Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday explained his past position as director in two companies controlled by an Indonesian conglomerate reportedly linked to the fires causing the haze.
The conglomerate, Sinar Mas Group (SMG), has some companies in Singapore and was named by a senior Indonesian official last week as one of the alleged culprits burning forests and contributing to the haze enveloping the region.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, detailed how he came to be involved in the two SMG-controlled companies: Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) and Asia Food & Properties (AFP).
In June 1996, he and two others were asked by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) to be independent directors of then listed company Amcol, he said. The company, many of whose shareholders were Singaporeans who had invested using their Central Provident Fund savings, was in "serious trouble".
Most of its directors had been told to step down, he said.
"The three of us were asked to go in and see how the investing public shareholders of Amcol could be helped," said Mr Shanmugam, then a lawyer with expertise in securities law.
They managed Amcol's affairs with judicial managers and a white knight, SMG, was found.
SMG took over Amcol in 1997 using AFP, which was listed that same year. In 1999, GAR was listed as a subsidiary of AFP.
Mr Shanmugam was appointed director of both companies after their listing. The Amcol shareholders who kept their shares ended up getting "a substantial benefit".
But, he said, "I did not charge or receive any fees for this work - the work was done to help the public, who were Amcol shareholders". He had wanted to step down when AFP was listed in 1997 as the task given to him by SGX - to help Amcol shareholders - had been completed.