Are Singaporean Taxpayers Paying To Burnish Li Hongyi’s CV?
Yesterday the State Times and most of the fawning foreign media, announced that Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google and the world’s ninth-richest man, was setting up a branch of his family office in Singapore to help manage his estimated US$86.5 billion fortune.
In a gushing encomium, Britain’s state broadcaster, the BBC, stated that Brin “is the latest billionaire to take advantage of Singapore’s low tax regime and generous incentives for family offices”. He joins Ray Dalio, owner of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds in which GIC was an early investor, and James Dyson, owner of the eponymous vacuum company. Dalio is quoted in the article as saying that he has had excellent relationships in Singapore and China for the last three decades. “He likes and admires both and he is excited by what is happening in the region,” Presumably Dalio’s admiration for China is related to distance. It would probably not be so great if he had to live and have his headquarters there, like Jack Ma.
The BBC itself seems to have benefited from secret incentives as it has established a regional base in Singapore and devotes a disproportionate share of its news programmes to puff pieces about Singapore. Some former state media journalists, like Tessa Wong, who published fake and defamatory news about me during the 2011 GE, have gone to work for the BBC in Singapore and help, if any help is needed, to ensure that any criticism of the PAP Government is filtered out.
Giving costly incentives, paid for with SIngaporeans’ money, to billionaires and Western MNCs who then sing its praises, spread disinformation and exaggerate the Government’s success and police criticism in media they own or control, has always been part and parcel of the way the PAP Government does business.
However I was particularly struck by the news that secret incentives and tax exemptions had been given to Google’s co-founder because of the fact that Li Hongyi, LHL’s son and who is likely to be being groomed to take over the imperial throne after a suitable seat warmer like Heng Swee Keat (like Holy Goh did between the Father and the Son) worked at Google. His LinkedIn profile reveals that he was a product manager between 2011 and 2013 and previously a summer intern in 2010. After working at Google Hongyi joined GovTech Singapore, where, given his experience, he is no doubt behind the development of image recognition software used by the Singapore police.
I would like to ask Lee Hsien Loong the following questions:
- On what basis was Hongyi employed by Google?
- Was he bonded as a Government scholar during that time? If so, what was the basis for choosing him?
- Google chose Singapore as its Asia-Pacific HQ. What incentives, tax and otherwise, were given to Google to make this choice?
- What incentives were given to Brin for him to choose Singapore?
- What other children of PAP Ministers and MPs have been offered jobs at Google and at other companies that have received tax incentives from the Government?
It hardly needs to be stated that providing an incentive in return for a job given to a relative would be an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). Article 8 of the PCA also states that:
Where in any proceedings against a person for an offence under section 5 or 6, it is proved that any gratification has been paid or given to or received by a person in the employment of the Government or any department thereof or of a public body by or from a person or agent of a person who has or seeks to have any dealing with the Government or any department thereof or any public body, that gratification shall be deemed to have been paid or given and received corruptly as an inducement or reward as hereinbefore mentioned unless the contrary is proved.
It would also expose Google to prosecution by the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In 2016 J P Morgan, the US bank, paid US$264 million to settle charges that it had given internships to the children, relatives and friends of foreign government officials in return for business.
Unfortunately LHL is unlikely to feel compelled to answer these questions as long as the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, like the Elections Department, is under his direct control and he gets to appoint the Director (with the concurrence of President Halimah who is beholden to him for an uncontested election). Meanwhile Singapore will continue to win accolades from Transparency International and others as being among the least corrupt countries in the world, as well as from foreign individuals and corporations that have benefited from LHL’s largesse with Singaporeans’ money.