Iswaran charged, will return salary and allowance, focus on clearing his name

iswaran charged will return salary and allowance focus on clearing his name

Former Minister for Transport, S Iswaran appeared in court yesterday (18 Jan 2024). 27 charges were filed against him. 

On 16 January 2024, Mr Iswaran wrote to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to resign as a Cabinet Minister and as a member of the People’s Action Party (PAP). He also resigned as Member of Parliament for the West Coast Group Representation Constituency.

This was a day after the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau had given him formal notice of the charges. 

Reject all allegations…

In his letter, Mr Iswaran said that he rejected all allegations against him and would now focus on clearing his name. 

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Return all monies..

In a second letter (17 Jan 2024) to PM Lee a day later, Mr Iswaran informed PM Lee that he would be returning all the monies that he had received by way of salary as Minister and allowances as Member of Parliament from the commencement of CPIB’s investigations in July 2023.  

He maintained his innocence. He rejected the charges and said that his family and he had decided to return the money because they could not ‘in all good conscience benefit from them’ because he was unable to discharge his duties during the period he was under investigation. 

Mr Iswaran strongly believed that he would be acquitted and emphasized that he would not be seeking the return of the monies if he is acquitted.  

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Upholding the integrity of the party and the Government..

In a statement released by the PMO, PM Lee said that the Government has dealt with this case rigorously in accordance with the law, and will continue to do so. “I am determined to uphold the integrity of the Party and the Government, and our reputation for honesty and incorruptibility. Singaporeans expect no less,” he said in the statement. 

In his response letter to Mr Iswaran, PM Lee said he was saddened and disappointed that Mr Iswaran was leaving politics under such circumstances. 

PM Lee wrote, “But it is essential that I deal with such matters rigorously in accordance with the law. It is the right thing to do. We must uphold the integrity of the party and the Government.” 

“I am sure you understand the importance of doing so. Singaporeans expect no less,” he added. 

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Lawrence Wong: PAP’s stance on corruption is non-negotiable

In a doorstop, DPM Lawrence Wong said that the PAP’s stance on corruption is non-negotiable and part of its DNA. There can be no compromise, relaxation, or fudging the issue; no matter the political price, he said. 

Speaking to journalists, he said, “The PAP Government will continue to do everything we can to uphold the highest standards of integrity, incorruptibility and propriety. That’s how we maintain the trust that Singaporeans have placed in us.”

Mr Wong has no doubt that party morale would be affected. “But we cannot allow this political hit to compromise our zero-tolerance stance against corruption,” he said. 

DPM Lawrence Wong also noted the initial online reactions to the charges, that the sums involved are not large. 

Writing in a Facebook post, he said:

Indeed in other countries, this may not be considered corruption. But that’s not the case in Singapore. The PAP and this government take a much stricter approach. Our zero-tolerance stance on corruption is non-negotiable. We are determined to keep our system corruption-free. We will not flinch from doing the right thing, and upholding the highest standards of integrity and incorruptibility.

Can civil servants keep gifts given to them?

In a speech in Parliament last year (2 Aug 2023), Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is also the Minister-in-charge of the Public Service said that civil servants cannot retain gifts worth more than S$50, unless they pay the market value of the gift to the government. 

Mr Chan said the rules for the civil service on accepting gifts and hospitality are designed to “maintain incorruptibility”, and prevent its officers from becoming “beholden” to any person or organisation.

Under these rules:

  • Civil servants must declare to their Permanent Secretaries any gifts they receive from external stakeholders on account of their official position or work
  • For gifts valued below S$50, officers can retain these if doing so does not affect the “integrity” of the civil service
  • For gifts valued above S$50, officers who wish to retain these must pay the assessed market value of the gift to the government

 

Political office holders follow the same principles as civil servants in their official activities. There are specific rules spelt out in the Code of Conduct for Ministers.

What this means is that:

  • In general, all gifts should be refused and returned to the donor without delay
  • If the return of the gift is impractical, the gift must be handed over to the political office holder’s ministry to be dealt with in accordance with official guidelines
  • If political office holders want to retain a gift, they have to pay the government for it at the valuation price
  • If they do not, the gifts will have to be surrendered to the government

 

You can read Mr Chan Chun Sing’s speech here.

Statement by Iswaran

Later in the day after the charges were filed against him, Mr Iswaran also issued a statement on his Facebook page. 

What about Ong Beng Seng?

 The Attorney-General’s Chambers said on Thursday that it will decide on investigations against him after the case against Iswaran is completed.ve chargesbe charged. 

The Charges against Iswaran

Mr Iswaran was charged for the following offences (source CPIB):

2 charges of corruption under section 6(a) read with section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The 2 charges allege that Iswaran corruptly obtained from Ong Beng Seng a total value of about S$145,434 in September 2022, and about S$20,848.03 in December 2022, as inducement for advancing Mr Ong’s business interests in relation to contracts between the Singapore Grand Prix and the Singapore Tourism Board.

24 charges of obtaining, as a public servant, valuable things with a total value of about S$218,058.95 from Ong for no consideration, punishable under section 165 of the Penal Code committed between November 2015 to December 2021.

Section 165 of the Penal Code makes it an offence for a public servant to accept anything of value — without payment or with inadequate payment — from a person with whom he is involved in an official capacity.

It is not necessary to establish that the item of value was received as an inducement or a reward for it to be deemed as an offence.

1 charge of obstructing the course of justice. Iswaran repaid to Singapore GP the S$5,700 for his business class flight. This money was originally at the expense of Ong through Singapore GP. He allegedly made this payment to obstruct the course of justice.

 Mr Iswaran is represented by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh.

A pre-trial conference has been set for March 1.

 

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