05 December 2016
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Law Soc chief happy to pass on baton

Straits Times
05 Dec 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Governing council ensures continuity in Law Society, says outgoing president Thio

Contingency fees, access to justice and access to counsel - these are key areas that the Law Society will help to shape and move in the public interest landscape here, said the society's president, Mr Thio Shen Yi, as he prepares to hand over the job next month.

Mr Thio, who is also a Senior Counsel, made it clear the society is bigger than any one leader because there is continuity in the form of the governing council.

He said he was fortunate in that he, his successor Gregory Vijayendran and predecessor Lok Vi Ming are all "very much aligned on the big issues".

"Our styles differ, the way we approach problems may differ, but what we are trying to do in the long run is very much aligned - we're trying to improve and develop and raise standards of the entire profession," he said.

Among other things, he said the society has recommended to the Law Ministry that a contingency fee scheme be put in place for access to justice cases with such deals inked between clients and lawyers subject to its approval. "This will ensure an actual check against profiteering in civil cases," said Mr Thio.

"The check will be the Law Society because the contingency could be, 'I am going to take $10 from my client, but if I win, I am going to take all the party costs and I'll take 5 per cent of the winnings.' "

He said that would be huge in percentage terms as "a cut of the winnings could be a 200 per cent uplift on a lawyer's regular fees".

"In the corporate world you can stake contingency fees in the sense that you have an abortive fee, if the deal doesn't go through, and you have a fee if the deal goes through. You can structure your fees like that," he noted.

The move would encourage people with bona fide cases to go to court, Mr Thio said.

He steps down at a time when lawyers face increasing challenges of revenue, fee pressure and eroding profit margins; technological changes and practical challenges. But the challenges should not detract from the gains which the society can be justifiably proud of, he said.

He singled out the achievements in the society's pro bono work and the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS).

There are now junior lawyers funded to manage and shore up the scheme of volunteers but this will get a boost with the Law Ministry's agreement to fund two senior lawyers, which he hopes will take place next year, he said.

"This is a major development in our access to justice story. Other countries may have a public defender's office, we are very happy with our public-private partnership, the Government funds what we do, we provide the volunteers. Law firms also contribute funds, so this year one of our highlights was a concert where we raised about $768,000 for our pro bono programmes."

While pro bono work has done "very well", early access to lawyers for detained suspects is a work in progress.

"The Law Society should realise that we are not going to change the Government's mind all of a sudden.

"The principle is that someone should have a lawyer, so the only question is how long does the accused person have to wait.

"Right now, we think that the balance is a bit too much in favour of the investigating authorities, and we should roll it back a bit. We also recognise that sometimes the investigations need time, and they need the freedom to investigate, so it's a balance."

Deeming it an "honour and privilege" and "deeply fulfilling" to be president, he suggested the phrase, "(that) 'the least enviable job in the legal profession' ought to be retired because we've been blessed with so much support and goodwill".

On stepping down after serving two terms, Mr Thio said: "I promised my wife I would stop at two."

Measured approach in lawyer M. Ravi's case

Lawyer M. Ravi's case caused a "lot of mess" but the Law Society came out of it quite well because people realised we were prepared to be tough in a rational and fair way, look at the big picture and the profession's interest, said Mr Thio Shen Yi.

"I joke that I get defamed every other week but, when it affects our staff and our profession, we need to draw the line and say what is acceptable and what is unacceptable conduct," he said.

Mr Ravi was suspended for two years by the Court of Three Judges in September after admitting to four charges, which included creating a ruckus at the Law Society premises on Feb 10 last year.

He was suspended to safeguard the public interest, given that his condition caused him to act in a manner unbecoming of a lawyer.

"We were very reasonable and compassionate because we frankly did not take out the big guns,we took a measured approach."

He added that Mr Ravi is a "pretty decent lawyer" when he is on his medication and not in his bipolar state, taking on difficult cases which advance the law."In our kind of system, he can take a position, and somebody will oppose that position, and out of that thesis and antithesis we hope to get some sort of synthesis which moves us forward. So it's not entirely a bad thing."

Constructive relationship with Government

"The Law Society is one of the major components of civil society and it should not be looking purely at the interests of lawyers but at the wider interest in Singapore," argued Mr Thio Shen Yi.

Reflecting on the law that curbs lawyers from expressing views on legislation unless sought, he said the society has come a long way and a dialogue on that law is due to take place with Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

"Even if we disagree, we can have a respectful, constructive discussion about it, and it is an aspiration that the Government will realise that one day; we are not only trustworthy and constructive, but actually you need civil society to be robust and resilient. Because that is the core against excessive change of direction.

"So I've been trying to instil in the society an ethos, that we should speak out, take positions."

The relevant section inserted into the Legal Profession Act 30 years ago curbs the society from speaking up proactively. But the Government has engaged the society for its take on some issues.

Said Mr Thio: "We are way into collaborative territory and I think we have showed ourselves to be a very rational organisation. I know the Government has its own views on this and these are legitimate views. To be fair, it has asked us for a lot of inputs over time, so the relationship is very good and very constructive."

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

State Courts to hear accident claims for up to $500,000

Straits Times
26 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Starting next month, the State Courts' jurisdiction to hear claims involving road traffic accidents and personal injuries resulting from industrial accidents will be raised from $250,000 to $500,000.

The change is in line with plans to increase the civil district courts' monetary jurisdictional limit in phases, as announced by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the 2016 State Courts Workplan, said the State Courts and Supreme Court in a statement yesterday.

Parties seeking claims of between $250,000 and $500,000 arising from such cases will continue to file their action in the High Court.

But these cases will then be transferred automatically to the State Courts' civil district courts, and they will follow the same processes currently applicable to district court cases of the same nature.

The move is expected cut costs for litigants.

Said Lee Shergill LLP lawyer Chia Aileen: "The advantage of transferring such cases to the State Courts lies in substantial savings on filing fees without necessarily compromising on the quality of the adjudication process as the district judges are also considerably experienced in these matters.

"Moreover, claimants can avail themselves of the court dispute-resolution processes where the court mediates liability and amount separately," she added.

K. C. Vijayan

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

ADV: Sweet & Maxwell: The Source of Case Analysis and Reasoning

Singapore Law Watch
19 Nov 2016
Sweet & Maxwell

Top legal eagle Paul Tan is a people person

Straits Times
05 Dec 2016
Ankita Varma

Lawyer Paul Tan, winner of this year's Disputes Star of the Year, is committed to improving the training and lives of young practising lawyers

Mr Paul Tan, partner at local law firm Rajah & Tann and this year's Disputes Star of the Year for Singapore, has his feet planted firmly on the ground.

"Perhaps if I applied to NUS Law today, I wouldn't even have gotten in," says the law faculty alumnus of the National University of Singapore (NUS).

"I got two As, a B and a C - for mathematics obviously - when I graduated from Hwa Chong Junior College. I was very much a quintessential humanities kid."

But get into the faculty he did, and now, just nine years into private practice as a specialist in commercial litigation and international arbitration (cross-border negotiation and dispute resolution), the 36-year-old has bested two senior counsel and other international law practitioners to become the Disputes Star of the Year.

The award, given by Hong Kong-based research outfit Asialaw, celebrates the best in 12 practice areas across 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and the winner is chosen through submissions from regional and international firms. Market feedback from private practice lawyers, in-house counsel and barristers is also taken into account when choosing the winners.

Last year's winner was Mr Davinder Singh, the 59-year-old senior counsel and head of local law firm Drew & Napier.

The award was a "pleasant surprise" to Mr Tan, but it is the people he works with that drive him - clients, mentors and younger peers.

"I've always felt really lucky to have worked with some really exceptional people - both clients and colleagues - who have been reasonable, encouraging and given me recognition when it was due," says Mr Tan, who was made equity partner in his firm at age 34, at the time the youngest person to receive the promotion in the firm's history.

"It's why I'm so invested in making the industry better for succeeding generations of lawyers. Without good people around you, it can end up being very trying."

To that end, besides taking on the role of recruitment partner at his firm two years ago, he is also a council member at the Singapore Law Society and part of the Young Lawyer's Task Force, set up to examine ways to improve the professional training and lives of young practising lawyers.

Since earlier this year, he has also been working with Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon to look into improving the training contracts for law graduates looking to practise.

People, it would seem, have always fascinated Mr Tan. It was an area of interest that surpassed even the draw of toys or television when he was a child.

His mother, retired teacher Cheah Lay Hwa, 67, recalls: "He was not very outgoing as a youngster and would instead spend a lot of time quietly observing people.

"He was in some ways not an easy kid to raise. While most children wanted to play with friends or with their toys, Paul was quietly curious. We had to open our flat door so he could stand and look out at people passing by, for hours on end."

His quiet and observant nature might have come about as a result of a spate of bad allergies as an infant - it saw him going in and out of hospital and subsequently developing a fear of strangers.

Although Mr Tan, the oldest of three children born to English and General Paper teachers, outgrew his aversion of strangers, the curiosity and observant nature remained - his mother recalls often hearing him conduct imaginary tuition classes in his room, mimicking perfectly the way she tutored students in their home.

His family's humble beginnings also played a big role in making Mr Tan more resourceful and creative as a child.

Growing up in a four-room Housing Board flat in Bedok, he recalls the family stacking boxes to use as cabinets and not having a television set at home until he was about three years old.

Without much in the way of luxuries, he and his siblings made the most of the situation with lots of make-believe play.

"My mum would sew us costumes and we would dress up as gongfu characters. I once even brought home bags of soil from my uncle's home because I decided I wanted a garden in my home," the bachelor recalls with a laugh.

"Instead of scolding me, my mother let it slide. We were allowed for a time to have that makeshift garden in our hall."

His 35-year-old brother is also a lawyer, at the Attorney-General's Chambers, and his 27-year-old sister is a teacher.

Family dinners honed love of debate

Their parents, despite being teachers, did not put any academic pressure on them. Mr Tan, who attended St Gabriel's Primary and Secondary and later Hwa Chong Junior College, was raised in a rather free- wheeling and laissez-faire manner.

In the Tan household, there was an emphasis on encouraging different perspectives, often through bold and argumentative conversations at the dining table.

During family dinners, any manner of diverse topics was up for discussion, including taboo subjects such as why certain long-standing traditions were practised by the family.

"It taught us to see different perspectives and, incidentally, probably nurtured my argumentative side," says Mr Tan, who was on the NUS debate team.

"It's something that has continued till today during our weekly Sunday night dinners at our home in Serangoon Gardens. We love talking and getting one another's reactions on different issues."

While in NUS, he says he "coasted" through much of school and spent much time with the debate team, but still managed to graduate with first-class honours in 2005.

Considering a career in academia at the time, Mr Tan became a justice's law clerk as part of the judiciary and taught legal writing part-time at NUS and Singapore Management University (SMU).

After two years, on the advice of his mentors, he decided to have a go at private practice, where he became passionate about international law and arbitration cases from his initial years as an associate at Rajah & Tann.

In 2010, he left for England to study for his master's at the University of Oxford and explore international law further on a British government scholarship. In 2012, armed with a distinction from Oxford, he returned to Singapore as a junior partner with Rajah & Tann and, two years later, was made equity partner - meaning he was entitled to a percentage of the profits of the firm.

Since then, he has gone on to lead and successfully win a whole host of complex disputes, including one before the newly minted Singapore International Commercial Court, which involved a dispute over a joint investment of a portfolio of shares worth about $150 million.

His work in international arbitration also prompted an invitation last year to co-author the third and latest edition of the Mustill & Boyd textbook on international arbitration, one of the world's most famous textbooks on the subject - making him the first Asian to collaborate on a book of such international standing.

But Mr Tan says the cases he has fought for the everyman are what resonate most deeply with him - such as a pro-bono case where he represented a woman who had been accused of shoplifting from a convenience store.

"She had a difficult family background and was suffering from depression. It took a long time, but we finally managed to get her off without a fine or jail time," he says. "She volunteered to get treatment and later sent me small gifts because she was so thankful. Those are moments that really stand out when I think back on my career."

Outside of his routine 9.30am to 7pm work schedule, he dedicates his free time to travelling, scouting for good food and working with fellow Law Society members to provide feedback and give recommendations to help nurture the next generation of young lawyers.

"I was lucky enough to get the guidance and face-time I needed to grow, so I think it's important for me to give back in the same way," he says, when asked why he is so passionate about helping the younger generation.

"I would like to see the day when a majority of our home-grown lawyers are criss-crossing the globe and handling international disputes and transactions. We have the talent, but we need to actively promote and nurture it."

He is serious about putting Singapore on the international map. Last year, an 888-page book titled Singapore Law: 50 Years In The Making, which he co-authored with associate professor Goh Yihan from SMU Law, was released.

The tome, which was written over six years, explores how Singapore's law has developed dynamically and been cited internationally since the country's independence.

Mr Lee Eng Beng, his mentor and a managing partner at Rajah & Tann, says: "It is a mystery to me how Paul finds the time, drive and energy to do all the things he does, and to do them that well.

"In his relatively few years in private practice, he has already contributed immensely to the legal profession, but what is even more striking is that all these achievements are wrapped round by humility, decency and a very likeable personality."

In fact, often during this interview with The Straits Times, he often has to be prompted to spell out his achievements. Praises that are sent his way are in turn accepted rather sheepishly.

"I'm the sort of person who takes things as they come - I don't think I've arrived in any way," he says, when asked what he hopes to achieve in the future.

"I have a lot of passions outside of work, but I'm glad to really love what I do. I don't think you should work expecting rewards. My goals are simple: I just want to be a better lawyer and mentor for the younger generation."

Whether it's in the legal industry or otherwise, it's important to help those who are just starting out in their careers so they can tap on their potential. It's such a waste to see talent being lost because they didn't get the right guidance when they needed it the most.

MR PAUL TAN on his drive to help young lawyers succeed

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

Unauthorised appeal notice: Law grad fined

Straits Times
26 Nov 2016
Elena Chong

She wanted discount for several cars she was eyeing but was not authorised to draft appeal

For helping a car trader write a legal appeal, law graduate Lydiawaty Ab Rahman, 32, wanted a discount for several cars she had been eyeing.

Instead she was fined $2,000 yesterday for preparing a notice of appeal for Mr Pang Yok Suang of Pang's Motor Trading in expectation of a gain when she was an unauthorised person.

The gain was in the form of the discount she wanted.

Lydiawaty, who graduated from National University of Singapore in 2008 and gained a Master of Laws from Queen's University in Canada in 2010, had admitted to preparing the legal document for Mr Pang. It was for an appeal proceedings before the Competition Appeal Board.

Mr Pang was appealing against a financial penalty of $50,733 imposed on his firm by the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) which had found his firm and 11 others engaged in bid rigging at auctions of motor vehicles.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo said Lydiawaty contacted Mr Pang in August 2013 and said she was a lawyer working in OCBC, was an expert in commercial law, and could help him with his CCS case. She agreed to help him draft the notice of appeal for free, but was looking for a discount from Mr Pang for a car she wished to buy for her birthday.

She passed the notice of appeal to Mr Pang on Sept 5, and he signed an acknowledgement without reading it carefully.

On Sept 7, she e-mailed Mr Pang with a list of the five cars she was interested in and discounts she expected, ranging from $10,688 to $24,000.

When they could not agree on the discount for any of the proposed cars, she sent him an "invoice" on Sept 31 for $47,094 for services rendered. She also included in the invoice a line that all late payments were subject to a late payment premium of 10 per cent per day.

When Mr Pang did not pay the amount, she sent him an "Invoice and Final Reminder" almost a year later stating that he had incurred a debt of $1.46 million in outstanding fees and interest on late payment.

When Mr Pang again did not pay, she hired two licensed debt-collection companies to harass him into paying up.

She also took out bankruptcy proceedings against Mr Pang, who managed to set it aside through his lawyer. Lydiawaty was ordered to pay $2,700 costs to Mr Pang, who has not received a single cent. The matter was eventually referred to the Law Society.

Meanwhile, Lydiawaty had been tried in a separate case for allegedly causing hurt, using criminal force, threatening and cutting a then 19-year-old girl's forearm with a knife twice at her apartment in Jalan Novena Barat on Feb 10, 2014. A verdict is expected on Jan 6.

She could have been fined up to $10,000 or jailed for up to three months for the offence under the Legal Profession Act.

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

Swissco and Ezion may lock horns over US$522k claims

Business Times
18 Nov 2016
Tan Hwee Hwee

[Singapore] SWISSCO Holdings looks set to lock horns with Ezion Holdings over some US$522,000 in claims that the latter is seeking over various rig joint ventures.

Ezion, which has offered to buy out the 50:50 joint-venture rigs with Swissco's subsidiary Scott and English Energy Pte Ltd (S&E), has served three statutory demands on S&E.

The demands made through Ezion Investments Pte Ltd assert that Ezion is owed sums of US$236,695.94, US$151,335.63 and US$134,081.31. These are said to relate to fees for procuring certain corporate guarantees relating to liabilities of their joint ventures.

Swissco, which is set to seek judicial management, said the demands were received by S&E on Nov 9 and 10.

Ezion stated that "unless the sums are paid, secured or compounded to its satisfaction within three weeks", it will be entitled to pursue wind-up action against S&E.

But S&E maintained the alleged corporate guarantee fees are not due and payable to Ezion. S&E also considers that it has counter-claims against Ezion and that these counter-claims outweigh and fully set off any amounts in relation to the alleged corporate guarantee fees that may be due to Ezion.

Ezion and Swissco are joint venture partners in business related to three 50:50 owned rigs. An OCBC Research note on Nov 15 said Swissco has accepted offers from Ezion, subject to written contracts, for the latter to acquire the business tied to the three rigs. The offer from Ezion includes the rigs, all titles, rights cliams including accounts receivables, and obligations arising out of the bareboat charters.

Ezion has reportedly pledged S$9 million in cash, with Swissco's share pegged at S$4.5 million. In aggregate the offer from Ezion also includes the outstanding bank loans owed by the JVs and any amount advanced or to be advanced to repaying bank loans. All in, the joint ventures own three drilling rigs that are all in Mexico but none are working, Ian Craven of Icarus Consultants told The Business Times.

Swissco also announced on Thursday it had received letters from certain holders of redeemable exchangeable preference shares (REPS) in two of the group's companies alleging a breach of joint venture agreements dated Oct 10, 2014.

The two other group companies, S&E Offshore Investments Pte Ltd and S&E Offshore Investments 2 Pte Ltd, are understood to be tied to the other rigs on Swissco's fleet that are not jointly owned with Ezion.

The REPS holders in their letters alleged contractual breach on the joint venture agreements of the two group companies by invoking Swissco's decision to scrap the rigs and X-Drill Holdings Inc's legal actions to seize rigs of the listed group.

The letters also alleged that with the two developments, "a liquidation event" has arisen, supporting their demand for the two group companies to redeem the REPS at a stipulated price plus a redemption premium of 35 per cent per annum that may be waived under certain proposed conditions.

X-Drill had notified Swissco's group of companies the arrest of four rigs off Equatorial Guinea and the US. Swissco said, citing notices from X-Drill, the US Court has ordered for the sale of one rig off the country and three others off Equatorial Guinea may be subject to a judicial sale.

Mr Craven said the four rigs that had been arrested on behalf of X-Drill are not owned by the Ezion-Swissco joint ventures.

The Business Times understands some or all of these rigs allegedly under arrest are owned by Swissco's vehicles that are backed by institutional investors including a business unit of UOB.

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

Protecting investors in dual-class listings

Straits Times
05 Dec 2016
Goh Eng Yeow

For caveat emptor to work, the best safeguard is to have no safeguards

Dual-class shares certainly have their critics - after all, they allow company founders to maintain control by giving them superior voting rights, even after they sell off the bulk of their stakes.

Historically, such share structures were usually confined to family-run enterprises or media companies where they could be justified in the name of protecting journalistic integrity.

But it is now common in the United States to have new listings with dual-class structures. Contentious when Google did it in 2004, it had become less so by the time Facebook had its initial public offering in 2012.

For stock activists and corporate governance experts, this is a step backwards as it can potentially insulate poorly performing managers from calls for regime change demanded by a majority of shareholders.

But bosses of big US tech firms feel the disaster of turfing Mr Steve Jobs out of Apple in 1985 lends moral authority to structures that protect them from being bullied into decisions that would boost near-term stock performance at the cost of long-term goals.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) is debating if it should follow the US as it looks for fresh ways to attract high-profile companies to list here.

This comes after a Companies Act amendment allowing public companies to have dual-class structures and the subsequent green light from the independent Listings Advisory Committee, provided certain safeguards are met. These include compliance with the corporate governance code on board composition and independence and that the privileged shares lose their status when they are transferred or when the original owner no longer holds the same role in the company.

To its credit, the SGX hasn't made up its mind yet and it had even convened a panel discussion of industry professionals, academics and market participants to debate the subject.

A public consultation will be launched as well.

SGX chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin noted that the issue boils down to one of trust: "How can we trust management if we have no control over you at all?"

If dual-class shares are to be allowed in Singapore, investors must be ready for it and, to that end, investor education will have to play an important role, but Mr Tan feels that what is even more important is to give investors a choice.

Any framework established for dual-class shares will be supplemented by the existing framework for all listed firms, which already has safeguards such as rules governing transactions between the majority shareholder and the company.

Still, not withstanding the forthcoming public consultation, many believe it is only a matter of time before dual-class shares make their way into the SGX's Listing Manual.

Some, like Associate Professor Lawrence Loh of the National University of Singapore, have argued that the market should settle the debate on whether there should be dual-class listings.

He said: "I think the market is the most efficient allocation mechanism, and if we have all the necessary safeguards and regulations and operational infrastructure in place, I think we can benefit from dual-class shares."

Singapore may not be able to attract all the unicorns but it "occasionally may have popcorns and they come with a lot of variety and flavour", he added.

But it is the variety and flavour of the type of companies that may be attracted to the SGX's dual-class listing framework that worry some market pundits.

Veteran merchant banker Daniel Ee expressed concern that if a dual-class listing hits a bump and management is unable to correct the situation, affected investors might be tempted to write to their MPs and press them to do something about it.

He said: "This market is not very liquid. The first few companies that come here will not be the truly global companies. They will be medium-sized companies, probably start-ups, and the chances of failure may be quite high."

So perhaps, it is understandable to find market pundits arguing for fewer, rather than more safeguards, for dual-class shares to ensure that caveat emptor (buyer beware) is upheld to the fullest - and investors fully understand the risks they are undertaking.

Aberdeen Asset Management Asia's head of corporate governance David Smith goes even further, arguing that it would be better not to have any safeguards at all if the authorities were to press ahead with the idea.

"The safeguards simply don't stack up. Each one of those proposed safeguards can be circumvented by a market full of people whose job is to find a way around the rules," he was quoted as saying in a recent Business Times interview.

In any case, adding so many safeguards might make the SGX an unattractive listing venue for an IPO hopeful, considering that other markets such as Nasdaq do not have such inhibitions, he added.

It is a sentiment that I fully share. Loading the system full of safeguards will only give investors a false sense of security that the due diligence they are supposed to do has been outsourced to the regulators.

This also gives them the opportunity to cry foul, saying regulators are not doing their job, when something goes wrong.

But it is entirely up to an individual investor whether or not he wants to buy a particular share, and nobody is forcing him to make an investment against his will.

In the case of successful dual-class share listings, taking a bet on a company is essentially taking a bet on the founder. Consider the case of Facebook. Buying its shares boils down to believing in its charismatic founder Mark Zuckerberg and the control he wields over the company.

But apart from a handful of dual-class listings such as Google and Facebook that make the headlines with their blockbuster business successes, there are plenty of other dual-class companies which have struggled as they do not possess the same star power to excite investors.

One good example is football giant Manchester United, which prompted considerable soul-searching when it ditched Singapore for a New York listing because the rules here did not permit multiple classes of shares. In the four years since it was listed, it has risen only about 6 per cent from its issue price.

When the dotcom bubble burst at the start of the new millennium, the number of dual-class firms listed in the US fell - from 482 in 2000 to 362 in 2002.

Still, dual-class shares may turn out to be a passing fad if the current Internet boom follows a similar trajectory. So much for the angst over whether dual-class shares should be allowed here or not.

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

Event organiser fined for contempt

Straits Times
26 Nov 2016
Selina Lum

The organiser of two major Hello Kitty events in Singapore, who was found to be in contempt last week for not showing up at two court hearings to disclose his firm's assets, finally appeared in court yesterday.

Jacky Teo Choon Leng was fined $2,000 for contempt of court by High Court judge Belinda Ang. The sanction came amid a civil lawsuit brought by Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) against Teo's events company, Mighty Eight, over an unpaid debt of $320,000 to the resort.

Mighty Eight, wholly owned and controlled by Teo, had organised the Hello Kitty Go Around carnival at RWS' Coliseum from Oct 16 to Nov 10 last year. It was also behind the Robot Kitty exhibition at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre in June this year.

RWS sued Mighty Eight for about $320,000 after the firm failed to pay the contracted sums for the use of its premises and compensation for physical damage to the venue. After winning the lawsuit in default - as Mighty Eight did not respond - RWS moved to enforce the judgment by applying for Teo to be questioned on the company assets available to pay the debt.

On July 22, the High Court ordered him to attend a session on Aug 12. He did not turn up and did not pick up calls from RWS' lawyer. The hearing was adjourned to Aug 19. Again, he did not show up, even though a letter informing him of the details was handed to his sister at his registered address.

On Nov 14, RWS took out contempt of court proceedings against Teo, seeking two days' jail and a $40,000 fine. Justice Ang found Teo guilty of contempt but adjourned the case for him to make arguments on sentence.

Yesterday, Teo's lawyer, Mr Goh Teck Wee, told the court his client had moved out of his registered address in July and did not get the documents sent there until Nov 14. Mr Goh argued that Teo was facing imminent bankruptcy and is not able to pay any substantial fine; he should also not be jailed as the breach was just a technical one.

Teo, who took the stand briefly, estimated that he received about $1 million from the first event and between $700,000 and $800,000 from the second. He will be questioned in detail on his firm's accounts at another session. No date has been fixed.

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

Management corporation ordered to repeal by-law

Straits Times
18 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

It has to refund charges to unit owners affected by 'unclear' rule

The management corporation (MC) of an industrial building has been ordered to repeal a by-law on charges for use of common areas, after the Strata Titles Board found it to be "unclear, badly drafted and punitive".

In a rare case, the MC that runs Alpha Industrial Building in Toh Guan Road East was also ordered to refund any charges to affected unit owners that may have been made regarding the rule. Six of the owners had received payment demands totalling $103,825 in February.

Eight applicants owning 22 units launched a class action claiming the two by-laws passed at an annual meeting in 2011 were not properly made, one of which imposed charges of at least $200 a month that the MC was not empowered to charge.

One by-law involved charges for the use of common areas outside the canteen, while the second pertained to charges for the use of common areas outside units for placing of items.

Their lawyers Toh Kok Seng and Daniel Chen from Lee & Lee further argued the by-laws were "vague, caused confusion and were difficult to adhere".

The MC, defended by lawyers Alfred Lim, Keith Lim and Jaime Lye, countered that the by-laws were passed validly, pointing out the ballot on a poll of unit owners was 49,623 share values for the resolution and none against.

The board, presided by Mr Seng Kwang Boon with Mr Leo Cheng Suan and Mr Richard Tan Ming Kirk as members, found the two by-laws were made properly through a special resolution under Section 32 of the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act.

It held that the by-law which involved charges for the use of space outside the canteen to be enforceable as it is "clear and unambiguous".

But the second by-law which involved common space outside the units that affected seven of the eight applicants was found to be "unclear, badly drafted, as well as punitive".

The board said it was unclear because although the MC claimed there is no free usable space, the applicants had questioned if the usable space was a 1.2m-wide rectangular space or some other area. It also noted the by-law provided for a minimum charge but no maximum and could be seen as a penalty provision.

Several of the applicants contacted yesterday expressed relief, noting others had not joined in out of fear and costs involved.

"We have suffered, others have just walked off, we insisted on fighting to be heard and we were able to share the costs as a group," said company director Peter Teo, who was charged over $40,000 for use over five years.

Mr Jonn Tan,who owned one unit and was billed $5,000 for the period, added: "The decision is unprecedented and serves as an eye-opener to others of the challenges faced."

Fire safety firm managing director K. S. Kumar, who was also in the group, said he moved out in September as he needed " a peaceful area to work in". He owns two units and was faced with a $15,000 invoice.

MC chairman-cum-secretary Lim Chin San told The Straits Times yesterday that he was considering an appeal against the board's decision on the second of the two by-laws.

"The use of the common property is by a minority, the income loss is about $500,000 in the last five years which affects all subsidiary proprietors as a whole."

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

More clarity needed on LPA dual donee process: Voices

05 Dec 2016

I recently submitted my Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) application, despite some misgivings. The application form could have been simpler, with fewer pages, and the costs charged by the certificate issuer could have been cheaper.

I used a general practitioner who was accredited recently, and he charged S$90, compared with the S$200 asked by approved issuers in 2014 (“Cost of cert issuance for Lasting Power of Attorney is a hindrance”; Nov 14).

In opting for my two donees to act jointly, my main consideration was to eliminate misdemeanour and abuse of power. The other option would have allowed one donee to act without consulting the other, yet would be binding on the latter.donor's

We live in a globalised world, however, and as my young donees’ careers grow, they may be required to travel widely and frequently. What happens if only one donee is in Singapore when I need help?

Would the Office of the Public Guardian allow the second donee’s consent or decision to be communicated via Skype?

Or why not allow the replacement donee in Singapore to take over the duties of the second donee who is away?

The current provision allows the replacement donee to act only in the event of a donee’s inability to act on my behalf owing to his mental health and other stated issues.

I wonder whether people have been held back from applying for the LPA by the same concerns I have.

Siew Kang Yoke

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Swissco and subsidiary go under interim judicial management

Business Times
26 Nov 2016
Tan Hwee Hwee

[Singapore] THE Singapore High Court has approved an application to place Swissco Holdings and its subsidiary, Swissco Offshore Pte Ltd, under interim judicial management (IJM).

Unveiling the court ruling on the IJM before trading close on Friday, Swissco also said Ee Meng Yen Angela and Purandar Janampalli Rao, of Ernest & Young LLP, had been appointed as the joint interim judicial managers of the holding company and its subsidiary.

A pre-trial conference of the judicial management (JM) applications of the two entities is fixed for hearing on Dec 1, 2016, at 4pm.

Swissco filed for JM after failing to win its senior lenders' support to offload debts on its balance sheet for a few cents to a dollar to an undisclosed Chinese investor.

In the weeks leading up to announcing its JM application, Swissco also struggled to seek noteholders' support to restructure a S$100 million note issue maturing in April 2018.

The company announced the intent to file for JM during its third quarter results briefing in mid-November.

Swissco posted a net loss of US$296 million for the third quarter on massive impairment charges plus losses from its associates and joint ventures.

Swissco is the second Singapore-listed offshore & marine counter to head for JM, after Swiber Holdings.

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

Court rejects last-ditch appeal, Ghanaian drug trafficker to hang

18 Nov 2016
Valerie Koh

SINGAPORE — Like executed murderer Kho Jabing, a convicted drug trafficker on death row had his eleventh-hour appeal thrown out by the apex court, with the judges also ticking off the appellant for “abuse of process”.

Ghanaian Chijioke Stephen Obioha, 39, would head to the gallows today, after making a third appearance before the Court of Appeal yesterday.

Obioha claimed to have come to Singapore in 2005 to try out for a football club and was nabbed in April 2007 by anti-narcotics officers.

He was convicted of trafficking 2.6kg of cannabis — more than five times the capital limit — and sentenced to death in December 2008.

After death penalty laws were changed in 2013, Obioha maintained that he did not wish to be re-sentenced.

He made a last-minute attempt to do so a day before he was scheduled to hang in May last year and was granted a stay of execution, before withdrawing his application three months later.

Yesterday, Obioha’s lawyer Joseph Chen argued that his client had suffered “mental anguish and agony” from the “inordinate delay in sentence”, and called for a stay of execution and the death sentence to be set aside.

However, Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Tay Yong Kwang, and Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng dismissed the appeal to halt the execution, after pointing out that any delay had been caused by Obioha himself, as he changed his mind repeatedly about re-sentencing.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Phang noted that the stay of execution had been in place from May 2015 to Oct 24 this year, and despite being given “more than ample time”, Obioha had not filed any appeals.

“The filing of the present application at the eleventh hour … amounts to an abuse of the court processes,” Justice Phang said.

“We are of the view there has been no undue delay.

“On the contrary, the applicant having stated that he did not want to avail himself of this possible legal route for re-sentencing, later filed (an application to state that he) desired re-sentencing after all, thereby delaying matters.”

Another drug trafficker on death row — Devendran Supramaniam — also had his last-minute appeals against the court’s decision and for a stay of execution dismissed by the Court of Appeal yesterday.

In May, Sarawakian Kho Jabing was executed, but not before appearing in front of the Court of Appeal five times and securing two last-minute stays of execution.

He was given the death penalty after he killed Chinese construction worker Cao Ruyin in 2008 during a robbery near Geylang Drive, bashing him on the head repeatedly with a tree branch and causing 14 skull fractures.

In his final court appearance, the Court of Appeal said that any attempt to stop the legal process must be on sufficient legal grounds. By raising past arguments, the whole system of justice would be thrown into disrepute, it stated.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Court hears contrasting cases of sibling rows

Straits Times
04 Dec 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Reluctance in filing lawsuit in one case, eagerness in other, both property-linked

While a sibling spat in one case landed in court as a last resort, rival siblings in a separate case went to court in numerous suits over endless quibbles.

The two cases, for which the High Court issued judgment grounds on the same day, contrasted reluctance and eagerness in filing lawsuits involving siblings.

In one, Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim said of two feuding brothers, one of whom had faulted the other for being slow to sue: "The parties are not commercial parties dealing at arm's length; they are brothers. Litigation would naturally be a last resort, as once they escalated their dispute to such a level, the damage done to their relationship would be hard to repair."

In that case, Mr Cheong Woon Weng had approached his younger brother, Kok Leong, several times for about nine years to sell a condominium unit they had jointly agreed to buy as an investment in 2000. The Hillview Avenue unit, bought for $880,444 and now worth about $1.3 million, was registered in Kok Leong's name as Woon Weng had just bought a Housing Board flat and was ineligible.

Woon Weng, a retired renovation contractor, had contributed $200,000 with his wife and sought to be updated by Kok Leong on several occasions. Kok Leong, a company managing director, rented out the unit and, between 2007 and 2010, paid Woon Weng $87,000 as dividends from the rent.

But Woon Weng became upset on learning in 2011 that Kok Leong had moved into the unit. By then, the relationship had broken down and, in 2014, Kok Leong allegedly offered $500,000 for his brother's share but failed to fulfil the offer.

Woon Weng, represented by lawyers Loh Kia Meng and Quek Ling Yi, then sued his brother, seeking to claim his beneficial share in the property. Kok Leong, defended by lawyers Gregory Fong and Fong Chee Yang, disputed the claims and countered that the $200,000 was a friendly loan. He pointed out that he had settled the mortgage and paid his brother $320,000 in total over the years, and counterclaimed for the return of $120,000.

The judge found that both parties had intended and agreed to jointly invest in the unit on terms broadly set out in an oral agreement. She noted that the defence had "made much" of the fact that Woon Weng did not sue his brother at a much earlier time and she accepted his explanation for the delay.

She dismissed Kok Leong's counterclaim and ordered that the unit be sold and the proceeds be shared equally after due deductions.

In the second case, surviving estate executor Foo Jhee Tuang, 55, was ordered to account to the plaintiff siblings for the rent of a family property in Lorong Marzuki from the time he took over the property in 2012 to the time it was sold to a developer for $5.8 million in 2013. Justice George Wei noted in his grounds of decision that the suit was triggered by the two other siblings, Mr Foo Jee Boo, 45, and Madam Foo Li Li, 57, and arose from a "longstanding dispute among a few siblings over the estate of their late parents and late brother".

He noted that their deep-rooted grievances against one another had spilt over to the courts over the years. He called for closure and urged them to drop the animosity and move on with their lives.

Veteran lawyer Manoj Nandwani, who represented Jhee Tuang, said the parties' relationship was "very acrimonious".

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

Foo Jee Boo and another v Foo Jhee Tuang and others [2016] SGHC 260

Companies must report retrenchments to MOM from January 2017

Business Times
26 Nov 2016

This is to allow the ministry to extend employment support to affected workers

[Singapore] MORE help for retrenched workers is on the way.

From January next year, employers must notify the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of retrenchments within five working days. This affects all companies with at least 10 employees where five or more employees are retrenched within any six-month period, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said on Friday.

"Our top concern is employment support, because the long-term unemployed rate has been creeping up, at the same time the rate of re-entry (into employment) has been coming down," said Mr Lim. "The sooner employers can report to us, the sooner we can reach out to retrenched workers, and the sooner we can put them under employment support."

Those that do not notify MOM in time can face warnings and penalties including a fine of up to S$5,000. It is an offence under the Workforce Singapore Agency Act not to comply because the agency requires the information to carry out one of its functions which is "to promote and facilitate employment and re-employment in Singapore through services and facilities that help citizens and residents of Singapore find and keep jobs".

Speaking to reporters at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar, Mr Lim said there had been negotiations between the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) as the unions wanted all employers to provide notification before retrenchments, as is practised in unionised companies. Employers said this would be too difficult to predict with such accuracy, hence a compromise was reached to have notification made immediately after retrenchments.

He added that the details which need to be reported are kept to just four per worker - NRIC, residential status, job designation and date of retrenchment - so that the process is not too onerous for small businesses without big HR departments.

The ministry will be able to enforce the mandatory reporting by verifying the numbers with its quarterly surveys which are compulsory for companies with more than 25 employees, he said. The information gathered will be passed to a taskforce set up in March this year to look into helping Singaporeans get back into jobs.

Called the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation, it is led by Workforce Singapore (WSG) and also comprises MOM, NTUC and NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).

A total of 200 companies have reported retrenchments to MOM so far this year, which allowed the taskforce to offer assistance to 3,000 people, said its chairman Tan Choon Shian, who is also WSG chief executive.

Of these, about 2,000 requested career support and about 60 per cent of them were placed in jobs.

MOM, NTUC and SNEF also issued an advisory on Friday listing out guidelines for responsible retrenchment practices. These are: fair selection of employees to be retrenched; early consultation with unions; letting affected employees know early; notifying MOM; providing fair retrenchment benefits, and extending assistance in finding the next job. THE STRAITS TIMES

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

Iras clarifies tax rules for bloggers

Straits Times
18 Nov 2016
Janice Tai & Lester Hio

They must declare all perks worth more than $100 that are given by companies

Netizens who receive products or services worth more than $100 from companies - or regularly over a period of time - must now declare them to the taxman.

Some examples are five-course meals, sponsored travel, magazine subscriptions or door gifts at events. These are often given in return for reviews or advertisements on the social media platforms of prominent bloggers or influencers, as trendsetters are called.

The taxman has come to a consensus with social media management companies and bloggers on the conditions under which such "non-monetary benefits in kind" have to be declared as part of their taxable income.

The rules were, however, issued only close to the filing deadline this year.

Thus, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) told The Straits Times that the online community has until April 18 next year to declare the items and, therefore, the income received last year. Those who flout the rules will have to pay a penalty amounting to double the tax undercharged.

In March, Iras wrote to bloggers to remind them that such benefits must be declared as part of their income. They were to do so by the following month.

Some bloggers and social media influencers said it was hard to keep track of multiple, low-value items given to them.

Iras responded that the requirements are not new and are similar to those for other self-employed taxpayers. It has now clarified the guidelines, put them online and communicated them to bloggers, their management companies and the National Youth Council.

Netizens welcomed the clarity that the new guidelines bring.

"This $100 clarification gives bloggers and influencers more clarity as to what needs to be declared," said Ms Yang Huiwen, regional director of social media company Netccentric, which has a network of 62,000 blogs here.

Mr Mark Amatya, a director at accounting firm PwC, agreed. "The threshold of $100 seems reasonable as it may mean that most items provided to bloggers are exempt from tax or reporting," he said.

Mr Daniel Ang, 38, who runs food review blog DanielFoodDiary, said such guidelines mean influencers will have to take additional effort to keep track of and record what they receive - which could be quite challenging, as they sometimes receive unsolicited gifts. "The value of some things can also be intangible - for example, an autographed CD. How do we value that?" he said.

Iras, too, may not have an easy job enforcing the filings of many low-profile bloggers, said Ms Jill Lim of Deloitte Singapore.

Ms Wu Soo Mee, partner at Ernst & Young Solutions, said a probable way to track such payments is to screen the social media platforms for individuals who may receive such potential taxable income.

Some influencers say companies should also have guidelines to be more transparent about the value of products given to them.

Miss Melissa Jane Ho, 29, who runs fashion and lifestyle blog melissajaneferosha, said: "Sometimes, brands don't provide us with the value of the gifts, products or services, which makes it difficult for us to keep track of every single offer or transaction."

Examples of what has to be declared

To help bloggers determine if a gift or service has to be declared, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore listed several scenarios and the corresponding tax treatment. Some of these are:

Scenario: A blogger receives a box of mooncakes worth $80. Tax treatment: No need to declare as its value does not exceed $100.

Scenario: A blogger attends a five-course meal tasting provided by a restaurant, which adds up to $156. Tax treatment: Must declare as the value exceeds $100.

Scenario: A blogger receives five sessions of eyebrow threading worth $98. Tax Treatment: Must declare as it is provided over a period of time. Scenario: A blogger receives a door gift worth $120 during a product launch.

However, there is no obligation to review the gift. Tax treatment: Since the value of the gift exceeds $100, it has to be declared.

But complimentary gifts given on an ad hoc basis and below $100 do not need to be declared.

Scenario: After reviewing a perfume, a blogger is rewarded with a handbag worth $98.Tax treatment: All monetary payments and non-monetary benefits are taxable if they are given in return for services rendered.

In this case, the blogger has to declare the $98 as the bag is not for one-time consumption or testing.

Lester Hio

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

Slow take-up for Lasting Power of Attorney scheme

Straits Times
04 Dec 2016

Cost, not understanding the scheme, inability to read English the likely reasons

Since the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) scheme started in 2010, only 1 per cent of the adult resident population in Singapore, or about 35,000 people, have applied for an LPA.

Retiree Ong Teck Wan, who was keen on getting an LPA done, said in a letter to The Straits Times Forum that he was put off from doing so after his family doctor told him it would cost $120.

"I feel it's important to do it, but I also feel it's very pricey," Mr Ong, 65, said.

The Sunday Times understands that, on average, certificate issuers charge between $120 and $150 for their services. However, there are hundreds of options available and prices tend to vary widely.The Office of the Public Guardian said it does not have rules on how much certificate issuers should charge.

A spokesman for the office said: "The identified certificate issuers can charge a professional fee for this service, as the role involves various responsibilities and fees may differ between certificate issuers, depending on complexity of the case for assessment."

Psychiatrists, practising lawyers and accredited doctors can all serve as LPA certificate issuers.

There are two versions of the LPA.

LPA Form 1 can be used for standard cases where the appointed person has almost full power over the donor's personal welfare and property affairs. LPA Form 2 needs to be drafted by a lawyer and allows applicants to create specific powers to be granted to the appointed person.

Mr Goh Kok Yeow, a partner at law firm De Souza Lim & Goh, said if a client requests that two appointed persons act jointly on his behalf, he must make sure the client understands the implications. "If one of them dies or becomes a bankrupt, for instance, the document becomes invalid," he said.

Mr Goh typically charges clients a few hundred dollars, depending on factors such as whether the person requires his help to fill in the form, and how long the consultation takes."I can spend two hours with a client explaining these things," he said.

At LifePoint, a centre set up by voluntary welfare organisation Sheng Hong Welfare Services, monthly talks are organised to help seniors better understand the scheme.

The centre works with lawyers to offer subsidised services, meaning the elderly can get their LPA forms signed and certified for $60.

Sheng Hong manager Liau Yi Fang said: "A lot of elderly folk do not know how to read English - the language used for such official documents - so they come to us and we explain it to them."

Step-by-step guide

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

1. Choose who you want to appoint as your donee - the person who will look after your health and financial affairs if you lose mental capacity. You can have up to two donees if you are applying with LPA Form 1. Decide what powers you want to give your donee, and download the appropriate LPA form. Form 1 is the standard version; Form 2 is for those with non-standard requirements. You will need a lawyer's help with Form 2.

2. You can download the various forms on the website of the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). You will need several documents. These include:

• Completed LPA form

•• A copy of the front and back of the donor's NRIC, as well as those of the donees and replacement donees. The OPG website provides a printable version of this checklist, a sample of a completed form, and other guides.

3. Get your form signed by an LPA certificate issuer, who will certify that you know the implications of making an LPA. Accredited doctors, practising lawyers and psychiatrists are all qualified. You can find a list of certificate issuers on the OPG website. If you choose Form 2, you will need to see a lawyer to draft the annex to Part 3 of your LPA.

4. Submit your completed form to the OPG. The application fee for Form 1 will be waived until end-August 2018. Those applying with Form 2 have to pay $200. The application fee is different from what you pay a certifier.

5. After the OPG verifies that the application can be accepted, there will be a six-week waiting period. If no valid objections are raised, the LPA will be registered.

• Additional reporting by Carolyn Khew

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

Bribery: Judge rejects guilty plea of former national player's mum

Straits Times
26 Nov 2016
Chua Siang Yee

A judge yesterday rejected the guilty plea of Su Fengxian, mother of former national table tennis player Li Hu.

Su, who turns 55 today, is accused of offering €2,000 (S$3,026) to Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) technical director Loy Soo Han, so as to influence an STTA investigation into her son.

At the Criminal Mentions Court, Su had said she would plead guilty.

However, when her case was mentioned again later in the day, she disputed an important fact relating to her charge, read by Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani.

DPP Sanjiv's statement of facts said that Su "took out an envelope containing €2,000 from her bag and offered this to Loy".

"When Loy realised what Su's intentions were, he immediately told Su to leave his office, locking himself in. He then telephoned STTA chief executive Wong Hui Leng and reported the incident to her, before subsequently filing a police report."

But Su said through a court interpreter that she had gone to Mr Loy's office with the intention of asking him out for lunch. She added that she took out the envelope (with the money), but put it back in her bag without saying a word.

While Su maintained that she still wanted to plead guilty, District Judge Adam Nakhoda said this was an important fact of her charge and rejected her guilty plea.

A pretrial conference date has been set for next Thursday.

Su, looking solemn in black long-sleeved top and pants, arrived at the State Courts alone. She was joined in the building by Mr Bernard Tan, a friend of Mr Li.

The duo declined to comment when asked about their next course of action, or if they would hire a lawyer.

Su allegedly tried to bribe Mr Loy after her son Li was hauled before an STTA disciplinary committee last month for violating house rules.

A former world junior singles champion, Mr Li, 28, had let a female friend spend a night at the STTA hostel, located at its Toa Payoh headquarters.

Mr Li, a Hubei native, was eventually sacked. The STTA said its decision took into account his previous disciplinary issues.

In 2013, former STTA president Choo Wee Khiang, who is also a former Member of Parliament, was cleared of misappropriating funds to pay an assistant coach.

The prosecution appealed, but the decision was upheld by the High Court a year later.

Former STTA high-performance manager Koh Li Ping was also acquitted of helping Mr Choo commit the alleged offence.

In a press statement, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau said: "Singapore adopts a zero-tolerance approach towards corruption. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau takes a serious view of any corrupt practices and will not hesitate to take action against any party involved in such acts."

If found guilty, Su faces a fine of up to $100,000 or up to five years in jail, or both.

Su said that she had gone to Mr Loy's office with the intention of asking him out for lunch. She added that she took out the envelope (with the money), but put it back in her bag without saying a word.

While Su maintained that she still wanted to plead guilty, District Judge Adam Nakhoda said this was an important fact of her charge and rejected her guilty plea.

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

Investor stewardship: Evolving S'pore's version

Business Times
18 Nov 2016
Hans-Christoph Hirt

A model that works for the local context - local firms' ownership structure and the rights of investors - will ensure that corporate governance emerges the winner

WHEN I was based in Singapore in 2014, the notion of investor stewardship often needed explanation, even in conversations with peers. It is therefore remarkable that only two years later, a set of local-stewardship principles, describing how investors can contribute to the long-term success of companies, has been successfully launched. As I had the privilege to serve as the only non-resident member of the working group that developed the Singapore Stewardship Principles (SSP), I am delighted with the progress.

Over time, the SSP can make an important contribution to the development of corporate governance and stewardship in Singapore by raising awareness about the role of investors in the governance of companies in which they invest. Since they are entirely voluntary and intended as guidance only, they will not put unnecessary burdens on those investors for whom they are not relevant or may be too onerous to apply.

However, in order for the SSP to have a real impact, Singapore should create its own stewardship culture and practice, suited to the ownership structures of local companies and culture, as well as the theoretical and practical rights of investors.

Stewardship effectively means better oversight of the agent (the board and management of a company) and - if necessary - intervention by the principal (the investors) in what can be regarded as a classic principal-agent relationship. This is particularly important in companies with dispersed ownership. If investor stewardship is exercised sensibly with a focus on their long-term value creation, then it must surely be a positive factor in the governance of companies.

Indeed, by strengthening the relationship between investors and the board and management, transparency, trust and accountability in the corporate and investment chain is enhanced. Moreover, taking the fiduciary relationships between the ultimate beneficiaries, asset owners and asset managers into account, there is a strong rationale for appropriate stewardship activities.

Stewardship principles for investors can also be seen as complementary to corporate governance codes for listed companies and, therefore, a crucial factor in making the comply-or-explain approach work. In other words, principals, who review and assess how the agents implement corporate governance codes, are an essential factor in making them work in practice. In the absence of oversight by shareholders, such guidance will result in little more than tick-box disclosures.

In a nutshell, by strengthening the relationship between investors and the board and management, stewardship helps to address the main principal-agent conflict in companies with dispersed ownership. As such, it is likely to benefit companies, their investors and economies as a whole.

The UK Stewardship Code (the UK Code), introduced in 2010, has been a remarkable success and acted as a blueprint for similar guidance and principles around the world, even though questions remain about its impact. It sets out seven principles and related guidance regarding the role of investors as stewards of assets invested in publicly listed companies. The areas covered in the SSP are similar to the UK Code and include monitoring of investee companies, voting of shareholdings and engagement with company representatives, as well as related policies and disclosures.

Remarkably, stewardship guidance and principles are similar in nature, following in the footsteps of the UK Code, which seeks to address issues in a market with particular characteristics - specifically, the dispersed institutional ownership of listed companies. This is in spite of very different legal and cultural frameworks and most significantly, different models of corporate finance and ownership of listed companies.

  • Concentrated rather than dispersed ownership: Most fundamentally, for companies in which families, sovereign wealth funds or the state have a major shareholding, the main principal-agent conflict is not between dispersed investors on the one hand and the board and management on the other, as is the case in the UK. Instead, it is about minority versus major investors. Unfortunately, this issue had not been thoroughly addressed when stewardship guidance was launched in markets across Asia. Minority investors, both domestic and foreign, should try to understand and, ideally, engage with major investors, specifically families, who are likely to focus more on the long term.
  • Culture: Similarly and related to the above point, companies run by a founder or his or her family may require a different stewardship approach by investors, especially where local culture is still built on relationships and trust, rather than western-style transactions. Again, one of the premises on which the UK Code is built, namely the potential danger of corporate short-termism, seems less relevant in the ownership and cultural context of companies in Singapore. Nonetheless, investor stewardship still can make a significant contribution, for example, by encouraging more transparency in relation to strategy, business models and key risks and opportunities, increased effectiveness of boards, as well as better communications, including regular board-level dialogue with investors.
  • Legal rights and certainty: Effective stewardship also depends on the legal framework that provides investors with rights on key issues, such as elections of directors, M&A, capital measures and remuneration, as well as with legal certainty on topics such as collaboration.

For example, in Japan, legal certainty seems to have become a major concern in the implementation of stewardship activities which, to be effective, on occasions require collaboration. The regulators in Singapore have a key role in providing guidance on stewardship related questions that may not have arisen in the past.

In short, stewardship in Singapore needs to be adjusted to more concentrated ownership of companies and to local culture, as well as the rights of investors. Only by creating its own culture and practice will stewardship have a real impact in Singapore.

My experience with the implementation of stewardship codes and guidance to date suggests that the role investors choose to play in the governance of listed companies is principally driven by the nature and size of their holdings and the resourcing required for various stewardship activities at home and abroad. It is thus ultimately a cost-benefit analysis, which also involves forming a view on the potential for free-riding.

The more advanced institutional investors recognise that a stewardship approach that focuses on monitoring the performance of investee companies and the transparent, systematic and appropriately informed exercise of fundamental shareholder rights, most notably the right to vote on issues such as changes to the articles of association, election to the board of directors and major capital measures and transactions, is an essential part of risk management and value protection. Thus the costs of monitoring portfolios and exercising shareholder rights, even across global portfolios, are small relative to the potential benefits.

Many leading institutional investors supplement a voting-centric approach with a focused engagement programme, typically by concentrating on the largest and - based on their monitoring activities - most problematic holdings. They recognise that, in order to make stewardship activities effective and efficient, there needs to be some proportionality between ownership in a company and the resources invested in overseeing and potentially intervening. Importantly, the equation can change significantly by formally or informally working with other investors, particularly in more distant and unfamiliar markets.

  • The writer is co-head of EOS (Equity Ownership Services) at Hermes Investment Management

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

Vallianz units face lawsuit over Swiber project

Straits Times
03 Dec 2016
Rachel Boon

Papers have been filed in a court in India against two units of Singapore-listed engineering group Vallianz Holdings.

Vallianz said yesterday that the lawsuit from service provider Ocean Marine International seems to be regarding a project between Swiber Offshore (India) and India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.

Vallianz is a former associate of beleaguered energy company Swiber Holdings.

Swiber Offshore had hired two Vallianz units - Offshore Engineering Resources and Vallianz Offshore Marine - for certain services.

Vallianz said Ocean Marine International was involved in some supplies related to the project.

Ocean Marine is claiming payment of about US$1.6 million (S$2.3 million) from Swiber Offshore and the two Vallianz units, and wants the Bombay High Court to grant an injunction preventing the three firms from moving their funds out of India before the case is resolved.

Ocean Marine also wants the companies barred from filing a claim against the supposed partners of Ocean Marine International in other jurisdictions.

It has demanded as well that Oil and Natural Gas Corporation pays what "it is contractually obliged to pay" to Swiber Offshore.

The two Vallianz units retained lawyers in India to represent them and ensure that they "are properly served with the filed court papers".

The firms say that the claims should be made against Swiber Offshore instead as none of the unpaid invoices are addressed to them.

Vallianz also announced yesterday that Vallianz Offshore Marine and an indirect subsidiary have been named as defendants - along with Swiber Offshore Construction and Newcruz Offshore Marine - in a lawsuit by ASL Shipyard Indonesia.

ASL is claiming payment from the four firms of about $1.9 million, and another $6.8 million related to interest, fees and damages.

These seem to be related to maintenance and repair works of a vessel chartered to Swiber Offshore Construction.

However, the two Vallianz units, which have hired Indonesian lawyers, said the claims do not involve them as the purchase orders were issued by Swiber Offshore Construction.

Shareholders will be updated on any developments.

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

Osim trading bungle: Credit Suisse, Morgan Lewis Stamford rapped

Straits Times
25 Nov 2016
Marissa Lee

Banking giant Credit Suisse and law firm Morgan Lewis Stamford failed in their responsibilities as advisers for Osim International's privatisation earlier this year, the regulator said yesterday.

Their actions resulted in Osim founder Ron Sim's offer vehicle purchasing 2.3 per cent of the issued share capital of Osim above the stated final offer price of $1.37 a share ($1.39 on a cum-dividend basis) on April 5.

This was despite telling shareholders that it would not increase the offer.

Putting an offeror in a position where it would be required to revise its offer after it has made a "no increase" statement counts as a breach of the takeover code.

Some shareholders who missed out on the higher price demanded that Osim make up the difference.

The Securities Industry Council (SIC) convened a hearing to see if the offeror had breached the relevant rule of the code and if each adviser had failed in its responsibility to ensure that the offeror complied with the code.

The findings of the hearing committee - chaired by Mr J.Y. Pillay - were released yesterday.

SIC said Morgan Lewis Stamford and Credit Suisse - as advisers to the offeror - had collective responsibility to ensure that the offeror complied with the code.

Credit Suisse had said the April 5 purchases in the $1.38 to $1.39 price range were made "inadvertently". It was acting on advice from Morgan Lewis Stamford, which is helmed by managing partner Lee Suet Fern.

Neither adviser was aware that Osim shares started trading ex-dividend on April 4, although the ex-dividend date had already been announced.

SIC noted that "Credit Suisse should have been alert to the erroneous use of the dates in the context of market purchases and exercised independent judgment".

"This was fundamental knowledge that a financial adviser undertaking code-related work was expected to have been able to determine," it added.

Credit Suisse was also not alert enough to spot the error and failed to exercise its independent judgment when advising the offeror to buy Osim shares at the cum- dividend price.

SIC also called out Morgan Lewis Stamford for giving "erroneous advice". The law firm was responsible for advising the offeror on any legal, compliance and regulatory issues relating to the offer and code.

It erroneously used the books closure date as the reference date, which was not relevant for the purpose of determining the maximum price for market purchases, SIC said.

It added: "Legal advisers are expected to perform the necessary due diligence and checks prior to providing any advice in connection with takeovers."

However, SIC said it would not take further action against Morgan Lewis Stamford and Credit Suisse as Osim shareholders did not suffer a loss as a result of the bungle.

After the complaints in April, moves were quickly taken to compensate those shareholders who had sold their stock at the lower price, and the offer price was revised upwards again to $1.39 on an ex-dividend basis.

As the offeror compensated all shareholders who had sold their shares below $1.39 on April 5, SIC said no further action was being taken against the offeror.

Mr Sim had increased the offer price to $1.41 on a cum-dividend basis and to $1.39 on an ex-dividend basis. This meant he coughed up an additional consideration of up to $4.7 million to be paid to shareholders.

He also paid about $100,000 to compensate all shareholders who had sold their shares below $1.39 on April 5.

SIC also noted that both Morgan Lewis Stamford and Credit Suisse have since taken steps to improve their internal processes and controls to prevent a similar incident from happening.

SIC noted that "Credit Suisse should have been alert to the erroneous use of the dates in the context of market purchases and exercised independent judgment".

SIC also called out Morgan Lewis Stamford for giving "erroneous advice"... It erroneously used the books closure date as the reference date, which was not relevant for the purpose of determining the maximum price for market purchases.

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Focus on ensuring safeguards for dual-class shares, not on ideologies

Business Times
18 Nov 2016

THE fierce debate over dual-class shares could heat up in the coming days with Singapore Exchange (SGX) expected to launch a public consultation by the end of the month.

Much of the argument thus far has had an unproductive focus on broad, ideological generalisations - should we have these in the first place? It is more useful to approach the debate as problem solvers - how should Singapore ensure adequate and enforceable safeguards for dual-class shares?

Dual-class shares have become a divisive issue in the market, and that is partly because the rhetoric often ignores the details. For example, some critics lament about how dual-class shares entrench management to the detriment of common shareholders without addressing the fact that the recommendations before SGX include a sunset mechanism to terminate the structure when control or management roles change. It is more fruitful to study the specific safeguards and see if they mitigate the risks sufficiently.

There is also plenty of faulty reasoning floating around.

Take the fact that entrenchment and different investor classes already exist. Supporters of dual-class shares take this fact as evidence that the structure will not add much to market risk. But just because something already exists does not mean we should have more of it, or that it is not an existing problem.

Critics take the same set of evidence and infer that since investors are happily investing in entrenched management, they must be ignorant of the risks. If that is true, dual-class shares would actually be an improvement since entrenchment risks are so glaring and fundamental in dual-class structures that no investor could reasonably miss it; entrenchment in one-share, one-vote companies, on the other hand, is more subtle and harder to detect, and therefore at greater risk of mispricing when it occurs.

The market would be better off if the debate was more pragmatic. The concerns about dual-class shares are well known, but so are the success stories. If there is a way to capture some of that success while mitigating the risks, we should try to find it. If the solution remains elusive despite our best efforts, then there will be no doubt that another plan is needed.

What are the safeguards that deserve a closer look?

Enforceability has been a neglected issue so far in the debate. The best rules can be written on paper, but they are meaningful only if wrongdoers can be reliably held accountable. Otherwise, the risk is of over-confidence in the rules. For instance, are there sufficient mechanisms in place to ensure that independent directors serve diligently?

The debate should also avoid the myth of the efficient market, with some supporters of dual-class shares suggesting that investors who are unhappy with management can simply sell the stock. Selling is not always an option, especially when liquidity is lacking. Furthermore, management should not be incentivised to drive down liquidity and share prices as a way to strengthen their hold on the company.

Finally, we should dispense with the argument that Singapore's market is too small and illiquid to attract the good kind of companies that use dual-class shares. Even if that were true, a slim chance is better than not even trying. SGX is fighting for the future of the Singapore stock market. It is too early to throw in the towel.

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SGX adds market cap test to minimum trading price rules, lengthens review period

Business Times
03 Dec 2016
Soon Weilun

14 companies, including Enviro-Hub Holdings, exit watchlist given new rule

[Singapore] SINGAPORE'S bourse operator has added a new S$40 million market capitalisation requirement to its controversial minimum trading price (MTP) framework, and lengthened the review frequency to twice a year.

With these changes taking effect on Friday, 14 companies that do not trigger the new MTP criteria have exited the watchlist, said Singapore Exchange (SGX) in a release after market close. Fifty-four remain on the list.

Enviro-Hub Holdings, one of the companies that left the watchlist, said in a release soon after the announcement: "The board is pleased to inform the shareholders that . . . based on the company's average daily market capitalisation over the last six months, the company will be removed from the watchlist with effect from Dec 5, 2016."

SGX had implemented the controversial MTP requirement in March this year, triggering a wave of share consolidations among small-caps that would probably have been unable to meet the MTP threshold.

It then suspended its MTP rules in August to consider the possibility of adding the new requirement. It then launched a month-long consultation. About a dozen companies and legal firms responded.

The newly-added market capitalisation threshold means that if a company is placed on the MTP watchlist, its six-month average daily market capitalisation has fallen below S$40 million.

This is on top of the existing requirement that its six-month volume weighted average share price (VWAP) has fallen below 20 Singapore cents.

Once on the list, they then have 36 months to resolve their status, or face delisting.

In its response on Friday to the consultation exercise, SGX said that the new criterion would allow the MTP framework to "better meet its objective of highlighting to investors the counters which may be at a higher risk of being susceptible to speculation or market abuses".

"In exceptional circumstances, SGX may decide not to place issuers on the watchlist," it added.

Also announced on Friday was that what was once a quarterly review of both the MTP watchlist and a Financial Entry watchlist will now be a half-yearly affair in June and December each year. This is so that the frequency is aligned with the look-back period of six months.

Companies on the MTP watchlist may request an exit from the list each March and September if they meet the criteria.

The Financial Entry watchlist mandates that an issuer be put on the list if it records pre-tax losses for the three most recently completed consecutive financial years; and also if it sees an average daily market capitalisation of less than S$40 million over the last six months.

The first major review of companies under the revised criteria will be on June 1, 2017, said SGX.

Companies that are now on the MTP watchlist and whose shares have six-month VWAP and market capitalisation below the new MTP thresholds will stay on the watchlist with a 36-month period starting from June 1, 2017. Other companies that do not meet the new MTP thresholds will enter the watch-list that day.

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

Nestle loses appeal in trademark case over Kit Kat shapes

Straits Times
25 Nov 2016
Selina Lum

Are the two-finger and four-finger shapes of Kit Kat chocolate bars entitled to trademark protection here and can it be used to effectively stop others from marketing goods of a similar shape here?

The answer is no.

The Court of Appeal, in a written judgment yesterday, affirmed an earlier decision by the High Court which had thrown out Nestle's suit against Petra Foods over an alleged trademark infringement.

Kit Kat chocolate wafers are made by Swiss food and beverage giant Nestle.

Nestle had registered the two-finger and four-finger shapes of its Kit Kat bars as trademarks in Singapore. It sued Petra, which makes similarly shaped chocolate wafers marketed under the brand Take-It, for trademark infringement.

Petra, represented by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and Mr Dedar Singh Gill, counter-sued to invalidate Nestle's registered shapes, arguing that they cannot be considered trademarks under the law.

In 2014, the High Court dismissed Nestle's claim and allowed Petra's counterclaim.

Nestle appealed.

Yesterday, a five-judge appeals court, in an 85-page judgment delivered by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, unanimously dismissed the appeal.

The court ruled that Nestle's shapes lacked inherent distinctiveness and had not acquired distinctiveness through use.

Distinctiveness is a concept in trademark law which denotes that a particular mark acts as a badge to the consumer to indicate the origin of the goods. While the average consumer recognised the shapes and associated them with Kit Kat, the court said Nestle had failed to show that the average consumer treated the shapes as a guarantee of origin.

The court ruled that the shape of Kit Kat bars cannot be granted trademark protection as the shape is necessary to obtain a technical result. Petra's lawyers had argued that the slab shape was necessary for efficient mass production.

In any case, even if the shapes had been validly registered, they would have been revoked because while they had been commercially exploited, they had not been used as trademarks.

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

Societe Des Produits Nestlé SA and another v Petra Foods Limited and another [2016] SGCA 64

Swiber Holdings under investigation by CAD

Business Times
17 Nov 2016
Tan Hwee Hwee

[Singapore] THE Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) has contacted mainboard-listed offshore and marine (O&M) group Swiber Holdings over a probe into an offence under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA).

Swiber said in a Singapore Exchange (SGX) announcement before Wednesday's trading close that CAD has requested access to information concerning the group's three affiliates, Swiber Offshore Construction Pte Ltd (SOC), Pape Engineering Pte Ltd and Swiber Corporate Pte Ltd, from Jan 1, 2012, till now.

CAD has not disclosed any further details on the investigation to Swiber but specialists pointed to clues from the announcement and a preceding public reprimand issued by SGX.

Corporate governance advocate Mak Yuen Teen said the announcement mentions "an offence" signalling possibly the start of regulatory investigations depending on what CAD uncovers in the documents and information it has requested.

Gibson Dunn's partner Robson Lee said CAD's investigation came within expectations, given SGX formally rebuked Swiber just over a fortnight ago.

In its public reprimand, SGX had asked Swiber "to provide a balanced and fair announcement" on the US$710 million project award in West Africa first disclosed on SGX on Dec 15, 2014. The exchange concluded after examining a letter of intent signed between Swiber's subsidiary SOC and the client that the December 2014 announcement on the US$710 million project award "failed to disclose the material conditions that are pre-requisite to the progress of the project and the recognition of revenue by Swiber".

Swiber did not highlight in its December 2014 disclosure or in an update on July 8, 2016, on the delay of the project that the contract value is caveated on the completion of an engineering design study and the finalisation of a field development plan.

Prof Mak said SFA offences could include false or misleading statements, failure to make continuous disclosure, and insider trading, among others.

Mr Lee concurred, suggesting that based on SGX's public reprimand, CAD may direct its investigations towards breaches of SFA's Section 203 on continuous disclosure and Section 199 on false or misleading statements.

Section 203 states that listed entities are required to notify the securities exchange of information on specified events or matters as they occur or arise for the purpose of the exchange making that information available to the market.

Section 199 deals with dissemination of information that is false or misleading that is likely to induce other persons to subscribe for securities, or the sale or purchase of securities by other persons or impacting market price of securities.

Swiber stock traded 3.5 per cent or one cent higher at S$0.295 on news of the US$710 million award, which the O&M group said bolstered its order book then to US$1.03 billion. The group followed up with a rights issue to raise S$45 million shortly after. It was only on July 8 this year, almost two years after the contract was first announced and after prodding from SGX, that the group acknowledged to a deferment in the delivery of the US$710 million project.

Swiber's tardy disclosures drew widespread criticisms from investors. On July 28, the group disclosed its winding-up petition, which was reversed into a judicial management (JM) application.

Mr Lee said the events leading up to the SGX public reprimand and the CAD probe are unlikely to impact on Swiber's JM because they are likely to have taken place before the listed group entered into JM.

Swiber on Sept 2 appointed John Swinden as group president, chief executive officer and an executive director while announcing the resignation of Yeo Chee Neng (also known as Darren Yeo) from the firm's top office.

Mr Swinden served as chairman to the advisory board of global business development at Swiber. He was also responsible for expanding Swiber's footprint into Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean.

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StanChart, Coutts fined over breaches linked to 1MDB saga

Straits Times
03 Dec 2016
Grace Leong

Ex-Goldman banker also faces ban in MAS' latest crackdown linked to Malaysian fund

The Singapore branches of Standard Chartered and Coutts have been fined $5.2 million and $2.4 million, respectively, for money-laundering lapses related to scandal-hit 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

These are the latest sanctions handed down by regulators in connection with the case in which several banks based here were used to move funds illicitly.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) also plans to ban former Goldman Sachs top banker Tim Leissner from its securities industry for 10 years. Earlier this year, MAS withdrew the banking licences of Falcon Private Bank and BSI SA's Singapore units, and fined UBS Group and DBS Group $1.3 million and $1 million respectively.

Mr Ravi Menon, MAS' managing director, said: "These actions send a strong signal that we will not tolerate the abuse of Singapore's financial system for illicit purposes."

Mr Leissner, who helped raise over US$6 billion (S$8.5 billion) for 1MDB with three bond sales, from 2012 to 2013, has been singled out for issuing an unauthorised reference letter that vouched for Malaysian tycoon Low Taek Jho and his family. Mr Leissner's statements that there were no money-laundering concerns were false, and made without the bank's knowledge or consent, MAS said.

A director of Goldman Singapore from June 2007 to September 2011, Mr Leissner moved to Hong Kong in November 2011 but maintained his representative status with the Singapore office till he quit this February. He is therefore subject to MAS' requirements to be fit and proper to carry out regulated activities.

Goldman, which earned close to US$600 million from the 1MDB bond sales, is not accused of wrongdoing. But MAS said it is working with foreign counterparts to examine the bank's role in the bond transactions. Goldman yesterday said it took prompt steps to part ways with Mr Leissner after discovering the violations in January this year, and reported it to the authorities in several jurisdictions, including Singapore. Mr Leissner was subpoenaed by the US Justice Department in March as part of its 1MDB probe.

Mr Marc Harris, a lawyer for Mr Leissner, said that his client "looks forward" to responding to the allegations.

StanChart was fined $5.2 million for 28 regulatory breaches. While these breaches were serious, MAS had not found pervasive control weaknesses or wilful misconduct.

The bank expressed regret "that 1MDB-related transactions passed through its Singapore accounts from 2010 to early 2013". The suspicious transactions were reported to the authorities before Stanchart closed the accounts in early 2013, and disciplinary action taken against individual employees.

Transfers totalling US$636 million were sent in 2012 from a Swiss bank account to a StanChart account here held in the name of Blackstone Asia Real Estate Partners, a firm owned by Mr Low's associate Eric Tan Kim Loong, US prosecutors alleged earlier.

Coutts was fined $2.4 million for 24 breaches, including "failing to meet due diligence requirements for politically exposed persons". These lapses were the result of "actions or omissions" of some employees, including Yak Yew Chee and Yvonne Seah, who left Coutts to join BSI bank in Singapore in 2009.

Yak pleaded guilty last month to four of seven counts of forging documents and failing to report suspicious transactions. He was jailed for 18 weeks and fined $24,000. Seah faces seven similar counts.

Coutts expressed regrets over "failings in its anti money-laundering processes".


These actions send a strong signal that we will not tolerate the abuse of Singapore's financial system for illicit purposes.

MR RAVI MENON, MAS' managing director.

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LawSoc chief reflects on tenure, calls for fairer equilibrium in criminal justice system

25 Nov 2016
Kelly Ng

SINGAPORE — In his two years representing the Bar as president of the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc), weighty issues such as how to ramp up pro bono work or deal with an impending oversupply of new lawyers cropped up. Yet it was an old protest over giving accused persons here earlier access to legal counsel that thrust outgoing LawSoc president Thio Shen Yi into the spotlight.

After all, it is rare that the LawSoc and Ministry of Law clash over legal issues in public, but Mr Thio’s comments about the handling of molestation allegations against teenage schoolboy Benjamin Lim earned him a rebuke from Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in Parliament in March for implying that the 14-year-old killed himself because of police intimidation.

Reflecting on that incident — which he describes as “a badge of honour” — as he prepares to hand over the society’s reins to Mr Gregory Vijayendran in January, Mr Thio, 49, does not feel that the minister had it in for him, nor regrets renewing the call for accused persons, especially vulnerable members of the public, to get earlier access to lawyers.

“It is incongruous that we would say criminal defence work is an honourable and vital part of the justice system, yet concurrently, the restrictions on quick access to counsel send a message that criminal lawyers might sabotage the investigation process. We need a fairer equilibrium,” said the self-professed “big mouth”, who got a mix of brickbats and bouquets from fellow lawyers after the episode.

Benjamin, 14, was found dead at the foot of his HDB block on Jan 26, hours after he had returned home from being questioned by the police over molestation allegations. In the February issue of the society’s monthly newsletter, Mr Thio suggested that a less intimidating approach could have been taken in the case, even though he noted that there was no way to know for certain why Benjamin took his own life, or whether it could have been prevented.

Stressing that the police in Benjamin’s case were “playing by the rules”, Mr Thio said in an interview with TODAY on Wednesday: “My point was that the rules need to be changed to redress the imbalance. Accused persons should be given access to independent legal advice as early as possible ... If they don’t have the information, they imagine the worst, and could even admit to things they didn’t mean to.”

He described the current state of affairs as “unprogressive”, noting that in many other jurisdictions, accused persons can speak to a lawyer within 48 hours after being arrested. In Singapore, accused persons can consult legal counsel within a “reasonable” time, which may stretch up to two weeks, noted Mr Thio. “This is one metric that we are really far behind in.”

Asked if he felt he had made progress on the issue during his tenure, Mr Thio said: “(LawSoc’s) concern with immediate or early access to counsel pre-dates my presidency. My role was to amplify the arguments and rationale, to focus the discussion on this issue. We’ve kept it a live concern, but we’ve also tried to accommodate the views of the police.” Still, he hopes the LawSoc can facilitate immediate access to counsel by mustering an “emergency team” of three to four lawyers on standby on any given day.

In terms of pro bono work, Mr Thio feels the profession has “come a long way”, especially in persuading high-ranking partners of a “need to do something beyond themselves”. “But we are still not quite there,” he said, pointing to the “sandwich class” of litigants who neither qualify for legal aid nor are able to afford legal counsel. He suggested a co-funding option as a solution.

As he prepares to take a backseat from the LawSoc, the joint managing director of TSMP Law Corporation will sink his teeth into the issue of a surplus of law graduates, which has caused much gnashing of teeth as many find themselves without a training contract or are not retained by firms.

Mr Thio will be part of a panel tasked with addressing the oversupply — including through a review of the training contract regime — but he is convinced that “we should let market forces take their own course”.

Noting that the current glut resulted from a starved Bar years ago which drove up lawyers’ salaries, in turn drawing students into reading law, Mr Thio said: “The market will find an equilibrium when people realise there are insufficient jobs.” Ultimately, firms will hire based on what they need and can afford, he added.

Come January, Mr Thio said he would have more time to “look back into my own house”, referring to his firm. “Over the last two years, I still maintained a ‘full-on’ practice. I have a team of lawyers that kept me gainfully employed,” he quipped.

He is also relishing the prospect of hitting the tennis courts more often and picking up reading again. “My tennis standard has suffered catastrophically, and the pile of unread books in my library keeps growing,” he said.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

MAS issues ‘regulatory sandbox’ guidelines for FinTech companies

17 Nov 2016
Rumi Hardasmalani

SINGAPORE — The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) yesterday unveiled guidelines for its “regulatory sandbox” regime, containing details of the application and approval process, as well as the evaluation criteria such as requiring the financial technology (FinTech) companies to remain in Singapore and deploy the service on a larger scale.

The 18-page document also includes examples of requirements that may be relaxed — such as board composition, minimum liquid assets and management experience — and those that MAS intends to maintain, including confidentiality of customer information and the fit and proper criteria particularly on honesty and integrity.

The guidelines came after MAS conducted a one-month public consultation on the proposed guidelines in June and July.

The central bank said the guidelines will “improve the clarity, flexibility and transparency” of the regulatory sandbox.

It added: “The guidelines have been refined to allow greater flexibility, including through relaxation of a number of evaluation criteria for firms looking to enter a sandbox, and allowing room for adjustments during experimentation as firms learn from market responses.”

MAS deputy managing director Jacqueline Loh noted that “emerging financial products or services that utilise FinTech are becoming more sophisticated”.

The guidelines “reflect MAS’ commitment to building a smart financial centre where innovation is pervasive and technology is used widely”, she said.

Under the evaluation criteria, the proposed financial service have to, for example, include new or emerging technology, or use existing technology in an innovative way.

It also has to “address a problem or bring benefits” to consumers or the industry. The applicant must also have the “intention and ability” to deploy the proposed financial service in Singapore on a broader scale after exiting the sandbox.

“If there are exceptional reasons why the proposed financial service cannot be deployed in Singapore, for example, it is not commercially viable to deploy in Singapore, the applicant should be prepared to continue contributing to Singapore in other ways, such as continuing the developmental efforts of the proposed financial service in Singapore,” the guidelines said.

A company can exit the sandbox on its own discretion. Should a firm require an extension of the sandbox period, it has to apply to MAS at least one month before the sandbox term expiry, with reasons to support the request. The sandbox will be discontinued when, for example, MAS is “not satisfied that the sandbox has achieved its intended purpose” or the company is “unable to fully comply with the relevant legal and regulatory requirements at the end of the sandbox period”.

MAS will also terminate the sandbox if a flaw has been discovered in the financial service during experimentation where the risks posed to customers or the financial system outweigh the potential benefits, and the company acknowledges that the flaw cannot be resolved within the duration of the sandbox.

Since the regulatory sandbox was launched in June, MAS has received “several” applications from financial institutions and FinTech players, said MAS managing director Ravi Menon.

Speaking at a conference held as part of the Singapore FinTech Festival, Mr Menon said the proposals “leverage a range of technologies including distributed ledgers, machine learning, and big data analytics”. MAS is reviewing the applications, he added.

Mr Menon reiterated that the sandbox provides an environment where if an experiment fails, “it fails safely and cheaply within controlled boundaries, without widespread adverse consequences”.

Under the approach, MAS and the applicant will jointly define the boundaries within which the experiment will take place. The central bank will then determine the specific legal and regulatory requirements which it is prepared to relax for the duration of the experiment within these boundaries.

In total, MAS got 48 responses from individuals as well as organisations including industry associations, banks, accounting firms, investment companies.

Among the feedback received, some respondents suggested allowing a company participating in the sandbox to gradually proceed with the broader deployment of the financial service until the full regulatory requirements can be met. A few suggested allowing the company to tie up with a financial institution that is able to fully comply with the requirements.

In response, MAS said a company involved in the sandbox is encouraged to engage the central bank early if it anticipates that it cannot comply with the legal and regulatory requirements upon exiting the sandbox. It can also apply to MAS for an extension of the sandbox period.

“MAS will assess such situations on a case-by-case basis in the interest of encouraging FinTech innovation, protecting consumers and maintaining a level-playing field,” it said.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Graft scandal: Ex-ST Marine CEO jailed 10 months, fined

Straits Times
03 Dec 2016
Amir Hussain

He is fifth of 7 ex-executives convicted; facts from his case implicate two board members

A former ST Marine chief executive officer and president, See Leong Teck, was yesterday sentenced to 10 months' jail and a $100,000 fine in one of the largest graft scandals in corporate Singapore history.

The statement of facts in See's case also implicates two ST Marine board members - Mr Peter Yap Kim Kee, who was the chairman of ST Marine's audit committee, and Mr Tan Pheng Hock, ST Engineering's chief executive officer until his resignation on Sept 30 this year.

Both men allegedly knew of kickbacks that ST Marine officers paid to its clients' employees. Both have not been charged.

See, 66, who helmed ST Marine, a subsidiary of blue-chip engineering giant ST Engineering, had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge each of corruption, falsification of accounts, and failure to act honestly and use reasonable diligence in the discharge of his duties as the director of a company.

He is the fifth of seven former ST Marine executives charged in the case to be convicted. Four of the five have since been sentenced, with three given a jail term. See's sentence is the heftiest so far.

See became ST Marine's chief executive in December 1997 and was its president from 1998 until 2008.

Investigations showed ST Marine officers had been giving cash bribes to its customers' employees since at least 1996, with the approval of its senior management team. At least $24.9 million in kickbacks were paid between 2000 and 2011.

Employees of ST Marine's customers, mainly overseas firms, would request "commissions" for giving ship-repair contracts and other business to the company.

After getting approval from ST Marine's senior management, an employee would submit petty cash claims for "entertainment expenses". Cash cheques issued for these claims would be encashed, and the amount given as a kickback.

In 2000 or 2001, See met ST Marine's senior management and discussed the increasing payment of cash commissions, then a pre-existing practice. See approved the continuation of the practice.

In early 2004, at another such meeting attended by two members of ST Marine's audit committee, the issue was again brought up. The two, Mr Yap and Mr Tan, allegedly did not object to the continued practice.

In late 2003 or early 2004, auditors held two separate meetings with ST Marine's senior management, after they found claims had been paid without supporting receipts. See told auditors about the kickbacks, saying they were common practice in the industry and necessary. The auditors did not accept the explanation both times.

But See and others in ST Marine's management agreed to continue the practice. Mr Tan and Mr Yap also allegedly agreed to it.

See will start his sentence on Jan 31.

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Boy hurt in accident gets $1.52m in damages

Straits Times
25 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

A 12-year-old boy who suffered severe injury five years ago when a taxi crashed into a railing that then fell on him will get $1.52 million in damages from the driver's insurer in a court-sanctioned deal.

The consent judgment issued by Justice Andrew Ang last week, after the parties came to an agreement, averted a full trial next year to assess how much he should get.

The insurer had admitted liability for the accident two years ago, and at issue were the sums payable for pain and suffering, the extent of the boy's injuries, the impact on his future earnings and the cost of future care, among other things.

The boy, then seven, was walking with his mother, Madam Elaine Sng, on a pavement in Whampoa Road on March 16, 2011, at about 10.15pm, when the accident occurred.

Among other things, the boy sustained head injuries which affected his cognitive ability, impairing his IQ, memory and verbal skills. His eyesight was partially affected and weakness on his left side caused him to walk with a limp.

The serious injury prevented him from carrying on with his Primary 1 studies. Instead, he repeated kindergarten while he rehabilitated.

Although he recovered sufficiently to attend school and is due to sit the PSLE next year, he continues to have permanent disabilities despite extensive medical treatment.

Madam Sng, 43, sued the driver Sng Chin Wah, 50, on her son's behalf. Sng was separately convicted in 2013 of driving in a rash manner and jailed for two months and disqualified from driving for four years. He was also jailed concurrently for one month and fined $4,000 for failing to provide a specimen for a breathalyser test at the time of his arrest.

Madam Sng's lawyers Raj Singh Shergill and Chia Aileen successfully argued in the run-up to the settlement that the boy was aware of his plight and thus felt more acutely his limitations, which deepened his pain and suffering. Moreover, his losses would span a longer period because there was no shortening of his expected lifespan. Medical reports from 18 doctors involved in his treatment were produced.

The defendants also agreed to pay about $114,000 in costs and disbursements. Madam Sng said yesterday: "We were touched by the effort of Singaporeans who rallied around our child. These included the staff of St Andrew's Junior School, the medical team at KK Women's and Children's Hospital and neurosurgeon Keith Goh.

"His life and our lives have changed since the accident and may never be the same again, but by God's grace, we have grown closer as a family. We have learnt to see life through his eyes and be grateful for the little blessings. At least our child is still with us."

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

ANZ seeks winding up of Jason Holdings

Business Times
17 Nov 2016
Soon Weilun

Flooring maker failed to meet S$1.74m repayment demand; bank's application to be heard on Dec 2

[Singapore] AN application to wind up troubled timber flooring maker Jason Holdings will be heard in the High Court on Dec 2.

The Catalist-listed company said this in a filing to the Singapore Exchange on Wednesday.

The application was served by the Singapore branch of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) on Jason Holdings.

ANZ has proposed that Chan Yee Hong from Nexia TS Risk Advisory Pte Ltd be appointed the liquidator.

This is the latest development in a months-long tussle between ANZ and Jason Holdings.

In May, Jason Holdings said that ANZ has sent it, Jason Parquet Specialist (Singapore) or JPSS, and Jason executive directors Jason Sim Chon Ang and Sim Choon Joo letters of demand.

These letters demanded full repayment of around S$1.69 million, consisting of a S$1.64 million principal and about S$52,000 in interest due under banking facilities that ANZ granted to JPSS with repayment guaranteed by Jason and the two directors.

On Sept 26, Jason received a statutory demand from the solicitors of ANZ for a claim of about S$1.74 million that is due to the bank. The sum includes the earlier-mentioned S$1.64 million plus interest of about S$100,000.

After 21 days elapsed since the service of the statutory demand, ANZ solicitors filed to wind up the company, as Jason Holdings failed to make any payment.

The ANZ claims are the latest in the string of repayment claims that the company has been hit with in recent months.

The company said in October that the full shareholdings, amounting to 51 million oridinary shares, of non-executive director Jason Sim had been seized. They represent 23.62 per cent of total issued ordinary shares of the company.

This seizure came after CIMB Securities had obtained judgment earlier this year in its claim against Jason Sim for approximately S$1.3 million.

Separately, in September, the Commercial Affairs Department of Singapore called in two persons related to Jason Holdings for an ongoing investigation. One is a current employee and the other a former staff of JPSS.

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

Man acquitted of stalking woman after compounding matter

Straits Times
03 Dec 2016
Elena Chong

A former Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer was yesterday acquitted of the charge of harassing a woman after he compounded the matter for $4,000 and made an open court apology.

Mr Goh Wee Hong, 40, who is married with a child, was charged in March with unlawful stalking. Between Aug 27 and 30 last year, he had harassed the woman with text messages which contained sexual advances.

District Judge Samuel Chua granted the former lieutenant-colonel a discharge amounting to an acquittal.

Mr Goh said in open court yesterday that he was giving his sincerest and unqualified apology for sending the woman the text messages.

"I should not have sent you the said text messages and I am extremely sorry for the effect that they had on you. I am deeply remorseful of my actions and hope that you can accept my apology," he said.

The 29-year-old woman, who turned up in court with a male companion, had worked for an events management firm that won a tender for an exhibition Mr Goh was overseeing. The New Paper reported that she joined the firm after it won the tender.

To compound the matter, Mr Goh had to pay $4,000 to the woman or a charity of her choice, and make an apology in court.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan said the victim declined to have the $4,000 paid to her personally, and has decided to donate the money equally to the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) and the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds).

Mr Goh's lawyer Tan Hee Joek confirmed that two cheque payments of $2,000 each have been paid to Aware and Minds.

DPP Kumaresan said the victim was agreeable to the composition after the consequences of accepting and rejecting the offer of composition were thoroughly explained to her. Having considered the facts and in the light of further developments arising after Mr Goh was charged, along with the victim's wish to move on with her life, the Public Prosecutor has consented to composition, he said.

The maximum penalty for the offence under the Protection from Harassment Act is a $5,000 fine and 12 months' jail.

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

Soh Chee Wen among those arrested in probe into 2013 penny stock crash

Business Times
25 Nov 2016
Kenneth Lim

Others nabbed in Singapore's largest securities fraud case include Quah Su-Ling and Goh Hin Calm

[Singapore] A NUMBER of individuals who were under investigation for the 2013 penny stock crash were arrested on Thursday morning, sources told The Business Times.

These individuals included John Soh Chee Wen, who was described by the Public Prosecutor in January as the "mastermind" behind the companies at the heart of the crash; former Ipco International chief executive Quah Su-Ling; and Goh Hin Calm, former independent director at Annica Holdings and ITE Electric.

Mr Soh is to be represented by Wong Partnership, and Mr Goh, by Nicholas & Tan. Lawyers for both declined comment.

All three were under investigation in 2014, in the largest securities fraud probe in Singapore's history. The investigation has been focusing on the sudden collapse on Oct 4, 2013, of the shares of Asiasons Capital - now known as Attilan Group - Blumont Group and LionGold Corp.

Other individuals targeted by investigators in 2014 have held office at a number of Singapore-listed companies, including Innopac Holdings, ISR Capital and Magnus Energy.

Shares of ISR Capital more than halved on Thursday just after noon, dropping from about 28 Singapore cents to 12.7 Singapore cents - a 55 per cent dive - in about two hours.

The drop prompted a query by the Singapore Exchange (SGX), and ISR requested a trading halt at 2.32pm, pending its reply to the query.

Mr Soh has had his passport impounded since 2014.

In January this year, the Singapore court denied his application to set bail terms so that he could visit his ailing mother in Malaysia.

In arguing its case during that January hearing, the Public Prosecutor alleged that Mr Soh was responsible for trades in Asiasons, Blumont and LionGold for a large number of trading accounts, and that he was engaged in false trading and market rigging and possible fraud or deception of other people.

Mr Soh's lawyer, Tan Chee Meng, argued at the time that his client had willingly remained in Singapore before he was called in for questioning by the police, and was therefore not inclined to flee.

The Public Prosecutor, who also noted that 25 trading representatives were believed to have assisted or taken part in false trading, market rigging and/or fraud, had indicated in January that charges were expected to be filed by the end of this year.

When the shares of Asiasons, Blumont and Liongold fell sharply on Oct 4, 2013, it sparked a sell-off among penny stocks, which led to the Singapore Exchange (SGX) tapping rarely used measures to try to bring order back into the market.

The market capitalisation of the three stocks had stood at S$9.3 billion at the close of Oct 3; when their stocks were suspended on Oct 4, their market value had fallen to S$4.1 billion.

The crash prompted a sweeping review of Singapore's regulatory framework for securities markets, including proposals to impose a minimum trading price and collateralised trading.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department have also streamlined the investigation of rule breaches.

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

Jail term cut for ex-wife of alleged match-fixer

Straits Times
17 Nov 2016
Selina Lum

Lying about former hubby's laptops to CPIB officers did not affect probe: Judge

The High Court yesterday allowed an appeal by the former wife of alleged match-fixing kingpin Dan Tan and reduced her sentence for lying to anti-graft investigators about two of Tan's laptops.

In cutting her jail term from two months to three weeks, Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon said it was clear that "no appreciable harm" flowed from the false information 41-year-old Guan Enmei had given to the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

The laptops did not contain any relevant or useful information and there was no evidence that her lie had delayed, hindered or diverted CPIB's investigations into her former husband's match-fixing activities, he noted.

"The crucial consideration in my view is that Madam Guan's conduct could not and did not prejudice the CPIB's investigations in any way or result in any miscarriage of justice," the judicial commissioner said in his oral grounds. Moreover, the laptops were already in the CPIB's "safe custody" when she gave the false information, he noted.

Tan, described by Interpol as "the leader of the world's most notorious match-fixing syndicate", is being detained without trial under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. Guan was Tan's third wife. She divorced him last year.

On June 6, 2013, he was asked to report at the CPIB office. Before Tan left home, he told Guan to take two laptops, place them in a bag and take care of them until he got back. That afternoon, Guan was herself told to report to the bureau.

As her usual driver was unable to pick her up from home, he arranged for another driver to do so.

Guan boarded the car with a white Dior paper bag containing the laptops. On the way to the bureau, she phoned Tan's alleged accomplice, Eric Ding, for advice about the two laptops.

At the car drop-off point near the CPIB office, Guan met her usual driver and asked him to hold on to the bag for her until she came out of the building. He then waited with it at a nearby coffee shop, where it was later seized by anti-graft investigators.

A CPIB officer then asked Guan if she had taken along a bag with two laptops. She replied that she had left home with just a handbag.

In June, Guan was found guilty of giving false information to the officer and sentenced to two months' jail. The prosecution appealed, seeking four to six months' jail, while Guan appealed against her conviction and sentence.

The judicial commissioner dismissed the prosecution's appeal, rejecting its arguments that a harsher sentence was warranted as the false information was given in the context of high-profile investigations relating to an international match-fixing syndicate.


The crucial consideration in my view is that Madam Guan's conduct could not and did not prejudice the CPIB's investigations in any way or result in any miscarriage of justice.


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Man wins suit for share of condo from brother

02 Dec 2016

SINGAPORE — He got his older brother to contribute S$200,000 to invest in a condominium unit in exchange for an equal share of the property, but later said the deal was off, claiming the sum was merely a loan that he had repaid.

Now, Mr Cheong Kok Leong will not only have to sell the unit, which is solely in his name, and split the proceeds with his brother Woon Weng, he will also need to make good on the latter’s share of rental income over the years — including for a period he had moved in to the unit instead of letting it out — a High Court has ruled.

The older Mr Cheong had taken his brother to court to assert his stake in the property, after numerous failed attempts over the years to persuade him to sell the S$880,440 Hillview condominium they had bought in 2000.

But the younger man contended that he had given his brother various sums of money over the years that exceeded the repayment of the S$200,000 and even counter-sued, saying the excess money — amounting to S$120,000 — constituted bad debts.

In judgment grounds released yesterday, Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim ruled in favour of the older man.

In late 2004, the older Mr Cheong retired as a contractor and saw his income shrink, prompting him to start urging his brother to sell the property in order to realise his investment, starting 2007.

The impasse dragged on for years, as the younger man fobbed him off by issuing him three cheques amounting to S$87,000 in “dividends”.

The defendant claimed that apart from these three instances, there were 65 other occasions where he relented to requests for money from his brother.

All in, the younger Mr Cheong claimed to have handed over S$320,000 by the time they ended up in this suit, meaning he had effectively repaid his brother and loaned an extra S$120,000.

His account cut no ice with the judge, who questioned why someone would commit such a large sum without setting interest rates or fixed repayment dates.

She said that although the older brother’s contribution was a fraction of the purchase price, an equal stake in the unit was what had been agreed upon.

She added that the younger Mr Cheong would not have been able to buy the property without the plaintiff’s money, and had even taken the maximum mortgage.

“It was not as though the agreement represented a bad bargain for the defendant,” said JC Lim.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

ADV: Centre for Maritime Law, Faculty of Law, NUS - Research Assistant / Research Associate / Research Fellow

Singapore Law Watch
25 Nov 2016
National University of Singapore

Ex-BSI banker 'slept at Jho Low's house, wore his clothes'

Straits Times
17 Nov 2016
Grace Leong

DPP accuses defendant of downplaying ties with Malaysian tycoon

Former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei was so close to controversial Malaysian tycoon Jho Low that he slept at his apartment, flew on his private jet and even wore his clothes, a court heard yesterday.

The claims arose yesterday as Yeo's previous testimony, including claims over referral fees he reaped and his relationship with Mr Low, came under intense scrutiny by prosecutors.

Yeo, who faces four counts of witness tampering, has repeatedly downplayed his close ties to Mr Low, who is under investigation here and elsewhere over money-laundering claims linked to scandal-hit Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Yeo claimed that he had never been employed by Mr Low nor had he ever "received a single cent" from the high-living financier.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng, in cross-examining Yeo yesterday, pointed to inconsistencies in his testimony about his first meeting with Mr Low.

He also accused Yeo of lying about what he did in Hong Kong before returning to Singapore.

Yeo had testified that he spent several hours at the Hong Kong airport. But DPP Tan said: "You were actually spending that time in Jho Low's house. You slept at his house. And because you didn't have any clothing with you, you even wore Jho Low's clothing. You lied because you're trying to downplay your relationship with Jho Low."

Yeo replied: "I disagree because the prosecution was going to 'up-play' it. Jho Low is just a client of mine."

The prosecution also sought to discredit Yeo's testimony on why the referral fees were paid.

The court was told the true purpose of incorporating two firms that Yeo and his former boss, Mr Kevin Swampillai, beneficially owned was to hide the fact that they were receiving "secret profits".

Prosecutors said Yeo had arranged for these two firms to receive a significant portion of referral fees or "secret profits" for their own benefit.

Under the arrangement, a portion of the management fees paid by 1MDB unit Brazen Sky to fund manager Bridge Partners Investment Management (Cayman) went to a firm called Bridge Global Managers before passing to the companies owned by Yeo and Mr Swampillai.

Mr Tan asked Yeo how these payments could be justified: "I put to you that there was no further necessity to distribute the money downstream" to the firms owned by Yeo and Mr Swampillai.

Yeo disagreed, saying it was Mr Swampillai's plan to eventually have Bridge Global Managers take over Bridge Partners using funds held by the two firms.

The prosecution also pointed to inconsistencies in Yeo's testimony regarding the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).Yeo had testified that he could not recall if the CAD had warned him not to meet with witnesses. But in a statement to the CAD on April 27 this year, Yeo wrote that he had in fact been been warned not to do just that.

Yeo said yesterday that he was "afraid he would get charged" if he admitted to the CAD that he had met Mr Swampillai and Mr Samuel Goh on March 27 after they had been questioned by the CAD.

Yeo was accused of telling Mr Goh on March 27 to lie to the police and claim the funds he transferred to the firms owned by Yeo and Mr Swampillai were his own money.

DPP Tan maintained that Yeo withheld information about the March 27 meeting from the CAD because he was "afraid that his and Mr Swampillai's illicit transactions... would be discovered".

Yeo, who faces four counts of witness tampering, has repeatedly downplayed his close ties to Mr Low, who is under investigation here and elsewhere over money-laundering claims linked to scandal-hit Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

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

Standard Chartered Bank, Coutts fined by MAS over 1MDB-related anti-money laundering breaches

02 Dec 2016

SINGAPORE — Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore Branch (SCB) and Coutts & Co, Singapore Branch (Coutts) have been fined S$5.2 million and S$2.4 million respectively for breaches of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s anti-money laundering (AML) requirements.

“These breaches occurred in the context of 1MDB-related fund flows through these banks,” said the MAS in a statement on Friday (Dec 2).

The MAS said it has also served notice of its intention to issue a Prohibition Order against former director of Goldman Sachs (Singapore) Tim Leissner, for making false statements on behalf of Goldman Sachs (Asia), without the latter’s knowledge or consent.

Mr Leissner had overall responsibility for managing the relationship with 1MDB when Goldman Sachs was engaged by 1MDB to arrange three bond issuances from 2012 to 2013, said the MAS.

More details to come.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Bankrupt in Malaysia made bankrupt here for same debts

Straits Times
24 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

The High Court has ruled that a retiree made bankrupt in Malaysia can also be made bankrupt in Singapore for the same debts owed there.

In a test case, the High Court overruled a lower court decision and declared Malaysian Ling Lee Soon, 71, bankrupt for owing RM58 million (S$18.7 million) to the Lembaga Tabung Angakatan Tentera (Malaysia) or Armed Forces Fund Board of Malaysia.

Writing in the judgment grounds issued last week, Justice Woo Bih Li rejected Mr Ling's claim that the Board's real aim was to embarrass him with the Singapore court proceedings rather than recover a debt from him.

Given that Mr Ling had already been made bankrupt in Malaysia, the Board would not "deliberately throw good money after bad just to embarrass him", said Justice Woo.

Mr Ling, described as a retiree-cum-company director in the Kuala Lumpur court proceedings in 2013, is said to be a director of two companies in Singapore with a registered address in Temasek Boulevard.

The Board, which had obtained judgment for the sum against him in Kuala Lumpur in 2014, had sought to recover the money in Singapore when he failed to pay and it could not trace any significant unencumbered assets owned by him in Malaysia.

It obtained a Singapore court order to enforce the Malaysian judgment in May last year but was notified in September by Mr Ling's lawyer that he was unable to settle.

In December, he was made bankrupt, owing to the application of another creditor. But the Board's application to have him similarly bankrupted in Singapore failed before an assistant registrar in June this year, who ordered costs to be paid to him.

The Board, which was represented by Morgan Lewis Stamford lawyer Adrian Tan, appealed and argued that Mr Ling had been living and was settled in Singapore at least a year before the bankruptcy application, as required under the Bankruptcy Act.

Mr Ling argued through his lawyer, Mr Roy Lim from Robert Wang & Woo, that he considered home to be Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Sibu, and he had only a long-term visit pass to visit relatives in Singapore.

Justice Woo found the claim to be "untenable" as Mr Ling himself had given a Singapore Grange Road residential address to a Malaysian court in 2013, among other things.

The judge said the Bankruptcy Act does not preclude the making of concurrent bankruptcy orders in Malaysia and Singapore, or it would have been worded by Parliament to dismiss any Singapore bankruptcy application if there were a prior Malaysian order.

Justice Woo said the purpose of the application was to appoint the Official Assignee to probe if Mr Ling had assets in Singapore that could be recovered to pay his debt.

"In other words, the making of the bankruptcy order in Singapore was not an academic exercise," said Justice Woo.

Mr Ling is taking the case to the Court of Appeal.

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

Reduce or even remove additional stamp duty for foreigners: Voices

17 Nov 2016

Tax amnesty is a limited-time opportunity given by a government for taxpayers to pay a certain amount in exchange for forgiveness of a tax liability without fear of criminal prosecution.

Indonesia’s government started such a programme because its economy was slowing and it was experiencing a budget deficit (“Uncovering the hidden assets of Indonesians”; Oct 11).

As Singapore’s stable economy has made it an ideal place for wealthy Indonesians to stash their money and to invest in real estate, the tax amnesty might affect the demand for property here.

One of the amnesty rules is that the repatriated money must stay in Indonesia for at least three years, which would theoretically limit the money that can be taken overseas.

Residential prices here have been dropping since they peaked in 2013, and the amnesty programme may accelerate the rate at which prices drop.

In 2013, the Singapore Government increased the stamp duty for foreign buyers, which would have contributed to the trend we have seen.

To foreigners, property is a form of investment, and they have many substitute goods, which means the demand is fairly elastic.

To stop prices from dropping further, the best solution is to increase demand by reducing or even removing the additional stamp duty foreigners must pay.

Indonesian investors would then be less likely to sell their property and may even buy instead

Theoretically, real estate here would be more attractive to investors, and quantity and prices would find a higher equilibrium.

James Arthur Christian

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Sheng Siong kidnapper jailed after plea for death rejected

Straits Times
02 Dec 2016
Selina Lum

Culprit says he cannot bear 'hopeless years ahead', but judge advises him not to despair

The 44-year-old who kidnapped the elderly mother of the Sheng Siong supermarket boss and demanded a ransom of $20 million has been sentenced to life imprisonment and three strokes of the cane, after the High Court turned down his plea for the death penalty.

In a letter to the court, Lee Sze Yong sought the victim's forgiveness for kidnapping her in 2014 and asked to be sentenced to death as he could not bear the thought of "hopeless years ahead" if he was to spend the rest of his life behind bars. "I had ruined my life. By dying, I hope that I have repaid my debt and to be at peace," he wrote.

Both his lawyer and prosecutors had submitted that Lee should get a life term and three strokes of the cane.

In sentencing Lee, Justice Chan Seng Onn advised him not to despair as the law allows a review of life sentences after a prisoner has served 20 years. "There is still hope at the end of the day," said the judge, adding that he could still turn over a new leaf. "I understand, Your Honour," Lee replied.

Contacted by The Straits Times, Sheng Siong chief executive Lim Hock Chee said he had no comment on the sentence.

"I would like to thank the public for their concern and the police for their help," he said in Mandarin.

Mr Lim added that his mother, Madam Ng Lye Poh, now 81, cannot walk long distances as her legs are weaker now, but is "generally okay".

Lee's sentence was backdated to Jan 9, 2014, the day the sales executive was arrested for abducting Madam Ng, who was then 79, and demanding a $20 million ransom from her son.

In his trial earlier this year, Lee admitted he had harboured plans for years to kidnap the rich in Singapore to clear his debts, which had ballooned to about $200,000. His first target was the children of billionaire investor Peter Lim.

In 2013, he started staking out the Hougang house of the Sheng Siong boss and decided to target Madam Ng after observing her movements.

On the morning of Jan 8, 2014, he approached her at an overhead bridge and asked her in Hokkien if Mr Lim was her son.

After she confirmed that he was, he tricked her into getting into his rented Honda Civic by lying that her son had a fall in the office. She was blindfolded and driven around for 12 hours. Lee phoned Mr Lim and demanded $20 million, but the sum was negotiated down to $2 million.

Madam Ng was released after Mr Lim dropped off a bag with the cash in Sembawang Park.

Lee was arrested in Ang Mo Kio shortly after and led police to the bag and cash, which he had thrown into some bushes at the same park.

While Lee admitted his actions, he disputed the mental element of the offence. He maintained that he would have released the elderly woman that night even if he did not receive the ransom.

His lawyer, Mr Selva K. Naidu, had argued that Lee was not guilty under the Kidnapping Act as his intention was not to hold the victim until the ransom was paid.

Justice Chan rejected this contention, saying that the defence's interpretation of the law was "unduly restrictive" and "untenable".

During his trial, Lee also admitted that by threatening to expose his relationship with former sexual partner Heng Chen Boon, he got Mr Heng to help him swop cars and guard the victim.

Mr Heng, 52, has served a three- year jail term on a reduced charge of helping Lee abduct Madam Ng.

There have been only three confirmed cases of kidnapping for ransom in the past 10 years, and all perpetrators were arrested and later jailed for life, police said.


What Lee Sze Yong wrote in the letter http://str.sg/4QX3

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Swissco owed UOB $238 million: Filings

Straits Times
24 Nov 2016
Marissa Lee

United Overseas Bank (UOB) is owed US$167.1 million (S$238 million) by Swissco Holdings and its joint ventures, making it the embattled firm's largest creditor, according to court filings seen by the Straits Times.

The filings were part of the application for court-supervised management made by the rig and vessel chartering group on Monday.

It is the third Singapore-listed oil services firm to opt for judicial management in recent months.

Swissco became insolvent last week after its main lenders rejected its debt restructuring plans.

The group is now asking for more breathing space and a chance to improve its liquidity in the hope that creditors can then agree to a rehabilitation plan by way of a compromise or scheme of arrangement.

The list of debtors shows that as at June 30 and after additional drawdowns in July and August, the Swissco group owed about US$273.4 million to seven financial institutions - Caterpillar Financial Services Asia, CIMB Bank, Credit Suisse, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, RHB Bank and UOB.

The list of debtors shows that as at June 30 and after additional drawdowns in July and August, the Swissco group owed about US$273.4 million to seven financial institutions.

DBS, the second largest lender to Swissco, is owed US$68.3 million, of which all but US$1.5 million is secured over certain offshore support vessels and accommodation rigs.

Apart from an unsecured loan of US$10 million, UOB has charges over certain offshore support vessels, property assets and drilling rigs. UOB declined to comment on its exposure to Swissco.

Swissco had said last month that 24 of its 35 offshore support vessels are tied to bank loans.

The value of 23 of these vessels is enough to cover the loan amounts, but one of them can only be sold for less than the loan value, it said then.

Swissco said that it ran into headwinds in the second half of last year, after oil prices plunged from more than US$110 a barrel in June 2014 to a low of less than US$40 last December. This resulted in cutbacks in offshore activity.

The firm also faces a barrage of claims from trade creditors and has defaulted on $100 million worth of bonds.

The interim judicial management applications will be heard at 10am tomorrow.

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

Customers complain to Case as beauty salon shuts

Straits Times
17 Nov 2016
Jalelah Abu Baker

A beauty salon in Jurong East has closed down, leaving its customers with at least $20,000 worth of unused pre-paid services.

Bioapex International sent a text message to its customers on Monday saying it was in financial difficulties and had to "shut down the operation immediately" at its premises on the second floor of Block 135, Jurong Gateway. Its landlord had terminated its tenancy agreement, it added.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) had received 18 complaints as of yesterday.

However, unlike in similar previous cases of beauty salons closing down, Bioapex - which had been operating for 15 years - did not leave its customers high and dry. It has made arrangements for them to continue their packages at another salon, The Best Beauty Centre, without any additional payment.

Case said that consumers had unused sessions and estimated them to be worth more than $20,000 in total.

The consumer watchdog receives more than 1,000 inquiries and complaints about the beauty industry every year.

For the past five years, it has ranked among the top five sectors in terms of complaints.

Ms Cynthia Tee, chief executive of The Best Beauty Centre, said that Bioapex International approached her on Tuesday to ask if she could help. "I agreed to help because I didn't want the beauty industry to suffer a bad reputation," she said.

Bioapex had about 1,000 customers, half of whom were active, she added.

Ms Frances Huang, 28, a senior financial consultant who has been a Bioapex International customer for four years, complained to Case the moment she received the text message.

Now that she knows she can go to The Best Beauty Centre's five outlets, she will hasten to finish her sessions, worth about $700, "in case they change their mind".

Consumers who buy pre-paid packages should be aware of the risks, advised Case executive director Seah Seng Choon. "Even if they get a judgment against the business, there is no guarantee that their monies can be recovered as the business may not necessarily have the funds to pay."

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

SMRT, senior executive charged over fatal track accident in March

Business Times
02 Dec 2016
Nisha Ramchandani

Sacked leader of the track-inspecting team also charged, with causing death by negligence

[Singapore] SMRT Trains, one of its directors and a former employee have been charged by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in relation to the track accident on March 22 in which two SMRT employees were killed.

The train operator and its director of control operations Teo Wee Kiat have been charged under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of employees.

And former employee Lim Say Heng has been charged with causing death by a negligent act under the Penal Code.

The AGC said in a statement: "Investigations are still ongoing to determine if any other individuals may be liable for workplace-safety lapses in connection with the tragic incident on March 22."

The Police and Ministry of Manpower have also conducted investigations into the matter.

Mr Lim, who has been sacked by SMRT, was the officer in charge of a 15-person party tasked with carrying out inspection works on the MRT tracks on the morning of March 22.

The accident took place along the tracks near Pasir Ris station, where an MRT train travelling from Tampines station collided into and killed Nasrulhudin Bin Najumudin and Muhammad Asyraf Bin Ahmad Buhari. Both had joined the company only two months before, and were undergoing on-the-job training at the time.

If found guilty, Mr Teo could be fined up to S$200,000 or jailed up to two years or both.

Mr Lim could be jailed up to two years, fined or both jailed and fined. SMRT faces a fine of up to S$500,000.

A pre-trial conference has been set for Dec 30.

Melvin Yong, executive secretary of the National Transport Workers' Union (NTWU), responding to the charges against Mr Lim, said the union will continue to work closely with its member, to provide him and his family support and to ensure that he is fairly represented.

"Whilst we cannot comment on any ongoing legal proceedings, the union maintains that it is important to allow due process to take its course and all facts to be revealed before drawing any conclusions."

The union said it will continue to gather feedback from its workers and work with the relevant agencies and industry stakeholders to ensure a safe work environment.

Earlier this year, SMRT acknowledged, after carrying out its own investigations, that safety lapses had led to the fatal accident. These included allowing the train to travel on auto mode when a work team was on-site, failing to deploy watchmen to look out for approaching trains and failing to provide early warning to the work team.

In September, SMRT fired the driver who was operating the train that hit the two employees, prompting the NTWU to lodge an appeal. Several other employees were reported to have received warning letters.

In response to a query from The Business Times, SMRT Corp's head of corporate marketing and communications Margaret Teo said: "As the matter is before the courts, we have no further comments to make."

SMRT was delisted from the Singapore Exchange recently after Temasek Holdings took it private.

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

Woman cleared of being 'money mule'

Straits Times
24 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Prosecution failed to show funds received from her Facebook 'boyfriend' were stolen: Judge

A 52-year-old woman who was snared by a Facebook "boyfriend" into receiving money that was allegedly stolen was cleared of receiving it and laundering the proceeds, after a three-day trial in the State Courts.

District Judge Kessler Soh acquitted Ms Babara Seet earlier this month without her defence being called, after the prosecution failed to show a prima facie case that the monies were stolen.

Ms Seet had received a Facebook message from a person named Hubert Donald Keeton in July 2013 and started a relationship via correspondence when he told her he was going to relocate to Singapore with his eight-year-old son.

Two months later, he asked her if she could accept US$320,000, equivalent to about S$404,500 at the time, that he wanted to remit to her bank account here. He claimed the money was for a property agent to buy a condo unit in Singapore.

Ms Seet agreed, as she wanted to help him relocate so that they could continue their relationship.

She then withdrew $400,000 as instructed by Keeton, explaining to the bank officer it was being withdrawn for the purchase of a $1.5 million condominium unit.

As arranged, she handed over the cash to a person named Juliana at a coffee shop in Circular Road. On a second occasion, she withdrew a further $7,000 as requested by Keeton, which she transferred to a person named Sabrina Shawali in Malaysia.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Weng Tat, in his submissions, said a bank based in Lebanon had transferred the sums to Ms Seet's account after it received instructions through e-mail purportedly in the name of Fahed Rafik Hariri. He was a customer of the bank but these instructions were later found to be fraudulent.

The sums were therefore "stolen property" within the meaning of Section 410 of the Penal Code.

Ms Seet's action in withdrawing the sums meant she had benefited from criminal conduct and was punishable under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act, added the prosecution.

But defence counsel Peter Ong Lip Cheng argued Ms Seet had no reason to believe the money transferred to her account was stolen property, given the circumstances of her link with Keeton.

She did not benefit from criminal conduct by withdrawing and transferring the monies as she had no knowledge of Keeton's illicit activities when instructed to do so.

Mr Ong suggested, among other things, that it was not proven that Mr Hariri existed as his identity was not verified and neither was the e-mail address.

The court also did not allow a key statement by Mr Hariri in his absence to be admitted after it was challenged by Mr Ong as it was not signed.

Ms Seet had received a Facebook message from a person named Hubert Donald Keeton in July 2013 and started a relationship via correspondence when he told her he was going to relocate to Singapore with his eight-year-old son. Two months later, he asked her if she could accept US$320,000 that he wanted to remit to her bank account here. He claimed the money was for a property agent to buy a condo unit in Singapore.

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

Court dismisses moneylender's bid to bankrupt debtor charged 240% annual interest rate

Straits Times
16 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Court ruling on case involving 240% annual interest rate could cause ripples in industry

The High Court has quashed a moneylender's bid to bankrupt a debtor who had borrowed $350,000 on an annual interest rate of 240 per cent - a ruling that could cause ripples in the moneylending industry.

Mr Ang Boon Kim, sole proprietor of ABK Leasing, had applied to bankrupt company director Goh Meng Leong, who in 2014 took out two unsecured loans totalling $350,000. Despite having paid back $700,000 - twice the principal sum - in instalments between December 2014 and September last year, Mr Goh still owed nearly $900,000.

That meant his initial $350,000 loan had grown to $1.6 million, including around $1.25 million in interest and late fees.

Mr Goh had agreed to interest of 240 per cent a year or 20 per cent monthly, with late interest at the same rate and a late fee of $10,000 every time payment was missed.

At issue in court was whether the moneylender could treat Mr Goh's repayments as settling the interest first, rather than the principal borrowed. If so, the principal sum would continue to incur the 240 per cent interest. The court can also intervene if the interest is excessive and the deal is substantially unfair.

Assistant Registrar Jacqueline Lee set aside the bankruptcy application in the closed-door session and ordered Mr Ang to pay $1,500 in costs to Mr Goh.

It is understood she considered, among other things, that Mr Goh's repayments should first be applied towards reducing the principal sum, and not just to satisfy the interest due.

ABK Leasing declined comment.

Both men had inked the contract before changes to the Moneylenders Act took effect on Oct 1 last year. The changes limit the maximum interest rate moneylenders can charge to 4 per cent a month, regardless of the borrower's income.

Before then, such loan terms as the ones for Mr Goh were allowed for borrowers earning at least $30,000 a year. His maximum loan amount was also unlimited as his declared annual income of $599,250 was above the stipulated $120,000 threshold, according to papers filed through East Asia Law.

The loans were on "open monthly" terms, meaning the borrower could keep the loan open by opting to pay only the interest.

But Mr Goh's lawyer, Mr Sarbrinder Singh of Sanders Law, pointed out that his client had already paid about $700,000 which went towards the payment of the $350,000 principal sum and the interest. He said ABK was wrong in claiming it was used only towards interest due.

He argued it was not for Mr Ang to unilaterally decide which payments were used to settle the principal sum and which for interest.

He urged the court to set aside the deal as the 240 per cent interest rates were "exorbitant"and the contract was " unconscionable".

Mr Goh, 36, who shuttles between Singapore and London for his business in electronic recycling, said he was relieved, having had to sell his HDB flat to settle the payments.

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

Heavier price to pay for drink driving

Straits Times
02 Dec 2016
Melody Zaccheus

Review seeks to increase penalties for driving under influence of drugs, alcohol, as well as for repeat offenders

Motorists who drink and drive will face harsher punishment as penalties for road traffic offences come under review in a clampdown on irresponsible road users, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee yesterday.

He said the Government "will seek to increase the penalties for offences that result in death or hurt to others", especially if drivers are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or are repeat offenders.

At the launch of this year's sgCarMart anti-drink-drive campaign organised by the Traffic Police and Singapore Road Safety Council, Mr Lee added: "We want these stiffer penalties to serve as a strong deterrent against drink driving."

With the festive season coming up, drink driving remains a concern, he said, although the number of arrests, at 1,540 motorists from January to September, has dipped by 13 per cent over the same period last year. Still, there were 103 drink-driving-related accidents in the first three quarters of the year, which resulted in three people dying and 153 injured.

The maximum penalty for drink driving over the legal limit is a $5,000 fine or six months' jail on a first conviction, and 12 months' jail on a subsequent conviction. Those convicted will also be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months.

Causing the death of another by driving recklessly can draw a jail term of up to five years.

On the upcoming review, deputy commander of the Traffic Police and assistant commissioner of police Devrajan Bala said penalties for drink-driving offences resulting in injury or death could be enhanced to send a strong signal to those who continue to drink and drive.

The Straits Times understands the review is in its preliminary stages and that more details will be released at a later date.

Experts said the review for these offences is long overdue and a strong message sent that the intoxicated should not get into the driver's seat.

Criminal lawyer Amolat Singh said: "The authorities have thus far been very cautious in their approach and did not formulate very harsh penalties straightaway. Despite this calibrated approach, there are still many cases of drink driving. I doubt anyone will disagree with these harsher measures because they will make the roads safer for everybody and prevent unnecessary carnage."

On average, 176 people are killed every year on the roads.

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, told The Straits Times he strongly supports any effort that makes the roads safer for all Singaporeans. He said: "The penalties for drink driving must be sufficient to act as an effective deterrent."

Mr Lee said the Traffic Police will continue public education programmes, enforce the laws and deter such motorists through stiff penalties, and engage stakeholders by partnering entertainment outlet operators.

In October, businessman Raymond Chiang Zhi Hao, 29, was jailed for four months, fined $4,000 and banned from driving for eight years after pleading guilty to causing death through negligence and drink driving.

Chiang's blood had almost twice the legal ethanol limit when he rammed into a stationary taxi on an expressway in March last year. The taxi driver, who had been standing outside his vehicle, died in November the same year.

Chiang had a previous conviction for drink driving.

Mr Lee said: "When we think of the harm that has been caused to the victim and his family, and the irresponsible attitude of the driver, it is very clear that we need to take a tougher stance against such acts."

Actor and host, as well as co-founder of a mobile valet app, Paul Foster, 35, said it is inexcusable to be drinking and driving.

"We've got a plethora of options now to get home safe. It's just more of an impetus on the individual to do so."

• Additional reporting by Jose Hong

Current penalties for drink driving

• The maximum penalty for driving while one's alcohol level is over the legal limit is a $5,000 fine or six months' jail on a first conviction, and 12 months' jail on a subsequent conviction. Those convicted will also be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months.

• Anyone who causes someone's death by driving recklessly can be jailed for up to five years.

• The maximum punishment for driving without due care and attention is a $1,000 fine and six months' jail on a first conviction, and a $2,000 fine and 12 months' jail for subsequent convictions.

• The maximum penalty for failing to stop after an accident is a $1,000 fine or three months' jail on a first conviction, and a $2,000 fine or six months' jail subsequently.

Melody Zaccheus


Number of people killed on average every year on the roads


Number of drink-driving-related accidents in the first three quarters of the year.Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.


Man claims botched procedure made it impossible for him to sexually abuse daughter

24 Nov 2016
Siau Ming En

He is facing 10 charges of assaulting his 11-year-old daughter over more than 2 years

SINGAPORE — His claim was that his genitals were so deformed after a botched penis enlargement procedure that he could not have sexually assaulted his teenage daughter.

But prosecutors disputed his account yesterday, zeroing in on how the 42-year-old food stall assistant vacillated on when he underwent such surgeries.

The photos of his deformed genitals — with the girth at one portion measuring 25cm — taken at the doctor’s earlier this year were also an “extremely despicable endeavour to create confusion and paint your daughter as a liar by casting doubt on her description of your penis at the time of the offences”, charged Deputy Public Prosecutor April Phang.

The man, who cannot be named, is accused of sexually assaulting his 11-year-old daughter — the oldest of his three children — in their flat over more than two years, from the end of 2011 to April 2014.

He faces 10 charges, including committing an indecent act with a child and sexual assault by penetration, as well as outraging the modesty of a minor under age 14.

The man claimed that he went for penis enlargement surgeries in Johor in 2005, 2007 and 2009 to improve his sexual relationship with his wife. But things went awry after the last procedure, causing his genitals to be deformed.

He told the court he rarely had sex with his wife after that, and it was impossible for him to have started sexually assaulting his teenage daughter two years later.

During cross-examination yesterday, DPP Phang attacked the man for lying, noting that he had given four different versions of the dates of his surgeries.

He also could not provide details about the place where the surgeries were performed, she noted.

“I put it to you that all these just show you are a liar who concocted this grossly inflated version for the primary purpose of this trial,” said DPP Phang.

The prosecutor argued that the man’s last surgery was done within the last year, since he had said that he needed to return for “top-ups” one to two years after his first surgery because the effect of the collagen fillers faded.

If his last surgery was in 2009, why had the effects not faded till now, she questioned.

And why was the victim able to describe the sexual acts she allegedly suffered in such detail, given her young age, the prosecutor added.

“Would you agree this is not age-appropriate sexual knowledge for a 14-year-old? She is able to describe the sex acts in such detail because you did such things to her,” said the DPP.

The accused, who insisted that he “never done such acts” to his daughter, could not say why, and said she might have learned about sex from her friends.

The accused, who claims his daughter made the allegations against him soon after he had chided her about her phone bill, was also asked why he never mentioned his deformed genitals to the police when he was being questioned.

“Can you explain, since this is the crux of your defence, why you never mentioned this at all?” DPP Phang asked.

The accused replied: “At that point in time, I did not have the courage to tell (them) about my deformed private part(s) and the lesser amount of sex we (my wife and I) had together.”

Earlier, the court also heard that after the man was kicked out of the house in April 2014 — after the victim had confided in her mother — his brother asked him if he had done anything inappropriate to the girl.

Noting that this question “came out of the blue”, Judicial Commissioner Aedit Abdullah asked the accused why he did not ask his brother why he would bring up the matter.

In response, the accused said that right after he denied any wrongdoing, his brother changed the subject.

The trial continues on Jan 23.

Copyright 2016 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Rickmers seeks trading suspension on going-concern risk

Business Times
16 Nov 2016
Andrea Soh

[Singapore] THE trustee-manager of Rickmers Maritime said on Tuesday that it is unable to pay a S$4.26 million bond interest due on Nov 15.

And if it fails to do so within five business days from Tuesday, this would constitute an "event of default", which would trigger cross-default and/or cross-acceleration clauses in other loan agreements.

As a result, Rickmers Trust Management said that it is requesting an immediate trading suspension of the units of the trust. It is also currently in talks with senior lenders to obtain standstills and/or waivers for its obligations under existing senior loan facilities.

"In view of the uncertain outcome of the discussions with senior lenders and the adjourned noteholders' meeting, the trust is unable to demonstrate that it is able to continue as a going concern," it said in a Singapore Exchange filing on Tuesday.

"The trustee-manager will therefore be requesting an immediate trading suspension of the units of the trust and of the notes until the going concern issue has been resolved."

Rickmers Trust Management had obtained approval from unitholders to wind up the trust at an extraordinary general meeting on Oct 31.

A noteholders' meeting held on Nov 9 had been adjourned after failing to garner the required threshold to justify a vote.

Only eight individuals, representing about 65 per cent of the notes issued, had turned up for the meeting; at least 75 per cent is needed to establish a quorum.

The meeting will be reconvened between Nov 23 and Dec 21, said Rickmers Trust Management.

It added that it will continue to analyse the effect of the above events on the trust, and to discharge its duties to preserve the value of the trust. "The trustee-manager will update its noteholders and unitholders if there are any further developments," it said.

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

ADV: Centre for Maritime Law, Faculty of Law, NUS - Research Assistant / Research Associate / Research Fellow

Singapore Law Watch
02 Dec 2016
National University of Singapore

Insurance veterans testify in fake AIA policy case

Straits Times
23 Nov 2016
Lorna Tan

One says AIA procedures 'not robust enough', other says controls were 'properly exercised'

Two insurance industry veterans took the stand yesterday in a case taken by an Indonesian couple against insurer AIA, over a fake US$5.06 million (S$7 million) policy sold to them by a rogue AIA agent.

Mr Ong Han Ling and his wife Enny Ariandini Pramana, both 77, commenced the legal suit in 2012 against AIA and an AIA-related firm, Motion Insurance Agency.

They sued the firms for negligence and breach of duty of care when handling their insurance matters, as well as asserting AIA's vicarious liability for former agent Sally Low's fraudulent acts. She was jailed in May this year for eight years.

Yesterday, former NTUC Income chief executive Tan Kin Lian was called as an industry expert by Mr Ong's lawyers KhattarWong. Mr Mun Cheong Fai, ex-executive director at Tokio Marine Life Insurance Singapore, was AIA's expert.

The Ongs, who are Singapore permanent residents, are seeking damages of between $4.2 million and $7.2 million. They claim that AIA and Motion breached a duty of care owed to them - thereby causing them loss. These duties included providing a sound internal system to detect and prevent fraud.

In his evidence yesterday, Mr Tan alleged that AIA's procedures were "not robust enough" to catch the fraud that Low had perpetuated.

He told the court he was very surprised the cash Mr Ong sent to AIA was far more than the policy premiums, meaning he was entitled to a big refund. That should have raised alarm bells with AIA, but didn't.

He said: "I find it amazing that in the light of all these transactions where remittances (for the fake AIA Thank You policy) are matched to certain (unauthorised) policies leaving large sums to be refunded, that AIA did not telephone Mr Ong to verify what his intentions were. Why would Mr Ong pay US$5 million in several tranches to be used in this way?"

In fact, one refund cheque was for a whopping $616,991 and was not encashed for more than a year, before it was used as second-year premiums for three policies.

Mr Tan noted that Low also appeared to have been given free rein in managing these funds, allegedly giving instructions to AIA to issue the unauthorised policies.

"My operating premise is: you should not trust any agent totally blindly. And you do need, when circumstances are unusual, to verify."

Mr Mun, in his evidence, said it was not the first time that AIA had received large sums of money from customers, and that the firm was following an industry norm - for insurers to communicate with their customers through intermediaries.

He said that AIA's controls "have been properly exercised" and added that a firm's "gatekeeping" is not really at the receiving end but at the paying-out end.

The trial continues today.

About the AIA case

The long-running legal saga began in late 2002 when Mr Ong Han Ling was sold a fake five-year AIA Thank You policy by then AIA agent Sally Low.

Mr Ong said after he remitted the premium, Low, without his knowledge or consent, used the funds to buy four AIA policies for him, his wife and their daughter.

Midway through the tenure of the Thank You policy, the agent deceived him into giving the insurance proceeds from three of the unauthorised policies to her.

Her scheme came to light in 2008, after Mr Ong learnt from AIA that the Thank You policy was bogus. He sued her for damages totalling US$2.25 million and $2.99 million.

Low counterclaimed that the fake policy was part of a ploy cooked up by Mr Ong for both of them to defraud AIA for financial gains to be shared between them. After many twists and turns in the saga, Low - who faced a total of 21 charges and engaged a total of seven lawyers - pleaded guilty and was jailed for eight years in May.

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

Body in suitcase trial: Alleged accomplice 'pressured' me: Accused

Straits Times
16 Nov 2016
Selina Lum

A Pakistani man accused of murdering his compatriot, and then sawing off his legs, yesterday said he was "pressured" by his alleged accomplice to commit the crime.

Rasheed Muhammad, 45, said he had no reason to kill 59-year-old Muhammad Noor, who he described as a long-time friend.

Rasheed said Ramzan Rizwan, 27, was the mastermind behind the crime, and he had threatened to harm Rasheed's family if he did not "support" him.

Mr Muhammad Noor was smothered to death on June 11, 2014 at a lodging house in Rowell Road, allegedly to recover money both men lost to him in a game of cards.

They allegedly sawed off his legs after killing him, and packed the limbs in a suitcase, which they left in a Muslim cemetery.

They dumped another suitcase containing the rest of his body in Syed Alwi Road, where it was found several hours later.

Testifying through an Urdu interpreter, Rasheed admitted that he lost money gambling with the victim, but said he managed to recoup his losses before the victim died.

Rasheed said Ramzan had told him that he would "do anything" to get his money back.

In the early hours of June 11, Rasheed said, Ramzan came to the room he shared with Mr Muhammad Noor and suddenly covered the victim's face with a shirt. He said Ramzan told him to hold the victim's legs, and later, his neck.

He also followed Ramzan's instructions to strangle the victim with a string, he added.

When his assigned lawyer, Mr Wong Siew Hong, asked why he did not stop Ramzan, Rasheed said: "That was my mistake. Had I only feared God and not let him do that, rather than fear him and comply with what he asked me to do."

Rasheed said he was so scared that he later went to a nearby mosque, where he prayed and cried.

When asked about a small electric saw he bought later that morning at Mustafa Centre, Rasheed said it was meant for a friend back home who owned a shoe factory.

However, Mr R. S. Bajwa, the assigned lawyer acting for Ramzan, disputed Rasheed's account.

Mr Bajwa contended that his client did not threaten Rasheed. He said his client's version is that Rasheed was the one who started smothering the victim and asked the younger man to help him.

According to Ramzan's account, he took over the smothering while Rasheed tried to strangle the victim with a string. The lawyer said Ramzan stopped what he was doing when he heard the victim's shouts and tried to stop the older man too but failed. Ramzan ran out of the room while the victim was still alive, the lawyer added.

Rasheed said Ramzan's version were "lies".

The trial continues.

Testifying through an Urdu interpreter, Rasheed admitted that he lost money gambling with the victim, but said he managed to recoup his losses before the victim died. Rasheed said Ramzan had told him that he would "do anything" to get his money back.

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

ADV: Sweet & Maxwell: Gain Clarity with updates on 130+ Procedure Orders

Singapore Law Watch
02 Dec 2016
Sweet & Maxwell

Trafficker 'had every chance to fight death penalty'

Straits Times
23 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Convicted drug trafficker Chijioke Stephen Obioha, who was hanged last Friday, was given every chance to fight his death sentence, including applying for re-sentencing, explained the Court of Appeal in judgment grounds released yesterday.

Instead, the Nigerian decided not to be re-sentenced, and launched an 11th-hour bid last week to stay the execution by arguing the eight years he spent on death row amounted to cruel and inhuman punishment.

Highlighting that this latest argument could have been brought up at earlier hearings over the last year, the Court of Appeal said the 11th-hour bid's only purpose was to prevent the carrying out of his sentence, and amounted to an abuse of process.

Chijioke, 38, was found guilty and sentenced to death on Dec 30, 2008 for trafficking in 2,604.56g of cannabis here. His appeal was dismissed in 2010. When the review of the mandatory death penalty was conducted between 2011 and 2013, Chijioke was given a stay of execution. For two years after, he was given a chance to be re-sentenced under the new regime which gives judges the discretion not to impose the death penalty.

He repeatedly refused to do so until a sudden U-turn in May last year, after he lost a last-minute bid to overthrow his conviction. After several hearings on his re-sentencing, he abruptly withdrew his application in August this year.

On Oct 12, he was informed that his stay of execution would be lifted on Oct 24, and that he had till Oct 21 to show there was a good reason not to. Instead, he filed his latest claim on Nov 16.

Wrote Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, who sat in the Court of Appeal alongside Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng: "A moment's reflection will reveal that, quite apart from there not being any cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, the applicant has been guilty of an abuse of process, as we have already stated."

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

Chijioke Stephen Obioha v Public Prosecutor [2016] SGCA 63

ADV: Centre for Maritime Law, Faculty of Law, NUS - Research Assistant / Research Associate / Research Fellow

Singapore Law Watch
16 Nov 2016
National University of Singapore

Woman keeps house that bank tried to seize

Straits Times
01 Dec 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Court of Appeal rules signature on relevant deed not hers; ticks off bank for its conduct

A woman will get to keep her matrimonial home after the Court of Appeal ruled the signature on the relevant deed was not hers, following evidence from a handwriting expert. It also criticised a bank for not doing more to inform her of the liabilities that her husband's failed business had put her under.

The terraced house in Eng Kong Road, jointly owned by Mrs Sudha Natrajan and her husband Rajan Natrajan, was set to be seized as it had been pledged as collateral for sums owed by Mr Rajan's company Technomic Processors to the Bank of East Asia.

A formal deed had been drawn up to that effect based on an agreement between Mr Rajan and the bank that he, his wife and Technomic jointly pay all sums that Technomic owed. In return, the bank agreed not to sue over Technomic's default of banking facilities granted earlier.

But there was no evidence to suggest Mrs Natrajan was party to any of the talks between her husband and the bank that led to the agreement. The bank also did not appear to have communicated with Mrs Natrajan before it received copies of the deed on Jan 10, 2014. Technomic was placed in compulsory liquidation the same day and Mr Rajan made bankrupt in June that year.

The bank sued Mrs Natrajan for US$1,789,398.56 in the High Court and won its case last December.

Mrs Natrajan - through lawyers Tang Hang Wu, Ng Lip Chih and Tan Jieying - appealed, insisting that her signature was forged .

Crucial to the case was the testimony of two witnesses.

Mr Yap Bei Sing, a consultant forensic scientist with the Health Sciences Authority testified it was "unlikely" that Mrs Natrajan had signed the documents when he compared them with 10 other exhibits of her signature. But the signing was supposed to have been witnessed by lawyer Johnny Cheo when Mr Natrajan came in the morning and Mrs Natrajan, according to him, turned up separately in the afternoon to sign the deeds.

It then emerged there was a call report drawn up by Mr Christopher Sim, Mr Rajan's relationship manager, which covered the events that transpired on Jan 3 and 10, 2014.

The appeals court found this report was a critical piece of evidence which may have shed light on the time and circumstances in which the deed was given to the bank.

"Mrs Natrajan's defence had always been that her signature on the deed had been forged and the original copies and the circumstances surrounding its rejection by the bank are therefore vital issues on which all relevant evidence ought to have been disclosed," said the court.

"Despite all this , no reason was proffered as to why the call report was not produced," it added, making clear the bank's failure to produce the call report "invites a reassessment of Mr Cheo's evidence".

It held the weight attributed to his evidence to be much diminished, and gave more weight to the handwriting expert's evidence which was not undermined in the course of cross-examination.

"The hypothesis that the deed was not signed by (Mrs Natrajan) was far more probable than the opposite hypothesis..." wrote Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in judgment grounds issued on Tuesday.

The court, which included Judges of Appeal Judith Prakash and Tay Yong Kwang, found the evidence did not support the finding that Mrs Natrajan had signed the deed. It also criticised the bank's "reprehensible" conduct in failing to ensure she was properly briefed on the contents which she purportedly signed.

The court noted that industry norms as indicated in the Association of Banks in Singapore's Code of Consumer Banking Practice had not been adhered to by the bank. For instance, no written advice was given to her on her liabilities under the deed and she was not told to get independent legal advice.

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

Sudha Natrajan v The Bank of East Asia Ltd [2016] SGCA 66

Banks required to disclose rebates amid bond defaults

Straits Times
23 Nov 2016
Wong Wei Han

Tougher standards are being brought in at private banks to ensure greater transparency around the fees and rebates they might reap from selling bonds to clients.

The Private Banking Code of Conduct (PB Code) previously asked private banks to inform clients of any conflicts of interest.

The banks must now make specific disclosures on bond rebates, which broadly refer to the financial incentives that some issuers give to financial institutions such as private banks for selling their bonds.

The rule change for rebate disclosure was implemented on Oct 1 but officially announced only yesterday along with other amendments the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) will be making to the code.

More changes will kick in by March 31. These include new standards asking private banks to disclose quantifiable benefits - such as rebates and commissions - and to provide clients with a fee schedule, which is a table detailing fees charged on a product or service.

The PB Code, launched in 2011, is not mandatory, but the standards serve as a benchmark for private banks and their employees.

The new amendments came in the wake of a number of corporate bond defaults since last year - including Swissco Holdings, which filed for judicial management this week.

Many bond investors claim that their relationship managers at private banks pushed vulnerable bonds to consumers in order to receive kickbacks from issuers.

Industry figures welcomed the ABS amendments yesterday, with DBS head of consumer banking and wealth management Tan Su Shan calling them "a move in the right direction".

"For Singapore to continue to build a sustainable and strong wealth management hub here, it is important for industry players and stakeholders to continue to evolve and enhance these standards," said Ms Tan, also co-chairman of the private banking industry group at the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Bank of Singapore global products head Marc Van de Walle said: "These enhanced standards serve to safeguard the integrity and reputation of Singapore's financial system."

Meanwhile, MAS is looking at ways to enhance the regulatory framework of the bond market, including offering a choice for investors to opt out of their accredited investor status. Only an accredited investor can be sold wholesale corporate bonds.

But the regulators have repeatedly stressed that investors must also be responsible for assessing the investment risk and to build a diversified portfolio to minimise potential losses.


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

Exercising discretion in capital cases 'no easy task'

Straits Times
15 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Former A-G delivers lecture on challenges of administering amended death penalty laws

In his two years as attorney-general, Justice Steven Chong was involved in more criminal cases than most criminal lawyers would have taken on in their entire careers.

But he says it was the legal, ethical and practical challenges of administering the amended death penalty laws that dominated his time as A-G from 2012 to 2014.

Delivering the annual Singapore Law Review lecture last week, Justice Chong said that while the changed laws are significant, they fall short of inaugurating "any paradigm shift in policy".

One academic's view that the Government had "dramatically shifted its position on the mandatory death penalty" was "somewhat overstated", added the judge. He pointed out that the "longstanding emphasis on deterrence still acts as a side constraint on any change in this area".

The lecture titled "Recalibration of the Death Penalty Regime: Origin, Ramifications and Impact", sponsored by law firm Withers KhattarWong at its auditorium in Raffles Place, was attended by judges, academics and others from the legal fraternity, including National University of Singapore law students.

Parliament made changes to the law in 2012. The death penalty for murder - which had been mandatory for 120 years - remained mandatory for intentional killings; but for other forms of murder, the courts were given discretion to order a life sentence in lieu of death.

Changes were also made to the Misuse of Drugs Act, allowing for discretion - instead of the mandatory death penalty - to be exercised when sentencing convicted drug traffickers found to be couriers, as long as they satisfied prescribed conditions.

His talk, which also discussed the case of executed killer Kho Jabing, showed that exercising discretion in capital cases was "no easy task". He noted that challenges arose in the context of applications for re-sentencing that followed the amendments.

Kho was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2010, and his appeal failed. Following the amendments, he applied to be resentenced, and in 2013 he was jailed for life and given 24 strokes of the cane by the High Court. Prosecutors appealed to the apex court which, in a 3-2 decision, allowed the appeal and sentenced Kho to death last year.

Justice Chong pointed out that the court was unanimous on the principle involved even though it was " divided on the outcome".

He noted all five judges agreed that in cases where the death penalty was not mandatory, death was justified where the offender's acts "outraged the feelings of the community". Kho's subsequent move to challenge this test set by the court for imposing the death penalty failed and he was executed in May this year.

Justice Chong said it was arguable whether the apex court should have set out a "balance sheet" of aggravating and mitigating factors to be taken into account in exercising discretion. At issue was the "perennial tension" between "individualised justice and consistency in sentencing".

"The balance between the two is delicate. Incline too far in favour of the former, and you risk arbitrariness and capriciousness in sentencing; lean too far in favour of the latter, the benefits of individualised consideration brought about by the amendment Act would be lost."

He made it clear that the court still has to examine all the facts and circumstances of the case to decide if the death sentence is appropriate. "It seems to me that the approach taken by the Court of Appeal is with respect the right one."


The balance between the two is delicate. Incline too far in favour of the former, and you risk arbitrariness and capriciousness in sentencing; lean too far in favour of the latter, the benefits of individualised consideration brought about by the amendment Act would be lost.

JUSTICE CHONG, on the perennial tension between "individualised justice and consistency in sentencing".

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Group warned over revealing data in blacklist

Straits Times
01 Dec 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Its move to e-mail ex-employee's details to schools found unwarranted by commission

Jump Rope (Singapore), a non-profit group that promotes rope skipping in schools here, was issued a warning by the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) for disclosing the identity and personal details of a blacklisted former employee to some 30 Singapore schools.

The commission found that an e-mail sent by Jump Rope's president which named and shamed the former employee was unwarranted as, among other things, the part-time instructor's employment relationship with Jump Rope had already been terminated.

Explaining its decision last week, the commission found Jump Rope had failed to obtain the consent of the instructor and its actions had gone " beyond what is reasonable in the circumstances", based on the provisions of the Personal Data Protection Act.

"It is not uncommon for employees to leave for various reasons, including for poor performance and breaches of codes of conduct," wrote PDPC Deputy Commissioner Yeong Zee Kin in a report which did not include the names of the parties involved.

The employee had been blacklisted for alleged unethical activities and had breached his job contract which led to the termination of the employment relationship.

But in November 2014, Jump Rope's president went one step further and e-mailed various government schools involved in the sport of jump rope of the blacklisting, mentioning the former instructor's name and identity card number.

The e-mail also stated that he was not suitable to coach in schools and revealed the name and identity card number of another individual.

Jump Rope's president explained the e-mail was meant to alert schools against engaging the wrong rope-skipping instructors.

Jump Rope said it had good intentions and claimed it had advised the schools against engaging the named persons "so as to avoid the teaching of wrong values to their pupils".

The commission was alerted to the case after the instructor had complained. Jump Rope was issued a warning for breach of the relevant obligations under the Personal Data Protection Act.

The case was one of three decision grounds issued last month by the PDPC. In one of the other two cases, a warning was issued to My Digital Lock, which sells digital locks and doors, for failing to make reasonable security arrangements to protect the personal data of a customer during its transfer to a desktop computer.

Separately, food caterer Smiling Orchid was fined $3,000 for failing to make reasonable security arrangements to prevent unauthorised access of its customers' personal data on its website. It was also ordered to conduct a security audit and patch all identified vulnerabilities on its website.

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Jump Rope (Singapore) [2016] SGPDPC 21

Yeo 'earned $24m through illicit profits'

Straits Times
23 Nov 2016
Grace Leong

Unbelievable to amass sum in only 15 months by just acting as introducer, intermediary: DPP

The only way former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei could earn $23.9 million in less than 15 months was by taking "secret profits" linked to a money-laundering scam involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), prosecutors contended yesterday.

The allegations came on the final day of Yeo's 12-day trial on four charges of obstructing justice. District Judge Ng Peng Hong will deliver the verdict on Dec 21. The prosecution's cross-examination of Yeo focused on the "illicit" wealth he allegedly accumulated during and after leaving BSI.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng said to Yeo: "I put it to you that it is quite unbelievable to amass so much - $23.9 million - in just one year and three months, by just acting as an 'introducer, intermediary, independent consultant or relationship manager'.

"I put it to you, your illicit wealth after your BSI days arose from deals that you were involved in together with (Malaysian tycoon) Jho Low, Eric Tan Kim Loong and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al Husseiny." Eric Tan was a close business associate of Low's, while Al Husseiny is the former CEO of Aabar Investments PJS, a unit owned by Abu Dhabi state fund International Petroleum Investment Co. All three are being probed over money laundering linked to 1MDB.

Yeo replied that the Commercial Affairs Department "forgot these are referral fees earned from one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world", referring to Aabar.

Yeo pointed to former BSI banker Yak Yew Chee, 57, who earned $27 million from BSI from 2011 to 2015. Mr Tan countered: "Yak earned $27 million in four years. You earned $23.9 million in one year and three months." Yak, who was Low's relationship manager, was jailed for 18 weeks last week and fined $24,000 for forgery and failing to disclose information on suspicious transactions. He is the first person convicted here in the 1MDB-linked probe.

Yeo, 33, yesterday defended his earnings as "referral fees" that were "directly earned". If he did not have a big sovereign wealth fund as a client, "definitely ... won't be making that kind of money", he added.

Yeo's net worth was just $2 million when he left the Swiss private bank in July 2014. By 2015, he counted among his assets, totalling $26 million, three Singapore properties worth a combined $6.15 million and two properties in Australia worth A$6 million, prosecutors said.

Yeo also denied involvement in setting up fund structures for fake entities supposedly linked to the legitimate Aabar Investments PJS. The fake entities are believed to have been used to channel 1MDB money. "I'm a victim too. There are many people in the bank that have dealt with Aabar, but everything has fallen to me," Yeo said.

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Dual-class shares debate tosses up two themes

Business Times
15 Nov 2016
Kenneth Lim

Pursuit of market innovation and robustly regulated investing options not mutually exclusive: SGX chief

[Singapore] A REGULATORY structure for dual-class shares that provides appropriate safeguards can give investors more options while creating an innovative capital-raising venue, Singapore Exchange (SGX) chief executive Loh Boon Chye said on Monday.

"The pursuit of market innovation and robustly regulated investing options are not after all mutually exclusive," Mr Loh said at a panel discussion to address whether and how to let SGX-listed companies adopt dual-class structures.

The panel of industry professionals, academics and market participants debated whether Singapore needed to allow dual-class structures on its listed market, and whether the proposed safeguards are adequate.

SGX's independent Listings Advisory Committee earlier this year provided an opinion that the exchange could allow dual-class shares provided that it adhered to certain safeguards.

Those safeguards include: Only new listings may have dual-class structures; dual-class companies must comply with parts of the code of corporate governance that pertain to board composition and independence; one share, one vote will apply to independent director appointments; privileged share classes lose their status when they are transferred or when the original owner no longer holds the same role at the company.

A public consultation by SGX is expected this month.

At Monday's discussion, The Straits Times senior correspondent Goh Eng Yeow said a corporate governance scandal would be "injurious to our stock market's reputation".

"What if there's a scandal? We're a very small market, we're not like New York or even London. We cannot afford a corporate scandal," Mr Goh said.

Supporters of a dual-class regime, however, argued that scandals happened regardless of whether companies had dual-class shares. For them, the question of need came down to whether Singapore could afford not to have a framework in place for this particular avenue of fundraising.

Patrick Grove, co-founder and chief executive of online-business investment firm Catcha Group, said Singapore was missing out on potential listings because it did not have a framework in place to allow for the next Berkshire Hathaway or Google.

"Singapore is destined to be one of the great city state unicorns in this world, and if that is the place that we want to have, then our capital markets need to follow, and our stock exchange needs to follow," Mr Grove said.

Stefanie Yuen Thio of TSMP Law Corp took issue with one argument that the new rules were pointless because the Singapore market's liquidity and investors could not attract quality listings.

"It means that you can never reinvent yourself, you can never be better than you are. I don't accept that premise," she said.

Associate professor Wan Wai Yee of the Singapore Management University raised the issue of entrenchment, arguing that dual-class shares do not allow for investors to change their minds when they realise that the structure no longer works because of different circumstances or because promises made at listing were not accurate.

There is also no class-action framework in Singapore, making it difficult for investors to take action against errant management or directors, she said.

Audience member Adrian Chan of Lee & Lee, however, argued that there is a possible middle ground for class-action suits in Singapore to alleviate the costs for individual shareholders while avoiding some of the excesses in the system that exist in the United States.

Ang Hao Yao, a private investor and a committee member of the Securities Investors Association of Singapore, said Singapore investors were actually familiar with different classes of shares, pointing out the existence of preference shares and legally required management shares at Singapore Press Holdings.

"Having an entrenched shareholder is a situation retail shareholders are already familiar with," he said.

Associate professor Lawrence Loh of the National University of Singapore suggested letting the market settle the debate.

"Let the market decide," he said. "I think the market is the most efficient allocation mechanism, and if we have all the necessary safeguards and regulations and operational infrastructure in place, I think we can benefit from dual-class shares. We may not have all the unicorns coming to Singapore, we occasionally may have popcorns. . . but they come with a lot of variety and flavour."

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S'pore-listed firms to use new accounting standard

Straits Times
01 Dec 2016
Grace Leong

Singapore-listed companies must be ready to apply a new financial reporting framework that meets international standards by January 2018.

The move to adopt a single global accounting standard will help increase Singapore's competitiveness, given the importance of having an international benchmark for comparison.

Other Singapore-incorporated companies can continue to apply the existing financial reporting frameworks, including the Singapore Financial Reporting Standards, the Accounting Standards Council said yesterday.

Singapore uses the same financial reporting standards as those in most of the world's major financial markets.

In recent years, the International Accounting Standards Board has issued new benchmarks for financial instruments, revenue and leases. These are aimed at improving the quality of financial reporting.

By January 2018, Singapore will be fully converged with these, which are known as the International Financial Reporting Standards.

That will mean that some companies listed here may need to restate previously reported financial information as the requirements in the new framework are often different from the standards being applied now.

This will apply for companies with financial years ending on Dec 31, 2017, for example. They will have to prepare their financial statements commencing Jan 1, 2018 using the new guidelines, but they will also have to restate the results for 2017 so that a meaningful comparison can be made.

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

How much authority do AGM proxy forms afford?: Forum

Straits Times
23 Nov 2016

I attended an annual general meeting (AGM) held in the premises of the condominium where I live to see how residents elect council members.

I was in the counting room as a scrutineer. Besides the votes cast, there were batches of proxy forms some residents had acquired before the AGM from subsidiary proprietors willing to give them away.

I have a few questions about proxy forms: How many subsidiary proprietors can appoint the same proxy? Is a proxy form valid as an instrument of authority solely for resolutions? Or, can it be used in lieu of a voting slip to get a certain number of nominees at a time into the council?

Which authority would be able to address these issues?

Koh Kong Chia

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Hello Kitty event organiser faces jail for contempt

Straits Times
15 Nov 2016
Selina Lum

RWS wants director punished for disobeying orders to attend two court hearings on assets

The boss of an events company that organised a Hello Kitty event at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) last year is facing two days in jail and a $40,000 fine for breaching court orders on his firm's unpaid debt of $320,000 to the resort.

Yesterday, RWS took out contempt of court proceedings, asking for Mr Jacky Teo Choon Leng to be punished for disobeying orders to attend two court hearings to disclose his company's assets.

Mr Deya Shankar Dubey, representing RWS, argued that two days' jail and a $40,000 fine would be an appropriate punishment for Mr Teo's refusal to appear in court without reason, even after he was told of the potential consequences.

Mr Teo is the sole director and shareholder of Mighty Eight, which organised the Hello Kitty Go Around carnival at RWS' Coliseum from Oct 16 to Nov 10 last year.

Mighty Eight owes RWS about $320,000 after the resort successfully sued for payment of various sums, including event charges and compensation for physical damage to the venue.

After winning the lawsuit in default - as the defendant did not respond to the action - RWS moved to enforce the judgment by applying for Mr Teo to be questioned on the company assets available to pay the debt.

On July 22, the High Court ordered him to attend a session on Aug 12. He did not turn up and did not pick up calls from Mr Dubey.

The hearing was adjourned to Aug 19. Again, he did not show up even though a letter informing him of the details was handed to his sister at his registered address.

Mr Teo was also absent for the court session yesterday. Mr Dubey told the court he phoned him before the hearing and he said he was not attending.

Mr Dubey also said it was unclear what had happened to Mighty Eight's paid-up capital of $500,000 and its revenue from the Hello Kitty event.

Justice Belinda Ang found that Mr Teo had breached the court order but gave him a chance to come to court to argue on the punishment to be meted out. She adjourned the case to Nov 25.

Mr Teo, when contacted by The Straits Times yesterday, declined to comment.

Mighty Eight had faced many woes over the two Hello Kitty events it organised last year and this year.

In the 2015 carnival, irate Hello Kitty fans demanded full refunds after a limited-edition paper figurine was pulled out from an exclusive pack. Fans were also upset that non-ticket holders could buy limited-edition items outside the venue, which they felt diluted the exclusivity of the merchandise.

In June this year, Mighty Eight organised a Robot Kitty exhibition at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre. About 20 people who were contracted to work at the exhibition made police reports, claiming they were not paid their wages.

The recruitment agency that coordinated manpower services for the exhibition also sued Mighty Eight for not paying its service fee of about $10,000 for hiring the workers. When contacted, its spokesman said the case was still pending.

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Young offender gets reformative training - but asks for jail time

Straits Times
01 Dec 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Usually, an offender will try anything to stay out of jail.

Not Muhammad Farhan Sazali, 20, who had admitted guilt to joining two others in a slashing incident on June 25 this year.

He pleaded with District Judge Mathew Joseph to put him in jail rather than send him to the Reformative Training Centre (RTC).

The RTC houses young offenders between 14 and 21 years old who have been sentenced by the court to undergo reformative training (RT).

Farhan claimed he had enemies in the RTC and was "adamant" that going to jail was better for him.

But the judge was not impressed. "I readily accept that gang-related problems, if they do exist or persist, have the potential to undermine an institution's efforts at rehabilitation and reform and may even frustrate the institution's aims," he said in decision grounds last week.

"At the same time, in my judgment, this is (if at all) an issue for the relevant governmental authorities to look into as it concerns the operating environment of the relevant institution.

"It is certainly not a factor the court can properly take into consideration when deciding on the appropriateness of RT in a given case," he added.

Farhan admitted to two charges of causing grievous hurt in an incident where three teens were slashed by one Muhammad Mazlan Mohd Amin, 22, at the void deck of a Housing Board block in Lorong 5 Toa Payoh. A third charge involving the same incident was taken into consideration.

Farhan provided Mazlan with the knife used by the latter in the slashing incident, while he and a third accused, Mohd Nizam Mohd Nazri, 18, stood about 10m away.

Farhan and Mazlan donned motorcycle helmets during the group violence, which was sparked by a staring incident with one of the victims two days earlier.

The victims were treated at Tan Tock Seng Hospital and were unable to follow their ordinary pursuits for 20 days, noted the court.

The judge said there was "no compelling reason" to prefer a substantial prison term and possible caning instead of reformative training, as Farhan was under 21 at the time of the offence.

"It was clear that a more structured environment was therefore necessary to advance the twin aims of rehabilitation and deterrence, which is readily available in the form of reformative training," added the judge.

Farhan, who represented himself, is appealing against the sentence.

The court cases against the other two co-accused are continuing.


I readily accept that gang-related problems... have the potential to undermine an institution's efforts at rehabilitation and reform and may even frustrate the institution's aims. At the same time, in my judgment, this is (if at all) an issue for the relevant governmental authorities to look into as it concerns the operating environment of the relevant institution.


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ADV: A STEP closer to understanding Estate Planning

Singapore Law Watch
23 Nov 2016
Rockwills Institute

Spurned by lenders, Swissco to file for judicial management

Business Times
15 Nov 2016
Melissa Tan

CEO says the company's leading bankers do not support a crucial bond restructuring proposal

[Singapore] THE bloodletting continues in Singapore's struggling offshore-and-marine industry. Heavily-indebted oilfield vessel operator Swissco Holdings has become the next to run aground, in an echo of the sudden collapse of oilfield vessel operator Swiber Holdings earlier this year.

Swissco will file for interim judicial management in the next few days. Bankers did not support a bond restructuring proposal from the company, which is looking to tap consultancy EY as judicial manager, company management told The Business Times on Monday night.

Swissco chief executive Tan Fuh Gih said that a "Chinese investor" had been willing to take over the debt - on the condition that the lenders take a substantial haircut - but the lenders rejected that.

Mr Tan said that if its "leading" bankers had been willing to support a restructuring, "then I believe we would have still got a chance". Without that support, all that the management can do now is "keep trying to stabilise the company . . . until resources all dry up".

The offshore industry veteran, who became Swissco's chief executive last year, added: "I actually don't see an opportunity to turn around in three to four years . . . I cannot see the light."

He said that there were now no jobs in the market for oil drilling rigs, and that people were not putting in investments.

But Swissco has some service vessels - such as its accommodation rigs - that aren't doing as badly, he noted.

The group, which suspended trading on Oct 10 with a last-traded stock price of just 5.2 Singapore cents and a market capitalisation of S$35.1 million, has a S$255 million debt owed to seven banks.

UOB is its largest lender, followed by DBS; OCBC was the issue manager for Swissco's S$100 million of 5.7 per cent notes due in 2018.

Sources told BT that UOB and DBS are exposed to Swissco's rigs, but OCBC is not, and that UOB is Swissco's biggest lender, with roughly US$100 million in loans; DBS's exposure is far less, in the tens of millions.

A UOB spokesman told BT: "At this moment, I can't give you anything."

DBS also declined to comment; OCBC said that as a bond issue arranger, it had done due diligence.

Swissco chairman Lim How Teck declined to discuss lenders' exposures but said that lenders secured on rigs would have "suffered a lot".

He added that Swissco had recommended EY as its judicial manager, subject to court approval and was doing the paperwork as at Monday night.

Swissco had proposed that a bulk of its S$100 million bonds be converted to equity and the remainder deferred.

Mr Lim said that the Chinese investor had proposed to buy up the debt but with an even "tougher haircut", offered cash at a "few cents" to the dollar. Though the lenders rejected that too, the deal may not be totally off the table yet.

Swissco has asked the investor to talk to the judicial manager and perhaps "put some money upfront in escrow . . . over the next few days" to show seriousness, Mr Lim said, adding: "People think they can get a better deal, until the deal is no longer there."

KGI Fraser analyst Joel Ng told BT that it was "not surprising" that Swissco has become the next Singapore-listed offshore and marine firm to file for judicial management after Swiber, noting that he had pointed out since last year that Swissco's vessels "were on the older side". "A lot of them were working in Mexico, and there were a lot of contracts that were cancelled in Mexico."

But he said that it was hard to tell which company would be next, if any, saying that "it really depends on the support of the bankers".

Swissco's fall comes 31/2 months after Swiber unexpectedly and dramatically applied to wind itself up. It later reversed the application and placed itself under judicial management instead.

Last month, the Singapore Exchange formally reprimanded it for misleading investors about a US$710 million project award in West Africa that Swiber announced in December 2014.

Other companies in distress include Ezra Holdings' Malaysian associate Perisai Petroleum Teknologi, an oil-and-gas contractor that has defaulted on S$125 million in 6.875 per cent unsecured notes that came due on Oct 3 this year, as well as ship owner Rickmers Maritime Trust, which is seeking consent for the restructuring of S$100 million in bonds.

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

Malaysian tycoon's children in legal tussle over 4 firms

Straits Times
30 Nov 2016
Selina Lum

One firm in lawsuit holds 32 shopping mall units valued at $68m

The children of a Malaysian property tycoon are tussling in the High Court over four family-owned companies, one of which holds 32 units in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre valued at about $68 million.

Eight daughters of the late Mr Loong Yoke Phin are minority shareholders in the four companies and have sued their only brother and his sons, as well as another sister, for oppression.

The eight sisters, aged 54 to 64, are seeking to cash out their stake either by selling their shares to the defendants at a price to be determined by independent valuers or by winding up the companies.

Among other things, they allege that the majority camp - their brother Long Shin, 66, his four sons, and third sibling Sweet Ying - had excluded them from management of the companies and had denied them dividends from the rental income of more than $5.4 million.

Sweet Ying - who had a 6.23 per cent shareholding like her sisters - died of cancer at age 62 on Jan 14, a week after the lawsuit was filed. Her son has been named as a defendant in her place.

The defendants, represented by Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming, contend that the suit amounts to an "abuse of process" as the family disputes were resolved in a settlement agreement signed in June last year.

But the plaintiffs disagree, arguing through their lawyers from Lee Bon Leong & Co that the document was just an interim agreement, and they still had the right to file proceedings if the parties failed to reach a final settlement.

A hearing to determine whether the 2015 agreement is legally binding started yesterday.

The eight sisters have filed similar proceedings in Malaysia to deal with the firms and properties there.

The late Mr Loong arrived in Singapore from Malaysia in the late 1960s and made his fortune in construction projects, including Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.

He set up two firms to hold his property investments here. The main company, Long Win Investment, collected rental income from 32 units in the shopping centre. It also has two wholly owned subsidiaries, in furniture retail and warehousing. He also set up Long Win Realty but most of its assets have been sold.

The patriarch willed larger stakes in the firms to his wife and son, rather than his daughters. The matriarch gave her shares to her son before she died in 2014.

The eight sisters claim that after their father's death in 2008, their brother and third sister had majority control, and ran the companies to benefit themselves.

But the defendants say the firms, while family-owned, were never meant to be family-run. When he was alive, the patriarch made all final decisions and made it clear to his children that there could be "only one tiger on any mountain".

He had instructed his son to take charge after his death and told his daughters to support their brother.

The defendants say the patriarch wanted his business to continue after his death and never intended his companies to be wound up.

The late Mr Loong arrived in Singapore from Malaysia in the late 1960s and made his fortune in construction projects, including Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.

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ADV: Sweet & Maxwell - Authoritative content from Over 50 Judges and Lawyers

Singapore Law Watch
23 Nov 2016
Sweet & Maxwell

Allow polyclinic doctors to issue LPAs: Forum

Straits Times
15 Nov 2016

My family doctor is accredited under the Office of the Public Guardian as a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) certificate issuer.

Recently, I called his clinic to find out the cost of certification. To my surprise, the clinic staff told me it would cost $120.

This is a rather exorbitant price.

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin has mentioned in Parliament that the LPA take-up rate is below expectations.

Could the high cost of certification be the reason?

No polyclinic doctor is listed as an accredited certificate issuer.

If polyclinic doctors could be added to the list, it would certainly bring down the high cost and spur more people to apply for an LPA.

Ong Teck Wan

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Central bank backs keeping property cooling measures in place

Business Times
30 Nov 2016
Soon Weilun

MAS says still low interest rates, weak global growth and rising political risks pose threats to financial stability; repayment risks remain for some

[Singapore] THE property cooling measures are here to stay for a while, at least going by the tone that Singapore's central bank has set in its latest annual review of financial stability.

In its report released on Tuesday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) hinted that it still wants more time for these measures to work through the economy, as global conditions in the form of still low interest rates, weak growth and intensifying political risks weigh on Singapore's household and corporate balance sheets.

Singapore has introduced several rounds of property cooling measures since the 2009 financial crisis.

On the back of these measures, "growth in housing loans has eased considerably and the overall risk profile of housing loans is strong", said MAS. "But repayment risks remain for a small group of borrowers amid the weaker economic backdrop."

Such an assessment comes as MAS deems that the protracted low-interest-rate environment holds implications for financial stability.

Low rates can encourage risk-seeking; households and firms will be tempted to take on more leverage.

Low rates also expose them to the dangers of a rate hike - which the market expects will happen soon, MAS noted.

"It will take time for household balance sheets to strengthen and become more resilient to interest rate and income shocks," said the central bank.

For now, Singapore households, corporates and banks seem resilient enough to withstand shocks, going by the results of stress tests by MAS.

Initial signs for households' risk profiles seem promising: Household debt growth fell from an average of 6.9 per cent year-on-year over the last five years, to 2.8 per cent in the three months ended September 2016.

The fall was largely driven by trends in housing loans, which make up three quarters of household debt. For example, growth of housing loans from financial institutions slowed from 4.8 per cent year-on-year in Q3 2015 to 3.3 per cent in Q3 2016.

In addition, households' risk profile has improved, MAS noted.

For example, since the introduction of the total debt servicing ratio (TDSR) restrictions in 2013, the debt servicing ratio for the 20th income percentile household fell from 22 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent last year.

Private residential property prices have also moderated, falling a cumulative 10.8 per cent since Q3 2013.

But beyond these improvements, MAS noted that some borrowers still have problems with repayment.

In September this year, the share of mortgage loans that were more than 30 days in arrears increased to close to one per cent, up from 0.9 per cent a year ago.

Non-performing housing loans also inched up slightly over the past year and stood at 0.4 per cent in Q3 2016, though still much lower than the peak of one per cent recorded during the recent financial crisis.

"MAS remains vigilant in monitoring property market developments and, if necessary, will take appropriate measures to maintain a stable and sustainable market," it wrote.

Beyond worries about household balance sheets, MAS wrote that weak global growth may eat into household incomes and corporate profitability.

Low commodity prices and slowing global trade would cause corporate borrowers in certain sectors to struggle. Bank asset quality could thus worsen.

MAS said that the overall ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) rose to 2.1 per cent in Q3 2016 from 1.5 per cent a year ago.

Overall corporate profitability declined too. The median return on assets (ROA) of listed firms fell from 3.5 per cent in Q2 2015 to 2.8 per cent in Q2 2016.

Beyond the oil-and-gas sector, the manufacturing, as well as transport, storage and communications (TSC) sectors were flagged in MAS's report. NPL ratios of the latter two sectors rose to 5.9 per cent and 7.1 per cent in Q3 2016 respectively.

Corporate profitability of firms in the manufacturing, commerce and TSC sectors also weakened. Their ROAs declined by 0.6, 0.7 and 0.8 percentage points respectively in Q2 2016 on a year-on-year basis.

Political risks are also fast becoming a threat to global financial stability, MAS noted.

For example, following Brexit, or the United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union, political uncertainty in Europe has increased.

"Even then, markets do not appear to have priced in risks to EU integration, as sovereign yields of more vulnerable eurozone economies remain much lower than during the height of the eurozone debt crisis," wrote MAS.

How policymakers tackle political risks may have "long-lasting effects on global growth and downstream effects on the financial sector", said MAS.

"Financial surveillance increasingly needs to take into account possible shocks from and repercussions of political events," it urged.

"Policymakers should also stand prepared for disruptions and tail risks."

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

Suit over computer-generated valuations

Straits Times
22 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Streetsine says it lost business because SISV did not recognise tech-based property valuations

A High Court test case involving an online valuation system could well lead to the "Uber-isation" of property valuation services, in which quick, simple and dynamic ways are offered to access services through mobile apps.

SPH-linked Streetsine Singapore is taking the Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers (SISV) to court for not recognising its technology-based automated valuations as valid, and claims the lack of recognition led to business opportunities being lost.

Streetsine alleged that SISV failed to fully assess the programme's capability - which offers property valuations at a fraction of the cost and time incurred by manual valuations - before issuing a press release in April saying it did not recognise computer-generated valuations.

It claimed SISV neither conducted nor commissioned any expert evaluation, investigation or audit of the two services at issue or any automated models in general.

Streetsine runs the valuation service on its digital platform SRX Property, which is the most far- reaching digital property listing platform in Singapore.

One service, X-Listing Price, combines computer-generated values with the expertise of a licensed appraiser applying internationally accepted valuation standards. It aims to make valuations less costly and more accessible to consumers.

The other, the SRX V-8 system, features high volumes of field inspections and full valuations at low cost to clients and is specifically designed to comply with bank requirements for their valuation panels and loan rules and practices.

The stand taken by SISV in its April press release was a key issue triggering the court suit.

SISV said then the release was not targeted at Streetsine's products or services but to address several inquiries it had received about the validity of computer-generated valuations by organisations and IT firms.

SISV denied its alleged conduct had caused Streetsine to lose business and said its views were consistent with the institute's valuation standards and practice guidelines.

But Streetsine claimed SISV had injured its business and reputation by saying its computer-generated valuations were "not considered valuations" under its guidelines and were therefore not recognised by SISV, the professional body of valuers and surveyors.

Streetsine, through its lawyers from Wong Thomas & Leong, is seeking damages for losses allegedly suffered as a result of SISV's stand, among other things. It said ongoing talks for the company to join the valuation panels of three major banks derailed after the statement was issued, leading to the loss of a potentially lucrative stream.

SISV's lawyers from Rajah & Tann are expected to file their defence statements in due course.

"Given the ongoing litigation, it is not appropriate for the institute at this juncture to comment in detail on the matter save that (it) believes it has a good case and will defend the claim," SISV told The Straits Times last week.

Streetsine, which is 60 per cent owned by Singapore Press Holdings, is an information technology firm.

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

Fined for trying to influence witness' testimony in court

Straits Times
15 Nov 2016
Elena Chong

An operations manager of a bus chartering firm who sent SMS messages to a prosecution witness, in a bid to influence her testimony in court, was fined $6,000 yesterday.

Ng Ang Heng, 59, who works for Sin U Lian Travel & Coach, admitted trying to pervert the course of justice during the trial of his colleague Xu Yajie at the State Courts on April 28 last year.

He sent messages through another colleague Toh Lee Hong to the witness, Ms Xu Xiaona, telling her to give a specific testimony.

The court heard last month that on Jan 14, 2014, enforcement officers stopped a private bus along the Pan-Island Expressway and caught the driver driving without a vocational licence.

Land Transport Authority investigations showed it was Sin U Lian's human resource head Xu Yajie who interviewed and hired the driver without the valid licence. Charges were brought against her.

On the day of Yajie's trial on April 28 last year, Ng met Ms Xu Xiaona in court and realised she was a witness. Worried about the testimony she would give, Ng wanted to tell her it was him who made the final decision to hire the driver.

Just before noon, Ng sent a series of text messages in Chinese to Ms Toh, an accounts executive of the company, and asked her to forward them to Ms Xu.

They informed Ms Xu to say that Ng, and no one else, was in charge of hiring and paying staff.

Ms Xu did not agree with the content of the text messages and did not testify accordingly.

Yajie was later acquitted after the trial.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jasmin Kaur said Ng's actions showed a complete disregard for the court's jurisdiction, and argued that the custodial threshold was crossed in this case. The DPP had sought a jail sentence of six to eight weeks to be imposed.

But District Judge Kessler Soh felt that a high fine was sufficient.

He said Ng believed what he was telling the witness was the truth. There was no threat or coercion, he said. Ng did not do anything for his own benefit and neither did he succeed in getting the witness to change her testimony.

Ng, represented by Mr S.K. Kumar, could have been jailed for up to 31/2 years and/or fined for the offence.

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

Poker debt case: Ex-Ku De Ta boss loses appeal

Straits Times
29 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

He fails to convince HK court of site of ordinary residence, has to pay $367k to continue civil action

To continue civil action against his friend over a poker debt, former Ku De Ta boss Chris Au will have to pay HK$2 million (S$367,000) into a Hong Kong court as security.

Mr Au, a Singapore permanent resident, failed in his appeal to convince the court that his ordinary residence was in Hong Kong and not Singapore.

"The ordinary residence of the plaintiff was of fundamental importance as a plaintiff ordinarily resident in Hong Kong could not be ordered to provide security for costs, no matter how impecunious he was, and no matter how likely he was at risk of the defendant not being able to recover costs from him if he failed in his action," said Hong Kong Deputy High Court Judge Marlene Ng.

She added in decision grounds issued last week that, for the purpose of security for costs, a plaintiff who was resident in Hong Kong at the time when the alleged cause of action arose but who is no longer resident "should not be in any different position to that of a plaintiff who has always been non-resident".

Mr Au, who used to run the former Ku De Ta nightclub at Marina Bay Sands, is suing Mr Steve Yoon for HK$7.2 million allegedly over losses in 33 poker games that the duo took part in back in 2008 with two others. Mr Au claims that he has maintained a social relationship with Mr Yoon, a lawyer, ever since they met in "late 2004 or early 2005" to play poker.

Mr Yoon, in denying the claims, countered that the players never intended the card games played on social occasions to give rise to binding legal obligations for settlement of losses, among other things.

Mr Yoon, in addition to his counterclaim, also applied for Mr Au to pay a security deposit into court. He did this out of concern that if he were successful in his defence, Mr Au would be unable to pay his costs, given that Mr Au was ordinarily resident in Singapore and there were no assets that could be identified.

Hong Kong Registrar Lung Kim Wan granted an order in April for Mr Au to provide the HK$2 million security. Mr Au then appealed against the decision, arguing he had lived in Hong Kong for 13 years before moving to Singapore in 2010 and was a Hong Kong resident with a Hong Kong identity card and passport.

He added that he applied to be a Singapore PR solely for "business convenience", as otherwise he would have to renew his employment visa every two years. He said the Ku De Ta business project involved heavy foreign investment and employed over 300 staff. He thought the Singapore authorities would review his business plans more favourably if he, as founder of the firm, ran it as a Singapore PR.

Judge Ng found such assertions "lent weight" to the view that he lived and worked in Singapore for the settled purpose of launching and carrying on his food and entertainment businesses in the country.

She made it clear that while being a Singapore PR was not conclusive that he was "not ordinarily resident" in Hong Kong, it "added weight" to the continuity of his connections to Singapore, "especially when his personal and business connections to Hong Kong after 2010 were at best tenuous". She said: "It must also not be forgotten that his wife and child were in Singapore."

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

Better to have no safeguards at all for dual class shares, says Aberdeen

Business Times
22 Nov 2016
R. Sivanithy

[Singapore] FUND managers are against the idea of dual class shares (DCS) but if the authorities here were to allow companies with DCS structures to list here, then according to Aberdeen Asset Management Asia head of corporate governance David Smith, it would be better not to have any safeguards at all.

"The safeguards simply don't stack up," said Mr Smith in an interview with BT last week. "Every one of those proposed can be circumvented by a market full of people whose job is to find a way to round the rules . . . we shouldn't allow such companies here in the first place but if you have to have them, just do away with the safeguards, otherwise no one will come."

The Singapore Companies Act was amended earlier this year to allow DCS companies and the Singapore Exchange (SGX) is considering the pros and cons of amending its Listing Rules to allow such companies to offer their shares here.

Its Listings Advisory Committee has recommended opening the doors here to DCS companies and SGX will soon be circulating a Consultation Paper for public feedback.

DCS structures allow certain privileged - typically founding - shareholders to wield greater voting rights for a proportionately smaller percentage ownership, the justification being that such personnel are key to the company's fortunes and should therefore be given a greater say when voting.

English football club Manchester United was said to have wanted to list on SGX but was forced to shift to the US as local listing rules currently prohibit DCS. Similarly, China's e-commerce giant Alibaba.com also had to go public in the US as Hong Kong's rules also do not allow DCS.

The main objection is that DCS violates "one man, one vote" rule and threatens the rights of non-privileged shareholders who supply the bulk of the company's capital. Supporters however, have argued that with suitable safeguards in place such as having adequate independent directors and imposing restrictions on voting on the appointment of these directors by the privileged owners, shareholder rights can be preserved and that opening the door to such companies is necessary in order for SGX to be commercially competitive.

"Proponents of DCS say it might be suitable for modern tech companies," said Mr Smith. "But why would a tech company with DCS want to list here with so many safeguards when there are no safeguards on Nasdaq? They'd be much better off going there than having to meet all the requirements being proposed here. Even worse, adding restrictions might even make SGX an unattractive listing venue."

Furthermore, Mr Smith is convinced that if the market here is made DCS-friendly, Hong Kong will very quickly follow suit. "It's like game theory now, with everyone waiting for the other to move first. If SGX changes the rules, Hong Kong will follow and then where will we be? In theory, so could Malaysia, Thailand then everyone else. It's a dangerous, tricky road."

In 2014, the stock exchange of Hong Kong issued a concept paper on weighted voting rights of which DCS is one form, and later concluded that there was support to allow such arrangements.

However, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission disagreed, saying it "considers both long-term and short-term objectives and seeks to uphold the core principles of fairness and transparency which underpin Hong Kong's reputation as an international financial centre", adding that weighted voting rights are incompatible with a strong and equitable regulatory system.

In a July 7 BT article, Aberdeen's Hugh Young and Mr Smith said that funds are increasingly expected to behave as long-term stewards of the companies in which they invest and that stewardship codes focus on shareholders monitoring and engaging the companies they invest in.

"Engagement gives investors the ability to voice concern, while voting gives investors the ability to influence the way a company behaves via an AGM or EGM, vetoing transactions they deem contrary to their interests . . . if companies are freed of discipline, all sorts of misdemeanours can flourish," they said.

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SGX, NUS law faculty hold roundtable on dual-class shares

Business Times
14 Nov 2016
Jacqueline Cheok

[Singapore] THE Singapore Exchange (SGX) and the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law are holding a roundtable discussion on Monday on the feasibility of introducing dual-class shares in Singapore - an idea that was formally proposed by SGX in August.

SGX said that the roundtable is part of its process of gathering feedback and engaging with stakeholders on an issue that has "generated debate from stakeholders across the spectrum".

Many have argued against such a move, claiming that it could severely inhibit the role of directors, shareholders and markets in corporate governance. Others have been optimistic that it could attract exceptional technology companies and make SGX a major venue for international listings.

Monday's roundtable will feature six speakers and will be moderated by Hans Tjio, a law professor at NUS who is also the co-director of the Centre for Banking and Finance Law.

SGX chief executive officer Loh Boon Chye and Tan Cheng Han, chairman of the Centre for Law and Business at NUS Faculty of Law, will kickstart the roundtable with opening remarks; SGX chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin will conclude the roundtable with closing remarks.

Ahead of the roundtable, most speakers expressed support for dual-class shares. Tech entrepreneur Patrick Grove, who had told The Business Times that he was mulling a listing for his Internet group Catcha on SGX, said that the possibility of SGX introducing dual-class shares represents not just a "credible alternative", but a "potential gamechanger".

Wan Wai Yee, associate professor at the Singapore Management University School of Law, said that dual-class shares could be a potential solution to the placid stockmarket here but also cautioned against longer-term corporate governance consequences.

"Issuers may come up with dual-class structures that are structurally defensible at the initial public offering stage, but because benefits of control versus agency costs of disproportionate control can change over time, these structures will cease to be defensible if the agency costs start outweighing the benefits of control.

She added: "These are concerns that SGX has yet to address adequately, and which I hope are discussed during the roundtable."

The other speakers are Ang Hao Yao, member of the Corporate Governance Committee of the Securities Investors Association (Singapore); Goh Eng Yeow, senior correspondent at The Straits Times; Lawrence Loh, director of the Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations at NUS Business School; and Stefanie Yuen Thio, joint managing director at TSMP Law Corporation.

The event will be held at SGX Auditorium from 10 am to 12.30 pm.

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Complaints against banks and insurers on the rise

Business Times
29 Nov 2016
Claire Huang

Financial disputes centre sees 29% rise in complaints from 2015; banks, finance firms top the list with 38%

[Singapore] THE number of consumers who have grievances against financial institutions (FIs) in Singapore has grown, says data from the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre Ltd (Fidrec).

Between July 2015 and June 2016, the centre handled 1,162 complaints, up 29 per cent year on year.

These complaints were directed at banks, finance companies, life and general insurers, capital markets services licensees, financial advisers and insurance brokers.

Leading the pack with the most number of complaints handled by Fidrec are banks and finance companies (38 per cent), followed by life insurers (37 per cent) and general insurers (19 per cent). Capital markets services licensees, financial advisers and insurance brokers made up the remaining.

Banks and finance companies had the greatest rise in number of complaints, up 48 per cent year-on-year to 442.

This was followed by life insurers, whose number of complaints went up 31 per cent to 434, while that of general insurers grew 7 per cent to 218.

Compared to the year-ago period, the number of complaints against capital markets services licensees remained flat, while those against financial advisers and insurance brokers slid 5 per cent.

Of the total complaints Fidrec handled in FY2015/16, more than half were related to the FIs' practice and policies, 38 per cent were to do with market conduct, followed by service standards and others.

Consumers were most unhappy with banks and finance companies, life insurers, financial advisers and insurance brokers for providing inappropriate advice, misrepresentation or issues related to disclosure.

Ng Wee Jin, chief executive of Fidrec said such complaints related to the appropriateness or lack of any advice given by the sales representative; the accuracy or lack of any explanation provided by the sales representative; the non-disclosure or inadequate disclosure of any fees, charges and product features.

"Market conduct-related complaints are more complex. In such cases, the evidence of whether there has been any wrongdoing may not be so clear from the onset. It is therefore not surprising that Fidrec, in general, sees a larger percentage of such cases," he added.

Having said that, Mr Ng noted that the statistics only cover cases where consumers have not been able to resolve the issues with FIs, and require mediation and adjudication services.

For general insurers, consumers were most agrieved over disputes on liability, while it is the delay or failure in processes for capital markets services licensees.

Over the one-year period, Fidrec received 1,161 cases and handled 2,757 inquiries. This was 28 per cent and 19 per cent more than the previous year, respectively.

Even as the case load rose to 1,021, Fidrec was more efficient in resolving them.

Of these, 48 per cent was resolved within three months; 98 per cent resolved within six months; and 100 per cent of the complaints resolved within nine months.

Out of the 1,021 complaints that were resolved, 713 were achieved through mediation, while 308 proceeded to adjudication. Awards were made in 53 out of the 308 adjudicated cases. There were 480 pending cases as at end-June 2016.

On this, Mr Ng said the actual time taken to resolve a dispute depends on many factors, including the extent or complexity of the dispute; time taken to retrieve relevant documents; and availability of parties to attend mediation or adjudication hearings.

Separately, the financial mediator's financials have swung back to the red in FY2016, recording a net loss of S$121,044 from net profit of S$540,268 a year ago.

Revenue for the year edged up three per cent to S$3.3 million but this was offset by higher expenses.

Total expenditures came to S$3.5 million, a jump of 20 per cent year on year. In particular, office rental rose 54 per cent to almost S$744,000.

Fidrec also incurred an expense on the restoration of office premises of more than S$100,000.

The centre's head of finance, Liu Li Li said the net loss was mainly incurred by a one-time relocation cost when Fidrec moved to its new office at City House.

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'Revamp law' to give Auditor-General more reach

Straits Times
22 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Research paper also calls for checks against excess, extravagance and inefficiency

While Singapore's Auditor-General has kept a low profile for decades, the special audit findings involving Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council last year have thrust the office into the limelight.

A research paper on his role as watchman, watchdog and warden notes his duties are relatively different from his counterparts worldwide and suggests updating laws to extend his reach to privatised government-linked companies.

"The Singapore Auditor-General has been an important constitutional office since 1991, but remains a severely under-examined institution in local scholarship," said National University of Singapore law and accountancy graduate Preston Wong in the paper published in the current Singapore Academy of Law Journal.

The author argued the AuditorGeneral, currently Mr Willie Tan, assisted by a deputy and team of assistants, plays a largely independent and effective role in constitutional government through promoting public finance accountability.

He is "starkly different from his foreign counterparts" and "is highly unique in terms of his legal position and roles". He is a watchman over the nation's reserves and tackles compliance with complex financial procedures.

"Notably he is independent of all three branches of Government and acts as a check on all three," he said, calling it "an intricately balanced position unseen anywhere else".

The author suggested that while the Auditor-General is an effective cap on financial power, there is still room for improvement by international standards.

Among other things, he called for the Audit Act to be reviewed to capture the developments of the past 50 years.

The author noted that at an election rally last year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commended the Auditor-General's Office as a key institution keeping the Government "straight" and accountable.

The author suggested that while the Auditor-General is an effective cap on financial power, there is still room for improvement by international standards. Among other things, he called for the Audit Act to be reviewed to capture the developments of the past 50 years.

He pointed out that the privatisation of many public bodies and statutory authorities has spawned government-owned and government-linked companies.

"The Act should therefore be revamped to provide the Auditor-General with a mandate to audit these entities (even though not prescribed under any law), alongside removing the unnecessary requirements for an entity's request and approval from the minister."

Mr Wong said New Zealand and Australian legal arrangements subject state-owned enterprises to audit and allows broad-based discretion.

He suggested that, alternatively, the Auditor-General should have the discretion to step in if the public interest required it, unlike the present position where the discretion lies with the minister. He added that the nature of audits under the Act is also "outdated" as it dwells "mainly on traditional financial and administrative regularity".

"The Act should incorporate performance audits against excess, extravagance and inefficiency amounting to waste as part of the scope of audit in this new age of accountability beyond regularity."

He noted that such performance audits are enshrined in the laws of several countries abroad for the Auditor-General to examine the 3Es - effectiveness, efficiency and economy - of public entities. "Canada has a fourth E (environment). It also evaluates effects on sustainable development."

Given that the 2015 General Election further entrenched the People's Action Party as the party to govern Singapore, the Auditor-General's mission to "enhance public accountability" will be ever more crucial, Mr Wong said. "One PAP minister had even gone to the extent of characterising the Auditor-General's Office as the 'real check' in Government, juxtaposing it against the opposition which had claimed to be 'a robust check and balance.' "

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

Ensuring the appropriate governance of subsidiaries

Business Times
14 Nov 2016
David Chew

Regardless of degree of ownership, parent companies must remember that subsidiary boards have their own fiduciary responsibilities

SUBSIDIARY companies are a fact of life for corporations as they expand their scope, operations and geographical coverage.

Subsidiaries are separate legal entities, created for good business reasons such as limiting the risk and exposure of the parent organisation, taking advantage of tax incentives, and facilitating the management of the business at the local or regional level.

By nature of being separate legal entities, subsidiary companies have their own boards and structure. This adds another layer of governance and management to a group corporate structure.

As subsidiaries grow, they will significantly impact the risk environment and bottom line of the group of companies. Their proper oversight and governance can thus be critical.

The Singapore Code of Corporate Governance does not explicitly address the issue of subsidiary governance. However, this is something that conglomerates should explicitly ensure, especially when the perspectives of parent and subsidiary boards can be very different.


A 2013 Deloitte survey of the practices of global companies on the governance of subsidiaries found that most parent companies and their boards view the whole group as one organisation. They tend to treat their subsidiaries as no different from that of a business division within the parent organisation and do not differentiate decision-making based on the legal subsidiary structure.

Parent companies seek to exercise appropriate control and influence over subsidiaries in a number of ways, depending upon the ownership structure and jurisdictional requirements.

They may nominate or appoint directors or employees of the holding company to the subsidiary boards. They may identify a senior executive in the holding company to develop and roll out subsidiary-level policies and procedures. The group's internal audit function may then assess compliance of the subsidiary policies and procedures and report back to the holding company's board.

That said, there are instances where the parent would not be able to impose all of its governance practices on its subsidiaries due to differences in legal and regulatory requirements, business cultures, and other practices.

Acquired subsidiaries with embedded cultures require substantial time and effort before the new parent may impose its culture and governance practices onto the subsidiaries.

If a subsidiary is not wholly owned, the holding company has to deal with sometimes competing interests or priorities of the joint-venture partner or co-owner in the management and operations of the subsidiaries concerned.


Regardless of the degree of ownership or control over the subsidiary, when it comes to governance, it is useful for the parent company to bear in mind that subsidiary boards have their own fiduciary responsibilities.

The directors of a company are required to act in the best interests of that company, in an independent and objective manner. And there will be times when the interests of the subsidiary are at odds with those of the parent company.

Therein lies the dilemma for the board of a subsidiary. How much autonomy can it have when it is wholly or substantively owned by another corporation? How does it prevent the interests of a holding company taking precedence over those of the subsidiary, especially when there are other shareholders?

The dilemma is particularly acute for the directors who are nominees of the parent company. Nominee directors have principal-agent or employer- employee relationships via their appointers, and thus owe obligations that are governed by agency or contract law.

Yet, these nominee directors have the same fiduciary duties owed to the subsidiary as the other directors. They thus face a greater inherent risk of breaching those fiduciary duties when they act in line with their appointers' instructions in a way that may not be in the best interest of the subsidiary.


The 2009 edition of the King Report on Governance (known as "King III") recommended that a governance framework be agreed between the group and its subsidiary boards. The draft King IV report of 2016 (which is currently undergoing public consultation) has gone further to allocate responsibility for the implementation of a group governance framework to the holding company's board.

Such a governance framework should address areas such as:

• the delineation of the rights and role of the holding company,
• appropriate delegation of responsibilities by the subsidiary board to a board committee of the parent without abdicating accountability,
• the extent of governance and operational policies across the group,
• engagement by the holding companies with the subsidiary boards before electing directors to the subsidiary boards,
• duties and protection (including indemnities) for nominee directors, and<
• procedures to handle a breach of legal duty in relation of use of information obtained as a director.

A leading practice is for a parent organisation to categorise the importance of each of its subsidiaries, based on factors such as: its investment in the subsidiary; the subsidiary's strategic importance; the risk that the subsidiary poses to the group; and other factors including the maturity of the subsidiary's governance practices. The holding company could then establish the appropriate governance structures and practices for each subsidiary.

Every organisation with subsidiaries will need to determine its own unique framework and practices to govern both the parent and its subsidiaries. Regardless of how it is structured, it is essential that boards at both levels remain focused on their fiduciary duties to act in the best interests of their organisations.

The writer is a member of the Corporate Governance Guidebooks Committee of the Singapore Institute of Directors

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Despite growing non-accession, ICC deserves wide support

Business Times
29 Nov 2016

THE International Criminal Court (ICC) - which prosecutes cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity - has been taking some hard body blows lately. Human rights proponents fear the situation may lead to its unravelling.

The latest country to "unsign" is Russia. President Valdimir Putin's decision comes in the wake of decisions by South Africa, Gambia and Burundi to remove themselves from the jurisdiction of the ICC. Broadly speaking, the court can only act in countries that have acceded to the 1998 Rome Statute. Russia - which was a signatory to the statute that created the court but had not ratified it - now says that the ICC has "failed to meet expectations to become a truly independent authoritative international tribunal". Moscow further points out that there have been only a handful of successful prosecutions.

But those who excoriate Mr Putin seem to suffer from collective amnesia. Truth be told, Russia is emulating the United States' example in 2002 when then US president George W Bush also "unsigned" the statute just as he was planning the invasion and occupation of Iraq the following year. Just before his Iraqi adventure, Mr Bush conveniently discovered that membership of such a court would erode America's national sovereignty. Mr Putin might be concerned about the court's reaction to Russia's activities in Ukraine, or possibly in Syria.

The African nations quit because they felt that the court had become a neo-colonial instrument to push around poor countries while war crimes by rich Western countries went unscrutinised and unpunished. The push for African withdrawal arose after the court tried to prosecute Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy. The case against them collapsed. Since then Kenya and several other African states have called for all 34 African signatories to pull out en-masse.

It is true that the court's first prosecutor, an Argentinian lawyer, focused on African crimes. And he took an overly narrow view about the court's remit after the US invasion of Iraq. But the current prosecutor, a Gambian, has been more even-handed. In her latest annual report, she noted that interrogation techniques of US military forces in Afghanistan, a member of the court, may have amounted to a war crime. Equally, she noted that indictable offences may have been taken place in the Crimea, which has been annexed by Russia, and in the Donbass region of Ukraine, the scene of an ongoing civil war between the Kiev forces and Russian-backed rebels.

Few countries in Asia are signatories. Neither India nor China contemplated signing on. Within Asean, only Cambodia and the Philippines are members. Cambodians, who lived through Pol Pot's genocidal nightmare, and Filipinos, who experienced the Marcos kleptocracy, had good reasons for their early decisions. Now President Rodrigo Duterte has indicated that Manila might vacate its membership as calls get louder for the ICC to investigate extra-judicial killings of 4,000 (and counting) suspected drug dealers.

So, does the ICC have a future? It is being argued, for instance, that even if the the court is limited in its reach, it can still draw attention to egregious misconduct by powerful leaders. Great powers hate the prospect of having their actions scrutinised and judged by a neutral and credible global agency. Thus, it may serve as a restraint on those who are wont to embark on foreign military adventures or on killing sprees at home.

Indeed, this court is among the few global agencies that attempt to uphold a rules-based international political order. It deserves everyone's support.

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ISR Capital plan draws fresh SGX queries

Straits Times
22 Nov 2016
Yasmine Yahya

Mainboard-listed ISR Capital's plan to acquire a stake in a mining concession has drawn yet another query from the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

This time, the bourse operator is questioning whether a new valuation report on the concession had been done in accordance with listing rules, saying it lacks pertinent information, among other things.

ISR said in two announcements in June and July that it planned to acquire a 60 per cent stake in Tantalum Holding (Mauritius) for $40 million. Tantalum owns a company called Tantalum Rare Earth Malagasy, which in turn holds a rare earths mining concession in Madagascar.

The SGX had queried the firm in July about the plan, raising concerns over the purchase price, as it was seven times the amount paid by the seller, REO Magnetic, just six months before.

The SGX said it was concerned over whether it was "fair and reasonable and in the interests of the company and its shareholders".

ISR's audit committee had responded that the price was fair and reasonable as it had taken into account the market valuation of the asset and technical reports.

However, the bourse operator said the valuation report, prepared by Geologica, did not meet listing rules requirements as it was prepared by a sole proprietor. ISR then appointed Al Maynard & Associates to prepare a new valuation report, and announced last month that it had valued the concession at US$1.1 billion (S$1.6 billion).

ISR also said yesterday it was appointing Mr Chen Tong, a mining and resources veteran, as executive chairman.

In its latest query, issued after the market closed yesterday, the SGX questioned whether the new valuation was done in accordance with listing rules.

It noted that Al Maynard had not conducted a site visit to prepare the valuation report, although the rules require one. The SGX also said the report did not disclose some important information that is required, like a discussion on the data collection, quality control for the mineral resource estimates, or how the mineral resource estimates were derived.

The regulator asked ISR to also disclose whether the cost of mining, processing or refining the rare earths elements had been taken into account in deriving at the US$1.1 billion valuation - or explain why not.

ISR has until tomorrow to respond to the query.

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

Cost of cert issuance for Lasting Power of Attorney is a hindrance: Voices

14 Nov 2016

I refer to the report “Lasting Power of Attorney applications still short of Govt’s goal: Chuan-Jin” (Nov 9).

While the Form 1 application fee has been waived, the cost of getting a certificate issuer such as a medical practitioner or lawyer to certify the form is the main hindrance to submitting applications. I hope the minister can look into this. I believe that S$50 is a reasonable amount to pay for such a simple certification.

Phuah Soon Ek

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Subsidiary proprietors should ensure proxies act in their interest: Forum

Straits Times
29 Nov 2016

The Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act provides a framework to allow management corporations, which comprise all subsidiary proprietors within a development, to manage their estates ("How much authority do AGM proxy forms afford?" by Mr Koh Kong Chia; Nov 23).

Under this framework, any subsidiary proprietor can appoint a proxy to represent him at a general meeting, as well as vote in the election of council members, if he is unable to do so in person.

Every subsidiary proprietor who appoints a proxy must do so in writing.

The Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act does not impose restrictions on the number of proxies a person can hold.

We are currently reviewing possible enhancements to the proxy system.

All this notwithstanding, all subsidiary proprietors should be prudent when appointing proxies, to ensure that those appointed are able to act in their best interests.

We encourage all subsidiary proprietors to attend general meetings personally so that they can discuss and vote on matters concerning their estate in the collective interest of their management corporations.

Lim Chong Yong


Building Management Department

Building Plan and Management Group

Building and Construction Authority

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

Swissco Holdings files for judicial management

Straits Times
22 Nov 2016
Jacqueline Woo

Marine firm's debt restructuring plan rejected by main lenders

Beleaguered marine firm Swissco Holdings applied to be placed under judicial management yesterday as it struggles to stay afloat amid a sea of red ink.

The move, which the rig and vessel chartering company heralded last week, was announced after markets closed yesterday.

The applications for Swissco, and its wholly-owned unit Swissco Offshore, to have an interim judicial manager appointed will likely be held in the coming days.

Swissco said last week that it would file for judicial management after its main lenders rejected its debt restructuring plan. The group's largest bank lender is United Overseas Bank, followed by DBS Bank.

The firm owes $255 million to seven banks, which it had planned to pay off through asset sales and the conversion of debt to equity.

Yesterday's announcement comes as another subsidiary of Swissco, Scott and English (S&E) Energy, received three statutory demands from joint venture partner Ezion Holdings earlier. Ezion wants to wind up the unit unless a US$522,113 (S$744,000) payment is made.

The statutory demands were related to claims arising from various joint ventures between S&E and Ezion for the ownership and management of certain rigs.

On top of that, Swissco owes bond holders $100 million in principal that would have come due in 2018.

"Hopefully the judicial manager can figure out what happened to this company over the last year and why the company did not surface all these issues until a week before the coupon payment was due," said a bond holder, who declined to be named.

Citing issues such as large dividend payouts and substantial increases in directors' fees, the bond holder added: "What were they doing last year when they were bleeding cash?"

Swissco had riled investors when it said just days ahead of a scheduled $2.85 million bond coupon payment on Oct 16 that it had only US$1.2 million in cash and no plan for its next course of action.

Swissco chairman Lim How Teck had noted that bond holders are likely to get very little in return when the company goes under judicial management, while shareholders can expect to get nothing.

Swissco's collapse comes as the energy sector tackles the most brutal oil-price downturn in 30 years.

The crunch has already claimed two casualties - Swiber Holdings and Technics Oil & Gas, which both filed for judicial management in July.

Swissco shares last traded at 5.2 cents on Oct 10 before trading was suspended. The group's market capitalisation stood at $35.1 million.


What were they doing last year when they were bleeding cash?


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

SGX publicly reprimands Foreland Fabrictech

Business Times
12 Nov 2016
Tan Hwee Hwee

[Singapore] SINGAPORE Exchange (SGX) in a Friday statement formally rebuked Foreland Fabrictech Holdings for failing to promptly announce a significant claim and putting in place a robust internal control to address financial, operational and compliance risks.

The public reprimand centred on 290 million yuan (S$60 million) paid as compensation by Foreland Fabrictech's unit Fulian to a customer, Jiangxi Longdu, for allegedly defective dyed textile.

Findings from an independent review released by Foreland Fabrictech this May cast doubts on the settlement and accounting for Fulian's claim towards the purported defect in the company's financial statements for FY2013.

SGX publicly reprimanded former executive chairman Tsoi Kin Chit and former executive director Zhang Hong Lai for failure in carrying out their fiduciary duties, causing the company to breach its obligations under the listing rules. SGX said Mr Tsoi, Mr Zhang and former non-executive director Chen Chao Ying have failed to act in the interests of shareholders as a whole.

SGX said the three former executives did not demonstrate the character and integrity expected of directors and management of SGX-listed companies. It also advised listed firms to consult SGX before they appoint Mr Tsoi, Mr Zhang and Mr Chen as a director or member of management.

SGX said, citing the independent review by BDO LLP, Mr Tsoi and Mr Zhang have caused the company to breach Listing Rule 703 under which an issuer is obligated to announce any information necessary to avoid the establishment of a false market or likely to materially affect the price or value of its securities.

Mr Tsoi and Mr Zhang stated the company received the claim from Jiangxi Longdu on Nov 17, 2013, but the announcement was made only one month later. They argued initial investigation and verification is needed before the announcement to avoid confusion to the public. But SGX said the company should have disclosed the significant claim promptly and updated the market on what actions it is taking.

SGX rapped Mr Tsoi and Mr Zhang for causing the company to breach Rule 719, which states an issuer is obliged to maintain a robust and effective system of internal controls, addressing financial, operational and compliance risks. The exchange noted serious lapses flagged by BDO pertaining to the lack of written records or correspondence and documentary evidence to substantiate Jiangsu Longdu's claims.

SGX also reprimanded Mr Tsoi and Mr Zhang for failing to exercise sufficient care and diligence to verify the veracity of the significant claims before paying off the amount, which depleted the company's cash balance. It noted that Mr Chen, though as a non-executive director and not involved in the day-to-day operation of the company, had voted with Mr Tsoi and Mr Zhang. The three resigned from their positions at Foreland Fabrictech in August following an independent review in May by BDO into the settlement and accounting of Jiangsu Longdu's claim against Fulian.

BDO was appointed on Jan 22, 2015, to perform an independent assessment following a disclaimer issued by the company's auditors in its FY2013 financial statement towards the claim. The auditor of the financial statement also raised doubts about the bank balance and fixed deposits of Fulian in excess of 292 million yuan included in the company's cash and cash equivalents.

Jiangxi Longdu had issued the claim on alleged defect on dyed textile delivered by Fulian in October 2013. Foreland Fabrictech's board reached a decision to settle the claim after reviewing an appraisal report by Fujian Huatie Certified Public Accounting Firm.

A dispute over the board's decision led to the resignation of Foreland Fabrictech's then-independent director and audit committee chairman Lim Siang Kai. Mr Lim had insisted the company engage a Singapore-based lawyer and a Singapore or Hong Kong-based professional appraiser to review and evaluate the claim.

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

ADV: Sweet & Maxwell: Updates on 50% of Procedure Orders by Judges and Lawyers

Singapore Law Watch
29 Nov 2016
Sweet & Maxwell

ADV: Centre for Maritime Law, Faculty of Law, NUS – Post-doctoral Fellow, Maritime

Singapore Law Watch
22 Nov 2016
National University of Singapore

IP: From sword-and-shield approach to tool for cooperation

Straits Times
12 Nov 2016
Lim Chuan Poh & Suresh Sachi

Intellectual property is best used to spur open innovation that benefits even SMEs and excite economic growth

With slower economic growth becoming the new normal, countries increasingly look to research, innovation and enterprise plans as strategic levers.

Companies on their part are leveraging innovation to diversify and achieve sustainable growth. They are also seeking collaborations to derive synergies from a broader suite of competencies and expertise. The goal? New solutions to problems humanity faces, and new markets.

An example of this is the move by GlaxoSmithKline to team up with Alphabet, Google's parent company, to tackle chronic conditions like arthritis, asthma and diabetes, and work on research in bioelectronics or electroceuticals. This is a new area of therapeutics that requires expertise in biology and miniature implants. Both companies established Galvani Bioelectronics to develop and commercialise bioelectronics medicines, investing in intellectual property (IP) and up to �540 million (S$957 million) over a seven-year period.

Such innovative enterprises that take advantage of intellectual assets are set to power the global economy in the future, with IP playing a critical role.


Organisations used to adopt a sword-and-shield approach to exploiting IP but that is increasingly at odds with the shift towards open innovation.

An example of the old approach is the ongoing patent dispute over CRISPR-Cas9, a gene-editing technology, between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Broad Institute at one end, and the University of California, Berkeley, at the other. This case is now before the US Patent and Trademark Office.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a bacterial defence system that allows scientists to disable, replace, or tweak genes and rewrite snippets of DNA sequences. Its relative simplicity and versatility has resulted in its adoption and proliferation in research. Over the last three years, more than US$300 million (S$423 million) in venture capital funding has gone into start-ups to further develop the technology for generating improved crops, research reagents and therapies for human genetic diseases. That is in spite of clinical trials of CRISPR-Cas9 still being many years away and the uncertainty from the ongoing legal dispute.

The case, a rare example of a patent dispute between academic institutions, demonstrates the traditional approach of using IP as the law intends - as a compact between the state and the rights owner, where the latter is given a monopoly to use and commercially exploit the IP to the exclusion of others.

This approach is being challenged. Disruptive technologies, new business models and the advent of open innovation have changed the way corporations view the development, ownership, use and protection of IP.


Corporations are increasingly receptive to the idea that IP rights are not just a legal tool, but should in fact be integrated with their business strategy.

However, without a clear strategy for monetisation, IP may only garner short-term gains such as the initial valuation of the corporation. Very quickly, management and investors will find that IP is a costly asset. If there is no clear commercial pathway to profit, maintaining the patents will be a significant drain on precious resources.

A corporation does not need to develop and own all the IP it requires for its business. Global successes like Google and Genentech licensed university technologies and went on to develop more IP in-house and in partnership with others. Companies must differentiate between IP that is fundamental to their business and which they must develop and own, and IP which they tap on a non-exclusive basis or need only a limited exclusive licence for. That can help to lower their costs of business. They should also consider what IP can be co-created with partners, be these public institutions like the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) or other corporations.

Further innovation then lies in devising new and exciting products and services from this bundle of rights, acquired from multiple sources. By adopting open innovation, corporations can access capabilities and technologies in public research institutions and institutes of higher learning without having to bear the developmental costs themselves.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation's (Wipo) first World IP Report in 2011 highlighted the emergence and shift towards such open innovation strategies. These included new modes of thinking about the role of patents and how they could be used flexibly by companies.

According to recent World Bank reports, over the past 20 years, global royalty and licensing fees have grown at the rate of over 80 per cent a year, reflecting that collaborations among companies worldwide have ballooned. A.T. Kearney's report, Collaborative Innovation In Digital Europe, states that seven in 10 of respondents expected more than a quarter of revenues to be generated through collaborative innovation by 2030.

What that reflects is a big shift from the traditional approach of IP as a monopoly right for exclusion to IP as part of a collaborative strategy for mutual benefit. With this shift, IP awareness and management must move from the general counsel's office to the boardroom and the C-suite.


Singapore recognises that a one-size-fits-all approach towards IP does not always result in the best outcome for innovation and growth. Our public sector's economic agencies leverage open innovation to strengthen Singapore's key industry clusters and grow new ones. We do this by exercising flexibility in our approach when it comes to IP ownership, use and access rights. We also consider the nature of the collaboration and the needs of our industry partners, which include multinational corporations, large local enterprises, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups.

For example, through the A*Star Aerospace Research Consortium, leading players in aerospace and aviation, local companies and A*Star research institutes collaborate in pre-competitive research with ready access to the IP arising from the consortium projects. This enables the industry to develop R&D expertise and contributes to Singapore's competitive edge over other aviation hubs in the region.

In drug development, licensing helps companies grow and gets drugs to the market. Local biotech company Aslan Pharmaceuticals exclusively licensed an immuno-oncology antibody from A*Star's p53 Laboratory and will develop it further to advance treatment of cancer types prevalent in Asia. This will help the company fast-track the process of moving the drug from clinical development to market.

Smart use of IP can also be a key business advantage for SMEs, allowing them to adopt emerging technologies to gain a competitive edge. The government supports local SMEs in this endeavour. Initiatives such as the annual IP Week and Global Forum on IP run by the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore are valuable platforms to raise awareness of how IP drives innovation.

Visit the Timbre+ food hall at one-north and you will be using the radio frequency identification (RFID) tray-return system, a result of work by Tunity Technologies, an RFID solutions company, and its collaboration with the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech). The system has helped to reduce manpower costs and spurred the majority of diners to return their trays.

More than 70 per cent of the more than 1,000 technology licences signed with A*Star between 2011 and last year have gone to SMEs and start-ups. These efforts were amplified through platforms such as A*Star's GET-Up, Technology Adoption Programme and Headstart.

The Headstart licensing programme grants SME collaborators an exclusive, royalty-free licence for the first 18 months to start with. This provides access to practical and affordable technology and first-mover advantage, encouraging companies to participate in further R&D to create their own products and solutions.

Worldwide, the licensing of technologies is increasingly becoming the norm. The Association of University Technology Managers Annual Licensing Survey estimates that 6,900 licence agreements were closed by universities, research institutions, and hospitals in 2014, up from 4,900 in 2005. Closer to home, A*Star's licensing numbers to companies grew from 40 in 2006 to 1,250 last year.

As a small country with scarce natural resources, Singapore's economic survival will increasingly depend on how well we are able to leverage our talent and intellectual assets. IP is a critical link in the innovation value chain. Just as critical is the need to steward what we have created with public funds to achieve greater economic outcomes and societal benefits for Singapore.

• Lim Chuan Poh is chairman of A*Star; and Suresh Sachi is deputy managing director and general counsel at A*Star.

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

ADV: Centre for Maritime Law, Faculty of Law, NUS – Post-doctoral Fellow, Maritime Law

Singapore Law Watch
29 Nov 2016
National University of Singapore

Time for SGX to relook its trading structure?

Straits Times
21 Nov 2016
Goh Eng Yeow

Useful to see if further changes to board lot sizes, bid-offer spread can boost retail participation

For almost a month now, daily stock turnover has climbed back to the $1 billion-plus level.

This is a boon for stock dealers, following one of the quietest periods for the local stock market in years.

In fact, interest was so lacklustre that as recently as early last month, overall stock market turnover fell to a mere $626 million on one day.

Transaction levels this low are usually seen only on festive occasions such as Christmas Eve, when the market opens for half a day.

Still, one big question at the back of stock dealers' minds is whether this renewed investor interest in the stock market is sustainable.

Singapore Exchange data shows that turnover velocity on the local bourse is about 35 to 40 per cent in recent months. This is a far cry from other major stock markets such as New York where turnover velocity is 165 per cent. Tokyo is also much higher, with a turnover velocity of 113 per cent, and even Hong Kong has a turnover velocity of 65 per cent.

They understand that a vital attribute of any market is the ability to buy or sell shares easily. They measure this by what is known as turnover velocity, which tracks how frequently a stock changes hands.

Singapore Exchange (SGX) data shows that turnover velocity on the local bourse is about 35 to 40 per cent in recent months.

This is a far cry from other major stock markets such as New York where turnover velocity is 165 per cent. Tokyo is also much higher, with a turnover velocity of 113 per cent, and even Hong Kong has a turnover velocity of 65 per cent.

To try to give a fillip to stock trading, the SGX has introduced a slew of measures.

One of the most significant changes was the move to cut the board lot size from 1,000 units to 100 units almost two years ago.

And if investors have to fork out a smaller sum to buy shares because of the smaller board lot sizes, it is also reasonable to assume that there should be an increase in trading activities as more of them are attracted to the stock market.

That does not seem to have panned out at all. Of course, there may be other reasons accounting for the lacklustre interest in the local stock market, but having smaller board lot sizes has not nudged turnover velocity in a significant way. True, reducing the board lot size has helped to push up investor penetration in heavyweight blue chips which had long been out of the reach of ordinary investors.

Take DBS Group Holdings. When the board lot size was 1,000 units, an investor would have to fork out about $16,400 just to purchase one lot of the lender's stock. But with the reduction of the board lot size to 100 units, his outlay is now just over $1,640 if he wishes to gain exposure to the stock.

As a result, ownership of DBS shares has shot up by 50 per cent in the past two years to more than 66,000 shareholders. This is mostly due to a big jump in the number of shareholders holding fewer than 1,000 shares.

There is one snag though. Ownership of shares in household names such as DBS is now much more widespread among retail investors, and this may have helped to boost trading interest in them. But this may have diverted investor interest away from the rest of the market and stifled trading of stocks that are priced considerably lower. These smaller stocks do not enjoy the attention blue chips get from other market participants such as fund managers.

So, what could have explained the dearth in investor interest in the broader stock market?

One big problem is that brokerage charges for retail investors have not fallen in tandem with the reduction in board lot sizes from 1,000 units to 100 units.

As it stands, most brokerage firms still charge around 0.25 per cent of the contract value, subject to a minimum transaction fee of $25 for each trade done online by their clients. For broker-assisted trades, the brokerage fee starts at a heftier $40 and can go to as high as 0.5 per cent of the contract value.

For retail investors, this makes Singapore an expensive market for stock transactions, even though the smaller lot size is supposed to give them an incentive to buy shares because of the smaller outlay involved. Instead, this has made them unwilling to venture into the stock market. Reader Ong Poh Seng wrote: "Does it make sense to trade in small lots of 100 shares in stocks that have stock prices as low as 30 cents a share? Financially, it does not because the transaction fees will wipe out the value of such small-value trades."

Related to high stock transaction cost is another problem: What happens if the purchase order you made is only partially filled?

To explain a partially fulfilled order, consider this example: Suppose you key in an order to buy 500 shares in a stock trading at $10. If your order is fulfilled, your transaction fee would work out to about $25, or 0.5 per cent of the contract value.

But if the stock turns out to be illiquid, and you end up buying only 100 shares, your transaction fee stays at $25. But in percentage terms, it would have worked out to be 2.5 per cent of the contract value, a hefty cost for a stock transaction.

Now, what happens if the stock is priced even more cheaply at, say, 30 cents? If a buyer manages to get only 100 shares of his purchase order, the $25 that he pays for his transaction will almost be equivalent to the $30 payment to be made on the share purchase.

With all these considerations in mind, it is not surprising to find retail investors avoiding stocks that are not actively traded.

It then becomes a chicken-and-egg situation. Because there is not much liquidity in these stocks, investors avoid them. This, in turn, leads to a further decrease in their trading activity and a further dampening of investors' appetite for their shares.

What can be done? It would be good if brokerages could be persuaded to reduce their transaction fees to accommodate the smaller board lot sizes, but there is only so much they can do, given the overheads they have to bear.

There is, however, one observation worth highlighting.

Five to six years ago, the turnover velocity in the local stock market was a healthy 50 to 60 per cent - comparable to markets such as Sydney and Hong Kong.

In the intervening period, changes were made to improve trading liquidity. These changes included reducing the board lot size to 100 units and cutting the bid-offer spread - the minimum difference between a buyer's bid and a seller's offer - for stocks priced below 20 cents to just 0.1 cent from 0.5 cent.

But the irony is that despite the changes, turnover velocity in the local stock market has fallen.

Unlike New York or London where retail participation is minuscule and stock trading is dominated by high-frequency traders and institutional investors, retail participation on the local stock market still accounts for up to one-quarter of daily trading, according to stock dealers.

In this light, surely it would be worthwhile for the SGX to take another look at its trading structure to examine if further adjustments need to be made to board lot sizes and the bid-offer spread to encourage retail participation.

Food for thought.

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

Ex-banker denies witness-tampering charges, downplays Jho Low links

Straits Times
12 Nov 2016
Grace Leong

His former superior, Yak Yew Chee, became the first person convicted in the 1MDB probe

Former banker Yeo Jiawei denied charges of witness tampering and downplayed his links with Mr Low Taek Jho, the elusive Malaysian tycoon caught up in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.

Yeo, who is facing four counts of obstruction of justice, told the court yesterday that he had never been employed by Mr Low, better known as Jho Low, nor had he ever "received a single cent" from the high-living financier.

Mr Low, his close associate Eric Tan Kim Loong and Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny have been named as key "persons of interest" by the Singapore authorities in connection with its 1MDB probe.

While Yeo was testifying in another court, his former superior, Yak Yew Chee, a former BSI private banker to Mr Low, became the first person convicted in the 1MDB probe. Yak pleaded guilty yesterday to four of seven charges, including forging documents and failing to flag suspicious transactions allegedly related to Low.

In court yesterday, Yeo called himself an "intermediary", an "independent consultant" and a "business introducer", instead of a key figure facilitating an illicit scheme siphoning billions of dollars from the Malaysian fund.

In response to questions from his lawyer, Mr Philip Fong, Yeo claimed that he never told his former boss, Mr Kevin Swampillai, who was BSI's head of wealth management services, that he was going to work for Mr Low. He also denied receiving a $500,000-a-year job offer from Mr Low.

"My last annual pay at BSI was $450,000. If I was going to join Jho Low, I won't be asking for just $50,000 more," he said.

Yeo added that Mr Low was just a client who wanted to set up a trust.

He also addressed a prosecution photo that showed Yeo travelling in a private jet to Hong Kong with Mr Low. Yeo said he "sneaked the photo" because he "got carried away" as it was his first time on a private jet.

"If I was close to Low, I won't be sitting on the very end (of the plane) sneaking a photo. I will probably be having a selfie with him."

He said he spent just five minutes on the private jet talking to Mr Low about trusts that could be set up through financial firm Amicorp.

Yeo disputed claims that he allegedly told Amicorp relationship manager Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto to get rid of his laptop, which would likely contain evidence of Yeo's dealings with Amicorp, and to "not travel to Singapore to avoid being interviewed" by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

"I told him I was pulled up for questioning by CAD, and out of goodwill I told him if he came by Singapore, be prepared to be held up like me. I don't have intention to tell him to lie, cheat and hide something from CAD," Yeo said.

Yeo is also facing charges that he told his associate, Mr Samuel Goh Sze Wei, to lie to police that the funds Mr Goh transferred to companies owned by Yeo and Mr Swampillai were his investments. Yeo, disputing this, said: "It's not entirely fair because I was taking instructions from Mr Swampillai, who organised the meeting with Sam. It was Mr Swampillai telling Sam to do that."

He also disputed Mr Goh's testimony that he was doing everything on Yeo's instructions. "I bring in the clients, but Sam handles the operational part of the business.

"If I really wanted somebody to be a robot and sign whatever I sign, I can easily get a nominee director who will cost $1,000 to $2,000 a year. Why go into a partnership with a robot? It doesn't make sense."

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

Further hearing on cat's death dispute

Straits Times
28 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

S'pore buyer was awarded $10.6k but Aussie panel orders new hearing after seller appeals

A Singapore woman, awarded A$10,000 (S$10,625) when a cat she bought from Australia fell ill and had to be put down, has been told she will have to await a further hearing, after the seller appealed.

Ms Ruth Chai bought a rag doll cat in May 2014 but it fell ill less than a month later and had to be euthanised on Sept 7 that year.

At issue was whether the kitten was ill at the time of purchase, which meant compensation would be payable to the buyer for breach of contract. Ms Chai won A$10,000 for the cost of the kitten, its transportation to Singapore and vet bills during the cat's illness.

However, an appeal panel in New South Wales ruled it was unfair for the tribunal which heard the case in January to have made the award in the absence of the Australian seller, Mrs Fay Waters, from Sydney.

Rag doll cats have blue eyes, semi-long hair, a soft and silky coat and are known for their docile temperament and affectionate nature.

Ms Chai, who has taken part in events run by the Feline Fanciers Society of Singapore, had recorded in a Facebook posting in June 2014 that the cat was getting better after being treated by "one of Singapore's best (if not the best) vets".

She had appeared before the appeal panel by telephone at its hearing on Sept 14 and filed a "voluminous reply" to Mrs Waters' claims.

Mrs Waters had argued the cat was examined three times by three qualified vets before its departure from Australia and was found to be fit, healthy and free from any illness.

She added that even the reports provided by Ms Chai from two doctors in Singapore showed negative returns on the relevant tests, which were done almost eight weeks after the cat left Australia.

As it takes four weeks post-infection for feline infectious peritonitis to be detected, she said, "it is impossible for the cat to have been suffering from the corona virus or FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) prior to leaving Australia". The virus must have been contracted after its arrival and "most significantly well after all of my responsibilities had ceased", Mrs Waters added.

The appeal panel also noted that Mrs Waters had in earlier submissions explained she was in no condition to attend the January hearing because of the major traumatic disorder and personal distress she suffered following her husband's suicide seven months earlier and her son's attempted suicide, for which she received medical care.

The appeal panel held there is a "live issue" between the parties as to whether the cat was infected with the disease at the time it was shipped to Ms Chai and the failure to accord "procedural fairness" to Mrs Waters deprived her of the chance of a possible successful outcome.

The tribunal informed Ms Chai the January hearing was meant to "conciliate between the parties and make procedural directions only".

"It was manifestly unfair for the tribunal to determine the proceedings adversely (for Mrs Waters) in her absence when all she could reasonably have expected would happen at the hearing on Jan 11, 2016 was that procedural directions would be made," the appeal panel said in decision grounds issued earlier this month.

Mrs Waters had been notified of the hearing last December, had sought an adjournment but was refused and told the Jan 11 hearing would proceed as indicated.

The two-member appeal panel of the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal ordered the case to be remitted to the Consumer and Commercial Division.

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

Paying stamp duty on property not as easy as 1-2-3

Straits Times
20 Nov 2016
Lorna Tan

Nothing is certain but death and taxes, as the saying goes, but some of us still have difficulty getting those taxes, particularly stamp duty payments, right.

Ignorance is not bliss; the penalties for committing mistakes can be costly. Documents that are not stamped or those with an insufficient stamp duty can attract penalties of up to four times the undercharged amount.

Stamp duty is paid on documents or agreements relating to immovable property such as tenancy or lease agreements, acceptance of options to purchase, and sale and purchase agreements. Duty is also payable on share transactions.

One of the most high-profile levies is the Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) introduced in December 2011 to help cool the property market. This levy is paid on top of the existing buyer's stamp duty. The rate depends on whether the buyer is a Singapore citizen, a permanent resident, a foreigner or an entity like a trustee. The number of residential properties the buyer owns is also factored in.

An ABSD of 7 per cent to 10 per cent is imposed for Singaporeans buying their second or subsequent properties. Foreigners pay more.

Close to 40 out of 437 stamp duty audit cases uncovered in the three years to March 31 this year involved non-compliance of the ABSD, said the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras).

To ensure you do not get tripped up by these levies, The Sunday Times highlights common mistakes that property owners and buyers should steer clear of when paying stamp duty. Fictitious names are used in the cases cited.

Stamp duty

The good news is that during that same period, more than 90 per cent of taxpayers complied with stamp duty requirements.

The taxman takes a strong stance against non-compliance and its auditing programmes have been successful in identifying non-compliant cases involving significant stamp duty amounts.

Iras recovered about $21 million in taxes and penalties from stamp duty audits in the three years to March 31.

"The minority who did not comply were mostly those who failed to stamp or were late in stamping their documents, or did not pay the correct amount of stamp duty due to incorrect computation," said Iras. "For example, the stamp duty is computed based on purchase price which is far below the market value of the property."

Non-compliance has also been uncovered in areas such as gift transfers and trust arrangements. The cases reflect taxpayers' lack of understanding of stamp duty requirements. And some taxpayers were wrongly advised by their lawyers and agents.

Common scenarios of non-compliance


Stamp duty should be based on the market value when a property is transferred by way of gift. Real-life case: Mr Allan Poh executed a document to transfer his property by way of gift to his son. Instead of stamping the document based on the market value, the document was wrongly stamped based on how much the father charged, which was $1 in this case. What you should do: As a recipient of a gift property, you are liable to pay stamp duty. Ensure that the document is adequately stamped based on the property's reasonable market value.


There have been cases where tenancy agreements were not stamped for rental of rooms, rental of whole units and renewal of leases.

Stamp duty is payable on signed documents for subletting and/or renewal of lease. Usually, tenants are responsible for paying the stamp duty unless otherwise stated in the tenancy or lease agreements.

What you should do: Tenants should ensure tenancy agreements for rental of rooms or whole units and lease renewals are stamped.


Some taxpayers indicated ignorance, or did not inform their lawyers of other residential properties that they own. This resulted in the wrong ABSD rate being applied.

As the ABSD rate depends on the number of residential properties owned, buyers should consider all such properties in the property count, including those that are:

•Completed or under construction;

•Owned wholly by the buyer or jointly with others;

•Transferred to the buyer by way of gift or inheritance; and

•Held in trust where the buyer is the beneficiary stated in the trust instruments.

Real-life case: Mr Edward Tay did not pay the ABSD on the purchase of his third residential property. He claimed that he was unaware of his joint ownership in two other homes that were transferred to him from his late parents.

Real-life case: Mr Dominic Lee did not pay the ABSD on the purchase of his second residential property, claiming that he had already transferred ownership of his HDB flat to his son. However, HDB records reflected that the flat was still jointly owned by Mr Lee, his wife and their son.

Real-life case: When Ms Agnes Koh bought her second residential property, she thought the ABSD was not applicable as she had already discharged her loan for her first property, an HDB flat. However, the ABSD is not dependent on the number of loans outstanding but the number of residential properties owned.

Real-life case: Ms Vicky Tan did not pay the ABSD on the purchase of her second residential property, which was under construction. She thought the duty was payable at the point the development received its Temporary Occupation Permit.

In these cases, penalties of up to two times the amount of duty the buyer failed to pay were imposed.

What buyers should do: You can seek advice from your lawyers or Iras to determine your total property count.


There were instances where buyers regarded mixed-used properties as commercial properties and so mistakenly thought the ABSD would not apply. In mixed-used properties such as HDB shops with living quarters, the ABSD applies to the portion deemed residential.

Real-life case: Singaporean Jimmy Low owned two residential properties and bought an HDB shop with living quarters on the second floor.

An Iras audit found he paid only the 3 per cent buyer's stamp duty. He claimed that the HDB shop was a commercial property and would not attract the ABSD.

However,the duty applied to the living quarters on the second storey. Mr Low had to pay an additional stamp duty of 10 per cent and a penalty of two times the amount of the ABSD that he had failed to pay.

What buyers should do: You can verify your ABSD obligations with Iras or your lawyers for the purchase of mixed-use properties, buildings under construction and vacant land or entire building with land.


Intermediaries such as property agents and lawyers have given inaccurate advice on the ABSD to their clients.

Real-life case: Singaporean Larry Lim bought his second residential property and signed the sale and purchase agreement on June 11, 2013. The ABSD was payable at 7 per cent but his lawyer had referred to outdated rules and failed to advise him that the duty was payable.

After an Iras audit, Mr Lim was asked to pay the ABSD of 7 per cent. His lawyer agreed to pay the penalty of two times the amount of ABSD undercharged due to his negligence.

Iras said: "Intermediaries who handle conveyance matters for their clients have to be familiar with prevailing stamp duty policies and rates.

"They are responsible for ensuring that they provide correct advice on ABSD liability based on the date of document, permitted use/ zoning, count of residential properties owned and the residency status of their clients."

Iras encourages intermediaries to do a self-review of past cases to check if stamp duty obligations were fulfilled accurately.

What intermediaries should do: You should be familiar with the prevailing stamp duty policies and rates to correctly advise your clients.

What buyers should do: You have to be more careful when engaging intermediaries to handle your property transactions. You should conduct self-checks on ABSD rules on the Iras website.


It is a crime for any individual or business to deliberately forge stamp certificates and knowingly misrepresent counterfeit "certificates" as genuine. The maximum punishment is jail of up to three years or a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

Iras advises potential property buyers and tenants to check the authenticity of the stamp certificates in their possession by visiting the e-Stamping website at https://estamping.iras.gov.sg

An authentic certificate should bear the full details: the stamp duty payment, description of the document, address of the property, stamp duty amount and date of the document.

All these details, including the Stamp Certificate Reference Number, should match the information on the e-Stamping website.

Iras said: "Although stamp duty is usually paid by property buyers and tenants, sellers and landlords should also request copies of stamp certificates and verify them online to protect their own interests. For instance, in the event of legal disputes, the document must be duly stamped before it can be admitted as evidence in court."

What you should do: Ensure that your stamp certificates are authentic by referring to the e-Stamping website.

Find out more about stamp duty

Information on stamp duty as well as the e-Tax Guide Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty (ABSD) on Purchase of Residential Properties can be found on the Iras website. Contact Iras on 1800-460-4923 or e-mail estamp@iras.gov.sg for assistance on e-Stamping.

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

Jho Low's ex-BSI relationship manager jailed and fined

Business Times
12 Nov 2016
Claire Huang

[Singapore] YAK Yew Chee, the former relationship manager of Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and former managing director of Swiss bank BSI, has been handed a jail term of 18 weeks and fined S$24,000 by a Singapore State Court.

It came after Yak, 57, on Friday pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery and two counts of failing to disclose suspicious transactions linked to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) probe. Three other charges were taken into consideration for purposes of sentencing.

Yak was the banker in charge of the 1MDB account at BSI bank.

In delivering the sentence, deputy presiding judge Jennifer Marie said she considered the mitigating factors, which included "the accused's contriteness, his willingness to disgorge a substantial sum (S$7.5 million) of his bonuses that had been seized in the course of investigations, his forthright acceptance of his criminal culpability, his lack of previous antecedents and assurance to render further assistance to the ongoing investigations by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD)".

Judge Marie said she also considered the aggravating factors highlighted by the prosecution, including the fact that the impugned conduct involved bank documents and "there was a gross abuse of trust" by Yak, who was a senior private banker.

The offence, carried out over a two-year period, was for "significant personal gains", she noted.

"It is imperative that the public confidence in the integrity of Singapore's banking and financial industry is zealously protected. Any sentence imposed must ensure that the reputation and standing of Singapore as an international financial and commercial hub is not compromised," said Judge Marie.

She added that there is a clear need for the court to send a strong signal to the public and errant bankers in particular.

Prosecutor Leong Weng Tat in his submissions on sentencing said that while he was not seeking consecutive sentences, Yak had breached the law for personal gain so he could have an advantage to please his client, Mr Low. He also stressed that the offences were committed for personal gain.

But Yak's lawyer, Lee Teck Leng, said during mitigation that his client did not know and had no grounds to believe that Mr Low was involved in criminal conduct. He pointed out that Yak admits that he has "fallen short of the highest standards expected from bankers in Singapore" and that "his failings as a banker had brought disrepute to Singapore's financial system".

Mr Low has been named by CAD as a "key person of interest" in the trial of ex-BSI banker Yeo Jiawei, which is ongoing. Widely linked to the 1MDB saga, Mr Low has previously denied any wrongdoing.

On Friday, a separate court heard from Yeo that he did not work for Mr Low. Yeo, who was testifying in his defence, said he has "never received a single cent from Jho Low before".

The accused's evidence came after prosecution witness and his former BSI supervisor Kevin Swampillai testified on Nov 1 that Yeo usually addressed Mr Low as "boss". Mr Swampillai had also testified that Yeo is believed to have worked for Mr Low after leaving BSI.

On Friday morning, Yeo, 33, who is on trial for allegations of obstructing justice in the 1MDB corruption and money-laundering probe, also dismissed evidence of another prosecution witness, ex-Income distribution chief Samuel Goh Sze-Wei, as "not true".

Previously, Mr Goh had told the court that Yeo had instructed him to destroy documents as the CAD investigation into their dealings had heated up.

Mr Goh was a director of Bridge Capital Absolute Return Fund, the Cayman Islands-registered fund in which 1MDB had invested in 2012, that was managed by Bridge Partners, according to media reports.

The court on Friday heard from Yeo that Mr Goh is an experienced individual in the financial industry and that as director of a fund, has to liaise with banks and be an administrator.

"So it's not true that everything he does must be instructed by me," said Yeo, who added that if he just wanted someone to be a rubber stamp, he could have found a director who was paid much less.

During the defence's examination of Yeo, the accused also told the court that Mr Goh, Mr Swampillai and Amicorp staff Pinto Jose Renato Carvalho were pushing blame to him and that it was "unfair".

Amicorp Fund Services, part of Amicorp Group, is one of several fund managers that allegedly managed 1MDB-related funds.

The court also heard from Yeo that the March 2016 Swiss Club meeting, where Yeo, Mr Swampillai and Mr Goh allegedly met up to align their stories to the CAD, was called by Mr Swampillai and not by the accused.

Later in the day, during prosecution's cross-examination, Yeo agreed that he was "more than an introducer" in the dealings but disagreed with the prosecution's point that he was more than a relationship manager.

The trial continues next Wednesday.

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

Compliance staff in demand as banks step up crime detection

Straits Times
28 Nov 2016
Rachael Boon

The search for compliance staff in Singapore continues to intensify as banks and financial institutions remain under pressure to improve crime detection, said a leading recruitment firm.

Astbury Marsden told The Straits Times that the growing demand has led to salaries for financial crime compliance roles rising an average 6 per cent to 10 per cent in the past 12 months.

Its research showed that the average annual basic salary for an assistant vice-president in financial crime compliance is $95,000.

That doubles to $190,000 for a vice-president role in the same area, and $300,000 for a director.

The firm noted that, in some cases, salaries for niche roles such as anti-money laundering transaction monitoring, sanctions and screening for "politically exposed persons" have risen by an average 15 per cent over the same period.

Ms Kate Silaeva, risk and compliance manager at Astbury Marsden, said: "Financial crime is now firmly at the top of the agenda for financial institutions across the world - and Singapore is no exception.

"The introduction of new regulations has caused a steady increase of compliance staff in Singapore's banks and financial institutions as they look to grow their compliance functions; and with demand increasing, so too are the salaries for these roles."

The firm highlighted a recent report about Singapore by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based inter-governmental body tackling money-laundering threats to the global financial system.

While government bodies here are working well together to fight money laundering and terrorism financing, they can still improve, said the FATF report.

Recent actions and investigations by Singapore into complex transnational cases, such as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad case, show that there is "the need for financial institutions in Singapore to increase their protection against financial crime", said Astbury Marsden.

The recruitment firm added that the Monetary Authority of Singapore has already taken steps to tighten regulations to reduce the risk of financial crime.

It also said the Government has introduced professional conversion programmes, allowing professionals to move into areas of demand, such as compliance.

Ms Silaeva said that such programmes mean that "financial service professionals can benefit from salary increases by reskilling for more in-demand areas".

She added: "Not only is financial crime increasing but it is also getting more complex and, therefore, firms are looking to recruit compliance, risk and technology professionals with a range of expertise and backgrounds."

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

Ex-principal loses appeal, begins 4-week jail term

Straits Times
19 Nov 2016

Former River Valley High School (RVHS) principal Koh Yong Chiah began a four-week jail term yesterday after losing an appeal against his sentence for lying to a Ministry of Education (MOE) officer.

The 61-year-old had falsely claimed that he was not having an extramarital affair with a vendor to whom he awarded millions of dollars in school contracts.

A High Court panel of three judges found that the case justified a custodial term as "appreciable harm" was caused by Koh's offence - even though there was no finding of actual corruption or misuse of public funds.

"By concealing his affair... and passively maintaining the falsehood, the appellant was allowed to undermine the integrity of the procurement process and confidence in the public service, especially since the conflict of interest went undetected for a long period of time," Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin said, delivering the judgment.

The court, which also comprised Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon, accepted that Koh's motive for lying was not to cover up the procurement improprieties, or to enable the perpetration of more procurement improprieties for his lover's benefit.

Defence lawyer Eric Tin had argued that Koh had lied because he was "overwhelmed by the embarrassment" of being confronted with his extramarital affair.

But the court pointed out that even if Koh was embarrassed, the least he could have done was to remove himself from the position of conflict of interest. Instead, Koh continued signing off contracts awarded to his lover's companies.

Koh, who had been principal of four schools since 1995, gave false information to a senior MOE officer who was looking into an anonymous complaint that he was having an affair with Ms Ivy Loke Wai Lin.

Koh was then principal of Jurong Junior College (JJC) and Ms Loke was a director of a company that was bidding for contracts and provided services to it.

Koh and Ms Loke, now 55, met in 2000 while he was the principal of Chinese High School (CHS). Their first sexual encounter was during a CHS community service trip to Lijiang, China, in 2001. Both were married.

From May to November 2005, as the final approving authority for JJC's contracts, Koh awarded six contracts worth $162,491 to her company, Education Architects.

On Nov 24, 2005, when cluster superintendent Chia Ban Tin asked Koh whether he was having an affair with Ms Loke, he denied it.

After the interview, Koh continued to award contracts to Ms Loke's companies.

As JJC principal, he approved another 48 contracts to Ms Loke's company.

As RVHS principal, he awarded 39 contracts to another of her companies, Education Incorporation.

Between 2005 and 2012, he approved $3.2 million worth of contracts to both her firms.

Koh was dismissed from public service with effect from Sept 14.

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

ADV: Centre for Maritime Law, Faculty of Law, NUS – Post-doctoral Fellow, Maritime Law

Singapore Law Watch
12 Nov 2016
National University of Singapore

Top corporate lawyer picked as new A-G

Straits Times
26 Nov 2016
Danson Cheong

Top corporate lawyer Lucien Wong, 63, will take over as Attorney-General from Jan 14, when current A-G V.K. Rajah, 59, finishes his three-year term.

To help with his transition into the top post at the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), Mr Wong will be appointed Deputy A-G from Dec 19.

The current chairman and senior partner of Singapore's largest law firm, Allen & Gledhill, will hold the A-G post for a three-year term. At the same time, Solicitor-General Lionel Yee will be appointed Deputy A-G, and share the No. 2 position with Mr Tan Siong Thye.

The Prime Minister's Office, which announced the new appointments yesterday, thanked Mr Rajah for his service and contributions. It said in its statement that he "broadened the prosecutorial philosophy of the AGC and oversaw significant criminal cases". These included the largest market-rigging securities case on the 2013 penny stock crash and the largest money-laundering case relating to transactions linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

Mr Wong said he was honoured to be named A-G. "I look forward to serving Singapore, working with my new colleagues at the Attorney-General's Chambers and building on the good work of my predecessors."

New A-G offers fresh perspective, say lawyers

Extensive experience in corporate law will be invaluable, they say; formidable, creative legal mind, says Law Society

With his extensive experience in corporate law at the head of Singapore's largest law firm, Mr Lucien Wong will provide a fresh perspective when he takes over as Attorney-General in January, lawyers said yesterday.

While Mr Wong will be the first A-G who has not spent time on the Bench or at the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), veteran criminal lawyer Shashi Nathan said he is a well-respected corporate lawyer with top-rate credentials.

"Sometimes, a fresh or a different approach to things will be useful," Mr Nathan added.

Others also pointed to Mr Wong's stellar legal career that has seen him forge a reputation as a top corporate lawyer. He has more than 30 years of experience in legal practice, specialising in banking, corporate and financial services. Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming said in terms of repute and ability, Mr Wong had "few equals in the legal profession".

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, Law Society president Thio Shen Yi said Mr Wong - now chairman and senior partner at Allen & Gledhill - is a "well-known corporate visionary". "In a fast-changing world in which legal services are going to be disrupted, his quality of vision and understanding of the cutting edge will be extremely relevant," he said.

The lawyers were responding to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) yesterday that announced Mr Wong, 63, will succeed Attorney-General V.K. Rajah, 59, as the Government's top legal adviser and public prosecutor.To help in the transition, Mr Wong will be appointed Deputy A-G on Dec 19.

When he begins his three-year term in office from Jan 14, Solicitor-General Lionel Yee, 50, would move up and share the No. 2 post with Deputy A-G Tan Siong Thye.

The statement did not say who would replace Mr Yee as Solicitor-General. The Solicitor-General assists the A-G with his duties.

Mr Wong began his legal career at Drew & Napier in 1979 after topping his final-year law class at the University of Singapore, now the National University of Singapore.

He then moved to Allen & Gledhill, where he was managing partner from 1998 to 2012.

While some lawyers had noted his absence of experience in criminal law, Mr Thio said the responsibility of an A-G was not just to be top prosecutor, but also to be legal adviser to the Government. "What is important is to have a good team of senior officers with wide experience in different areas, which (Mr Wong) will have," he added.

Mr Wong is also chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. He is on the board of Singapore Press Holdings as well.

The Law Society, in a separate statement, said Mr Wong brings to his new office a "formidable and creative legal mind", and pledged to support him in his new role.

Its spokesman also lauded Mr Rajah for his work as A-G, adding that the legal fraternity was looking forward to his return to the Bar.

The PMO statement noted, among other things, that Mr Rajah directed the legal work on Singapore's negotiations with Malaysia on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail. The AGC, under his leadership, also gave legal support for the successful negotiation of significant international agreements, it added.

Mr Rajah had also called for community sentences for less serious crimes. "He is well-respected for his work ethic and sense of compassion and fair play," said the Law Society spokesman.


He is well-respected for his work ethic and sense of compassion and fair play.

A LAW SOCIETY SPOKESMAN, about current Attorney-General V.K. Rajah, who had called for community sentences for less serious crimes during his term.


In a fast-changing world where legal services are going to be disrupted, his quality of vision and understanding of the cutting edge will be extremely relevant.


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Jail for mum whose son was abused by her boyfriend

Straits Times
19 Nov 2016
Elena Chong

A mother was jailed for 10 months yesterday for failing to protect her year-old son from being abused by her boyfriend.

The boy, now three and under foster care, suffered a skull fracture after being pushed off a bed by her boyfriend, Franklie Tan Guang Wei, in March 25 last year.

The mother, a 25-year-old part-time sales assistant, admitted to two counts of ill-treating her son by allowing him to stay with Tan when she knew that he had previously abused the boy and that he was not allowed unsupervised contact. The mother cannot be named to protect the identity of the child.

District Judge Adam Nakhoda said parents have a duty to ensure they provide for and protect their children. "Sadly in this case there has been, in my opinion, an utter abrogation of that duty by the accused, who is the victim's mother. This withdrawal from her duty had dire consequences for the victim.

"A message has to be sent out that the courts will not condone violence or abuse against the most vulnerable in our society, and this would apply equally to those who, through their neglect, have made possible the abuse," he said.

He found that the accused had appeared to have prioritised her relationship with Tan over the well-being of her son.

Tan, 26, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in jail and given six strokes of the cane in September over the case. He is appealing against the sentence.

The judge said Tan was an obvious danger to the boy and despite knowing this, the accused failed to take necessary steps to protect her son. He found there had clearly been a breach of the fundamental trust that exists between a parent and child.

The accused, he said, repeatedly turned a blind eye to the fact that Tan had abused and was capable of abusing the boy. This was an aggravating factor.

She knew that Tan had a habit of using violence against the boy, the judge noted. Tan had used force against him on no fewer than four occasions before he pushed the child onto the floor. Whenever the boy cried, Tan would take out his frustrations by physically abusing him.

The maximum penalty for the offence is a $4,000 fine and four years in jail on each charge.

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

Judge urges lawyers to get to the point

Straits Times
11 Nov 2016
K.C. Vijayan

Cut to the chase when in court, a judge urged lawyers, as the Bench is not interested in the niceties of greetings but wants to get down to business promptly.

In his keynote address at a seminar for professional development, Justice Choo Han Teck said the discipline which makes for a good lawyer shows in little ways.

"Many lawyers do not know how to speak in their first few minutes before a judge," he added.

"(They) set a dark and gloomy stage for the rest of the proceedings when they do not know who should speak first or what they ought to say," he noted, adding that they are likely to "splatter and splutter" in the same " muddled" way that they start with.

The Law Society's annual Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Day was held at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre last week.

Justice Choo was explicit in his example. He suggested that when lawyers get into court they could address the judge directly, saying: "May it please the court? My name is Adrian Somebody, I appear together with Mr Bernard Nobody. We are for the plaintiff.

"My learned friend, Mr Charles Highhopes, and his assisting counsel, Mr Darren Nohope, appear for the defendant."

He said such a start should create sufficient momentum to carry on to the tough bits as the case continues, pointing out that getting through the "baby talk" quickly needs discipline, practice and "some sensible instructions".

The judge said the CPD programme is meant to develop lawyers who are not just good cross-examiners, good orators or look "wholesomely good". Instead, the complete lawyer is also a man of substance, who is "flexible and mobile", with mastery of language being his most important tool.

A lawyer should also know how to behave towards others through proper social etiquette and towards himself in the absence of others, which is the moral part, said the judge.

"No one is born a great lawyer, nor does he become one. He is always in the process of becoming. That is the idea of CPD," said Justice Choo.

Under the scheme, practising lawyers admitted from 2001 have to attend a number of courses, seminars or activities that are ascribed points for a requisite number as administered by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education.

"CPD is not just a chasing of points. If chasing points is the objective, Pokemon hunting is probably a better alternative," he added.

K.C. Vijayan

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

Masterminds of 2013's penny stock crash charged in court

Business Times
26 Nov 2016
Jamie Lee

The trio are alleged to have rigged the market for Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold; Soh Chee Wen the only one denied bail

[Singapore] THE curtains rose on Singapore's biggest market-rigging scandal on Friday, as the alleged perpetrators who wiped out S$8 billion from the market in the penny stock crash of 2013 appeared before the court.

The prosecution slapped 181 charges on John Soh Chee Wen, and 178 on Quah Su Ling, the former chief executive officer of IPCO International Ltd.

These are for alleged breaches in Singapore's Securities and Futures Act, which governs conduct in the securities market; the pair are also said to have cheated financial institutions into providing millions in margin financing that funded a vast web of manipulation.

A joint statement by the Attorney-General's Chambers, Singapore (AGC), the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said the duo are accused of "orchestrating a massive fraud to manipulate the market" in the three listings, Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital and LionGold Corp.

Their court appearances came a day after their arrest.

The AGC also charged Goh Hin Calm, allegedly the pair's key accomplice, with six offences. Goh, formerly the senior finance and administration manager of IPCO, is alleged to have been the "treasurer" of these manipulated trades and to have "intentionally" aided Soh and Quah to create a false market for the shares of the three companies.

Goh will plead not guilty, said his lawyer, Nicholas Narayanan from Nicholas & Tan. The trio allegedly had rigged or helped to rig the market of the three counters between August 2012 and October 2013. Their manipulations caused a collapse in the counters' share prices on Oct 4, 2013 - but not before a swell of more than 800 per cent in their prices in less than nine months. The joint statement by the AGC, CAD and MAS said: "In the course of investigations, CAD and MAS raided over 50 locations and interviewed more than 70 persons. The investigations covered extensive documentary evidence comprising more than two million e-mails, half a million trade orders and thousands of telephone records and financial statements."

The three authorities noted that the "complex and elaborate fraud" perpetrated by Soh, Quah and their accomplices had involved a web of more than 180 trading accounts which carried out the manipulative trades in Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold shares.

These accounts were exploited "to create an illusion of liquidity and demand for these shares by making thousands of manipulative trades in each of the three counters, and to control the supply of these shares available to the market so as to influence the price of these counters".

AGC, CAD, and MAS said these trading accounts belonged to 59 individuals and corporate nominees, who had handed over control of their accounts to Soh and Quah for their use; the trading accounts were linked to 20 trading representatives.

The three regulators said they are still investigating nominee account holders and traders who may have aided in the offences. These individuals include directors and members of the senior management in Blumont, Asiasons, LionGold and their then-related companies, they said.

The authorities further claimed that Soh and Quah, said to be in a relationship, had also conspired to deceive Goldman Sachs International and Interactive Brokers into extending more than S$170 million in margin financing.

They did so by using Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold shares as collateral to secure this credit, while "dishonestly concealing" from the lenders of their market manipulation.

The lawyers were in court on Friday to settle bail proceedings.

Goh's bail was initially set at S$1 million, but was reduced by the judge to S$750,000, The Business Times understands. Mr Narayanan cited personal circumstances of his client, including a heart condition.

Quah's bail, set at S$4 million, was understood to be left unchanged. She is being represented by Harry Elias.

Soh, a Malaysian, was denied bail - a restriction which his lawyer, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng of WongPartnership, said would be "vigorously" contested.

An undischarged bankrupt since January 2002, Soh has had his passport impounded by the authorities since 2014.

Mr Tan said at the start of the hearing that he had had only five minutes to speak with his client in the past few months - and that was in court that very afternoon.

He asked that the court be adjourned so that Soh can review the affidavit filed by the prosecution, which runs into more 150 pages, and to prepare a response. Soh will thus be reviewing the court papers while in prison.

The prosecution said the bail amount had to represent the nature and gravity of the offences, with the charges of market manipulation here unprecedented in terms of severity. The prosecutor added that the market rigging has hurt Singapore's reputation as a financial centre.

Court has been adjourned to Dec 20.

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