By – Thiruselvam
Former transport minister S. Iswaran has been granted permission to leave Singapore to settle his son into university in Australia, three weeks after he was handed 27 charges, which he pleaded not guilty to.
On Thursday (Feb 8), Iswaran, who is out on $800,000 bail, turned up at the State Courts at around 2.30pm to make an application to leave jurisdiction from Feb 16 to March 4.
The prosecution imposed several conditions to this application, including a cash bail of S$500,000. Iswaran must also provide his itinerary and his address overseas to the investigation officer (IO) and remain contactable by the IO.
He must also surrender his travel documents within 24 hours of his return to Singapore.
Iswaran’s bailor, who was identified in court as Ng, agreed to those conditions before the judge.
When The Straits Times approached him after the hearing to ask what his relation to Iswaran is, Ng did not respond and walked away.
Iswaran’s case will also be transferred to the High Court, with the prosecution saying this was due to the strong public interest in this case.
Deputy Chief Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue and Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelvin Chong did not elaborate on this. Chief Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng, who leads the prosecution team in this case, was not present in court.
Senior Counsel Davinder Singh from Davinder Singh Chambers, who is leading the defence team for Iswaran, was also not in court.
Defence lawyer Navin Shanmugaraj Thevar requested an early trial for his client so the “evidence can be fully aired and the matter decided as soon as possible”.
Thevar said he wrote to the prosecution in January to indicate Iswaran’s request for an early trial, and agreed that this matter should be heard in the High Court.
The defence lawyer then sought the prosecution’s agreement to an early trial, adding that this should be possible, as the authorities have “had a long time to investigate this matter”.
In response, Jiang said the judge’s schedule in the High Court should be taken into consideration for this, and that this matter can be addressed when a case conference is called.
All 27 charges Iswaran faces were re-read to him on Feb 8, as required when a case is transferred to the High Court.
A criminal case disclosure conference for the case will be held in the High Court on March 22.
Iswaran is accused of 24 counts of obtaining, as a minister, items with a total value of more than $200,000 from property tycoon Ong Beng Seng. Ong is the man who brought Formula One to Singapore in 2008.
These items include tickets to the Singapore Grand Prix (GP), football matches in Britain and musicals.
Several of the charges were related to alleged incidents that happened between 2015 and 2021, and involved him allegedly obtaining tickets to a football match between West Ham United and Everton and to shows such as Harry Potter And The Cursed Child.
He also faces a charge of obstructing the course of justice on or about May 25, 2023.
According to court documents, he had allegedly made repayment of $5,700 – the cost of his business class flight ticket from Doha to Singapore that he had taken on Dec 11, 2022, at Ong’s expense – through Singapore GP.
Iswaran was arrested in July 2023 by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) following its investigation into a separate matter. Ong was also arrested that month as part of the corruption probe.
Following his court appearance on Jan 18, Iswaran issued a statement stating his innocence and said he will focus on clearing his name.
Iswaran was elected in 1997 as an MP for West Coast GRC, where he has served for the last 26 years.
He was promoted to full minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in 2011.
Iswaran resigned from the People’s Action Party in January and stepped down as transport minister and West Coast GRC MP.
For each corruption charge, he can be fined up to $100,000, jailed for up to seven years, or both.
He can be fined, jailed for up to two years or both, for obtaining valuable items from someone he had business dealings with as a public servant.
For obstructing the course of justice, he can be jailed for up to seven years, fined or both. – The Straits Times/ANN
Source – THE STAR