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Animal Farm Thrives in Singapore: Inexplicable Decision Not To Prosecute the Keppel Six Demonstrates That Some Are More Equal Than Others

Article 12 of our Constitution states that all are equal before the law and all are entitled to the equal protection of the law. The PAP ignore this just as they have passed so many derogations to the fundamental liberties supposedly enshrined in our Constitution as to make it worthy of the best examples from Communist countries like the Soviet Union and the PRC.

Today in Parliament Indranee Rajah gave nonsensical reasons why the six senior management figures at Keppel Offshore and Marine (KOM) could not be prosecuted. She said there was insufficient evidence yet surely all the evidence is in the public domain and the KOM accounts. The payments to “consultants” were presumably authorised by the senior management and disclosed to the Board and it must have been clear that they were given in return for the large sums awarded in contracts. If at least one of the individuals had entered into a plea bargain, as reported by Indranee in Parliament, presumably with the Brazilian and US authorities (Indranee inexplicably refuses to name the jurisdiction) then that individual has admitted guilt.

Yet Indranee went on to say that:

“When this individual was investigated by CPIB on his return to Singapore, he denied knowing that commissions paid to the agent in Brazil were paid out as bribes,”

Surely senior management are responsible for what happened on their watch whether their sins were of omission or commission and whether carried out with their knowledge or not. Plea bargains in other jurisdictions should not prevent prosecutions in Singapore. The PAP Government does not hesitate to apply extraterritoriality when it comes to punishing Singaporeans for actions committed abroad even though they are not breaking any laws in those countries, as when the National Olympic Committee fined Joseph Schooling and Amanda Lim for consuming cannabis in Thailand. The Prevention of Corruption Act 196O also explicitly states:

 The provisions of this Act have effect, in relation to citizens of Singapore, outside as well as within Singapore; and where an offence under this Act is committed by a citizen of Singapore in any place outside Singapore, he may be dealt with in respect of that offence as if it had been committed within Singapore.

I would hazard a guess and say that the Government’s reluctance to prosecute might have something to do with the likelihood that the KOM Six have covered themselves by getting their superiors to sign off on the payments and that they have the evidence to implicate individuals higher up in the chain. During the period when the bribes took place these include Lee Boon Yang, a former Minister of Defence and later Minister for (Dis)Information who left Parliament in 2011 and in a triumph of meritocracy was immediately appointed Chairman of Keppel and of LHL’s private media monopoly and re-election committee, SPH Media Holdings (he probably did not even have to move office as SPH Media Holdings takes its orders directly from the Ministry of Information as well as the PM himself). Loh Chin Hua, the CEO of Keppel, is of course a Government scholar and a board director of EDB. It is a given that all of the other Singaporean directors, as in every GLC right to the top at Temasek Holdings, all have connections to the PAP or are FTs singing their praises. The one thing they will have in common, apart from their generally mediocre academic record and rapid elevation in proportion to their closeness to the inner circle of LHL and his wife, are their unshakeable beliefs in their inalienable right to share in the state money train and their fake meritocratic superiority. These so-called “natural aristocrats” were in all likelihood aware of what was going on in broad brushstrokes while carefully keeping anything that could connect them with the payment of bribes out of the paperwork. If the non-execs claim they were not aware then they were either negligent in the performance of their duties or there was fraud going on at KOM and Keppel, which would be all the more reason to prosecute. Why were contracts and payments to consultants not reviewed by the companies’ compliance departments and red flags raised? Also. given the size of the payments, it is hard to believe that news did not reach the senior management of Temasek, who have a significant stake in KOM’s parent company and no doubt have control extending well beyond its size, as with so much of the corporate sector in Singapore. A public trial might even prove embarrassing to Ho Ching who as CEO was at the top of the chain at the time. Where was

Worrying the Government might also be the fact that prosecution might bring to light other corrupt practices at our state-owned companies, either directly through the trial or through emboldening whistle blowers. Certainly it is hard to believe that this was just an isolated incident where bribes were paid to win contracts, though it may be the only one that has come to light and which the US Department of Justice has become involved. The PAP Government are undoubtedly eager to sweep this under the carpet and avoid the embarrassment of a public trial as well as to protect their own people. There has even been an attempt in the state media to spin this as absolutely par for the course in much of the rest of the world and an unfortunate cost of doing business, the implication being that the KOM Six were just doing whatever was necessary to win business for Singapore Inc. and were more heroes than criminals. This is what the public are being asked to read It would have been helpful for Indranee to reveal what bonuses were paid to the Six on the back of the corruptly obtained contracts but these were undoubtedly substantial. Nor did the Opposition press, and Indranee did not provide details as to whether there had been any attempt to recoup at least some of the losses from the US$450 million fines the companies agreed to pay as part of the deferred prosecution agreement. The fact that the companies involved had to pay several times the value of the contracts won through paying bribes should illustrate the real economic harm the executives involved did to the companies involved and to Singapore.

The derisory slap on the wrist and the weaselly and disingenuous reasons given by Indranee as to why the KOM Six could not be prosecuted just serves to illustrate the double standard of justice in Singapore and that. like Animal Farm, those connected to the PAP’s inner circles, with LHL and his wife at the centre, are more equal than other Singaporeans before the law. By contrast, small fry get prosecuted to the fullest extent for small acts of corruption and jailed, often for long stretches, to illustrate Singapore’s supposedly zero tolerance approach (see here, here and here). JBJ was prosecuted repeatedly even to the extent of the AG appealing his acquittal, jailed and deprived of his Parliamentary seat for what the Privy Council ruled a non-existent offence and a grievous miscarriage of justice yet the Government has refused to reverse his conviction. Singaporeans may finally be waking up but are still all too ready to give the PAP the benefit of the doubt when it comes to corruption. Until we have a new government that will not change.

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