SINGAPORE: An Indonesian maid was acquitted last Friday (Sep 4) of stealing from the family of Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, nearly four years after she was fired by her former employer.
In March 2019, Ms Parti Liyani was convicted of four charges of stealing, before the convictions were overturned in the High Court by Justice Chan Seng Onn. In his judgment last Friday, Justice Chan laid out the reasons for Ms Parti's acquittal.
On Sep 8, she was cleared of her last charge, which accused her of having items that she was suspected to have obtained fraudulently. She was given a discharge amounting to an acquittal of the fifth charge.
Here is a timeline of events related to the case:
MARCH 2007: MS PARTI STARTS WORK IN LIEW HOUSEHOLD
Ms Parti Liyani was employed as a foreign domestic worker in March 2007 in the Liew household, which comprised Mr Liew Mun Leong, his wife Madam Ng Lai Peng, their daughter Liew Cheng May, their son Karl Liew and Mr Karl Liew's wife Heather Lim.
Mr Liew Mun Leong is her formal employer.
In March 2016, Mr Karl Liew, his wife and children moved out of the house and lived elsewhere. The court heard Ms Parti had a "cordial relationship" with the family.
MS PARTI ASKED TO CLEAN KARL LIEW’S HOME AND OFFICE
The court heard Ms Parti was deployed to work at Mr Karl Liew home and office on "multiple occasions", in addition to her employer's home. This contravened certain MOM regulations, the judgment said.
MOM said last Sunday that Mdm Ng deployed Ms Parti to her son’s residence between September 2016 and October 2016, and to his office around 2012 and 2013.
OCT 28, 2016: MS PARTI’S EMPLOYMENT TERMINATED
On Oct 28, 2016, the family decided to terminate Ms Parti’s employment after suspicions that she was stealing from the family.
She was given two hours to pack her things and leave. She also asked Mr Karl Liew for big boxes in which to send her belongings back to Indonesia.
While packing, Ms Parti threatened to lodge a complaint with MOM about being asked to clean Mr Karl Liew’s home and office.
Before two of the boxes could be sealed by her, the employment agency returned and informed Ms Parti her time was up and she had to leave. Two drivers who worked for the family sealed the boxes.
The High Court would later rule that the family had hoped she would not use that time to make a complaint to MOM. The termination of employment was a "pre-emptive first step", Justice Chan said.
OCT 29 TO OCT 30, 2016: THE LIEWS FILE A POLICE REPORT
Ms Heather Lim said that the family should not ship the boxes to Parti without checking the contents, which may include illegal items.
They checked the contents of the boxes on Oct 29, during which they discovered items that allegedly belonged to the family. They spent about two hours taking out and sorting through the boxes and recorded a 21-second video of the process.
Mr Liew Mun Leong and his son filed the police report on Oct 30.
POLICE ALLOW FAMILY TO REMOVE ITEMS FROM BOX FOR DAILY USE
After the police report was made, the family was told by Investigating Officer Tang Ru Long that they were free to use the items that were found in the jumbo boxes, save for discarding the items.
The investigating officer said the items, which were the subject of the charges, were not personally seized or taken into custody by IO Tang as he did not wish to result in the "re-victimising" of the family.
DEC 2, 2016: MS PARTI ARRESTED
On Dec 2, Parti was arrested at Changi Airport upon her arrival in Singapore to seek employment.
Items that allegedly belonged to the Liews were found on her, including two Longchamp bags, one Gerald Genta watch, one Helix watch, two iPhones, a Prada bag and a pair of stained Gucci sunglasses, among other items.
DEC 3, 2016: POLICE VISIT THE LIEWS
The following day, IO Tang visited the Liews’ house with a crime scene photographer to take photos of the exhibits. These items would only be received into police custody on Apr 18, 2018.
DEC 2016: MS PARTI QUESTIONED BY POLICE
Parti’s statements were recorded on Dec 3, Dec 4 and on May 29.
The interviews were conducted in a mix of English and Bahasa Melayu, even though Ms Parti spoke Bahasa Indonesia.
No interpreter was present for the recording of the statements. Another investigating officer, IO Amirudin Nordin, helped translate IO Tang's questions in English to Bahasa Melayu.
IO Amirudin "conceded" there was a difference between Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia.
The High Court judge said there was a possibility that the recorded statements read back to her in English and Bahasa Melayu were understood differently by Ms Parti from what IO Amirudin had meant. Two statements were not read back in Bahasa Indonesia for her confirmation.
Ms Parti also told the court that she did not feel comfortable speaking in Bahasa Melayu and that she was not given the choice of an interpreter.
AUGUST 2017: MS PARTI CHARGED
Ms Parti was charged in court in August 2017.
She faced four charges, including three charges of theft in dwelling and one charge of theft as a servant.
OCTOBER 2017: MS PARTI LODGES REPORT TO MOM
In October 2017, Ms Parti made a report to MOM about the illegal deployment by Mdm Ng to Mr Karl Liew’s house and office.
APR 23, 2018: MS PARTI CLAIMS TRIAL
Ms Parti claimed trial on Apr 23, 2018.
She was accused of stealing items from Mr Liew Mun Leong and his family members.
AUGUST 2018: MR LIEW MUN LEONG TESTIFIES DURING TRIAL
During the ensuing trial, Mr Liew Mun Leong told the court that he had long suspected that Ms Parti had been stealing from his family home, but that he “tolerated” her behaviour.
READ: Changi Airport Group chairman suspected maid of stealing for years, but tolerated her behaviour
When questioned, Mr Liew said he had a “propensity for bags” and objected to Ms Parti’s lawyer Anil Balchandani's assertion that two of the missing bags had been discarded.
He added that it was “not possible” for his wife to offer the discarded bags to Ms Parti.
MAR 20, 2019: MS PARTI FOUND GUILTY
District Judge Olivia Low found Ms Parti guilty on Mar 20, 2019 of stealing more than S$30,000 worth of items from the Liew family.
The judge said that she did not see “any reason why the Liew family and (their) driver Robin would conspire to frame the accused for the theft, especially when they had employed her for a number of years”.
READ: Maid found guilty of stealing S$30,000 worth of items from Changi Airport Group chairman’s family
She added that she found the prosecution’s witnesses “largely credible and consistent”, with the victims able to identify the items that belonged to them and what they did with it.
Ms Parti was sentenced to two years and two months’ jail.
SEP 4, 2020: MS PARTI ACQUITTED
On Sep 4, 2020, High Court judge Chan Seng Onn overturned the convictions and acquitted Ms Parti of all charges.
In his judgment, Justice Chan said the convictions against Ms Parti were “unsafe” due to the presence of an “improper motive” and that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
"In my judgment, there is reason to believe that the Liew family, upon realising her unhappiness, took the pre-emptive first step to terminate her employment suddenly without giving her sufficient time to pack, in the hope that Ms Parti would not use the time to make a complaint to MOM," said the High Court Judge.
"Once she made express her desire to complain to MOM after her sudden termination on Oct 28, 2016, the Liew family followed up with the police report to ensure her return would be prevented.
"In my view, the Liew family might not have made a police report had Ms Parti not made her express threat on Oct 28, 2016 to report the matter to MOM."
He also noted that Parti “never showed any interest” in the jumbo boxes and that there is a “real possibility of a mix-up of items”, as well as reasonable doubt that the items were not accurately documented in photographs taken by police officers five weeks later.
The judge also found Mr Karl Liew to be "a witness who was not only lacking in credibility but also did not take the process of giving testimony seriously”.
He added that it was “rather unusual” for her to mostly steal items that appear to be spoilt, broken or lacking in value to the alleged owners.
READ: Maid acquitted of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman’s family hid her ordeal from her family
SEP 6, 2020: AGC, MOM, POLICE ISSUE STATEMENTS
On Sep 6, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said that Justice Chan’s findings “raise questions which warrant further investigation”.
"AGC will study the judgment to assess what further action, if any, ought to be taken in this case, in the light of (Justice Chan's) comments," the AGC said.
READ: Judge's findings ‘raise questions’ that warrant further investigations after maid acquitted of stealing from CAG chairman’s family: AGC
MOM also confirmed that Mr Karl Liew was issued an advisory and Mdm Ng issued a caution in 2018, after Ms Parti made a report about her illegal deployment. The ministry said it was in consultation with AGC as to "whether further action, if any, ought to be taken".
The Singapore Police Force also said it is looking into the several observations raised in the High Court judgment about police's investigations.
SEP 8, 2020: MS PARTI CLEARED OF LAST REMAINING CHARGE
Ms Parti was cleared of her fifth and last charge. The charge accused her of having items that she was suspected to have obtained fraudulently.
These included a ValueMax pawnshop ticket, several EZ-link cards, branded bags, wallets, watches and jewellery.
She was granted a discharge amounting to an acquittal.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said the agencies looking into the High Court's judgment take the judge's comments "very seriously".
"Something has gone wrong in the chain of events. We have to look at that, and deal with what went wrong," said the minister.
He warned that people should not "prejudge which part of the process went wrong" while reviews are being conducted.
"In the process, we should not be defensive. It should not be a witch hunt. We have to find out what happened, why it happened and then deal with it," he added.
READ: Yearly average of 16 employers fined over last three years for illegally deploying their maids: MOM
SEP 9, 2020: DEPUTY AG HRI KUMAR LEADING REVIEW
The AGC said its review following the High Court judgment is led by Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair.
Attorney-General Lucien Wong had recused himself from the review of the case for "personal reasons", said AGC, adding that he was not involved in any prosecutorial decisions regarding the charges against Ms Parti. AGC did not elaborate on the reasons.
AGC noted that several years before he was appointed Attorney-General, Mr Wong sat on the board of directors of CapitaLand Limited while Mr Liew Mun Leong was president and CEO of the company.
Mr Wong stepped down from the board in January 2006.
"AG Lucien Wong and Mr Liew (Mun Leong) did not have a personal relationship, and this continues today," the AGC said.
SEP 10, 2020: LIEW MUN LEONG RESIGNS FROM PUBLIC SERVICE, BUSINESS ROLES
Mr Liew Mun Leong issued a statement announcing his resignation from various public service and business roles with Changi Airport Group, Surbana Jurong, Temasek Foundation and Temasek International.
"Those who know me will know I am passionate about the roles and missions of these organisations. I do not wish my current situation to be a distraction to their respective boards, management and staff, amidst their many critical priorities," said Mr Liew Mun Leong, adding that he is ready to "assist or advise without compensation" should it be required.
In his statement, Mr Liew Mun Leong also said that he has faith in Singapore's legal system and respected the decision of the High Court in relation to Ms Parti's case.
"When my family discovered some of our belongings in Ms Liyani's boxes, I proceeded to make a police report the same afternoon I returned from overseas - because I genuinely believed that if there were suspicions of wrongdoing, it is our civic duty to report the matter to the police and let the authorities investigate accordingly," he added.