"Why is there a double standard?"
That was Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai's pointed question to the Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam in Parliament on Monday (March 20).
Leong had asked Shanmugam a parliamentary question about why the names of Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, Lee Suet Fern, were disclosed during the judiciary probe over their potential offences of giving false evidence in judicial proceedings.
Earlier this month, the police opened investigations into the Lees, as the Court of Three Judges and a disciplinary tribunal found in 2020 that the couple had lied under oath during disciplinary proceedings against Mrs Lee over her handling of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s last will.
Leong compared the Lees' case to that of the six former senior management staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited (KOM) – whose names were not publicly disclosed while they were being investigated over bribe payments.
The Lees lied: Shanmugam
Answering Leong's question, Shanmugam said in Parliament that law agencies generally do not disclose the names of individuals who have been or are being investigated.
However, he clarified, this general principle is subject to certain exceptions:
- When the offender has absconded or left the jurisdiction while investigations are ongoing
- When the facts that constitute the alleged offences, and the individuals who may have committed the alleged offences, are already publicly known and there is some public interest in disclosing that investigations are underway
- When an individual already convicted of several offences attempts to flee Singapore
- When an individual makes a public statement regarding his case, prompting a response from the authorities.
The minister cited the example of Pi Jiapeng and Pansuk Siriwipa, who were involved in a series of alleged cheating cases involving luxury goods.
The pair had fled Singapore while investigations were ongoing, and the police released their details.
Shanmugam said that the case of the Lees "straddle the first two examples".
"The Disciplinary Tribunal and the Court of Three Judges had said Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern were lying.
"They had been found to be dishonest, and more. All of that is public. They have also essentially absconded from jurisdiction. We take this seriously."
Keppel's case was different: Shanmugam
He further explained that the KOM case did not fall within the different examples that he had listed earlier.
"Members may not know this but it was Keppel O&M which had made the CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) report.
"The CPIB had conducted as thorough an investigation as it could with the information and powers that it possessed. It turned all the stones it could – and assessed the evidence together with [the Attorney-General's Chambers]. They concluded that they could not sustain any charges in court," said Shanmugam.
He added that he was also willing to debate the issue "if any Member feels that this general policy should be changed, and that if law enforcement agencies should name all individuals who are being investigated, regardless of the circumstances".
That said, Shanmugam maintained that the Lees will "have every right to provide explanations on the matters being investigated", should they choose to cooperate with the police.
"It is their choice whether they want to be fugitives from justice, or whether they come and explain why they say the Courts were wrong to say that they had lied."