AGC had sufficient evidence to prosecute Parti Liyani
Ex-maid was assessed to be untruthful, with inconsistencies in statements: Shanmugam.
There were good reasons and sufficient evidence to charge Ms Parti Liyani for theft, and police investigators and prosecutors had assessed that she was untruthful, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.
After she was arrested, Ms Parti admitted taking 10 to 15 items of male clothing without permission, and her explanations for some of the items changed from one statement to another, he told Parliament.
The minister was delivering a ministerial statement on the case of Ms Parti, who was acquitted by the High Court on Sept 4 of stealing from then Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong - who had lodged a police report against her in 2016 - and his family.
The case sparked an uproar, with MPs and others raising questions about the criminal justice system.
Mr Shanmugam said the case was handled as a routine theft case and there was no attempt by anyone to influence the police or prosecutors. "There was sufficient evidence which showed theft offences were likely to have been committed," he added.
In his statement, the minister recounted the facts of the case, which were heard in court.
He told MPs that when Ms Parti was arrested on Dec 2, 2016, some items were found on her, including two Longchamp bags, two watches and two white iPhone 4s.
Mr Shanmugam also noted how, for example, on Dec 4, 2016, she said in her police statement that two watches - one a "Vacheron Constantin" and the other a "Swatch" - were gifts from a friend.
However, in a statement on May 29, 2017, she changed her story to say that she had found the two watches - which turned out to be counterfeits - in the trash of Mr Liew's daughter May.
Ms Parti's claim that she had found items such as a Prada bag, two Apple iPhones and a pair of Gucci sunglasses in the trash were also found to be not credible by the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), said Mr Shanmugam.
Putting together Ms Parti's apparent inconsistencies, her questionable claims about finding expensive items in the trash and her own admission to taking the male clothing, the AGC's view was that there was a case to prosecute, said the minister.
He added that at that point in time, the Liews had identified all the items in the charges as their belongings.
For example, while Ms Parti claimed she had found some jewellery in the trash, Ms Liew said she never threw jewellery away and would give away unwanted jewellery to the Salvation Army or friends.
In this instance, the AGC assessed that Ms Liew's evidence was more believable.
Mr Shanmugam said the AGC also took the view that there was a clear public interest in prosecuting Ms Parti for two reasons.
"One, it appeared that Ms Parti had stolen many items, including some seemingly expensive items. Two, it appeared that she had been stealing for years, and it was not impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decisions," he added.
The minister said he was setting out these materials in some detail so that MPs can assess for themselves the basis for the decisions the police and the AGC had reached.
He also said there was a prima facie case against Ms Parti, and that the police and prosecution did not know that the Liews, in particular, Mr Karl Liew, would be inconsistent during the trial.
After her trial in the State Courts, which was heard for over 20 days, the district judge found serious inconsistencies in Ms Parti's evidence and that she had various versions for certain items.
The trial judge noted that Ms Parti said different things in her statement, compared with her testimony in court, which sometimes changed under cross-examination.
The trial judge also found her testimony on some items to be implausible. For example, Ms Parti said she had picked up two phones from a rubbish bag. The iPhone 4 models were about six years old at the time.
The trial judge preferred the Liews' testimony that they would not discard old mobile phones and used them as spares or to keep photographs.
Mr Shanmugam said the trial judge found Ms Parti to be untruthful, after hearing evidence from 12 prosecution witnesses and four defence witnesses, and had the opportunity to observe them and consider their testimony.
The High Court, however, came to a different view after a three-day appeal. Mr Shanmugam noted that the High Court judge gave Ms Parti the benefit of doubt because he was troubled by Mr Karl Liew's unreliable statements.
About 10 per cent of appeals in criminal cases succeed in setting aside the convictions or reducing the sentence, Mr Shanmugam said, adding that this case fell within that category.
The High Court's decision on the acquittal is final and there is no appeal, he noted, saying the statement is not an exercise of reopening it.
Why Attorney-General recused himself from AGC's internal review
When Attorney-General Lucien Wong resigned from the board of CapitaLand in 2006, it was over differences of viewpoints on some issues with Mr Liew Mun Leong, who was then the president and chief executive officer of the listed real estate group.
Given this history, Mr Wong recused himself from the Attorney-General's Chambers' (AGC) recent internal review of the case involving Mr Liew's former maid Parti Liyani.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday disclosed this in Parliament as he stressed the reviews by the police and the AGC have confirmed that there was no improper influence at any point in the case. "I can be categorical; there was no influence by Liew Mun Leong. It was treated as any other theft case and handled accordingly," the minister said.
Questions on propriety had cropped up after Justice Chan Seng Onn overturned Ms Parti's conviction on appeal and said in his judgment there was reasonable doubt about Mr Liew's motive for making a police report against her.
The relationship between the A-G and Mr Liew came under scrutiny particularly after the AGC announced the A-G would not be involved in the review of the case.
Some had suggested the two men were close as Mr Wong had been on CapitaLand's board.
On why the A-G recused himself from the AGC's internal review, the minister said: "The A-G felt that given the history of differences he has had with Liew Mun Leong, the perception of fairness may be affected if he oversaw the review.
"Thus, the A-G had nothing to do with this case at any stage."
Mr Shanmugam said the decision to prosecute the maid was dealt with at the level of the deputy public prosecutors (DPPs) and their directors, and the A-G did not know of the proceedings about Ms Parti until the case went to trial.
Setting out how such cases are handled, he said when the AGC receives a file from the police, prosecutors will assess whether or not to charge or if action has to be taken.
This assessment and the decisions are usually cleared by a director, and are not brought to the attention of the deputy chief prosecutor, chief prosecutor, deputy A-G or A-G unless they involve more serious or sensitive crimes, or where the A-G's consent to prosecute is expressly required. He added that neither Mr Liew, his family members or any intermediaries had approached the AGC on the case.
Similarly, the police's internal review showed decisions on the case were taken by the investigation officer (IO) and his immediate supervisor. "It didn't come to the attention of the senior management," he said.
"We have checked with the IOs, their supervisor, the DPPs and their director," he added. "There was no pressure or influence exerted on them by Liew Mun Leong or anyone acting on his behalf, and they handled this case as they have handled other theft cases."
AGC will look into serious offences indicated in court judgments, decisions
The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) will seriously consider investigating allegations of perjury or other serious offences should such findings arise in court-issued judgments or decisions in legal proceedings, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said yesterday.
This follows the highly publicised saga involving domestic worker Parti Liyani, whose former employer's son was deemed by a High Court judge, in the appeal, to have been dishonest in his testimony at her trial for theft.
Mr Shanmugam highlighted in Parliament Mr Karl Liew's answers at the trial, which were inconsistent to the extent that the High Court judge believed him to be dishonest and disregarded his entire evidence against Ms Parti.
Among some of his more questionable statements was his claim to have purchased and owned a pink knife, which he said he bought before 2002. It was later shown to have likely been manufactured after that date, and Mr Liew conceded this in court.
Following the case, the AGC has decided that, henceforth, it will consider whether there should be further investigations or proceedings for offences pointed out in a court judgment or decision, said Mr Shanmugam.
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