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Singapore firms must uphold integrity: Indranee

SINGAPORE companies operating overseas must uphold their own standards of integrity, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah said in Parliament on Monday.

Addressing questions from Members of Parliament (MPs) on the corruption scandal surrounding Keppel Corporation's rig-building unit, she said that the government expects all Singapore companies to fully comply with the laws of Singapore and the laws of the jurisdictions they operate in.

"We know that there are many places in the world where corruption is endemic and the business environment is very different from Singapore," she said.

"We cannot be a global policeman. Singapore companies have to operate in all kinds of environments. But as a matter of principle, we expect that they must do so while keeping their systems clean, and complying with the laws of the countries where they operate.

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"They must develop ways of operating which enable them to do this. They cannot lower their own standards of integrity, and they must not bring back to Singapore practices alien to the norms which we have established with such great effort here."

Ms Indranee added: "Incorruptibility is a foundational value for Singapore. We must keep Singapore clean," said Ms Indranee.

News that Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) has been slapped with US$422 million in fines as part of a global resolution with the authorities in three countries to resolve bribery charges has put the issue of Keppel's corporate governance in the limelight, along with local law enforcement and prosecutorial decisions.

Workers' Party assistant secretary-general Pritam Singh, along with fellow Aljunied GRC MP and WP chairman Sylvia Lim and Hougang MP Png Eng Huat, earlier filed four questions asking for more information.

In response to Ms Lim's question on whether the US$422 million penalty imposed on Keppel O&M was part of a three-nation plea bargain agreement - involving the United States, Brazil and Singapore, as well as Keppel, Ms Indranee said each jurisdiction worked in accordance with their own domestic laws while reaching a coordinated resolution with one another.

Keppel O&M has been issued a conditional warning in Singapore, with "terms closely aligned with" the Deferred Prosecution Agreement that Keppel O&M had reached with the US authorities, said Ms Indranee.

She added that the resolution achieves more than what the government would have been able to do if it had proceeded against the company solely under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). The maximum fine under the Act, for instance, is S$100,000 per charge.

Besides the US$422 million penalty, Keppel O&M is also required under the US deferred prosecution agreement to strengthen its internal controls and compliance and anti-corruption programmes.