Multimillion-dollar civil suits against 3 Workers’ Party MPs go to trial

Multimillion-dollar civil suits against 3 Workers’ Party MPs go to trial

The suits were brought against three Workers' Party MPs Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh as well as others, over alleged improper payments amounting to millions of dollars.

The first day of trial for two multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits brought by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) against three Workers’ Party Members of Parliament over an alleged breach of fiduciary duties kicked off on Friday (Oct 5). Cheryl Goh reports.

SINGAPORE: The first day of trial for two multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits brought by the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) against three Workers’ Party Members of Parliament over an alleged breach of fiduciary duties kicked off on Friday (Oct 5).

Among the defendants named in the suits are MPs Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh. 

The others are AHTC councillors Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo Seck Guan, as well as former AHTC deputy secretary How Weng Fan. The town council's former managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS), and its owner Danny Loh, who died in 2015, are also named as defendants.

WP trial day 1 Pritam Singh Sylvia Lim
Workers' Party secretary-general Pritam Singh (left) and chairman Sylvia Lim (right) arrive at the High Court on Friday (Oct 5). (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

Some members of the public arrived as early as 7am, with a short queue forming outside the courtroom by around 8.30am. Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh was also spotted entering the courts at around 9am.

The three MPs arrived at the High Court at around 9.45am, accompanied by fellow WP MPs Png Eng Huat, Faisal Manap and Leon Perera, as well as party member Yee Jenn Jong. Mr Png, Mr Faisal, Mr Perera, Mr Yee and Mr Goh sat at the public gallery of the courtroom.

Most of the WP members were dressed in blue, the party's official colour. 

WP trial day 1 Leon Perera Png Eng Huat
Workers' Party's Png Eng Huat (centre), Faisal Abdul Manap and Leon Perera arrive at the High Court on Friday (Oct 5). (Photo: Hanidah Amin)

During the day's proceedings, lawyers from Shook Lin & Bok, who are representing the independent panel for AHTC, argued that the town councillors had mismanaged AHTC’s financials to such an extent that the Auditor-General’s Office had issued an audit report identifying 115 areas of non-compliance with the Town Councils Act and the Town Council Financial Rules.

A similar point was made by lawyers for PRPTC, with lawyer Davinder Singh from Drew & Napier pointing out that the system of checks and balances in the town council was “so lacking and flawed” that it “allowed conflicted persons to enrich themselves almost at will”. 

READ: An 'egregious, cavalier misuse of public funds': Town council lawyers rip into Workers' Party leaders

Later in the afternoon, lawyers for the three MPs and AHTC councillors Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo stressed that at all times, the five were acting honestly and in “good faith”. The five are represented by Tan Rajah & Cheah.​​​​​​​

“Various allegations have been made ... we have our responses to all those,” said lawyer Chelva Retnam Rajah in court. “At the heart of all our actions is the fact that at all times ... They were acting in good faith, acting honestly and for the purposes of the Town Councils Act in all their actions.”

READ: Workers' Party MPs, AHTC town councillors acted in good faith, did not breach duties: Defence

The day ended with lawyers for FMSS, Ms How as well as Ms How in her capacity as the personal representative for her late husband Danny Loh, beginning their opening statement.

Mr Leslie Netto of Netto & Magin LLC, who represents this set of defendants, will continue his statement on Monday. Representatives for KPMG and PwC will also take the stand.

Proceedings concluded after 6pm. Party members looked to be in good spirits as they left the High Court in a group after the trial was adjourned for the day. They declined to speak to reporters.

Source: CNA/ad(cy)

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