02 July 2015
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Aussie lawyer suing RWS accused of targeting casinos

Straits Times
01 Jul 2015
Selina Lum

S'pore PR had sought damages from another casino in Australia in 2001

An Australian lawyer and venture capitalist, who is suing the Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) casino for more than $400,000 for detaining and manhandling him, was yesterday accused by the defendant's lawyer of targeting casinos for compensation.

Mr Adesh Goel, 43, who was held inside a room at the casino for about an hour in April 2012 following an altercation with another patron, is seeking damages against RWS for false imprisonment, assault and battery.

But while he was being cross-examined by RWS' lawyer, Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, it emerged that Mr Goel once sought compensation from the Star City casino in Australia for being irresponsible in serving him alcohol.

In the 2001 claim, Mr Goel alleged that Star City gave him three drinks every hour for five hours and allowed him to continue gambling while drinking.

The Australian casino compensated him in a settlement but Mr Goel yesterday refused to disclose the amount, citing confidentiality.

Objecting to this line of questions, Mr Goel's lawyer, Mr Abraham Vergis, argued that Mr Sreenivasan was trying to bring up prejudicial evidence.

Mr Sreenivasan replied: "To me, Mr Goel takes casinos as soft targets for compensation arising from his own conduct."

He questioned Mr Goel further, asking if he had been involved in any incident with security at the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino.

Without going into detail, Mr Goel said that in 2010, he was pushed and detained by security officers in the MBS driveway after he forgot to swipe his identity card when leaving the casino.

In the latest incident, Mr Goel, a permanent resident here, had been gambling at RWS for 12 hours when a dispute broke out between him and a couple over a $50 chip.

After casino employees separated them, Mr Goel was led to a side room to cool down. Several times, he tried to leave but was blocked or restrained by employees and auxiliary police officers deployed to guard the casino.

He eventually called the police and left after they arrived. He was later found to have fractured his shoulder, which he said resulted from him being manhandled.

Footage of the events, captured on the casino's surveillance cameras, was shown in court yesterday.

Mr Vergis, in his opening statement, said it was unfair that the couple, who were the aggressors, were allowed to roam free while his client was held against his will for an hour. "Ironically, the cooling-off room turned out to be a pressure cooker that brought Mr Goel to a boiling point," he said.

Besides unspecified damages for his injuries and distress, Mr Goel is seeking about $400,000 for loss of income and $16,000 for medical costs. Sats Security Services, which provided the auxiliary police officers, has been named by RWS as a third party in the suit to bear the liability for any damages ordered.

Mr Sreenivasan suggested that Mr Goel was trying to "get some sort of payday" out of the incident.

He pointed to an Australian newspaper report which said he was seeking more than $1 million. Mr Goel also wanted $350,000 from RWS when it wanted to drop an allegation that he was drunk at the time.

Mr Goel denied providing the figure to the newspaper and said he deserved to be compensated because RWS had besmirched his reputation by alleging he was drunk.

He asked if Mr Sreenivasan would swop places with him after watching the footage.

The counsel replied: "If I'm given $1 million, I would probably swop my position with you."

The trial continues.


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Lunch to mark Subhas Anandan's 'happiest day'

Straits Times
24 Jun 2015
Lim Yi Han

THE late criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan's happiest day of the year was June 23. It was the day his son Sujesh was born.

So, yesterday, a lunch was held in memory of Mr Subhas at the Supreme Court. Mr Subhas died of heart failure in January at the age of 67.

The buffet lunch was organised by the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore, which Mr Subhas co-founded.

The association's acting president, Mr Sunil Sudheesan, who is also Mr Subhas' nephew, called for a minute of applause instead of the traditional minute of silence for his late uncle.

However, he stopped halfway and said, to laughter from the crowd: "In Subhas' style, he would say 20 seconds is enough."

More than 50 people from the legal fraternity attended the event, including Attorney-General V. K. Rajah, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon and Mr Subhas' long-time friends, lawyers Noor Marican and Amolat Singh.

Addressing them, Mr Sunil said: "All of you would have worked with Subhas in one way or another, and touched his life...

"We hope to do this once a year, and to also continue his legacy to fight for the underprivileged."

Judicial Commissioner See, who is also the Presiding Judge of the State Courts said: "Subhas really impressed me as someone who was always professional... He always gave his best.

"I have seen few criminal lawyers with the same level of commitment that Subhas had."

Senior Counsel Mavis Chionh, chief prosecutor at the Attorney-General's Chambers' Criminal Justice Division, said: "All of us prosecutors who have worked with Subhas will remember him as a man with a very big heart, who fought very hard to help his clients. We certainly admire him for that."


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Empower Case to better protect consumers: Forum

Straits Times
17 Jun 2015

I READ with concern the letter from Mr Yeo Shuan Chee ("Protect man in the street better from dishonest business tactics"; May 30).

It is unfair, unfavourable and costly to consumers if all cases of dishonesty and cheating in business have to be settled by legal means.

This will not deter the dishonest behaviour of unscrupulous business vendors.

The recent reports of business fraud and cheating in the cosmetic, spa, private education, tour, and automotive sectors send an alarming message, and the authorities need to take a closer look into this issue.

The most important step to take is to strengthen legislation and penalties.

The most direct and efficient method is to empower the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), and give them greater power and flexibility to investigate, analyse, arbitrate and mediate cases.

In this way, cases that are not so serious, or come about due to a miscommunication, can be amicably settled.

In cases that involve deliberate cheating and fraud, and which involve many innocent victims, Case or the CAD can sue the vendor in court or refer the case to the police.

This is to protect the interests of consumers and also safeguard the good reputation of Singapore as a world-class shopping paradise.

Teo Kueh Liang

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Hearing to assess damages payable by Roy Ngerng to PM Lee for defamation begins today

Straits Times
01 Jul 2015
Walter Sim

SINGAPORE - The three-day hearing to assess the amount of damages blogger Roy Ngerng has to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for defamation begins today (July 1) in the High Court.

Justice Lee Seiu Kin had ruled last November that Mr Ngerng, 34, defamed PM Lee by suggesting the Prime Minister misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

PM Lee is claiming aggravated damages, asserting malicious intent in Mr Ngerng's publication of the article on May 15 last year on his blog The Heart Truths.

In the post, Mr Ngerng juxtaposed a Channel NewsAsia chart detailing the relationship among City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders, against his own chart of the purported ties between the CPF and PM Lee and sovereign wealth fund GIC.

Six current and former CHC leaders are facing prosecution for the alleged misuse of $50 million in church funds.

Justice Lee noted the case "has come to be associated with the criminal misappropriation of funds in the mind of any ordinary, reasonable person". He also noted that, in Mr Ngerng's post, "the allegation that 'money is being misappropriated' is unconditional and unequivocal".

It contains as well an implicit comparison between the lack of information given to auditors in the CHC case, and the lack of transparency with regard to CPF monies, added Justice Lee. This, he said, carries the implication that Mr Lee is reluctant to be transparent about the finances of the Government and GIC "because he wants to conceal the evidence of the criminal misappropriation".

In issuing a summary judgment - which means giving a ruling without the case going to trial because the court agrees with the applicant that the defence arguments are baseless - Justice Lee had said he could not accept Mr Ngerng's only defence that the lawsuit was unconstitutional.

He also ruled that Mr Ngerng cannot republish the allegation of criminal misappropriation, but his freedom of speech would not be curtailed.

The blogger has continued to blog about the CPF issue.

Last month, he made an attempt in the High Court to engage Queen's Counsel (QC) Heather Rogers to argue his case at the hearing on damages.

But it was dismissed by Justice Steven Chong, who said that although QC Rogers is eminent in the field of defamation law in the United Kingdom, she does not have special qualifications or experience to argue Mr Ngerng's case here as it is "local-centric".

Also, the case at the damages stage was not complex enough to require even a local Senior Counsel - let alone a QC - and that Mr Ngerng had thus far been "content" with being represented by local lawyers who are not Senior Counsel, he noted.

This was so, even during the hearing to determine liability, which is "more complex" in nature, said Justice Chong.

He ordered Mr Ngerng to pay $6,000 to PM Lee for legal fees he incurred in the blogger's unsuccessful bid.

This is on top of the $29,000 in legal fees and related expenses the blogger paid PM Lee on February 6.


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Amos Yee to be remanded at IMH

Straits Times
24 Jun 2015
Olivia Ho

TEENAGE blogger Amos Yee will be remanded for two weeks at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) to undergo psychiatric examination.

In a pre-sentence hearing, the court was told yesterday that a prison report found the 16-year-old physically and mentally fit for reformative training.

However, a psychiatric assessment by Dr Munidasa Winslow contained in the report suggested that Yee may be suffering from autism spectrum disorder - which can be characterised by social deficits and communication difficulties.

District Judge Jasvender Kaur therefore ordered that Yee be remanded at the IMH for two weeks to see if he is suitable for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO).

First implemented in 2010, an MTO requires offenders with mental conditions to undergo psychiatric treatment for up to two years in lieu of jail time.

The Straits Times understands Yee also submitted an undertaking to the court, agreeing to make the offending posts private and not disseminate them further. As of 5pm yesterday, the posts were no longer accessible on Yee's blog and YouTube channel.

Yee's case is scheduled to be heard again on July 6, when Judge Kaur will consider sentencing options such as an MTO and reformative training. On June 2, she had ordered him to be remanded for three weeks to be assessed for a reformative training report.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun noted that the prosecution had already suggested that Yee be examined by psychiatrists on previous occasions.

Yee had been found guilty of making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians in a video and uploading an obscene image.

Yesterday, Yee seemed wan and unkempt and sat unsmiling in the dock. He has spent almost 40 days in remand to date.

Defence lawyer Alfred Dodwell said his client had not objected to the IMH assessment.

He said: "The judge is clearly doing her level best to ensure that Amos gets the best treatment and perhaps rehabilitation."

Yee's mother, Madam Mary Toh, 48, arrived in court wearing a T-shirt with a #FreeAmosYee slogan in support of her son.

The shirt depicted Yee in a banana-esque submarine, referencing The Beatles' hit Yellow Submarine.

His father, computer engineer Alphonsus Yee, told reporters his son had not been previously diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

He said: "There has been a lot of speculation online about it, but nothing in his growing-up years suggested this."


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Confusing disclosures about substantial shareholder by China New Town: Mailbag

Business Times
16 Jun 2015

ON June 9, China New Town Development disclosed that its substantial shareholder, Shi Jian, has been required by PRC Changzhou Procuratorate to remain under "custody in designated residence".

In that announcement, China New Town assured shareholders that "the measures imposed on Mr Shi are not expected to have material adverse impact on the financial and operations of the group".

The company's announcement on the role of Mr Shi in the company and group is confusing and appears somewhat contradictory. In particular, I refer to the following paragraph in the announcement:

"While Mr Shi is an executive director of the company, he is not involved in the daily operations of the company, which is managed by a dedicated team independent of Mr Shi. Since the daily business and operations of the group will continue to be managed by the team led by the chief executive officer, vice-presidents and chief financial officer of the group, the board currently does not expect the absence of Mr Shi would have any material adverse impact on the daily business operations of the group. Nevertheless, as Mr Shi is not expected to fulfil his responsibilities as a director during the period when the measures remain effective, the board has urgently appointed Mr Li Yao Min, non-executive director of the board, to temporarily assume Mr Shi's responsibilities of daily operations and decision-making at the board, to ensure the continued operational efficiency of the group."

The company should explain why Mr Shi is an executive director but is not involved in the daily operations of the company. Further, while the first part of the paragraph says that Mr Shi is not involved in the daily operations of the company and group, the latter part of the paragraph states that the board has appointed a non-executive director to "temporarily assume Mr Shi's responsibilities of daily operations and decision- making at the board, to ensure the continued operational efficiency of the group". Shareholders may have a hard time assessing the potential impact of Mr Shi's house arrest on the company given the rather convoluted disclosures.

Mr Shi was certainly paid like an executive director in recent years. In 2013, he was paid S$252,000 and in 2014, he was paid S$340,000 (prior to that, the company only disclosed remuneration for all directors and key executives in two bands of below S$250,000 and S$250,000 or more). Mr Shi's remuneration in these two years is comparable to or higher than the remuneration of other executive directors and key executives.

Minority shareholders in companies where major shareholders hold executive director titles face the risk that the executive director titles may be merely a way for major shareholders to be paid extra dividends in the form of executive remuneration. Executive remuneration, as in China New Town's case, is not subject to shareholders' approval at the general meeting. In cases where major shareholders draw executive remuneration, the Singapore Exchange should ask issuers to explain their executive role to ensure that they are not in effect receiving extra dividends. It is not uncommon for issuers, especially those with families or founders as major shareholders, to have multiple directors listed as "executive directors" with no clear functional responsibilities, while also having key executives who are not executive directors with functional responsibilities.

The company's remuneration disclosures in its annual reports over the last few years are also confusing. Its remuneration policy over each of those years states that the remuneration of the executive directors and senior management comprises a fixed salary and a variable component and that the variable component comprises a variable bonus linked to the company's and individual performance and other variable components. However, the disclosures of the actual remuneration mix for all those years, except 2014, show that the remuneration of all the executive directors and senior executives is made up only of fixed salaries (and in some cases a small amount of allowances), with no variable bonuses. So, for the 2010 to 2013 financial years, was it a case of an incorrect remuneration policy being disclosed, the remuneration policy not being applied, disclosures of the remuneration mix being wrong, or all the executive directors and key executives doing such a bad job that none warranted a variable bonus?

Perhaps the remuneration committee can clarify the apparent inconsistencies between the remuneration policy and the disclosure of the mix of remuneration, and also the role of Mr Shi and his remuneration.

Mak Yuen Teen

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MAS to cut distinction between int'l, domestic banking ops

Business Times
01 Jul 2015
Jamie Lee

Tharman says the domestic banking unit-Asian currency unit divide has been losing its relevance over the years

THE Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) plans to remove a longstanding division between two accounting units for assets and liabilities held by banks here: one for those held mainly in Singapore dollars, and the other for foreign currencies. This would effectively remove a key distinction between domestic and international banking operations.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, announced this on Tuesday at the 42nd annual dinner of the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS).

There are currently two accounting units held by banks here.

One is known as the domestic banking unit (DBU), through which banks account for their domestically focused activities. Consequently, most of the loans and deposits are denominated in Singapore dollars.

The second is known as the Asian currency unit (ACU), through which a bank accounts for its offshore operations. These are entirely denominated in foreign currencies.

Mr Tharman said the segregation for more than 40 years was meant as a way to safeguard domestic financial stability. But this was done without unduly impinging on the regional activities of banks in Singapore.

With this framework, MAS had imposed additional prudential requirements on the banks' domestic businesses in Singapore. This was also meant to provide "developmental incentives" such as tax breaks to encourage the growth of offshore banking activities out of Singapore.

But there have been major global regulatory developments in the last five years that resulted in banks' offshore activities being subject to rules that are broadly similar to those governing the domestic banking business in Singapore, said Mr Tharman.

This comes as the MAS has imposed new regulatory requirements, in the wake of the financial crisis. For example, foreign banks with a significant retail presence in Singapore must locally incorporate its retail operations. HSBC and Maybank will have to do so. That subsidiary will need to meet the same suite of regulations as the local banks, with the aim being to reduce risks to local depositors.

"The DBU-ACU divide served us well for decades, but has been losing its relevance," said Mr Tharman.

"The enhanced global and domestic regulatory standards mean that the DBU-ACU divide is no longer useful. If we continue with the divide, it would merely impose undue administrative burden on banks, without materially enhancing prudential soundness or systemic stability."

Mr Tharman also noted that Singapore's "developmental incentives" have no longer been based on the domestic versus offshore distinction, and the divide between domestic and offshore banking has, in practice, been increasingly porous.

Singapore will remain committed to promoting the international business of banks here, he said.

The details will be released in a consultation paper in August.

MAS will also extend a SkillsFuture programme aimed at helping polytechnic graduates secure employment, to the financial sector. Mr Tharman noted that major banks in Singapore have committed to provide at least 200 places for polytechnic graduates in the coming year through this programme. MAS will, at the same time, provide scholarships and study awards, meant to help Singaporeans in the financial sector to develop and deepen skills.

The regulator will also set up a Financial Centre Advisory Panel, comprising senior leaders from the banking, insurance, and asset management industries.

Mr Tharman noted that new technologies will have a "significant bearing" on the scale and nature of jobs in the financial sector.

"Many jobs in finance will be at risk around the world. But if we prepare well for the changes reshaping global finance, there is significant opportunity in this for Singapore and for Singaporeans working in finance."


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High Court dismisses appeals by directors of Profitable Plots

Straits Times
23 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

TWO directors of land-banking firm Profitable Plots, who were jailed a total of 15 years for cheating investors, have had their appeals against their sentences dismissed by the High Court.

Britons Timothy Goldring, 60, and John Nordmann, 55, were both convicted in the State Courts a year ago on 18 charges of cheating after a 64-day joint trial that began in April 2013.

Goldring was jailed for seven years and Nordmann got an eight-year sentence after investors lost around $915,000.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang, in judgment grounds released yesterday, said their jail terms were neither "unduly harsh" nor "too lenient". Pointing to aggravating factors, he said that despite the evidence against them, they blamed "virtually everyone else except themselves" for Profitable Plots' downfall and failed to provide restitution to those they cheated.

This despite receiving just over US$1 million (S$1.3 million) in remuneration along with fellow director Geraldine Thomas, 46, from the Boron investment scheme they used. They had lured clients to invest in it by promising 12.5 per cent returns within six months. Instead, they lost $3.1 million after part of the returns was used to pay Profitable Plots' existing debts.

Some 68 other charges were stood down. Ms Thomas, a Singaporean, was acquitted during the trial.

Profitable Plots, set up in 2005, was known for its TV commercials that featured former English football stars Bryan Robson and Steve McMahon urging viewers to "buy UK land".

The authorities took notice when angry clients stormed its offices in Stanley Street near Shenton Way, demanding what they claimed were overdue payouts.

Both Goldring and Nordmann appealed to the High Court, representing themselves and arguing that the district judge was "wrong in several ways and for a whole gamut of reasons".

They provided 29 appeal grounds each and their written submissions ran into 377 pages, noted Justice Tay, who heard the appeals in February and April this year.

The judge was not convinced and affirmed both conviction and sentence. He found that both men "concealed material information from the staff and investors", having known from the outset that Boron product sales were insufficient to produce the returns they had promised and clients' investments were spent elsewhere.

Justice Tay noted that Nordmann and his wife Geraldine had shipped 18 tonnes of personal effects from their home in Malaysia to France while the probe was going on.

"Clearly they had ample means and opportunity to make restitution, at least in part, to the victims of the Boron scheme," he wrote, noting that only $66,000 remained in the firm's bank accounts seized by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) during its probe.

"Despite the evidence... they blamed virtually everyone except themselves for (Profitable Plots') downfall. They blamed CAD for intervening, third parties for speaking up in the public sphere and hastening (Profitable Plots') downfall, investors for trying to defraud them."

However, he rejected the prosecution's call to enhance the jail terms imposed.


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Goldring, Timothy Nicholas v Public Prosecutor and other appeals [2015] SGHC 158

Shangri-La shooting: Man gets 8 years' jail, 3 strokes

Straits Times
16 Jun 2015
Elena Chong

Passenger in car that was shot at by police convicted of drug offences

ONE of the two passengers in a car that was shot at after it crashed through security barriers near Shangri-La Hotel last month was sentenced to eight years' jail and three strokes of the cane for drug offences yesterday.

Mohamed Ismail, 31, was convicted of having 0.27g of heroin and 1.41g of methamphetamine, or Ice, along Orange Grove Road at about 4.50am on May 31, and taking drugs on May 30.

The other passenger, Muhammad Syahid Mohamed Yasin, 26, was also arrested for drug offences. The driver of the red Subaru Impreza, Mohamad Taufik Zahar, 34, died on the spot.

The car, with a single bullet hole in the front windscreen, came to a stop on a grass patch barely 250m from the hotel entrance.

The area around the hotel had been placed under a tight security net as it was hosting the Shangri- La Dialogue, a major security summit attended by defence ministers and security chiefs.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Yang Ziliang said Mohamed had abused ubat, a street name for heroin, at his home in Marsiling Crescent on May 30.

He was liable for enhanced punishment for drug consumption, as he was previously convicted of a similar offence in 2003.

Mohamed also spent time in jail for having a controlled drug in 2012.

He admitted in his statement that the heroin and Ice were for his own consumption. He had bought three packets of heroin and Ice from a man in Lorong 15, Geylang for $480 on May 29.

Seven other charges, mostly drug-related offences, were taken into consideration during his sentencing.

Mohamed could have been jailed for up to 10 years and/or fined up to $20,000 for each enhanced drug possession charge.

For enhanced drug consumption, the minimum is five years' jail and three strokes, up to seven years and six strokes of the cane.

Meanwhile, the case against Syahid will be mentioned tomorrow afternoon. He intends to get a lawyer to mitigate.


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Airbus sued by 10 families of AirAsia Indonesia crash victims

Business Times
01 Jul 2015
Nisha Ramchandani

[Singapore] PLANEMAKER Airbus is being sued by 10 families of passengers who were on board the fatal AirAsia Indonesia flight QZ 8501 when it crashed into the Java Sea last December.

The single-aisle A320 aircraft was Singapore-bound from Surabaya when it ran into bad weather. The crash killed 162 passengers and crew.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that in addition to the inclement weather, the aircraft had suffered a malfunction of the fly-by-wire system, said Chicago-based law firm Wisner Group, which is representing the 10 families.

Lawyer Floyd Wisner said in a statement: "Airbus and its supplier-manufacturers are aware of problems that cause the fly-by-wire protection to malfunction, yet they appear to have done nothing about it, despite many incidents."

The lawsuit argues that the aircraft in question was "defectively and unreasonably dangerous".

Mr Wisner also took budget airline AirAsia to task for offering families "only half" the compensation being paid to families of other recent air disasters.

"AirAsia is not handling the claims of its passengers pursuant to international standards, but is treating its passengers differently to those on MH370, MH17 and Germanwings," he stressed.

"Despite the promises of AirAsia's owner Tony Fernandes that the victims' families would be treated fairly, AirAsia is proving that it is a low-fare, low-compensation airline."

AirAsia Indonesia is a unit of Malaysia-based AirAsia.

When contacted by The Business Times, AirAsia declined to comment, stating that it has not been named a defendant in the lawsuit, although in the press statement, Mr Wisner indicated that there are plans to make AirAsia a party to the US litigation.

Singapore-based Airbus spokesman Sean Lee said: "An official investigation to determine the cause of the accident is ongoing and Airbus is offering its full support to the Indonesian authorities."

The lawsuit, filed in the state of Illinois in the US, also names Honeywell International, Motorola Inc and other suppliers - together with Airbus - as defendants.


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Law firm in Dallas Buyers Club action accused of bullying tactics

23 Jun 2015
Kelly Ng

Lawyers representing film studio had used threats of criminal proceedings to advance civil claims, says NGO

SINGAPORE — The local chapter of a non-governmental organisation promoting the use of Internet has lodged a complaint with the Law Society, against lawyers from the legal firm representing the United States film studio Dallas Buyers Club LLC.

The studio is going after people here who allegedly downloaded the Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club illegally, and the first batch of demand letters issued to 77 M1 subscribers by the lawyers from Samuel Seow Law Corporation had used threats of criminal proceedings to advance civil claims, thus breaching the Law Society’s ethical guidelines for legal practitioners, said the Internet Society (Singapore)’s president Harish Pillay, who personally handed the written complaint to the Law Society last week.

The complaint is against Mr Robert Raj Joseph and Mr Lee Heng Eam from Samuel Seow Law Corp’s litigation and dispute resolution practice group. Mr Raj is the director of the group while Mr Lee is an associate. When contacted, Mr Raj said he is on leave and referred this newspaper to the firm’s managing director Samuel Seow.

Mr Seow told TODAY he has no knowledge of the complaint. He added that the demand letters, which were first sent out in April, were issued by Mr Raj, who is leaving the company and has been placed on gardening leave. Mr Raj’s departure is not linked to the handling of the case, Mr Seow said. He added that he and a “new team” took over the case file from Mr Raj just last week.

Mr Seow said his law firm recently sent out a new batch of letters — which were worded differently — to StarHub and Singtel subscribers who allegedly downloaded the movie illegally.

The demand letters issued to the M1 subscribers had asked for a written offer of damages and costs, and Mr Raj said in April the studio had received and accepted “quite a number of” offers of compensation. These letters had spelt out a maximum fine of S$50,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three years for a conviction under Section 136(3) of the Copyright Act, and a maximum S$20,000 fine and six months’ jail term under Section 136(3A) of the Act.

Mr Pillay, who works in the information technology industry, said the demand letters were worded in the manner of a “big bully”, and the law firm had engaged in a “bad bullying tactic”.

“These words make people panic, especially those who are not legally trained ... They are blaming people of alleged transgression without proof ... Those who are a bit naive will settle,” said Mr Pillay. He noted that some alleged offenders may have made compensations without seeking legal help.

The Law Society’s Practice Directions and Rulings Guide 2013 states that it is improper for a solicitor to “communicate in writing or otherwise a threat of criminal proceedings in order to achieve a stated objective in any circumstance, for example, to compel a witness to attend at the solicitor’s office to give a statement or to sign a written statement despatched to him”.

Contacted by TODAY, the Law Society declined to comment on the complaint. Its spokesperson said the society was bound by the Legal Profession Act to maintain confidentiality of proceedings that are being conducted.

“The Law Society is therefore unable to comment if it has or has not received a complaint against any named lawyer or the status of any complaint received,” said the spokesperson.

Apart from Singapore, 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. It had reportedly identified more than 500 Singapore IP addresses here through which the movie was said to have been downloaded illegally.

The Internet Society (Singapore) said there are alternative ways of encouraging legitimate content distribution. Lawyer Bryan Tan, who is the chapter’s treasurer, said that with the prevalence of the Internet, work will be copied and shared, and the question is how to legitimise such practices. The Creative Commons licensing system, which allows content creators to decide if their work can be modified or shared under commercial or non-commercial grounds, was set up to address this problem, Mr Pillay pointed out. “In this day and age, everything is a remix,” he said.


The Dallas Buyers Club saga

• Film studio Dallas Buyers Club LLC is going after people here who allegedly downloaded Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club illegally
• First batch of demand letters were issued to 77 M1 subscribers by Samuel Seow Law Corporation
• 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
• It had reportedly identified more than 500 Singapore IP addresses here through which the movie was said to have been illegally downloaded


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A tale of two brothers who can't stop fighting

Straits Times
15 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

THEY are brothers who were once business partners. Now, try as they might, they cannot seem to get away from each other.

Older brother See Lam Huat and younger sibling See Lam Seng have even set up shop close to each other in Upper Weld Road. Both buy electrical goods from China and sell them to buyers from Cameroon.

The older brother recently took the younger one to court, accusing him of copyright breach, passing off goods and defamation.

In turn, the younger sibling counter-sued for malicious falsehood and groundless threats of copyright breach action.

In judgment grounds released earlier this month, the High Court dismissed Mr See Lam Huat's claims, allowing the copyright claim only in one instance - of stickers used on an order of television sets.

Justice George Wei also found that Mr See Lam Seng had defamedhis older brother in remarks to a trade buyer and ordered damages to be assessed.

But the judge accepted the younger sibling's claims that his older brother had made groundless threats of copyright breach action to him - except in the case of the stickers.

He also ordered the older brother to stop making such threats.

A separate hearing will be held to assess the damages and costs.

Justice Wei noted in his 177-page judgment grounds that the brothers had been fighting and suing each other for years.

Both were partners in a company called S H Econ Electrical Trading, formed in 1998. It sold second-hand electrical goods to customers overseas.

In 2006, Mr See Lam Huat set up Singsung in a shophouse in Upper Weld Road, selling electrical goods bought from China to buyers from Cameroon.

Mr See Lam Seng started L S Electrical Trading the following year, in another shophouse close to his brother's. Two years later, he incorporated LG26 Electronics (trading as L S Electrical Trading). But the brand name he adopted was "LS".

The firm sourced similar products from China to sell to buyers from Cameroon.

The brothers effectively ceased working together around 2007.

Mr See Lam Huat claimed that in some cases, his younger sibling not only chose similar products but also used similar packaging and stickers.

His lawyer Adrian Tan argued that the younger sibling affected the goodwill his client had built up over the years by packaging the goods similarly and creating confusion.

Mr See Lam Seng's lawyer Philip Ling disputed the claim.

Justice Wei dismissed the claim, pointing out that even if "goodwill did exist in Singapore, the brand names 'Singsung' and 'LS' are likely to have negated any possibility of confusion".

There was also not enough evidence to show that the Singsung packaging enjoyed goodwill in Cameroon to begin with.

Justice Wei noted that both brothers competed in the lucrative African market, alongside well-known South Korean and Japanese brands.

They had used their brand names "Singsung" and "LS" to sell their China-made products, "with statements that the goods were made in Singapore and, in some cases, with Singapore quality marks", said the judge. "While some features may cause a raised eyebrow, no issue was raised before me in respect of the parties' business models. I therefore make no further comment."


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

Singsung Pte Ltd v LG 26 Electronics Pte Ltd [2015] SGHC 148

Battle over child custody spawns key point of law

Straits Times
30 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Orders under guardianship Act subject to review in a divorce: Judge

A MARRIAGE between a German man and a Ukrainian woman that spawned a child and separation within 19 months also gave birth to a new important point of law.

The woman had won care and control of their child under the Guardianship of Infants Act (GIA) before the couple divorced in 2012, but the court has now ruled that such orders are subject to review in a divorce, when the court settles matters such as asset division and child custody.

This means a court order in the mother's favour under the Act may swing in the father's if the High Court deems it should, on the merits of a case.

"In order to not deny the parties and the child of the broader discretion conferred to it pursuant to the (Women's) Charter, the Ancillaries Court would have to consider the issues of custody, care and control and access afresh," said Justice Belinda Ang in judgment grounds released last week.

The 48-year-old German businessman had met and married the 38-year-old woman in Singapore in 2007 after a short cyberspace courtship, which led her to come here from Germany.

Some eight months after their daughter was born the following year, the couple began to live apart.

"All in all, the parties' virtual meeting, (her) marriage to (him), relocation to Singapore and pregnancy happened almost impulsively in smooth succession. Sadly but not surprisingly, the marriage was very short-lived," noted the judge.

The couple separated in 2009 and the woman filed for divorce three years later. An interim divorce judgment was given, pending settlement of ancillary matters by the court, such as the question of whom the child was to live with.

The husband's lawyer, Mr Ranjit Singh, asked the court to order shared care and control, urging it to relook the arrangements made under the GIA.

Shared care and control meant the child would have both parents in her life, he said.

Objecting, the woman's lawyer, Ms Bernice Loo, argued for the GIA order to stand except that access terms be changed to take into account the primary school schedule of the child, who is now seven years old.

Justice Ang said a shared arrangement may not be practical as the child was transitioning from kindergarten to primary school, among other things.

She ruled that care and control remain with the mother, with liberal access for the father to be worked out. The couple would have joint custody.

The judge also raised the woman's share from their joint asset - their matrimonial home - to $100,000, less the $40,000 she had already received.

The judge also ordered that he pay her $3,075 in monthly maintenance.

Background Story


In order to not deny the parties and the child of the broader discretion conferred to it pursuant to the (Women's) Charter, the Ancillaries Court would have to consider the issues of custody, care and control and access afresh.

- Justice Belinda Ang

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

ATZ v AUA [2015] SGHC 161

Apple makes U-turn on no-royalties plan

Straits Times
23 Jun 2015
Trevor Tan

Music industry applauds move to pay fees during free trial period

APPLE yesterday performed an abrupt U-turn on its decision not to pay royalties during Apple Music's three-month free trial, following protests from independent labels and country singer Taylor Swift.

The music streaming service is due to launch in 100 countries, including Singapore, on June 30, with customers getting the free trial before deciding whether to subscribe.

While the change of heart may initially have caused a public relations embarrassment for the tech giant, the industry is giving Apple the thumbs up for its willingness to tweak its plans.

Mr Colin Goh, co-founder and managing director of Ocean Butterflies Music, one of the biggest independent music labels in Singapore, said: "It shows the kind of respect that Apple has for music publishers, which is not what you get from some other companies."

He would not specify which company would not pay music publishers royalties, but he is understood to mean Apple's rival Spotify.

Its music streaming service has a free streaming tier for which artists and songwriters are not paid royalties.

American singer Swift spoke out against Spotify last year and withheld her entire catalogue from the service.

In a blog post yesterday titled "To Apple, Love Taylor", the 25-year-old called on Apple to abandon its plans for no payouts during its free trial period.

Within a day, Apple's senior vice-president for Internet software and services, Mr Eddy Cue, responded to the star on Twitter, saying: "Apple will always make sure that artist (sic) are paid... We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple."

The singer replied, tweeting: "I am elated and relieved."

However, she has yet to confirm if she will put her music on Apple Music.

Mr Matthew Pollins, digital media lawyer at Olswang Asia, said Apple has set the standard for royalty payments even if music is distributed for free.

"This move will ensure that artists are reimbursed each time their song is streamed, regardless of whether that stream is paid for by the end user or not," he said.

Local singer and songwriter Jaime Wong, 25, is relieved. "We don't get the kind of traffic and exposure that the chart-topping singers do, so every stream counts towards our earnings," she said.

"This move could be a game-changer for the online music industry."


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

Self-payment kiosks soon at State Courts

Straits Times
15 Jun 2015
Lim Yi Han

PEOPLE will soon be able to pay court fines, fees or bail money at automated kiosks within the State Courts, instead of going to cashier counters.

In a tender put up last week, the State Courts called for a supplier to design, develop and install three collection kiosks.

Currently, people can make court-related payments only at five cashier counters.

There are about 100 transactions a day, and the State Courts collect between $80,000 and $100,000 in cash alone each day.

A State Courts spokesman told The Straits Times that the kiosks will make it more convenient for people to make court payments and save them time.

"This is part of our efforts to enhance court users' experience... The automated payment kiosks are targeted to be rolled out in 2016," she said.

According to documents obtained by The Straits Times, each kiosk will come with a touch-screen display and allow people to make payment in various ways, including by cash, credit or debit card, and cheque.

Those making payments can retrieve their records by scanning barcodes or manually keying in details such as their identity card number or case number.

The kiosks will have security features, such as an alarm to prevent break-ins and a surveillance camera to record activities.

In addition, the machine should be "intuitive and user- friendly such that it requires no or minimal assistance from State Courts staff".

There will also be an intercom system for those who need help.

Receipts or acknowledgement slips will be printed after money is collected successfully.

The plan to install the machines was first announced in the State Courts' annual workplan in April.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon had said then that the kiosks will be "more efficient than the current system of deploying officers at multiple counters".

This is also one of a slew of initiatives by the State Courts to make use of technology.

In February, it officially launched an online integrated filing and management system for criminal cases.

Some said the kiosks could be more fuss-free for users.

Lawyer Chia Boon Teck said: "In some cases, you need a court officer to issue a slip with the details of the case, which you have to present to the cashier before she can process your payment.

"This administrative process often causes delay. If the proposed kiosk does away with this (process), then the kiosk would be very much welcome."

But others voiced concerns that it may be confusing to use.

A 26-year-old contractor, who paid a fine of $700 for littering and declined to be named, said: "Some of the older people may not know how to use the machine and you have to get someone there to teach them how to use it. That will be even more inconvenient."



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



In some cases, you need a court officer to issue a slip with the details of the case, which you have to present to the cashier before she can process your payment. This administrative process often causes delay. If the proposed kiosk does away with this (process), then the kiosk would be very much welcome.

- Lawyer Chia Boon Teck

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

Apex court overturns acquittal

Straits Times
30 Jun 2015
Selina Lum

Nigerian lied many times to anti-narcotics officers about 2kg of Ice in suitcase

THE Court of Appeal yesterday overturned the acquittal of a 29-year-old Nigerian man for trafficking in nearly 2kg of methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice.

The three-judge court found that Ilechukwu Uchechuku Chukwudi had lied numerous times in his statements to anti-narcotics officers to distance himself from the drugs found in the suitcase he had brought into Singapore.

The court rejected Ilechukwu's explanations for his deliberate lies, saying they were "no more than convenient excuses".

The case was sent back to the lower court for the trial judge to make a finding on whether his role was limited to that of a courier. This would affect whether he is sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

Ilechukwu, who arrived in Singapore on Nov 13, 2011, claimed he had come here to buy laptops to sell back home. He said he had brought a laptop bag to the airport in Lagos but was handed a black suitcase by an acquaintance who asked him to pass it to a Singaporean contact.

In Singapore, he paid for one night's stay at a Chinatown budget hotel. Shortly after getting a call telling him to meet a woman, he took a taxi to Clarke Quay and passed the suitcase to Singaporean Hamidah Awang, 49.

After they parted ways, Hamidah was arrested at the Woodlands checkpoint as she was driving out of Singapore with the suitcase. Ilechukwu was arrested in his hotel room the next day.

The pair were tried together in the High Court for drug trafficking. Last November, Hamidah was convicted, while Ilechukwu was acquitted. She has yet to be sentenced as well.

Despite the obvious lies in Ilechukwu's statements, the trial judge accepted he had come to Singapore on business and did not know that the suitcase contained drugs.

The prosecution appealed, arguing that the trial judge was wrong to have disregarded his lies and to have accepted that he was a genuine businessman.

Among other things, Ilechukwu had lied after his arrest that he brought only his laptop bag to Singapore, that he did not go to Clarke Quay, that he did not give anything to anybody and that he had never seen Hamidah.

But airport surveillance footage showed him collecting the suitcase. Hamidah also testified he had passed it to her.

In court, Ilechukwu said he had lied because he did not know the full facts of what had happened, so he decided that the safest thing to do was to deny anything that was not in his possession.

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

Public Prosecutor v Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi [2015] SGCA 33

UN agency calls for Amos Yee's immediate release

Straits Times
23 Jun 2015
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

THE United Nations Human Rights Office for South-east Asia yesterday called for the immediate release of teenage blogger Amos Yee, who has been remanded at Changi Prison since June 2.

In a statement, the Bangkok-based Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged the Government to review the 16-year-old's conviction and asked that prosecutors also drop their demand that Yee be sentenced to a stint at the Reformative Training Centre (RTC).

Yee was found guilty on May 12 of uploading an obscene image and making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians in a video.

The prosecution asked the court at that time to consider probation for Yee.

But at an urgent closed-door hearing on May 27, the court heard that Yee refused to go for any interviews with his assigned probation officer, and that he again made public the video and obscene image that landed him in trouble in the first place.

On June 2, he was remanded for three weeks after District Judge Jasvender Kaur called for a report to assess if he is suitable for reformative training.

This is a rehabilitative sentencing option for young offenders aged under 21 who are found unsuitable for probation.

A stint lasts between 18 and 30 months.

Offenders will not have contact with adult inmates. But, unlike probation, a stint at RTC will leave them with a criminal record.

Yee is due in court today, where he may learn of his sentence.

The OHCHR said yesterday it was aware that Yee was being assessed for reformative training. But it expressed concern that the RTC is "akin to detention and usually applied to juvenile offenders involved in serious crimes".

The UN agency said it recognised Singapore's concerns about issues of public morality and social harmony. However, it did not think that reformative training was an appropriate sentence for Yee.

The OHCHR also appealed to the authorities to "give special consideration to his juvenile status".


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

Proxy access: when shareholders nominate directors

Business Times
15 Jun 2015
Adrian Chan

THOUGH directors are elected by shareholders, the nominations for their election are usually made by the board of directors following an internal nomination process that often includes a nominating committee-led search for suitable candidates.

However, a view is emerging, especially in the US, that this process does not result in the best set of directors, and that some boards acting out of self-interest can entrench themselves.

US developments

In the US, companies mail proxy cards to investors ahead of shareholder meetings that usually list only the board's slate of nominees for board seats. This is now slowly changing.

In March, Bank of America announced amendments to its bylaws that would allow a group of up to 20 shareholders to nominate up to 20 per cent of its directors provided they have owned more than 3 per cent of the company's stock for at least three years.

A growing list of US companies is adopting this "three and three" approach as part of a director-nomination reform known as "proxy access". With proxy access, longer-term shareholders can more easily nominate their own candidates on a company's proxy card. This lets investors avoid the cost of sending out their own proxy cards or requisitions when they are dissatisfied with a corporate board and want to run their own candidates as directors. Even after nomination by proxy access, a majority of shareholders must still elect the shareholder nominee(s) at the shareholder meeting, preventing the election of directors not supported by most shareholders.

General Electric, Hewlett-Packard and Verizon Communications have already changed their corporate governance rules to reflect this new process.

There have been, however, some pushbacks against proxy access, most notably by the likes of Whole Foods, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.

The stakes are high. On the other side of the battle-line, institutional investors such as pension and hedge funds have warned that they may recommend shareholders to vote against management's preferred directors if companies ignore shareholder nominations by proxy access.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has described the proxy access debate as gaining "global momentum" and as the governance "issue for 2015 and beyond".

Proxy access or not?

Proponents argue that proxy access makes boards more accountable and less insular as all shareholders get to decide on the best candidates from among the nominees proposed by management and shareholders. In turn, fair and transparent board elections help raise market capitalisation and improve returns. Boards become more responsive to shareholders. They are more vigilant in their oversight of companies.

At least, that's the theory.

Opponents of proxy access are concerned that activist investors could buy stakes in companies to hijack the election process or pursue special interest agendas. They worry, too, about the cost of proxy access, while remaining unconvinced that it will improve either company or board performance. Still others argue that shareholders might propose directors who lack adequate background or experience for the role.

The Singapore situation

Most developed markets already feature some version or another of proxy access, but even then, its use is not widespread. A 2014 CFA Institute study showed that in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, investors used proxy access to nominate directors fewer than 10 times a year.

In a sense, Singapore already has proxy access. The Companies Act permits two or more shareholders holding at least 10 per cent of the issued shares to call for a shareholders' meeting at the cost of the company. Furthermore, shareholders owning at least 5 per cent of a company's shares (or not less than 100 shareholders holding a paid-up value of at least S$500) may, at their cost, propose a resolution for voting at a general meeting. This means that shareholders can, if they meet these shareholding tests, effectively nominate their own directors for election.

However, these minimum requirements are not easily met in large capitalised companies. This explains the interest in the American "three and three" approach which, of course, sets a lower threshold for shareholder activism.

This is not to say that Singapore has not seen its fair share of shareholder-led appointments and removals of directors. For example, as recently as April, a group of investors that owned 16 per cent of Singapore-listed Cedar Strategic Holdings called a shareholders' meeting and successfully removed four directors and appointed three of their nominees to the board.

So is there any need for minority shareholders in Singapore to have another avenue to put their nominees up for election at annual general meetings? Given that there are minimum ownership thresholds in both shareholdings and duration of ownership and limits on the number of directors nominated by shareholders, perhaps it is timely to reassess whether the market here is ready for a more liberal proxy access process.

Though not yet as live an issue in Singapore as it is in the US, proxy access reform is, at its core, a movement to empower shareholders. As such, it is a stark reminder to local boards and nominating committees that they should assess, on an ongoing basis, the broader issues of board composition, tenure, refreshment, and shareholder engagement and outreach.

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

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

$225m boost for financial technology

Straits Times
30 Jun 2015
Grace Leong

Financial firms can tap fund for innovation labs, infrastructure

A $225 MILLION initiative to help financial firms set up innovation labs and to fund infrastructure to deliver financial technology (fintech) services was announced yesterday.

The Financial Sector Technology & Innovation (FSTI) scheme is one of several programmes aimed at establishing Singapore as a smart financial centre, which in turn is part of the Government's "smart nation" initiative, said Mr Ravi Menon, managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) yesterday.

Mr Menon told the Global Technology Law conference that the MAS will develop a regulatory approach that strengthens the industry's cyber security as well as devising initiatives to support the adoption of new technologies. These include developing efficient digital payments systems and regulatory reporting and smart surveillance systems.

Metlife and Swiss bank UBS have applied to tap FSTI funds to set up innovation labs, although other institutions have already established innovation centres on their own.

Other FSTI-supported projects will include a decentralised record-keeping system that prevents duplicate invoicing in trade finance, a cyber-risk test-bed and a natural catastrophe data analytics exchange.

Mr Menon also noted that digital and mobile payments, authentication and biometrics, cloud computing and learning machines could transform the finance industry.

High Court Justice Lee Seiu Kin said at the event that the law needs to evolve alongside technological developments to prevent rogue practices and disrupt technology-enabled crime in the financial sector.

"The convergence of technology and finance has reinvented the landscape of the financial sector," he said. "Electronic commerce has been indubitably improved by the proliferation of convenient payment solutions such as PayPal and credit cards. The rise of virtual currencies such as bitcoin has provided a refreshing take on traditional exchanges of value.

"These technological creations have brought with them complex regulatory challenges since they could easily be turned into vehicles for criminal conduct. For instance, the use of bitcoin with anonymisation services could provide the necessary anonymity for criminal syndicates to operate undetected."

Mr Menon agreed that several areas need improvement.

"As more financial services are delivered over the Internet, the frequency, scale and complexity of cyber attacks on financial institutions have increased globally. Hackers and cyber criminals are constantly probing IT systems for weaknesses to exploit," he said.

A new wave of next-generation cyber security solutions is emerging, including trusted computing, security analytics, threat intelligence and active breach detection.

Mr Menon noted that as more stores and restaurants introduce self-checkout facilities to improve productivity, there is a need to promote greater adoption of new payment technologies, including electronic direct debit authorisation and fund transfers using mobile numbers or social networks.

There is also a need to develop a unified point-of-sale mobile terminal system.

Preparing for changes on jobs and skills is critical as technology will "make obsolete many jobs in the financial sectors, but also create new ones", added Mr Menon.

The MAS will work with the industry, the Institute of Banking and Finance, training providers and universities and polytechnics, and also provide funding to financial institutions and support training opportunities.

Background Story


• A regulatory approach that strengthens the industry's cyber security
• Initiatives that support the adoption of new technologies. These include developing efficient digital payments systems and regulatory reporting and smart surveillance systems.

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Can new chief revive fortunes of ailing SGX?

Straits Times
23 Jun 2015
Grace Leong

Raise trading volumes. Make securities sizzle. Bring back the lunch break. The incoming Singapore Exchange chief has his work cut out for him

BANKING veteran Loh Boon Chye takes over as chief executive officer of the Singapore Exchange (SGX) on July 14, amid hopes that he will revitalise South-east Asia's second-largest bourse.

Mr Loh is taking the helm when the contrast between the China and Hong Kong bourses and the SGX could not be more stark.

China and Hong Kong are charging ahead in the year's biggest bull run to date, with the Shanghai Composite Index and the Shenzhen Composite Index having chalked up staggering 12-month returns of 121 per cent and 158 per cent, respectively. Hong Kong has achieved an 18.8 per cent return so far.

Meanwhile, The Straits Times Index has barely kept its head above water with a 1.8 per cent return in the same period.

Except for China and Hong Kong, most bourses in Asia suffered a downturn in trading as foreign investors pulled out, anticipating a tightening of United States monetary policy. In Singapore, trading volumes shrank amid a continued drought in large listings and as the after-effects of a multibillion-dollar penny stock crash in 2013 linger.

This year could well be one of the worst on record for new listings: There are only three so far, raising US$41 million (S$55 million), a fraction of the US$600 million raised a year earlier.

That the average value of shares traded on Singapore's exchange each day trails China, Hong Kong and Tokyo is no surprise, but the fact that it is even lower than that of regional neighbour Thailand, which saw a military coup last year, is definitely cause for concern.

Given the dire statistics, it is no wonder the market is looking forward to a new CEO.

The market has spoken

ALTHOUGH the market has been in the doldrums for some time, it has not been for want of trying. Various initiatives have been rolled out. These include the SGX cutting the standard lot size for stock transactions to 100 shares from 1,000 and the introduction of market makers and liquidity providers.

Despite these and other measures, daily average trading value fell by 2 per cent last month to $1.1 billion from the figure a year earlier. For the month of May, securities turnover was $23 billion, down 2 per cent from the sum a year earlier, underscoring the uphill task the SGX faces.

The outgoing SGX chief executive, Swedish-born Mr Magnus Bocker, who joined the exchange in 2010 from Nasdaq OMX Group, has long tried to improve trading volumes. He tried to form alliances with other exchanges but had limited success. Shortly after joining the SGX, Mr Bocker launched a bold US$8.8 billion takeover bid for Australian exchange operator, ASX, but this was blocked the next year by the Australian government.

He also wanted a link between stockbroking houses in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, known as the Asean Trading Link, to evolve into a formal connection between the region's exchanges. But trading activity through the link has been low.

Mr Bocker saw establishing direct connections between exchanges, instead of replacing mergers and acquisitions, as the industry's main growth strategy, particularly in Asia. Last year, there was an agreement with the Taiwan Stock Exchange to cooperate on a study of a cost-efficient link between the Singapore and Taiwan markets, but that has not advanced.

Unhappy remisiers

IT DID not help that a key stakeholder group has grown disenfranchised as securities trading volume waned, along with a growing investor trend to trade through online platforms offering lower commissions.

"Over the past few years, we saw an SGX policy of over-focusing on promoting derivatives to the neglect of the basic stocks and shares sector," said Mr Jimmy Ho, president of the Society of Remisiers (Singapore).

The exchange rolled out derivatives trading based on a variety of Asian assets, from Chinese stocks to the Indian currency. Under Mr Bocker's tenure, trading volumes for derivatives reached record highs, jumping 89 per cent last month from the volumes a year ago, as the bull run in China fuelled activity in the FTSE China A50 futures contract.

The SGX, in its latest earnings announcement on April 22, said derivatives revenue has become an increasingly important revenue contributor, accounting for 40 per cent of its income.

But in creating a booming derivatives business that has helped diversify the SGX's revenues, there has been a negative result. Many remisiers and brokers in the securities business feel they are increasingly being marginalised.

The derivatives segment is largely the preserve of institutions and ultra-wealthy investors as they typically have access to sophisticated strategies. "The retail investing community do not participate in derivatives as much because they may not have as much access," said CMC Markets analyst Nicholas Teo.

Then there is the ongoing unhappiness over the scrapping of the lunch break in 2013. Those who want the lunch break reinstated claim that scrapping it did not raise trading volumes. Instead, it deprives them of the opportunity to meet clients at lunch.

But proponents of all-day uninterrupted trading days argue that this gives investors the flexibility to manage their trading positions at all times, especially when market-moving news breaks. All-day trading is the norm in the US, Europe, Australia, South Korea and India.

Industry wish list

REMISIERS are hoping that Mr Loh, the incoming SGX chief, can help rejuvenate the local market and rebuild relations with the local trading and investing community via a consultative approach. They would like to see the SGX work with dealers and remisiers to show the public that this is not a sunset industry.

Analysts point to Mr Loh's experience as a positive sign that he can help bring back the high-profile initial public offerings that the Singapore market craves.

"He has seen deals and understands what motivates companies to list in Singapore, and why they aren't choosing to do so now," Mr Teo said.

Big public listings here are now rare, no thanks to the collapse of S-chips in 2007, the lingering effects of the global financial crisis and, more recently, the penny stock rout in October 2013. These have combined to drain liquidity out of the local market and lower its standing and valuation in the eyes of the investors.

Some are even pushing for anti-speculation trading regulations introduced in the wake of the October 2013 penny stock crash to be reversed as these are being blamed for the extremely thin volumes.

But these trading rules were also introduced with the aim of making investing in blue chips more affordable, curbing excessive speculation and market manipulation, and improving the quality of listings.

If the quality of the market is improved, then this will make it more attractive to investors, say the proponents of these moves.

And indeed, having been an independent SGX director and a member of its regulatory management committee, Mr Loh has the chops to help improve the regulatory framework further, said Securities Investors Association (Singapore) president David Gerald.

"The listing rules and other legislation must be re-looked to see if there can be practical safeguards against officers in foreign listings committing fraud to the detriment of Singapore investors. Currently, Singapore investors are helpless when officers in foreign listings squander or steal the company's monies," he said.

Still, the biggest question right now is how much the SGX's malaise is due to an over-emphasis on derivatives - and whether this is a neglect of the core securities business, as the remisiers claim, or whether the move to derivatives is just a symptom of more deep-seated challenges.

The growth of China as an economic power would automatically fuel the growth of its stock market, as well as that of Hong Kong's, and divert investors away from the likes of Singapore.

"It also depends on whether investors want to invest in our stock market or buy other markets. They will go to where they think they can make money," said Phillips Securities managing director Loh Hoon Sun.

High hopes

THE incoming CEO is in for a honeymoon period, as the industry regards Mr Loh as an old hand with a local perspective. He will also not be coming in cold to the company as he was an SGX board director from October 2003 to September 2012.

He has spent 26 years in the financial service industry, including leading Deutsche Bank Singapore's investment-banking team in the region, and was most recently deputy president and head of global markets for the Asia-Pacific at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Dr Ernest Kan, chief of operations, clients and markets at Deloitte Singapore, said: "Growing both the quality and quantity of companies listed on the Singapore bourse is another challenge that must be addressed. The most pressing need for Mr Loh would be to build a strong and market- driven team quickly."

But the honeymoon period will not last long as the market looks to Mr Loh to work a miracle and restore the SGX's fortunes.


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

Pacnet hacking exposes wider cyber issue

Straits Times
15 Jun 2015
Lim Wei Chieh

THE name will seem familiar to Singapore readers - Pacnet. It was once Singapore's second Internet service provider, before exiting the residential business here in 2012. Two months ago, Pacnet was sold to Australian telco giant Telstra.

That news received routine coverage, but a potentially bigger story went under the radar.

Barely a month later, on May 20, Telstra announced that the corporate network of Pacnet - its Asian Internet service provider - had been hacked, with the data of thousands of corporate and government customers potentially exposed to exploitation. Pacnet, headquartered in Singapore and Hong Kong, offers data centre services to carriers, governments and multinationals across the Asia-Pacific.

Telstra said the breach "occurred prior to Telstra taking ownership of Pacnet, and Telstra was made aware of the breach on finalisation of the purchase on 16 April 2015".

The Pacnet hacking received its share of coverage in Australia, but elsewhere, did not attract as much attention as, for example, the insider theft of HSBC Private Banking's client data.

Here lies the rub: Everyone is a victim when a data breach happens - both the organisation and its customers. Regardless of how and where the breach occurs, the individual customer ultimately will be at the receiving end.

The Telstra-Pacnet incident is relevant for companies undergoing mergers and acquisitions, but there is a broader lesson: Cyber security works best when it is focused on data privacy.

Lessons for others

SO, WHAT can companies do differently from Telstra and Pacnet? I suggest three aspects:

• Cyber security reviews must be part of due diligence. Pacnet informed Telstra of the breach only after the transaction. This raises questions about the due diligence process. Did Telstra review Pacnet's security maturity levels?

Typically, a more thorough review is conducted only during the integration phase, post-acquisition, and not during. In today's heightened cyber risk environment, security reviews must be an essential part of due diligence.

In September last year, hackers breached the customer database of Singapore karaoke chain K Box and posted the personal details of over 300,000 members online.

Seven months before the breach, K Box had been sold to another investor. Was a thorough security review of K Box done during the sale process?

• Mandatory, early disclosure is essential. A recent experiment by security broker and data protection company Bitglass saw a fake file of credit card and personal data travel across 22 countries and five continents in just 12 days. Point noted: Responses to breaches must be fast, to mitigate risks and reduce harm.

Due diligence is prevention. But the Bitglass experiment shows the speed at which data privacy can be compromised. It is important that the victim, as soon as possible, inform all relevant stakeholders - especially the authorities and customers, so they can protect themselves against fraud and misuse.

In February this year, the database system of Nanyang Polytechnic was compromised, and the bank details of about 240 former students stolen. The polytechnic notified individuals on Feb 5, explaining there was "unauthorised access" to its system on Jan 14. Could these individuals have been informed earlier?

Laws requiring mandatory reporting must be effective to mitigate the fallout from data breaches. Yet, most Asia-Pacific jurisdictions do not have mandatory breach notification laws.

Companies are "encouraged" to do so, and we all know how that works. Indeed, non-disclosure is not an option; neither is timely disclosure.

The Singapore Personal Data Protection Commission issued guidelines last month to "encourage" companies to notify individuals and the commission of data breaches. This is not mandatory, but the rules allow the commission, as part of an investigation, to view the affected company as having failed its obligations to adequately protect personal data.

• Cyber security is about personal data protection. Recently, cyber incidents have been described in the same breath as personal data breaches, unlike in the past, when personal data protection received mostly just a mention.

This increased linkage between cyber incidents and personal data is for a good reason: In the digital age, many companies, especially telcos and Internet service providers, are investing a lot in data collection, analytics and digital initiatives.

The same companies cannot afford to be short-sighted, but must invest as much in cyber security for data privacy protection.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and it is easier to critique what has happened and discuss what should have been. However, every breach is one breach too many. When it happens, it behoves us to learn from it. Failing to do so is the greatest risk.


The writer has worked as a security consultant at KPMG and Verizon. He is a director of Measurity, which helps companies tackle technology governance challenges.

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Heroin trafficker fails in attempt to escape death penalty

Straits Times
30 Jun 2015
Selina Lum

A HEROIN trafficker who has been on death row for more than four years yesterday failed in his bid to escape the gallows, after the High Court found that he did not meet the criteria to be re-sentenced to life imprisonment.

Since Jan 1, 2013, 11 drug offenders have had their death sentences commuted thus.

Kester Ng Wei Ren, 54, is the first to have his application for re-sentencing dismissed, when he failed to convince the court he was a mere courier.

Ng was convicted in 2010 of trafficking in 23.38g of heroin and given the then mandatory death penalty. His appeal was dismissed later that year.

In 2011, hangings were put on hold while the Government reviewed the death penalty regime. On Jan 1, 2013, new laws came into effect giving judges the discretion to sentence drug offenders to life imprisonment instead of a mandatory death penalty.

The lighter sentence, however, applies only to those who are couriers transporting or delivering drugs. They must also be certifed by the prosecution to have substantively assisted the authorities or found to be suffering from a mental abnormality.

Yesterday, Ng's lawyer Manoj Nandwani sought to show that he was a courier and the drugs were for his own consumption only.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Hay Hung Chun argued that someone who meant to sell drugs cannot be considered to be a mere courier.

Ng was arrested by anti-narcotics officers on Aug 12, 2008, and found to have packets of heroin and methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice, on him. A search of a Geylang apartment, one of his three residential addresses, uncovered more drugs - Ice, Nimetazepam tablets and heroin - two weighing scales and more than $6,000 in cash.

Ng faced seven charges but the prosecution proceeded on only one charge of trafficking in 23.38g of heroin. Anyone convicted of trafficking in more than 15g of the drug faces the death penalty.

He claimed he had intended to traffick only in 9.92g and the rest was for his own consumption.


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

Singaporean, 23, charged in hospital shooting case

23 Jun 2015
Alfred Chua

SINGAPORE — The man at the centre of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) shooting last Saturday was today (June 22) charged with the unlawful discharge of firearms — which carries the mandatory death penalty — and will be held in remand for a week to assist in investigations.

Muhammad Iskandar Sa'at (picture), 23, was brought to court on a holding charge, which means that the prosecution may amend the charge when investigations have concluded. Asking for Muhammad Iskandar to be further remanded, Deputy Public Prosecutor Winston Man said the charge was a “fairly serious and recent one”.

District Judge Eddy Tham granted the request.

Muhammad Iskandar is alleged to have fired three shots from a police officer’s gun while trying to escape from the police on Saturday. Muhd Iskandar, who was arrested for motor vehicle theft the day before, had been taken to KTPH after he complained of chest pains.

While in a medical examination room, he allegedly attacked the police officer watching over him, 31-year-old Mohammad Sadli Razli.

It is understood that he had first hit Mr Mohammad Sadli with his police baton, then made a grab for the officer’s service revolver, a .38 inch caliber Taurus. Muhammad Iskandar sustained superficial injuries while Mr Mohammad Sadli suffered gunshot wounds to his left thumb and right foot. He is now in stable condition.

A second police officer who brought Muhd Iskandar into the medical examination room is said to have left the room before the incident took place.

Asked by reporters at a Home Team event today about the standard operating procedure for police officers in such situations, Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zuklifli said the case is still before the courts and an investigation is being done.

“The findings from these investigation will help us diagnose what the problems are and what kind of correction we may need to make in the future,” said Mr Masagos, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Muhammad Iskandar appeared in court this afternoon clad in a white polo shirt. He showed no emotion as the charge was read to him, and requested to speak with his sister-in-law after his charge was read out to him.

His cases will be heard next Monday at 3pm.


Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Internet disruption: LTA contractor could face $1m fine

Straits Times
15 Jun 2015
Irene Tham

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) contractor behind last Thursday's 12-hour fibre broadband disruption could face a maximum fine of $1 million or imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

The contractor damaged a section of NetLink Trust's fibre optic cables while carrying out piling works at the site of the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line's Great World MRT station.

As a result, NetLink Trust's wholesale supply of fibre links to Internet service providers (ISPs) Singtel, StarHub, M1, MyRepublic and ViewQwest was cut off.

This led to more than 500 fibre broadband subscribers in Bukit Merah, Outram, Tanjong Pagar and Tiong Bahru not being able to surf the Internet for up to 12 hours.

Investigations are being carried out by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) to determine if, among other things, the incident was caused by the joint venture between Singapore's Tiong Seng Contractor and South Korea's Dongah Geological Engineering that was tasked to build the Great World MRT station, or any of its sub-contractors.

Under the Telecommunications Act, the contractor must submit a written notice to NetLink Trust at least seven days before commencing any earthworks. The contractor must also consult NetLink Trust on the necessary precautions to prevent damage to underground cables.

In addition, the contractor must hire an IDA-licensed telecom cable detection worker (TCDW) to locate underground cables - a standard practice since July 2000.

TCDWs are individuals with construction experience who have gone for a two-day course in cable detection at Singtel's training centre.

The Act spells out a fine of up to $1 million or imprisonment of up to five years, or both, for negligence.

Tiong Seng Contractor did not respond to queries from The Straits Times by press time.

Separately, TCDWs are also required to supply accurate information or risk a fine of up to $1 million, or have their licence suspended or cancelled.

The last known such case was in 2009, when Ah Boon Civil Engineering and Building Contractor was fined $500,000 for damaging Singtel's fibre-optic cables and mobile-phone base stations while digging trenches in 2008.

An LTA spokesman said it requires - and had reminded - all MRT contractors to follow standard procedures including the procurement of utility drawings to ensure that no utility installations are within an excavation area. The LTA is assisting the IDA with the investigation.

StarHub said its dual broadband users - those with both fibre and cable connections - were not totally cut off last Thursday as they had a back-up link via its cable broadband network.

Mr Ajay Sunder of market research firm Frost & Sullivan said that construction-related damage is not an area that NetLink Trust has control over. "This is a matter between LTA and IDA, and involves setting clear construction rules," he said.


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Singapore M&A deal value seen dipping in 2015

Business Times
30 Jun 2015
Ong Hui Qun

[Singapore] SINGAPORE's total value of completed merger and acquisition (M&A) deals may fall this year on the back of sluggish world trade volumes and China's economic slowdown, according to Baker & McKenzie.

The Global Transactions Forecast report, conducted by the global law firm and Oxford Economics, predicts that the Republic's total value of completed M&A deals will dip from US$25.2 billion in 2014 to around US$21 billion in 2015 before peaking at US$25.5 billion in 2018.

Increased government spending on infrastructure and improved world trade activity should, however, boost Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016. Domestic equity prices and transactional activity are expected to rise in tandem.

M&A deal activity will then slow between 2019 and 2020 following a pullback in equity prices.

The share of inbound cross-border transactions is seen to remain stable at 38 per cent of Singapore's total completed M&A deal value should hold steady in 2018, compared with 37 per cent in 2014.

Similarly, Singapore's domestic initial public offering (IPO) issuance is projected to fall from US$2.1 billion in 2014 to US$745.5 million this year, before peaking at US$3.2 billion in 2018.

"Looking ahead, we expect deal-making activity involving Singapore to gather more momentum in the next few years as we continue to see interest in the healthcare sector, food and beverage, and financial services in Southeast Asia," said Andrew Martin, head of corporate and securities practice group at Baker & McKenzie.

Highlighting Singapore's potential role in the Asean Economic Community, Mr Martin expressed hope that the cooperation will draw greater regional interest, with Singapore "perfectly placed as its deal-making hub".

This is in line with the broader outlook for Asia Pacific, which, according to the report, will re-emerge as one of the world's most dynamic growth stories for M&A starting next year. A resurgence in cross-border transactions, including outbound activity from China into neighbouring Asian countries, will drive M&A transactions from an expected US$605 billion this year to US$755 billion in 2018.

The region's IPO activity is also expected to remain subdued this year, before picking up to reach US$87.4 billion in 2018.

Globally, the fundamental drivers of global transactions are pointing to a continued strong upturn in M&A and IPOs over the next three years, says Baker & McKenzie.

These regional and global upward shifts are not expected to last, however, as analysts foresee that developed markets will raise interest rates with recovery on the horizon. As the world adjusts to the end of easy credit, interest in deal-making will soften by 2019, said the report.

Conveying optimism about the near future nevertheless, Baker & McKenzie's global head of M&A Tim Gee said: "The structural drivers, cyclical trends such as equity prices and economic conditions such as GDP growth are ripe for deals until 2017."

"Perhaps more importantly, positive business sentiment is back - CEOs have the confidence to pursue their strategies and the equity markets are rewarding those who deliver," he added.

Consumer goods and services, technology and pharmaceuticals, healthcare, telecommunications, and financials are forecast to be the most active sectors over the next five years.


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Deadlocks: Should directors boycott meetings?

Business Times
22 Jun 2015
Abdul Jabbar bin Karam Din

It may be seen as dereliction of a director's fiduciary duty if he does not participate and influence the outcomes of a meeting, or at least to record his position

THERE can be problematic situations, such as in a shareholders' deadlock, when directors may feel that their best option is to purposely not attend a meeting. This, in effect, means choosing to boycott a meeting.

A common reason for a director to opt not to attend a meeting could be to avoid the unpleasantness of being caught in a heated crossfire.

From a tactical standpoint, directors may collectively decide to be absent so that the mandatory quorum requirements are not met, thus invalidating the meeting proper and preventing a quarrelsome decision from being passed. This effectively creates a deadlock situation before the meeting if the convener is unable to proceed without the requisite quorum. However, even if the meeting proceeds, there could also be a deadlock if there is a prescribed minimum level of voting support required for resolutions on certain matters to be passed and these voting thresholds are not met.

Boycotting a meeting is, however, generally not advisable for directors.

To start, there is a way out for the meeting convener even if there is no quorum for a meeting.

Under company law, a director or a member entitled to vote at a meeting, can apply to the courts to "order a meeting to be called, held and conducted in such manner as the Court thinks fit, and give such ancillary or consequential directions as it thinks expedient" including the direction that "one member present in person or by proxy shall be deemed to constitute a meeting" (Section 182, Companies Act).

This was illustrated in the recent High Court decision in Lim Yew Ming v Aik Chuan Construction Pte Ltd released on April 15, 2015.

The majority shareholder in this case had called meetings to pass certain resolutions to further his vision of how the company should proceed. This vision was not shared by the other shareholders. The minority shareholders boycotted the meetings, rendering each meeting a non-starter from the lack of a quorum.

The majority shareholder then sought a court order under Section 182 of the Companies Act that a quorum of one be deemed sufficient for a general meeting of the company. The court found there was sufficient "impracticability" in the situation to warrant court intervention. It therefore allowed the meeting to proceed with a quorum of one.

This case helpfully clarified that there need not be deadlocks that prevent day-to-day management. It emphasised how minority shareholders cannot use the quorum provisions as the exercise of a form of veto rights over the decisions of majority shareholders. That said, the courts will still conduct a holistic assessment of all relevant factors before deciding on an intervention.

In fact, to proactively avoid deadlocks, directors and shareholders can ensure that the articles of association of their companies are sufficiently clear on quorums. For example, the articles of association may specifically provide if the usual requisite quorum of two or more is not present, the meeting will be adjourned for a specified short period of time and then whoever so present will be a sufficient quorum at such adjourned meeting.

Although it is arguable how one person can constitute a "meeting", the courts have recognised that the articles of a company can provide for a quorum of one at a meeting. Otherwise the general rule is that at least two persons are required to constitute a meeting.

In general, directors and shareholders should note that refusing to attend relevant meetings to render them inquorate is not advisable.

Meetings are an important mechanism to allow decisions to be properly made, and for proposals to be debated and voted upon. In the Aik Chuan case, the High Court noted that decisions at the meeting may still be influenced by those choosing to attend, no matter how slim the opportunity. After all, a slim opportunity to vote and influence decisions may well be preferable to a situation where the court orders that a quorum of one be sufficient for the meeting, and the majority can then push through with the decisions and sideline the minority.

For a director, it could be a dereliction of his director's duties to purposely absent himself from an important meeting. One significant way a director properly discharges his duties is simply to attend meetings and contribute to the decision making process. It may be seen as not fulfilling his fiduciary duty to act honestly and diligently in the best interests of the company if he does not make the effort to participate and influence the outcomes of a meeting, or at least to record his position.

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

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Happy ending to ping-pong table fiasco

Straits Times
14 Jun 2015
Benson Ang

Singsoc has agreed to make a goodwill payment to Lee Wen

The issue of a horseshoe-shaped table tennis table spotted at this year's SEA Games carnival - resembling an art installation by prominent Singapore artist Lee Wen - has been resolved amicably.

The Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc) has agreed to make a goodwill payment to the Cultural Medallion recipient.

Singsoc's vendor will also produce a version of Lee's original artwork to present to the 57-year-old for donation to a museum.

The resolution was announced on Friday in a statement by Singsoc, its vendor Unusual Productions, Lee and his gallery iPreciation. The parties acknowledged that the table resembled Lee's iconic artwork Ping-Pong Go Round.

"Singsoc and Unusual Productions fully recognise the importance of protecting creative intellectual property in Singapore, and have no intention to do otherwise," the statement said.

The table at the centre of the controversy - formerly located at the OCBC Square at the Sports Hub Singapore - was removed on June 6. Since then, Singsoc and Unusual Productions have met with Lee and iPreciation.

According to the statement, Unusual Productions has also agreed to produce an edition of Lee's art piece, under his supervision and according to his specifications.

This will then be presented to Lee, for him to donate to a museum in Singapore for the public to enjoy.

Ms Helina Chan, 51, who owns the gallery representing Lee, told The Sunday Times: "It's a good outcome. We appreciate that the parties have been sincere and active in seeking a resolution to this matter.

"Lee Wen and the gallery also appreciate the support of the artistic community and public. We are glad that this incident has taken a positive turn in raising the issue of the lack of awareness and respect of intellectual property rights in Singapore."

After the incident made headlines, a letter carrying 229 signatures was sent to the media earlier last week, asking for more to be done to respect and protect artistic creation in Singapore.

One of its signatories, former arts Nominated MP Audrey Wong, 47, said yesterday: "It's good that all parties have come to a resolution, and that Lee Wen is credited as the original author of the work.

"I hope this incident has raised awareness among organisations and individuals who commission works regarding the importance of recognising an artist's originality and giving credit when it is due.

"This is a very real but complex issue. More public education on it is needed."


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

Improper for lawyers to use threats: Voices

29 Jun 2015

We refer to the letter, “Address ‘threats’ in lawyers’ letters” (June 26). Paragraph 27 of the Law Society’s Practice Directions states that it is improper for a solicitor to communicate a threat of criminal proceedings to achieve a stated objective.

However, it is not improper for a solicitor to communicate with a party requiring him to comply with a particular order, enjoinment or statutory provision, and state that failure to do so would result in that party being liable to an offence or a penalty — and for a solicitor to identify the offence or penalty under reference.

Section 85(1) of the Legal Profession Act allows any person to make a complaint to the Law Society if a lawyer has acted improperly.

Shawn Toh

Director, Communications

The Law Society of Singapore

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Shooting case at hospital: Man could face death penalty

22 Jun 2015

SINGAPORE — The police have classified Saturday’s incident at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where a police officer was shot, as an unlawful discharge of firearms under the Arms Offences Act, an offence that carries the death penalty.

The suspect, a 24-year-old Singaporean man who was arrested for motor vehicle theft on Friday, will be hauled to court this afternoon on this holding charge.

The police update last night came after Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean told reporters in the morning that the illegal use of firearms is taken very seriously.

“Any illegal discharge of firearms is a very serious offence. Police investigations are ongoing and it would not be appropriate to comment at this time,” said Mr Teo on the sidelines of a community event.

The suspect, who was under remand for further investigations into his alleged motor vehicle theft, had complained of chest pains on Saturday and was escorted by police officers to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital to seek medical attention.

At about 7.05pm, while inside one of the hospital’s examination rooms, which are not accessible to the public, the suspect attempted to escape and struggled with one of the officers.

TODAY understands that the suspect had attacked the 31-year-old officer while his colleague stepped out of the room. The suspect is believed to have taken hold of the officer’s baton and used it to beat the latter.

He then snatched the officer’s revolver and discharged three rounds, before he was subdued and the situation was brought under control. The accused sustained superficial injuries.

Channel NewsAsia reported that a Khoo Teck Puat Hospital spokesman had said the officer needed immediate microsurgery on his hand and that a hand surgeon was immediately available at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

In its update yesterday, the police said that the officer, who suffered gunshot wounds to his left thumb and right foot, has since undergone surgery.

He is now in a stable condition.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Where are Angus Ross winners now?: Mavis Chionh; Peggy Pao-Keerthi Pei Yu

Straits Times
14 Jun 2015
Benson Ang

Singaporeans win prize almost every year

Every year, there are about 12,000 entries worldwide for the Angus Ross Prize, which is awarded by the University of Cambridge International Examinations, a department of the eminent British university.

While Singaporeans have won almost every year since the prize was introduced in 1987, it is not known how many candidates there are outside Singapore.

SundayLife!'s query to Cambridge International Examinations was not answered by press time.

According to previous news reports and official sources, candidates have been known to come from countries such as Brunei, New Zealand, Argentina, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

In a Straits Times article published in 1998, the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate reportedly said that Singapore's winning streak is not due to a lack of competition.

The top 20 finalists regularly include candidates from countries other than Singapore, the report said.


Ms Mavis Chionh, a former Hwa Chong Junior College student, was the first winner of the prize.

The 46-year-old is the chief prosecutor at the Attorney-General's Chambers and the lead prosecutor in the ongoing trial involving the City Harvest Church.

She is also a member of the Competition Commission of Singapore and has served on the board of the Dover Park Hospice.

She says: "I still read, though not as much as I would like to. Most of the time during the week, what I read is work- related.

On weekends, I try to decompress with a good novel, mostly Scandinavian crime fiction like the works of Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbro and Jussi Adler-Olsen. Right now, I'm reading a rather strange but compelling novel by British author Jessie Burton titled The Miniaturist.

Literature is often a study of the complex and the unquantifiable - human emotions and aspirations, in particular. I think we need that balance and insight.

We want ultimately to build not just better machines or taller buildings but also a more sensitive and intelligent community, one with the ability to empathise and to dream."


Ms Peggy Pao-Keerthi Pei Yu took the 2001 examination when she was a student in Raffles Junior College.

The married 32-year-old is a deputy senior state counsel and deputy public prosecutor with the Attorney-General's Chambers, and is currently on secondment to a private organisation.

With a group of friends, she started an informal arts circle - called Artizens - last month for young professionals with an interest in the visual arts.

She says: "Literature, books and reading are still very much a part of my life. I read almost every night before I go to sleep and try to read books, not just blogs, magazines or news articles.

I also love to discuss books. My younger sister and I have a mini informal book circle going, though she often gives me grief about not finishing the books quickly enough.

In both literary writing and the law, the meanings and nuances of words matter deeply.

The practice of law requires one to tussle with words every day, so I think it's helpful that I enjoy doing that.

Due to my background in the humanities, I've also became very interested in visual arts. Through Artizens - as in 'art citizens' - my friends and I hope to grow a community of peers who are aware of, engaged in and supportive of Sin- gapore's thriving visual arts scene, notwithstanding the daily demands of their professional lives."

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Taxman claws back millions in fraudulent PIC claims

Straits Times
29 Jun 2015
Chia Yan Min

Iras moves to curb abuse of scheme meant to boost productivity

THE taxman has taken action over 245 fraudulent claims under a wide-ranging scheme that helps companies increase productivity through new technology and innovation.

These wrongful claims under the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme date back to when it was introduced in 2010.

The cash payouts and bonuses clawed back from - or not paid to - these claimants totalled about $10 million as of May 31, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) said. The amount includes penalties and fines.

Three of the cases are the subject of court cases this month.

One earlier case of abuse involved a company which falsely made a claim for the cash payout for the purchase of computer equipment worth more than $193,000. However, it spent only $1,500 on used computer equipment.

Iras, which administers the scheme, told The Straits Times that it has investigated 471 PIC claims to date.

The PIC scheme offers tax deductions or cash payouts to companies that invest in areas such as staff training, information technology or automation equipment to boost their productivity.

In all, companies have benefited from $2.9 billion in tax savings and cash payouts over the 2011 to 2014 years of assessment, an Iras spokesman said.

The number of companies using the PIC has been steadily growing.

In the 2014 year of assessment, 61,300 firms - or 44 per cent of active companies here - benefited from the scheme.

This is up from 52,500 - or 40 per cent - of active companies in the 2013 year of assessment, and 45,500 - or 37 per cent - of active companies the year before that.

The taxable income for each year of assessment refers to income earned in the company's preceding financial year.

The Iras spokesman said PIC applications "with suspicious characteristics that strongly indicate illegitimate claims" will be rejected upfront unless businesses can prove that they have fulfilled the conditions to qualify.

New laws were introduced last November to curb abuse of the scheme.

Businesses are now required to prove their IT and automation equipment is "in use" before they can claim PIC cash payouts.

Previously, companies just had to show that they had spent the money.

Businesses should also be able to "articulate the equipment's intended use" to Iras, said Senior Minister of State for Finance Josephine Teo during the Parliamentary debate on the law change.

The law also allows the Comptroller of Income Tax to deny PIC benefits to companies engaged in objectionable arrangements which seek to abuse the scheme.

In a report earlier this month, Citi economist Kit Wei Zheng noted that, after Parliament passed the new laws in November, new business formation plummeted.

There had been a surge in businesses set up from March to October last year, a trend some market watchers and policymakers interpreted as a sign of renewed business confidence.

But Mr Kit said this optimism may have been misplaced.

"We had viewed this surge as reflecting new businesses set up to take advantage of generous incentives such as the PIC, not all of which could be involved in wholly productive activities, given incidences of fraudulent PIC claims."

New business formation fell after the regulations were tightened in November and "normalised" to levels seen in 2012 and 2013, Mr Kit added.

Mr Paul Cornelius, a corporate tax partner at PwC Singapore, said that the tweaks to the law "certainly seem to present a barrier to anyone seeking to unfairly take advantage of the scheme".

While it is a challenge to identify every possible kind of potential abuse and every potential perpetrator, regulators typically look for an absence of real commercial purpose and economic substance, he added.



THE tax authorities here keep a close watch for tell-tale signs of dodgy claims under the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme.

Suspicious applications strongly indicating illegitimate claims will be rejected upfront unless the businesses can prove they have met the conditions to qualify for the PIC cash payout, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) said.

Signs of potential fraud could include the following:

• Businesses that do not employ genuine employees.

These businesses attempted to make CPF contributions to three individuals just to meet the "three local employees" condition for securing PIC cash payouts.

To substantiate their claims, these businesses prepared employment contracts that were purportedly signed by the "employees".

Upon review, Iras found that many such "employees" merely "lent" their names to help someone they knew and did not carry out work for the businesses.

• Businesses that engage in high-value cash transactions

Businesses have claimed that all transactions, including revenue from sales and qualifying PIC expenditure, were conducted entirely in cash despite the transactions being valued in tens or hundreds of thousands dollars.

These businesses claimed that they were therefore unable to provide banking documentation to Iras to verify the existence of such transactions.

In many of such cases, the tax authority's audits revealed that the transactions were not genuine.


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Man warned over drone at SEA Games

Straits Times
21 Jun 2015
Olivia Ho

A 55-year-old man was given a stern warning after he was caught flying a drone near the National Stadium.

He had been using the unmanned aircraft to take photos of the fireworks at the closing ceremony of the 28th South-east Asian Games last Tuesday. Police caught him operating the drone without a permit in Kallang Riverside Park close to 9pm.

Flying a drone in a designated Special Event Area such as the National Stadium is an offence under the Public Order Act.

The man could have been fined up to $20,000, jailed up to 12 months, or both.

A police statement yesterday said: "Flying an unmanned aircraft near a fireworks area is especially dangerous and can cause severe harm to members of the public who are watching the fireworks."

The use of drones was the subject of debate in Parliament last month, when a new law regulating their use was passed.

Under the Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Bill, which kicked in at the start of this month, operators need a permit to fly a drone that weighs more than 7kg, as well as for commercial purposes such as taking pictures of an outdoor wedding.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said 20 incidents involving drones have been reported since April last year, including two instances when drones dropped on MRT tracks after their operators lost control of them.

Two days ago, a Woodlands resident, in a posting on citizen journalism platform Stomp, complained about a man he had spotted repeatedly operating a drone near his block of flats. The man had failed to show him a permit for the drone, he wrote.


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Remind travellers to buy insurance, agencies told

Straits Times
13 Jun 2015
Cheryl Faith Wee

But Case says STB's new licensing condition does not go far enough

TO PROTECT consumers from travel agents that go bust after they have sold tour packages, companies must now remind travellers to buy insurance coverage against such an event happening, announced the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) yesterday.

But the consumer watchdog contends that STB's move does not go far enough. It said insurance should be purchased by the tour operators themselves.

Under STB's new licensing condition, travel agents will be required to encourage outbound travellers to buy such insurance when they pay a deposit or make payment worth $500 or more, or buy a package worth $1,000 or more.

Companies will also have to keep a record of whether customers decide to buy insurance.

Mr Yap Chin Siang, STB's assistant chief executive, said: "With the implementation of the new licensing condition, consumers will now be better informed on steps they can take to protect themselves against unforeseen circumstances, including travel agent insolvency."

Mr Devinder Ohri, president of the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, welcomed the requirement, saying: "This is a good move that allows consumers to better safeguard their interests by purchasing travel insurance."

But the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) begged to differ, with executive director Seah Seng Choon saying STB's new licensing condition does not "go far enough" in consumer protection.

"There will still be people who are not covered by insurance as they will have to be convinced to take up policies," he said.

Case had recommended that STB require travel agencies to insure their tour packages so that all customers will be covered.

Last month, travel firm Asia-Euro Holidays closed down, affecting hundreds of customers. Another company, Five Stars Tours, left thousands of customers in the lurch when it shut down suddenly last year.

Another agency, Dynasty Travel, said about 90 per cent of its customers will take up insurance before going abroad.

Ms Alicia Seah, the company's director of marketing communications, said: "The remaining 10 per cent either forget or they feel that they do not need insurance because they are travelling short distances."

Reviewing the criteria used in issuing travel agent licences might be more effective in protecting consumers against company insolvency, she said.

"Travel insurance helps consumers to have peace of mind, but it does not address the root problem that some companies might not be financially sound. Setting a higher barrier to entry, such as a higher required set-up capital, or checking if the management is qualified, might help address the problem better," added Ms Seah.


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Why construction firms are choosing mediation

Business Times
27 Jun 2015
Seah Choo Meng

It simplifies the dispute by focusing on the business priorities of both parties who are in control of the settlement terms

WHEN a landowner hires a contractor to design and build a project, it is standard practice for the contractor to engage several subcontractors, as well as suppliers, to assist in completing and delivering the project. With so many parties involved, it is not surprising that misunderstandings and disputes occur.

To manage contractual disputes in a timely and cost-effective manner, a growing number of businesses are turning to mediation, an informal method of dispute resolution facilitated by a neutral third party. The Singapore Mediation Centre saw 337 matters mediated last year, a 57 per cent increase from 2013. Of these, the construction industry saw 49 matters - nearly twice as many as any other industry.

Here are some reasons why construction firms are choosing mediation instead of taking their disputes to court.

Opportunity costs involved

The opportunity cost of a court battle can be very high for a construction firm, especially if the firm is sued by another party. This is because one of the main criteria in the tender and award process is that there must be no major legal cases against the contractor. In other words, the contractor will be given a lower rating in the evaluation process and hence will be less likely to get the contract.

Also, suppliers and subcontractors will be wary of working with the company for fear of not getting paid.

The company will be forced to reduce operations until the lawsuit is completed, which could be several years later.

In comparison, the mediation process (from application to settlement) can often be completed in a matter of weeks, and the company is free to take on new work in the meantime.

Flexibility of the mediation process

Construction disputes often revolve around costs and payments, especially variation costs related to changes in design or defects and non-compliance in the completed work, as well as a lack of clarity in contract terms.

Thus, going to court often involves a long and painful process of determining liability for multiple items based on factual and legal arguments, sometimes requiring many experts to express opinions or valuations.

On the other hand, mediation offers the flexibility of setting aside the emphasis on individual agendas and simplifies the dispute by focusing on the business priorities of both sides. As long as the disputing parties are able to agree on a mutual settlement, they can sign a legally binding agreement that will end the dispute.

Confidentiality and preserving the firm's reputation

Mediation is strictly confidential and preserves the reputation of the firm. You certainly do not want to be known to be litigious or quarrelsome, especially if you are a prominent company. You also do not want to let people know that you have problems with a job, as the news could easily get blown out of proportion.

In a recent case, a contractor and subcontractor had a dispute over the fees due to the subcontractor. If the case had gone to court, it would have been made known that the contractor had subcontracted the entire project, which would not have reflected well on their professionalism. While I do not support what the contractor had done, my point is that through mediation, the parties were able to settle the matter quietly and unobtrusively.

Control over settlement terms

Most construction firms do not expect disputes and even if they do, they do not normally have a budget for legal disputes, so a court battle can be very taxing on their finances.

While firms often go to court hoping to be awarded the highest possible compensation, it can often be an all-or-nothing gamble. I have seen clients whose lawyers told them that their case was solid and infallible, advising them not to settle in mediation, but eventually lost their court case.

In contrast, mediation puts you firmly in control of the settlement terms and allows you to draw a line at exactly how much you are willing to concede or to hold firm. It is within your power to ensure that the signed agreement reflects your business priorities.

Construction firms that want to use mediation to resolve disputes can consider the following pointers.

Time is money

It is imperative to weigh the opportunity cost of engaging in a legal dispute against the potential gains. Don't get carried away with profit maximisation in a single project to the extent that you lose sight of the big picture and neglect the overall development and expansion of your business.

I have many clients who were initially convinced that their case was strong but once they came to the mediation table, they realised that the other party also had a decent argument and that winning in court was not going to be as straightforward as they thought or as advised by their lawyers.

Prioritise business continuity

Even if you win a court case, you may find that you have lost out on further business opportunities with the other party. Instead, settle your dispute with mediation in a non-adversarial setting, work out a win-win solution, shake hands and preserve your relationship.

Protect your company from legal risk

Include a mediation clause in all contracts. SMEs, especially subcontractors, can be vulnerable to lawsuits as the main contractor will often try to drag out the dispute and use their deeper pockets to "bully" the subcontractors into giving up.

By using a mediation clause, you can make it compulsory for all disputes to try the mediation route first and increase the chances of an early settlement.

The writer has 18 years' experience in mediating construction disputes and also provides arbitration, adjudication, neutral evaluation and expert witness services

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CJ lauds support for helping ex-convicts: Wee Chong Jin in 1965

Straits Times
21 Jun 2015

Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin thanked the public for supporting efforts to build a rehabilitation and vocational facility in Woodlands for ex-offenders this week in 1965.

He was speaking at the annual general meeting of the Singapore Aftercare Association, of which he was president.

The Penang-born judge studied at Raffles Institution and Cambridge University and later moved to Singapore to work as a lawyer.

In 1963, he became the first local Chief Justice in Singapore and the youngest to be appointed, at the age of 45.

In 1987, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in civil law from Oxford University for his contributions to Singapore's judiciary during its formative years.

He went on to be Singapore's longest-serving Chief Justice, and was in office for 27 years before retiring in 1990.

He died in 2005.

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Work-life balance: Employees also have a role to play - Forum

Straits Times
13 Jun 2015

I FULLY agree that work-life balance is important to husbands and fathers ("Help dads achieve better work-family balance" by Mrs Shelen Ang; June 5).

Employers are constantly being asked to help create this for their employees.

I run a small law firm with a number of employees.

Employers like me want the elusive work-life balance, too.

With the demands of clients and the courts, it is difficult to have or create work-life balance.

The cost of running a business does not help to cut down the number of working hours.

Maintaining strict work-life balance is not possible in Singapore. In fact, this concept is now known as work-life harmony, as balance is not possible.

This does not mean we finish work on the dot, but that we juggle both work and life at the same time. At times, the focus is on life, and other times, it is not, depending on work exigencies.

As the Government is not likely to enforce work-life balance, the duty to create the balance also falls on the employees. They should focus on increasing personal productivity and working out mutually agreeable working methods with their superiors.

Ultimately, work-life balance may be achieved only if employees are willing to compromise on salaries, financial perks and standard of living.

Rajan Chettiar

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Views on Income Tax Act changes sought

Straits Times
27 Jun 2015

MEMBERS of the public now have the opportunity to comment on proposed changes to the Income Tax Act outlined in this year's Budget.

Feedback can be lodged until July 24 through e-mail, fax, post or the Finance Ministry's website. One proposed change involves cushioning large companies' internationalisation activities with a five-year concessionary tax rate of 10 per cent and a double tax deduction that covers staff postings to new overseas entities.

The Government will also support small and medium-sized enterprises in their strategic acquisitions, by lowering the acquisition cost cap from $100 million to $20 million, as well as increasing the mergers and acquisitions allowance rate from 5 per cent to 25 per cent.

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Court blocks use of civil suit data for police report

Straits Times
20 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Firm had asked to be allowed to give cops info it found in civil proceedings

A JUDGE refused to allow confidential information obtained by a plaintiff in a civil suit to be used in a police report against the same defendants, making clear that civil and criminal proceedings differ even if they arise from the same facts.

Justice Choo Han Teck spelt out the difference between the two in a rare case in which one party tried to use information gathered for a civil suit to support a criminal investigation.

In the case, cloud-based payroll and human resource management solutions firm I-Admin (Singapore) had sued two former employees who joined a rival firm about 15 months after leaving their former company.

I-Admin claimed that the two women breached the confidentiality clause in their contracts by taking data from their software programs and downloading them into their new company's system.

The information included the personal and private information of I-Admin's clients, which included banks and large corporations.

I-Admin sued former employee Hong Ying Ting and three other parties not named in the judgment. The three comprise the other former I-Admin staff, the rival company and a director who owned a 46 per cent share in the rival.

I-Admin, represented by Rajah & Tann lawyers Lionel Tan and Jocelyn Chan, then obtained court orders to seize computers belonging to the rival firm and hired experts to study the software and mechanism of these computers.

But a deal had been reached between the opposing parties to reduce the risk of confidential documents being used outside the litigation.

I-Admin then went to court for permission to provide police with a copy of the extracted materials to show that a previous report lodged by the defendants was false.

Allen & Gledhill Senior Counsel Stanley Lai and lawyer Clara Tung objected for the defendants, pointing out that the purpose of extracting the information from them had solely been to produce an expert's report.

In a judgment released yesterday, Justice Choo said that while I-Admin is entitled to make a police report, it is not necessary to show police the information found in the computers.

He said people are entitled to make a police report if they think a criminal offence may have been committed, adding that "it is against the public interest to prevent the making of such complaints".

"I find there are no exceptional circumstances justifying the release of such information for the purposes of making a police report and, in fact, it would be unduly prejudicial to the defendants if it were so allowed," said the judge.

"The police can invoke their own powers to seize the information. The police may then verify whether the information is true and whether the matter can be referred to the public prosecutor for criminal proceedings to commence."


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


I-Admin (Singapore) Pte Ltd v Hong Ying Ting and others [2015] SGHC 153

Doctor struck off for sex with teen

Straits Times
13 Jun 2015
Melissa Lin

He brought profession into disrepute: Medical Council

A GYNAECOLOGIST who had sex with a girl aged 14 - some 47 years his junior - has been struck off the register of doctors following an inquiry.

The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) said the "grave" actions of Ong Theng Kiat, 64, "brought the profession into disrepute" and the only appropriate sanction was to ensure that he would not be able to practise medicine any more.

Ong was jailed for 10 months last year for two counts of sex with the minor.

The grandfather slept with the girl on two occasions, in 2011 and early 2012, after meeting her through a dating website.

She lodged a police report in September 2012, and he was arrested and released on bail in December that year.

But the following year, while filling out a form to renew his medical practising certificate, he answered "no" to a question about whether he was the subject of any police investigation.

The SMC fined him $4,000 for the false declaration.

It held an inquiry against him on April 1 this year to determine if the convictions made him unfit for the profession.

He pleaded guilty to the charges of underage sex and false declaration.

He had been diagnosed with a major depressive order in January 2013, caused by the sudden death of his wife in May 2011. She died from a ruptured aneurysm in the brain.

In deciding on the sentence, the SMC's disciplinary tribunal noted that the diagnosis did not lessen his responsibility.

He had known the girl's actual age and taken two morning-after pills along for his first meeting with her in 2011, when they had unprotected sex at a hotel. He had also lied to her that he was 40 and worked in the stock market.

The tribunal felt that the nature of the offence and his actions rendered him "fundamentally unsuited" to continue as a registered medical practitioner.

It added: "The only appropriate sanction to uphold the proper standards of conduct and behaviour and public confidence in the profession was for Dr Ong's name to be struck off from the register."

He closed his Katong clinic in March 2013 and his Gleneagles clinic in July 2013, and has been in de facto suspension as a doctor since then. He remarried in January this year and is expecting a child with his wife, according to mitigation documents. SMC said he re-applied for a practising certificate in January.

In 1998, a doctor was struck off the register for peeping at a couple having sex in their parked car at East Coast Parkway.

He had pleaded guilty to the charge of insulting the modesty of the woman in the car by shining a torch into the car while she was in a state of undress.

In 2007, a doctor who was jailed for using his cellphone to film up the skirts of two women was suspended from practice for two years.


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Independent auditors for banks' outsourcing vendors

Business Times
27 Jun 2015
Jamie Lee

[Singapore] SINGAPORE-BASED firms handling outsourced work from banks involving sensitive data and material businesses must soon hire an independent auditor to go through their internal controls every year, and in effect, meet a set of guidelines outlined by the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS).

This overturns the current set-up, where financial institutions have their auditors show up to go through the controls of their third-party vendors. There have been, until now, no clear standards stating how regular these audits should be, or key factors that should be evaluated.

Such third-party vendors will also have to pay tens of thousands annually for such audits, which are submitted to banking clients to prove that the vendors' internal controls are effective. This cost for such audits - to be completed by the second half of next year - could be passed on to banks by vendors.

The announcement on Friday follows some high-profile incidents. There was the data theft involving Standard Chartered Bank, which said in late-2013 that statements of 647 private banking clients had been stolen through a server of Fuji Xerox.

And in 2010, DBS's system crashed, causing a massive service disruption for more than seven hours. This occurred because a routine repair job of its data storage system, maintained by IBM, went wrong and triggered the failure of most of its systems, including the one for back-up.

ABS director Ong-Ang Ai Boon said vendors support such a move because they are asked by individual banks to participate in separate audits, which take up time and resources.

Johnson Yau, sales director at MediaLink, which handles accounts for at least 16 financial institutions, noted that the cost of audit could mean additional expenses of S$40,000 a year.

But this beats going through more than a dozen audits ordered by the banks, he said, adding that the costs could be passed on to banks that require more rigorous audits that go beyond the ABS guidelines.

It has been observed, too, that companies that act as middlemen between banks and small print shops - and through this model, cut outsourcing costs further - will find it hard to address the potential lapses by their sub-contractors with this new audit requirement.

Mark Jansen, third party trust leader, PwC Singapore, told BT: "This is a paradigm shift for companies in the business of servicing the financial services sector. It makes them de-facto regulated to the same standards and scrutiny as their regulated customers." Service companies will have to re-think their pricing models, he noted, adding that smaller players may find it hard to keep up and exit the sector.

There are some global figures that suggest banks are not as vigilant about outsourcing as they should. Just 34 per cent of the 758 financial companies polled by PwC recently have assessed the security of third-party vendors over the last 12 months, PwC's 2015 global report on information security showed.

And besides taking a hit to reputation, banks must bear immediate costs to service disruption, and risks must now be more clearly weighted against savings through outsourcing.

"The costs of security incidents jumped about 25 per cent in 2014 compared to a year ago, with the number of financial firms reporting losses of US$10-US$19.9 million more than doubling from 2013," PwC said. But security spending rose just 5 per cent to US$11.3 million in the same period for billion-dollar institutions.


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Noble Group sues ex-China customer to block wind up

Straits Times
20 Jun 2015
Andrea Tan

This Bloomberg article was first published on 20 June 2015 in the Singapore English broadsheet, The The Straits Times.
SLW obtained permission to reproduce the article to give the legal community a broader view of legal reports from various news syndicates.

Chinese firm seeking payment from Noble Resources of alleged debt

Noble Group Ltd., Asia’s biggest commodity trader, sued a former Chinese iron ore customer of ten-years standing to stop any attempts to shut a Singapore unit over an alleged debt of $102,718.

Noble Resources International Pte has been granted an interim injunction by the Singapore High Court preventing Rizhao Zhongrui Native Produce Co. from winding-up proceedings, and is pursuing separate claims against the firm, Noble said in a statement. A closed hearing is scheduled for June 25.

The Chinese firm shouldn’t be allowed to harass and “assert undue commercial pressure” with the threat of action, Noble Resources’ global head of iron ore and special ores Timothy Gazzard said in court papers. Zhongrui said it suffered loss and reputational damage over poor quality iron ore it bought and that Noble was aggressive and unreasonable.

Noble Resources’ “reputation and credibility would be in serious danger of being irreparably damaged,” if Zhongrui isn’t restrained from trying to wind it up, Gazzard said in the court papers. Zhongrui’s attempts may also trigger default provisions in banking and credit facilities, contracts with suppliers and customers and reflect negatively on parent Noble, he said.

Wider Front

The Singapore court case comes as Noble fights on a wider front against criticisms of its accounting practices. In Hong Kong, the trader is also suing a former employee, whom it claims is behind the anonymous group Iceberg Research, for spreading false information about the company. Noble in an open letter this week to critics, which included an ex-Morgan Stanley banker, defended its methods and valuations.

Zhongrui didn’t respond to e-mails and phone calls seeking comments.

Disputes between the decade-long partners began last year according to court papers. After a few rounds of e-mail exchanges with lawyers from both companies, the Rizhao, Shandong-based company in April issued a statutory demand for the payment that resulted in Noble’s lawsuit. A creditor can seek to liquidate a company if payment isn’t made within three weeks after the demand.

“The statutory demand was plainly an abuse of process,” Noble said in its e-mailed response.

Financially Strong

Noble is financially strong and there’s no suggestion that Noble Resources is insolvent, the commodity trader’s lawyers wrote to Zhongrui on April 15, urging the Chinese company to withdraw its statutory demand or face legal action. The unit had a 76 percent jump in net income to $176 million in 2013 on sales of $17.2 billion.

Zhongrui won’t “lose any sleep” and will resist Noble Resources’ claims, the Chinese firm’s lawyers said in court papers.

Noble rose 2.2 percent to 69.5 Singapore cents at 1:23 p.m. on Friday. The stock has tumbled about 42 percent since Iceberg Research sparked debate about Noble’s accounting with a series of critical reports from February. Standard & Poor’s Investor Services on June 11 revised Noble’s credit rating outlook to negative from stable.

The case is Noble Resources International Pte v Rizhao Zhongrui Native Produce Co., OS374/2015. Singapore High Court.

Used with permission of Bloomberg L.P. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.

Background story

Mongolian firm sold for $87m

COMMODITY trader Noble Group said yesterday that it has sold its 100 per cent stake in a Mongolian company for US$65 million (S$87 million) in cash.

The company, Enkhtunkh Orchlon (EO), owns 50,022ha of land in Mongolia's South Gobi basin.

Noble said it has previously conducted exploration activities overseen by an independent international geological consulting group on the land.

The exploration included mapping, ground magnetic and geophysical surveys, and drilling 200 test holes, "which confirmed coking and thermal coal" on the land.

It said the exploration had previously confirmed the development prospects of the plot as a "contiguous extension" of land owned by Australia-based Guildford Coal on which commercial production work is being carried out.

Noble said the book value and net tangible asset value of the shares of EO at the date of disposal were US$57.8 million and US$57.5 million respectively.

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Blogger's bid to engage Queen's Counsel rejected

Straits Times
12 Jun 2015
Walter Sim

QC lacks local knowledge to argue case at hearing on damages: Court

THE High Court yesterday dismissed a bid by blogger Roy Ngerng to engage a Queen's Counsel (QC) for a High Court hearing on the damages he must pay for defaming Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The 34-year-old wanted Britain's QC Heather Rogers to argue his case at the hearing, slated for July 1 to 3 before Justice Lee Seiu Kin.

Mr Ngerng was found to have defamed PM Lee by suggesting, in a blog post, that he had misappropriated Central Provident Fund savings. PM Lee is claiming aggravated damages, asserting malicious intent in the publication of the article.

The application for a QC was reported in The Straits Times last week. And the hearing on the application took place on Tuesday.

Yesterday, in his judgment, Justice Steven Chong ruled that although QC Rogers is eminent in the field of defamation law in the United Kingdom, she does not have special qualifications or experience to argue Mr Ngerng's case here as it is "local-centric".

For example, she lacks awareness of the local sociopolitical climate and the relevant local principles in defamation law, he said.

Further, recent reforms in the UK's defamation law have taken its position "even further away" from that of Singapore, which has long stopped relying on precedents of English courts in the assessment of damages for defamation cases here.

Said Justice Chong: "There is no material before me to suggest that Ms Rogers would be particularly conversant with the delicate matrix of factors which informs the award of damages for libel against public figures in Singapore."

But even if QC Rogers had the requisite knowledge, Justice Chong said he would still dismiss the application.

The case at this stage was not complex enough to require even a local Senior Counsel, let alone a QC, he said, noting that Mr Ngerng had – until now – been "content" with being represented by local lawyers who are not Senior Counsel.

This was so even during the hearings to determine liability, which is "more complex" in nature.

In calling for a QC, Mr Ngerng's lawyer George Hwang argued that it was the first time a blogger is being sued by the Prime Minister. The case, Mr Hwang said, also raises issues like the appropriate sum of damages as the defendant is not well-off.

But Justice Chong replied: "We must be careful not to confuse novelty with complexity."

He also said it was "staggering" to suggest that Mr Ngerng's lack of means should be a consideration in the amount of damages to be awarded.

He rejected Mr Hwang's point that a QC "skilled in cross-examination" was needed to question PM Lee to decide if there was malice on Mr Ngerng's part.

It was Mr Ngerng – not PM Lee – who should testify on this matter, the judge said, because "the assertion of malice is based entirely on matters said and done by (Mr Ngerng)".

He ordered Mr Ngerng to pay $6,000 to PM Lee for his unsuccessful bid. The blogger has already paid the Prime Minister $29,000 in legal fees and related expenses as ruled by the High Court. waltsim@sph.com.sg

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Law don who beat up cabby gets 4 months' jail

Straits Times
27 Jun 2015
Hoe Pei Shan

Prof ordered to pay $1.5k compensation over drunken attack on 70-year-old

BLOOD was streaming down his face, but the punches kept coming, and 70-year-old cabby Sun Chun Hua began losing consciousness. His assailant, who is bigger than him, ran off only after a young man saw the fight and called for help.

It has been almost a year and a half since he was attacked by an assistant law professor from the National University of Singapore (NUS) who had initially refused to pay his cab fare. But Mr Sun told The Straits Times that he still vividly remembers the incident.

He was speaking after the professor, Sundram Peter Soosay, was yesterday sentenced to four months in jail and ordered to pay $1,500 in compensation to his victim. The 43-year-old could also end up paying with his job for the attack, which District Judge Victor Yeo said was "wholly uncalled for".

An NUS spokesman told The Straits Times: "The university expects all members of its community to conduct themselves in accordance with the law.

"Dr Soosay has been convicted of a serious offence. The university has suspended him without pay since May 29 this year, and will now initiate disciplinary action."

The Straits Times understands that while NUS is still reviewing its options, termination is a possibility.

Soosay, who was born in Malaysia and is a Singapore permanent resident, boarded Mr Sun's cab in the early hours of Christmas Day in 2013 while intoxicated, and vomited soon after. He then alighted near King Albert Park, in Clementi Road, and walked away without paying the fare.

After Mr Sun chased him and threatened to call the police, Soosay handed him a $50 note. Instead of waiting for his change, he struck Mr Sun from behind, straddling him and punching his face repeatedly.

Mr Sun needed multiple stitches on his face and left arm, where he suffered a deep wound that exposed the bone, and had to be hospitalised. His injuries left him unable to work for 17 days, and it took him more than a month to regain the use of his left arm and resume driving.

Fingering his scars, Mr Sun told The Straits Times yesterday that he has since stopped driving his cab late at night and avoids picking up drunk passengers.

He added that he is not troubled about whether Soosay keeps his job or how much compensation he gets. All he wants is a sincere apology.

"I trust the police and the court to handle the case, and I believe that justice will be delivered," said Mr Sun.

"So long as he (Soosay) is sincerely remorseful, it does not matter how much he pays me. But since the incident, he has not once said he's sorry."

The cabby said he will work for as long as he can despite his family's concerns about his safety. He and his 61-year-old wife have four grown-up children.

He also said he wants to thank the young man who had called for help.

"I don't even know his name or how to reach him, but I really want to tell him he was my saviour. I don't know what would have happened had he not called out to stop the man," said Mr Sun, who spoke to The Straits Times at an Ang Mo Kio coffee shop near his home.

Soosay, who initially claimed that Mr Sun was the first to attack - a testimony that Judge Yeo called "convenient conjecture and hypothesis" - told the court yesterday through his lawyer that he would be appealing his conviction and sentence.


Background Story

Mr Sun needed multiple stitches on his face and left arm where he suffered a deep wound that exposed the bone, and had to be hospitalised. His injuries left him unable to work for 17 days, and it took him more than a month to regain the use of his left arm and resume driving.

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The case for good legacy planning

Business Times
20 Jun 2015
Tang Hang Wu

When well-heeled married couples call it quits, where their divorce is heard matters as much as how their assets are divvied up

Lately, the titanic divorce battle between Malaysian tycoon Khoo Kay Peng, the non-executive chairman of Laura Ashley, and his wife, Pauline Chai, has been making media waves.

The battle lines have been drawn. Dr Khoo has chosen Kuala Lumpur as his field of warfare, but Ms Chai prefers to engage swords in London, going so far as to disclose to the English High Court that she keeps 1,000 pairs of designer shoes in her sprawling estate in Hertfordshire in order for the court to agree to take jurisdiction.

Thus far, she has successfully obtained a court order in England for her husband to pay her an interim maintenance.

Dr Khoo's position is that under Malaysian law, a wife's domicile follows that of her husband. Presumably, both parties believe that Ms Chai would be entitled to a lesser payout if the divorce proceedings are heard in Malaysia. And so the battle rages on, on both fronts.

In Hong Kong, the divorce of top engineer Otto Poon has unnerved trust professionals. Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal ruled that a family trust controlled by him worth HK$1 billion (S$172.5 million) is to be treated as his financial resource and that Mrs Poon is entitled to about HK$750 million.

Trusts are usually set up to ringfence assets against creditors and other claimants. For the court to decide that the settlor of the trust had a continued interest in the trust assets (the "financial resource" finding made by the court) undermines the raisons d'etre of many trusts.

In order to reach the conclusion that the trust was his "financial resource", the Hong Kong judges looked very closely at the workings of the family trust and the assets held by it.

The court held that the test of whether the discretionary trust was Mr Poon's "financial resource" depended on whether the court was satisfied that if he were to request the trustee to advance the whole or part of the capital or income of the trust to him, the trustee, acting in accordance with its duties, would, on the balance of probabilities, be likely to accede to that request.

In making this assessment, the Court ought to take into account the creation and terms of the trust, the letters of wishes, the nature of the trust assets and previous distributions made by the trustee. Looking at the facts, the Hong Kong Court was satisfied that the family trust was indeed Mr Poon's "financial resource".

He who draws the battle lines wins the war?

Why do parties engage in a protracted battle over which court is to have jurisdiction? The recent "big money" divorce cases in England and Hong Kong may have something to do with it.

In 2007, the so-called "King of London Insurance Market", John Charman, was ordered to pay his ex-wife, Beverly Charman, the sum of �48 million (S$101.7 million), the biggest divorce payout at that time.

Last year, the English courts ordered hedge-fund billionaire, Sir Chris Hohn, to pay �337 million to his ex-wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn. In 2011, Samathur Li, the heir of property tycoon Samuel Tak Lee, was ordered to pay HK$1.2 billion to his former wife, Florence Tsang. Last year, the Hong Kong Court of Appeal slashed this figure to almost a third of the original award.

As a result of these awards in London and Hong Kong, these two jurisdictions have respectively grown reputations as the divorce capitals of the world and of Asia for marriages in the Commonwealth.

Claimants are angling to have their cases heard before these - supposedly more generous - judges.

English law subscribes to the yardstick of equal division as a starting point (and often the end point as well) between a couple. This philosophy is also applied in equal force to wealthy couples, regardless of the parties' role as the breadwinner or homemaker.

In Hong Kong, the Court of Final Appeal has also said that to confine a non-working wife's award to the sum needed to meet her "reasonable requirements" is patently unfair and discriminatory. Unsurprisingly, many wives of wealthy Chinese businessmen have sought to file divorce proceedings in Hong Kong instead of mainland China.

The challenge with filing divorce proceedings in London or Hong Kong, however, is for the spouse to show a sufficient connection to these jurisdictions. Otherwise, the other spouse may successfully apply for a stay of these proceedings.

Singapore's position

It is interesting to contrast the English and Hong Kong approach to division of matrimonial property with Singapore's family law. In Singapore, the courts do not start with the yardstick of equal division.

In a careful review of decided Singapore High Court and Court of Appeal cases from 2005 to 2010 published by the Singapore Academy of Law, leading family law commentator Lim Hui Min has demonstrated that in divorces involving high-net-worth individuals, the court has generally awarded the homemaker spouse between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of the total matrimonial assets.

Based on this, Ms Lim said that generally, a "super" homemaker who has not contributed to the matrimonial assets can look forward to being granted, at most, half the matrimonial assets. A "super" breadwinner, however, would usually be granted more than 50 per cent.

Will Singapore divorcees go forum-shopping too?

Given these statistics, high-net-worth international couples may find themselves arguing that their divorce should be presided over by a foreign judge, rather than in Singapore courts.

As Judicial Commissioner Debbie Ong wrote in the preface of her recent book, International Issues in Family Law in Singapore, "The increase in international marriages and families raises challenging legal issues that affect family life, marriage and divorce. Marriages are more 'globalised' today, in that they growingly involve parties with connections to different countries."

Nobody gets married in the expectation of an unhappy end to the union. Broken marriages plague both rich and poor alike. However, when you have a thousand pairs of shoes in your English country home, or a trust fund in the billions, the simple fact is that there is more at stake financially when your marriage starts to splinter.

In addition to fighting over who gets the kids and the wedding silver, these days extended legal campaigns are fought over which court should have jurisdiction, because of a perceived arbitrage in the divorce awards in different courts.

Arguably, these are problems only rich people have. But an end to any marriage is a bitter pill, even for the wealthy. Anything we can do to alleviate any future suffering - especially if there are children involved - is good legacy planning.

The writer is a professor and director of the Centre for Cross-Border Commercial Law in Asia at the School of Law, Singapore Management University, and a consultant at TSMP Law Corporation, where he co-heads the Trusts and Private Wealth practice

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Recalcitrant doctor fined $24,000 by watchdog

Straits Times
12 Jun 2015
Priscilla Goy

He sent specimens to unaccredited US labs; SMC punishes him for sixth time

A RECALCITRANT doctor has been fined $24,000 by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for sending patients' specimens and samples to unaccredited medical laboratories in the United States.

It comes five years after Dr Wong Yoke Meng was fined the same amount by the then Subordinate Courts for the offences.

The court had found that the 68-year-old's offences were a breach of a condition of the licence for his aesthetic clinic at Paragon Medical Centre.

Last month, he was punished by the medical watchdog's disciplinary tribunal for the sixth time in 14 years.

His offences took place between 2007 and 2009 when he was the licensee of Clinique Suisse - now known as La Clinic.

The obstetrician and gynaecologist by training is listed on the clinic's website as Dr Cecil Wong.

The clinic said he was overseas and he could not be reached for comment.

In judgment grounds released yesterday, the SMC said that at the heart of its May 5 inquiry was whether it was just and fair that Dr Wong, who had been sentenced by the courts and paid the penalties, should be liable to further penalties under the Medical Registration Act.

The SMC charged him with "bringing disrepute to the medical profession... by virtue of his convictions" by the courts. The tribunal said there was "neither any injustice nor unfairness to further penalties" as proceedings in the courts and the tribunal were "completely separate and distinct".

In considering a suitable punishment, the tribunal found his offences reflected a disregard for his patients' health and safety.

It also noted that, given a previous offence in 2001 - when he allowed his clinic to be used for cosmetic treatment in breach of licence conditions by the Health Ministry - he should have exercised greater caution "whenever he thought of doing something out of the ordinary".

The offence in 2001 led to his first conviction by the SMC. The second was in 2010, when he was convicted of publishing misleading statements in an advertisement. It gave the wrong impression that he was a pioneer of stem cell treatment.

In two further brushes with the SMC, he was punished for advertising and offering medically unproven treatments.

In 2011, the SMC found him guilty of 13 charges of professional misconduct. These included carrying out procedures which were not medically proven and not getting patients' informed consent before carrying out procedures.

He was given a one-year suspension, on account of three of the charges. He filed an appeal to the High Court. It was heard in September 2011 and dismissed in less than 15 minutes.


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DPP appeals against man's casino offence acquittal

Straits Times
27 Jun 2015
Selina Lum

S'porean had paid $100 entry levy, but did so using friend's name

IS A person considered to have paid the $100 levy to enter a casino if the payment was made under someone else's name?

The question is being deliberated by the High Court as it mulls over an appeal by prosecutors in the case of a Singaporean man who paid the levy and entered a casino using a friend's identity card.

Teo Choon Chai, 25, had pleaded guilty to four counts of entering the Marina Bay Sands casino under false pretences and was sentenced to four weeks' jail.

However, he was acquitted of four separate counts of non-payment of the entry levy after he contested the charges in a trial.

The prosecution appealed yesterday to quash the acquittal, arguing that payment of the levy is invalid if made under another person's name.

Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon reserved judgment and will give his decision at a later date.

Under the Casino Control Act, a citizen or permanent resident is required to pay a $100 levy in order to enter a casino.

Anyone convicted of entering a casino without paying the levy faces a maximum fine of $1,000 and also has to cough up the levy.

However, the statute does not explicitly spell out whether the entry levy must be paid under the person's own identity.

In the current case, Teo had lost his identity card, so he used a friend's to enter the casino on three occasions in August 2013.

Each time, he paid the levy under the friend's identity. He was detained by a security officer on Sept 4, 2013, when he tried to enter the casino using the same method.

Last year, he was cleared of the non-payment charges by a district judge, who found that the law did not specifically state that payment of the levy is invalid if made under another person's name.

The district judge noted that paying the levy using another person's name would not undermine the objective of deterring casual and impulse gambling.

But yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Weng Tat argued that the law must be construed to mean that payment of the levy is invalid if made using another person's name.

He argued that a person's identity is an essential part of the entry levy regime, which is part of wider social safeguards against problem gambling, and the district judge's interpretation opens a back door for excluded persons to try to enter casinos.

However, lawyer Arvindran Manoosegaran, appointed by the court to give an independent view, agreed with the district judge that a person does not commit an offence of non-payment if he pays the levy under another person's name.


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Professor joins Peter Low law firm as consultant

Straits Times
20 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Michael Hor is dean of HK University's Law Faculty

PROMINENT law don Michael Hor has been appointed a consultant at Peter Low LLC, at a time when the law firm is handling a slew of high-profile public interest cases.

Professor Hor, 54, dean of Hong Kong University's Law Faculty, holds a Singapore lawyer's practising certificate. This means he can appear in court if required.

The firm's managing director, Mr Peter Low, said: "Michael brings with him decades of thought leadership in constitutional law, criminal law, evidence law and criminal procedure rules both in Singapore and abroad. His appointment will add depth to our firm's established practice.

"As a law firm which regularly litigates cases involving novel points of law, we are excited to welcome Michael to the forefront of shaping the criminal law in Singapore."

Prof Hor had spent 25 years at the National University of Singapore, where he was a senior professor and one of two candidates shortlisted in 2009 to succeed then law dean Tan Cheng Han.

He had previously served as consultant to the Ministry of Law and the Singapore Law Society's Criminal Practice Committee.

At Peter Low LLC, the key cases lined up in the months ahead include the Aljunied-Hougang- Punggol East Town Council case. The firm is defending the town council against the Ministry of National Development's appeal over a High Court refusal of its application to appoint independent accountants to the town council.

Another case involves the appeal of Dr Ting Choon Meng, who lost a patent case against the Defence Ministry but went on to air his grievances in a video and article on a blog. A State Court judge had ordered last month that the items include a notice to say that certain statements made by Dr Ting have been declared false by the court. Dr Ting had been taken to court under the new Protection from Harassment Act and seeks to clarify a novel point - whether the Act was meant to cover such cases involving the Government.

The firm's director, Mr Choo Zheng Xi, said having Prof Hor on board will "enable us to provide our clients with holistic, comparative and cutting edge advice on all areas of criminal justice".

Yesterday, Prof Hor said: "In the last few decades, the legal system of Singapore has come to be the envy of other jurisdictions. It can justifiably boast of a judiciary, a profession, government legal officers and two law schools which are of the highest calibre.

"The mark of a mature legal system is a vibrant culture of criminal, constitutional and administrative law litigation, and Singapore is no exception.

"By accepting this consultancy, I hope, in a small way, to continue to contribute to the healthy development of what may be called public interest litigation in Singapore."


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Singapore fintech startup gets accredited by Malaysia regulator

Business Times
12 Jun 2015
Jacquelyn Cheok

[Singapore] SINGAPORE crowdfunding platform Crowdonomic has been named a registered equity crowdfunding (ECF) platform in Malaysia by the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC).

Crowdonomic is said to be the first and only homegrown platform to be conferred this status in South-east Asia. Six platforms - including Malaysia's Alix Global, Ata Plus and pitchIN, Dubai's Eureeca, and Asia-Pacific player Propellar Crowd+ - were announced by SC chairman Ranjit Ajit Singh at the SC's Synergy and Crowdfunding (SCxSC) Forum 2015 on Thursday.

The six were selected from 27 global applicants that had responded to SC's call for ECF operators in February, and are expected to start ECF operations by end this year.

Said Crowdonomic's co-founder and chief executive officer Leo Shimada: "This is the high point of our continued constructive engagement with regulators to help shape competitive crowdfunding policies and build fully compliant and professional businesses in the markets we operate in. Our collaborative approach distinguishes us from many self-proclaimed crowdfunding platforms currently operating in grey areas."

Given that ECF is a new regulated space, the accreditation process has been extremely rigorous, Mr Shimada told BT. "We hope the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) will take great confidence in the fact that Singapore now has a homegrown fintech startup that is registered in a neighbouring jurisdiction and set to pave the way in overseas regulated markets. It shows that it not only has startups with the right calibre, but also exportable business models."

When contacted, a MAS spokesman said: "MAS issued a consultation paper on proposals for securities-based crowdfunding on Feb 16. We are currently reviewing the feedback received and will publish a response paper in the later half of 2015."

In February, Malaysia became the first South-east Asia country to announce an ECF framework and call for operator registration; it introduced the concept - which lets investors invest in companies in exchange for equity - at the first SCxSC forum last September. Notably, ECF regulations in Malaysia allow for participation by angel and retail investors, unlike in Singapore where MAS has proposed to limit ECF activity to accredited investors. In Malaysia, regulations also allow businesses to raise up to RM3 million (S$1 million) within a 12-month period and microfunds (such as venture capital funds) to raise unlimited amounts via an ECF platform.

ECF is part of SC's strategy to democratise finance, said Mr Singh. "Over the years, Malaysia has developed a diversified, well-established RM2.8 trillion capital market, helping businesses to grow and financing long-term investments in the economy. But for capital markets to be inclusive, SMEs and startups must also be able to obtain market-based financing."

Mr Shimada added: "ECF is revolutionary. Not only does it signify the birth of a new asset class, it allows businesses for the first time, to leverage the full power of social media and technology to efficiently raise capital. Startups will become more empowered to raise capital and investors can now transparently access new investment opportunities."

When asked if Malaysia can offer an ECF model for Singapore, Mr Shimada said that every regulator has its own approach. "Regulators in Malaysia were constantly in touch with aspiring operators to understand the industry, and address concerns and questions that they had. We felt that it was empowering and a positive step towards strengthening the ecosystem in the long run. We hope to achieve a similar level of continuous dialogue in Singapore."

Some other platforms here have announced plans to facilitate ECF. FundedHere - set up by Tembusu Partners' Andy Lim, Capbridge - by Singapore Exchange and Clearbridge Accelerator, are awaiting approval from MAS. FundedHere will not apply for a Malaysia ECF licence, it will conduct ECF and crowdlending solely in Singapore, while Capbridge hopes to kickstart its pilot run soon, BT has learnt. Another player, FundedByMe, has partnered Alix Global to run the ECF platform in Malaysia. FundedByMe is a Sweden-based platform whose Asia-Pacific headquarters is in Singapore.


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Time to review SGX's wearing of two hats

Business Times
27 Jun 2015
Kenneth Lim

Call from market stakeholders follows MAS official's comment that there could be scope to reduce oversight overlaps

[Singapore] MARKET stakeholders welcomed a review of the dual role of Singapore Exchange (SGX) as a regulator and a commercial business, a day after the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said there could be scope to do so.

"A listed company should not be a regulator," Securities Investors Association of Singapore (SIAS) president David Gerald said, reflecting comments made by others.

In an opinion published in Singapore media on Friday, MAS deputy managing director for financial supervision Ong Chong Tee wrote: "In a more competitive multi-exchange landscape, there is a need to mitigate potential conflicts of interests and ensure efficiency in regulation. For example, there could be scope to reduce any overlaps between the oversight functions of the MAS and the exchanges."

When pressed for what oversight functions, exactly, may be overlapping, MAS did not elaborate.

But the rest of the market certainly had some ideas.

To begin with, the gripe is not that the regulatory system in Singapore is necessarily bad.

Mr Gerald said MAS's recent reprimand of SGX over a major market outage showed that the financial authority was "doing a good job" in its oversight of the exchange. And SGX, Mr Gerald said, was "run by men of integrity".

Indeed, MAS has long argued that the current regime, in which SGX is both a regulator and a commercial exchange, posed no fundamental issues.

Still, the principle behind a listed company that was also in charge of the rules was problematic, Mr Gerald said, adding that SIAS will take up the matter with MAS.

One possibility mentioned was to shift regulation of exchange members - the brokers and dealers - to independent, self-regulated organisations, using a model such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra) in the United States. Finra, which regulates securities brokers, is governed by the industry and members of the public, and reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

One senior trader in Singapore, who declined to be named, said SGX cannot remain a regulator once another exchange enters the country. "You can look at some of the other markets," the trader said. "Australia, where you have more than one exchange, the regulatory body must be above the exchanges...In all of those models, it would suggest that an overarching body that's not involved as a beneficiary of any of the rules should be the one in charge of the rules."

Whether a Finra model will work in Singapore is debatable, the trader said. For a start, Singapore's market may not be big enough to justify another layer of bureaucracy. If MAS simply assumes the oversight function, that might also allow for faster changes when policymakers feel a need to address certain aspects of the market. "The question is whether an independent body can actually be better than the MAS...You have an eco-system already. Will this new structure be better?" the trader said.

Joy Tan, who jointly heads the financial services regulatory practice at Wong Partnership, noted that criticism of Finra in the wake of the global financial crisis revealed the risks of industry self- regulation without strong government oversight. "What has been seen with industry self-regulation is the risk of other external influences or even regulatory capture, whether real or perceived," she said.

Whatever form change takes, it might be time to start thinking about it, seemed to be the consensus.

"Has the securities market in Singapore come to a stage of maturity where you can split the commercial and regulatory functions? I would say the Singapore market has become a lot more mature. . .It's heartening that they're looking into the matter," said Phillip Fong, managing partner at Harry Elias.


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CTE crash that killed 4: Driver gets maximum 5 years' jail

Straits Times
20 Jun 2015
Elena Chong

A FORMER logistics operations director who caused the deaths of four people in a horrific accident was given the maximum five years in jail yesterday, with the judge calling it the "ultimate traffic offence".

Not only did Toh Cheng Yang ram his car into the victims at high speed, but he also did so under the heavy influence of a drug which causes drowsiness and impairs motor skills.

The 36-year-old, who was also banned from driving for 20 years, is however appealing against the sentence.

He had admitted that his dangerous driving caused the deaths of a Singaporean trainee pilot, his Korean girlfriend and her parents on the Central Expressway (CTE) on Aug 9, 2013.

Toh also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of nitrazepam - a prescription drug used to treat insomnia and convulsions - to such an extent that he was incapable of having proper control of his Honda Stream multi-purpose vehicle.

The victims had been standing at the back of their car, which had stopped at the chevrons before the exit to Yio Chu Kang Road, to retrieve a breakdown sign and tools for changing a punctured tyre when Toh ploughed into them just before 4am.

Singaporean Amron Ayoub, 23, had been driving his accountant girlfriend, Ms Song Ji Soo, 24, her golfer brother Song Seoung Hwan, 32, and parents Song Jung Woo, 55, and Kim Mee Kyung, 53, to Changi Airport.

Ms Song and her parents died on the spot, while Mr Amron died later in hospital. Ms Song's brother, who had remained at the right rear passenger door of the vehicle, survived the accident unhurt.

District Judge Low Wee Ping said Toh had "practically almost wiped out an entire family". "You have also committed one of the most reprehensible traffic offences. You drove under the influence of drugs. You had between five and 15 times above the therapeutic level of nitrazepam. It was more than twice the amount which would produce toxicity."

The judge explained that the case thus fell within the band of cases for which the maximum sentence should be imposed.

Toh was observed swaying between lanes along the CTE after drinking at a pub, and also seen speeding at between 90kmh and 110kmh. Just before the collision, he did not apply his brakes and was apparently trying to take the exit when he headed directly for the chevrons.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Winston Man said Toh had previous convictions for drug-related offences and compounded his "utterly irresponsible behaviour" by driving at high speeds.

He called for a signal to be sent that hazardous driving, especially that which needlessly causes death or injury to other road users, will be punished harshly.

Online, many questioned if a five-year jail sentence was enough. But Mr Ayoub Ahmat, 53, the father of the killed Singaporean, believes the law has dealt fairly with the accused.

"At the end of the day it's an accident; there's no intention," he told The Straits Times yesterday. "What happened will continue to haunt him. He also has his own family. I think the (court) has made the right decision."


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ADV: Kaplan - Find out more about Business & Law programme

Singapore Law Watch
12 Jun 2015

Legalise cannabis? No way, says Masagos

Straits Times
27 Jun 2015
Hoe Pei Shan & Ng Huiwen

Medicinal value not proven, he says at anti-drug event

LOBBYISTS around the world may be pushing for the legalisation of cannabis, but it is "wrong and dangerous" to view it as a soft drug, Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli warned yesterday.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 20th Anti-Drug Abuse Campaign carnival at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre, Mr Masagos, who is also Minister (Prime Minister's Office) and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, tried to "dispel myths" surrounding marijuana, the other name for cannabis.

These myths are increasingly being perpetuated online by social media and foreign news reports about legalisation of the drug in other parts of the world, most recently in several American states, for its purported medicinal value.

But these medical benefits for pain and epilepsy management "are not conclusive", said Mr Masagos, pointing to how cannabis has not been approved for use by medical authorities worldwide, not even by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Cannabis is addictive and "especially harmful to young people", he added, which is worrying as the number of young drug abusers in Singapore has been on the rise.

There were 1,110 abusers aged under 30 arrested last year, up 34 per cent from 826 in 2010.

"My message to youths is this: Keep saying no to drugs, whatever form they come in. They will ruin your lives and your future," he said.

In order to find ways to better address the growing problem of drug abuse, a Task Force on Youth and Drugs was convened last year.

Chaired by Mr Masagos, it surveyed 700 people aged 12 to 29, of whom 237 were abusers, and came up with several recommendations and measures.

Among them is a new counselling, support and guidance programme for youth abusers that incorporates parental input in the rehabilitation process.

The Ministry of Home Affairs will also form an Anti-drug Abuse Advocacy Network bringing together families, youth leaders and the medical community in an effort to raise awareness of latest drug trends.

An educational anti-drug mobile game produced by Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Interactive and Digital Media was launched yesterday.

Called Nelzon, the game is available in Android and Apple app stores. Players aim to avoid drugs, gangsters who tout them and the temptation to try them by toggling a game character to "jump" or "slide" over these "obstacles".

Final-year polytechnic student Ernest Ong, 19, who was part of the team behind the game, said: "Gaming is popular among young people and so I find it meaningful to teach them about drugs and their harmful effects through this platform."



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Sim Lim case: Accused hiring lawyers

Straits Times
20 Jun 2015
Lim Yi Han

FOUR staff members of a Sim Lim Square mobile phone shop that gained notoriety over the bullying of a Vietnamese tourist have decided to engage lawyers instead of pleading guilty.

They had previously indicated that they would plead guilty to cheating, but now Kam Kok Keong, 31, Lim Hong Ching, 33, and Kelvin Lim Zhi Wei, 32, are looking to hire a lawyer.

The fourth employee of the now-defunct Mobile Air, Koh Guan Seng, 38, has already hired a lawyer to reduce his charges.

Jover Chew, 33, owner of Mobile Air, is facing charges of cheating and criminal intimidation.

Last year, Mobile Air gained international notoriety after a video showed Vietnamese tourist Pham Van Thoai kneeling at the shop after buying an iPhone 6.

Mr Thoai claimed that he had been quoted a price of $950 for an iPhone 6, but was later asked to fork out an additional $1,500 for a warranty.

Chew also came under fire for refunding a Chinese national $1,010 in coins last October.

The video went viral and prompted a wave of changes at Sim Lim Square, as well as proposed changes to strengthen consumer protection here.

All five men were arrested on May 27 and charged two days later. Koh faces 15 counts of cheating involving $9,789; Kam was charged with eight counts involving $3,710; Lim Hong Ching faces two counts of cheating involving $1,600; and Kelvin Lim was charged with one count involving $330.

Chew, who has a lawyer, was charged with cheating 25 people, and the total amount involved was $14,449. He was also charged with criminal intimidation, for threatening to have a victim's work permit revoked if he did not pay $600.

Yesterday, Koh told the judge that he had engaged lawyer Edmund Wong to reduce his charges.

When District Judge Siva Shanmugam asked Kam why he did not hire a lawyer previously, he said it was because he was raising money.

Both Koh and Kam are out on bail of $20,000 each.

Both Lim Hong Ching and Kelvin Lim also said they wanted to hire lawyers and are out on bail of $10,000 each.

Mr Thoai and the woman were not among those named in the charges against Chew.

For each cheating offence, the five of them face up to 10 years' jail and a fine. If convicted of criminal intimidation, Chew also faces up to two years' jail and/or a fine.


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Man bags more of Mitre sale proceeds

Straits Times
11 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Apex court rules out two of his four cousins from claim

FOR almost two decades, Mr Chiam Heng Hsien fought tooth and nail with his relatives - first to keep his crumbling Mitre Hotel, then when the property site was ordered sold, to get a bigger share of the $115 million in proceeds from the sale.

Unhappy that he had to split a 10 per cent stake with four cousins, Mr Chiam has spent the last three years fighting them for it.

This paid off partly last month, when the Court of Appeal ruled out two of the cousins from the claim, giving Mr Chiam about $3.8 million, up from his initial $2 million share.

The 10 per cent stake in the land in Killiney Road - about half the size of a football field - belonged to Mitre Hotel Proprietors (MHP), the partnership that ran the hotel. The remaining stakes were owned by other relatives.

Mr Chiam had gone to court in 2007 to stop the sale of the entire piece of land, claiming he had the right to stay on the property indefinitely, but failed.

When the site was sold three years later, Mr Chiam locked horns with four cousins - Mr Chiam Heng Chow, Mr Chiam Heng Tin, Ms Chiam Mui Ken and Mr Chiam Heng Suan - arguing that they had no share in the $11.5 million due to MHP following the land sale.

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

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

But his uncles' children disputed this, arguing that the proceeds should be divided based on the respective shares spelt out to each brother in a 1952 partnership agreement.

Mr Chiam sued the four relatives but the High Court dismissed his claim last year - which meant his share remained at about $2 million.

Mr Chiam, represented by Eldan Law lawyer Edwin Lee, then appealed to the apex court which reversed the High Court ruling in relation to only two cousins - Heng Chow and Heng Tin.

The court ruled that the original partnership was technically dissolved upon the death of one of the partners, Mr Toh Say, in 1990. Mr Toh Say's personal representatives Heng Chow and Heng Tin had the right to the monetised value of his share but the claim was now time-barred.

Following Mr Toh Say's death, his estate and representatives were not admitted into the partnership, and his estate's claim to the partnership's assets would have expired within six years - in 1996.

The remaining two cousins, however, got to keep the amount allotted to them because the court found Mr Chiam had consented to their admission as partners, as representatives of the other two original partners who had died.


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Chiam Heng Hsien v Chiam Heng Chow [2015] SGCA 27

Proposed display ban: Cigarette sellers expect confusion

Straits Times
27 Jun 2015
Melissa Lin

Buyers can't point at what they want

A PROPOSAL to ban shops from displaying cigarettes for sale will result in a host of problems, said retailers. They expect confusion, longer transaction times and added business costs should the rule kick in.

But most business owners said it is unlikely to affect sales much.

Under the proposed amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, retailers have to keep tobacco products out of patrons' sight, in opaque storage units.

Private psychiatrist Munidasa Winslow, an addictions specialist, said the ban will reduce impulse cigarette-buying and, for those trying to quit smoking, reduce the visual cues that entice them to smoke. But it will have no effect on addicts, he added.

The measures are not practical given that shops sell over 100 types of cigarettes, said Mr Hong Poh Hin, vice-chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association.

"Now, customers can point at a cigarette pack and we know where it is," he said. "But if there's a curtain covering the packs and my worker is new, how will they know where to find the correct pack? It's not efficient."

Another amendment to the Act will allow retailers to show text-only price lists of tobacco products, which are currently prohibited as a form of advertisement, upon request.

Mr Alan Tay, the chairman of the Singapore Mini Mart Association, said the authorities should also allow brand logos to be put on the price list. Many mini-mart employees are Chinese-educated and may not be able to match the brand names to the ones on the packs, he said.

"Quarrels are bound to happen when workers sell the wrong pack to customers," he said.

Ms Lilienne Chong, merchandise director at 7-Eleven, said many of its franchisees are small and medium-sized enterprises "already facing a very challenging operating environment".

"While we are fully supportive of the fundamental objectives behind the display ban... business will be affected," she said.

Mr Maurice Perry Lin, 30, who has been trying to quit smoking for seven months, said the measures are not good enough.

"I don't need to see the pack to crave a cigarette. What matters most is the smell," said the assistant manager, who has been smoking since he was 15.


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Amos Yee in remand but Facebook posts appear

Straits Times
20 Jun 2015
Olivia Ho

TEENAGE blogger Amos Yee is into his third week of remand, yet his Facebook page has suddenly come alive again in the past two days.

Since Thursday, seven posts have appeared on the 16-year-old's public page.

The first, which read "What's up doc? Hahahaha...", popped up at about 5pm on Thursday.

It was followed a few hours later by another post, which posed the question: "How is it that I am in prison, yet I am still able to post something on Facebook?"

It is still not clear how the Facebook page is being updated.

The Singapore Prison Service confirmed that "all inmates and remandees do not have access to any telecommunication devices within the prison institutions".

Yee was found guilty on May 12 of uploading an obscene image and making remarks intending to hurt the feelings of Christians in a video.

He was remanded for three weeks on June 2, after District Judge Jasvender Kaur called for a report to assess if he is suitable for reformative training.

Many of the Facebook posts complain about prison life.

One laments the lack of exposure to sunshine, while others criticise the attitudes of police officers, such as towards Yee's opting for vegetarian meals.

All three of Yee's lawyers - Mr Alfred Dodwell, Mr Chong Jia Hao and Mr Ervin Tan - said when contacted that they were not aware the posts were being made.

Mr Chong said yesterday: "We aren't aware of how this is happening and we don't want to speculate. We'll just focus on preparing for the sentencing. Everything else is secondary."

Netizens had their own theories. Some speculated that Yee had written the posts beforehand and scheduled them to appear later. Others suggested that he had given his Facebook password to a third party, or that his account had been hacked.

Yee's mother, Madam Mary Toh, declined to comment on how the posts were being made.

He is next due in court on Tuesday, where he may learn his sentence.


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Drug-trafficking accused must choose case at outset: Judge

11 Jun 2015
Neo Chai Chin

There must be only one trial to dispose of all issues, says Justice Choo Han Teck

SINGAPORE — Even with changes to the law from 2013 giving some drug traffickers the chance to escape the death penalty, there should not be a staggered trial resulting in an uncertain fate for accused persons at every stage, a High Court judge has ruled.

At the outset, an accused person has to choose his case — either arguing that he did not traffic drugs, or that he did so only as a courier. Prosecutors must also indicate then whether they will be granting a certificate of substantive assistance if an accused person is deemed to be merely a courier by the court, said Justice Choo Han Teck.

Having “a series of hearings” could give accused persons the impression that they have several opportunities to save themselves from the gallows, “thus diminishing the deterrent effect that Parliament seeks to maintain”, he added in a judgment made public today (June 10) determining Chum Tat Suan to have been only a drug courier.

There must be only one trial to dispose of all issues, following which, the option to appeal may be taken up, said Justice Choo.

The accused person might make two final submissions together: That he did not traffic drugs, but in the event that the court finds he did, his role was merely that of a courier. He cannot try out one defence after the other, the judge added.

“Even an accused in a murder case has to elect from the start if he wishes to plead diminished responsibility. By the same token, the Public Prosecutor must indicate at the outset as well whether it will or will not be granting the certificate of substantive assistance. This will enable the accused to consider his defence carefully and make his election,” wrote Justice Choo.

He had disagreed with prosecutors and Chum’s lawyer that the court must first make a finding on Chum being a mere courier, before prosecutors take a further statement from him to determine if he merited a certificate of substantive assistance that would give a judge the discretion to spare him the death penalty.

If a certificate is not issued, both parties would then argue if the accused had such abnormality of mind as to be spared the gallows.

The amended laws do not state that the findings must be made one after the other, which would prolong judicial proceedings, said Justice Choo.

When the law sets out a procedure for a capital case, it allows hope and mercy a fair and even chance to co-exist, he said. An accused should be spared the agony of having hopes raised and dashed “so many times”, he added.

Chum, 66, was arrested in January 2010 at the Woodlands Checkpoint and charged for importing not less than 94.96g of heroin into Singapore.

Contacted today on Justice Choo’s decision, an Attorney-General’s Chambers spokesperson said it will consider whether to issue a certificate of substantive assistance to Chum, and will seek expert opinion on his psychiatric report submitted. The latter is to assess if Chum suffered from abnormality of mind during the offence that substantially impaired his mental responsibility, said the spokesperson.

Justice Choo had in 2013 highlighted potential problems with a three-phase procedure after laws were amended to give judges the discretion to spare some drug couriers the death penalty.

The Public Prosecutor then raised three points of law to the Court of Appeal for clarification.

Last November, the apex court ordered the cases of Chum and another drug offender, Abdul Kahar Othman, to be sent back to the High Court to determine if they were couriers, after it ruled that the meaning of “courier” is limited only to transporting, sending or delivering the drug.


Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

PP v Chum Tat Suan [2015] SGHC 151

Family in 3-way tussle over businessman's will

Straits Times
26 Jun 2015
Selina Lum

Wife battling two sons over ownership of shop and claiming $600k against his estate

EXACTLY 12 years to the date of the death of a small-time businessman, his family members met in court for the start of a hearing into a three-way tussle over his million-dollar estate.

Madam Low Kim Thai, 79, who was left $3,000 in her late husband's will, is battling two of her sons over the ownership of a Boon Lay Housing Board shop unit, valued at $800,000 in 2002.

Her husband and the father of her four sons and three daughters, Mr Lai Thai Lok, was the registered owner of 51 per cent of the property, while her second son Foong Sin held a 49 per cent stake. But Madam Low now contends that the 51 per cent share belongs to her, and not her husband.

She is also claiming $600,000 that her husband received in 1992 when he transferred his rights in a Bedok HDB shop unit to a neighbour.

The money had been deposited into two bank accounts in her name, but she asserts that the funds were "spirited away" by her youngest son.

In June 2003, the patriarch had made a will giving his share of the Boon Lay property to eldest son Khian Hin, youngest son Hoon Woon and grandson Yida, the son of his bankrupt third son Foong Choong.

He willed his other assets, including $400,000 in the bank, to his three daughters, eldest son, youngest son and grandson. Foong Sin and Madam Low were given just $3,000 each.

After the patriarch died on June 25, 2003, Madam Low became the sole owner of their four-room HDB flat in Marsiling.

When Hoon Woon, appointed as the executor of the will, tried to distribute the assets, his elder brother Foong Sin refused to hand over the duplicate lease of the Boon Lay shop. Foong Sin said he owned the whole unit, not just 49 per cent, and that his father was holding 51 per cent on trust for him.

In 2012, Hoon Woon, represented by Mr Ramalingam Kasi, sued Foong Sin, represented by Mr Pratap Kishan.

The following year, Madam Low jumped into the fray.

The matriarch, represented by Mr Suresh Nair, applied to be added as a defendant in the suit, staking a claim on 51 per cent of the Boon Lay unit and claiming $600,000 against her husband's estate.

Madam Low, who married Mr Lai when she was 18, contends that her husband did not pay for the two shops and did not own them.

His name was on the documents because he was a traditional Chinese man who did not want his wife to be the registered lessee of the units, she asserts. He had rented the units at first.

She contends that she set up the two shops using her personal savings from working at her fishball noodles and laksa stall.

Madam Low says that she ran the two shops while raising seven children and was not formally paid a salary until 2005.

Hoon Woon contends that his father had decided to buy the Boon Lay property, keeping the majority stake while giving his four sons 49 per cent. Foong Sin, who ran the store, later bought over his three brothers' shares.

Hoon Woon argues that Foong Sin did not pay fully for their shares and their father came up with part of the money. He said that other than helping out at the store, his mother was not involved in the acquisition of the shop.

But Foong Sin said he paid his three brothers in full and his father did not contribute any money to the purchase of the shop.

Both Madam Low and Foong Sin are arguing that Mr Lai's will is not valid as the circumstances were suspicious and cast doubt on whether Mr Lai, who was in poor health at the time, was capable of making a valid will.

But Hoon Woon contends that the circumstances were not suspicious and that his father made the will of his own free will.

The trial, which is scheduled for 12 days, continues.


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Crackdown on corporate tax evasion 'unlikely to affect S'pore'

Straits Times
19 Jun 2015
Jacqueline Woo

A GLOBAL crackdown on firms "shifting profits" abroad to evade tax is likely to have little impact here, given Singapore's compliance with international practices, say PwC executives.

They note that, while Singapore's corporate tax rate of 17 per cent is among the lowest in the world, its legal framework will deter multinationals from moving profits here to avoid levies in another jurisdiction.

Australia is among the latest to join the crackdown. Last month, it proposed a new law to tighten loopholes while targeting the activities of about 30 multinationals. Similar efforts have taken place in Europe and India.

PwC Singapore tax leader Chris Woo told The Straits Times in a recent interview that it would be very hard for profit-shifting to happen in Singapore, given its compliance with international tax standards and strong tax treaty network.

"It is, in a way, still business as usual," he said, noting Singapore is always conscious of the need to meet global standards.

He said: "There might be refining of tax regulations to increase clarity, transparency, or increased reporting, which would help businesses based here better demonstrate their substance."

On the sidelines of PwC's global tax symposium, which ended on May 28, he said Singapore had always been rigorous about attracting businesses with substantive business operations.

"To businesses, we have a strong rule of law - it's a safe country with robust infrastructure. As a financial centre, it adds to the global value chain.

"These commercial factors far outweigh the tax factor, which is just icing on the cake."

He said the bigger challenge is dealing with firms that are taxed two or even three times.

"It's the same dollar earned, but a company can be taxed twice, in two countries."

PwC global tax leader Rick Stamm said: "A good system taxes profits only once, somewhere in the world. It should also support global trade - be transparent and clear."

A project pushed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that aims to standardise tax rules worldwide - and includes eliminating double taxation - could be the "best chance to get positive near-term change", he said.


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Former financial controller of ST Marine to plead guilty in graft case

Business Times
11 Jun 2015
Melissa Tan

[Singapore] A FORMER group financial controller of shipyard ST Marine - the last of five former employees of the company to be hauled up in court in a corruption scandal that allegedly involved bribing agents of the firm's customers in return for contracts between 2004 and 2010 - has indicated his intention to plead guilty.

Patrick Lee Swee Ching was charged on Wednesday. He faces 38 counts of abetting false entries for entertainment expenses worth over S$126,000, according to a statement by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

Analysts were, however, quick to downplay any impact this development may have on parent company Singapore Technologies Engineering (ST Engineering), saying that the former executives embroiled in the case were no longer employees.

Lee, 58, had been ST Marine's group financial controller from 2001 to 2006 before becoming chief financial officer of Vision Technologies Systems, a United States division of ST Engineering. He was arrested in 2011 but was later allowed to go back to the US. He is now back in Singapore and his passport has been impounded.

ST Engineering said in a Singapore Exchange filing on Wednesday that it does not expect the charges against Lee to have any material impact on its consolidated net tangible assets and earnings per share for the current financial year. Analysts agreed. "As far as the market is concerned it's a non-event," said UOB Kay Hian analyst Ajith Kom. "The market has already known about the likely prosecution for some time and has taken ST Engineering's guidance on the fact that there will be no impact."

Lee was the fifth and final former ST Marine senior executive to be charged in relation to the graft case. The four others were charged in December 2014.

This group includes two former ST Marine presidents, See Leong Teck and Chang Cheow Teck. See was the company's president from December 1997 to February 2008 and was succeeded by Chang, who held the role until April 2010 before moving to ST Aerospace. See is accused of seven counts of conspiring to corruptly bribe agents of the shipyard's customers while Chang is accused of giving almost S$274,000 in bribes on three occasions. The remaining two are Mok Kim Whang - a former senior vice-president of the shipyard's Tuas yard who is accused of giving a bribe of more than S$43,700 - and another former group financial controller Ong Tek Liam, who faces 118 counts of abetting false petty cash claims for bogus entertainment expenses amounting to more than S$521,000.

The CPIB said in its statement that it "takes a serious view of any corrupt practices, and will not hesitate to take action against any party involved in such acts". Lee's case will be heard on July 1 while the four others' pre-trial conference start on Thursday.

In its Wednesday announcement, ST Engineering said that it is "committed to maintaining high standards of corporate governance" and "does not condone fraud, including corruption and bribery, and is fully committed to proactively mitigating the risk of its occurrence".

ST Engineering shares closed six cents up at S$3.36 on Wednesday.


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Scope may exist to review oversight roles of Singapore exchanges: MAS

Business Times
26 Jun 2015
Kenneth Lim

MAS, SGX also seeking views on how to improve capital markets here

[Singapore] SINGAPORE may have to reduce overlaps between the oversight functions of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the exchanges as industry competition increases, a key MAS official said.

Addressing various issues regarding Singapore's securities market in an opinion piece published on Friday in the Singapore media, MAS managing director of financial supervision Ong Chong Tee said the regulator is also open to improving arrangements to help remisiers adapt to continuous all-day trading. Also, MAS and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) will hold dialogue sessions with various stakeholders to gather feedback and ideas to improve the country's capital markets.

The opinion piece also gives a hint of the direction in thinking on Singapore's securities sector.

MAS and SGX have made a number of regulatory changes over the past year to strengthen Singapore's securities market in response to concerns about market irregularities, low trading volumes and a lack of quality listings, Mr Ong wrote.

The measures "aim to achieve a robust and vibrant securities market, where companies can raise capital efficiently, investors can pursue their financial objectives, and intermediaries can serve their customers' needs effectively", he said.

Noting that the industry landscape was becoming more competitive, Mr Ong noted that there could be room to improve the way exchanges and markets are regulated. An exchange such as SGX currently is both a commercial entity as well as a regulator.

"In a more competitive multi-exchange landscape, there is a need to mitigate potential conflicts of interests and ensure efficiency in regulation," Mr Ong wrote. "For example, there could be scope to reduce any overlaps between the oversight functions of the MAS and the exchanges."

Until now, the position usually taken is that the current regime in which the SGX is both regulator and commercial exchange poses no fundamental issues.

Addressing remisiers, who have been especially vocal and often disapproving of the many changes in the marketplace, Mr Ong urged them to adapt to the times.

"Brokerage firms and remisiers need to broaden their services beyond merely executing trades for their clients," he pointed out. "For example, they could provide personalised advisory and risk management services, catering to the specific investment needs of their clients."

Addressing an often-raised issue by the Society of Remisiers, Mr Ong asserted that it is not tenable to reverse the course on continuous all-day trading (CAT) and bring back the lunch hour.

"The larger question is whether Singapore as an international financial centre can afford not to have CAT," he wrote. "Financial markets trade round the clock. CAT is a common feature in major markets including the US, UK, Australia, and Europe. Investors in these markets are able to manage their exposures without a break in exchange trading hours."

But MAS is prepared to help remisiers better cope with all-day trading.

"When CAT was implemented in 2011, alternative arrangements were considered to assist remisiers to support their clients continuously, such as the channelling of transactions through brokers' central dealing facilities or via mobile devices," Mr Ong wrote. "MAS and SGX are ready to work with the affected parties to review whether these arrangements can be further improved."

MAS and SGX will also be having more discussions with market stakeholders.

"Some stakeholder groups have expressed a desire for even more dialogue," Mr Ong said. "MAS and SGX will hold joint roundtable sessions with various stakeholders to gather feedback and ideas to improve our capital markets."

In terms of the quality of listed companies, Mr Ong said that while SGX has raised the bar for mainboard listings, among other measures, a balance had to be struck in allowing businesses to access capital.

"Improving the quality of listings is important," he noted. "But a well-functioning securities market should also serve as a platform for companies in different phases of growth to list and raise capital as long as they meet the requirements."

He stood firm on a number of measures that have generated some controversy.

On SGX's introduction of a minimum trading price for mainboard-listed companies, Mr Ong wrote: "While there will indeed be some short-term adjustment costs, it is important to not lose sight of the longer term objective of enhancing the integrity of the market as a whole - one that is less prone to bouts of excessive speculation or manipulation."

Mr Ong also argued that the specified investment products (SIP) regime was essential to protecting retail investors, and customer suitability assessment could not be replaced by simple disclosures.

"The Lehman mini-bond episode has shown that a presumption that retail investors can understand the investment risk of complex products upon signing a risk disclosure statement is flawed," he wrote.

He also acknowledged that investigations into the 2013 penny stock saga have been going on for a while, but said the process was sometimes necessarily long.

"It is important that the investigation process be rigorous and not rushed," Mr Ong said. "There is often a web of details to be ascertained in each case. To be effective, investigations need to be confidential so as not to tip off suspects."

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

Tighter MOM rules to prevent crane accidents

Straits Times
19 Jun 2015
Amos Lee

ELEVEN dangerous incidents involving cranes have already been recorded so far this year, compared with 12 cases in the whole of last year.

This has prompted the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to introduce two safety measures to combat this worrying trend.

It is making it compulsory for all mobile cranes to have data loggers to better keep track of things such as maintenance schedules.

All new mobile cranes must have data loggers from August, while existing cranes need to be equipped with them by Aug 1, 2018.

MOM is also making the current demerit system for workplace accidents stricter.

The measures were unveiled on Wednesday by Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower and Education, at the launch of the Construction Safety, Health and Security Campaign at the Employment and Employability Institute.

Mr Osman Adam, 51, a products support manager of crane supply and rental company Tat Hong Holdings, said data loggers can help to boost safety.

"The data loggers record all activities on the crane, such as maintenance schedules, lifting and tracking the weight of loads to prevent overloading," he said.

But it might be hard to install these on existing cranes, he said.

"We have more than 200 cranes and most are involved in projects at the moment; it will be expensive and probably time consuming as well," he added.

Installing a data logger costs at least $10,000 a crane. So the Workplace Safety and Health Council has launched a co-funding scheme to cover up to half the cost, capped at $5,000 per mobile crane.

At Wednesday's event, Mr Hawazi also outlined changes to the demerit points system.

Under the existing system, companies are not barred from hiring new foreign workers when there is a fatal accident.

But under the enhanced system, a company will be barred from hiring new foreign workers for three months after one workplace fatality.

These changes would encourage crane operators to be more careful, said Mr Hawazi.

"We must remember that every worker is someone's spouse, parent or child. As employers, it is our duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace for them," he said.


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Do more to respect, protect artistic creation: Forum

Straits Times
11 Jun 2015

CULTURAL Medallion winner Lee Wen has stated that he was not informed or given credit for the idea behind a horseshoe-shaped ping-pong table installed at the Sports Hub for the SEA Games carnival which resembled his artwork Ping-Pong Go Round ("Ping-pong table too similar to artwork?"; last Saturday).

The SEA Games organising committee has said that there was no intention to infringe on any rights, and that a vendor who was unaware of the similarity proposed the activity.

Since 1998, Lee's Ping-Pong Go Round has toured widely round the world. Lee has clarified that a proposal to exhibit this artwork in front of the Sports Hub was submitted to the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and the Sports Hub last year, and that the minister's office confirmed receipt of this proposal.

It is curious that something so similar later appeared at the Sports Hub.

We understand that the installation has since been dismantled and discussions are currently ongoing among all relevant parties.

We hope an amicable outcome can be reached, so Lee's art can continue to engage the public.

This is a good example of how art can enliven spaces and connect strangers to one another in fun and imaginative ways.

Such projects illustrate the endless possibilities art can bring to make Singapore a more attractive place, and should be encouraged.

It is troubling, however, that due consideration and acknowledgement were not initially given to the artist.

We are also concerned that the intellectual property (IP) lawyers consulted in last Saturday's report felt no copyright had been infringed.

This incident highlights the lack of sufficient measures that respect and protect artistic creation in Singapore.

In a nation that has been consistently ranked by international surveys as having one of the best IP protection laws in the world, why did this incident occur?

Even if it was legal, was it ethical?

This incident raises questions about the environment for creativity and original content creation in Singapore - key outputs desired by national policies that have been calling for Singapore to become a knowledge economy powered by innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

More can be done to encourage, respect and protect content creation.

The Government has made tremendous efforts in growing and professionalising the arts.

Unfortunately, limited understanding of artists' rights and standard industry practices remains.

Artists should be given legitimate recognition and reward for the time and effort they spend on proposing and creating artworks, with the assurance that their ideas and creations are protected from plagiarism and imitation.

We hope this incident will inspire more discussion on IP in the arts, and concrete steps can be taken towards according clearer IP protection for arts and cultural workers.

Audrey Wong (Ms)

This letter carries 229 signatures.

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Address ‘threats’ in lawyers’ letters: Voices

26 Jun 2015

As reported in “Law firm in Dallas Buyers Club action accused of bullying tactics” (June 23), local firm Samuel Seow Law Corporation has issued demand letters to the M1 customers who had allegedly downloaded the film Dallas Buyers Club illegally.

The wording of the letters may have been construed as threats to those unfamiliar with the legal system’s processes. Such actions by lawyers may be more prevalent than we think.

Personally, when I was involved in a traffic accident in 2012, the lawyer hired by the other party to claim for repairs wrote to my insurer and me and used threatening, accusatory words.

The lawyer was aware that the respective insurance companies would investigate and decide on matters relating to motor accident claims.

The intention of writing to a motorist, even before the due processes are carried out, is to bully him into settling an unjustifiable claim. Although such actions are not illegal, they are unethical.

I hope the Law Ministry will provide clear guidelines on such behaviour. Demand letters should be based on facts, not threats.

Gan Chin Yean

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Protecting property agents and consumers: Forum

Straits Times
19 Jun 2015

MR PALANISAMY Ramadas called on the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) to do more to protect property agents, and consider legislating commissions due to them ("Property agents don't have it easy"; June 1).

The CEA regulates estate agency work in Singapore, and ensures that real estate sales staff comply with the Estate Agents Act.

Consumers may choose to handle property transactions on their own or engage sales staff to do so. Consumers are more likely to engage the professional services of sales staff who have good knowledge of estate agency work.

The payment and amount of commission are contractual matters between the consumer and his sales staff.

To safeguard the interests of both the consumer and sales staff, the CEA has prescribed estate agency agreements for the sale, purchase or lease of residential properties in Singapore.

The CEA advises consumers and sales staff to use the prescribed agreements to put on record the commission agreed on by both parties.

Heng Whoo Kiat

Deputy Director (Licensing)

Council for Estate Agencies

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Irregularities will not alter affected members' status

Straits Times
10 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Move quashes concerns that innocent parties might lose their memberships

THE Keppel Club has made clear that membership irregularities uncovered by a probe will not alter the status of some 1,300 affected members.

Club president Lai Mun Onn notified members in a circular last month of the policy decision on the issue taken by the club's deputy chairman Ng Chee Keong.

The move quashes any lingering concerns arising from a membership fraud uncovered last year at Singapore's oldest country club that innocent parties might lose their memberships.

A club-appointed probe conducted by DHA+pac showed ''irregularities'' in 1,340 membership transfers at the club spanning a decade from 2004. It led to the sacking of the alleged principal culprit, a longstanding 67-yearold employee.

The alleged scam involved fake membership transfers and the duping of applicants, who thought they were paying the club when the money was going elsewhere.

Police investigations are ongoing. Mr Lai said in the club circular that the decision to allow affected members to continue to enjoy full rights and privileges was taken ''in the best interests'' of the club.

He urged members to continue collective efforts to sustain the ''solid camaraderie'' forged over the years.

Meanwhile, the club is seeking to recover damages in the High Court against seven parties, including two agencies selling golf memberships, who were all allegedly implicated in the irregularities. The aggregate value is about $37 million.

As a prelude to the civil claim, the club through lawyers from Lee & Lee have applied to the High Court for an order to freeze assets owned by the seven parties, pending the outcome of the suit.

The freeze-order hearing is due in August.

The lawyers defending various parties include three Senior Counsel Molly Lim, Michael Khoo and N. Sreenivasan, as well as lawyers Philip Fong and Melissa Thng.

While the ongoing case has gripped members' attention, another matter is the Government's offer of two alternative sites for the club's relocation.

The club's current lease is due to expire in December 2021 and will not be renewed as the land is needed for redevelopment.

The alternative sites provide for a social town club with no golf course.

One is a one-hectare site priced at some $30 million for a 30-year lease in Arcadia Road, near the SICC Bukit golf location and opposite the Japanese Association.

The other is at the junction of Upper Bukit Timah Road and Choa Chu Kang Road, opposite the Junction 10 Mall, according to a report in the club's newsletter last month.

The club president said a social town club may be a viable alternative, as various activities can be continued and the potential annual $1.2 million in savings from golf-course maintanence can be used to buy golf slots in other clubs to be balloted among members.

The club is also looking into the possibility of mergers or collaboration, both here and abroad. It is talking to the Raffles Country Club, Tanjong Puteri Golf Club, Ria Bintan Golf Club and Tamarin Santana Golf Club.


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Time to talk about new laws on dying: Forum

Straits Times
26 Jun 2015

DR CHONG Siow Ann's commentary is timely and enlightening ("Rage, rage against the (prolonged) dying of the light"; last Saturday).

I agree that "modern medicine allows doctors to prolong life by artificial means - sometimes to the detriment of the patient's well-being".

My father suffered from terminal cancer, with further treatment not possible.

All of us, including my father, knew that he was dying, but he was conscious and suffered severe pain and mental agony for months, because, although he wanted to go quickly and peacefully, we, the doctors, continued to keep him alive - to suffer.

This is because the law says so.

Where is the logic?

The law was enacted hundreds of years ago, and the Hippocratic Oath was enunciated thousands of years ago in Greece.

I agree with Dr Chong that we need to discuss end-of-life issues, even assisted suicide.

The Advance Medical Directive could not be used for my father, because it does not go far enough. It applies only to the unconscious patient.

It is the dying patient who is conscious and suffering who needs to be relieved of his suffering.

The dying patient should have the right to decide for himself how and when he should go.

It is not the doctors, the relatives, nor society who should decide for him.

There is no question of abuse. Most people do not like to talk about dying and are very confused about the subject.

Because of this, there is a pressing need for a forum to be set up to openly discuss this issue and formulate new rules to update the law in Singapore.

George Wong Seow Choon (Dr)

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Driver jailed a week for injuring man with forklift

Straits Times
19 Jun 2015
Elena Chong

He did not have training, licence to drive the vehicle and hit victim twice

A DRIVER who reversed into a lorry driver standing nearby and left him seriously injured was jailed for a week yesterday.

Theenatayalan Ahumoolam, 27, hit the wrong gear by mistake and pinned Mr Leonard Yeo Tze Chiang, 34, against a concrete pillar. The Malaysian hit him again when he drove the forklift forward and reversed a second time in the accident at the Amtech Building in Sin Ming Road on May 29 last year.

Mr Yeo suffered a broken pelvic bone and underwent an emergency operation at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He spent more than two months in hospital and had further surgery.

He also needed to see trauma surgeons, urologists, orthopaedic surgeons and a psychiatrist. He now has a tube that drains urine, and has spent more than $46,000 in medical bills.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gabriel Choong told the court that both men were acquainted as they worked for different companies in the same building.

The court also heard that Theenatayalan, whose job scope was to oversee deliveries for an investment firm, does not have the requisite training or licence to drive a forklift.

Investigations showed he had been clearing wooden pallets and chatting with Mr Yeo moments before the accident. After he moved the forklift away from Mr Yeo, he went to help him.

Theenatayalan said in mitigation that he was remorseful and asked for forgiveness. He also admitted he had been negligent but did not mean to hurt anyone.

He could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $5,000 for causing grievous hurt through negligence.


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The Asian way to settle disputes

Straits Times
10 Jun 2015
Tommy Koh

States in South and South-east Asia have settled disputes through the international legal process. China should do likewise, and consider consensual methods such as mediation

CHINA has refused to participate in an arbitration launched by the Philippines regarding their disputes in the South China Sea. Japan has refused to acknowledge that it has a dispute with China regarding Senkaku/Diaoyu. The Republic of Korea (South Korea) has rejected Japan's offer to refer their dispute over Dokdo/Takeshima to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the grounds that there is no dispute. These developments may give the impression that Asians are against submitting their disputes to the international legal process. Such an impression would be incorrect.

Situation in South-east Asia

THE countries in South-east Asia have a positive track record of referring their disputes to the international legal process. Let me briefly discuss some of the most important cases.

The Preah Vihear case

The first case submitted by two South-east Asian countries to the ICJ was the dispute over the temple, Preah Vihear, between Cambodia and Thailand. Cambodia brought the case to the court in 1959 and, in 1962, ICJ awarded sovereignty over the temple to Cambodia.

However, the court was not asked and therefore did not demarcate the boundary between the two countries, around the temple or rule on the ownership of the land around the temple. This omission would lead to misunderstanding and border skirmishes between the two countries.

In 2011, Cambodia surprised everyone by applying to the ICJ and requesting the court to interpret its 1962 judgment. In particular, Cambodia requested the court to declare that it had sovereignty over the vicinity of the temple. The court agreed to accept the case and found that Cambodia had sovereignty over the whole promontory on which the temple is located. The judgment has been accepted by the two countries and peace has returned to the Cambodian/Thai border.

The Sipadan and Ligitan case

Indonesia and Malaysia had a sovereignty dispute over two islands, Sipadan and Ligitan.

The two governments agreed to refer the dispute to the ICJ in 1998. In its 2002 judgment, the court awarded sovereignty over the two islands to Malaysia. Although Indonesia was very disappointed with the judgment, it has accepted it.

The Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh case

In 1847, the British government in Singapore took possession of the island known as Pedra Branca, in Portuguese, and Pulau Batu Puteh, in Malay. The British built a lighthouse on the island in 1850 and it was inaugurated in 1851.

From that time until 1979, no one had disputed Singapore's (as a successor to British) sovereignty over the island. However, in 1979, Malaysia published a new map which, among other things, claimed the island as Malaysian territory.

Although Singapore was in possession of the island, it was willing to acknowledge that there was a dispute and suggested referring it to the ICJ.

In 2003, the two governments submitted the case to the court. In its 2008 judgment, the ICJ awarded sovereignty over Pedra Branca/Pulau Batu Puteh to Singapore, sovereignty over Middle Rocks to Malaysia and the low-tide elevation, South Ledge, to the state in whose territorial sea it is located.

The Myanmar-Bangladesh case

Another Asean country, Myanmar, had a dispute with its neighbour, Bangladesh, on their maritime boundaries.

When years of negotiations proved unsuccessful, the two governments agreed in 2009 to refer their dispute to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The parties requested the tribunal to draw their maritime boundaries, with respect to the territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. In 2012, ITLOS delivered its judgment which was accepted by both parties.

Situation in South Asia

THE positive attitude of the Asean countries is shared by the countries of South Asia. Let me cite a few examples.

Bangladesh has settled its maritime- boundary dispute with Myanmar through ITLOS. In 2009, Bangladesh initiated arbitral proceedings against India, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, concerning their disputed maritime boundary. India agreed to participate in the arbitration. Last year, the Arbitral Tribunal issued its award which has been accepted by both parties.

Relations between India and Pakistan have been difficult since the painful partition of British India in 1947 into the two countries.

One of the difficult bilateral issues is how the waters of the Indus River would be shared between them.

Due to the facilitation of the World Bank, the first prime minister of India, Mr Pandit Nehru, and General Ayub Khan, the then President of Pakistan, signed a treaty on the Indus River. In the event of a dispute which cannot be settled by negotiation, they agreed to refer the dispute to international arbitration.

In 2010, Pakistan invoked the treaty and referred a dispute with India, over the building of dams by India, to arbitration. In 2013, the Arbitral Tribunal ruled that India has the right to divert the waters of Kishenganga River, subject to a minimum flow which India must release into the river. Alternative ways to settle disputes THE above survey shows that Asians in South-east Asia and South Asia have referred some of their disputes to arbitration or adjudication. Five Asian countries, namely, Cambodia, India, Japan, the Philippines and Timor Leste, have accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of ICJ. Almost all Asian countries are parties to UNCLOS.

Some Asians, especially in North-east Asia, are however reluctant to submit their sovereignty disputes over territory to either arbitration or adjudication. They do not like the fact that the legal process is adversarial and the outcome is a zero-sum game.

I would therefore like to suggest the following alternative methods of dispute settlement: fact-finding, mediation, conciliation and joint development.


In some cases, a dispute between two states is primarily about the facts and not about the law. The Land Reclamation case between Malaysia and Singapore is such an example.

In that case, Malaysia alleged that Singapore's land reclamation activities in the Strait of Johor had intruded into Malaysian territory, caused damage to the marine environment and adversely affected the livelihood of Malaysian fishermen.

After launching arbitral proceedings against Singapore, Malaysia applied to ITLOS for provisional measures against Singapore. In its 2003 judgment, ITLOS rejected Malaysia's request for provisional measures. Instead, the tribunal ordered the two governments to establish an independent group of four experts to verify the facts.

After a year-long study, the four experts submitted an unanimous report largely exonerating Singapore. The report was accepted by both governments. The two sides were able to negotiate an amicable settlement based on those findings of fact.


Mediation is consensual in nature and it results in a win-win outcome.

An example of a successful mediation is the settlement of the protracted dispute between the government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement.

Following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the two sides approached the former president of Finland, Mr Martti Ahtisaari, to mediate in their dispute. In a Nobel Prize-winning performance, Mr Ahtisaari succeeded in brokering a peace agreement in 2005.


Conciliation is also consensual and yields a win-win outcome.

Three of my good friends, Mr Hans Andersen of Iceland, Mr Jens Evensen of Norway and Mr Elliot Richardson of the United States, were members of a conciliation commission established by Iceland and Norway to settle a dispute over their continental shelves.

Mr Richardson was appointed by Iceland and Norway as the impartial chairman. The commission was able to make a proposal acceptable to both parties.

Joint development

Many years ago, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping proposed that countries should put aside competing legal claims and concentrate instead on jointly developing the resources in the disputed territory and sharing them.

The fact that joint development can work is demonstrated by an agreement between Malaysia and Thailand to jointly develop the gas resources in the disputed area of their continental shelves in the Gulf of Thailand and sharing the benefits. The joint development between the two countries started in 1979 and has been a great success.

The Asian way

IN CONCLUSION, I wish to make three points.

First, Asians want their region to be peaceful, stable and prosperous. They want the rule of law to be strong and for all disputes between states to be settled peacefully, in accordance with the law and not on the basis that might is right.

Second, with the exception of China, Asians do not have a negative attitude towards settling their disputes by arbitration or adjudication. China should therefore reconsider its position in order to conform to the best Asian and international practice.

Third, in addition to arbitration and adjudication, we should also consider several consensual, win-win, methods of dispute settlement, such as fact-finding, mediation, conciliation and joint development.


The writer is chairman of the governing board of the Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore.

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Govt, judges cannot be sued for judicial decisions: Apex court

Straits Times
25 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

THE apex court has made it clear that neither the Government nor judges can be sued for judicial decisions made, pointing to judicial immunity under the the Government Proceedings Act (GPA).

The court yesterday released judgment grounds on why it had thrown out the $54 million in claims that a contractor and his firm had made against the Government, in a case which saw the Government's liability for judicial acts dealt with for the first time by the Court of Appeal.

At issue before the court comprising Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang, and Justice Tay Yong Kwang, was whether the Government could rely on the GPA to resist the claims.

"In Singapore, the general rule is that the Government may be liable for, inter alia, the tortious acts of its public officers," noted Justice Chao. This means that the Government is liable like any ordinary employer.

However, exceptions to this rule specified in the Act include those exercising judicial functions, he said.

The litigant in the case and his firm Ho Pak Kim Realty (HPK) were disgruntled with the outcomes of two court cases and sued the Government for the way judges handled the cases.

The first case involved a set of court orders between 2009 and 2011 governing ancillary matters after the marriage of the litigant - known only by his initials AHQ to protect his two children - was dissolved. This included care and custody of his children.

The second case involved a spat between his firm and developer Revitech over a construction project. The case stretched seven years from 2006.

Last year, he sued the Government, seeking $50 million in damages for judicial orders made in relation to the ancillary matters of his divorce, claiming not only that the orders were wrong but also the judges involved had acted maliciously against him.

In the second case, HPK sought $4.8 million in damages, alleging that the judge involved had acted unfairly and the appeals court had erred in supporting the judge's decision.

A High Court judge rejected the two appeals last September.

The litigant appealed further and the Court of Appeal ruled that the High Court was right in dismissing the suits. The court said the litigant and his firm had either exhausted their rights of appeal or refused to pursue the proper means of seeking recourse. "To any reasonable person, that should have been the end of the matter. Regrettably, AHQ and HPK did not think so."

Justice Chao said for the judicial system to function properly, the judiciary should not be "harassed by frivolous claims".

The GPA applied in this case as the court orders in question were made during judicial proceedings, he said.

"The independence of the Judiciary is one of the foundation pillars of Singapore's constitutional framework and must not be shaken. To this end, the Government should not be liable for the acts of the Judiciary, over which it has no control or influence," wrote Judge Chao.


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AHQ v Attorney-General and another appeal [2015] SGCA 32

Bid to delay paying $7.7m guarantee for loan denied

Straits Times
18 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

Judge rules businesswoman's defence on issue of security as ‘unsound’

Prominent businesswoman Jannie Chan has failed in her bid to set aside a statutory order to pay up US$5.7 million (S$7.7 million) on a guarantee for a bank loan.

Ms Chan argued that the creditor, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), had made a flawed application. She also wanted more time to set aside the statutory demand order.

But Senior Judge Kan Ting Chiu was not convinced by her defence, saying it was "unsound" and that court application for a time extension was not justified.

ANZ had made a loan to Timor Global (TGL), which was registered in Timor Leste. Ms Chan is a director and shareholder in TGL.

TGL pledged its assets to the bank for the loan and Ms Chan executed a personal guarantee with the other directors to underwrite the loan.

The bank then sought to claim the debt from her in a demand letter last October.

Her lawyer, Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, argued that the bank's demand order was defective as the security offered by TGL - which are the assets that the loan is tied to - was not disclosed. He urged that this be taken into account. It is understood this would have raised the prospect of the bank recovering part of the loan from the company's assets instead of going straight for Ms Chan.

But ANZ's lawyer, Mr Chou Sean Yu, countered that based on the bankruptcy rules, "security" referred only to security provided by the debtor (Ms Chan) to whom the statutory demand was issued.

In his judgment released yesterday, Justice Kan noted Mr Chou's view, pointing out that two High Court judges had dealt with and settled the issue of "security" to be referring solely to the debtor who was the subject of the proceedings.

An interpretation of the referred laws that "enables a debtor to rely on security which he has not provided, but has been provided by another party to lower his indebtedness does not promote a proper balance of interests..." said Justice Kan. "It is really not unfair that a debtor is not permitted to rely on security put up by another party."

The judge also rejected her explanation that her lawyer was negotiating with the bank to stop the bankruptcy petition against her, which accounted for her late application. He rejected her application for an extension of time.

"A delay of 70 days was substantial as the application should have been made within 14 days. The reason for the delay was unsatisfactory..." said Justice Kan in judgment grounds released yesterday

Mr Thuraisingam said yesterday that Ms Chan will be appealing the High Court decision.


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Chan Siew Lee Jannie v Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd [2015] SGHC 157

More money recouped in 2014 with Case's help

Straits Times
10 Jun 2015
Jessica Lim

Consumers, businesses more open to mediation to resolve disputes

THE Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) helped consumers wrangle back $439,701 from businesses last year, a spike from the $284,465 recovered in 2013.

The jump could be a sign that more consumers with unresolved disputes involving high contract values, such as the purchase of beauty packages and cars, are turning to mediation for resolution, the consumer watchdog said in a statement yesterday.

The largest settlement involved a woman who was invited to try a slimming session at a promotional price of $18. She was later pressured by the beauty salon into buying various slimming packages for about $88,000, even though she was unemployed. The matter was escalated to Case's mediation centre, and both parties eventually agreed on a cash refund of $55,000.

The jump in the total amount recouped last year could also be because more businesses are open to mediation as a way of preventing matters from spiralling out of control, said Case executive director Seah Seng Choon.

Last year, Case handled 125 disputes, of which 75.2 per cent were resolved. The sectors with the highest resolution rates were slimming and furniture (100 per cent), motor car (91.3 per cent), and electrical and electronics (85.7 per cent).

In 2013, only 68.5 per cent of 146 cases were resolved.

The Case Mediation Centre was set up in 1999 to resolve disputes between consumers and businesses in the presence of a third-party mediator - a trained Case volunteer.

However, Case cannot force the seller to show up for mediation, as it is a voluntary process. After a settlement is made, it is up to the consumer to enforce it.

The association, said Mr Seah, had found it easier to get business owners to the table last year, when several high-profile shutdowns and cheating cases rocked the industry.

In January last year, hundreds of travellers were left in the lurch after popular coach and travel agency Five Stars Tours abruptly closed all its eight branches across Singapore. Last November, a Vietnamese tourist went down on his knees to beg for a refund after being allegedly overcharged for an iPhone at a Sim Lim Square shop.

"Before, it was harder to get to businesses because they were less familiar with the way mediation is conducted," said Mr Seah. "They now realise that it's a cheaper alternative than getting sued by the customer, and is also less hostile and confrontational."

He added that companies may also fear that matters would get out of control, resulting in negative publicity. "If there is an amicable settlement, there is also a higher chance that the customer will return," said Mr Seah.

Mr Chan Chong Beng, chief executive of interior furnishing firm Goodrich Global, thinks mediation works. "If it involves a company that is at fault, getting a call from Case will really make those responsible sit up and take notice," he said. "Also, you know the customer is serious about his complaint, so they may be more inclined to take it seriously."

But Madam Raja Lachimi, 55, who lost a $200 deposit in 2012 after the contractor who was supposed to paint her house never showed up, thinks that mediation does not help that much.

She reported the matter to Case, and it tried to contact the painter, she said, but nothing happened.

"I don't think mediation helps where companies are out to cheat their customers. They just won't show up for mediation," she said.

"It would work only in cases where the other party is willing to co-operate."


Background Story


Before, it was harder to get to businesses because they were less familiar with the way mediation is conducted... They now realise that it's a cheaper alternative than getting sued by the customer and is also less hostile and confrontational.

- Case's executive director Seah Seng Choon

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Six from NUS Law get into Citi internship programme

Business Times
25 Jun 2015
Elizabeth Mak

Three-month-long stint's other partner is local law firm Rajah & Tann

[Singapore] THE three-month-long Legal Internship Programme launched by Citibank in February, in a partnership with the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law and local law firm Rajah & Tann, is now into its second intake.

It has seen increased interest in the in-house banking law programme from third and fourth-year undergraduate law students - with applications tripling to 60. Of this lot, six students were chosen.

Andrew Wan, general counsel for markets & securities services at Citi Asia Pacific, said: "We have consistently seen our business partners in the bank roll out programmes designed to tap local talent.

"When we sat down with the legal management team, we realised that we had an opportunity here, particularly when we looked at Singapore and the quality of its programmes.

"This is not the typical two-week internship where a student just comes in and has a very cursory experience with an organisation, but rather we really want to invest in the individual and have them have a real experience."

Interns take part in activities, such as lunch-time seminars, with Citi's partnerships with multiple firms.

They also sit in on fortnightly sessions where teams from programme partner Rajah & Tann and Citi's in-house lawyers take turns to teach each other about their respective areas of focus.

Rajah & Tann has committed to granting interview opportunities to the interns at the end of their programmes, and award a training contract to a select few.

"The work of the in-house counsel has evolved dramatically over the last few decades," Lee Eng Beng, managing partner at Rajah & Tann, said.

He hopes the programme will raise awareness of the versatility of the law degree, he said.

Citi's Mr Wan said each intern is paired with a mentor from Citi Singapore's 45-strong legal staff who is at the director level or higher - equivalent to partner-level experience.

Interns are required to accompany their mentors to various meetings, and experience what they work on on a day-to-day basis.

One of the students from the second cycle, Bernice Gan, said: "I'm onto my fourth week of the programme and I won't deny that the learning curve has been pretty steep.

"Although I come from a law and finance background, to actually see the law working in a banking setting is really something from a different perspective."

Simon Chesterman, dean of NUS Law said: "It is important that all law graduates need to be able to see the world through lenses other than legal lenses.

"You need to be able to understand the business dimension and you would need to understand your clients, particularly in the more competitive markets these days."

Professor Chesterman said that this internship was designed to offer law students both exposure to different career paths and experience that will be useful, whatever path they choose.

The programme is also a means of allowing managerial-level lawyers to interact with the "next generation", according to Mr Wan.

Louis Chan, deputy general counsel for markets & securities services at Citi Asia Pacific, and Ms Gan's mentor, said: "This has helped me sharpen my management skills. It encourages me to find ways to motivate and retain a new generation of lawyers who may have a very different mentality to work-life balance."

He added that he learned that younger generations define success very differently from its traditional sense, and that they look for jobs in which they can have flexibility and unique personal experiences.

"I think in this age, where time is precious, it comes at an opportunity cost to the younger lawyers where they're working at a very competitive environment - industry experience is valued."


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Businessman alleges NUH negligent in son's delivery

Straits Times
18 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

A BUSINESSMAN whose wife has been in a semi-vegetative state since giving birth to their son three years ago is suing the National University Hospital and a senior consultant for alleged negligence.

Singaporean Chandru Vishindas, 35, is seeking damages, claiming both breached their duty of care to Madam Pooja Baharani Ghansham during the delivery, which led to her current condition as well their son Ryan's brain injuries and disabilities.

Mr Vishindas claims his son should have been delivered via emergency caesarean section instead of instrument-assisted delivery based on 35-year-old Madam Pooja's foetal distress and labour condition.

In instrument-assisted delivery, a vacuum device or forceps is used to help the baby out.

The defendants deny the claims. In court documents filed last week, they counter that the couple were advised and consented to instrument-assisted delivery and it was likely to be a faster means than emergency caesarean section. This course was taken as Madam Pooja's condition had deteriorated during the process to induce birth.

Under scrutiny in the case is the massive bleeding she suffered, the treatment for her condition and whether she should have delivered via caesarean section.

Madam Pooja was admitted on June 20, 2012 at about 9am for the induced birth and baby Ryan was born about 14 hours later.

As she encountered severe foetal distress during the process, he was delivered with the help of instruments, which is a recognised method, other than natural delivery and caesarean section.

Ryan, who turns three on Saturday, suffered brain injuries which have left him with mixed spastic and dystonic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He requires continuous medical assistance.

Madam Pooja suffered massive bleeding after the delivery and was sent to the operating theatre for surgery.

Her treatment by obstetric and anaesthetic teams included massive blood transfusions.

She was warded for five months and has been looked after at home since by two nurses.

In defence documents filed by Allen & Gledhill lawyer Tham Hsu Hsien, Madam Pooja's condition was caused by the complication "amniotic fluid embolism".

This can change the clotting effect of blood in the mother and lead to blood loss at various points in the body such as the uterus and brain. The patient falls into a coma when the brain has less blood and oxygen.

It was also pointed out in defence documents that Madam Pooja's other child was delivered successfully in 2007 in the same instrument-assisted way and by the same attending obstetrician and gynaecologist. NUH's lawyer Kuah Boon Theng argued that its staff had at all times acted reasonably in response to complications that developed during Madam Pooja's labour, delivery and post-delivery condition.

The family, represented by Straits Law Practice lawyer S. Palaniappan, is seeking compensation to be assessed by the court for pain and suffering to mother and son, continuing medical expenses and loss of earnings.

Mr Vishindas is understood to have spent more than $800,000 so far in providing for his wife and son. He has created a website "prayforpinky" dedicated to her.

An NUH spokesman said yesterday that the hospital has offered support to Mr Vishindas and his family and kept communication channels open. She added: "Mr Vishindas has also continued to approach the hospital and the doctor for assistance and advice, as Madam Pooja and their son remain under our care.

"We empathise with Mr Vishindas' situation, but do not agree with the allegations of negligence and have filed our defence in the suit. In view of the impending court proceedings, the hospital will not be able to comment further on this matter."

A High Court pre-trial conference is scheduled for later this month.


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Call for discourse on IP, artistic practices: Voices

10 Jun 2015

We refer to the report “Quirky ping pong table at SEA Games carnival resembles work by Singaporean artist” (June 5, online), about the horseshoe-shaped table installed at the Sports Hub that resembles Cultural Medallion winner Lee Wen’s artwork Ping-Pong Go Round.

He has stated that he was not informed or given credit for the idea. The SEA Games Organising Committee has claimed that there was no intention to infringe on any rights and that a vendor who was unaware of the similarity had proposed the activity.

Mr Lee has clarified, however, that a proposal to exhibit this artwork in front of the Sports Hub was submitted last year to the office of the Culture, Community and Youth Minister and to the Sports Hub.

The minister’s office confirmed receipt of this proposal. Furthermore, since 1998, this installation has toured around the world.

We understand the installation has since been dismantled and discussions are ongoing between all relevant parties. We hope an amicable outcome can be reached, so Mr Lee’s art can continue to engage the public.

This is a good example of how art can enliven spaces and help strangers connect with one another in fun, imaginative ways. Such projects illustrate the possibilities art can bring to make Singapore a more attractive place and should be encouraged.

It is troubling, however, that due consideration and acknowledgement were not initially given to the artist. We are also concerned that some intellectual property (IP) lawyers feel no copyright was infringed.

This incident highlights the insufficient measures to respect and protect artistic creation in Singapore. In a nation ranked consistently in international surveys as having one of the best IP protection laws, why did this occur? Even if it was legal, is it ethical?

It raises questions about the environment for original content creation here — a key output desired by national policies that have been calling for Singapore to become a knowledge economy powered by creativity and entrepreneurship.

Given its importance, we feel more can be done to encourage, respect and protect content creation. The Government has made tremendous efforts in growing and professionalising the arts.

Unfortunately, limited understanding of artists’ rights and standard industry practices remains.

Capability development and nurturing a culture of creativity means artists should be given recognition and reward for the time and effort they spend on proposing and creating artworks, with the assurance that their ideas and creations are protected from plagiarism.

We hope this incident will inspire more discussion on IP in the arts, and concrete steps can be taken towards according clearer IP protection for arts and cultural workers.

This letter carries 229 signatures.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

MAS raps SGX for market outage lapses

Business Times
25 Jun 2015
Melissa Tan

It slaps fee freeze on exchange; exchange says it will fully comply with remedial actions and spend S$20 million on speeding up tech infrastructure improvement

[Singapore] THE Singapore Exchange (SGX) failed to meet standards for service recovery in its massive three-hour market meltdown last November and needs to buck up, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in a stinging reprimand on Wednesday as it slapped a fee freeze on the exchange and spelled out a series of remedial actions.

To this, the exchange said at a press briefing at its office that it would fully comply with MAS's directives and, in line with that, would spend S$20 million on speeding up its tech infrastructure improvement.

The penalties imposed on SGX stopped short of an explicit fine, which some market watchers said was good enough. However, others questioned whether a fine ought to have been imposed given the severity of the trading disruption.

The regulator's formal rebuke to the exchange, believed to be the first in a long time, came in the wake of an SGX board committee of inquiry report on the Nov 5 trading glitch - the most severe and widespread market outage here since 2007.

Noting that SGX had taken a full 52 minutes to discover that there had been a complete power outage at its primary data centre in November, the committee said that the exchange needed "clearer and more comprehensive business continuity and incident management procedures".

The SGX's standard operating procedures also had not included intra-day service recovery at its primary data centre, which led to decisions "having to be made on an ad hoc basis" on the day of the breakdown, the panel also said, adding that poor communications procedures meant that information about the market outage was delayed and then disseminated at different times on various channels, generating confusion among the public.

It found that the root cause of the trading outage was a combination of a faulty device and a flawed power supply design. Specifically, one backup power generator malfunctioned and when the data centre's power system switched to an alternative backup, that triggered a power trip and total power outage.

However, committee chairman Quah Wee Ghee told the briefing on Wednesday that the SGX has already fixed the root cause of the November meltdown and generally has "sound practices" in technology design.

Another SGX trading outage in December, unrelated to the November one, involved a delayed market opening due to a software problem.

The MAS took both the November and December outages into account in its reprimand, saying that the SGX had not recovered some of its critical systems within a "four-hour recovery time objective" and that the exchange's monitoring systems had not been able to spot problems quickly.

"While SGX has met its primary obligation as an exchange to maintain fair, orderly and transparent markets, it has fallen below service recovery standards on both incidents," the MAS said.

MAS added that it has told the exchange to improve its monitoring systems and recovery capabilities, its business continuity management and how it communicates during a crisis. It also said that the SGX will not raise fees for the securities and derivatives markets until it has completed its improvements to the regulator's satisfaction, and the exchange will also donate S$1 million to the investor education fund.

In probably his last press conference as SGX head honcho, outgoing chief executive Magnus Bocker told the briefing on Wednesday that the SGX had had no plans to raise its traditional fees but had originally intended to "restructure" its post-trade fees in the second half of this year.

It would shelve those plans until the fee moratorium was lifted, he said, adding that redirecting S$20 million of capex towards strengthening the bourse's tech infrastructure also meant that most other non-tech investments would now have to proceed at a slower pace.

"We are reprioritising," Mr Bocker said, noting that the exchange expects to spend about S$70-75 million of capex on tech and tech-related investments this year and the next. He added that in previous years, the annual tech-related capex had been around S$40-45 million.

As part of improving its systems, he said that the exchange was designing an enterprise command centre with real-time tools to improve its monitoring, and would have the plans for the centre ready by the end of September this year.

The SGX also said in a statement that it has started to carry out more realistic and complex drills as part of its business continuity management, and has shifted oversight for business continuity from its tech division to its risk management division.

The exchange aims to finish implementing its various measures by the end of the year, Mr Bocker said. Incoming chief executive Loh Boon Chye was not at the briefing.

SGX board chairman Chew Choon Seng, who was also on the inquiry committee, said that the board would monitor the progress of the improvements and report it to MAS every quarter.

Dealers said on Wednesday that MAS's reprimand was good enough, especially since the exchange had not suffered major outages since December 2014.

"It's more a slap on the wrist, but if the slap works, then good for them. We don't need to use a hammer," one broker said. However, he added that if another major disruption happens again, the regulator ought to explicitly fine the SGX.

Corporate governance specialist Mak Yuen Teen, an associate professor at NUS Business School, asked whether the MAS had a "proper framework" of publicly known sanctions and penalties for the exchange, similar to what is in place for service providers such as telcos and transport operators.

"For telcos, transport providers, casinos, it's very clear what range of penalties can be imposed. There is only one SGX, but in a sense that make it even more critical - they effectively have a monopoly so it's even more important that they do their job properly."

Apart from Mr Quah and Mr Chew, the other two members of the panel were Kevin Kwok and Lee Hsien Yang. All four men are SGX board directors.


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Impose reformative training with caution, judge urges

18 Jun 2015
Neo Chai Chin

Teen who beat up workers ‘more suited to community rehabilitation’

SINGAPORE — Although reformative training is aimed as a rehabilitative sentencing option for youth offenders, it should be imposed “cautiously”, given the nature and duration of the punishment, said a district judge.

Reformative training involves an offender between 14 and 21 years old who is institutionalised for at least 18 months and up to 30 months. It results in a criminal record, while a community sentence is rendered spent after it is completed. Probation is deemed not to be a conviction.

While reformative training aims to be rehabilitative, the courts have recognised that it is incarcerative in nature, said District Judge Lim Keng Yeow, in his grounds of decision for rejecting prosecutors’ call for the penalty to be imposed on a teenager who had beaten up foreign workers to practise his martial-arts skills.

“Given the nature and duration of reformative training as it now stands, it should be imposed cautiously, perhaps with as much care as when a physician prescribes very strong medication carrying notable potential side effects,” he wrote. “The courts have absolutely no reason to flinch from imposing reformative training, where it is appropriate. But care ought to be taken not to impose it gratuitously.”

The judge had sentenced Daryl Lim Jun Liang to 10 days of detention and other conditions, ruling that reformative training for the 18-year-old would amount to a “sledgehammer approach”, given the offender’s high capacity for community rehabilitation. Even adults who commit the exact same offence of voluntarily causing hurt would not have been sentenced to a substantial prison term lasting several months, he added.

In his written decision issued last month after the prosecution indicated that it would appeal — which it did yesterday (June 16) — the judge felt community sentencing for Lim was the most fitting option, as probation was insufficiently retributive or deterrent.

A short detention order would mean Lim would still undergo the grim and harsh experience of being locked up, he said. In addition, he was ordered to do 150 hours of community service, report daily to a supervision officer for a year and remain indoors from 10pm to 6am.

The judge said Lim’s probation and community-sentencing suitability reports were positive — he had a supportive family, was able to talk to his mother about past involvement with a gang, and the restaurant he had interned at re-employed him even after knowing about his offence. He demonstrated a capacity for rehabilitation “high enough to outweigh other retributive or deterrent considerations calling for tough sanctions”, DJ Lim said.

Together with three friends, the teen looked for foreign workers who were smaller in build to beat up last September and October, and mocked the victims by dancing in front of them.

The prosecution contended that a deterrent sentence was needed as Lim had targeted a specific class of people, but the judge felt the teen’s offence was not targeted at any particular nationality, race or cultural group, as foreign workers are a large and varied class of individuals.

In his judgment, DJ Lim also made observations about the prosecution’s “unfortunate and undesirable” about-turn in submissions on sentence. It had made no submissions on this at the start, yet objected to probation and pushed for reformative training after the favourable presentencing reports despite having “not more but less reason to press for tougher sanctions”, he said.

The prosecution is allowed to change its mind, but DJ Lim said it could have discharged its duty to the court better in this case, given its “remarkable and yet quite inexplicable” about-turn on sentencing submissions.

Copyright 2015 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Doctor fined $2k for chemo-drug error

Straits Times
10 Jun 2015
Linette Lai

A DOCTOR has been fined $2,000 by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) for administering a drug in the wrong way, which could have caused a patient severe neurological damage.

Dr Garuna Murthee Kavitha, 32, injected the chemotherapy drug into the patient's spinal canal, rather than a vein.

In deciding on the sentence, the SMC's disciplinary tribunal took into consideration the fact that Dr Kavitha noticed the error immediately and she did not avoid responsibility.

It also noted that the ward at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) - where she was working at the time - had given her the wrong medicine, which she did not check.

The incident occurred in July 2012, when the man was admitted for a cancer relapse.

The doctor in charge, who was not Dr Kavitha, ordered two chemotherapy drugs to be administered. One, Velcade, was supposed to be given intravenously. The other, Methotrexate, was to be injected into the spinal canal.

When Dr Kavitha arrived to treat the patient, only one syringe of Velcade was in the room. Dr Kavitha injected this into the man's spinal canal without checking the chemotherapy form, which stated that the medication should be injected into a vein. When she realised her mistake, she immediately called the senior doctor in charge.

Dr Kavitha was found guilty of one charge of professional misconduct by the SMC's disciplinary tribunal in April.

In a statement released yesterday, the SMC said it took note of the fact that Dr Kavitha was a young medical officer at the time. Her superiors, colleagues and the family of another of her patients testified to her strong work ethic and sense of responsibility.

In 2013, she won a "best medical officer" award at SingHealth's Best Junior Doctors and Medicine Scholarships Awards.

In the grounds of decision, the SMC also stated that a financial settlement was made between Dr Kavitha, the hospital, and the family members of the patient, who has since died.

"Patient safety is always of utmost priority to us and we take this incident very seriously," said Professor Fong Kok Yong, chairman of SGH's medical board.

"We would like to reassure our patients that we have since reinforced our processes to prevent such a case occurring in future."


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Ex-NTUC leader Phey Yew Kok turns himself in after 35 years on the run

Business Times
25 Jun 2015
Teh Shi Ning

PM Lee says Singapore has zero tolerance for corruption, even when it's embarassing for the government

[Singapore] MORE than three decades after he first jumped bail and fled Singapore, former trade union leader and People's Action Party member of parliament Phey Yew Kok appeared in court on Wednesday to face the corruption charges first served on him in 1979.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said Phey, now 81, had turned himself in at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday and was escorted back to Singapore by CPIB officers on Tuesday.

He was first charged in December 1979 with four counts of criminal breach of trust involving S$82,520 and two other charges, under the Trade Unions Act, of unlawfully using S$17,745 of union funds to buy shares in a private supermarket, Forward Supermarket, in 1978.

Phey was then released on bail of S$100,000 but did not have his passport impounded. A warrant of arrest was issued against him after he failed to turn up in court on Jan 7, 1980. His two bailors lost S$95,000 of their bail bonds.

In a Facebook post on the matter, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday wrote: "We have maintained a clean and non-corrupt system in Singapore for half a century because we have zero tolerance for corruption. When we discover wrongdoing, we do not hesitate to act. We will not allow any cover up, even when it is awkward or embarrassing for the government."

At the time of his charges, Phey was in his second term as PAP's MP for Boon Teck. He was also chairman of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and general secretary of three trade unions - the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation, the Pioneer Industries Employees Union and the Singapore Air Transport-workers' Union.

After he jumped bail, Phey was sacked from these posts, and stripped of leadership posts at other organisations such as the Singapore Labour Foundation, the advisory council of the Skills Development Fund and the Singapore Amateur Boxing Association. He also lost his seat in Parliament.

In the years that followed, in response to parliamentary questions about the hunt for Phey, the government said that investigations found that he had fled to Kuala Lumpur by train on Dec 31, 1979, and headed on to Bangkok. CPIB officers went to Bangkok to locate the fugitive, even though Singapore did not have an extradition treaty with Thailand, but could not find him.

Phey has also been raised by opposition parties at election rally speeches over the years as an example of a disgraced PAP politician - including at the Hougang by-election in 2012.

In response to media queries on Wednesday, PM Lee said: "He has been charged in court, and the law will have to take its course. This will bring closure to a long outstanding case involving a person who was holding public office as an MP and a senior union leader."

The Straits Times reported that the prosecution has applied for Phey to be remanded at Changi Prison for investigations and that more charges will be tendered against him. A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for July 23.

CPIB also said on Wednesday that Phey will be required to assist in further investigations in relation to other offences he may have committed.

In a brief media statement yesterday, NTUC also noted the development, saying: "We must now let the law take its course."


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New misadventures in independence

Business Times
18 Jun 2015
Mak Yuen Teen

A FEW years ago, I expressed frustration on the issue of independence of independent directors or IDs ("Looping around the problem", BT, July 5, 2010) and said that "the lack of independence of independent directors here is such an intractable issue that there's little hope of any improvement".

Five years on, have I become more hopeful? Unfortunately not. I have previously commented on key changes in the Code of Corporate Governance in Singapore and the strengthening of director independence guidelines ("Now let's see the practical impact", BT, June 16, 2011; "Good code, pity about the governance culture", BT, Nov 24, 2011). However, there have been new challenges in implementing tougher independence guidelines, here and in other countries.

There have been some interesting cases of directors being redesignated from non-independent to independent directors. There are those directors who were redesignated after they passed the "cooling off" or "look back" periods of "past three financial years" (for employment relationships) or "immediate past financial year" (for business relationships). Some were redesignated as soon as the "cooling off" period lapsed. These directors were not independent when they went to bed, but became independent when they woke up the next day.

Recently, there was a company that redesignated a non-independent director to an independent director. This director had served on the board for 11 years as a non-independent director, including three years as a non-independent chairman. Unlike the more typical situation of directors being redesignated from independent to non-independent after nine years, this director was re-designated from non-independent to independent after 11 years. This is like someone who was not a virgin and then became one.

Redesignations of directors can be expected to become more common as companies try to meet stricter guidelines on proportion of independent directors on the board - without adding new independent directors. The true independence of redesignated independent directors may be questionable.

Perhaps the most common question I have been asked about implementing the revised 2012 Code guidelines is how a "particularly rigorous review of independence" should be undertaken when an independent director has served more than nine years.

Many companies have not really done anything more than going through what ought to be the usual approach to determining independence and/or asserting that they have done a particularly rigorous review.

One Singapore company has taken a step further by hiring a premier executive search/

talent management consulting firm to conduct interviews with directors to confirm that three independent directors who have served terms ranging from nine to 16 years are able to exercise independent judgment and therefore can continue to be considered independent. While it is difficult to criticise this company for going beyond the non-rigorous "particularly rigorous review" that other companies have used, it may be difficult for fellow directors (including the long-tenure directors who are giving feedback on other long-tenure directors) to tell the consultants that they do not believe a particular director is independent, even if the responses are aggregated and anonymised.

Further, one must wonder how much the consultants would cost the company and its shareholders especially if the exercise is repeated until the directors retire (bearing in mind that the assessment of independence should be an ongoing process, not just one-off). It is unrealistic to expect companies to pay substantial sums to consultants to help confirm independence, and for the consultants to confirm that the directors are in fact not independent.

There is also the issue that even if the directors are independent, is the company having healthy board renewal by retaining some of the independent directors for such long periods? It is possible that this process will be repeated and the same directors are still considered independent 10 or 20 years from now (but fortunately, not as long as "independent auditors" who may serve the same company for more than 100 years!).

The lack of guidance on what constitutes a "particularly rigorous review" means that, in practice, such "reviews" are usually no more than rituals. In my opinion, such a review should include obtaining actual evidence of a director constructively challenging management and taking positions which may not necessarily be in line with the wishes of major shareholders. There should be substantive examples of a director doing this, rather than have directors provide vague feedback that a director has demonstrated independent judgment. However, companies will lose credibility with respect to director independence and board renewal if they repeatedly claim to have done a particularly rigorous review and have decided that every long-serving independent director should be retained.

In the 2001 and 2005 Codes, a threshold of S$200,000 annually was included as guidance to determine if payments and receipts pursuant to business relationships involving the company and an organisation associated with a director are "significant". The term "significant" is now also used to determine independence when a director himself has a business relationship, but there is no guidance on what is significant in this case. In addition, the 2012 Code introduced the term "material services". What does "material services" mean?

Accounting standards use the term "material" and both the nature and amount of the item usually need to be evaluated together in determining materiality. Similarly, I would submit that in considering whether "material services" are provided in assessing independence, it is necessary to take into account both the nature of the services provided and the amount involved. Factors relevant to assessing the nature of the services may include whether the services are one-off or recurring, and whether the services create a "self review" threat to the independent director.

For example, if a law firm provides ongoing legal services to a company, I would argue that this may constitute "material services" even if the annual amounts are well below the suggested threshold of S$200,000. This may be contrasted with the situation of a law firm being appointed for a one-off assignment. The type of services provided should also be considered. For example, if a consulting firm advises management and the advice forms the basis of proposals or reports that are approved by the board, then the independence of the director who is associated with that consulting firm would be in doubt.It is common practice for companies to have independent directors complete a form to confirm their independence. The forms I have seen are often inadequate for supporting the "principle-based" approach to determining independence as intended by the Code, because they merely ask directors to tick the boxes based on the specific factors set out in the Code - and use exactly the same language as the Code without providing additional guidance. For example, they use terms such as "significant payments" and "material services" without clarifying what they mean.

In conducting training for directors serving on nominating committees, I have developed a form that asks directors to declare all payments and services and to provide details of these payments and services. I also include a question that asks directors to declare "any other relationships or arrangements" with the company, its related corporations, its key officers and major shareholders. This puts the onus on an independent director to declare, for example, that he has been the regular golfing partner of the CEO over the last 20 years. Otherwise, it is challenging for the nominating committee to know the full extent of relationships and do a proper assessment.

There have been cases where an external consultant, such as a lawyer, was engaged to confirm a director's independence in accordance with the guidelines in the Code. This is usually no more than ticking off the specific independence criteria in the Code, rather than applying the intended principle-based approach. Directors who find prescriptive independence criteria inconvenient often argue that independence is a state of mind. If this is so, then what is needed is not a lawyer but a mind reader to help assess independence.

One of the good things about the 2012 Code is that it recognises the importance of independence from major shareholders. One of the weaknesses is that in the general definition of an independent director, it specifically states independence from a 10 per cent shareholder. It would have been preferable in my view for the general definition to use terms such as "significant shareholders" or "major shareholders" as some other Codes have done, and then suggest 10 per cent (or 5 per cent) as a guideline (similar to S$200,000 as a guideline for "significant payments"). Putting a "bright line" of a 10 per cent shareholder in a definition of independent directors runs counter to the intent of the definition to set out the broad principles of what constitutes an "independent director".

The 2012 Code also introduced the concept of "direct association" with a 10 per cent shareholder. It says a director is "directly associated" with a 10 per cent shareholder "when the director is accustomed or under an obligation, whether formal or informal, to act in accordance with the directions, instructions or wishes of the 10 per cent shareholder in relation to the corporate affairs of the corporation". In practice, it may be very difficult to determine if a director is "directly associated" with a 10 per cent shareholder, especially if the obligation to represent the major shareholder's interest is "informal". Therefore, while the guideline looks good on paper, implementation is a real challenge.

The examples I have discussed here indicate why the search for true independence is a bit like the search for the holy grail. Until we allow non-controlling shareholders more say in the nomination and election of directors or the determination of their independence, this search will continue to prove to be elusive

  • The writer is an associate professor at the NUS Business School where he teaches corporate governance and ethics

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ADV: Kaplan - Obtain your Law qualification in 8 months

Singapore Law Watch
10 Jun 2015

The legacy of the Magna Carta

Straits Times
25 Jun 2015

THE Magna Carta, or Great Charter, was a failure as a peace treaty, torn up just eight weeks after it was signed in June 1215. But its 800th anniversary this year is feted rightly for what it represents: the fight for civil liberties and democracy in England and many parts of the world through the centuries.

The charter was signed to stop a civil war between the English King John and rebel barons disgruntled with the extortionate taxes imposed on them to finance his wars with France. The barons were also unhappy with the huge powers of the monarchy. A good part of the document - more than a third - limited the king's powers, particularly his ability to impose unlimited taxes, and granted certain rights to the people. Under the charter, no one, including the king, was above the law, a nod to the concept of the rule of law. But it applied only to a small group of people, the barons, and was quickly nullified by the Pope. It was to be many centuries from the signing of the Magna Carta before Britain developed the suite of freedoms its people enjoy today.

The Magna Carta's influence went beyond Britain's shores, inspiring the revolution - and the revolutionaries' slogan of "no taxation without representation" - that led to the establishment of the United States. Most of all, it is seen as a precursor to universal human rights and an inspiration to people struggling for justice and freedom throughout the world. Its influence can be seen in the US Bill of Rights that guarantees certain personal freedoms and restricts the government's powers, and in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, described as an "international Magna Carta for all mankind". It has been invoked by leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

Of course, with freedoms come responsibilities. There are, and should be, legal restrictions and ethical and moral constraints on the exercise of freedom to the extent that it hurts others. In several European countries, for example, it is illegal to deny the Holocaust and, in Germany, this comes under the law against incitement of hatred that carries prison terms as punishment. In Singapore, the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act prohibits attacks on any religion and the authorities may issue a restraining order or prosecute those who violate the law.

In celebrating the Magna Carta, it cannot be forgotten that there are countries where people still do not enjoy the range of civil rights that they should. There is also a need to safeguard hard-won rights from erosion, whether through extremist ideologies or through the exclusion or marginalisation of minorities. The Magna Carta remains a beacon of hope.

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UE uncovers irregular transactions relating to subsidiaries

Business Times
18 Jun 2015
Chan Yi Wen

[Singapore] PROPERTY and technology group United Engineers (UE) on Wednesday said it has found a series of irregular transactions in relation to its subsidiaries.

These transactions appear to have taken place between 2010 and 2015 and the value of the contracts amount to approximately S$11 million, based on available information and pending further inquiries, UE said in a statement.

The irregularities were detected during the course of the company's routine internal audit of its subsidiaries in late-May 2015, and several were in relation to various contracts awarded by its wholly owned subsidiary, United Engineers Developments, and other subsidiaries of the company to certain third-party contractors.

The company has appointed Allen & Gledhill LLP as lawyers to advise it on the matter. It has also brought the issue to the attention of its statutory auditors, Ernst & Young LLP.

In the irregular transactions that were uncovered, UE said that quotations for proposed contracts were found to have been forged by certain employees. "This was carried out with the view of preferring certain third-party contractors, which would then be awarded the relevant contracts."

The services of the employees concerned have been suspended and the matter reported to the appropriate authorities. UE said it has, since the discovery of the matter, taken steps to identify the nature and extent of its losses and to recover them in consultation with its lawyers.

Based on the available information, the above transactions do not appear to have any material effect on UE's consolidated audited financial statements between FY10 and FY14, the company added.

UE will make further announcements as and when there are any material developments in this matter.

OCBC and its insurance arm Great Eastern own the controlling stakes in UE. In February, sale of UE to Thai beer tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi was aborted.

For UE's latest quarter ended March 31, 2015, its net profit had jumped 226 per cent to S$24.99 million from the year-ago period. Meanwhile, turnover had declined 24 per cent to S$515.26 million.

On Wednesday, the counter closed unchanged at S$2.57.

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Woman sues hospital over husband's death

Straits Times
09 Jun 2015
K.C. Vijayan

His condition worsened before discharge completed; KTPH denies negligence

THE widow of a man who was told he could go home after he was treated, but took a turn for the worse before his discharge was completed, is suing Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) and three doctors for alleged negligence.

Mrs Evelyn Grace Lee, 51, is seeking compensation for her husband Alvin Lee's death, which left her and their two sons without their sole breadwinner.

KTPH, which is believed to be facing a negligence suit for the first time, is contesting the case and has denied her claims in documents filed with the High Court.

It said in a statement to The Straits Times yesterday: "The case has been reviewed by the hospital and we noted that care was given promptly.

"At this point of time, we are unable to provide more information without the family's consent and we will continue to engage the family."

Mr Lee, a 45-year-old senior engineer, was taken by ambulance to the hospital on Aug 18, 2011, at about 2pm, complaining of severe body aches, vomiting and diarrhoea. He was diagnosed with gastroenteritis caused by food poisoning, placed on an intravenous drip, and given medication and various tests.

Hours later, he was told he could go home as his condition was not critical, according to court documents filed by Mrs Lee.

That was about 7.12pm, but he felt too weak to leave and complained of severe breathlessness about 30 minutes later.

The hospital argues his vital signs were taken at 7.12pm and found to be within the normal range. "However, as the deceased's discharge was still not completed, and while he was still within the (accident and emergency) centre, (he) suddenly complained of (breathlessness) and giddiness, without chest pain," it added in defence documents filed by lawyer Lek Siang Pheng of Rodyk and Davidson.

Mr Lee was seen by three doctors, including a senior consultant, at different points and was given fluids and an intravenous antibiotic, among other things.

He complained of pain in his left leg for the first time to a doctor at about 8.10pm, making known he had a history of leg pain and other complications.

But his condition worsened and he died at about 4am, despite being placed in intensive care.

An autopsy by the Health Sciences Authority said death was caused by severe bacterial infection due to pneumonia. The post-mortem also noted Mr Lee had heart disease at the time of death, but it is uncertain if this had contributed to it.

Mrs Lee's case may turn on an expert opinion from Australian cardiologist K. Kostner, obtained by RHTLaw Taylor Wessing lawyer R Nandakumar.

While Dr Kostner, director of cardiology at a Brisbane hospital, is "positive that everybody involved did the best they could at the time", he has raised issues for the court's consideration.

Yesterday, Mrs Lee said she hoped the case would bring some "closure" so that she can "move on peacefully" with her family.

The assistant pre-school teacher is supporting her two teenage sons and ailing father-in-law.

"My husband had plans for our children, but now everything is gone."


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Resident goes to court over S&CC

Straits Times
25 Jun 2015
Rachel Au-Yong

A RESIDENT of a new Housing Board development in Hougang has gone to court to obtain a refund of the service and conservancy charges (S&CC) she paid to the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

Corporate travel manager Melinda Teo, 37, made a report to the Small Claims Tribunal on Monday, calling for the return of the $367.20 she had paid AHPETC between last November and May this year.

Ms Teo, who lives in the 680-unit Parkland Residences, a Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) project, argued that she need not have to pay the fees as the Workers' Party-run town council had taken over the management and maintenance of the property only on June 1.

Before that, the project's developer, Kwan Hwee Investment, had been asked by the HDB to clean the common areas while the paperwork for AHPETC to take over the care of the property was being finalised.

The scheme, with HDB flats designed and built by private developers, was suspended in 2011 after a public outcry over the pricey units.

Ms Teo's move follows a petition more than 300 residents of Parkland Residences had sent to the town council earlier this month, demanding that their S&CC before June 1 be waived or refunded.

But an AHPETC spokesman had told reporters then that it cannot return the S&CC to residents as it has to compensate Kwan Hwee Investment for the maintenance work done before June 1.

Ms Teo, however, retorted yesterday: "If the town council did not appoint the developer on its own accord, how can it take our money just because the developer is asking for a reimbursement?"

Following her court action, an AHPETC representative will have to attend a meeting at the Small Claims Tribunal on July 2, according to a tribunal notice issued to the town council.

Otherwise, an order could be given against the town council. The order could include a mandatory compensation to the claimant for claims below $10,000.

Ms Teo said that she decided to take the legal route as "our e-mail and petition have received only silent treatment from the MPs and town council".

AHPETC did not respond to queries by press time.


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Patient autonomy in audits: MOH replies - Forum

Straits Times
18 Jun 2015

THE Ministry of Health (MOH) thanks the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) for its feedback ("Patient autonomy key part of medical ethics"; June 4).

As SMA president Wong Tien Hua said, MOH has powers under the Private Hospitals and Medical Clinics Act to audit any patient's clinical outcomes, should the need arise.

Our medical audits enable MOH to monitor and uphold the high quality of care and safety of aesthetic procedures performed in Singapore.

Our intent in including this information in the consent template for medical practitioners and healthcare institutions is to give patients the opportunity to be informed of and to agree to participate in MOH's medical audits before they undergo aesthetic procedures.

In this way, situations whereby patients are surprised when they are contacted after undergoing the procedure are avoided.

Dr Wong's letter might have given the impression that the patient must consent to participate in the audit for the treatment to proceed. This is not so. The patient's autonomy is not compromised in this process: Should the patient not agree to participate in any future audit of his aesthetic procedure, neither the patient nor the doctor is prohibited from undergoing or performing the procedure, respectively.

Before they undergo any aesthetic procedure, we urge the public to exercise due caution by ascertaining that the medical practitioners and healthcare institutions consulted are properly licensed and accredited to perform the desired procedures and treatments.

When in doubt, they should seek a second opinion from their regular family physician or other qualified medical practitioners.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)


Corporate Communications

Ministry of Health

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Six months' jail over fake insurance claim

Straits Times
09 Jun 2015
Elena Chong

A MAN, who abetted two others to deceive NTUC Income into paying $2,885 for injuries he claimed to have suffered in a fabricated traffic accident, was sentenced to six months' jail yesterday.

Mohammad Azdi Sudi, 34, admitted to abetment by scheming with Pan Weida Pepin, 31, and Su Chia Ern, 44, to cheat insurance companies by making a third-party bodily injury claim.

He claimed he was a passenger in a car which was involved in a collision with another vehicle in Loyang Avenue on March 16, 2009.

Pan and Su, together with Teo Kok Hwee, 36, are alleged to have been behind motor insurance scams between 2008 and 2009.

They allegedly recruited individual car owners and drivers to submit details in fabricated traffic accidents to deceive insurance companies. Their cases are pending.

A district court heard last month that sometime in 2009, Azdi asked Pan, a friend and a car dealer, for a loan.

Pan could not lend him money, but instead offered him a "job" that would involve him making fraudulent accident claims.

Pan told Azdi, who was a process technician then, to play the role of a front-seat passenger, while Pan would be the driver.

Azdi subsequently went to a polyclinic and was given two days' medical leave for his purported neck injury.

He then submitted a Singapore Accident Statement report containing details of the fake accident. A claim for damages amounting to $9,222 was made against NTUC, the insurer of the other car.

NTUC subsequently offered a settlement sum of $2,885.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Lai said fraudulent claims stemming from nine purported accidents involved 20 accused persons in the syndicate.

Claims amounting to $363,522 were submitted between 2008 and 2009. Insurers were deceived into paying out a total of $155,658. To date, little or no restitution was made for the losses suffered.

Azdi, who could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined, was allowed to start his sentence on June 22.


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New guidelines to protect research participants

24 Jun 2015
Siau Ming En

SINGAPORE — When researchers in a human biomedical research project unintentionally come across a finding that suggests potential health risks, they sometimes face a dilemma on whether they should inform the participant about it.

This issue of incidental findings from such research was among several that the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) was trying to address when it was revising its ethics guidelines released today (June 23).

Speaking at a press conference held at the National Research Foundation headquarters, BAC member Kon Oi Lian noted that with the flourishing of genomic science research, questions on giving consent and managing incidental findings had been raised in recent years.

Dr Kon, the head of the division of medical sciences in the National Cancer Centre Singapore, noted that at times the unanticipated findings are either known to cause a disease or associated with a high likelihood of leading to a future disorder. “Many research participants have given their biological materials but they have not, at that time of donation, been specifically asked to make a decision if we find something — as it were by accident, but would we feel is clinically relevant to you — would you or would you not like to be informed of it?”

The revised set of guidelines now recommends that researchers ask participants if they would like to be informed of these “clinically significant” findings during the consent-taking process if there is a possibility that such findings may emerge. Previously, researchers had the option to not share such findings with the participants.

Human biomedical research is conducted to study, diagnose, treat or prevent any disease, injury or disorder of the human mind or body; and involves humans, human tissues or information derived from humans.

Professor Alastair Campbell, also a BAC member, said the scope of defining such research was also expanded to ensure that any research, even if it is done by others, such as social scientists, will be covered by proper ethical research guidelines.

Another revision to the guidelines is to respect the views of minors — individuals under 21 years old — who are capable of making their own decisions. Previously, a parent or guardian’s consent would suffice.

Prof Campbell said there is an increasing view globally that if the young person is able to understand what is involved, he has as much standing as parents who are seeking to protect the welfare of their children. “In other words, a young person, perfectly able to understand the nature of what’s being proposed, should have the right to refuse even if their parents are willing to consent,” said Prof Campbell, a professor of medical ethics at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore.

Between July and August 2012, the committee had put up the proposed guidelines for public consultation. Two dialogue sessions were also held for researchers, the general public religious groups, among others, that year. BAC chairman Richard Magnus, when asked if the guidelines were legally binding, noted that as the guidelines were a consolidation of past recommendations, some had already been passed as legislation.

Those not hard coded in the law, he noted, becomes “soft law” that represents institutional best practices for human biomedical research.

The set of revised guidelines comes as the Ministry of Health mulls over the draft Human Biomedical Research Bill announced last November, which aims to formalise standards in the area of biomedical research and protect the welfare of research participants. There has also been more long-term research in the area over the years, such as the Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes, or GUSTO, birth cohort study and more recently, a large-scale preconception study that involve 1,000 local couples.


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Duo jailed over attempt to cheat firm out of $3.6m

Straits Times
18 Jun 2015
Elena Chong

HE FLED to Thailand with nearly $1 million after defrauding a company in 2012. But 11/2 years later, Tan Yong Hai was back, using a fake identity to try and cheat another firm out of $3.6 million.

The plot failed, and Tan, 31, was yesterday jailed for nine years and three months after pleading guilty to eight charges involving forgery, false representation and removing property from Singapore. Thirteen other charges were taken into consideration.

Tan roped in his former schoolmate, Lau Tien Chen, also 31, and made use of his name and bank account to deposit a forged Maybank cheque for nearly $2 million, as well as two doctored United Overseas Bank cheques totalling $1.6 million.

The accomplice was yesterday sentenced to six years in jail for using forged cheques as genuine ones.

Lau had withdrawn $202,000 and given it to Tan, but was arrested when he went to withdraw $1.4 million from his Standard Chartered Bank account at the bank's Battery Road office.

Tan was nabbed at Changi Airport when he tried to leave for Thailand.

The duo pleaded guilty last month.

The court heard that when Tan was a facility executive with Sodexo Singapore, he forged nine lease agreements. He also cheated Invensys Process System, where he was attached, of $1.42 million over a two-year period.

He named his relatives and friends as landlords and deceived Invensys into paying rents for fictitious units at a Tanah Merah condominium to house expatriate engineers working here.

When he realised his forgeries were being investigated, he began to forge company cheques. Before leaving for Bangkok on Feb 28, 2012, he hid $950,000 in books in his luggage.

In Bangkok, he asked Lau to help him get a job as an accounts assistant.

He returned to Singapore in August 2013 and lied in his disembarkation/ embarkation card that he had never used a passport under a different name to enter Singapore.

As an accounts assistant at SoilBuild Group Holdings, he persuaded Lau to help him with his plan to "loot" money from the firm and go to Thailand for a "good life". Tan subsequently made a cheque of $1.99 million in favour of Lau by forging signatures from SoilBuild subsidiary SB Procurement.

Maybank did not honour the cheque after SoilBuild confirmed the forgery. By then, Tan was missing from work.


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Jailed 4 weeks for causing death by negligent act

Straits Times
09 Jun 2015
Elena Chong

A 34-YEAR-OLD man who drove his nephew's lorry without consent or a valid licence ran over an elderly man while reversing the vehicle.

He continued to reverse the lorry from the service road in a Jurong housing estate, unaware that the 81-year-old man had been pinned under his vehicle and was being dragged for about 4m.

Yesterday, freelance attendant Mohamed Shafarudin Mohamed Mokthar was jailed for four weeks and banned from driving for five years for negligently causing Mr Ang Kum Lor's death along the service road into Block 116, Ho Ching Road, on Oct 6 last year.

He was also fined $2,400 in all for taking the lorry without the owner's consent, driving without a licence and removing the vehicle without police authority when he left the scene after an ambulance took Mr Ang away.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhang Hongchuan said Shafarudin was driving the Mitsubishi lorry along the two-way service road at about 11.25am that day when he reversed it against the flow of traffic.

Shafarudin's lawyer said he did this as there were cars parked along the road and he could not turn the vehicle around.

Ms Zhang said Shafarudin failed to notice Mr Ang, who was walking behind with the aid of a cane.

The lorry struck Mr Ang and he fell. Shafarudin continued to reverse the vehicle, dragging Mr Ang under it and leaving a 4.4m trail of blood.

He stopped only when a passer-by knocked on his passenger door to tell him he had hit someone.

Shafarudin got down and called the police, but did not say he was the driver or that he was involved in the accident.

When the police contacted him, he initially said he was a passer- by and that there was a taxi near the scene.

Later that day, he admitted to the offence and surrendered himself at Traffic Police headquarters.

He had been disqualified from driving after failing to attend a court summons for an unrelated parking offence in 2012.

Shafarudin could have been jailed for up to two years and/or fined for causing death by a negligent act.


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NUS trio win international law contest

Straits Times
24 Jun 2015
Toh Ting Wei

A TEAM from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law has won an international law contest, with its three members clinching individual honours as well.

The inaugural Herbert Smith Freehills Competition Law Moot - which was held at King's College London from June 12 to 14 - saw final-year students Jeremiah Lau, Benjamin Wong and Lisa Tan triumph against the University of Amsterdam in the finals, to finish first in a pool of 12 teams.

Ms Tan, 23, was also awarded the Best Oralist prize, while Mr Lau, 24, and Mr Wong, 25, finished as runners-up alongside two other participants.

Saying her individual prize was "completely unexpected", Ms Tan revealed yesterday that it was her first time participating in a moot since her freshman year.

She said: "It was very tough initially as I had many things to work on, but I'm thankful to the NUS team, in particular Associate Professor Eleanor Wong, for painstakingly helping me to identify my problems and giving me tips on how to overcome them."

Ms Tan credited the trio's teamwork as being crucial. It was the only three-member team in the competition, with the others having only two members, which gave the trio less time to make their individual presentations. However, they were able to benefit from having "greater stamina" to address questions posed by the moot bench, according to Ms Tan.

Coached by Associate Professor Burton Ong, the team spent more than five months preparing for the competition, including two weeks of intensive preparation for the oral rounds.

Prof Ong pointed out that not many would have expected the team to outperform its European counterparts, given that the competition was based on European Competition laws.

He added: "I am not surprised at all by the team's achievement - Jeremiah, Benjamin and Lisa are among the best students I have encountered in my years as a law tutor, and it was very satisfying to see them demonstrate what I already knew they were capable of to an international audience."


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Singapore Law Watch
18 Jun 2015

Engineer jailed for stealing tech parts from hospital

Straits Times
09 Jun 2015
Andrea Ng

A SYSTEMS engineer who stole more than $351,000 worth of network components from KK Women's and Children's Hospital was yesterday sentenced to 3 1/2 years' jail.

Michael Lin Weihong, 31, admitted to four charges of theft in dwelling, with seven more taken into consideration.

He committed the offences between Feb 20 and May 5 last year, shortly after his former employer sent him to the hospital to help upgrade the existing network infrastructure.

Using the same modus operandi each time, Lin would delink and disconnect the main network system from the backup components with his ID from Integrated Health Information System.

He then physically removed backup parts such as network switches.

To cover up the thefts, he would report false alarms and volunteer to do "routine checks" and would then report that nothing was amiss.

He was found out on May 7 last year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Chee Ee Ling noted the importance of the stolen items to the hospital's operations and its ability to provide patient care.

In mitigation, defence lawyer M. Lukshumayeh noted that Lin had been under pressure because of his debts to banks and loan sharks.

For each charge of theft in dwelling, Lin could have been fined and jailed for up to seven years.


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

Noble should pay heed to its corporate governance

Business Times
24 Jun 2015
Mak Yuen Teen

Its practices in picking its board of directors, remuneration policy and degree of disclosure fly in the face of a company that is reportedly working on improving transparency

THE third report issued by Iceberg Research and some commentators have touched on the corporate governance of Noble Group, in particular the long tenure of some of its independent directors. However, there has not been an in-depth assessment of its corporate governance.

The Governance and Transparency Index (GTI), published by The Business Times and the National University of Singapore's Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO) and sponsored by CPA Australia, provides an indication of the overall quality of Noble's corporate governance and transparency. The 2014 GTI gave it an overall score of 41, placing it in 293rd position in a field of 644 companies covered. This was an unusually low ranking for such a large company. Interestingly, in 2013, Noble was ranked far lower - at 503 - with a score of just 28.

In this commentary, I will discuss in depth two key areas of Noble's corporate governance - its board of directors and its remuneration policy and disclosures.


Before its recent annual general meeting (AGM) on April 17, 2015, it had a 13-member board, with an executive chairman, two other executive directors, two non-independent non-executive directors and eight independent directors.

At the recent AGM, the two non-independent non-executive directors did not seek re-election. On May 6, Noble appointed an additional independent director, making it a 12-member board, with three-quarters being independent directors. Perhaps the new appointment was a reaction to shareholders at the AGM, or to recent criticisms about its corporate governance; otherwise, it should have put this new director up for election at the AGM, rather than give shareholders the opportunity to scrutinise and approve his election only at the next AGM.

In my view, Noble's board is still larger than it needs to be, and in its case, more directors do not translate into better diversity. Its board appears over-weighted by independent directors with a banking background. Perhaps it feels it needs a lot of banker-type directors who are able to help it build relationships with banks, given the 41 principal bankers listed in its annual report.

There are also a number of interlocking company and board relationships among the independent directors. The inter-connectedness and lack of diversity among the independent directors is likely related to how Noble appoints directors. In its annual report, it says the appointment of directors is based on the Chairman consulting individually with directors on possible candidates, who are then considered by the nominating committee. This appears to be a classic example of a board which appoints directors through an "old boys' network", purely through recommendations of incumbent directors.

The appointment of the newest independent director, Paul Jeremy Brough, seems to support this. He joined KPMG Hong Kong in 1983, became a partner in 1991 and retired as a senior partner in 2012.

Iain Ferguson Bruce, a current independent director and the audit committee chairman, was also a senior partner of KPMG in Hong Kong, having retired in 1996. Clearly, the pair know each other. Of all the possible independent-director candidates in Hong Kong and elsewhere, Noble appointed one with ties with an incumbent independent director.

The appointment of Mr Brough is particularly surprising, given the public scrutiny Noble is facing. This suggests that it is oblivious to or does not care about public perceptions. Some may argue that this is a sign of hubris.

Mr Brough may have been brought in to ultimately replace Mr Bruce on the board and the audit committee. Mr Bruce sits on the boards of six other listed companies - five listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong and one on New York Stock Exchange - and has other key appointments; he is the busiest director in terms of number of listed company directorships on a board stacked with busy individuals based on their directorships and key appointments. He also chairs what is arguably one of Noble's two most critical committees - the audit committee (the other being the risk committee).

Although Mr Bruce is a qualified accountant who had had a distinguished career in KPMG, he retired almost 20 years ago, when financial reporting standards were much different from today's. Given that accounting firms are essentially full-service consulting firms, he may not necessarily have the requisite background to understand the complex financial reporting issues in a global commodities player like Noble.

Similarly, though Mr Brough also had a distinguished career in an accounting firm, it would nevertheless be important for shareholders to assess whether he has the necessary background for a company like Noble when considering whether to support his election at the next AGM.

For such a large board with so many independent directors, the lack of any independent directors with strong experience in the commodities industry is rather surprising, and would lead to questions about the ability of the board to challenge management on the company's business model and strategies. Further, while many of the independent directors have international appointments, they are all based in or closely connected, to Hong Kong, though Noble is listed here and operates globally.

The company does not disclose the age of its directors in the annual report. Online searches reveal that at least four out of nine of its independent directors are over 70 years old; the youngest is 58, and the oldest, 85. As a well-known American corporate-governance activist and director once said: "The reason he is so accomplished is because he is old." I have nothing against older directors, but I think Noble can do with some younger blood on its board, who bring current and relevant skills and competencies to the boardroom.

Four of its nine independent directors have served more than nine years. Noble said it has done a "particularly rigorous review" and concluded that they are all still independent; it also said it does not feel it is appropriate to set a limit on number of directorships held by its directors.

If we look at the profiles of its independent directors, busy-ness appears to be a criterion for appointment, rather than a basis for exclusion. The manner in which Noble dealt with the two new guidelines in the 2012 Code of Corporate Governance - those pertaining to degree of independence and setting a limit on maximum number of listed-company directorships - tells us something about its attitude towards corporate governance in general, and its lack of interest in implementing guidelines in the Code (as my discussion of its remuneration policy and disclosures would further confirm).

There are other questionable board and committee practices. For example, the executive chairman is a member of the audit, nominating and remuneration committees, which is not good practice and indicates the pervasive influence that he has in the corporate governance of the company.

In my opinion, stakeholders of Noble should not expect the board to be an independent and effective monitor of management.


Noble is opaque when it comes to remuneration of directors and senior executives. It discloses the remuneration of its executive directors, top five executives and non-executive directors in bands of S$250,000.

For the three executive directors, it discloses a top band of S$1.5 million and above, together with the percentage mix; for the top five key management executives, it discloses that they were each paid S$1.5 million and up. It does not comply with the Code's recommendation to disclose the total remuneration of the top five key management personnel who are not directors. For the non-executive directors, it provides the rather useless disclosure that they were all paid below S$250,000. As is common, it falls back on the competitiveness of the industry, sensitivity and confidentiality as excuses for opaqueness.

Its other required disclosures give some additional information: Note 6 to the financial statements said that in 2014, the three executive directors were paid a total of US$17 million (with three-quarters being the fair value of share-based payments) and the non-executive directors, US$690,000. In other words, the average remuneration of the three executive directors was well above the starting point of the "S$1.5 million and above" top band.

It should be pointed out that if Noble had listed in HK, such opaqueness would not fly, because the HK listing rules require the disclosure of the exact remuneration of each individual director (including executive director).

Noble is also extremely poor in disclosing its remuneration policy. It vaguely mentions that it links incentive remuneration for senior management to group and divisional earnings and that it may use other role-specific measures (that is, individual performance measures); it does not reveal the fee structure for its non-executive directors.

Noble makes a number of disclosures in the notes related to the assumptions used to value share options, which it uses extensively, but there are no indications that the vesting or exercise of the options is staggered at all. Presumably, this means that all the options granted can be exercised after the minimum period under the listing rules, which is one year for non-discounted options.

This leads to concerns that the options will promote short-termism among the executive directors and senior executives. What is worse is that Noble gives share options to all its independent directors, including those who serve on the audit and risk committees; these options align their incentives closely to management, and may encourage them to promote risk-taking rather than to oversee risk management, and think short-term.

The questionable corporate governance practices I have described will give critics of Noble's accounting practices more ammunition, as board oversight, remuneration practices and financial reporting quality are inextricably linked.

Noble has promised to improve its transparency. It should also take a very hard look at its corporate governance if it wants to regain investors' confidence.

The writer is an associate professor at the NUS Business School, where he teaches corporate governance and ethics. He developed the Governance and Transparency Index in 2009 and was involved in the first three issues of the index. He does not own shares in Noble and has no connection to the other critics of Noble.

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


Straits Times
17 Jun 2015
Jessica Lim

US Polo Association scores win against Polo Ralph Lauren in legal fight here over trademarks

IN THE battle between two "Polo" brand retailers, the United States Polo Association (USPA) has won its legal round against rival fashion brand Polo Ralph Lauren here.

The prize: It has been allowed to register a black-and-white trademark featuring two polo players on horseback.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos), in a judgment paper obtained by The Straits Times, dismissed a bid by Ralph Lauren to block the USPA from registering it.

Ralph Lauren claimed USPA's logo was similar to its own single-player trademark, which it registered in 1996.

The USPA - the sport's American governing body - has ventured into selling merchandise and registered the mark in 2012 with the intention to enter the eyewear market here.

However the fashion giant could still launch an appeal against the June 2 decision.

Polo Ralph Lauren's lawyer, Mr Sukumar Karuppiah from Ravindran Associates, who has 28 days to appeal, argued that the horsemen mark dominates the USPA's logo and should be given more weight when comparing the two trademarks for similarities.

He also pointed out that the single-polo player mark had, over years of extensive usage, developed an "acquired technical distinctiveness".

But the USPA's lawyer, Mr Prithipal Singh from Patrick Miranda LLP, argued that the organisation's initials were the "dominant component" of the logo and when it was compared against the single-polo player mark, "the dissimilarity is clear".

He also argued that the image depicting a polo player was not distinctive, as there are other such logos here - including that of Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club - registered for eyewear.

Intellectual property adjudicator Professor Ng-Loy Wee Loon, who heard the case, found the USPA's logo had to be viewed as a whole - with both its letters and image - as neither was dominant.

Comparing both logos in their entirety, she found that they had an "extremely low degree of visual similarity".

She also said Ralph Lauren had not been able to prove that its single-polo player mark had acquired a "badge of origin" reputation.

Referring to sales invoices tendered as evidence of sales in Singapore, she said not one of them featured the single-polo player logo on its own and added that many of the company's advertisements did not carry it either.

Polo Ralph Lauren's counsel could not confirm whether there will be an appeal as its clients are still reviewing the matter.

The USPA's Mr Singh told The Straits Times: "We are a polo association, we have to represent the sport. There are only so many ways you can depict a polo player. It is a fair judgment."

IP expert David Tan, a National University of Singapore entertainment law associate professor, agreed, saying: "The USPA, being a legitimate polo club, should be able to use the generic image of men on horses to sell apparel and other fashion merchandise, so long as the icon is not identical to Polo Ralph Lauren's mark."

Fitness trainer Chua Ping Wei, 31, said: "The logos look very different. If I was going to buy a branded item, I would check the brand properly."


Background Story


We are a polo association, we have to represent the sport. There are only so many ways you can depict a polo player.

- USPA's lawyer Prithipal Singh

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

Polo/Lauren Company, LP v United States Polo Association [2015] SGIPOS 10

Keep on the right side of the law

Business Times
08 Jun 2015
Mike Gray

WHETHER you like it or not, the legal process hangs over your head like the proverbial Sword of Damocles as soon as you become a director. (In the ancient Sicilian story, Damocles was a courtier who coveted King Dionysius' vaulted position, but soon realised that the role came with a gleaming sword suspended over the throne by a single horsehair.)

A director has access to professional advisers such as lawyers, accountants and other consultants for any issue that may threaten that horsehair, and coverage for such professional costs should be clearly set out in the terms and reference of every board.

Nevertheless, you need to be fully aware of what you can do to mitigate your risks of getting into trouble.

Fiduciary duty and reasonable care

A board member's fiduciary responsibilities hinge on acting honestly and in the interest of the company and its shareholders. This includes not subjecting the company to unnecessary risks such as illegal transactions which could benefit the company, but may result in criminal liability.

If a transaction does not appear, at first instance, to benefit the company, the directors should document the reasons why it should proceed.

A company's day-to-day management is not the non-executive director's lot. Nevertheless, he is expected to be a vigilant guardian. You cannot escape responsibility by claiming ignorance, or by relying solely on board members and executive directors with professional qualifications. Neither can you get away by not attending meetings or not signing resolutions.

Indeed, the standard for accountability may be raised for any director who possesses special knowledge or experience, such as an accounting or legal background.

Under the Singapore Exchange regulations, all directors are responsible for internal controls. Similarly, a board member is expected to understand what the financial statements mean, even if he has no accounting knowledge. The now infamous Centro case in Australia and its judgement on director accountability for the accounts, clearly define the legal parameters for director responsibility in this area.

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) in Singapore is working to ensure directors are more accountable for the quality of financial reporting. Kenneth Yap, CEO of Acra said: "We feel that it is time to focus on directors, since they have the ultimate liability in ensuring that financial statements accord with accounting standards."

This means that directors who are found wanting in this area may find themselves subject to fines or further liabilities under Section 201 of the Companies Act.

Having said this, you are afforded some limited comfort from professional advice. Section 157C of the Companies Act allows directors to rely on reports, statements and advice from employees, professional advisers and experts, and from other directors, all on the basis that these parties are indeed competent and the matters are within their designated authority or competence.

However, a director must act in good faith, make proper enquiry, and have no knowledge that reliance is unwarranted. The point here is that even if you rely on third parties, you must have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that what you receive is proper.

Avoid conflicts of interest

Significantly, you must avoid conflicts of interest, and under no circumstances should your director's position enable the improper use of information to buy or sell shares. If you are a director and have, or wish to buy, shares in your company, lock them up after you have bought them and do not trade them until you leave the board, if you can help it.

Be fully aware of the blackout periods for transacting in shares. Even if the company may not be in a blackout period, you may be unable to buy or sell due to your director's position that may provide you with material insider information.

Many directors are frequently asked by family members for investment tips on the companies where they serve as directors. Do not fall into this trap. If your relatives buy the shares based on your advice when the information is not generally available, this might be considered insider trading.

And relatives are not the only connections that can get you into trouble. Careless talk or disclosure to a secretary, your staff or a friend, can also implicate you if the information is price sensitive. If you have any doubt about any conflict of interest at all, avoid the transaction. If you are unsure of a potential conflict area, discuss it with the chairman of the board or seek professional advice.


As a director, you are responsible for ensuring that you and the company you represent, comply with all the regulatory requirements. While you can seek professional advice, you must, at all times, be aware of all the legal requirements behind your appointment.

This typically requires keeping current with events, company law and regulations relating to directors and board practice. One way to do this, of course, is to attend the latest courses and updates provided by professional organisations such as the Singapore Institute of Directors.

The writer is a member of the Publications Committee of the Singapore Institute of Directors

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

Tackling maritime crime without going overboard

Business Times
24 Jun 2015
David Hughes

SSA says that it is important to distinguish between armed robbery and piracy, noting that only 14% of attacks on merchant vessels in Q1 are classified as piracy

IF a gang of cut-throats armed to the teeth climb on to your tanker, knock your crew about and pump the ship's cargo into a waiting vessel, you probably will not be wondering whether they are pirates or armed robbers.

There is, however, an important legal difference between the two. It is why the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur receives and disseminates reports on piracy and on armed robbery.

For some purposes, though, the two can be lumped together, as seen from the IMB's comments that, after a steady drop in global piracy over the last few years, attacks went up 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2015 from the corresponding period in 2014.

In the same vein, in April, an IMB report on the first three months of this year said a small coastal tanker was being hijacked by pirates in South-east Asia every two weeks on average, and that more than half (55 per cent) of the world's 54 piracy and armed robbery incidents this year happened in South-east Asia.

But the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) has stressed that it is important to distinguish between armed robbery and piracy when reporting incidents in South-east Asian waters.

In a study it commissioned to determine the scale of threat posed to seafarers in the region, it found that in the first quarter of this year, the vast majority of incidents in the region were armed robberies, that is, incidents that happened in the territorial waters and under the jurisdiction of the sovereign state; incidents are classified as piracy when they take place on the high seas.

Where help comes from

This definition closely follows Article 101 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

SSA says the distinction determines whether a merchant vessel seeks protection from the navy or coast guard of the littoral state, or from the navy or coastguard of the vessel's flag of registry. This is broadly the situation, though there are circumstances where the provisions of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation could be relevant.

Recent reports of "pirate" attacks were more likely to have been armed robberies targeted at specific vessel types, particularly when they were in port or at anchor, says SSA.

This is actually a help if either a distress message is sent out or somebody sees what is happening. If an attack occurs in territorial waters, the local military and law enforcement agencies can act without problems over jurisdiction.

On the other hand, the recent capture of the suspected hijackers of the tanker Orkim Harmony shows how effective co-operation between countries in the region can be.

While it is outrageous that tankers are being attacked, it is also important to keep these incidents in perspective. SSA stresses that, with an estimated 50,000 to 90,000 vessels moving through the straits of Malacca and Singapore each year and more ships sailing around South-east Asia and South China Sea, the likelihood of merchant vessels being attacked is very small, given that they exercise high vigilance and conduct anti-boarding watches.

SSA is also right to point out that the situation in the South China Sea is vastly different from that in the Gulf of Aden, where heavily armed pirates board vessels in open seas with plans to take the ship and its crew hostage for ransom.

Somali pirates

The SSA uses the present tense in reference to incidents off eastern Africa, but naval patrols and the use of armed security guards have been effective in preventing successful attacks by Somali pirates.

The industry is, however, a very long way from needing armed teams on merchant ships in South-east Asia.

The SSA commissioned a technical report to examine incidents of armed robbery and piracy in South-east Asian waters and the South China Sea, basing it on detailed analyses of IMB's quarterly reports and also those of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) for the first quarter of this year.

The findings revealed that only 14 percent of attacks on merchant vessels were classified as piracy; and of the remaining 85 per cent of incidents, almost half took place while the vessel was in port or at anchorage.

Nevertheless, merchant ships must take all precautions possible and SSA is encouraging masters and crews to ensure they practise recognised methods of countering possible boarding while in South-east Asian waters.

It advises that, if the ship is boarded, masters should put the well-being of their crew first, while fully complying with the standing instructions of their companies.

SSA has worked with ReCAAP to provide Guidelines for Tug Boats and Barges Against Piracy and Sea Robbery, which can be found online at www.recaap.org. It points out that the Best Management Practices for Protection against Somalia-Based Piracy (BMP4) can be successfully adapted for use in South-east Asia.

Piracy and armed robbery against ships must be taken seriously, and the signs are encouraging. Perpetrators are being caught. Making sure this sort of crime doesn't pay is the key to eradicating it.

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

Competition and cooperation need to co-exist in liner shipping

Business Times
17 Jun 2015
David Hughes

Doing away with vessel-sharing alliances could shrink the field and blunt competition

FOR those of us who learnt our trade in the days of conventional cargo liners, the watershed between "then" and "now" was the arrival , in the 70s, of "the box": the container, Malcolm McLean's brainchild, soon sent all those graceful post-war Greyhounds of the Sea to the breakers.

Meanwhile, Richard Gibney devised an idiosyncratic measurement system, the twenty-foot equivalent unit or TEU, set to irritate those of a logical, metric disposition for years to come, but which has since become ubiquitous.

That was the "container revolution".

In reality, it was not an event, but the start of a process. For a while, many of the practices that had supported conventional cargo shipping continued.

An enormous amount of diplomatic effort was expended in the early 70s to forge an agreement on the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development's Convention on a Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences. This allocated space within the "liner conferences" - 40 per cent each for carriers from the exporting and importing countries, and 20 per cent for other carriers.

It was still possible then to imagine that liner shipping would operate in the same way as it had since the advent of the steamship - that is to say, dominated by "conferences" of lines that divided up each trade between themselves, kept capacity in line with demand, charged according to complex tariffs based on cargo value and discouraged shippers from using non-conference lines with the threat of withdrawing significant "loyalty discounts".

The period when container shipping followed the old rules was short-lived, and competition regulators saw off the old-style conferences.

The technological advances brought in by containerisation changed everything to an extent unimaginable 30 years ago. One of the most obvious effects of the box has been massive consolidation, with the disappearance of most of the old names - largely the result of increasing vessel size.

Maersk Line recently ordered 11 19,630 TEU vessels. Speaking at the TOC Europe conference in Rotterdam, Andrew Penfold, project director at Ocean Shipping Consultants, told delegates that designs for vessels in excess of 20,000 TEU has become quite advanced.

"We have been working closely with (ship classification society) Lloyd's Register and can confirm that there is no technical reason why ships cannot go above 20,000 TEU - and we have had very serious discussions about vessels of 22,000 TEU. After that, there may be a pause in ordering greater vessel sizes, although I would imagine it will ultimately resume again."

Increased size brings great efficiency gains, but operating such large ships is only viable if competing carriers can swap space on each others' vessels. Doing that, though, raises competition concerns, and is only possible if the relevant regulatory authorities are prepared to issue exemptions from certain aspects of competition law.

Here, the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) has recommended that the Minister for Trade and Industry renews the Block Exemption for Liner Shipping Agreements Order (BEO) issued under Section 36 of the Competition Act.

Shipping-industry organisations, including the Singapore Shipping Association, say that the BEO has enabled container shipping providers with operations in Singapore to enter into a range of beneficial cooperative arrangements, including Vessel-Sharing Agreements and Voluntary Discussion Agreements. They argue that these agreements provide companies with the stability necessary to commit to long-term investments required for the operation of high-value ships and logistics infrastructure; they facilitate improved decision-making on the part of shipping companies, the more efficient use of cargo capacity and the maintenance of a range of services, thereby satisfying shippers' and consumers' demands more effectively in terms of frequency, reliability, efficiency, quality and price.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) stresses that there is broad international consensus on the economic benefits of operational agreements. It adds that the various maritime competition rules that apply globally (and particularly those within the Asia-Pacific) are currently in broad alignment.

Importantly, it is claimed that, both within the Asia-Pacific and beyond, Singapore's existing competition regime has served as a model for other nations, some of which are currently reviewing their own competition policies.

ICS cautions that changes to the existing competition regime in Singapore could therefore have significant negative implications for the current international regulatory framework: "The CCS's proposal to maintain the BEO in its current form is strongly welcomed by the global shipping industry."

However, there are those, primarily shippers' organisations, which argue against all exemptions from competition rules for the shipping industry. To some extent, these arguments are based on the experience of the old liner shipping conferences.

But this is a much changed world. The only real alternative to vessel-sharing alliances is further contraction in the number of carriers - and even less competition.

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

Town council saga: Workers' Party replies - Forum

Straits Times
06 Jun 2015

THE Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) finds Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong's accusations surprising and puzzling ("WP town council saga: Why lapses cannot be swept under the carpet"; yesterday).

We would like to make the following clarifications to correct the misconceptions.

What the High Court recently had to decide were mainly legal questions, that is, whether the court had the power to entertain the Ministry of National Development's (MND) request for the court to appoint and authorise independent accountants to co-sign cheques for the disbursement of the Financial Year (FY) 2014/15 and FY2015/16 $14 million town council grants which the MND had withheld; and to look into AHPETC's past transactions.

The High Court accepted the arguments of AHPETC's lawyers that there were no legal bases whatsoever for the MND's request, and accordingly, threw out the Government's entire case.

There was no trial and the High Court did not itself embark on a dedicated fact-finding exercise.

However, in the course of delivering the judgment, the High Court expressed views on AHPETC's lapses, but the views were based, principally, on the findings of the Auditor-General's Office (AGO) report.

A special two-day sitting of Parliament was convened to debate the AGO report.

All Workers' Party Members of Parliament (MPs) who are responsible for overseeing the management of the town council, including secretary-general Low Thia Khiang, participated in the debate to explain and clarify matters raised.

Party and town council chairman Sylvia Lim denies that she lied to Parliament.

Parliament has avenues such as the Committee of Privileges to ensure that MPs' conduct meets the standards expected.

Just because AHPETC did not physically transfer monies into sinking funds from its operating funds does not mean that monies are missing.

Up to FY2013/14, AHPETC has done the necessary transfers.

Currently, the MND is withholding $14 million in grants to AHPETC.

If the MND continues to withhold the grants from AHPETC that every town council should receive, AHPETC will not be able to fulfil its obligations to make the necessary sinking fund transfers.

AHPETC does not understand the basis for Mr Wong to accuse AHPETC or the Workers' Party of "dishonesty" or "irresponsible" behaviour.

All town councils are required to be audited, and the audit reports are presented to Parliament for public scrutiny.

Whether AHPETC's contractors are delivering services or not, and the standard of their work, is a matter that residents can assess for themselves.

When town councils engage contractors, they are required to comply with rules on the calling of public tenders.

If any town council staff has committed any illegal act or corrupt practice, he will have to face the full consequences of the law.

Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council spokesman

MND rebuts WP charge that ministry misconstrued its actions

THE Workers' Party (WP)-run town council yesterday accused the Ministry of National Development (MND) and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong of misconstruing its actions and intentions.

In a media statement, WP chairman Sylvia Lim, who also heads the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC), said MND was wrong in saying the town council wanted government grants without conditions.

MND, which is withholding $14 million in grants from the town council owing to concerns over its financial processes, had said on Thursday that AHPETC has "consistently resisted" its offer to disburse half the grants with terms attached - although it needs fresh funds urgently.

MND added that this was "presumably because (AHPETC) wants the grants, but without conditions and accountability".

Yesterday, Ms Lim said this was a "gross misrepresentation" of AHPETC's position.

In fact, she said, AHPETC had told MND it accepts that the law allows the National Development Minister to set conditions for giving grants to town councils.

She added that AHPETC "went further to agree to most of the conditions" set by MND over the disbursement of the grants.

One of the conditions is the appointment of independent accountants to the town council.

MND wanted the High Court to appoint the accountants, but the request was turned down last week. The ministry is appealing against the court decision and has applied to fast-track the appeal process.

Yesterday, Ms Lim said, in her view, only two issues remain unresolved: the identity of these accountants, and AHPETC's request that its grant for FY2014/2015 be deposited into its sinking fund, which is for long-term maintenance of the housing estate.

But in a lengthy reply last night to Ms Lim's statement, MND said it had invited AHPETC to propose names of accountant candidates and AHPETC had not responded.

MND had also told AHPETC it is prepared to consider placing the FY2014/2015 grant in its sinking fund, and asked the town council to give the reasons for its request and data on its cash flow. Again, there was no response.

"AHPETC wants the grants, but refuses to answer reasonable and legitimate questions to ensure accountability for public funds," MND said in its reply.

Separately, an AHPETC spokesman responded to Mr Wong's commentary in yesterday's The Straits Times. The minister had implied AHPETC was dishonest and irresponsible in not making transfers to its sinking fund that are required by law.

Mr Wong said Ms Lim had "effectively lied" in Parliament in February, when she said AHPETC has been making such transfers for FY2014. While two transfers had been made, both after their due date, a third was still outstanding at the time of Ms Lim's statement.

The spokesman said Ms Lim denies lying to Parliament. "Just because AHPETC did not physically transfer monies into (its) sinking fund from its operating funds does not mean that monies are missing. Up to FY2013/2014, AHPETC has done the necessary transfers," the spokesman added.

Rebutting the spokesman, MND said Mr Wong's concerns about the finances were also made by the High Court in its judgment.

The court said AHPETC's conduct was the "height of financial irresponsibility", and "AHPETC should consider the court's findings seriously, instead of dismissing them cavalierly", MND said.


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

Keppel FELS, Sembcorp Marine deny allegations of Brazil bribery

Business Times
24 Jun 2015
Nikita Mathur

[Singapore] SINGAPORE shipbuilders Keppel FELS Ltd and Sembcorp Marine Ltd's unit Jurong Shipyard Pte have firmly denied any allegations of participation in Brazil's ongoing bribery scandal involving contracts to build deep-water drilling vessels.

Both companies, global leaders in off-shore deep-water engineering, were among several other companies alleged to have paid bribes through intermediaries in order to obtain contracts worth around US$800 million each, which would allow the construction of 21 deep-water drilling vessels, said a report by Bloomberg on Tuesday.

The contracts allowed the construction of deep-water rigs which would then be leased to the state-controlled oil producer by a company established by several Brazilian banks and Petrobras called Sete Brasil, the report added. The allegations were based on a testimony released on Friday by a Brazilian court.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Keppel FELS strongly refuted allegations regarding its involvement in the payment of bribes relating to the investigations surrounding Petrobras.

"We would like to emphasise that Keppel Group has a Code of Conduct which prohibits, among others, bribery and corruption. Our employees are required to conduct themselves with integrity, in an ethical and proper manner, and in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations of the countries in which we operate, including anti-bribery laws," the company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Keppel Offshore & Marine, added.

To comment, Sembcorp Marine referred to a statement made in February, saying: "Sembcorp Marine did not make any illegal payments and the group's policies and contracts prohibit bribery and unethical behaviour."

The allegations in the testimony released on Friday were made by a former Petrobras and Sete executive from the engineering and services division, Pedro Barusco. He has agreed to give up around US$97 million he said he earned from bribes, which included payments made by shipyards to obtain work with Sete, Bloomberg's report added.

The allegations, first made in February, are part of an ongoing investigation codenamed Operation "Lava Jato" or Operation Car Wash that is looking into how government-linked parties implemented money-laundering and corruption schemes involving state- run oil company Petrobras.

However, the claims appeared to have no bearing on the companies' stock prices. Keppel Corporation shares closed at S$8.40 on Tuesday, down a cent, and Sembcorp Marine shares closed unchanged at S$2.88.

In the alleged plan which would have taken place over a decade, Brazil's political parties were said to have helped promote selected candidates to powerful positions within Petrobras, after which these executives would allegedly take bribes for contracts and allegedly use part of the money to fund political campaigns, reported Bloomberg.

The investigation has also seen the recent arrest of Marcelo Odebrecht, chief executive officer of Latin America's biggest engineering and construction group, Odebrecht SA, Bloomberg reported. Odebrecht has refuted all bribery charges.

The report added that the chief executive officers of Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd's partners have also been detained and questioned as part of police investigations. Kawasaki partnered companies including Odebrecht in a shipyard that won contracts with Sete.


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