Maid acquitted of stealing over $34k worth of items from Changi Airport Group chairman's home

Miss Parti Liyani with her lawyer Anil Balchandani. Miss Parti had appealed to the High Court against her conviction and sentence of two years and two months' jail.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - A former domestic worker has been cleared by the High Court of stealing more than $34,000 worth of items from Changi Airport Group (CAG) chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family.

Miss Parti Liyani, who worked for the family from 2007 to 2016, had appealed to the High Court against her conviction and sentence of two years and two months' jail.

Her lawyer, Mr Anil Balchandani, who acted pro bono, had argued at her appeal that she was being framed to prevent her from lodging a complaint against the family for illegal deployment.

Mr Anil said that besides working at the family home, Miss Parti, who is Indonesian, was also told to clean the office and home of Mr Liew's son Karl.

On Friday (Sept 4), Justice Chan Seng Onn allowed her appeal.

He found that the family had "improper motives" and wanted to stop her from going to the authorities.

The judge also found that there was a break in the chain of custody of the allegedly stolen items, which were improperly handled by the family members before the police photographed and seized the items five weeks later. This created a reasonable doubt as to whether the allegedly stolen items had been accurately documented by the police.

Justice Chan also noted that two statements were taken from Miss Parti without an interpreter.

The judge also found the testimony of Mr Karl Liew to be "highly suspect". The younger Mr Liew had claimed in court that various items of female clothing, allegedly stolen by Miss Parti, belonged to him as he liked to cross-dress.

Mr Anil told the court that he would be making an application for compensation to be paid to Miss Parti, who has not worked for the past four years.

After the verdict, Miss Parti sobbed in relief and hugged her lawyer and staff from the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, a non-governmental organisation.

During Miss Parti's district court trial, Mr Liew Mun Leong testified that he suspected her of stealing for years when things went missing at his Chancery Lane house, but his wife told him it may not have been the maid who took them.

Mr Liew said he finally decided to terminate her employment in October 2016. The last straw was the loss of a portable power bank given to him by a French university that had invited him to give a guest lecture.

As he was overseas, he asked Karl to oversee the termination of her service and her repatriation to Indonesia.

On Oct 28 that year, Mr Karl Liew told Miss Parti that she would no longer be working for the family and gave her about three hours to pack her belongings.

He agreed to pay for the three boxes to be shipped to her home and the maid returned to Indonesia.

The next day, the family opened the boxes to check the contents and found many of their belongings inside. A police report was made after the CAG chairman returned to Singapore.

But Mr Anil argued that the items alleged to be stolen were either discarded objects, Miss Parti's own belongings, or things that had been put into the boxes by someone else.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.