspiracy to commit CBT, shares her involvement with church

SERINA Wee did not just handle City Harvest Church's (CHC) accounts, but she was also a backup singer for two of Ms Ho Yeow Sun's Christian albums, she revealed in court yesterday.

The 38-year-old was the last of six accused parties to take the stand in the long-running trial involving the misuse of church monies and the use of alleged sham bond investments to fund Ms Ho's pop music career.

Wee, CHC's former finance manager, faces 10 charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and falsifying of accounts.

She insisted yesterday that there had been no conspiracy to commit CBT, and denied allegations made by a church member in 2003 that the church's building fund had been used for Ms Ho's publicity and promotional campaign.

The church member eventually retracted his allegations and apologised - a point highlighted by her lawyer, Senior Counsel Andre Maniam.

Wee began by speaking about her involvement in CHC and how she strongly believed in its Crossover Project - an attempt to spread the Gospel through the music of Ms Ho, the wife of church founder Kong Hee, one of the accused.

Wearing a black and white dress and a black blazer, Wee said that in 1995, on her very first visit to a CHC service, she decided to convert to Christianity. She was 18 then and had just sat her GCE A levels.

Wee, who has an accountancy degree from Nanyang Technological University, told the court she first met Ms Ho in 1998. Ms Ho was then in charge of the church's creative department.

"Sun was involved in Christian albums the church produced every year... and I was involved as a backup singer in two of her albums."

Wee also said that her husband Kenny Low was Ms Ho's dance instructor and had performed in her Gospel outreach concerts.

In 1999, she began working as an assistant accountant in the church. Four years later, she went to her first Crossover concert while in Taiwan and said it impacted her deeply. "It was an eye-opener for me... As Sun sang the songs, it touched the hearts of many (there). Many were in tears... When Sun shared her testimony, a lot of people came forward to receive Christ," she told the court.

Her lawyer asked Wee why she had suggested in a 2003 e-mail for Indonesian tycoon and church member Wahju Hanafi to be refunded the $1.3 million he had given to the church's building fund.

She explained that it was to cover the $963,000 in losses suffered through Ms Ho's first two Chinese pop albums, and the rest could be used to defray album costs for that year.

The prosecution has argued that money from the church's building fund should not have been channelled to the Crossover Project.

But Wee, who was promoted to finance manager by the church in 2005 before resigning two years later, did not think that there was an issue.

The auditors were fine with the idea as long as Mr Hanafi was willing, she said.

The trial continues today.

limyihan@sph.com.sg

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

Apex court dismisses prosecutor’s bid for benchmark sentence after Brompton saga

TODAY
11 Apr 2015
Neo Chai Chin

SINGAPORE — Legal proceedings over the Brompton bicycles saga drew to a close today (April 10) after one-and-a-half years, with the Court of Appeal dismissing the Public Prosecutor’s bid for a benchmark sentence for the public servants convicted of giving false information during the investigations into procurement or abuse of power.

The prosecution’s question was reframed at the judges’ request in February but, even so, they felt it was not a question of law or public interest. The prosecution had asked if a jail term should be the default starting position for convicted public servants who gave false information during investigations into improper procurement or abuse of power.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang said the question did not take into account “very pertinent sentencing considerations”, such as the nature and extent of the deception and its consequences.

Answering yes to the question “may well lead to undue hardship or unfairness to the accused in certain cases, which, needless to say, would be a most unsatisfactory state of affairs”, the judges said.

They also did not think it appropriate to obtain a sentencing benchmark through a criminal reference application, which must, among other things, relate to questions of law and public interest.

“A question concerning sentence, which is necessarily fact-sensitive, cannot be camouflaged as a question of law,” the judges said. “The law is clear that a question that is referred to remedy an error of this nature would not cross the public-interest threshold.”

The prosecution had filed the criminal reference after the High Court dismissed its appeal for a harsher penalty for former National Parks Board (NParks) assistant director, Bernard Lim Yong Soon.

Lim was fined S$5,000 last June by the State Courts for lying to auditors from the Ministry of National Development (MND) about his relationship with NParks’ Brompton bicycles supplier in 2012. He had tipped off Mr Lawrence Lim Chun How of Bikehop about a tender, but told auditors that he and Mr Lim began associating with each other only after the tender was awarded.

The S$57,200 deal to buy 26 Brompton bikes had sparked a public outcry on whether NParks got value for money, and prompted the MND to launch an internal investigation.

The District Court had ruled that jail time was not appropriate, as Lim had not provided false information to evade prosecution. His lie did not have material impact, as the auditors did not accept it at face value, the District Judge noted.

Today, the Court of Appeal judges said State Courts sentences may be appealed only to the High Court. “There is no further appeal beyond that. The criminal reference procedure is clearly not meant for that and should not be invoked as a back-door appeal.”

chaichin@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Keppel Club probe points to fraud of $37 million

Straits Times
24 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Money from membership applicants allegedly diverted away from club

SOME $37 million is said to have been lost in an alleged membership fraud at Keppel Club, as a result of fake transfers and the duping of applicants into paying someone else, when they thought they were paying the club, according to a probe report.

As of last month, "irregularities" were detected in 1,340 membership transfers at the club spanning a decade from 2004, said the report. Singapore's oldest country club, Keppel was rocked last year by revelations of the fraud, which led to the sacking of the alleged principal culprit, a 67-year-old woman who started as a clerk in 1966 and rose to supervise its membership department.

The estimate was calculated based on the rolling average of historically transacted prices of the club's memberships, said court documents filed by Keppel earlier this month.

Keppel had appointed the DHA+pac firm last November to conduct forensic investigations into areas including the modus operandi and extent of the fraud, as well as the potential damage and loss suffered by the club.

Among other things, the affected membership transfers were not mentioned at management meetings by the alleged culprit.

Applicants who sought to join the club were directed to the 67-year-old, who would prepare a form with the genuine details of the applicant. But when it came to details of the person transferring his or her club membership, she would allegedly fill in a fabricated name, or the data of former members instead. She would also fabricate a signature for the purported transferor.

The club stopped issuing new memberships in 1996, but a membership could be bought from someone willing to sell his membership through the club.

Based on the probe findings, Keppel has hired a team of Lee & Lee lawyers led by Mr Julian Tay to sue the woman and six others, to account for the damages.

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

Signs of something being amiss first emerged when the woman, who oversaw the membership department for more than 30 years, expressed strong resistance when management suggested in 2013 that someone understudy her. The woman had already passed 62 years of age in 2009.

She reluctantly agreed, but insisted on retaining control over membership transfers, claiming the complex job would require at least two years for her successor to take over. The club then promoted an assistant manager in July last year to understudy her.

But the assistant uncovered irregularities in the membership records. Among other things, she found two membership files that were started last year, but had no records of payment of transfer fees in relation to the purported membership transfers. The signatures of the purported transferors were also strikingly identical.

She also found that the names and details of these supposed members were not found in the club's membership database.

Discreet checks and prompt internal investigations followed.

When queried by the general manager on the irregularities in nine membership files which showed no record of transfer fee payment, the 67-year-old failed to give a proper explanation.

Within the next few days, the club received seven cashier's orders and two cheques for the purported payment of the nine membership files which the alleged culprit was asked about earlier.

But four of the cashier's orders had consecutive reference numbers, suggesting that they were issued by the same person. The orders were also issued days after the suspect was first queried by the general manager. The club later lodged a police report.

The club has since been informed that its former employee is currently being investigated by the police for possible offences, said the court documents filed.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

What it should have been: US studio calls anti-piracy laws here ineffective

Straits Times
17 Apr 2015

IN A story on April 14, we said US studio Voltage Pictures had described Singapore's anti-piracy laws as ineffective. This is incorrect. What it said was that blocking of piracy websites, which is provided for under the amended Copyright Act, "is not an effective method of copyright protection". We are sorry for the error.

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

Government may regulate 3rd-party taxi booking firm

TODAY
11 Apr 2015

Last November, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced it will implement a regulatory framework this quarter that requires third-party taxi booking service providers to register with the agency. The framework also requires them to provide commuters with payment details, including flag-down fare, distance and time rates, the booking fee charged by the service provider and, where applicable, peak period and location surcharges.

Noting the increasing popularity of these apps, the LTA had said then the regulations were introduced to safeguard commuter safety and interests.

Members of Parliament will also debate the Housing and Development (Amendment) Bill, which was introduced last month to grant HDB officers greater powers in cases of lease infringement.

The proposed changes allow the HDB to enter a flat to carry out investigation and urgent repairs, such as ceiling leaks, in two ways: It can obtain a court warrant, which gives it the right of forced entry if the owners ignore a 24-hour notice period and do not allow its officers to enter the flat. The HDB can also enter a flat without a court warrant when there is imminent danger affecting public safety or public health.

Meanwhile, five questions have been filed on ways to honour founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23. Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) asked if the Government will designate a “Founder’s Day” for Singaporeans to “remember the struggles of the country in the early years and remind us of the nation’s founding values and principles”. Two other suggestions include renaming Changi Airport after Mr Lee and placing his image on the currency.

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) has also submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs a question asking what conditions the organiser of the cancelled Future Music Festival failed to meet in addressing potential drug abuse at the event.

A total of 31 questions were tabled for oral answers, while 13 questions for written answers were filed.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Piracy losing its stigma here

TODAY
24 Apr 2015
Valerie Koh

Fewer people consider it a crime to illegally download content

SINGAPORE — Despite continuing efforts to raise awareness on intellectual property (IP) rights, fewer people now consider it a crime to download online content from illegal sources or engage in unauthorised file sharing, compared with four years ago.

Findings from the latest IP Perception Survey showed that about one in two respondents, or 54.9 per cent, viewed downloading from unauthorised sources as theft, down from some three in four, or 77.8 per cent, in 2010. The survey was commissioned by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) last November.

Similarly, about one in two respondents, 49.2 per cent, felt that ­unauthorised file sharing was akin to theft, whereas some three in four, or 77.5 per cent, felt likewise in 2010.

The findings — released today (April 23) at the World IP Day Appreciation Event — come as the issue of illegal downloading hit the headlines here again. Earlier this month, some Singaporeans were served with letters from lawyers representing the producers of the Dallas Buyers Club, asking them to pay for damages for allegedly downloading the Oscar-winning film illegally.

Over 500 Internet Protocol addresses were reportedly identified.

Speaking to media on the sidelines of the event, guest of honour Denise Phua, who is also an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, said: “If Singapore ... aspires to be a centre of innovation, creativity and a business hub, then I think we must take this topic of awareness, promotion and protection very seriously.”

In response to media queries on the findings, an IPOS spokesperson said: “There is room for improvement in attitude and behavioural patterns, especially in the area of responsible consumption of legitimate content.”

Common reasons cited for online IP rights infringements include convenience and unwillingness to pay for content. However, other respondents cited moral values and poorer quality of content as deterrents.

The survey also showed that 80.2 per cent of respondents agreed that it is important to protect IP rights, while 82.3 per cent felt that the works of IP creators deserved to be protected. The results were consistent with the 2010 findings.

Over 1,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents took part in the face-to-face survey.

IP experts felt that public views on whether illegal downloads or unauthorised file sharing count as theft could have relaxed over the years, due to the widespread use of streaming devices in the market.

“There might be the misperception that just because you can stream content, the initial act of downloading is not illegal,” said Mr Jason Chan, a director at Amica Law.

He felt that long-term public education, which builds on moral values, is the way to go to deter people from IP rights infringement.

Penalties alone may not solve the problem as they target intermediaries, such as torrenting site BitTorrent, over end-users, suggested Dr Ivan Png, distinguished professor in the Departments of Economics and Information Systems at the National University of Singapore.

Mr Chan added: “Even if you enhance the penalties, people will think, ‘I might not be caught become I’m one of the million people downloading’.”

For IPOS, education remains key in its efforts to promote awareness on IP rights.

Today, it published a Copyright Notice — advising people on situations where they are alleged to have downloaded or shared a movie — on its website.

The notice is the first of its kind in Singapore, and includes tips on possible responses, should one be served a letter, as in the case of the alleged downloaders of Dallas Buyers Club.

However, IPOS said it has not received public queries on the movie’s copyright issue through their formal feedback channels.

Today, IPOs also launched its legal clinic, which offers individuals and businesses preliminary advice on IP-related disputes.

valeriekohsf@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Surgeon cleared of misconduct charges

Straits Times
16 Apr 2015
Selina Lum

Court overturns suspension imposed by S'pore Medical Council panel

AN AUSTRIAN heart and lung surgeon who injected a two-year-old patient with the undiluted form of a drug used to stop the heart during an operation, has been cleared of professional misconduct.

A three-judge court, in written grounds published yesterday, allowed the appeal of Dr Uwe Klima against two misconduct charges, overturning the nine-month suspension handed down by a Singapore Medical Council (SMC) disciplinary committee last year.

In 2007, Dr Klima performed a scheduled operation on the boy, who was born with a rare heart condition.

During the operation at the National University Hospital (NUH), a drug called cardioplegia was administered to stop his heart so it could be safely operated on.

Cardioplegia can be used only after it is diluted; the undiluted form is potentially fatal.

When Dr Klima was handed a syringe after he asked for cardioplegia, he assumed that the drug had been diluted and gave it to the patient. But the clear solution was in fact neat cardioplegia.

After the surgery, the boy's condition deteriorated. An emergency operation saved his life but he was left with medical complications that crippled his ability to lead a normal life. Now 10, he attends a special school and needs help with daily activities.

In its judgment, the court said that this was a case in which the system comprising two layers of safeguards against the administration of neat cardioplegia had failed as a result of a breakdown in communications between members of the surgical team.

While Dr Klima should have checked what type of cardioplegia he had been given, the supporting staff who prepared the drug should also have told him that it was neat, said the court.

Noting the adverse medical consequences to the patient, the court said it sympathised fully with the patient and his parents.

However, the current issue was whether Dr Klima was guilty of professional misconduct for these consequences - which the court found he was not.

The court also suggested that hospitals and Dr Klima may want to revisit current protocols on the administering of cardioplegia.

The court ordered the SMC to pay half of Dr Klima's legal costs for the appeal, noting that its decision to bring charges was honest, reasonable and on what appeared to be sound grounds.

The boy's 42-year-old father, a construction worker, said through lawyer Adeline Chong that he was disappointed with the court's decision.

He complained to the SMC in 2008 after he received an anonymous letter detailing the treatments given to his son at NUH.

He also engaged a law firm to seek compensation based on medical negligence.

Yesterday, he said he hoped all hospitals and surgeons will learn from this case. "No child should have to go through what my son has been subjected to."

selinal@sph.com.sg

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

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Singaporean 'to be handed over to US'

Straits Times
11 Apr 2015
Zubaidah Nazeer & Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja

Jokowi's decision comes as trader files suit against Batam police

PRESIDENT Joko Widodo is said to have given the green light to process the extradition of Singaporean Lim Yong Nam to the United States, even as a court yesterday heard a suit that Mr Lim filed against the police for detaining him in Batam longer than is allowed by Indonesian law.

Mr Lim, 40, is on the American wanted list for breaching a US trade embargo against Iran.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said that through diplomatic channels, the US requested Indonesia on Nov 10 to extradite Mr Lim.

Mr Arrmanatha said although Indonesia does not have an extradition treaty with the US, it is possible to do so with the President's permission. "The President has indicated his agreement to the extradition request, but provided there is a court decision on this," he said, adding that the process could take several weeks.

Mr Lim's lawyer, Mr Zevrijn Boy Kanu, said the Singaporean has been detained for more than five months, while the law allows police to detain a suspect for up to 50 days without pressing charges.

"Police said they could detain him for as long as they need, based on Indonesia's 1979 Extradition Law, but Indonesia does not have an extradition treaty with the US. They can't use the law," Mr Boy said.

Mr Lim is asking the Batam district to order his release and slap the Riau provincial police with a fine of slightly over one billion rupiah (S$100,000) to compensate him for reputational damage.

The first hearing yesterday was adjourned to next Monday, when police are scheduled to answer to Mr Lim's claim. The court will have to make a ruling within seven days from yesterday.

Mr Lim was arrested at Batam Centre ferry terminal when he sought to enter Indonesia on Oct 23 to attend a trade exhibition. He has been detained in Batam since, even though he has not committed an offence in Indonesia.

The US had accused him of acquiring 6,000 radio frequency modules for export to Iran and asked Singapore to extradite him. But he was not extradited as the Singapore High Court found that the wrongdoing he was accused of was not an offence in Singapore.

"The consulate in Batam has been rendering consular assistance to Mr Lim Yong Nam and family since the day he was detained," said Mr Gavin Chay, a Singapore consular official in Batam.

Mr Lim's wife, May, 40, who attended the hearing yesterday, filed an appeal to the Indonesian government to free him. "After he was caught by Indonesian police, we had to sell our apartment to pay the lawyer's fees," she said.

She and her two daughters, aged two and five, are now living with her parents.

zubaidah@sph.com.sg

wahyudis@sph.com.sg

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

First man to be charged under Prevention of Human Trafficking Act

TODAY
24 Apr 2015
Kelly Ng

SINGAPORE — A 24-year-old man who allegedly had sex with a 15-year-old has become the first to be charged under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, which took effect on March 1. Muhammad Khairulanwar Rohmat, who was charged in court today (April 23), is accused of recruiting a child for exploitation.

He was also charged with having sex with a minor.

The court heard that he had allegedly recruited the 15-year-old girl at a Starbucks Coffee outlet in Orchard between 3.30pm and 5.30pm on April 15 for the purpose of exploitation.

The girl cannot be named because of a gag order, and prosecutors did not reveal what the alleged exploitation entailed.

Under the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act, the definition of exploitation includes sexual exploitation, forced labour and slavery.

Between 4.30pm and 4.45pm that afternoon, Khairulanwar is said to have had sex with the girl, with her consent, in the men’s toilet at the fifth level of Cuppage Plaza. It was not revealed what led to his arrest.

The Prevention of Human Trafficking Act was passed in Parliament on Nov 3 last year. It spells out how trafficking in persons is defined, penalties for those who break the law, powers for enforcement agencies as well as support for victims. The Act defines a child as a person under 18 years old.

Any individual who recruits, transfers or receives a child for the purpose of exploiting the child, whether in Singapore or elsewhere, is guilty of an offence. The child’s consent to the alleged exploitation is irrelevant in determining whether an offence has been committed.

If convicted of recruiting a child for the purposes of exploitation, Khairulanwar could be fined up to S$100,000, jailed up to 10 years or both. He could also receive up to six strokes of the cane. If convicted of having sex with a minor, he could be jailed up to 10 years or fined, or both.

Dressed in a black shirt, Khairulanwar was calm as the charges were read to him. He has been remanded for further investigation, and his case will be mentioned again on April 29.

kellyng@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Former RGS student claims she was bullied, sues school

Straits Times
16 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

A FORMER student is suing Raffles Girls' School (RGS), claiming that the school failed to protect her from being bullied and she was forced to study overseas.

Ms Cheryl Tan, now 18, wants RGS to pay not just for her pain and suffering, but also the $220,000 it cost to continue her studies at the prestigious Wells Cathedral School in England. She is currently completing her A levels there, said her mother, Madam Ng Wee Ching.

A spokesman for RGS, which is denying the claims, told The Straits Times yesterday that the school and its teachers "have always acted in the best interests of its students", and ensured their health and safety within the school.

The case revolves around how Ms Tan fell out with fellow members of the school's Chinese Orchestra in Secondary 3 in 2012.

That year, she was appointed secretary of the co-curricular activity (CCA). According to the suit, she was told by teachers that she would double as a student conductor, along with another student. This allegedly antagonised other CCA members, particularly its student executive committee (exco), which "ostracised and bullied" her at various points over 12 months from July 2012.

According to the suit, Ms Tan was seen as being "selfish" and "greedy" for taking up two positions.

Ms Tan, who joined RGS through the Music Elective Programme, claims that she was repeatedly badgered during practice by a particular student. She says she was also criticised online for bringing up the matter to staff.

She and her parents repeatedly informed the school about the bullying, according to the suit, but the abuse persisted and she left the orchestra in March 2013. She withdrew from the school at the end of July.

It is also claimed that the repeated bullying caused her eczema to worsen and skin on her hand to crack, affecting her ability to play instruments. She needed treatment at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

In RGS' defence filed with the High Court, its lawyer, Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi, has described the claims as frivolous.

It was pointed out that school policy defines bullying as involving "hurting, frightening or intimidating others using power of strength" while cyber bullying includes the sending of hateful messages.

The school found no instance of bullying after investigating Ms Tan's complaints. The defence papers pointed out that RGS staff had frequently engaged Ms Tan's parents over their concerns.

The defence also claims that Ms Tan had wanted all along to study overseas and had taken active steps towards this even before the supposed bullying.

Ms Tan, it was pointed out, was never told she was going to be a student conductor. Instead, she was chosen to attend a conducting course with another student. The CCA's teachers-in- charge were considering the possibility of having two student conductors to cope with a larger number of events in 2013.

The CCA's student exco was not told of this however, and on its own, voted for the other student. Ms Tan found out about this and it led to her parents becoming involved. According to the defence, some students in the exco then ended up feeling that the school was only considering a second conductor to give in to Ms Tan's demands.

A High Court pre-trial conference is due today.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

Film piracy a blight on movie industry

Straits Times
11 Apr 2015
Miranda Yeo & Isaac Neo

Home-grown film-maker Kelvin Tong has lost up to 80% in DVD sales since 2008

FOR home-grown film-maker Kelvin Tong, the effects of film piracy are simple: It's going to work every day without a pay cheque at the end of the month.

The director, known for horror films such as The Maid, also owns production company Boku Films.

He said he has seen declines of up to 35 per cent in annual box-office takings and up to 80 per cent in DVD sales since 2008. He attributed part of the decline to the concurrent growth in popularity of illegal download sites.

"Part of me as a film director rejoices whenever someone watches my movies - be it legitimately or criminally," he said.

"However, I know that in the long run, rampant piracy will kill off all but the richest or most passionate film-makers, as no one can labour indefinitely with zero or very low returns."

His concerns were echoed by director Jack Neo, the man behind box-office favourites I Not Stupid and Ah Boys To Men. While he declined to give figures, he said illegal downloading had affected his DVD sales.

"Most importantly, we take precautions so that the film isn't leaked before the official release period," he said, noting that several of his movies can be found on YouTube and Chinese websites.

It is hard to put a number on the damage that piracy has caused, but the effect is real, said cinema operators here.

A Golden Village spokesman said the cinema operator has seen a gradual fall in box-office earnings over the years.

For example, in the romance drama genre, Winter's Tale earned $112,486 last February, compared to $557,420 for Dear John, which ran in February 2010.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore said online piracy is a global issue, with 327 million unique Internet users explicitly downloading content illegally during January 2013, with 30 per cent of these offenders in the Asia-Pacific region.

Singapore is one of the worst offenders in the region, with its high broadband penetration rate. There are about 300,000 cases of illegal downloading here every month, according to data in 2012 - the worst among 15 countries in the region.

A survey last year found over half of the adult population here has pirated movie, television or music content.

The survey of 900 Singaporeans aged 16 to 64, conducted by Sycamore Research and Marketing, also found that piracy is primarily a youth issue.

Seven out of 10 Singaporeans aged 16 to 24 download illegally out of habit - and an overwhelming 80 per cent believe it is a social norm.

"The problem is particularly pronounced in Singapore because we have access to a high-speed broadband Internet network. Downloading and streaming is much easier, compared to buying DVDs," said Mr Zaqy Mohamad, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Communications and Information and MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC.

"It is a challenge to enforce change, but if we don't value the effort that the industry puts in, it becomes hard to sustain producing quality content."

To mitigate losses, Golden Village encourages distributors to time the release of their films together with the US, to avoid leaks on the Internet.

If piracy is left unchecked, there will be an impact on everyone along the food chain - the creators, producers, creative individuals who worked behind the scenes, movie distributors and exhibitors, said the cinema chain.

Some studios, such as Voltage Pictures, can afford to go after those who download illegally, but local studios do not have the financial power to do so, said Mr Tong.

"We will either have to band together, or get behind a big studio's efforts to go after pirates."

miranday@sph.com.sg

isaacneo@sph.com.sg


Background Story

HAPPY AND SAD

Part of me as a film director rejoices whenever someone watches my movies - be it legitimately or criminally... However, I know that in the long run, rampant piracy will kill off all but the richest or most passionate film-makers.

- Film-maker Kelvin Tong


WHO IS VOLTAGE?

VOLTAGE Pictures is an independent film financing, production and distribution company based in Los Angeles.

Founded in 2005 by French film sales agent and film producer Nicholas Chartier, 41, it focuses on producing smaller independent films.

The first film it produced was The Hurt Locker, a 2008 war film directed by Kathryn Bigelow which won six Academy Awards.

According to its website, Voltage has produced over 40 films from a range of genres, including Dallas Buyers Club, which won three Academy Awards last year.

Voltage has a history of suing people for illegally sharing its movies online. In 2011, it filed a lawsuit against 24,583 alleged BitTorrent users in the District of Columbia, claiming that they had illegally downloaded The Hurt Locker.

The case was dismissed at the end of of 2011, as the Internet service providers (ISPs) took too long to provide details of the users.

However, in 2013, Voltage again filed lawsuits against 615 people in Oregon, accusing them of illegally sharing Maximum Conviction, a Steven Seagal movie. The case was dismissed by the United States District Court of Oregon, as the judge ruled that they were improperly filed with copyright infringement lawsuits.

In a landmark ruling on April 7 this year, some of Australia's largest ISPs were forced to hand over the names and addresses of more than 4,700 Australian users who allegedly shared Dallas Buyers Club on filesharing services such as BitTorrent.

The ISPs in question, iiNet and Internode among others, refused to hand over the data last October, citing previous lawsuits filed by Voltage, which had engaged in a practice iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby called "speculative invoicing".

Speculative invoicing is where individuals accused of copyright infringement are sent letters by rights holders seeking significant damages for financial losses caused by piracy, or opt to pay a fee to settle out of court.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published in January, Mr Chartier said the reason he decided to sue individuals downloading his films was that "you frighten people and then they stop".

ISAAC NEO

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

Big Data collected is anonymised, protected by law: Voices

TODAY
24 Apr 2015

I refer to Mr Danny Tan’s letter “Yes to Big Data, but let’s watch out for Big Brother” (April 17).

Technology advancements and increasing connectivity mean that private organisations and Government service agencies will increasingly collect and use large quantities of data in their normal course of business. For example, our public agencies use data analytics to improve policy planning, service delivery and resource allocation.

To safeguard private data, individual identities are obscured by making the information anonymous and aggregating them. Insights are gleaned from observing collective group behaviour and not individual ones. These insights help the Government better anticipate and respond to events and trends, such as the occurrence of dengue hot spots and the planning of bus routes.

Regulations and guidelines, such as the Personal Data Protection Act and similar rules within the public sector, are in place to govern the management of personal data, both for public and private agencies. These guidelines protect individuals’ private data and strengthen the public’s confidence in the ability of these organisations to handle and use such data properly.

As technology changes and societal attitudes evolve, we will have to review our approach and practices. We strive to strike the right balance to enable us to make the best use of new technology to benefit citizens, while respecting and safeguarding personal private data. We thank Mr Tan for his thoughtful feedback and suggestions, and will consider them alongside the views of other experts and members of the public.

Tan Kok Yam

Head, Smart Nation Programme Office

 

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

SMA chief: Docs need protection against excessive patient claims

Straits Times
16 Apr 2015
Salma Khalik

SINGAPORE Medical Association (SMA) president Chin Jing Jih has called for changes in the law on medical liability to protect doctors against excessive patient claims and to prevent defensive healthcare practices that are not good for patients.

His article in the March SMA News comes in the wake of changes this month to the way obstetricians are protected by the Medical Protection Society (MPS), which covers about 10,000 doctors here.

While other doctors are protected for incidents that happened while they were members of the MPS, obstetricians are now covered only for incidents reported while they were members.

This means that if a patient reports an incident years after it happened, an obstetrician would not be covered unless he or she is still an MPS member.

To remain protected when they retire, they need to continue to buy coverage in five-year blocks - currently set at no more than $63,000 or 175 per cent the maximum annual subscription. But MPS still has the right to refuse doctors this extension.

Associate Professor Chin argued that this "indemnity crisis" is not a problem just for the profession but society as a whole.

Painting possible scenarios that would result in "a serious setback" for Singapore's attempts at improving birth rates, Prof Chin said: "Society may have no choice but to regress to less costly options like nurses and midwives.

"In complicated pregnancies, the lack of specialist medical management can potentially result in higher risks to mother and foetus.

"Some citizens may even find the obstetric care costs so prohibitive that they decide to not have any children altogether.

"In the worst-case situation, if obstetric practice is unable to obtain insurance cover, many will likely stop practice."

He added: "Many doctors from other specialties wondered if they would be next in line for the axe."

To prevent such problems, Prof Chin suggests that Singapore follows what Australia did in 2002 after thousands of its doctors were left without coverage when their insurer went bankrupt - possibly triggered by an A$11 million (S$11.4 million) settlement with a woman who needed care her whole life due to birth-induced cerebral palsy.

Aside from bailing out the insurance company, Australia changed some of its laws, such as capping the damages a patient can claim, accepting as defence that a doctor had taken "reasonable care" and holding lawyers personally liable for the costs should they instigate "unmeritorious" claims.

Prof Chin believes that neonatology - which deals with the medical needs of newborn infants and high-risk paediatric neurosurgery - could be next hit. He said: "It would be fair and logical to expect the same changes to soon affect other specialties that treat or operate on young children."

Responding, Dr Chia Shi Lu, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said that Prof Chin's arguments are "valid and probable".

Like Prof Chin, he feared "cherry-picking", with doctors turning down higher-risk patients or practising defensive medicine.

He pointed to some parts of the United States "where there are no practising obstetricians due to the prohibitive cost of malpractice insurance".

Aside from obstetrics, Dr Chia said: "It might also force doctors away from certain high-premium specialties, resulting in an overall drop in the standard of care.

"The rights of patients to seek proper redress should not be compromised, but some balance in the tort system might be needed to address some of the deficiencies in the present system."

salma@sph.com.sg

www.facebook.com/ST.Salma


Background Story

IMPACT ON BIRTH RATE?

Some citizens may even find the obstetric care costs so prohibitive that they decide to not have any children altogether.

- Singapore Medical Association president Chin Jing Jih, on one of the possible scenarios that could result from changes in the way obstetricians are protected against patients' claims

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

Lawsuits not the way to fight piracy: Forum

Straits Times
11 Apr 2015

AS I read Wednesday's report ("US firm seeks damages from illegal downloaders here"), I was concerned that this would lead to a litigious culture in Singapore.

Illegal downloading should be stopped. However, this can be better done through education and controls implemented at the source, not by threatening legal action.

Perhaps more can be done to educate and to incentivise the legitimate purchasing of intellectual property, just like how Microsoft enticed people to legally own its new operating system by offering an offer for a limited time period.

It is also very worrying that personal details, such as names, addresses and identity card numbers, were handed over to a third party for a civil suit. Even with the Personal Data Protection Act, it seems that one's private information is too easily obtainable by private entities.

I would not be upset if the police demanded these details from the Internet service providers, but to have this legally obtained by a third party is scary. What will happen to the information, and who has authorised its usage?

Shouldn't action against the breaking of laws be pursued by the authorities, and not through threatening private legal action?

Singapore needs to improve the protection of intellectual property, but not by creating a litigious culture here. Let us do so in a culturally and economically acceptable, yet non-confrontational, manner.

Kang Wey-Ming

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

Mr Lee's house a chance for due process

Straits Times
24 Apr 2015
Terence Chong & Yeo Kang Shua

THE fate of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road has been the subject of recent debate.

On the one hand, members of the public have petitioned for it to be preserved.

They argue that the house was a meeting point for many first- generation leaders who went on to form the People's Action Party, thus cementing its role in the political history of our country.

On the other hand, Mr Lee himself had wanted it demolished for several reasons.

He neither wanted a personality cult to be built around him, nor did he and his wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo, wish for strangers to be wandering around their private spaces.

He also believed that demolishing his house would result in the easing of zoning restrictions, thus releasing the economic potential of the area.

Nevertheless, the debate over 38, Oxley Road should go beyond simple deliberation between preserving a building and respecting the wishes of a property owner.

We believe that this debate is an opportunity to, first, strengthen our state heritage institutions and due process, and, second, consider the ramifications of carrying out the wishes of the owner of a potentially important building at the expense of national heritage.

Let us ask the most obvious question: If we are to preserve 38, Oxley Road, who decides if it is, indeed, a heritage-significant house?

The straightforward answer is that a state agency must decide in order to trigger legal protection for the house.

In this case, there are two state agencies, the first of which is the National Heritage Board (NHB).

Under Paragraph 4(a) of the Preservation of Monuments Act, NHB is empowered "to identify monuments that are of such historic, cultural, traditional, archaeological, architectural, artistic or symbolic significance and national importance as to be worthy of preservation under this Act, and to make recommendations to the Minister (of Culture, Community and Youth) for the preservation under this Act of the monuments so identified".

To add another level of complexity, according to Paragraph 12 of the Preservation of Monuments Act, even if the state issues a preservation order for 38, Oxley Road, such an order will cease to be valid if the state does not acquire the house within a year of its issuance because the house will be seen as a "dwelling-house", that is, someone is living in it.

The second state agency in question is the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

If URA deems an area worthy of conservation, it may recommend to the Minister of National Development that this area be conserved.

For instance, under Paragraph 9(1) of the Planning Act, "where in the opinion of the minister, any area is of special architectural, historic, traditional or aesthetic interest, the minister may approve… a proposal to amend the master plan to designate the area as a conservation area".

So does 38, Oxley Road hold any "architectural, historic, traditional or aesthetic interest"?

The house is over a hundred years old and, architecturally speaking, is a rare and unique type of bungalow.

It used to have a "twin" bungalow (No. 40) which was, unfortunately, demolished, leaving No. 38 the only type of its kind left along Oxley Road.

Furthermore, a case may be made that it is worth preserving because there have been very little, if any, renovations or alterations made to 38, Oxley Road, thus leaving it largely in its original state.

The point that we are making is not that 38, Oxley Road should or should not be preserved.

Rather, it is that state agencies like NHB and URA have the legal tools and institutional capacity at their disposal to ensure that due process is carried out.

Expert panels comprising historians, architects and social scientists can be established to determine if, indeed, the house possesses historical, national, architectural or even aesthetic importance.

It may be the case that such panels may find that it does not.

However, in our opinion, the actual verdict of such panels would be of less importance than the demonstration of institutional due diligence, adherence to heritage best practices, and abidance by transparent decision-making processes.

The deliberations and findings of experts should be made public, needless to say.

Observing due process would also instill public confidence that all cases under consideration for preservation or conservation, regardless of owner, will be viewed in accordance with established principles and procedures, as empowered by the respective Acts.

This would, in turn, strengthen our heritage institutions and deepen local expertise.

What then of respecting the owner's wishes?

We acknowledge that this raises an emotional dilemma for loved ones.

However, leaving this dilemma aside for a while, acceding to individual wishes without undergoing due process may establish an unwanted precedent for future preservation or conservation cases.

For example, what if an owner of a historical temple or architecturally important house decides to tear it down?

What if the owner cites the case of 38, Oxley Road as precedent for the primacy of the individual over the community?

What impact will such cases have on these two Acts?

Do we then abide by his or her wishes and watch the destruction of our national heritage?

Or do we want to consider alternative forms of compensation in order to save such buildings?

These are heritage concerns that go beyond 38, Oxley Road. Discussing them openly and objectively would be to our benefit.

stopinion@sph.com.sg

The first writer is a sociologist and the second is an architectural historian and conservator. They are vice-president and honorary secretary of the Singapore Heritage Society, respectively.

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

Revised Companies Act delayed until early next year

Business Times
16 Apr 2015
Jamie Lee

THE Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) has again delayed the full implementation of amendments to the Companies Act, following delays linked to the revamp of its online business filing portal.

Acra on Wednesday said all amendments to the Companies Act should come into effect by early next year. As it is, the amendments to the Companies Act had come about eight years after a review process began.

It will implement the amendments to the Companies Act in two phases. About 40 per cent of the over 200 legislative amendments will take effect in the first phase on July 1, 2015.

The second phase should come into effect in the first quarter of 2016.

Some legislative amendments are directly linked to the registration and filing processes in Acra's online business filing and information portal (BizFile), Singapore's accounting body said.

"BizFile is currently undergoing a major revamp, and is now expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2016," it said in an announcement.

Companies Act amendments that have no or limited links to BizFile will be implemented under the first phase. These include the new provisions which broaden the criteria for exemption from statutory audit for small companies, which will benefit small and medium-sized enterprises.

Other meaty amendments that include the end of one-share-one-vote - which effectively opens the option to dual-class share structures - and greater conflict-of-interest disclosure by chief executive officers, will only be implemented under the second phrase.

In January, Acra said it had deferred the implementation to the second quarter of this year.

Acra said it will announce the effective date for, and provide more details on, phase two about two months before the changes are due to take effect.

 

leejamie@sph.com.sg

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

Landmark ruling on rights of liquidators

Straits Times
10 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Court of Appeal clarifies powers to grant release of audit documents

SINGAPORE'S highest court has issued a landmark ruling on the rights of liquidators to gain access to documents as they probe details of a corporate collapse.

Auditing giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has failed in an appeal to stop access to documents by a liquidator investigating the failure of Singapore-listed China firm Celestial Nutrifoods.

The Court of Appeal in a rare judgment of this type clarified the court's powers to grant orders under the relevant provision of the Companies Act.

Lawyers say the ruling will strengthen corporate governance practice here.

"So far, there has been no pronouncement by this court on the (relevant) Section 285 although there have been four reported High Court cases," wrote Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, on behalf of the top court, which included Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and retired Chief Justice and now Senior Judge Chan Sek Keong.

"Times and attitudes have changed, and there is today a much stronger emphasis on corporate governance.The power under Section 285, if wielded judiciously, could promote corporate governance," he said in grounds released yesterday.

The court's ruling made clear that working documents of an auditor were liable to access by a liquidator seeking information about an insolvent company's affairs.

PwC had audited Celestial's financial statements from financial year 2004 until March 2010.

It had already supplied liquidator Yit Chee Wah with three large files with details such as limited company and subsidiary level information, year-end balances and minutes of meetings.

But Mr Yit sought access to PwC's working papers relating to Celestial's trade dealings, affairs and property - including those given to PwC by Celestial's subsidiaries in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and China - along with other relevant primary records including bank statements, fixed asset registers and loan facility documents. The liquidator sought the documents so he could reconstruct Celestial's financial records and probe various suspicious transactions he had uncovered.

PwC lost in the High Court last year and a team of WongPartnership lawyers led by Senior Counsel (SC) Alvin Yeo appealed, urging the apex court to reverse the decision.

Drew & Napier lawyer Blossom Hing countered for the liquidator that the court should be slow in disturbing the exercise of discretion under S285, in the absence of a clear error of law or principle.

The court said the relevant provision is not peculiar to Singapore and is found elsewhere including Hong Kong and England.

It is "couched in general terms and should not be interpreted in a restrictive manner. It can be used to assist the liquidator in gathering information that would aid him in discharging his duties", said Judge of Appeal Chao, stressing the court's order must not be "wholly unreasonable, unnecessary or oppressive to the person(s) concerned".

SC Yeo argued PwC would not be able to provide the liquidator with useful information and documents as the suspicious documents that the liquidator was concerned with, including $16.8 million made to Power Charm Group, a BVI company, loans made to BVI subsidiaries by China Construction Bank and the auction of shares of the PRC subsidiaries, were all done in financial year 2010 and by then, PwC were no longer Celestial's auditors.

The court rejected the claims, pointing out PwC was likely to have with it documents that could shed light on the circumstances of the suspicious transactions. PwC had provided three files of documents which contained information that the liquidator had obtained from other sources.

The court was also not convinced that release of the documents sought would breach Chinese secrecy laws, pointing out PwC had not shown the documents contained state secrets, and as the firm was based outside China, it was unlikely they would possess state secrets.

Celestial, an investment holding company registered in Bermuda, had several subsidiaries in China. It was listed on the Singapore Exchange in 2004, but wound up in 2011, following its failure to redeem some $235 million in bonds sought by investors. It is understood that 10 boxes of files have been handed over to the liquidator following the court's ruling.

vijayan@sph.com.sg


Background Story

IMPACT ON CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

"A liquidator is often at a disadvantage in discharging (his) duties because he has no prior knowledge of the company's affairs and often has to contend with incomplete and unsatisfactory records, and deal with uncooperative officers of the company who may be wrongdoers themselves. Due to these difficulties and in the interest of expedience, S285 of the Companies Act was enacted (which) allows him to get information on the insolvent company's affairs."

- Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin

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

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Sergeant jailed for ordering NSF without licence to drive

Straits Times
23 Apr 2015
Elena Chong

He also tried to cover up incident that led to soldier's death

A MASTER Sergeant was sentenced to six months' jail for ordering a full-time national serviceman (NSF) to drive a jeep despite having no licence or training, and trying to cover up the incident that led to a soldier's death.

Lee Kong Kean, 33, pleaded guilty to acting so rashly as to endanger life at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Marsiling training ground. NSF Tan Mou Sheng, 20, was killed when the jeep driven by NSF Cavin Tan overturned.

Lee tried to pervert the course of justice the next day by telling a group of instructors, including Mr Cavin Tan, then 20, of his intention to lie to investigators that Mr Cavin Tan had stolen the jeep.

Yesterday, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan made it clear that serious transgressions such as Lee's could not be tolerated as they could lead to tragic consequences, and did so in this case.

As a licensed jeep driver, Lee would know that for an untrained driver, unfamiliar with the jeep, negotiating such tricky terrain and under poor lighting conditions would be risky and dangerous, the judge pointed out.

Two NSFs - Dickson Hong and Ow Yong Wei Long - were also thrown out and injured. None of the three passengers had been wearing helmets or seat belts.

The public, the judge added, is entitled to expect "strict and unstinting adherence" to safety regulations, given the thousands of young men going to the army each year for national service.

"Such (a) transgression would therefore have to be dealt with severely, given the far-reaching and detrimental consequences it could have in corroding the trust and rapport that have been built up over time between the SAF and the public," he said.

Lee's lawyers Sunil Sudheesan and Diana Ngiam said in mitigation that their client had made a mistake for which he is remorseful, and that he had apologised to the instructors, the deceased's family and the court for his actions. "He was in a state of panic and he said what he said, but he did not persist," said Mr Sunil, on Lee's attempted cover-up.

They also pointed out that Lee, who is currently suspended, will lose his job in the army.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Tang Shangjun argued that Lee had not just abused his authority when he gave Mr Cavin Tan the order to drive, he also brazenly disregarded safety protocols.

Mr Cavin Tan was ordered to drive one of two jeeps during a training exercise on May 10, 2012. The next morning, he lost control of the jeep on a downward slope - it tilted, rotated around and overturned a few times. Mr Tan Mou Sheng, a close friend of Mr Cavin Tan's, was pinned under the jeep and died of severe pelvic injuries several hours later.

Instead of taking responsibility, Lee tried to cover up his actions and make a scapegoat out of Mr Cavin Tan, argued Mr Tang.

He highlighted that such offences are hard to detect in a large organisation, especially if subordinates are unwilling to report transgressions by their senior officers.

He also sought a sentence that recognised the significant need to prevent such flagrant breaches of training protocol from going undetected and unreported.

The judge agreed that Lee clearly tried to influence the others to buy into his plan to pervert the course of justice.

"What made it worse is that he had wanted to put the blame entirely on Cavin. He was thwarted, not by a voluntary change of heart, but by the vehement objections of his colleagues."

Mr Cavin Tan has served a 10-day short detention order, which is intended to be less disruptive and stigmatising than jail, for causing death by carrying out a negligent act.

When sentencing him last December, District Judge Low Wee Ping said: "Perhaps one positive outcome of this case is that national servicemen now know that they do not need to obey a manifestly illegal or unlawful order."

Mr Tan Mou Sheng's father also told Mr Cavin Tan's parents that their son, now 23, was not at fault as he was obeying orders.

elena@sph.com.sg

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

Defence disputes that pastor lied: City Harvest trial

Straits Times
16 Apr 2015
Lim Yi Han

CITY Harvest Church (CHC) deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng closed an exhausting 16 days on the stand yesterday with an impassioned declaration that he and his wife had given everything they had to the church.

In wrapping up his re-examination of Tan, who is one of six accused of misusing church funds, Tan's lawyer, Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, noted that his client had been on the stand for those many days, and asked if he had anything to clarify.

Sounding emotional, Tan said: "As I was on the stand... I remember a verse in the Bible that says, if a man does not stumble on his words, he is a perfect man. I want to say that I'm far from being perfect.

"I never intended to cause any loss to the church... I have not done any of these things for personal gain. I go back every night and do my prayers, I check my heart, and I can honestly say that I only wanted the church to benefit."

Tan faces 10 charges of criminal breach of trust of monies from the church's building fund and falsifying of accounts.

Five others connected to CHC, including church founder Kong Hee, also face various charges of misusing the church fund and covering up the misuse.

Tan added that he was glad all the monies that were invested have "all come back to the church" and the church did not suffer any losses.

Earlier in the day, the lawyer raised a point brought up by the prosecution, that Tan had lied to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) to create a false impression that the church investments were secure.

Under questioning by the CAD in June 2010, Tan had told investigators that when the church was debating whether to buy bonds in music management company Xtron, its director, Mr Wahju Hanafi, had given a "personal guarantee" to make good any losses incurred.

But Mr Hanafi signed the guarantee only in March 2010, not when the idea of buying the bonds was first mooted in 2007.

Xtron managed pop singer Ho Yeow Sun, who is married to Kong.

The prosecution contends the bonds were sham, to disguise that church funds were being used to fund her career.

Mr Sreenivasan said: "It was put to you that you were lying to CAD... Did you subsequently tell the CAD that the document was signed in 2010?"

When Tan said he did not remember, Mr Sreenivasan pointed to his CAD statement, where he did, in fact, tell them the truth.

Mr Sreenivasan also made the point that, contrary to the prosecution's assertion, Xtron director Choong Kar Weng - along with Mr Hanafi - did not simply rubber-stamp deals.

Minutes from a board meeting in 2008 showed Mr Choong was not present, but Mr Sreenivasan submitted new evidence in the form of a BlackBerry exchange between him and Tan which showed he was there and in which Mr Choong asked to take part in more of such meetings.

Later, he asked his client about his position on the bonds being alleged as sham.

Tan said they were genuine investments with returns for the Crossover project.

He said: "That was what I had always understood."

limyihan@sph.com.sg

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

Legal spat between ex-chairman, Nobel board intensifies

Straits Times
10 Apr 2015
Grace Leong

He sues four for defamation over his alleged role in setting up KL rival

THE war of words between former Nobel Design Holdings chairman Bert Choong and the company's current management board over his alleged role in setting up rival furniture retailer Studio 216 in Kuala Lumpur has intensified.

Mr Choong, now a non-executive director of the mainboard-listed furniture company, filed a defamation suit against its chief executive and group managing director, Mr Terence Goon, whom Mr Choong says he groomed to be his successor. He has also sued non-executive chairman Adrian Chan, independent director Teh Ban Lian and chief operating officer Wee Ai Quey.

The legal moves come after the board announced to the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on Oct 17 that Mr Choong may be in breach of his fiduciary duties for allegedly failing to disclose to them that Studio 216 was set up in February last year and that his wife, Ms Pauline Wee, and son Leon were its directors. The board also said it was not informed that Studio 216 was selling furniture from Porada Arredi, a principal supplier of Nobel unit Marquis Furniture Gallery.

Because of the board's claims, an offer of company directorship and a proposed business transaction have been "indefinitely deferred due to the negative publicity", Mr Choong said.

But the defendants, in papers filed in the High Court last month, disputed his claims, saying they could be liable to criminal offences under the Securities and Futures Act for failing to disclose this information to SGX.

Mr Choong allegedly "engaged in conflicting activities by leveraging on his contacts with Porada" to help Studio 216, they said. They cited e-mails to show he allegedly falsely represented that he was helping Marquis set up a KL showroom for Porada.

He also reneged on an agreement to step down as Nobel's director to resolve his conflict of interest and to nominate a non-executive director in his place, the defendants said. Mr Choong also did not voluntarily step down as chairman, they added.

Instead, he was instructed by the board to relinquish this role, they said, adding that his contract lapsed when it expired on April 30, 2013, allegedly because his track record in managing the company was "unsatisfactory".

The defendants said his business strategies resulted in significant losses for the company.

But Mr Choong disagreed, saying the business was affected by circumstances beyond his control, including the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the Sars outbreak in 2003.

He disputed the board's claims that he knew of and helped his son set up a competing business as early as April 2013. Instead, Porada had approached his son because it was keen to enter the Malaysian market and was looking for a partner, he said. Mr Choong added that both he and his son had corresponded with Porada using their official work e-mail accounts and did not conceal them from Nobel and Marquis.

He said he harboured "no sinister intention to set up a competing business in Malaysia against the interest of the company".

He said: "In fact, the company did not even have an equivalent furniture retail business in Malaysia." He added that he did not agree to step down as director and that he agreed to appoint an alternate director to sit in his place during board meetings.

Mr Choong said the defendants failed to promptly disclose the lawsuit that he had filed against them on Feb 18, the eve of Chinese New Year this year. Instead, it informed SGX only on March 10, which, he said, is an instance of corporate governance lapses.

gleong@sph.com.sg

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

Offence for same agent to represent landlord and tenant: Forum

Straits Times
23 Apr 2015

THE Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) regulates the real estate agencies industry by ensuring that estate agents and sales staff (commonly known as property agents) abide by the Estate Agents Act and adhere to a set of practice guidelines to safeguard consumer interests in their property transactions, and raise professionalism in the industry ("Questionable handling of complaint against estate agent" by Ms Catherine Cheong Wai Shan; March 31).

Under the Estate Agents Act, it is an offence for an agent to represent both the landlord and the tenant, and to collect commissions from both parties.

CEA takes a firm and fair approach in investigating complaints.

Upon receiving Ms Cheong's feedback, we sought information and verification from the relevant parties for our investigation to determine if the sales staff received commission from more than one party.

These included the estate agent responsible for the sales staff.

Through our checks, there was insufficient evidence to indicate that the sales staff received commission from more than one party, hence, we informed Ms Cheong that a case of dual representation could not be made out.

Ms Cheong also commented that CEA had advised her on how a sales staff could protect himself against complaints of dual representation.

Our reply to her on Feb 3 was in response to her specific query on Feb 1 on conflicts of interest in the case of the sales staff's duties after the tenancy agreement is signed and the property is handed over, and not about dual representation.

We, therefore, explained to her how sales staff should disclose conflicts of interest.

Heng Whoo Kiat

Deputy Director (Licensing)

Council for Estate Agencies

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

Man seeks to wind up 3 firms controlled by brother

Straits Times
15 Apr 2015
Selina Lum

THE dying wish of a cancer-stricken businessman with eight children was for his five sons not to fight with one another so he could rest in peace.

But 22 years after the death of patriarch Lin Whan Chiu, his second son took the eldest to court, asking for the family's three companies to be wound up.

High Court judge Steven Chong, in written grounds published yesterday, granted the applications of Mr Lin Choo Mee, 58, to wind up the three companies controlled by his older brother, Mr Lim Sze Eng, 61.

In Chinese, Lim and Lin are the same ideogram.

Justice Chong accepted Mr Lin Choo Mee's arguments that the relationship between the brothers had broken down beyond repair, and Mr Lim Sze Eng had deliberately excluded him from taking part in managing the firms.

The family's business started with the operation of a petrol station and diversified into property investment, but their fortunes waned over the years.

Its income now mainly comes from the rental of a single unit in Far East Plaza. Investments in China have not generated any returns to date.

Over the years, the businesses included Tat Leong Petroleum, Tat Leong Development and Tat Leong Investment. While there were changes in shareholdings and directorships, they were always kept within the family.

In 1990, after the patriarch was diagnosed with cancer, he wrote to his five sons. He wanted his estate to be divided into seven portions. Mr Lim Sze Eng was to get two portions, with the other sons and their mother getting one each. The three daughters were to each get $15,000.

The patriarch, who died in 1992, also urged the sons to stay united. A decade later, the third and fourth sons separately sold their stakes and exited the group.

Things came to a head in 2013 when Mr Lin Choo Mee was not renewed as a director, a position he had held for three decades.

He proposed a buyout but failing to reach an agreement, went to court to wind up the companies. He contended that their father had intended for the male heirs to run the companies. He asserted that the relationship of mutual trust and confidence between him and his older brother had broken down so badly that they were no longer able to work together to run the firms.

But Mr Lim Sze Eng, founding director and majority shareholder of all three companies, argued they had been set up by him. He contended he had given shares and directorships to his father and brothers out of goodwill.

But Justice Chong accepted Mr Lin Choo Mee's testimony that it was their father who had funded the business and directed Mr Lim Sze Eng to set up the firms.

The judge gave them a 30-day grace period to come to an amicable settlement before the winding-up order kicks in.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Murderer escapes death after prosecution drops appeal

Straits Times
10 Apr 2015
Selina Lum

A MURDER convict spared the gallows in 2013 but living in suspense while the prosecution pressed for the death penalty, learnt yesterday that he would not be hanged after all, when the prosecution withdrew its appeal.

Chinese national Wang Wenfeng, who was convicted of murdering a taxi driver in 2011, fell to his knees, beaming, and pressed his palms together in gratitude to his lawyer.

The prosecution said that it had carefully reviewed Wang's case in the light of a judgment on when the death penalty should be imposed, after the law was changed in 2013 to give judges the discretion to opt for a life sentence in certain cases instead.

In January, a five-judge Court of Appeal made a landmark ruling that the death penalty was warranted in cases where the offender had acted in a way that would "outrage the feelings of the community". Such a person, who "exhibits viciousness or a blatant disregard for human life", would outrage the feelings of the community, and hence deserves the death penalty, the court ruled, in setting out the test for determining when the death penalty was warranted.

In that case, the accused, Jabing Kho, had brutally bludgeoned a construction worker with a tree branch.

In Wang's case however, the level of brutality against his victim, 58-year-old Yuen Swee Hong, could not be assessed as the body was highly decomposed by the time it was found.

In September 2011, Wang, an odd-job worker, was given the death penalty - then mandatory for murder - for fatally stabbing Mr Yuen inside his taxi in the early hours of April 11, 2009.

Desperate for cash, Wang had intended to rob the cabby.

When the taxi arrived at his destination near Sembawang Park, Wang placed the knife over Mr Yuen's chest and demanded money. The cabby was stabbed in the ensuing struggle.

Thinking he was dead, Wang carried his body into the park.

Wang was arrested two days later, and four days afterwards, he led police to Mr Yuen's body, which was so badly decomposed that an autopsy could not ascertain the cause of death.

In November 2013, Wang was re-sentenced to life in prison and 24 strokes of the cane. The prosecution, which had pressed for a death sentence, filed an appeal.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Eugene Lee said that the brutality of Wang's attack could not be assessed. Comparing the two cases, the DPP noted that unlike Kho's premeditated attack, Wang had injured the cabby in the course of a struggle.

Wang's lawyer Wendell Wong said that his client would treasure the life he had been given.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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

Batam police re-arrest S'porean after freeing him

Straits Times
23 Apr 2015
Joyce Lim & Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja

SINGAPOREAN Lim Yong Nam was re-arrested just minutes after he was released from detention on Tuesday, following a court order issued the day before.

On Monday, a Batam court ordered Mr Lim's release after it found that the Riau Islands police did not have sufficient documentation at the time of his arrest to detain him.

Mr Lim, 41, was arrested at Batam Centre ferry terminal when he sought to enter Indonesia on Oct 23 last year, and has been detained in Batam since.

The businessman, who is on an Interpol list, is wanted by the United States for breaching a US trade embargo against Iran. The US had accused him of acquiring 6,000 radio frequency modules for export to Iran and asked for his extradition in 2011.

But he was not extradited as the Singapore High Court found that the wrongdoing he was accused of was not an offence here.

Mr Lim's lawyer told The Straits Times yesterday that he went to the police headquarters in Batam, together with two representatives from the Singapore Consulate, to ask for Mr Lim's release.

Mr Zevrijn Boy Kanu said the police agreed to release him, but would keep his passport. But before Mr Lim could leave the building, several police officers re-arrested him. "To me, the re-arrest is unlawful. I am waiting for instructions from my client to take the matter to court again," he added.

Yesterday, Lieutenant-Colonel Armaini of the Riau Islands police told The Straits Times that Mr Lim was re-arrested as the police feared he would flee before his extradition proceedings commence.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said the ministry has expressed deep concern to the Indonesian embassy in Singapore over Mr Lim's continued detention despite the Batam court's ruling.

"We have requested Indonesia to urgently provide an explanation on the legal basis for Mr Lim's re-arrest and detention. We also reiterated our request that Mr Lim be accorded his due legal rights and privileges," the spokesman said.

JOYCE LIM, WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

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

Law allows Govt to preserve Mr Lee's house, say experts

Straits Times
15 Apr 2015
Melody Zaccheus

THE late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's explicit wish was to have his Oxley Road house demolished after his death, but heritage and legal experts say the law allows the Government to protect it by preserving it as a national monument.

Under the Preservation of Monuments Act, the National Heritage Board can ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth to gazette the more than 100-year-old bungalow.

This is provided the property fulfils criteria such as having historic, cultural, traditional, archaeological, architectural, artistic or symbolic significance, and being of national importance.

Senior consultant Gopalan Raman of law firm KhattarWong's litigation department said yesterday that the property is clearly of "great historical value".

"It is the house of the first Prime Minister, who has done so much to develop Singapore to the state that it is in today with his early comrades," he said.

The Act also trumps Mr Lee's wish in his will for the house to be demolished after his death - or immediately after his daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling, who lives there, moves out.

Singapore Management University heritage law expert Jack Lee said the state has "power over personal wishes".

"A will of any person cannot override the ordinary law of the land. For instance, if someone were to will that his house becomes a casino, land zoning laws would take precedence," he said.

When a property has been identified for its heritage value, the authorities generally engage the owner over their plans.

The owner's consent is sought as the task and cost of the upkeep of the monument falls on the owner, said experts. So when a declaration to preserve it is made, it is presumably with the owner's consent, they said.

In the case of an unwilling owner, the law allows the Government to step in to acquire the property, said Dr Jack Lee. But this has rarely been done.

There is also no annual budget for acquisitions, said Dr Kevin Tan, president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites Singapore.

The experts yesterday acknowledged the late Mr Lee's wishes and noted that his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, told Parliament on Monday that Dr Lee intends to continue living there.

"Therefore, there is no immediate issue of demolition of the house, and no need for the Government to make any decision now," PM Lee said of the property and Mr Lee's wishes, in response to questions from MPs.

Dr Tan said it was unlikely that the Act would be used to acquire the house any time soon, owing to the difficulty of doing so.

Still, most experts said the formal process of assessing its historical significance should get under way. The Oxley house is where the People's Action Party was formed in 1954 and key decisions made in the early years of independent Singapore.

Dr Tan also believes that by the time the Lee family makes a decision on the house, a Founders' Memorial would have been built. This would allow Singaporeans to commemorate Mr Lee and the first-generation leaders without the Oxley premises in focus.

Since Mr Lee died on March 23 at age 91, calls to preserve his house have grown. An online petition gathered 1,700 signatures in about a week.

melodyz@sph.com.sg


Background Story

STATE HAS POWER OVER PERSONAL WISHES

"A will of any person cannot override the ordinary law of the land. For instance, if someone were to will that his house becomes a casino, land zoning laws would take precedence."

- Singapore Management University heritage law expert Jack Lee

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

Peer sharing ‘affects livelihoods of film-makers’

TODAY
10 Apr 2015
Kelly Ng

SINGAPORE — Breaking its silence on why it is pursuing legal action here, independent film studio Voltage Pictures said yesterday through its lawyers that it is going after people here not merely because they downloaded the film Dallas Buyers Club but because, by doing so via peer-to-peer networks, they were simultaneously distributing the work illegally on a global scale, affecting the livelihoods of those who made the film.

By yesterday, the studio had also received and accepted “quite a number of” offers of compensation after sending letters of demand to 77 M1 subscribers, said lawyer Robert Raj from Samuel Seow Law Corporation, which represents Voltage’s subsidiary Dallas Buyers Club LLC’s suit here. It has yet to contact subscribers of Singtel and StarHub, as the two telcos are still in the process of complying with the court order to turn over information of subcribers who allegedly downloaded the film illegally.

In response to TODAY’s queries, Mr Raj said his clients had initiated the action in Singapore because “piracy is seriously damaging the economy”, and they are pursuing uploaders “as these people are distributing the work without a license on a global scale”. He added: “When the public downloads our client’s movie using peer to peer networks, at the same time they are also uploading the film and they become illegal distributors globally. One person can turn into 10, which in turn can turn into 100 or to thousands.”

One click of a mouse will adversely affect the distributors, producers and even the cast and crew of each piece of work as the royalties may be reduced significantly.

“It also means less money available to make new films and increases prices for lawful paying customers. This has an effect on employment rates and the economy generally,” said Mr Raj.

Mr Raj confirmed that his client has not demanded any specific sum as damages in the demand letters.

The letters sent to alleged offenders here — a copy of which was seen by TODAY — ask for a written offer of damages and costs within three days of receipt. They also require alleged infringers to immediately delete and cease further use of unlicensed copies of the film. Singtel has to turn over information on some 150 subscribers. StarHub did not reveal how many of its subscribers were affected.

According to a November 2012 report by law firm Olswang Asia and the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia, Singapore has the highest per capita rates of peer-to-peer infringement of English language pay-TV shows in the Asia-Pacific, and is ranked in the top 10 worldwide.

Other lawyers TODAY spoke to said the studio is likely to anticipate higher compensation amounts from those who are more active in sharing the clip with others.

“By seeding the torrent, their act of infringement arguably leads to substantially more acts of infringement … the potential loss is more than just the cost of a DVD since they are propagating the infringement and causing greater loss to the copyright owner,” said digital media lawyer Matt Polins from Olswang Asia.

Lawyer Byron Xavier from Xavier & Associates LLC said the studio may look at how many users each uploader has shared the file with, then multiply that figure with the amount it would have rightfully obtained from each copy of the film purchased, to determine a reasonable settlement.

Mr Xavier said users are “incentivised” to share files while downloading to get higher speeds. “Some of the alleged infringers may have adjusted their torrent settings to upload at the same time. If they have done that, they would also be responsible for disseminating the infringing content,” he said.

However, he maintained that it is not common for rights owners to target so many individual end users at one go. “(The studio) might have stirred a hornet’s nest in terms of public relations by doing things this way,” he said.

Technology and intellectual property lawyer Koh Chia Ling, from ATMD Bird & Bird, said that regulation in Singapore is mainly targeted at the distributors of pirated materials rather than individual consumers.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC has also started legal action in Australia and the US, where it is going after more than 4,700 and 1,000 Internet users respectively.

kellyng@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Teen who beat foreigners: AGC files notice of appeal

Straits Times
23 Apr 2015
Lim Yi Han

AN 18-YEAR-OLD who beat up smaller foreign workers to practise his martial arts skills and even taunted them, could yet face a longer sentence after the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) filed a notice of appeal yesterday.

On Monday, Daryl Lim Jun Liang was given a short detention order of 10 days by a district judge for attacking two foreign workers last year - acts which Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday described as "completely unacceptable".

Speaking at the sidelines of an event by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Shanmugam said: "(The foreign workers) have come here and are helping us build our infrastructure.

"Instead of being grateful to them, and recognising that they're doing a hard job... to help their families, we go and attack them, it's bullying of somebody who's vulnerable.

"It's sickening conduct, the kind of conduct that you would not approve if somebody did it to animals."

The minister also wrote about it on his Facebook page, adding: "I hope that people who think and behave like Daryl are a tiny minority."

Last year, Lim, together with two 15-year-old friends and another who is 18, had in separate incidents targeted a Chinese and an Indian worker, because they were smaller and deemed less likely to fight back.

Lim even mocked the victims by dancing in front of them.

A short detention order involves a short stint in jail but is intended to be less disruptive and stigmatising.

On Monday, district judge Lim Keng Yeow also ordered Lim to report to a supervision officer every day for a year. He also has to remain indoors from 10pm to 6am for a year and perform 150 hours of community service.

The judge noted that Lim, a student, had a supportive family and was at low risk of being a repeat offender.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lai had urged the court to send Lim to the Reformative Training Centre, where a stint lasts between 18 and 30 months.

He argued that the attacks were unprovoked and premeditated and that a deterrent sentence was needed in the light of the increase in the number of youth crimes involving violence.

If the prosecution decides to proceed with the appeal, it will next file a petition of appeal.

The two 15-year-olds, who cannot be named due to a gag order, are on 18 months' probation.

The case involving the other accomplice, Tan Jun Liang, is pending.

limyihan@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Hoe Pei Shan

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

Couple behind TRS website face sedition charges

Straits Times
15 Apr 2015
Elena Chong

THE couple behind sociopolitical website The Real Singapore (TRS) were yesterday charged with seven counts of sedition and one of failing to produce documents to a police officer.

Singaporean student Yang Kaiheng, 26, and his Australian girlfriend Ai Takagi, 22, published articles on the site between October 2013 and February this year which allegedly promoted ill will and hostility between different races or classes here.

The latest incident involved the Thaipusam procession on Feb 3 in which three men were arrested for disorderly behaviour.

The next day, TRS published a reader's letter which claimed that the incident happened after a Filipino family complained to the police that the drums were making their child cry.

Similar claims were made in a post on TRS' Facebook page.

However, the contributor later commented on another site that it was untrue a Filipino family was involved.

Police investigations went on to reveal that TRS had previously published articles targeting Filipinos as well as Chinese and Indian nationals, among others.

On May 22 last year, for instance, the TRS website carried a contributor's letter questioning the number of women from China allowed into Singapore, claiming that "many" of them are here to "hook men" and are responsible for the break-up of local families.

In a Nov 24, 2013 article, a letter writer claimed that he sacked seven employees - six Filipinos and an Indian - after alleging that they had "colluded in hiring their own nationals".

Another article on June 18 last year disparaged Filipinos here for allegedly giving preferential treatment to their compatriots.

An editor's note put up on the TRS website in October 2013 stated that "our objective is to instil fear in companies and make them think twice before hiring foreigners without really considering our Singaporean workforce".

The last charge accuses the couple of intentionally failing to produce documents - including revenue information pertaining to TRS advertising - to Deputy Superintendent Roy Lim last month.

TRS, which was set up in 2012, says on its site that it is not funded by political organisations or companies, but draws its income from advertising.

It said the site is hosted in Switzerland, the United States and Sweden.

Takagi and Yang, who are believed to be studying at the University of Queensland, have been identified by police as being jointly responsible for the content on TRS.

They are out on $20,000 bail each on condition that they surrender their passports to police.

Mr Choo Zheng Xi and Mr Raj Mannar are representing the couple, whose pre-trial conference is scheduled for May 12.

Under the Sedition Act, the maximum punishment on each charge is a $5,000 fine and three years' jail.

The other charge carries a jail term of up to one month or a $1,500 fine, or both.

elena@sph.com.sg


Background Story

The articles in question

FEB 4: "Video: Local Singaporeans Complain Of Police Brutality At Thaipusam Procession", plus post on The Real Singapore's Facebook page

Issue: These assert that a Filipino family caused the clash between police and participants

JUNE 18, 2014: "Why Some Singaporeans Feel Annoyed With Pinoys in Singapore"

Issue: Claims that Filipino managers favour subordinates from their country

NOV 24, 2013: "Dear TRS, I Sacked 6 Pinoy Nationals and 1 Indian National On Friday"

Issue: Asserts that a Filipino and Indian national working in a firm colluded to hire their compatriots

MAY 22, 2014: "Why Does the Govt Allow PRC Stripper To Come Here Work And Steal My Husband!"

Issue: Claims women from China come here to find Singaporean men

FEB 18, 2014: "Dear TRS, PRC Woman Makes Boy Pee Publicly In The MRT Into A Bottle"

Issue: Falsely alleges that a woman from China got her grandchild to pee into a bottle

OCT 13, 2013: "Exposed: Puppy Murderer Works In Healthcare Industry, Her Company Hires Mostly Foreigners"

Issue: Claims a firm "hires more foreigners than locals". An Editor's Note, saying TRS wants to instil fear in firms which hire foreigners at Singaporeans' expense, was falsely attributed to "Farhan" when it was written by Ai Takagi.

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

Reduced charge for man in Sheng Siong kidnapping case

Straits Times
10 Apr 2015
Elena Chong

ONE of the two men allegedly involved in the Sheng Siong kidnapping case will no longer be tried in the High Court after an amended charge was tendered against him.

Heng Chen Boon, 51, was originally charged under the Kidnapping Act. He is now accused of intentionally aiding Lee Sze Yong to abduct Madam Ng Lye Poh - the mother of the supermarket chain's boss, Mr Lim Hock Chee. Heng allegedly drove the 79-year-old to a spot near Sembawang Park and kept watch over her on Jan 8 last year.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers said it carefully considered the facts of the case - including Heng's actual role and relative culpability in the offence - before deciding to amend the charge to one of abetment of abduction.

If convicted, the credit card promoter could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined. He will not be caned as he is over 50.

Lee, 42, still faces the kidnapping charge.

If convicted, he faces life imprisonment and caning or death. His next appearance in court will be on June 2, while the High Court pre-trial conference is scheduled for April 28.

Heng, who is represented by Mr Philip Fong, is likely to plead guilty. A date for his case to be mentioned will be fixed next Wednesday.

Lee allegedly abducted Madam Ng along Hougang Avenue 2 that day. She was freed unhurt after her 53-year-old son dropped off a $2 million ransom at the park. The duo were nabbed at about 1am the day after. The full ransom amount has been recovered.

ELENA CHONG

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

Court allows firm to hold EGM of one

Straits Times
22 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Majority shareholder seeks court order after others boycott meetings

A MAJORITY shareholder, who could not get the minimum number of people required for his construction firm's general meeting because other family members had boycotted it, got the High Court to approve a meeting of one instead - comprising himself.

In a rare move, managing director Lim Yew Ming, who owns 51.5 per cent of Aik Chuan Construction, sought a court order that one person would be sufficient for the meeting to proceed.

He was fighting six family members - including his mother, Madam Neoh Siew Inn - who together own 48.5 per cent of Aik Chuan.

In the first reported case here of someone seeking court sanction for a minimum number, or quorum, of one, Mr Lim claimed the minority shareholders were trying to block his plans to diversify the company's investments by refusing to attend the meeting.

Two of the family members, his brother Yew Soon and sister Po Lin, are company directors.

In 2013, Mr Lim formed AC Global Energy to get into the renewable energy business and entered into a deal to build a biomass plant in Tennessee in the United States.

The deal involved a $32 million loan from Hitachi Capital Singapore and various guarantees were signed by sister Po Lin and Madam Neoh. Among other things, Mr Lim considered financing the project via UOB, which would let the project get support from International Enterprise Singapore.

But this called for another guarantee, which directors Yew Soon and Po Lin refused to sign. Mr Lim then called two extraordinary general meetings (EGMs) in October and November last year, the first to remove Yew Soon and Po Lin as directors, and the second to appoint other persons friendly to him on the board, but family members did not attend these.

Lawyers Daniel Koh and Favian Kang argued the defendants had a right to use the quorum provision to defend their interests, pointing out this was a family business and Mr Lim wanted to further his personal project. They claimed the initial agreement was that Aik Chuan would not have to lend more than $6.5 million to a related company for the plant project.

As the meetings could not proceed due to the defendants' refusal to attend, Mr Lim's lawyers Jeffrey Ong and Nichol Yeo said, it was impractical to call such meetings and the court should intervene as provided for under Section 182 of the Companies Act.

Judicial Commissioner Aedit Abdullah found that the "upshot" of the EGM boycott is that investments in the biogas project got derailed as the matter could not be put to a vote. "That to my mind is sufficient impracticability, and it is of an appropriate degree as to call for the court to intervene," he wrote in judgment grounds released on Monday.

He made clear a minority shareholder cannot use the quorum provision as a de facto mechanism to block the majority shareholder.

Although he won the case, Mr Lim declined to ask for costs, saying it was "not necessary".

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

Testimony of deputy senior pastor 'evasive, incoherent': City Harvest trial

Straits Times
15 Apr 2015
Lim Yi Han

He also engaged in series of lies over the years to conceal fund misuse: DPP

FOR two weeks, City Harvest Church (CHC) deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng was grilled on the stand for his role in the alleged misuse of church funds, in the ongoing trial of six people connected to the church.

Yesterday, in wrapping up her cross-examination of Tan, Deputy Public Prosecutor Mavis Chionh accused him of lying and giving incoherent and evasive evidence during the fortnight.

In addition, Tan had "engaged in a series of lies and deceptions over the years to conceal the unauthorised misuse of the church's building fund".

Tan and five others, including church founder Kong Hee, face various charges of misusing $50 million of church funds and covering up the misuse. The prosecution contends that the church's building fund was used to finance the music career of Kong's wife, pop singer Ho Yeow Sun, through sham bond investments in music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna.

In going over evidence given by Tan on the stand, DPP Chionh noted he had "knowingly conspired" with Kong, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former finance manager Serina Wee and former board member John Lam to enter into bond subscription agreements with Xtron and Firna for "a cover story" so they could channel CHC's building fund into Ms Ho's music career.

She said Tan had consistently lied to auditors, lawyers, and the court that the agreements were independent commercial arm's length investment transactions.

She described his testimony as "incoherent and evasive" about the redemption of the bonds. It is her contention that Tan and his co-accused redeemed the bonds early because they did not want it discovered that they were sham.

While Tan had said earlier that the church had called in the bonds as the auditor had given the impression to do so, he said yesterday that he formed the impression after reading an e-mail sent by the finance manager regarding the auditor and the bonds.

"Which is it exactly?" asked DPP Chionh.

Late in the day, to her allegations that he had been lying, Tan disagreed. He said: "The building fund was invested, like I say, with corollary purpose. First was for a good investment with a return, and the second purpose was for the Crossover Project (a vehicle for Ms Ho's music). So... I never thought that this was an unauthorised use of the building fund."

Tan will be re-examined by his lawyer, Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, today. Wee is expected to take the stand by tomorrow.

limyihan@sph.com.sg

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

Enhanced regime for corporate service providers starts in May

Straits Times
10 Apr 2015

AN ENHANCED regulatory framework for accountants and other corporate service providers (CSPs) to combat money laundering and terrorism financing will take effect from May 15.

The strengthened regime for CSPs will help to further boost Singapore's reputation as a trusted international financial and business centre with robust regulatory frameworks against money laundering and terrorism financing, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) said in a statement yesterday.

The enhancement, which was passed by Parliament in April last year, will also raise the professional standards of the CSP sector.

The requirements of the new regime are aligned with recommendations issued by the Financial Action Task Force, the global standard setter for anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing.

CSPs are individuals or business entities such as accountants that provide services as a business to third parties such as acting as a formation agent of legal persons.

The new CSP regime seeks to ensure that CSPs which help to set up companies conduct the requisite due diligence checks and have robust systems and processes in place to prevent abuse of such corporate vehicles for criminal or other illegitimate purposes.

Under the enhanced regulatory framework, persons wishing to provide CSP services will need to register as Filing Agents (FAs) and Qualified Individuals (QIs).

The framework imposes terms and conditions on FAs and QIs, and sets out the range of sanctions that Acra may impose on FAs and QIs who breach these terms and conditions.

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

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

To aid CSPs in understanding these new legal requirements, Acra, together with a working group comprising representatives from the Singapore Association of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, The Law Society of Singapore, Association of International Accountants, and Institute of Company Accountants, has prepared a set of draft guidelines.

Acra also conducted a series of seminars from June to October last year to explain the policies in the new legislation and prepare CSPs for the new regime.

More than 3,400 CSPs have attended the seminars.

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

Amos Yee bailed out by counsellor; gets 3 lawyers

Straits Times
22 Apr 2015
Amir Hussain

AMOS Yee left remand at Changi Prison, where he spent the last four nights, after a family and youth counsellor posted the 16-year-old's $20,000 bail yesterday.

The teenager, whose online rant against Christianity landed him in trouble, smiled and waved to cameras as he walked out of the State Courts at 7pm with his mother by his side, and his father following some distance behind.

Just an hour before that, he was escorted to the bail centre in handcuffs and leg shackles.

Last Friday, his parents had decided against posting bail for Yee after new bail conditions were set.

But 51-year-old Mr Vincent Law came forward in the hope that the youngster would be willing to be counselled by him, explaining that Yee may "respond better to a third party".

Mr Law, a former director at non-government group HealthServe, added: "I'm a Christian and I'm stepping up to say that I'm not offended.

"I'm also a parent and I feel for his parents."

At his bail review earlier, Yee went from being unrepresented to getting the services of three pro bono lawyers.

Mr Alfred Dodwell told District Judge Ronald Gwee that he and Mr Chong Jia Hao - both from Dodwell & Co - and Mr Ervin Tan from Michael Hwang Chambers were representing Yee.

Mr Dodwell told reporters that he got in touch with Yee's parents two days ago.

Yee was charged on March 31 with several offences, including attacking Christianity in a YouTube video.

As part of his bail, he agreed not to post anything online until his case is decided.

But last Tuesday, when asking for donations on his blog and Facebook page, he put up links to the offensive videos and posts that led to him being charged in the first place.

Last Friday, the judge set fresh bail conditions, including making the YouTube video private, reporting to Bedok Police Station each day at 9am, and taking down the new links.

The "Donate to help Amos Yee" post was no longer available yesterday, and it is believed Yee took it down before leaving court.

Mr Dodwell said banning Yee from posting on the Internet was too restrictive and he was looking to challenge this.

He and his legal team will meet Yee today for further instructions.

The teen's next pre-trial conference has been set for April 30.

amirh@sph.com.sg

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

Canadian accused in home country of raping S'porean teen

Straits Times
15 Apr 2015
Joyce Lim & Pearl Lee

He had met then 16-year-old through online video game and 'married' her

A CANADIAN man has been accused in his home country of raping a Singaporean teenager half his age.

Winnipeg native James Brian Stephenson was 35 when he befriended the 16-year-old in 2012.

The pair had apparently met through an online video game before hitting it off. She visited him in Winnipeg last April.

Six months later, Stephenson was arrested and charged with assaulting the Singaporean. Four more charges were added last month.

Charge sheets obtained by The Straits Times show Stephenson, who is now 37, has been accused of repeatedly assaulting the teen sexually between April 1 and Aug 1 last year. The girl is now 18.

Other charges include luring the teen online for the purpose of child pornography from July 1, 2013, to April 1 last year and possessing and importing child pornography.

Stephenson had told Winnipeg Free Press, a Canadian broadsheet, that he and the Singaporean teen had got "married" in the game they frequented online.

The girl, accompanied by her 49-year-old mother, flew to Winnipeg last April, after she turned 18, to meet him.

It is not known when the duo's relationship began to sour, though Stephenson started posting emotional Facebook updates in August last year.

In his most recent posting, he said he had been victimised and used. Referring to his "wife" and "mother-in-law", he said: "They extorted me and used our marriage and I have been left in tears for the last year."

The Straits Times found several photographs on Stephenson's Facebook page showing him kissing and hugging the teen.

A YouTube video that he uploaded last April shows a simple tea ceremony involving the teen's mother. While she is seated, the teen and Stephenson can be seen taking turns to kneel down to offer tea to her.

The video appears to have been filmed in Stephenson's house in Winnipeg. The teen can be heard saying to her mother: "I'm sorry for all my wrongdoings... and thank you for bringing me up."

Her mother then says: "I hope you have a blissful marriage, a happy one, and a long-lasting one, and have lots and lots of children and grandchildren. Have a rich and (prosperous) life. Be sweet with your husband." She then drinks the tea and hands a red packet to her daughter.

When it is Stephenson's turn to offer tea, he says: "I'd just like to thank you for everything you have done for me and for being so patient. I haven't been the great boy that you really want."

To that, the teen's mother says: "Don't worry, you are good enough. If not, I won't hand her to you. I hope that you can be better at everything. As time (passes) by, you get better."

She also calls on Stephenson to be accommodating to her daughter, who she said was "not perfect", before handing him a red packet. Stephenson and the teen's mother then hug at the end of the tea ceremony.

When The Straits Times visited the teen's home in Singapore last night, her father said he is aware of the criminal charges, but not the details.

He also said the teen and her mother are now in Canada, where the teen is studying.

Stephenson has been granted bail with the condition that he has no contact with the teen or any children under the age of 16.

joycel@sph.com.sg

leepearl@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Melissa Lin

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

Limits to squeezing of 'lemon law'

Straits Times
10 Apr 2015

THE Consumers Association of Singapore has stepped in the right direction by examining the feasibility of obliging manufacturers to give warranties for all goods sold here. This proposed expansion of the "lemon law", to go beyond retailers and include manufacturers, would be both logical and fair. After all, defects in products are the shared, if not the primary, responsibility of manufacturers. They have a duty not to dump defective goods on unwary markets, while retailers must not pass on to customers such goods, which are known colloquially as "lemons". Customers would benefit even more than they do now should a new lemon law come into operation, enhancing the scope of the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act and the Hire Purchase Act.

Retailers, too, would gain. At the moment, they are liable to customers who complain of faulty products, while they are held up in ad hoc and often tortuous negotiations with manufacturers. Were a new law to come into effect, it would circumvent the need for such arduous processes. Instead, compulsory warranties from manufacturers could take the form of private agreements between them and retailers, obliging manufacturers to chip in to repair or replace bad goods, or compensate sellers. Indeed, the new law would only make compulsory what is customary now with durables such as refrigerators and washing machines, where the manufacturer's warranty insures the customer against malfunction for a stipulated period. The principle of liability should be the same, whether the product is a high-end one or a casual one such as commonplace IT accessories.

In practice, how retailers divide their responsibilities with manufacturers should be left to them to devise, within the template of a general agreement that could be varied to reflect the particular nature of the goods in question. Accountability and transparency matter to customers, and a new law could well achieve these goals if it is parsed well enough. The authorities, who have no vested interest in the matter, could weigh in to ensure that the amended law is fair to all parties concerned.

One problem is that manufacturers outside Singapore might opt to not sell their products here if they find enhanced lemon law requirements prohibitive. Singapore is too small a market to make such a choice a punitive one. Of course, it is possible also that more reputable foreign manufacturers would remain engaged in the Singapore market in order to maintain their global profile. Overall, however, consumers here could face a reduced range of goods, particularly at the lower end, if any amendments are framed too strictly. Hence, a nuanced approach is called for, so that ordinary consumers do not lose out.

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

SMC fines surgeon for not giving patient sufficient info

Straits Times
22 Apr 2015
Salma Khalik

A SURGEON who did not give his patient sufficient information on his varicose vein treatment has been fined $5,000 by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) - despite its lawyer pushing for a nine-month suspension.

Dr Eric Gan Keng Seng, who practises at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, had also not told the patient that he "did not have the proper knowledge, skill and qualification" and needed another surgeon to carry out the operation.

Dr Gan was also censured and told never to repeat the two offences. He must pay the cost of the SMC disciplinary hearing.

The committee, chaired by Professor Lee Eng Hin, felt a suspension would have been too harsh as Dr Gan had not deliberately withheld information.

It said in a statement yesterday that Dr Gan had pleaded guilty to two of the three charges, "which saved time and cost" for the SMC. The third charge was withdrawn, with no details given.

The SMC said Dr Gan "had displayed genuine remorse for his actions" and had suffered a disciplinary process lasting six years.

The SMC's stated reason for the delay was because it was not able to get expert reports, but the independent disciplinary committee "did not find this convincing".

The patient's complaint, made in 2009, had been dismissed by the SMC's complaints committee, which vets all complaints. The patient then appealed to the Health Minister, who directed the SMC to hold a disciplinary hearing.

In Dr Gan's defence, the committee noted that the patient had specifically asked for that particular treatment, and that it was "not an inappropriate treatment" for the patient.

Although he had not mentioned the possibility of nerve damage, the committee felt the doctor had not "deliberately suppressed information".

On the second charge, while he had not told the patient another surgeon would be needed for the operation, he did say he would need the help of a colleague.

The committee said: "Dr Gan's mistake in this regard was more of the nature of an oversight and was not intentional."

It added that it did not give much weight to the fact that Dr Gan had previously been suspended for six months for the way he managed a patient after surgery, as it had nothing to do with the charges in question.

salma@sph.com.sg

www.facebook.com/ST.Salma

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

ADV: LexisNexis - Criminal Law in Malaysia and Singapore

Singapore Law Watch
15 Apr 2015
LexisNexis

Another bank in S'pore linked to 1MDB controversy

Business Times
10 Apr 2015
Anita Gabriel

US$20m wired in 2009 from an account with RBS Coutts' Singapore branch to Saudi businessman Tarek Obaid

[Singapore] SINGAPORE-based banks' involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) controversy may not just be limited to Swiss wealth bank BSI Singapore, but could also involve British bank RBS Coutts.

Documents obtained by The Business Times reveal that US$20 million had been wired, in late September 2009, from an account with RBS Coutts' Singapore branch under "Acme Time Limited" to Saudi businessman Tarek Obaid.

Mr Tarek founded PetroSaudi International (PSI), an oil and gas investment firm which had inked a US$2.5 billion joint venture with Malaysia's state-backed 1MDB in September 2009.

The payment took place soon after 1MDB had set up the joint venture with PSI which saw the Malaysian firm forking out US$1 billion cash while PSI injected assets said to to be valued at US$2.7 billion.

The transfer of US$20 million from an account held at the private bank closely follows an agreement between Mr Tarek and a Seychelles-incorporated firm Good Star Ltd - which is reportedly linked to Malaysian tycoon Low Taek Jho - to pay Mr Tarek US$85 million as "broker fees" for Middle East investments into Malaysia.

Mr Low played an adviser role in the setting up of Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) in 2009, which soon morphed into 1MDB. The businessman who heads Hong Kong-based private equity firm Jynwel Capital has denied allegations that he was behind some of the deals involving 1MDB as he has never held any position with the firm. In recent interviews, Mr Low also said that he was a victim of a political crossfire in Malaysia.

1MDB, which is wholly owned by the Ministry of Finance with Prime Minister Najib Razak as the chair of its advisory board, is under a probe by a special task force comprising the police, the Attorney-General's Office and anti-graft agency following police reports lodged against the firm.

1MDB's books are also under scrutiny by the national auditor.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore told BT last month that it would provide support "within the full ambit of its laws" to the Malaysian authorities in their probe into 1MDB's books and operations.

It said this following the revelation by Malaysia's Ministry of Finance that 1MDB's cash of US$1.103 billion redeemed from its Cayman Islands investment was held in foreign currency at BSI Singapore.

The regulator also said that it was engaging the "relevant financial institutions" in Singapore on the matter but declined to elaborate, citing "confidentiality considerations."

When contacted, a spokesman for RBS Coutts declined comment.

Interestingly, in late 2009, over a third of the staff at the Singapore office of RBS Coutts reportedly quit in a mass resignation to join rival BSI Singapore in what was then deemed one of the largest movements of employees between rivals.

Lugano-based BSI used to be owned by Italian insurance giant Generali and was bought out in July 2014 by Brazilian investment bank BTG Pactual.

1MDB recently did a U-turn on plans for a direct sale of its energy assets, just a week after it appointed CIMB Group to advise on the sale.

It had earlier sought buyers for its energy portfolio after it was deemed that the long-planned-for US$3 billion initial public offering may not pan out well on the back of the controversies that have dogged the firm and delays in submitting the application to the country's securities regulator.

Malaysian daily The Star reported on Wednesday that Prokhas, an in-house restructuring unit of the Finance Ministry, has been tasked with addressing 1MDB's debt woes. 1MDB, which has debt of some RM42 billion, needs RM5 billion this year to meet its loan obligations, said the newspaper.

anitag@sph.com.sg

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

Application filed to bar Yang Yin from liquidating insurance policies

TODAY
22 Apr 2015
Kelly Ng

SINGAPORE — The niece of wealthy widow Chung Khin Chun has filed an application to appeal against the High Court’s decision to allow former tour guide Yang Yin to liquidate two life insurance policies for his legal and personal expenses.

Yang, 41, is being sued by Madam Hedy Mok for loss and damages arising from his alleged breach of duties under a legal document that gave him control of her 88-year-old aunt’s assets.

Yang, a Chinese national, had his assets frozen last August via a Mareva injunction, which prevents him from disposing any assets in Singapore and overseas.

In a closed-door hearing on April 13, Justice Judith Prakash allowed Yang’s application to liquidate two life insurance policies worth S$98,000 to pay for his legal fees.

However, Justice Prakash did not allow funds from Yang’s OCBC bank accounts to be released.

Mdm Mok, 61, who owns a travel agency, had opposed the liquidation of Yang’s insurance policies, arguing that they should be part of Mdm Chung’s estate.

A hearing will be held on May 5 to determine if Mdm Mok’s application will be granted.

Yang has been in remand since Oct 31 last year for a separate criminal case against him.

He faces more than 300 charges for various offences, including faking receipts of his music and dance school.

kellyng@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

2 lawyers disbarred for refusing to return client's $1.8m

Straits Times
14 Apr 2015
Selina Lum

They had asked her to hand money to their wives for 'safekeeping'

TWO lawyers who refused to return $1.8 million to a client were struck off the rolls yesterday.

The client had transferred the money to their wives for what she thought was safekeeping.

Mr Manjit Singh, a lawyer of 37 years, and Mr Sree Govind Menon, a lawyer of 16, were partners in the firm, Manjit Govind & Partners.

In disbarring them, the Court of Three Judges, with power to censure, suspend or strike lawyers off the rolls for professional misconduct, noted that the pair had acted dishonestly.

In 2009, Mr Singh was hired by Ms Bernadette Rankine, then an art gallery owner, to handle the sale of her house in Joan Road, off Thomson Road, which was sold for $12 million.

She had decided to sell the property and live off the proceeds after ending her 13-year relationship with Malaysian businessman Amin Shah.

But her former boyfriend lodged a caveat against the property to block the sale. In February 2010, the caveat was lifted and the net sales proceeds of $6.9 million held by the law firm were ordered to be released to her.

Mr Singh gave her a cheque for $5 million as well as $50,000 for her assistant's wages.

A few days later, he gave her a cheque for $1.8 million, while she in turn issued two cheques, one for $1.6 million to Mr Singh's wife and the other for $200,000 to Mr Menon's wife.

Mr Singh had advised her to place the money with their wives for safekeeping, saying that if her former boyfriend launched more legal actions against her, her money would be frozen and she would not have the means to pay for lawyers.

Nine months later, she asked them to return the money. When they refused, she complained to the Law Society. They have since returned the full sum.

In April last year, a disciplinary tribunal found the pair guilty of misconduct - Mr Singh for advising her to pay the money to the wives and then refusing to return it, and Mr Menon for agreeing with the advice.

The pair contended that the money was a gift from Ms Rankine but the tribunal found this "inherently absurd".

Yesterday, the court agreed, saying it was unlikely that Ms Rankine, who needed money for pending legal matters, would give away one quarter of her key asset to the wives of the two lawyers she had known for less than six months and to whom she had already paid fees.

The court agreed with the society's counsel, Mr P. E. Ashokan, that the pair had embarked on an elaborate scheme to disguise the transaction by using Ms Rankine as a conduit, instead of transferring directly from the firm to their wives.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Yellow Pages chief sues UBS over losses

Straits Times
09 Apr 2015
Selina Lum

Bank contends that he had instructed it to unwind accumulator investments

GLOBAL Yellow Pages chief executive Stanley Tan, who suffered investment losses of $25.4 million over two days during the 2008 financial crisis, has taken Swiss banking giant UBS to court.

He is seeking more than $130 million in damages, including the losses he suffered and the loss of opportunity to profit from the shares he had in his UBS account.

Mr Tan had used the account to invest in accumulators - complex derivatives which have been dubbed "I kill you later" after many suffered losses from them during the global financial crisis.

Mr Tan, represented by Mr Ng Lip Chih, alleged that UBS had not obtained his instructions or given him notice before unwinding his accumulators.

But UBS, represented by Senior Counsel Hri Kumar Nair, contended that Mr Tan had instructed the bank to unwind his accumulators.

And even if he had not agreed to it, the bank was entitled to do so under the account agreement without notice and consent.

A four-week hearing into Mr Tan's suit started yesterday in the High Court.

Mr Tan had set up an account with UBS in 2006 and authorised one Mr Yeo Cheng Boon to help him in his investments.

Between October 2007 and August 2008, he bought accumulators - with underlying shares in, among others, City Developments, DBS Group Holdings and Singapore Press Holdings - on a margin trading basis.

Accumulators are structured products in which investors buy shares or currency at regular intervals at a price below the prevailing market value for a predetermined period of time, usually a year.

They make a profit if the market price rises within a certain range, but if it falls steeply, losses can be huge.

UBS asserted that Mr Tan had been trying to cover the shortfall in his account as the markets spiralled downwards in 2008.

By Oct 22, 2008, the shortfall stood at $41 million and UBS was compelled to send him a margin call letter to either deposit collateral or close out the investments.

Over the next two days, UBS unwound the accumulators and continued to sell the shares in Mr Tan's account until Nov 11 when he asked it to stop and asked for time to repay his liabilities.

Mr Tan fully repaid the $25.4 million around April 2011.

Mr Tan contends that UBS unwound the accumulators without prior notice or authorisation.

But UBS says that Mr Yeo had instructed Mr Tan's relationship manager Amy Tee on Oct 22 to liquidate his portfolio as he wanted to crystallise his liabilities and work on repayment, rather than face continuous margin calls to top up the account.

It made sense for Mr Tan to unwind the accumulators as it was the required margin on them that caused the major shortfall in his account, contends UBS.

Mr Tan disputes this, arguing that he had every intention to salvage his account and it was inconceivable that he would agree to liquidate his entire portfolio.

He argues that he would have been able to top up the account to cover the shortfall and would have held on to the shares he had accumulated.

selinal@sph.com.sg


Background Story

THE FIGURES

$25.4m

The losses suffered by Mr Stanley Tan

$130m

The amount in damages Mr Tan is suing UBS for

$41m

The shortfall in Mr Tan's account on Oct 22, 2008, prompting UBS to unwind the accumulators

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

Socialite's death: Maid faces reduced charge

Straits Times
22 Apr 2015
Elena Chong

THE Indonesian maid accused of murdering her employer, socialite and philanthropist Nancy Gan Wan Geok, is no longer facing the capital charge.

An amended charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder was preferred against Dewi Sukowati yesterday.

Dewi, 23, was originally charged with murdering 69-year-old Ms Gan at her bungalow in Victoria Park Road between 7.30am and 8.46am on March 19 last year.

The amended charge states that she hit Ms Gan's head against a wall and the floor kerb, then pushed her into a swimming pool, with the intention of causing bodily injuries likely to cause her death.

Ms Gan was found in her pyjamas and had head injuries.

Dewi's lawyer Mohamed Muzammil Mohamed said he would be making representations and meeting his client's family in their village in Indonesia.

Dewi received her work permit on March 12 last year and had been working for Ms Gan for barely a week before the incident.

Ms Gan, a mother of two, was formerly married to former Hong Kong Legislative Council politician Hilton Cheong-Leen.

She was a classically trained pianist and a porcelain painter who regularly donated her works to raise funds for charity.

These included orchids, landscapes, fish, birds, flowers and animals on fine porcelain and bone china.

Over the years, Ms Gan appeared in upmarket magazines such as The Peak Singapore, and counted ambassadors and their wives among her friends.

According to a website named after her, nancygan.com, Ms Gan was involved in fund-raising efforts for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme, Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped and Singapore Cancer Society.

Dewi will be back in court on June 23.

If convicted, she could be jailed for life, or face a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine.

elena@sph.com.sg

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

Failed UK projects: Investors sue lawyers

Straits Times
14 Apr 2015
Amelia Tan

30 S'poreans among group alleging they were not informed about risks

A GROUP of 30 Singaporeans who invested in botched real estate projects in Britain are looking to reclaim their losses by suing the lawyers who had represented them in the multimillion-dollar venture.

They are among 200 investors from various countries who are suing British law firms Scott Fowler Solicitors and Graham & Rosen, alleging that the firms did not inform them about the risks of the investments. They have been working with British law firm Lucas Law to recover about £8 million (S$16 million) in losses.

The Singapore investors said they paid an average deposit of £40,000 for units in seven unfinished hotel and student hostel projects built by now insolvent British developer Key Homes.

These projects are in various cities, including London, Leicester and Birmingham.

Lucas Law director Stuart Lucas told The Straits Times that he has been working with about 200 Key Homes investors since three months ago. They come from places such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the United States.

He said they will file a class action suit against their British conveyancing lawyers from Scott Fowler Solicitors and Graham & Rosen next month for not acting in their interests.

The investors claim that Scott Fowler Solicitors and Graham & Rosen did not tell them that the projects' insurer, Northern and Western Insurance Company, is registered in Caribbean island Nevis instead of Britain. Also, the insurer is not regulated by the British financial authorities.

"The investors would not have put money in the projects if they were told that their deposits were insured by an unregulated and unrated insurer," said Mr Lucas. "Their loss in deposits plus interest is due to the solicitors' negligence."

Ms Helen Young, a spokesman for Scott Fowler Solicitors, said the law firm is aware of the impending class action suit and "has done everything possible to try to assist clients".

Graham & Rosen did not respond to questions from The Straits Times.

In total, about 200 Singaporeans have invested in nine Key Homes projects since 2011. They face the prospect of losing about $20 million.

Of the nine projects, the developer had completed just two: a student hostel in Hull and a hotel in Leeds. They were refurbished from old hotel buildings.

But the Singaporeans who invested in the two completed projects have not received rent for more than a year because of disagreement over the service fees levied by the management firms in charge of maintaining and finding tenants for the buildings.

One of the investors, retired army officer Leong Kok Seng, 56, said: "The lawyers are insured. So I am hopeful of getting some money in damages."

He had paid a £41,000 deposit for a unit in a London hotel.

ameltan@sph.com.sg

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

Uphill task to sue users: Lawyers - Illegal download of movies

Straits Times
09 Apr 2015
Irene Tham

Hurdles include identifying actual offender, costly suits

THE copyright owner of Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club may have an uphill task suing consumers here for having allegedly downloaded the movie illegally online, say lawyers.

The biggest challenge is to identify the actual people who had infringed the film's copyright. Another reason cited is the high cost of a civil suit.

A company of Hollywood producer Voltage Pictures, which owns the film rights, identified more than 500 Singapore Internet protocol (IP) addresses, from subscribers of the three major Internet service providers (ISPs) - Singtel, StarHub and M1 - where the movie was downloaded illegally.

Voltage's company Dallas Buyers Club LLC has obtained a Singapore High Court order to compel all three ISPs to release the details of subscribers linked to the IP addresses in question.

"But the rights holder also needs to establish a link between an impugned IP address to a person," said lawyer Bryan Tan, a technology partner at Pinsent Masons MPillay.

Establishing the link is tough because families share the same Wi-Fi connection, and as such, have the same IP address. Some Wi-Fi connections are also not secured and are freely accessed by anyone. "It is unclear whether the law will presume liability for the Internet account holder," said Mr Tan.

Starting a class action suit is also a costly affair, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, for rights owners.

"The cost is dependent largely on how many people are defending and the defence raised," said intellectual property lawyer Cyril Chua of ATMD Bird & Bird.

Dallas Buyers Club, whose parent company Voltage has been on a global anti-piracy rampage, is represented by local law firm Samuel Seow Law Corporation here.

In October last year, Singtel received a letter from Dallas Buyers Club's lawyers, alleging that some of Singtel's subscribers had illegally downloaded the film. It asked for the identities of some 150 subscribers.

Singtel said it refused to provide the information to protect customers' confidential information. Even in court, Singtel said its lawyers questioned if the evidence provided by Dallas Buyers Club was "sufficiently detailed and clear" to support its claims of infringement.

Dallas Buyers Club also made similar "pre-action discovery" applications at the High Court to force StarHub and M1 to release customer details.

The film company succeeded in its application against all three ISPs.

Over the weekend, Samuel Seow Law Corporation sent out its first batch of letters to Internet users here asking for a written offer of damages and costs within three days of receiving the letter. It is not known how many have responded to the letter.

"Most cases of this nature are settled without commencing a court action or prior to a court assessment of damages," said Mr Lau Kok Keng, intellectual property lawyer at Rajah & Tann Singapore.

Court proceedings are usually not pursued in cases of small-scale downloads as the real value of the infringement is only the price of a licensed movie download or a DVD, plus legal fees and investigation costs, he added.

Alternatively, copyright holders can claim statutory damages, which can go up to $10,000 per title per person, under Singapore's Copyright Act.

"It is awarded in circumstances where the rights owners cannot prove actual losses," said Mr Chua of ATMD Bird & Bird. But these damages have not been awarded against consumers so far, he added.

A civil suit, if pursued by Dallas Buyers Club, could set the precedent for more of such lawsuits. But the consumer backlash may deter many from taking this route, said digital media lawyer Matt Pollins at Olswang.

"Piracy is an emotive issue and if a large portion of the Internet community takes exception to you suing consumers, then that can be quite damaging for your brand," Mr Pollins said.

"It is for this reason that the Recording Industry Association of America announced in 2008 that it would stop suing consumers directly."

itham@sph.com.sg

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

2 death-row traffickers get life term instead

Straits Times
21 Apr 2015
Hoe Pei Shan

FIVE years on death row ended yesterday for convicted Malaysian drug traffickers Cheong Chun Yin and Pang Siew Fum after a High Court re-sentenced them to life in prison.

Cheong, now 31, arrived at Changi Airport from Myanmar on June 16, 2008, with a black trolley bag which he handed to Pang, 57, before the two parted ways.

They were arrested separately later that day, and the bag was found to contain 2,726g of heroin.

They were convicted of drug trafficking after a joint High Court trial in 2010 and sentenced to death - the mandatory penalty at the time for trafficking more than 15g of the drug.

Appeals against their sentences were dismissed at the time.

However amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act, which came into effect on Jan 1, 2013, gave the court the discretion to jail traffickers facing the death penalty, if it could be shown that the offender acted as a courier and had cooperated with the authorities to disrupt drug-trafficking activities.

In September 2013, the Attorney-General's Chambers said the Public Prosecutor had "decided to certify to a court that Cheong has substantively assisted the CNB in disrupting drug-trafficking activities outside Singapore", basing the decision on "new information received".

Cheong was issued with a certificate of cooperation, but left waiting to find out if the evidence was sufficient to prove he was just a courier.

Pang did not get a similar certificate, but a psychiatric evaluation resulted in a clarification from an Institute of Mental Health consultant that she had a "major depressive disorder" at the time of the offence, amounting to a "substantial impairment of her mental responsibilities".

These were taken into consideration in the duo's re-sentencing, said Pang's defence counsel Irving Choh, and both were finally given a reprieve yesterday - some seven years after first stepping into court.

Cheong was also given 15 strokes of the cane, a punishment Pang evaded as a woman.

Relatives of both wept in court after hearing the news.

"I've waited so many years for today, I'm so happy," said Mr Cheong Kah Pin, a 59-year-old single father who sold his house to fund his son's legal costs. "I hope the Singapore Government will let him come home to me earlier."

Cheong's is the fourth reported case in which a drug courier issued a certificate of cooperation has been spared the gallows. His lawyer Louis Joseph said he expected similar sentencing to come.

"The kingpins behind drug operations don't dare to come to Singapore... so a vast majority of those who are caught here are pure mules who do it either out of stupidity or desperation," said Mr Joseph. "They will spill the beans, and based on that... I expect very few drug traffickers will face the death penalty."

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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

US studio calls anti-piracy laws here ineffective

Straits Times
14 Apr 2015
Irene Tham

THE studio behind a recent controversial move to demand damages from illegal downloaders has hit out at Singapore's anti-piracy laws, calling them ineffective.

Voltage Pictures also defended its decision to give those accused of illegally downloading its Oscar-winning film, Dallas Buyers Club, three days to respond to its demand for compensation, saying that the seriousness of the issue required urgent attention.

Last week, 77 M1 users were sent the demand letter which asked for a written offer of damages and costs, a move which sparked heated discussion on the Internet and social media.

Mr Samuel Seow, the managing director of Samuel Seow Law Corporation, which represents Voltage Pictures, said that the studio decided to take the litigation route because it is the "only real option" available to copyright holders.

Voltage would have been among the first to take advantage of Singapore's amended Copyright Act, which came into force in August last year, but it chose not to do so.

Under the Act, copyright holders can seek a High Court order to get Internet service providers (ISPs) to block piracy websites. Before the revised law, content owners could not compel ISPs to block pirated content.

"Website blocking can be easily circumvented using a VPN (virtual private network)... It is not an effective method of copyright protection," Mr Seow told The Straits Times.

Most piracy websites also have "proxy" Web addresses, or alternative addresses, that can be entered into Web browsers to allow users to gain access to the blocked sites.

This is why file-sharing site The Pirate Bay still remains accessible although it has been blocked in various jurisdictions, he said.

"Given the seriousness of the acts, our client felt that three days were sufficient for the infringers to comply with the demand," Mr Seow said.

Deadline extensions were given to those who requested them.

But some lawyers here say that the time given to respond to the letters is too short.

Mr Lau Kok Keng, intellectual property lawyer at Rajah & Tann Singapore, said: "It is an indication that the copyright owner wishes to exert maximum pressure on the alleged downloaders to offer monetary settlements quickly."

Mr Lau, who represented local anime distributor Odex in a high-profile case in 2007 when it went after hundreds of illegal downloaders, said that a one-week notice is usually given.

"There must be enough time for the letter to be received, read and understood by its recipients, and for them to obtain legal advice, if need be," he added.

The letters sent out to alleged Dallas Buyers Club downloaders also did not state any compensation amount.

Mr Lau also said that not stating the compensation amount could be an attempt to settle quickly with those with the least resistance.

High-profile personalities are "less resistant" to settling quickly, to avoid any embarrassment or reputational damage, said Mr Lau.

Voltage, which earlier denied accusations of profiteering by targeting consumers, said that more demand letters can be expected after Singtel and StarHub hand over customer details by April 27 and May 16 respectively, as ordered by the Singapore High Court.

More than 500 Singapore Internet protocol addresses where the movie was downloaded illegally were identified.

itham@sph.com.sg

 

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

 

PUSH FOR QUICK SETTLEMENT

It is an indication that the copyright owner wishes to exert maximum pressure on the alleged downloaders to offer monetary settlements quickly.

- Intellectual property lawyer Lau Kok Keng, on the short notice given by Voltage Pictures in its letters to the alleged downloaders

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

Illegal downloads: Singtel provides subscriber details after court order

TODAY
09 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE — Singtel today (April 8) become the latest Internet service provider (ISP) here to comply with a court order to release the details of subscribers who allegedly downloaded the Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club illegally.

A Singtel spokesperson said today it received the High Court’s order yesterday. It must now turn over requested information, including the names, IC numbers and addresses of subscribers linked to the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses identified, of some 150 subscribers to Dallas Buyers Club LLC, which owns the film’s rights, by the end of the month.

The telco, she said, had received a letter in October last year from Samuel Seow Law Corporation, which represents the United States-based film studio’s suit in Singapore, requesting identities of some of its subscribers.

It had refused to comply with the court order, and engaged a lawyer to contest the order.

Lawyer Edmund Eng from law firm Shook Lin and Bok had argued that Singtel had a legal obligation to keep its customers’ information confidential and requested the court to consider if evidence provided by Dallas Buyers Club LLC was sufficient to support their claims of infringement and compel disclosure of subscribers’ identities. However, the court allowed the order to proceed.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC has reportedly identified more than 500 Singapore IP addresses here through which the movie was said to have been downloaded illegally. Apart from Singtel, both M1 and Starhub, which had also engaged lawyers, were ordered by the court to turn over information about their subscribers.

Over the weekend, letters were reportedly sent to Internet users here asking for a written offer of damages and costs within three days of receiving the letter.

Lawyer Wendy Low from Rajah & Tann LLP said she has received informal queries seeking legal advice and confirmed the letters did not specify the amount of damages sought.

This is unlike the approach taken in the US, where legal action has been threatened against 1,000 Internet users. The users were told they were liable for damages of up to US$150,000 (S$202,500) in court unless settlement fees of up to US$7,000 were paid, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

In Australia, the Federal Court yesterday ordered six local ISPs to disclose the identities of some 4,700 people it alleges infringed the film’s copyrights.

Lawyers TODAY spoke to found it unusual that a settlement amount has not been specified in Singapore. Digital media lawyer Matt Polins from Olswang Asia noted it is difficult to determine a precise level of damages here as there are fewer past cases of infringement claims against end users, in contrast to the US where benchmarks are more certain.

Under the Republic’s Copyright Act, statutory damages are subject to a ceiling of S$10,000 for each copyrighted work.

Mr Bryan Tan from Pinsent Masons said that the studio might be lending users a hand by allowing them to make offers reasonable to them. “This will also allow them to resolve more cases faster,” he said.

Technology and intellectual property lawyer Han Teng Wah, however, felt legal action is not the best way to deter copyright infringement.

“The people you round up are young and ignorant, they may not know what their legal rights are. The system should move to educate users on how illegal sharing will kill the creative industry,” said Mr Han.


Mixed response from local film-makers on illegal download crackdown

SINGAPORE — Responses from the film community here to the news that the producers of the Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club are seeking compensation for allegedly illegal downloads have been mixed.

Some felt the move made a strong statement against piracy, while others felt it would do little to stamp out the problem as new ways will be found to circumvent any crackdown.

The studio, Dallas Buyers Club LLC, has identified more than 500 Internet Protocol addresses in Singapore and has hired Samuel Seow Law Corporation to serve letters to them, demanding compensation. Internet service providers M1, StarHub and Singtel have been ordered by the High Court to turn over the identities of their subscribers who allegedly downloaded the film.

Mr Thomas Chia, director of independent film distributing company Lighthouse Pictures, said the move was a welcome one. “Piracy to me is like mugging of film-makers and everyone who works on a film in broad daylight,” he said. “Look at how piracy has affected the film industry — mum and pop video stores have gone under. What disturbs me is how so many people think it’s their birthright to download, and that there’s nothing wrong at all (with illegal downloading).”

However, film-maker Royston Tan, best known for box office successes 881 and 12 Lotus, said he was not in favour of legal action, because “it’s like severing a relationship with the audience”.

“The more you suppress it, the more people will find ways to get around this. They can change their IP addresses or use a VPN (Virtual Private Number),” said Mr Tan, adding that education was better than punishment.

Mr Ken Kwek, the director of Unlucky Plaza, which is set for release later this month, felt such a crackdown would probably result in people finding new means to get free movies. “I guard my work from script to screen, but once the film’s been released, especially on online platforms and digital formats, I know somebody’s going to pirate it,” he said. “Maybe I’m pessimistic, but I don’t think there’s anything you can really do to prevent piracy. It’s too big a thing.”

Mr Chia was also sceptical if legal action would be the silver bullet to end piracy. “It would depend on severity of the penalty. It has to bite for it to be effective,” he added.

SERENE LIM

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Different fates for duo in murder of Indian worker

Straits Times
21 Apr 2015
Hoe Pei Shan

One will hang while the other gets life term as culpability differs: Judge

TWO men convicted of murder in a spate of brutal slashings in 2010 yesterday learnt they would have different fates, with one sentenced to the gallows and the other jailed for life.

Micheal Garing, 26, and Tony Imba, 36 - both natives of Sarawak, Malaysia - were part of a gang that went on a violent robbery spree in the Kallang area that ended with one man dead and three others severely injured. They fought their murder charges in a 12-day trial but were found guilty in January last year. The prosecution had called for both to be hanged. After months of deliberation, the High Court decided on the different outcomes.

In sentencing Micheal to hang, High Court Judge Choo Han Teck stated in his written judgment that the assault on each of the surviving three victims "was as violent as the one that killed the last", 41-year-old construction worker Shanmuganathan Dillidurai.

The Indian national had a fractured skull, a severed left hand, a slash wound across his neck and a back wound so deep that his shoulder blade was cracked.

The other three victims, Indian nationals Sandeep Singh, 28, and Egan Karuppaiah, 47, and Singaporean Ang Jun Heng, 23, were left with major wounds.

Mr Singh, then a cleaner, had an open skull fracture that exposed his brain, and needed a metal plate inserted in his head.

Mr Egan, a former pipe-fitter, had wounds to his face and hands, which no longer have full range of function. He and Mr Singh are back in India.

Mr Ang, a former competitive canoeist, had a deep neck gash that missed his spinal cord by mere millimetres, and lost four fingers on his left hand. He is now studying in the United States. When contacted yesterday, he said: "It's nice to finally have some closure on the case. I've always had faith in Singapore's justice system."

Justice Choo wrote: "The plan was to rob and the method was through violence with a deadly weapon. All victims suffered severely and one lost his life. I am of the view that the conduct of Micheal Garing justified the death penalty and I so sentence him to suffer death."

Tony's culpability, however, was "significantly less", and "sufficiently different to be sentenced to life imprisonment rather than to suffer death".

Justice Choo found that evidence pointed to Micheal being the only one to wield the parang that felled Mr Shanmuganathan.

Tony had knocked the victim off his bicycle and held him while Micheal began his assault, said the judge, but the fatal wounds had not been inflicted by Tony and there was no evidence he ever wielded the weapon to cause deadly injuries. "In the circumstances, can the same degree of blameworthiness be ascribed to Tony Imba?" wrote the judge. "The fact that he did not use the weapon is important."

Tony, who was also given 24 strokes of the cane, was "grateful" for his second chance at life and repentant, said defence counsel Justin Tan, who represented him alongside Mr Amarick Gill.

Changes to Singapore's homicide legislation in 2012 give judges more sentencing discretion for murder and drug-trafficking offences, and thus allow Justice Choo to impose the different sentences for the two men.

Prior to the amendments, anyone convicted of murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code would have been punished with death. Now, anyone convicted of murder who did not have an explicit intention to kill could face life in prison and caning as an alternative.

Micheal's lawyer, Mr Ramesh Tiwary, said his client would be appealing against his sentence.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Ex-tour guide can liquidate life policies

Straits Times
14 Apr 2015
Carolyn Khew

THE former China tour guide who was taken to court over a wealthy widow's fortune has received a lifeline to pay for his legal expenses.

The High Court yesterday approved an application made by Chinese national Yang Yin to liquidate two life insurance policies worth about $98,000 together to pay for his legal fees.

Said Yang's lawyer, Mr Joseph Liow, after the in-chambers hearing yesterday: "The basis of our application was, without access to funds, he won't have funds to pay his lawyers." Yang's lawyers would have to submit his legal expenses to the court, which will decide if the bill is "reasonable" before the amount can be deducted and used for payment.

The Singapore permanent resident's assets were frozen last August after Madam Hedy Mok, the niece of wealthy widow Chung Khin Chun, accused Yang of masterminding control over her aunt's assets - estimated at $40 million, including a $30 million bungalow in Gerald Crescent.

Madam Mok's lawyer, Mr Peter Doraisamy, said he had opposed the application to liquidate the insurance policies. He added that he will be seeking Madam Mok's instructions on whether to file an appeal on the matter.

Separately, the court received another application from Yang, who asked that the court release to Madam Mok an amount of $6,000 a month for Madam Chung's upkeep. No decision was on made on this.

There was also no decision made for an earlier application Yang had made to withdraw $12,000 a month from his frozen bank accounts for personal and legal expenses.

Madam Chung, 88, met Yang, 41, in 2008 while he was her tour guide in China. The next year, he moved into her bungalow. Madam Mok, 61, who runs a travel agency, is suing Yang and his family in the High Court to recover money that they allegedly siphoned away. Yang has been in remand since Oct 31 last year.

He faces more than 300 charges in total, including two criminal breach of trust charges for allegedly misappropriating $1.1 million from the wealthy widow.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

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

MAS can be bolder in making changes to equity crowdfunding rules

Business Times
09 Apr 2015
Claudia Teo, Charmaine Wee & Alexander Baey

It should consider allowing retail investors to participate, but within prescribed limits

ON FEBRUARY 16, 2015, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) published a consultation paper proposing changes to the current securities-based crowdfunding (SCF) regulatory regime. MAS recognises the benefit of crowdfunding as an alternative financing source for startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). However, it is also aware of the risks, such as high capital loss, lack of liquidity, fraud and platform failure. To strike a balance, it has proposed tailoring the regulatory framework to facilitate offers of securities to accredited and institutional investors via online crowdfunding platforms.

The term "accredited investors" generally refers to high net worth individuals of income over S$300,000 or with assets over S$2 million. Institutional investors include banks and finance companies.

A notable exclusion from the proposed new framework is the retail investor. MAS is "mindful that retail investors may not fully appreciate the high risks inherent in SCF investments, even if risk warnings are disclosed", and hence, has proposed to limit participation in SCF to the select group of accredited and institutional investors (AI investors) first, while adopting a wait-and-see approach for retail investors.

Limitations of the proposed regime

The consultation paper by MAS is a step in the right direction, but it can take a bolder stride yet. The SCF is intended to provide an opportunity for SMEs and startups to reach out to a larger audience for their financing needs, concurrently encouraging innovative modes of business financing. This is especially relevant when we consider that SMEs and startups contribute towards Singapore's economic growth, employing about 70 per cent of the workforce in Singapore. Their growth is inextricably linked to Singapore's economic growth.

The current framework already permits SMEs and startups to reach out to AI investors. The safe harbour provisions include offers of securities to AI investors, which, when made under certain conditions, are exempted from prospectus requirements. It remains challenging for SMEs and startups to convince such investors to invest in a risk(ier) prospect - especially when these investors have access to a wide range of investment options, which may offer more guaranteed rates of returns. This translates to SMEs and startups having to find creative ways to market and appeal to these AI investors.

While MAS's proposal goes some way to address this, it remains to be seen whether AI investors are interested in the SCF space, given the myriad of investment opportunities open to them. Often, AI investors, such as venture capital funds, are inclined to invest large(r) sums of money for high(er) returns. This is especially so when their performance is pegged to rates of returns. Even if they opt for SCF over other investment options, it is not unusual for institutional investors to carry investment mandates. Venture capitalists invest money derived from other investors, and usually have strict criterion as to what constitutes appropriate investments. Limiting SCF to AI investors therefore may not be entirely helpful to SMEs and startups.

MAS's proposals are also not exactly clear whether a specified maximum investment amount would be imposed on SCF participation, like in other jurisdictions. The idea behind crowdfunding is to raise smaller amounts of money from a larger group of people. Under the current regime, an offer of securities for an aggregate consideration of at least S$200,000 for each transaction, where the buyer acquires the securities as principal, is exempted from the prospectus requirements. Crowdfunding, in contrast, is intended to permit investors to invest in smaller amounts across myriad SMEs and startups, thus entailing smaller risks and enticing investors to take that chance.

Include retail investors

Many successful companies were once startups with no proven track record. Facebook, now an Internet media giant listed on the NASDAQ, started out as an online social network for students of Harvard University and as at March 2015, boasts a market capitalisation of approximately US$230 billion. Looking back, such investment opportunities have proven to be worth the risk.

However, at present, retail investors may not have access to these potentially high-profit investments. Equity investors in budding SMEs and startups are usually linked to venture capital funds or angel groups. In order to participate or become a member in such venture capital funds or angel groups, there is usually a requirement for a minimum level of capital.

SCF should be encouraged to offer lower investment minimums, which would afford the "sophisticated" retail investor an opportunity to invest in the equity of an SME or startup which he would not otherwise have. By limiting SCF only to AI investors, this investment avenue may be lost to them.

Nonetheless, MAS's concern that such SCF may result in "loss of capital" due to a "lack of liquidity" in such securities is sufficiently real and acceptable. There are numerous startups whose businesses and concepts are not sustainable and there is thus a need to protect retail investors.

Innovative thinking

Although crowdfunding is still in a relatively nascent stage of development globally, there are already several jurisdictions that have already implemented, or have made plans to, a regulatory framework tailored to crowdfunding, and to allow retail investors to participate in SCF. Some of these pioneers include the USA, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Australia.

The measures by the other jurisdictions appear to strike a closer balance between investor protection and providing alternative financing sources. In Malaysia, the Securities Commission recommended that retail investors be allowed to participate in SCF, but they may only invest up to RM5,000 (S$1,870) in each company over a 12-month period.

MAS should consider allowing retail investors to participate in SCF, but within prescribed limits. We could consider imposing a financial limit on their individual investments, to take a leaf from other jurisdictions. As an added precaution, we can consider carving out a new category of investors from the existing category of retail investors and only allow these retail investors, in addition to AI investors, to participate in SCF. These investors could still constitute retail investors, but could have a higher income than the average retail investor - we could coin the term "accredited retail investors" to describe them.

The "accredited retail investor" could be defined as an individual with income of not less than S$150,000, or any other such amount as MAS may prescribe. These investors could be white collar professionals familiar in the investing space and who would fall within the upper strata of retail investors. Due to their profile, they would be more capable and informed than the average retail investor to undertake their own risk assessment in making investment decisions.

SCF is also intended to develop brand awareness and a consequent following (crowd) for the participating SMEs. With the social media platform, younger accredited retail investors may be drawn to being associated with the branding and reputation of a particular SME, thus allowing the SME to develop its fan club, allowing it to scale up and contribute to the growth of Singapore's economy.

Ms Teo is partner and head of corporate & financial services; Ms Wee is legal associate; and Mr Baey is practice trainee, at Harry Elias Partnership LLP

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

Chairmen should take shareholder questions in the spirit of the law: Mailbag

Business Times
21 Apr 2015

MINORITY shareholders attending Noble Group's annual general meeting (AGM) were disappointed with chairman Richard Elman's handling of questions. SIAS has received feedback that the chairman was unnecessarily defensive, "in denial mode" as reported in BT, April 18-19. SIAS is concerned about these disturbing reports. We will be seeking clarification from the company shortly as to whether the concerns of shareholders as expressed in the media are correct and if so, why it happened.

Chairmen of meetings must understand that while it is true that the AGM is a statutory meeting and limited by time within a set agenda, they can still address the serious concerns of minority shareholders and not sidestep them. In the case of Noble, it has been under attack from Iceberg and Muddy Waters. The concerns of shareholders were heightened by what these research reports revealed. The chairman could have given comfort to anxious shareholders by answering, even briefly, in a manner acceptable to them. Much disappointment and anxiety could have been avoided by the chairman hearing out the shareholders. Instead, shutting them up only creates acrimony. It is not good to stick to the letter of the law at meetings but it is good to take questions from shareholders in the spirit of the law. Shareholders are quite educated and discerning nowadays and they must not be taken for granted. Where time doesn't permit, Noble could follow the example of other enlightened listed companies by arranging after the AGM for a closed-door dialogue session or meet shareholders immediately after the AGM at the reception and have an informal chat. Chairman and directors of meetings need to adopt a friendly and willing attitude towards their shareholders who are, after all, owners of the company. Where they cannot accommodate the questions, they can always be firm but polite.

Where a chairman finds it difficult to answer questions because of legal constraints, it must be clearly explained. New directors to be appointed to the board, like in New Zealand and Australia, must address shareholders briefly on the value they bring to the board and the company to satisfy shareholders of their eligibility. This practice is prevalent at some of the bluechip company AGMs in Singapore.

David Gerald

Founder, president & CEO

Securities Investors Association (Singapore)

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

Bid to boost MAS powers to curb money laundering

Straits Times
14 Apr 2015

PROPOSED changes to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Act will beef up defences here against money laundering and terrorism financing.

If approved by Parliament, these will give the banking regulator the authority to inspect a wider range of financial institutions for money laundering and terrorism financing breaches - including non-bank credit card and charge card issuers.

The move comes as money laundering cases involving the abuse of such cards are emerging internationally, and non-bank issuers are hence seen as warranting closer scrutiny.

The proposed changes, introduced in Parliament yesterday, will allow MAS to share information related to the policing of money laundering and terrorism financing with foreign supervisory bodies.

It also sets out requirements for financial institutions to conduct customer due diligence and retain these records.

These enhancements will align Singapore's regime with international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force, the global standard-setter for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing.

Another Bill introduced yesterday will cater to the introduction of a new type of government bond called Singapore Savings Bonds. The bonds, which will be issued monthly likely starting in the second half of the year, aim to provide a long-term, low-cost savings option offering safe returns.

The Government Securities (Amendment) Bill proposes an amendment to impose restrictions on transfers and pledges of future new government securities issues. This is because Singapore Savings Bonds cannot be traded on the open market.

Conventional Singapore Government Securities, meanwhile, will continue to be tradable.

CHIA YAN MIN

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

SIAS unveils new governance ratings system for SMEs

Business Times
09 Apr 2015
R. Sivanithy

The research will enable investors to make informed decisions on listed firms

[Singapore] THE Securities Investors Association (SIAS) - together with the Singapore Association of The Institute of Chartered Secretaries (SAICSA) and data analytics firm Handshakes - on Wednesday launched GEMS, a new corporate governance ratings system for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX), which is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere.

"This is an important milestone for the local market and an important initiative for SIAS,'' said SIAS president and chief executive David Gerald at a press conference on Wednesday to launch GEMS. "Many retail investors are invested in medium and small caps, which represent 80 per cent of the companies listed on SGX. With this research, investors will be better able to make informed decisions about companies they invest in and also identify well-run companies."

Governance Evaluation for Mid and Small Caps, or GEMS for short, was developed with input from governance expert Mak Yuen Teen, an associate professor from NUS Business School, and targets companies with market capitalisation below S$500 million.

"Having been involved in developing a number of corporate governance ratings and scorecards, I feel that they generally rely too much on disclosures by companies and do not sufficiently differentiate between what is important for SMEs compared to larger companies,'' said Prof Mak.

As a result, GEMS uses data for three years instead of the more usual one year and looks at actual behaviour and actions rather than just disclosures.

"Under the ownership section for example, we'll look at whether major or substantial shareholders have over the past three years sold off more than 20 per cent of their stake, and whether major shareholders and key officers engage in frequent trading of their shares," said Prof Mak.

"Under Board and Management, we will look at the tenure of independent directors (IDs), whether at least one has industry experience and whether there are any relationships between IDs and key officers."

Points are assigned for each category; for example, under "Quality of Financial Reporting and Internal Control'', companies will be assigned the maximum three points if they have not changed their external auditors over the three years, or if they have changed auditors once but have given appropriate reasons for the change.

Other categories are "Remuneration and Interested Person Transaction Risks'', "Shareholder Rights and Communications'' and "Regulatory Risk''. Bonus points can be given for various practices, eg, three points if there is full disclosure of the pay of the top five key officers, two points if there is disclosure of resources devoted to any internal audit function, and two points if there is at least one independent director of each gender.

However, penalty points are also possible - eg, minus five points if there is disproportionate control of voting rights, -5 points if the company has been asked by SGX to suspend trading or has suspended trading only after repeated queries for all three years, and -3 points if it makes a major announcement within two months following a "nil" response to an SGX query.

There are also penalties if annual results are not released within 60 days after year-end or interim results are not released after 45 days - which would be a breach of SGX's listing rule 705 (1) - or if the annual general meeting is held late.

"Past experience shows that corporate governance failures occur mainly amongst SMEs," said Mr Gerald. "With this research and rating, GEMs will no doubt be of tremendous value to all investors. SIAS will be using it as an initial screen this year for our annual corporate governance awards."

sivan@sph.com.sg

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

Noble AGM: shareholders may not be so supportive next time - Mailbag

Business Times
21 Apr 2015

I REFER to "Noble dodges accounting queries at AGM" and "Sound bites from Elman" (BT, April 18-19).

This was a huge opportunity for the company to clarify what to me are legitimate questions that have been raised about its accounting, business model and corporate governance. Sadly, based on the reports of what transpired at the meeting, the company quashed the opportunity.

Questions about the accounting treatment and valuation of Yancoal are clearly related to the first resolution on the adoption of the audited financial statements. According to reports, the chairman was reluctant to address these questions. Perhaps he has been advised by the company's legal advisers not to address these questions, and in that case, he could have said so.

Under the Code of Corporate Governance, the external auditors should be present "to address shareholders' queries about the conduct of audit and the preparation and content of the auditors' report". Perhaps shareholders should also have directed their questions to the external auditors, given that the external auditors are supposed to report to the "members of the company" and provide their independent opinion about the financial statements. Shareholders attending AGMs of companies should consider directing questions about the external audit at the external auditors, not just direct questions about the financial statements at the board and management.

The reports also mentioned that a shareholder had raised questions about the contributions of two independent directors who were proposed for re-election. In the notice of the AGM, Noble merely stated that one of these two independent directors will remain on the audit committee and continue to be independent after re-election, while it was silent on the other independent director. It is entirely appropriate for shareholders to ask why certain directors are proposed for election or re-election and what value they will add to the board and the company - especially when a company has failed to provide sufficient details for informed voting by shareholders. It is surprising that the chairman thought that the AGM was not an appropriate forum to raise issues about the contributions of directors and only allowed for this when pressed.

The Code recommends that "the chairman of the audit committee, nominating committee and remuneration committee should be present and available to address shareholders' queries at these (general) meetings". Questions about the financial statements and the appointment of directors are more appropriately dealt with by the chairman of the audit committee and nominating committee respectively. This is especially important for a company such as Noble where the chairman is an executive director and therefore part of management.

In the 2014 annual report, Noble stated that it has "adhered to the principles and guidelines set out in the . . . Code of Corporate Governance 2012 . . . save as disclosed . . . in relation to areas of deviation from the Code".

Under "Shareholder communications", the company states: "The Board welcomes the views of shareholders on matters affecting the Company, whether at shareholders' meetings or on an ad hoc basis." This is line with the Code which states that "companies should encourage shareholder participation at general meetings of shareholders, and allow shareholders the opportunity to communicate their views on various matters affecting the company".

However, it appears that the company is only prepared - and apparently with reluctance - to answer questions directly relating to the resolutions and takes a rather technical approach to determining what are legitimate questions. It would seem that Noble will need to review its corporate governance section for its next annual report and state more clearly that it only allows shareholders to ask questions on matters relating to the resolutions at general meetings based on the chairman's interpretations as to what are legitimate questions. Otherwise, its corporate governance section would not accurately reflect how the company communicates with shareholders.

Finally, the company should not feel smug about the high level of shareholder support for the resolutions. Given that many shareholders probably voted in advance and the reports that have now come out as to what transpired at the AGM, perhaps they may not be so supportive the next time. Hopefully, proxy advisers, fund managers and institutional investors will carefully consider whether the company has been sufficiently transparent about its corporate governance - including why certain directors are proposed for election or re-election - and what transpired at the AGM, when making their voting recommendations and decisions the next time.

Mak Yuen Teen

READ MORE:

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

S'pore businessman trips up Apple Watch launch

Business Times
14 Apr 2015
Chuang Peck Ming

William Leong is said to own the Apple Watch trademark in Switzerland

[Singapore] THE Apple Watch is tipped to shake up the global watch industry when it is launched later this month, but it is likely to leave the heart of the watch industry untouched - at least for the moment - thanks to a Singapore businessman.

William Leong, the managing director of Leong Poh Kee, a regional distributor of luxury timepieces based in Singapore, is said to own the "Apple Watch" trademark in Switzerland, home of the luxury watch business.

The trademark's direct owner is Leonard Timepieces, a Swiss watch company which Swiss media has reported as being owned by "William Longe" - a mis-spelling of William Leong, a source close to Leong Poh Kee indicated.

The trademark gives Leonard the exclusive rights to use the word "Apple" on jewellery, including watches; it also covers the use of of apple images on jewellery, precious stones, watches and timepieces of any kind, Swiss local TV media has reported.

When contacted, Mr Leong's son Ken said his father wished to "reserve comment" on the matter. Sources say this is because the matter is now in the hands of lawyers in Switzerland.

The US-based Apple is set to roll out the Apple Watch priced between US$349 and US$10,000 on April 24 in nine markets - Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK and the US.

Switzerland is not one of them.

Customers reportedly flocked to Apple stores around the world last Friday for a peek at the smartwatch, which Apple expects will be its next runaway hit.

Switzerland, which has a population of eight million, is not a big market, but a presence there would be significant for any company aspiring to be a big player in the watch business.

The issue with Apple Watch in Switzerland would not have surfaced if Apple had called its smartwatch Apple iWatch, following the naming convention for its other products - the Apple iPhone, Apple iPad and Apple iPod.

But Apple did not use the iWatch name because a company called OMG Electronics had applied for the iWatch trademark in September 2012, said a report on Sunday.

OMG was trying to raise US$100,000 to produce a smartwatch through crowd funding, but managed to raise only US$1,434.

An earlier attempt by a New York-based company called M Z Berger & Co to file the iWatch trademark in Europe in 2007 was successfully shot down by Swiss watch-making giant Swatch on the grounds that the name would cause confusion with Swatch buyers.

Leonard Timepieces filed the trademark for watches and watch parts bearing an apple insignia in 1985 - long before Apple started toying with the thought of creating an intelligent watch.

The 30-year trademark expires this Dec 5, clearing the roadblock for Apple, and the speculation is that Leonard Timepieces could try and renew the trademark.

Intellectual property lawyers say, however, that Apple could challenge it, arguing that the mark has never been used in trade.

No Swiss watchmaker is known to have sold an "apple watch" since the trademark was granted - and companies cannot "squat" on trademarks indefinitely. If the case goes to court, lawyers think Apple is likely to prevail because it commands huge financial and legal resources.

Meanwhile, traditional watchmakers in Switzerland have more time to bring their own smartwatches to the market; many of them, including Swatch and Tag Heuer, unveiled smartwatch plans recently.

Apple has reportedly declined comment on the issue.

peckming@sph.com.sg

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

Dallas Buyers Club downloads: M1 passed customer details to law firm on court order

TODAY
08 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE — Following a court order, M1 said it has disclosed customer information to a local law firm over alleged illegal movie downloads.

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, an M1 spokesperson said today (April 8) that it disclosed customers’ names, NRIC numbers and addresses to Dallas Buyers Club LLC following a High Court order in January.

The telco was responding to reports that customers who allegedly made illegal downloads of the movie Dallas Buyers Club had received letters asking for compensation. The letters reportedly claimed that M1 had received a court order to reveal subscribers’ information to a law firm representing Dallas Buyers Club LLC.

“M1 did not provide personal data of the affected customers to Dallas Buyers Club LLC when it first requested for the information,” a spokesperson for the telco told Channel NewsAsia today.

“Dallas Buyers Club LLC subsequently applied for a hearing at the High Court. After hearing the parties, the Assistant Registrar of the High Court granted an order compelling M1 to disclose the names, NRIC numbers and physical addresses of the affected customers.”

“M1 has accordingly complied with this order.”

STARHUB 'IN PROCESS OF COMPLYING'

Separately, StarHub on Wednesday told Channel NewsAsia that it had also received the High Court order.

“We have received a High Court order to provide details of some customers based on particular IP addresses, and are in the process of complying with this court order,” said Ms Caitlin Fua, Assistant Vice-President of corporate communications at StarHub.

StarHub added that it has engaged external litigation to act for the company, to "ensure that the plaintiff’s claim is properly assessed by the High Court".

On Monday, internet service providers in Australia were forced to hand over the personal details of almost 5,000 users who were alleged to have shared the movie on online file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent. Similar action is being sought by Dallas Buyers Club LLC in the United States.

The movie, made on a US$5 million (S$6.79 million) budget, won Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Makeup at the 86th Academy Awards in 2014.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Drone Bill unlikely to affect hobbyists

Straits Times
21 Apr 2015
Lester Hio

They say their models do not fall under new guidelines for use

THE new guidelines for flying drones are unlikely to restrict recreational operators here, as hobbyists say their models do not fall under the restrictions listed.

The Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Bill, tabled in Parliament last week, aims to facilitate the growing popularity of drone use while ensuring safety and security concerns are met.

Under the Bill, expected to kick in on June 1, operators must apply for permits from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) if they are operating drones for commercial or specialised services or flying within restricted areas. Permits are also required if the drone discharges any substances or if it weighs more than 7kg.

But drone fan Felix Oking, a Web developer, believes he and his peers will not be affected as they fly outside restricted zones and are not doing so for commercial gain. "Our drones are also lighter than 7kg - most are only about 1kg," said Mr Oking, 33, an administrator of hobby group Singapore Drones Kaki.

Models popular with recreational users, such as the DJI Phantom 2 or the Hubsan X4, weigh between 500g and 3kg.

The Bill also clears up confusion over whether operators need to apply for an aerial photography permit if they fly drones with cameras attached. A CAAS spokesman confirmed that outside the stated restrictions, hobbyists are free to fly their drones without a permit even if they carry cameras.

Enthusiasts welcome the new guidelines, which have given them a clearer idea of the dos and don'ts. "Prior to the Bill, most drone operators basically adhered to an unenforced honour code system to operate their vehicles away from dense urban and residential areas," said ex- drone developer Kelvin Ang, 28. "There is now better clarity on the size of the drones and unrestricted areas where these drones can operate."

Little has changed for commercial drone operators. Mr Zhang Weiliang, 28, founder of drone development firm Avetics, said: "We still have to apply for permits when we want to use drones for activities like surveying or commercial photography."

Drones are becoming more popular, thanks to the availability of cheaper models in recent years. Entry-level ones cost about $150, with more serious models, like the DJI Phantom 2, retailing at more than $1,300.

Mr Derrick Tan, 44, owner of Sky Hobbies Singapore, has received a rising number of inquiries over the past six months. "I've sold more than 200 drone sets in the first quarter of this year," he said. "I also get about 10 people coming in daily, browsing and asking for information on drones."

lesterh@sph.com.sg

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

New Bill clears the air for drone enthusiasts

Straits Times
14 Apr 2015
Lester Hio

Law, likely to take effect in June, spells out when permits are needed

DRONE enthusiasts now have a better picture of whether they need a permit to fly their devices and where they can do so.

The Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Bill, which Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew introduced in Parliament yesterday, aims to provide clear guidelines for the safe use of unmanned aircraft here.

For example, operators must get a permit to fly a drone that weighs more than 7kg.

Even if their drones weigh less than 7kg, they must still get a permit if they want to fly it within 5km of an aerodrome, or at altitudes above 200ft (61m) above mean sea level when they are 5km or more outside of an aerodrome.

A permit is required for drones used for commercial purposes. This includes hiring a drone operator to take pictures of an outdoor wedding or shoot a music video.

Permits are also required for specialised services, such as surveying, aerial advertising or flying display performances or if the operator plans to discharge any substance - liquid, gas or solid - from the drone.

Users of these drones will also have to apply for a permit to fly over or near certain security-sensitive areas, and to take photographs in them. Similar regulations will apply for "special event areas", or venues designated for major events, such as some areas of the upcoming SEA Games.

What will be a complete no-no is the carrying of dangerous materials, such as weapons, or bio-chemical or radioactive material by drones. Offenders can be fined up to $100,000, jailed for up to five years, or both.

Those who breach the other regulations could be fined up to $20,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both, when the new law takes effect, likely to be on June 1. The new regulations will mean hobbyists who use drones for recreational and private purposes can do so without a permit.

Even so, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) in a statement yesterday encouraged such users to do so safely. Among the tips: fly in good visibility and weather conditions, and keep the drone within sight at all times.

Applying for a permit can be quite tedious, said drone operator Rude Lee, 33, from aerial photography company Skyshot. He cited how applications to CAAS could get bounced to different agencies, including the Home Affairs Ministry and air force. "If the new system can lead to a shorter approval time (from the current wait of two weeks), that will be good for drone companies too," he said.

CAAS yesterday said it will serve as the one-stop centre for all permit applications from June.

lesterh@sph.com.sg

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

Scheme to draw talent to intellectual property sector

Straits Times
08 Apr 2015
Joanna Seow

A NEW training scheme has been launched to attract talent to and boost Singapore's growing intellectual property sector.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency yesterday announced a programme to place mid-career workers into IP companies, which will then train them to become registered patent agents.

Patent agents help clients draft patent specifications and can advise them about filing overseas. The hope is to recruit up to 70 professionals over the next two years to join more than 100,000 people already working in the industry.

"This programme builds on Singapore's efforts to professionalise our IP ecosystem, creating more high value-added jobs for Singaporeans," said Ipos chief executive Tan Yih San, adding that this would position the country to "deliver quality IP services to the region and beyond".

Overall patent filings have risen by more than 30 per cent in the past decade to 10,312 last year, up from 7,908 in 2003, the two agencies said.

Under the new programme, to be administered by Ipos, participating Singapore-based firms can have 70 per cent of course fees funded, capped at $7,350. A monthly training allowance capped at $2,000 per trainee or $4,000 if they are aged 40 and above will also be provided for six months.

The move is timely as the focus on research and development has produced many inventions that need protection, said patent agent Daniel Poh, a partner at IP firm Marks & Clerk. Firms are typically limited by the high cost of hiring new trainees - a graduate certificate in IP can cost $12,000 and it takes around three years of on-the-job training to qualify as a patent agent, said Mr Poh. "The funding would help firms be more ambitious in hiring good quality professionals," he said.

joseow@sph.com.sg

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

Former judge to be SLA's new chief executive

Straits Times
21 Apr 2015
Danson Cheong

THE Singapore Land Authority (SLA) will get a new chief executive next month.

Mr Tan Boon Khai, 41, formerly head of group procurement at CapitaLand, will take over the reins from Mr Vincent Hoong, the Ministry of Law said in a press statement yesterday.

Mr Tan brings with him experience from both the public and private sectors.

He had joined CapitaLand in April 2010, where he was involved in business development, operations, formalisation and standardisation of business systems and processes within the CapitaLand Group.

Before entering the private sector, Mr Tan served as an Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court, as well as a District Judge in the then Subordinate Courts.

Outgoing SLA chief executive Mr Hoong, 56, has served in the SLA since 2009.

His tenure at the SLA was marked by many achievements.

These included championing the successful reform of conveyance practice through implementing the Electronic Payment Instruction System in 2011, and launching the OneMap in 2010.

Under his leadership, the SLA has been ranked among the top five agencies in the Pro-Enterprise Ranking Survey on Government Agencies since 2010.

In its statement yesterday, the Law Ministry thanked Mr Hoong for his service and contributions.

"We welcome Mr Tan, as SLA embarks on its next phase of land development in Singapore," it said.

DANSON CHEONG

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

HDB officers get powers to enter flats to investigate, carry out repairs

TODAY
14 Apr 2015
Amanda Lee

HDB will only exercise its powers as a ‘last resort’, says Minister of State

SINGAPORE — Laws were passed in Parliament today (April 13) to empower Housing and Development Board (HDB) officers to enter flats to investigate and carry out repair works without permission from the owners.

Uncooperative owners will be given 24 hours’ notice and a court warrant is not necessary, if there is imminent danger to the public.

Speaking in Parliament, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee assured that the laws will be used as a last resort, after exhausting all other avenues to get the owners’ cooperation. Six Members of Parliament (MPs) raised concerns, including possible impersonation of HDB officers and whether the notice period is too short.

In response, Mr Lee stressed that impersonation of any public officers is a very serious offence and will be dealt with sternly under the law. Flat owners can also call HDB to verify the identity of its officers. On the notice period, he pointed out that in instances where the laws have to be invoked, HDB would have already engaged the owners for some time.

During the second reading of the Bill, Mr Lee cited examples where HDB could have been caught in a “legal grey zone”, and residents would have been placed in unnecessary danger if owners had refused entry to officers from the statutory board: About two years ago, Housing and Development Board (HDB) officers had to enter a Bishan flat for emergency repairs after the homeowner removed part of a structural column during renovations. The owner did not apply for a renovation permit from HDB, which was alerted by a concerned neighbour. With the structural integrity of the building compromised, HDB engineers had to prop up the affected beams and stayed up all night to reinstate the column.

A few months later, a renovation contractor demolished part of the prefabricated reinforced concrete walls at a Simei unit, which served as supporting structures for the block. Again, HDB officers had to conduct repairs.

Both the Bishan flat owner and the Simei flat contractor were prosecuted and fined.

As for the powers to enter flats after applying for a warrant, Mr Lee said it would help deal with cases where owners have refused to cooperate in carrying out repairs for ceiling leaks. In such cases, the HDB would apply for a court order to enter the flat of the upper floor neighbour to investigate and carry out repairs.

Each year over the last four years, an average of one in four such ceiling leak cases take more than four months to resolve. From 2012 to last year, the HDB took legal action against 400 households after all means to engage residents to cooperate failed.

As for unauthorised renovation works, there were five cases of major structural infringements last year, compared to three cases in 2005. The newly-passed laws will raise penalties against errant renovation contractors — including those not registered with HDB — and flat owners from S$5,000 to S$20,000, and they could be jailed up to a year.

Nominated MP (NMP) Mohd Ismail Hussein asked if owners have to bear the cost of damage when HDB officers forcefully enter a flat, while NMP Lina Chiam questioned if there are enough safeguards for flat owners since the cost of any damage may be prohibitive.

Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC) and Mr Mohd Ismail were also concerned about possible impersonation of HDB officers, while Mrs Chiam and Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) questioned if the 24-hour notice period before obtaining court warrants is too short.

Responding, Mr Lee reiterated that these powers would not be invoked for fresh cases and the HDB would have already spent time persuading the occupiers. As such, 24 hours was sufficient notice, he said.

He also assured that there will be strict protocol for officers handling such cases. Only officers authorised by the HDB are empowered to enter the flat, and they will be required to show proof of their identity to enter. There will also be at least one HDB officer present in the flat with the contractor at all times.

As for Mrs Chiam’s suggestion that HDB officers to wear a recording device before entering the premises for safety and security reasons, the HDB would look into this, he said.


Penalties of up to S$50,000 for rule violations

SINGAPORE — Instead of having to choose between compulsorily acquiring a flat and imposing a fine disproportionate to the offence when there has been an infringement of leasing rules, the Housing Development Board (HDB) can now impose a range of penalties up to S$50,000.

The new penalties are made possible after amendments to the Housing and Development Act were passed by Parliament yesterday.

Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee told the House that the HDB had encountered cases of owners using their flats as illegal gambling dens or illegal worker dormitories, which created an “undesirable and unsafe” living environment for genuine HDB residents.

Under the existing Act, the HDB may impose a fine or compulsorily acquire a flat, or terminate its lease when the owner is found to have violated the terms of the lease agreement, such as using their flats for illegal purposes or subletting their whole flat.

However, Mr Lee noted that the quantum of fines is fixed for each type of lease infringement.

“In some of such cases, the practical reality is that HDB has erred on the side of compassion and waived the penalty in full,” said Mr Lee.

“But this is not ideal, and can create a moral hazard”.

The minister added: “With these amendments, HDB can now implement a calibrated penalty framework, instead of being faced with the stark choice of compulsory acquisition on the one hand or a fixed quantum penalty on the other.”

Under the amended Act, the HBD will also have enhanced powers to investigate lease infringements.

Currently, its powers to conduct a thorough investigation into suspected lease infringements are limited, and HDB officers would sometimes meet with resistance from flat-owners.

“However, HDB is not able to compel flat-owners to cooperate with the investigation,” said Mr Lee. “This makes it very difficult for HDB officers to carry out their public duty”.

The new laws will allow, among other things, HDB officers to enter and search any flat or other premises that the owner or occupier may be living in, and record evidence in the form of photographs, videos and audio.

However, the officers must first obtain a court warrant before they can conduct such investigations.

Mr Lee said: “HDB will use these powers judiciously and only when necessary, and officers who carry out such investigations will be properly trained to use them professionally.”

leeguiping@mediacorp.com.sg

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

US firm seeks damages from illegal downloaders here

Straits Times
08 Apr 2015
Irene Tham

Owner of film rights has identified over 500 Internet users in Singapore

MORE than 500 people in Singapore have allegedly downloaded Oscar-winning film Dallas Buyers Club illegally over the Internet, and now they may have to face the music.

United States company Dallas Buyers Club LLC, which owns the film rights, wants compensation.

Acting on its behalf in Singapore - as part of its global campaign - is local law firm Samuel Seow Law Corporation.

The film studio has apparently identified more than 500 Singapore Internet protocol (IP) addresses, from subscribers of the three major Internet service providers (ISPs) - Singtel, StarHub and M1 - where the movie was downloaded illegally.

Over the weekend, the law firm reportedly started sending letters to Internet users here asking for a written offer of damages and costs within three days of receiving the letter.

It is not known how many have responded to the letter.

The 2013 film is based on the true story of an American's quest to treat HIV in the mid-1980s. It won three Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Matthew McConaughey and Best Supporting Actor for Jared Leto.

Intellectual property lawyer Cyril Chua of ATMD Bird & Bird said the film studio may sue a few individuals here to scare people into paying the settlement fee, which is not made public.

Lawyer Bryan Tan, a technology partner at Pinsent Masons MPillay, said those who received the letters of demand should seek legal advice. "There are penalties for infringers if this goes all the way," he said.

Lawyer Samuel Seow reportedly said its client, Dallas Buyers Club, "fully intends to protect and defend their copyright in the movie and shall take all necessary actions to protect the same".

The Straits Times understands that the film company had asked for subscriber details from the ISPs last year, but failed.

It then made a "pre-action discovery" application at the High Court earlier this year to force the ISPs to release customer details.

M1 was the first to comply with the court order in January to release the names, IC numbers and addresses of subscribers linked to the IP addresses in question. StarHub, which also received the court order, said it is in the process of complying with it.

Singtel said it has yet to receive a court order.

MyRepublic and ViewQwest said they did not receive any request for subscriber details.

Dallas Buyers Club is also going after about 4,700 Internet users in Australia, after securing a landmark court judgment yesterday that compels ISPs there to hand over customer details.

In the US, more than 1,000 users are being sued.


How anti-piracy software tracks IP addresses

PEOPLE who share movies illegally online can be tracked by software that monitors instances where the BitTorrent protocol is used.

This protocol works by engaging its users in a tit-for-tat file-sharing system, where a user who downloads files also simultaneously uploads his downloaded files to other users.

Users also share their own Internet protocol (IP) address details.

This is how anti-piracy tools plugged into the file-sharing system gather the IP addresses of illegal downloaders.

The tools, which track by video titles, also record the time of the file-sharing.

The time stamp is important as home broadband users do not have fixed IP addresses.

With the time stamp, Internet service providers can then check against their log files to determine which Internet user was assigned to which IP address at the time the illegal file exchange took place.

American studio Dallas Buyers Club LLC, which is behind the film of the same name, had reportedly used Germany-based pirate-hunting firm Maverick Eye UG to identify those who illegally downloaded the film in Australia.

It is not known if Dallas Buyers Club had also used Maverick Eye's solution to track illegal downloads in Singapore.

This is not the first time downloaders here have been targeted.

In 2007, local anime distributor Odex won court orders to get SingNet and StarHub to disclose the names of subscribers allegedly downloading Japanese animated movies.

Odex used the tracking technology of California-based BayTSP, which has since been acquired by anti-piracy specialist Irdeto.

According to the Netherlands-based Irdeto, the 10 territories that clocked the highest number of illegal movie downloads last year were Brazil, the United States, France, Australia, Spain, Canada, Britain, Italy, Russia and the Netherlands.

itham@sph.com.sg

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

Deterring ugly behaviour on planes

Straits Times
21 Apr 2015

WAYWARD air passengers are getting off lightly when there are jurisdictional gaps. Prosecution is hindered when the offence is committed in air space and on carriers not linked to the country the planes land in. While the Tokyo Convention allows the pilot to act against unruly passengers, a dramatic rise in such cases - over 28,000 incidents between 2007 and 2013 - has prompted efforts to plug loopholes in aviation security.

About 100 governments participated in the Montreal Protocol talks last year. In line with this global initiative, Singapore is to amend its laws to authorise action against in-flight wrongdoers. This is needed to "enhance Singapore's status as a safe and secure air hub", as the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore noted. From the perspective of aerial commuters and flight crew, these laws cannot come soon enough. Terrorist threats are bad enough without having to cope with ugly and unsafe passenger behaviour. Egregious examples include a family urging a toddler to defecate on his seat on a flight from Beijing to Detroit, and passengers opening the emergency exit door - preposterously, to show anger over a flight delay, to get some fresh air, and to get off the plane faster.

Such growing assertiveness and bloody-mindedness among some passengers of various nationalities need to be met with stern measures. Public safety aside, there is also the huge inconvenience felt by many when flights are delayed, diverted or aborted. When modern air travel depends on clockwork efficiency and precisely timed connections, any disruptions caused by the inconsiderate tend to have wide-ranging effects.

Law-abiding travellers might approve of a tougher line adopted by cabin crew to restrain those who threaten the safety of others or tamper with important aircraft equipment. Some carriers even carry plastic handcuffs for extreme cases.

The Montreal Protocol limits "arbitrary or capricious" actions on the part of the aircraft commander. And such is the nature of competition, airlines are more likely to be restrained even when dealing with irascible and irresponsible passengers. While the Protocol provides the means to recover the costs of flight disruptions, an airline might well weigh the capacity of ordinary passengers to pay hefty charges and the negative impact of such moves on its public image.

However, laws framed here and elsewhere should brook no nonsense from passengers who insist on undermining the safety, comfort and well-being of the hordes taking to the sky - a record 3.3 billion last year and the numbers are rising. Within confined spaces at a height of 35,000 feet, there is no room whatsoever for rage of any kind.

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

Bill tabled to regulate taxi booking apps

Straits Times
14 Apr 2015
Adrian Lim

THIRD-PARTY cab booking apps may soon have to follow a set of standards - the first to be put forward in a largely-unregulated landscape - or risk shutting down in Singapore.

The Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Bill 2015, which was introduced yesterday, would allow the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to manage this booming industry, which has at least five players here, including GrabTaxi, Hailo and Uber.

Firms behind these apps will have to apply to LTA for a licence to operate here. There could be different classes of registration, depending on the number of taxis which use the app, and the type of booking service being provided. They will likely have to use only licensed taxis and cabbies, and provide information on fares and surcharges up front to commuters.

These measures were brought up by LTA in November last year. They also include providing basic customer support services, such as a lost-and-found service and avenues for complaints. Other rules include banning bidding and pre-trip tipping for taxi services.

The introduction of the Bill in Parliament by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew marks the first step in setting up the regulatory framework to govern these apps. This would offer a broad oversight compared to other cities, some of which have banned the apps outright or allow their use only during off-peak hours.

Based on the proposed law, app companies will be given three months to apply for a licence.

Those which flout the rules face penalties ranging from fines of up to $100,000 per case, to suspensions of up to three months. In severe cases, their licences could be revoked. LTA may also intervene if the app is found to be operating in a manner which may adversely affect the availability of taxi services that can be hailed on the road.

Companies contacted said they are prepared for the new law.

Easy Taxi Asia's regional managing director Li Jianggan said it has invested in a new call centre and customer relationship management system.

Uber Singapore general manager Yaniv Goder said its app already has "a fare estimate function... (which) helps safeguard riders' interest".

adrianl@sph.com.sg

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

MOF: S'pore doesn't condone tax abuse

Straits Times
08 Apr 2015
Rennie Whang

SINGAPORE does not condone any abuse of its tax system, a Ministry of Finance (MOF) spokesman said yesterday, in response to a Straits Times query over Australia's concerns about Australian companies shifting profits offshore to avoid tax.

The Singapore Government adopts internationally endorsed transfer pricing guidelines that require taxpayers to adhere to the arm's length principle for related party transactions, she added.

"Profits brought to tax in Singapore must also commensurate with the functions performed, assets used and risks assumed by the Singapore companies."

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore has also published guides to help taxpayers comply with these guidelines and will continue to review companies' transfer pricing as part of its ongoing compliance programme.

"As a global business city, Singapore is a natural gateway for companies looking to expand in emerging Asia," she said.

"Mining companies find Singapore an attractive base to conduct their marketing operations as there is a strong ecosystem of metals and minerals players in Singapore... Many top steel-producing companies and multinational metal and mineral traders also have their operations here."

Singapore thus serves as a platform for these key market participants to trade with one another, she added. Singapore's efficient legal system, highly skilled workforce, developed shipping and logistics industries, political and economic stability are also attractive for companies choosing Singapore as a centre for their marketing operations, she said.

RENNIE WHANG


Australia to grill top MNC execs over tax avoidance

Inquiry to begin as govt seeks to curb profit shifting 

STARTING today, Australia will grill the top executives of multinational giants from Apple and Google to Glencore and PricewaterhouseCoopers as the government presses ahead with a crackdown on corporate tax avoidance.

The inquiry is being conducted by the Senate Economic References Committee, which is holding three days of much-anticipated public hearings.

Its deputy chair Sean Edwards said that the government wanted to curb profit shifting by multinational firms, adding that Australia should not act "out of step" with the rest of the world.

"But we can't have companies generating profits in Australia and not paying their fair share," he told ABC News yesterday.

The Senate inquiry is tasked with investigating tax avoidance and aggressive minimisation by corporations registered in Australia and multinational corporations operating in the country. It is expected to complete its report by June.

Committee chairman Sam Dastyari said companies such as Google "take the benefits" of doing business in Australia but refuse to pay their fair share of taxes.

"I think the tech companies have to justify how it's morally defensible to be taking all the benefits from the system and contributing so little back to it," he told The Australian this week.

The issue of unfair tax avoidance has received growing attention here in recent months.

The Australian Tax Office has raised increasing concerns about companies shifting profits offshore to avoid tax. It is reportedly concerned about mining and energy companies setting up "marketing hubs" in Singapore which are primarily designed to shift funds.

An Australian Tax Office internal memo, released under freedom of information laws, showed the extent to which firms in Australia have been shifting funds to related parties in Singapore. The document was prepared last year and sent to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore which last May requested the information from its Australian counterpart.

The memo says petroleum firms operating out of Australia shifted more than A$20 billion (S$20.6 billion) to related parties in Singapore in 2012. It says 10 companies shifted a combined A$31.4 billion from Australia to Singapore, with one energy firm transferring A$11.7 billion. The companies were not named in the released version of the document.

However, Australian tax officials have reportedly been pursuing mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto for moving billions of dollars in profits through entities in Singapore.

According to a report in The Australian Financial Review yesterday, the two companies report a total of A$2.6 billion a year in profits in their Singapore marketing hubs, saving them some A$750 million a year in Australian tax.

BHP has reportedly moved US$25 billion (S$33.7 billion) of funds through Singapore since 2006 - including US$5.7 billion in profits - but paid no Singapore tax on the money.

The paper said that with scores of Australian companies rushing to open their own Singapore operations, the BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto cases are shaping up as "key precedents" for the tax office, which has been warning of compliance problems with marketing hubs since 2010.

The two firms said the hubs in Singapore were not set up to reduce Australian tax and have been used for marketing and other commercial activities.

BHP said in a statement: "Our marketing organisation is based in Singapore because of its proximity to the majority of our customers and relevant markets."

The tax office last month revealed that Australian firms sent about A$388 billion in 2013 to related offshore companies, with those in Singapore being the biggest recipient of such funds. The firms sent A$100.4 billion to Singapore, followed by A$41.3 billion to the United States and A$31.5 billion to Japan.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey has indicated he will rein in "cheats" and "thieves" and plans to introduce a so-called Google tax in the federal budget next month. The measure, similar to that recently introduced in Britain, would impose a tax on profits - likely 30 per cent - which are declared overseas but come from conducting business in Australia.

jonathanmpearlman@gmail.com

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

Judge dismisses car seller's suit over Ferrari sale

Straits Times
20 Apr 2015
Selina Lum

He accepts testimony that the sale and purchase agreement was not binding

A PROPERTY agent who had his eye on a second-hand Ferrari, but wanted to mull over the purchase, placed a $10,000 deposit to reserve the sports car after being told there were several other prospective buyers.

But Mr Toh Han Yang, who had offered $750,000 for the 458 Italia, backed out of the deal after he failed to drive the price down, upon finding out that the car's market price was about $650,000.

Around this time, the post-dated cheque he had issued to self-styled car dealer Lim Chin Liang was returned due to a problem with his signature.

Two months later, Mr Lim sued Mr Toh for $70,000 over the aborted deal. He sought to recover the $10,000 deposit and claim damages of $60,000, the "loss" he suffered when he sold the car to another buyer for $690,000.

Earlier this month, a district court dismissed Mr Lim's claim for $60,000 but ordered Mr Toh to pay him the $10,000 deposit.

District Judge Seah Chi-Ling found that Mr Toh had been induced by Mr Lim's misrepresentations into signing the sale and purchase agreement and was therefore entitled to rescind the deal.

The judge accepted Mr Toh's testimony that Mr Lim had told him the deposit was just to confirm his interest in the car and that, until he confirms he is going ahead with the purchase, the agreement would not be binding.

Mr Lim has filed an appeal.

On Feb 10 last year, Mr Lim bought the Ferrari from importer Ital Auto for $675,000.

On the same day, he placed an online advertisement on a car listings site, jacking up the car's price to $768,000.

Mr Toh saw the ad and arranged to view the car the next day. The price was knocked down to $750,000 and both men signed a one-page sale and purchase agreement.

Mr Toh handed Mr Lim a cheque for $10,000, post-dated to Feb 20, 2014. That day, Mr Lim banked in the cheque but it was returned.

The circumstances surrounding the signing of the document and the events that followed are in dispute.

Mr Lim argued that the deal had been concluded on Feb 11.

But Mr Toh said that he did not want to commit on the spot and the agreement was just an expression of interest that is non-binding until he confirmed the purchase. The cheque was post-dated to allow him to make more inquiries on the price before making the final decision.

Mr Toh said that after assessing the market price, he offered $650,000 and then $730,000 but was either rejected or ignored, so he told Mr Lim on Feb 13 that the deal was off.

Judge Seah noted a few reasons for accepting Mr Toh's version. He found it unlikely that Mr Toh would commit to the deal after just 20 minutes of negotiations without test-driving the car. He pointed out that Mr Lim could not give a convincing explanation as to why the deposit cheque was post-dated - if the deal was concluded, Mr Lim would more likely have asked for immediate payment.

The judge also noted that the morning after the agreement was signed, Mr Toh had asked another car dealer about two other Ferrari cars. This was entirely consistent with Mr Toh's account that he needed to make further inquiries before committing to the purchase.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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

More two-tier offers possible - with caveats

Business Times
13 Apr 2015
Melissa Tan

[Singapore] CONGLOMERATE Keppel Corp's recently concluded two-tier takeover offer for its listed property arm is the first deal with two price rungs in at least five years and could spark more similarly structured corporate buyout bids here, industry observers said.

Such offers could suit firms that intend to privatise a company they already own a controlling stake in, where the target stock is highly liquid, they noted.

However, they added the caveat that two-tier bids are likely to remain relatively uncommon, warning that such a structure may inadvertently encourage shareholders to wait until the last minute to accept.

"Two-tier pricing structures may become more common after Keppel has blazed the way," said law firm Lee & Lee's corporate head Adrian Chan. "There'll be increased awareness, and I think generally people feel that the two-tier pricing structure did manage to incentivise shareholders to accept the offer. It was generally well received."

Ralph Lim, co-head of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) at law firm Drew & Napier, said that the company making the takeover offer would benefit from having to pay less if it cannot get its desired stake in the target firm.

KepCorp had offered a two-tier price for Keppel Land shares it did not already own: a base payment of S$4.38 apiece and a higher one of S$4.60 if it met its 95.5 per cent "squeeze-out" threshold for compulsory acquisition.

Its stake of 95.1 per cent by the time the offer closed was more than enough to get KepLand stock suspended from trading, but not enough to warrant the higher price.

This saved KepCorp about S$155 million in total payouts while still allowing it to achieve its goal of delisting KepLand, which some analysts said last week was the best possible outcome for the conglomerate.

Consultants said that a company may choose to launch a two-tier offer if it wants to get a big enough stake to be able to compulsorily buy out its target stock but is prepared to live with the consequences of falling short.

Vishal Thapliyal, managing director at PwC Corporate Finance, said that a two-tier offer could attract the attention of "special situation" hedge funds that seek to profit by mopping up shares on the open market at prices below the higher payout rung and tendering them later to receive the higher payout.

This would work well only for highly liquid stocks, but even if the number of two-tier offers in Singapore goes up slightly in the near future, their proportion will likely stay small, he said.

Industry watchers cautioned that two-tier offers do not suit all cases, could confuse retail investors and may give shareholders more of an incentive to wait longer before tendering their shares.

"An offeror is looking to get a deal done at the best possible price. Therefore putting out two prices to the market may not be in their best interest, unless certain specific circumstances justify this approach. It is also much simpler for offeree shareholders to understand the offer if a single price is put forward," said Luke Pais, partner and Asean leader for corporate finance at EY.

Ng Eng Leng, M&A partner at Rodyk, noted that the takeover bid's squeeze-out threshold "gets higher or harder to meet" if the offeror already has a large stake before its buyout bid. The offeror can carry out a compulsory acquisition only if it can get at least 90 per cent of the shares it did not own before the takeover. In KepCorp's case, it had needed to bring its KepLand stake up to 95.5 per cent for the squeeze-out - not 90 per cent - because it already had a 54.6 per cent stake beforehand.

Drew & Napier's Mr Lim also said that a possible disadvantage for two-tier offers - versus a one-tier offer at the higher price rung - is that some shareholders may only accept if they are sure they can get the higher payout. "Rather than tendering their shares into the offer, such shareholders may adopt a wait-and-see approach . . . and inadvertently lead to the target percentage not being achieved. If the offeror had simply made a one-tier offer at the higher price, such shareholders may have accepted the offer."

Prior to KepCorp's offer, the most recent two-tier offers made by or for a Singapore-listed firm that industry players can recall were Sembcorp Industries' hostile takeover of Dutch water firm Cascal in 2010 and Temasek Holdings's two-tier privatisation bid for STATS ChipPAC in 2007.

Sembcorp had offered US$6.75 per share for the then New York-listed Cascal, but said it would pay only US$6.40 apiece if it secured less than 80 per cent. Both prices were below the US$7.61 that Cascal had closed at before Sembcorp launched the offer. Still, Sembcorp ended up with around 96.4 per cent, enough for it to buy out the remainder.

Temasek had offered to buy STATS shares at S$1.75 apiece and said it would raise the price to S$1.88 if it managed to boost its stake to at least 90 per cent. Both prices were more than the stock's closing price of S$1.48 before the offer was announced. However, Temasek only got an 83.1 per cent stake when the offer closed in May 2007, not enough for it to take the firm private.

STATS could soon be snapped up by someone else - a consortium led by China's Jiangsu Changjiang Electronics Technology made a US$780 million pre-conditional buyout offer for the firm late last year.

Mr Lim said that since KepCorp and Temasek had both not managed to obtain enough shares to compulsorily acquire their Singapore-listed targets, that "would suggest that the two-tier offer is not a particularly effective strategy in Singapore".

He added that some other countries allow two-tier offers where early birds who tender their shares before the offeror crosses the squeeze-out threshold get paid more than latecomers who tender after, which could speed the success of the buyout bid. However, such a two-tier offer structure does not appear to be allowed in Singapore, he said.

The Securities Industry Council said in a 2006 practice statement that under the Singapore takeover code, a two-tier offer that promises a higher payout if a certain level of acceptances is reached "is permitted if the higher offer price is payable to all accepting shareholders".

melissat@sph.com.sg

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

Deputy senior pastor denies lying about backdated guarantee

Straits Times
08 Apr 2015
Lim Yi Han

He had remembered wrongly during CAD questioning, he tells court

CITY Harvest Church (CHC) deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng lied during investigations to create a false impression that church investments were secure, said the prosecution yesterday in the ongoing trial of Tan and five others.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Mavis Chionh made the accusation in reference to the church's purchase of bonds in Xtron, the company which handled the music career of pop singer Ho Yeow Sun, who is married to church founder, Kong Hee.

The prosecution believes the bonds were sham, to disguise church funds being funnelled to fund Ms Ho's career.

DPP Chionh said when Tan was questioned by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) in June 2010, he told them that Xtron director Wahju Hanafi had given a "personal guarantee" when the idea of buying bonds from Xtron was mooted. The Indonesian tycoon and church member had guaranteed that he would indemnify all losses.

But in fact, said DPP Chionh, Mr Hanafi signed the guarantee only in March 2010, and not when the idea of buying the bonds was first mooted in 2007.

She said to Tan: "You were not just incorrect; you were actually lying to CAD, right? Because actually the guarantee was signed much later... and backdated."

Tan said he was not lying, or trying to give a false impression, but had remembered wrongly.

Ms Chionh also asked repeatedly why there was a need for Mr Hanafi to sign a backdated guarantee. Tan replied: "I didn't think so much during that time."

DPP Chionh said: "It's very strange that all these things that you didn't think too much about are actually very convoluted processes or frameworks.

"I'm suggesting to you, Mr Tan, that there was never any genuine intention for Wahju to be personally liable for the backdated guarantee he signed in 2010."

Tan and senior pastor Kong Hee are among six who face various charges of misusing $50 million of church funds and covering up the misuse. All but former church finance manager Serina Wee have taken the stand.

Earlier in the day, the DPP noted that Ms Ho's Chinese albums were making losses. She highlighted an e-mail sent by Wee in 2003 in which Wee said that to be able to buy more CDs, as a last resort, "CHC can lend some cash unofficially to Xtron first". Tan said it was a "suggestion" and he did not know "that this was done".

"And you obviously don't have a problem with that because you don't raise any objections (in) any subsequent e-mail exchanges you have with her," said DPP Chionh.

limyihan@sph.com.sg

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

Make lemon law fairer to retailers: Forum

Straits Times
19 Apr 2015

The lemon law is an amendment to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act and the Hire Purchase Act, which gives consumers more protection against defective products.

However, this law isbiased towards the consumers. There is a loophole that consumers can exploit, leaving retailers on the losing end.

The law states that sellers must replace, repair or give a refund for any product that is found to be defective within six months of purchase.

While items such as laptops can last for several years without cosmetic or internal malfunction, products such as shoes cannot last that long and can wear out easily depending on the frequency of use.

With this knowledge, consumers can easily get refunds or replacements.

Indeed, consumers are now threatening to lodge complaints with Case if retailers do not give in to them. To save their reputations, retailers have to give in.

I hope the lemon law can be made fairer, as it should not be applicable to all products, and the customer is not always right.

Lam Zi Hui (Ms)

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

MOH to cover obstetricians in retirement

Straits Times
13 Apr 2015
Salma Khalik

Public hospitals will ensure insurance protection for them against lawsuits

PUBLIC sector doctors who deliver babies need not fret about a lack of insurance protection against lawsuits after they retire, despite a change that had left them vulnerable.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said it will continue to provide these doctors with full coverage even after they retire.

An MOH spokesman told The Straits Times last week: "The public hospitals are committed to covering their retiring obstetricians but will require time to sort out the details and other issues. This has been communicated to their obstetricians."

The issues include what happens should the obstetrician move to the private sector instead of working until retirement in public hospitals.

Of the 311 obstetricians here, 91 work in public hospitals, with more than 200 in private practice.

Many of these doctors had expressed worry after The Straits Times reported in February that the London-based Medical Protection Society (MPS), which provides insurance coverage for most obstetricians here, was changing the way it protects these doctors, starting this month.

With the change, obstetricians are now covered by the MPS only for incidents reported while they are members.

As most usually stop subscribing to the MPS on retirement, this leaves them with no insurance protection if they are sued after retirement.

This is a risk, given that babies have 24 years from the time they are born to lodge a complaint against their doctor.

While such cases are rare, they can cost a doctor millions of dollars if he loses the lawsuit. Even an unsuccessful suit can set the doctor back by tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

The MPS, whose change of policy also affects obstetricians in other countries, has offered five years of post-retirement coverage for no higher than 1.75 times the highest annual subscription they have paid - which currently stands at $36,000.

But some obstetricians are concerned about whether the not-for-profit society will continue covering them, and at what cost, for the next 18 years or so.

Meanwhile, in response to the change, some obstetricians have raised their fees, from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, while others have switched their insurance coverage to NTUC Income from the MPS.

Several older private practice obstetricians, in their 60s and even early 70s, have opted to call it a day, raising concerns about whether there will be enough such doctors here.

In response, the MOH spokesman said that obstetrics is the third-largest speciality here, so there are enough doctors "to take on the load of retiring obstetricians".

She added: "We also have a significant number of trained registered midwives - 1,337 in total, with 572 working in the public sector as of Dec 31, 2014 - to enable continued access to obstetric services by the public."

salma@sph.com.sg

www.facebook.com/ST.Salma

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

Engineer left bedridden by worksite accident can sue for damages

Straits Times
07 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

A WORKMAN who went into a coma following an electrical explosion will get to sue in court after a judge held that the compensation offered by the Commissioner for Labour, which would have ruled out the court suit, was invalid.

A worker who is mentally incapacitated by injury has to make a claim through a representative under the Mental Capacity Act. Justice Quentin Loh found that there was no valid nomination under the Act to represent Mr Tan Yun Yeow, when $225,000 was offered to him in June 2010.

This means the case can be heard in the High Court, where he is seeking about $3 million in damages for the 2009 accident that left him comatose for slightly over a year. He is now bedridden and has brain damage.

The case is significant as it clarifies that the next of kin or any other person has to be authorised by the court to make a claim under the Act for an injured party unable to manage his own affairs.

Lawyers said the court's sanction is vital in such cases to protect the disadvantaged, such as injured foreign workers.

Mr Tan's current medical bills are understood to have breached $600,000, well over the $225,000 he was offered under the Work Injury Compensation Act. "The plight of the injured employee brings into stark relief the consequences of a wrong choice," said Justice Loh, noting that his common law claim was "far in excess of the Commissioner's award."

Unlike the Act, where compensation is assessed according to the nature of the injury on a no-fault basis, a party who opts to sue in court for the same injuries has to prove liability against the parties involved before any damages payable are assessed by the court.

Mr Tan, an engineer aged 30 at the time of the accident, suffered severe burns when the explosion occurred while he was logging data at a worksite in Changi. He fell into a coma and was certified incapable of managing his financial and personal affairs.

Justice Loh found that either Mr Tan's wife, Ms Davy Lim, or his elder brother Rodney, made the claim on his behalf under the Act in May 2010. Based on this, the Commissioner assessed that Mr Tan was eligible for $225,000.

But both the move to act on Mr Tan's behalf and the compensation offered were invalid, as it was only two years later that his brother was authorised by the court under the Mental Capacity Act to represent him to seek the claims.

Mr Tan, through lawyers Noor Marican and Ramasamy Chettiar, sought to reject the compensation and seek damages in the High Court suit instead.

But the insurer for Mr Tan's employer objected, and argued through lawyer K. Anparasan that the Commissioner had the discretion to accept a claim by the next of kin, thus making the 2010 assessment binding.

Justice Loh disagreed, ruling that the injured man lacked the capacity to make a choice and only a person appointed by the court had the right to act on his behalf.

He quashed the 2010 notice of assessment by the Commissioner, stressing that the courts will jealously guard "the rights of injured workers who lack the mental capacity and competence to make choices that are in their best interests".

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

To view the judgment, click <here>.

Two win separate contract suits on appeal

Straits Times
18 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Ng Chee Weng got $10.75m in dividend case; Cheong Sim Lam refunded $1.68m

TWO businessmen in separate high-stakes High Court contract disputes received more than $12 million in total after the Court of Appeal reversed judgments against them.

In the first instance, Mr Ng Chee Weng, 64, a founding shareholder of SinCo Technologies, had sued the company's director, Mr Bryan Lim, and his wife.

Mr Ng said Mr Lim owed him dividends from shares he sold in 2007, arguing that they had belonged to him and he had given them to Mr Lim to hold on trust because Mr Ng wanted him to be the major shareholder.

Mr Ng hired Queen's Counsel Geraldine Andrews for the High Court suit last year but lost.

Ms Andrews went on to become a British High Court judge and Mr Ng engaged Queen's Counsel Richard Lester Millett and local lawyer N. Vijay Kumar to file the appeal.

The case was the first in which QCs were allowed to argue cases in the High Court here after admission laws were tweaked in 2012.

The court allowed Mr Ng's appeal that the shares were sold to Mr Lim in 2007 and not 2002 as Mr Lim had argued.

The ruling meant that Mr Ng obtained a payout of some $10.75 million last month, comprising more than $7 million for the dividends of the shares - the amount he had sought - and the rest in interest up to 2006.

The court - comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang and Justice Steven Chong - found "many weaknesses and difficulties" in Mr Lim's submissions.

"Based on the available evidence, we find that the plaintiff had established, on the balance of probabilities, that the shares were sold in 2007 and not 2002," wrote Justice Phang in decision grounds released last month.

In the second instance, businessman Cheong Sim Lam, who had paid a $1.68 million deposit to buy a car showroom unit in Leng Kee Road, had wanted out and managed to get a refund through the apex court. His company, One Suites, had contracted to buy the unit from Pacific Motor Credit for $16.8 million in 2012 and paid the $1.68 million option-to-purchase fee before the deal derailed.

Mr Cheong, through lawyer Michael Palmer, had argued that the National Environment Agency and the Housing Board did not give the approval needed for the change in ownership.

He failed in the High Court.

But on appeal, the apex court held that the option to purchase contained an express term which allowed the sale to be rescinded in the event that the HDB refused to approve the sale of the property. It added that while the contract implied that Mr Cheong was expected to use all reasonable efforts to get HDB's approval, once he had done so and failed, the contract was rescinded.

The court held that One Suites was legally right to rescind the contract and ordered the $1.68 million refund of the option deposit from Pacific Motor Credit.

Mr Cheong said: "We are very pleased with the judgment. We sued Pacific only to get our deposit back after the aborted purchase of the property. We have our money back."

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

Ng Chee Weng v Lim Jit Ming Bryan and another and another appeal [2015] SGCA 13

The One Suites Pte Ltd v Pacific Motor Credit (Pte) Ltd [2015] SGCA 21

$135m remains unclaimed with courts, ministries

Straits Times
13 Apr 2015
Hoe Pei Shan

Bulk of monies held by MinLaw, with owners mostly having forgotten them

UNCOLLECTED pensions, immigration deposits and inheritance from relatives. These are just some types of unclaimed money left in a growing pile held by government agencies.

The total sum sitting in ministries and courts alone rose to $134.5 million as at the end of last year - 13 per cent more than in 2013, and almost double the figure in 2012.

The sum - revealed to The Straits Times by the Ministry of Finance (MOF) - excludes unclaimed money held by statutory boards.

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, for instance, said it was holding about $35 million as at last December.

The sum consisted primarily of tax refunds arising from amended tax assessments of foreign taxpayers who have left Singapore.

Unlike statutory boards, courts and ministries report their unclaimed figures to MOF.

The monies are mostly forgotten by their owners, with the bulk of them - about $122.8 million at the end of last year - held by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) on behalf of beneficiaries of deceased estates, pawnbrokers and creditors of insolvent estates.

"All government agencies, including statutory boards, are required to make all reasonable efforts to return monies to the rightful owners promptly," an MOF spokesman told The Straits Times.

"These efforts include sending notification and reminder letters to the owners."

MOF also helps to maintain an online government database of claimants - www.unclaimedmonies.gov.sg - which allows members of the public to run searches on the names of people and companies to check if they have outstanding claims.

The MOF spokesman said the growth in the total sum held was due to a "reclassification (under MinLaw) of about $66 million as unclaimed monies after repeated unsuccessful attempts to trace the whereabouts of the beneficiaries".

This was after MinLaw successfully paid out $33.2 million in the past year.

"Although general deposits are usually credited to the Government's Consolidated Fund after six years, all valid claims will be repaid, regardless of where the monies are held or from when these claims date back to," said the MOF spokesman.

Other unclaimed monies held by ministries include about $10.7 million in immigration deposits and $138,000 in uncollected pensions under MOF.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) held slightly more than $600,000 at the end of last year, mainly in levy bonds and factory registration fees.

A spokesman said that despite reminder letters and published information, "many claimants have remained uncontactable".

It may be that some claimants have overlooked or forgotten what is owed to them, especially if these were deposits made years before.

Some of the entries listed on the online database of claimants date back to the 1980s.

Local vehicle servicing company Chin Nam Hup Kee Motor Works is owed an unknown sum classified as a "factory registration fee" under MOM.

Its long-time manager, Mr Alvin Tng, told The Straits Times that he was surprised to learn that his company had money it could claim.

"This is the first time I am hearing about this. I have been a manager here for about 10 years, and we have not received any notification," he said.

"I suspect it is a small amount, perhaps under $100, but even then, of course, I will go and claim it, now that I know."

hpeishan@sph.com.sg


Background Story

Unclaimed monies held by ministries and courts in recent years

As at December 2012: $67.8 million

As at December 2013: $118.5 million

As at December 2014: $134.5 million

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

Ex-tour guide gets nothing as court lets widow change will

Straits Times
07 Apr 2015
Carolyn Khew & Toh Yong Chuan

HE ONCE stood to inherit $40 million. Now, Chinese national Yang Yin will get nothing.

In a major victory for elderly widow Chung Khin Chun, her old will that left her assets to him has been thrown out.

Instead, her latest will, where her fortune goes to charity, was recognised by the courts yesterday.

"Yang Yin gets nothing, charities get almost everything," Madam Chung's lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam told reporters after a closed-door hearing at the Family Justice Court yesterday.

The new will replaces one made in 2010, where Madam Chung's assets - estimated to be worth $40 million - were to go to the former tour guide.

The 88-year-old retired physiotherapist has no children. Her husband, Dr Chou Sip King, died in 2007.

She met Yang, who is 47 years her junior, when he was her private tour guide in 2008. A year later, he moved into her Gerald Crescent bungalow with her, and was given the right to manage her assets and welfare under the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) that she supposedly gave him in 2011.

The LPA was revoked after a court hearing in November.

It was a key factor affecting yesterday's decision, said Mr Peter Doraisamy, the lawyer for Madam Chung's niece, Madam Hedy Mok, who began legal action against Yang last year.

He said that the court had considered Madam Chung's intentions in an earlier 1989 will and the draft of a 2009 will in which she had left her assets to charity.

Her friends and family members had also testified that Yang put "undue influence" on her when she drew up the 2010 will leaving him her fortune, he added.

The new will, which was made last December, had to be recognised by the court because Madam Chung was diagnosed with dementia last year.

Both lawyers have waived their legal fees related to the new will, since Madam Chung is leaving her estate to charity.

Madam Mok, 61, who runs a travel agency, has also accused Yang of manipulating her aunt to seize control of her assets, and is suing him and his family in the High Court to recover money that they allegedly siphoned away.

Yang, 41, has been in remand since Oct 31 last year. He faces more than 300 charges in total, including two criminal breach of trust charges for allegedly misappropriating $1.1 million from the wealthy widow.

Asked if she was happy about the outcome, a beaming Madam Chung simply said: "Yes!"

Said Madam Mok: "Now we can proceed to set up a trust, sell her house and get her a new home."

Yang's lawyers are meeting him to discuss the court ruling and he has two weeks to appeal.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

tohyc@sph.com.sg

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

S'porean offers $2m home as security for return of passport

Straits Times
18 Apr 2015
K.C. Vijayan

But bid fails before London judge as boy's future at stake in custody battle

SINGAPOREAN'S bid to offer a £1 million (S$2 million) house as security for the return of his passport failed before a London judge who ruled that a child's future was at stake.

The former bank executive has been stuck in London since 2013 after his passport was retained by the court in the wake of a custody battle with his estranged Mongolian wife over their two-year-old son.

The man is the subject of a court order to return the child to London from Singapore, where the boy is currently living with his paternal grandparents.

The order has been made for the court to deal with the issue of care and control.

"No price can be put upon a child, not even £1 million," said Justice James Holman in decision grounds made public last month.

"So although the suggested charge might offer some security, it is not, frankly, a complete answer to the safeguards that are required here."

The couple have not been named here to protect the child's identity.

The London court explained that the Singaporean man was unable to guarantee he would return to London with their son as ordered by the court if he is allowed to leave Britain.

A British court had ruled last year that the boy's habitual residence is England and had ordered the father to return him to London on the mother's application.

Last September, the man's London lawyer urged the court to return his passport to enable him to return to Singapore for at least a fortnight to see and support his parents.

He undertook to guarantee his return by offering a charge on a £1 million property linked to him.

But Justice Holman, while expressing sympathy for his circumstances, was not convinced. He pointed out that such a security would require detailed examination of the asset ownership and a "very carefully drafted document".

"What the mother seeks is the return of her child," added Justice Holman, expressing "considerable understanding" for the father who has been unable to leave the country for so long.

He said the difficulty was that the courts had yet to make a decision on the "true facts surrounding the non-return of this child to England".

"The father says that he is a man who can be trusted, but the case of the mother is that she first travelled with the child to Singapore (in 2013) on the basis of clear agreements and understandings that the child would in due course be returned here.

"He has not been returned here. It is therefore the case of the mother that the father is not a man who can be trusted."

Justice Holman acknowledged that passport retention by the court was a "powerful order" and "restrictive of ordinary human rights and liberty".

"Passports should never, ever be retained for a moment longer than is strictly necessary and proportionate to the circumstances of the case concerned."

Both husband and wife have served jail terms - he in London for contempt of court and she in Singapore for entering illegally by boat in a bid to wrest control of her son from the grandparents last year.

It is understood the mother was repatriated to Mongolia after her jail term and subsequently returned to London to pursue the case against the husband, who had obtained an interim divorce judgment in a Singapore court last year.

The court tug-of-war over the child is continuing both here and in London.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

Burn victim plans to seek compensation from owner: Fire at hotpot eatery

Straits Times
13 Apr 2015
Joyce Lim

THE woman left with serious burns in a flash fire when a steamboat restaurant's hotpot cooker exploded in front of her last week has had half of her hair burned off.

Her fingers are stiff and she has gone through a skin graft. She has also been taking two different painkillers every day.

The injuries are a constant reminder for Ms Linda Er, 39, who met with the accident while having supper at Chong Qing (Original) Old Steamboat after a long night at work.

The bartender had turned up with a colleague at the restaurant in Beach Road at about 3am on April 4.

"Throughout the course of our meal, we complained to the waiter that the switch kept tripping and the fire kept dying out. There were also clicking noises coming from the stove," Ms Er said in Mandarin.

"The waiter didn't do anything the first time we told him about it. He just switched on the stove again. When the fire went out the second time, he changed the gas canister, thinking that it could be empty."

After the switch tripped a third time, the waiter stuffed a piece of paper into the canister compartment to prevent the switch from tripping.

But a few minutes later, the switch tripped again.

By then Ms Er and her colleague had finished their meal and they decided to leave.

"Just as we stood up, the cooker exploded right in front of us. The fire shot up and I could feel my whole face burning. My arms and hands were also burned," said Ms Er.

"I was stunned and fell back onto my chair. My friend was burned on her face and leg. I heard people screaming at the next table."

She said the restaurant staff came over and took them to wash away the food that had splashed on them.

The explosion landed five women in hospital with scalds and burns.

It was previously reported that Ms Er and another woman suffered third-degree burns on their faces.

Ms Er, who underwent a skin grafting procedure, said: "I am still in pain. I have to take two different painkillers every day now. I still can't move my right arm and my fingers feel stiff. I don't know how I can return to work.

"My eyebrows are gone and half of my hair was burnt. I have to cut my hair even shorter than before."

Ms Er, who is married with a 14-year-old son, plans to seek compensation from the restaurant owner.

Asked if she will stop having steamboat after her horrific experience, she replied: "No. But I will eat only at restaurants that use electric cookers."

joycel@sph.com.sg

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

Woman withdraws court action on Thaipusam

Straits Times
07 Apr 2015
Selina Lum

A WOMAN who filed a court action two months ago, challenging the constitutionality of guidelines on Thaipusam foot processions and seeking to declare the Hindu festival a public holiday, yesterday withdrew her application.

The High Court ordered that Ms R. Angelina be precluded from bringing any further action on the same matter.

On Feb 5, Ms Angelina, then represented by activist lawyer M. Ravi, filed an application against the Attorney-General, the Hindu Endowments Board and Law Minister K. Shanmugam. She said the board's guidelines on Thaipusam violated rights guaranteed under Singapore's Constitution and that the ban on drums and music during the procession endangered the safety and personal liberty of devotees.

She asserted that the "usurpation" of Thaipusam as a public holiday in the late 1960s was unconstitutional. She also alleged police brutality during the celebrations in February.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), representing the AG and Mr Shanmugam, moved to strike out her action on Feb 10. The board, represented by RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, did the same two weeks later.

Yesterday, Ms Angelina was allowed to withdraw her action on condition that she is barred from filing any more actions relating to the same matter. The court also ordered her and her lawyer Violet Netto to bear the defendants' legal costs.

An AGC spokesman said: "The AGC had applied to strike out the action and for personal costs against the solicitor as, in our view, the action was wholly without substance, had no factual basis and was an abuse of the court process."

The spokesman added that, because serious allegations had been made without basis and public resources expended, it was necessary for the AGC to ask the court to impose the condition that she does not bring any further action on the issue.

selinal@sph.com.sg

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

Music and movie firms back website-blocking

Straits Times
18 Apr 2015
Irene Tham

Cutting off piracy sites effective in reducing illegal downloads, they say

THE music and movie industries have moved to support website-blocking - made easier under Singapore's recently amended Copyright Act - following criticism that it was not effective.

Earlier this week, Hollywood studio Voltage Pictures said website-blocking was "not an effective method of copyright protection" as it defended its controversial move to go after Internet users here for illegally sharing its film Dallas Buyers Club.

The comment came as a surprise to other content owners as they had supported the notion of a law to allow website-blocking before it finally took effect last December.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which represents more than 1,000 producers and distributors of sound recordings, will use the new law, which it said "has the desired deterrent effect".

Its regional director for Asia, Mr Ang Kwee Tiang, said: "We are looking into the procedural and evidential requirements."

The amended Copyright Act lets content owners seek a High Court order to get Internet service providers (ISPs) to block piracy websites. Before the revised law, they could not compel ISPs to block pirated content.

The Motion Picture Association (MPA) - whose members include Walt Disney, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox - also said it will be seeking to block infringing content in Singapore. Its Asia-Pacific president and managing director, Mr Mike Ellis, said: "These measures are already, and successfully, being used in many jurisdictions to tackle illegal sites."

The MPA won a High Court ruling in the UK late last year to block 53 websites, bringing the total number of British sites blocked by court order to 93.

But site-blocking does not totally stamp out illegal downloading as most piracy websites have "proxy" Web addresses, or alternative addresses, that can take users to the blocked content.

Even so, any remaining illegal downloading would still be "insignificant", compared with the traffic piracy sites would have generated if they had not been blocked, said Mr Ellis.

The ease of circumventing website-blocking is why Voltage Pictures chose to go after end-users here. Its local representative, Samuel Seow Law Corporation, said going after individuals sharing files on the Internet is "the only real option" for copyright holders.

Intellectual property lawyer Koh Chia Ling at ATMD Bird & Bird said many copyright owners target distributors rather than consumers. But there is a dilemma when consumers facilitate distribution. Mr Koh said that educating consumers on the need to buy legitimate content "should be the main strategy".

The Ministry of Law said: "Site-blocking enables action to be taken against a website instead of multiple actions against individual end-users. While site-blocking may have its limitations, the experience in some countries has shown that it is effective in reducing piracy levels."

itham@sph.com.sg

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