10 Facts About S Iswaran, Whom Everyone is Talking About Now

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If you didn’t know who Subramaniam Iswaran was before, you probably know who he is now.

On 18 January, the former Transport Minister, better known as S Iswaran, was slapped with 27 charges, including corruption.

The 61-year-old is now out on a bail of $800,000 and has since resigned from the People’s Action Party (PAP).

So, who is this man?

Stellar Education

Like many ministers (or in this case, former minister), Iswaran has had a stellar education. 

You know, the kind that would make any Asian parent cry with joy.

He attended Saint Andrew’s School and National Junior College.

He then graduated from the University of Adelaide with first-class honours in economics.

Fun fact: he studied there under a Colombo Plan scholarship.

He also holds a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University.

Previously Associated with Temasek Holdings

Iswaran was previously the Senior Vice President and Managing Director at Temasek Holdings.

At one point, he was even the Director for International Trade at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

So yes, he was earning loads of bag before entering politics.

Started His Political Career in 1997

During the 1997 general election, he was part of a four-member PAP team on West Coast GRC and won with 70.14%.

Since then, his political career has been nothing short of illustrious. 

From 2004 to 2006, he had a stint as the Deputy Speaker of Parliament.

In 2006, he was promoted to Senior Minister of State at MTI.

He was even given an additional appointment as Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of Education (MOE) in 2009.

He also helped set up NTUC’s first preschools (then called NTUC Childcare Cooperative) and the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA).

What Iswaran was Doing Before the Corruption Investigation

Following a Cabinet reshuffle, Iswaran became Minister for Transport on 15 May 2021.

He continued his appointment as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

Iswaran was arrested by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) on 11 July 2023

Following the CPIB’s investigation into a separate matter, the bureau arrested Iswaran on 11 July 2023.

He was subsequently released on bail.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong instructed him to take a leave of absence until the investigations were completed.

In addition, Iswaran’s monthly pay was reduced to $8,500.

First High-level Corruption Probe in Nearly 40 Years

Singapore is known for its generally stable government for a reason.

The last high-level corruption probe concerning a cabinet minister was back in 1986.

Then-Minister for National Development Teh Cheang Wan was investigated for allegedly accepting bribes that amounted to $1,000,000.

However, before he could be formally charged, he committed suicide.

Iswaran Pleaded “Not Guilty” and Maintains his Innocence

On 18 January, when the judge asked Iswaran how he intended to plead, he responded, “Not guilty.”

He issued a statement following his court appearance.

He said, “I am innocent and will now focus on clearing my name.

“My family and I are deeply touched by the continued support, kindness and encouragement of our friends and well-wishers.”

Allegedly Obtained Tickets to Plays and Musicals from Property Tycoon Ong Beng Seng 

Of the 27 charges that were read to him, many of them involved tickets to plays and musicals.

Honestly, this has left many people scratching their heads.

He apparently obtained tickets to multiple shows in the United Kingdom, including Hamilton, Kinky Boots, Book of Mormon, Harry Potter, and The Cursed Child.

Iswaran also appears to be a football fan.

In November 2015, he allegedly obtained two tickets to the football match for West Ham United Football Club vs Everton FC (Boleyn Ground) and two tickets to the football match for Arsenal FC vs Tottenham Hotspur FC (Emirates).

In December 2017, he allegedly obtained four tickets to the football match for Chelsea FC vs Southampton FC (Stamford Bridge) and four tickets to the football match for Arsenal FC vs Liverpool FC (Emirates).

Most of His Offences Involve Mr Ong

Mr Ong is credited with bringing Formula One to Singapore in 2008.

In September 2022, Iswaran allegedly corruptly obtained from Mr Ong gratification totalling $145,434.

The money was an inducement to advance his business interests in matters involving a contract between Singapore GP and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

The alleged gratification included ten Green Room tickets and eight Twenty3 tickets.

It also included 32 general admission tickets to the 2022 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix.

A similar incident occurred in December 2022, where Iswaran allegedly obtained gratification valued at $20,848.03 from Mr Ong for advancing his business interests involving Singapore GP and the STB.

The alleged bribes included an outbound flight on Mr Ong’s private plane from Singapore to Doha, a one-night stay in Four Seasons Doha, and a business class flight from Doha to Singapore.

As a public servant, he obtained valuable things at around $218,058.95 on 24 occasions between November 2015 and December 2021.

He would obtain the items directly through Mr Ong, Singapore GP, or Como Holdings (UK), which is part of Como Group.

The group was founded and is owned by Mr Ong’s wife, Mrs Christina Ong.

Allegedly, he did all this knowing that Mr Ong had a connection with his official function as chairman of the F1 Steering Committee.

Iswaran Has Resigned from the PAP

In a statement on 18 January, PM Lee noted that Iswaran had resigned from the PAP.

He added that the former minister would step down as transport minister and West Coast GRC MP.

In his letter to PM Lee, Iswaran maintained his innocence, rejecting the allegations against him.

However, he added that resigning from his various appointments felt appropriate.

In an earlier letter on 17 January, Iswaran told PM Lee of his plans to return his salary and MP allowance.

He added that he would not seek the return of these funds even if acquitted.

Served West Coast GRC for 26 Years

In a statement posted to his Facebook page on 18 January, Iswaran wrote, “I am deeply saddened that I will no longer be serving the residents of West Coast.

“It has been a privilege to serve them over the past 26 years alongside a very dedicated group of grassroots leaders and activists.”

On 18 January, Minister for National Development and West Coast GRC MP Desmond Lee said that the MPs’ focus is on serving their residents.

He added that since July 2023, he and the other West Coast GRC MPs have stepped up to cover Iswaran’s MP duties.

He assured the residents that their needs would continue to be well taken care of.

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