SINGAPORE: Mr Lee Hsien Yang on Monday (Jan 7) questioned the decision by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to refer a case involving his wife, lawyer Lee Suet Fern, to the Law Society.
The AGC had alleged “possible professional misconduct" by Mrs Lee in the preparation of the last will of Mr Lee Kuan Yew – Singapore’s founding prime minister and the late father of Mr Lee and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
READ: 38 Oxley Road committee: Interest in Lee Kuan Yew's will confined to understanding his wishes, says Indranee
In a Facebook post, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said his wife was never Lee Kuan Yew’s lawyer.
“Our father’s private will was executed some five years ago. Our father informed his entire family and his lawyers at Lee & Lee when he completed his will and kept his will at Lee & Lee,” Mr Lee wrote.
“Lee & Lee had been our father’s lawyers for all his wills since his first will in 1995. That first will was drafted by our mother, Kwa Geok Choo, who was then the principal beneficiary under our father’s will."
The AGC had said in a media statement earlier on Monday that Mrs Lee Suet Fern appeared to have prepared the late Mr Lee’s last will and arranged for him to execute it, despite the fact that her husband Lee Hsien Yang was a beneficiary.
"Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s share increased under the Last Will. AGC also noted that Mr Lee Hsien Yang had said publicly that the Last Will was drafted by Ms Kwa Kim Lee of M/s Lee & Lee. However Ms Kwa Kim Lee has denied that she drafted it,” the statement added.
Under the legal profession's rules of conduct, lawyers are not allowed to place themselves in a position of conflict, AGC said.
In his Facebook post, Mr Lee also said AGC’s assertion that his wife refused to respond to the allegations was untrue.
“AGC should release the full correspondence,” he wrote, while questioning the timing of the AGC’s move.
"No one has complained from the outset on the process and circumstances of our father’s signing his final will - not Lee Kuan Yew, not his estate which stands in his shoes after his death, not any of the beneficiaries, including Lee Hsien Loong, who was advised by Lucien Wong, now AG.
“The will was proven in court in 2015 with no issues raised; all parties have acted in accordance with the will since then,” he added.
“What public interest is being served by AGC here? Why waste public resources on a private matter, and after all this time? Why is AGC rushing this case in 2019 when the facts were known by all parties for years?”
In response to Mr Lee Hsien Yang's Facebook post, the AGC said: “The matter has been referred to the Law Society in accordance with the law, and consistent with how the Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC”) has handled other cases of alleged professional misconduct by lawyers.
"There will be a full hearing before the Disciplinary Tribunal appointed by the Chief Justice. Ms Lee Suet Fern can put forward her case before the Tribunal, in accordance with the Legal Profession Act.
"AGC therefore does not propose to comment any further on the merits of the matter. We would also like to remind all parties to be mindful not to prejudice the proper hearing of the matter.”
This is the latest development in a long-running dispute between PM Lee and his siblings, Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling, over their family home at 38 Oxley Road and the preparation of his last will.
The dispute first spilled into the public domain on Jun 14, 2017, when Mr Lee and Dr Lee issued a statement on Facebook, reiterating their father’s wish for the house to eventually be demolished.
They also accused their brother, PM Lee, of wanting to preserve the house "to inherit (Lee Kuan Yew’s) credibility".
On Jun 15 2017, PM Lee made public the summary of a statutory declaration he had submitted to a ministerial committee set up to consider options for the house. The summary included emails from Mrs Lee Suet Fern and Mr Lee Hsien Yang to Mr Lee Kuan Yew over the last will.
At issue was the removal and subsequent re-insertion of a clause stating the late Mr Lee's wish that his house at 38 Oxley Road be demolished after his death.
PM Lee noted that there was “no evidence that Mr Lee (Kuan Yew) even knew that the Demolition Clause had been re-inserted into the last will".
The prime minister had also questioned the role Mrs Lee Suet Fern played in the final will.
READ: ‘When private interests and public duties clash’: How PM Lee addressed Oxley family feud in Parliament
Mr Lee Hsien Yang said then that his wife’s law firm, Stamford Law, attended to the attestation of the final will at "Lee Kuan Yew's explicit request". He added that PM Lee did not raise any legal challenges to the will in the "many months" after it was read.
Stamford Law is now known as Morgan Lewis Stamford following the merger with Morgan Lewis & Bockius in 2005. Mrs Lee Suet Fern was a former managing partner of Morgan Lewis Stamford.
In a Facebook post late on Sunday, Dr Lee Wei Ling also questioned the AGC’s move.
“Lee Kuan Yew, a highly regarded lawyer, never complained about his will. No beneficiary has complained to the Law Society, not even Hsien Loong who was advised by Lucien Wong (previously his personal lawyer, now AG). Why therefore this new attack on our father’s will? Why is this being initiated now, and by the AGC, after all this time? Our view is that this action is wholly without merit," Dr Lee wrote.
The ministerial committee that had been set up to examine the future of 38 Oxley Road laid out options for the house early last year, “to help a future government make an informed and considered decision about the property when it becomes necessary”.