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No improper influence in investigation and prosecution of Parti Liyani: Shanmugam

LAW and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has categorically stated that there was no improper influence in the prosecution of the Indonesian maid formerly hired by then-Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Mr Shanmugam detailed the investigation of Ms Parti Liyani's alleged theft from the Liews and the prosecution of the criminal case. He also denied that Mr Liew or anyone else had wielded power over police investigation and the prosecution's conduct of the 46-year-old's trial.

It was treated as any other theft case and handled accordingly, noted Mr Shanmugam, following further investigations made after Ms Parti's conviction was overturned and her 26 months' jail term was set aside in September on appeal.

The investigation against Ms Parti was dealt with by an investigation officer (IO), with decisions taken together with his immediate supervisor. Hence, her prosecution was not known to the senior management at the police or in the Home Affairs Ministry then, the minister added. 

Ms Parti’s matter, like other alleged theft cases, was then referred by the IO to a director at the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to assess whether or not to charge her.

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Such cases usually are not brought to the higher management as they are not very serious or sensitive crimes nor require the Attorney-General’s (AG) express consent to prosecute. Neither did AG Lucien Wong know of the investigations or proceedings before the trial started, said Mr Shanmugam.

The AG was on the board of property firm CapitaLand from late 2000 to early 2006 when he was still in private practice as a lawyer and Mr Liew was then the chief executive at CapitaLand. However, he resigned due to differences of opinions with Mr Liew in 2006.

The minister added that due to Singapore’s small size, interactions and connections are inevitable. However, it is important to act with honour and not allow any corrosion of public interest.

He added that Ms Parti's case was heard in open court in accordance with the rules. Although the complainant is a wealthy, powerful person, all are equal before the law. It doesn’t matter who the parties are, the minister reiterated.

The maid was acquitted after she appealed to the High Court, and the 100-page judgement led to some questioning if there was a law for the rich and socially connected and another for the rest of the society.

However, Mr Shanmugam emphasised that post-judgement investigations showed there was no pressure or influence exerted by Mr Liew or someone on his behalf on the police or the deputy public prosecutors.

He also explained that the prosecution decided to charge Ms Parti because there was sufficient evidence that showed she had likely committed the theft of about S$34,000 worth of items. It was also in the public interest to prosecute her.

"They (AGC and the police) certainly did not act at the behest of the Liew family. And this is how our system is supposed to work."

Further investigations made after the appeal showed the Liews had told the maid agent almost a year before dismissing Ms Parti that they suspected she had been stealing from them. The Liews were accused of framing Ms Parti so as to prevent her from complaining against them for illegally deploying her to work at their son Karl's office and home.

However, the Liews seemed to have been "cavalier" in the way they identified some items as belonging to them and in the way values were ascribed to some items, noted the minister.

He also conceded that there was a lapse in the police's taking custody of the exhibits, which was done five weeks after Mr Liew made a police report. This has breached both the legal requirement and police protocol, and there can be no excuse for this lapse, he added.

Police officers involved in this case are being investigated and would be disciplined if found to be in breaches.

However, Mr Liew's son Karl, whose testimony has caused the High Court to have serious doubts about his credibility, will face legal consequences now that the police have completed investigations against him for offences including perjury.

The Business Times understands that the 43-year-old Karl has been told that he would be prosecuted. The authorities will issue a statement on this matter this evening.

The DPPs' conduct of the trial was not addressed in Mr Shanmugam's statement as the matter is now a subject of a disciplinary inquiry, following Ms Parti's complaint.

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