Everything About S Iswaran’s Case That is Revealed So Far

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Summary of Transport Minister S Iswaran’s Charges, Including Corruption

On the morning of 18 January 2024, Transport Minister S Iswaran was charged in court with a total of 27 offenses, including corruption and obtaining valuables as a public servant. 

This court hearing followed Iswaran’s arrest from half-a-year ago in July 2023

At 8:10AM in the morning, the 61-year-old minister was seen at the court building armed with lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers law firm.

In a strange twist of events, Iswaran had pleaded not guilty to all charges during his court appearance.

In a statement by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, it is revealed that Iswaran has also resigned from the People’s Action Party (PAP) on 16 January.

He will also be stepping down as transport minister and West Coast GRC MP.

Perhaps it is still too early in the day to process these new developments, so here is a comprehensive timeline breaking down the events leading up to today.

Who is Transport Minister S Iswaran?

Minister S Iswaran, who has been at the helm of the Ministry of Transport since May 2021, has been a fixture in Singaporean politics for over 26 years.

He was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 1997.

Before joining the Cabinet in 2006, Iswaran served on various government parliamentary committees and held the position of Deputy Speaker of Parliament from September 2004 to June 2006.

Iswaran’s Arrest and Subsequent Investigations by the CPIB

Iswaran’s arrest on 11 July 2023, which became public knowledge three days later, marked the beginning of a high-profile investigation.

He was subsequently released on bail, and has had his passport impounded, said the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

The legal proceedings against Iswaran stem from a series of alleged improprieties, with the most significant charges involving property tycoon Ong Beng Seng.

Ong had been arrested as well and asked to provide information relating to his interactions with the minister.

The first corruption charge accuses Iswaran of obtaining gratification amounting to S$145,434 from Ong.

This occurred in exchange for advancing Ong’s business interests related to a contract between race promoter Singapore GP and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

Ong, the owner of the Singapore Grand Prix rights and chairman of Singapore GP, allegedly provided Iswaran with tickets to the 2022 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix.

More specifically, 10 Green Room tickets (worth S$48,150), eight tickets (worth S$56,068) named “Twenty3” and 32 general admission tickets (worthS $41,216) to the 2022 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix in September 2022.

A second corruption charge involves Iswaran allegedly obtaining gratification again from Ong in December 2022, this time, to further Ong’s business interests in a contract with a public body related to the Singapore GP-STB facilitation agreement.

Additionally, it involves a proposal for a contract with STB to organize the ABBA Voyage virtual concert in Singapore.

Beyond the corruption charges, Iswaran is accused of obstructing justice by repaying Singapore GP S$5,700.

This amount corresponds to the cost of a business flight ticket from Doha to Singapore that Iswaran took on December 11, 2023, at Ong’s expense through Singapore GP.

The remaining 24 charges revolve around Iswaran allegedly obtaining valuable items as a public servant, spanning the period from November 2015 to December 2021.

If I go through all of these charges, we would most likely be here all day. So here are some which I personally found the most interesting:

  • Two tickets to the football match for Arsenal FC v Tottenham Hotspur FC (Emirates) worth about £550 from Mr Ong through Como Holdings (UK)
  • Four tickets to the shows Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Part 1 and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Part 2, worth about £1,000 from Mr Ong through Como Holdings (UK)
  • Four tickets to the show Kinky Boots worth about £300 from Mr Ong through Como Holdings (UK)
  • Four tickets to the show Hamilton worth about £400 from Mr Ong through Como Holdings (UK)

Man, as a musical fanatic who simply can’t afford tickets to see Hamilton in Singapore this year, the last one just hits hard.

Iswaran’s Leave of Absence During Investigations

During the time of investigation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong placed Iswaran on a leave of absence on 11 July 2023.

The prime minister also revealed that Iswaran’s pay was reduced to S$8,500 a month until further notice, although he retained the full annual MP allowance of S$192,500.

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) submitted a motion in September 2023 requesting Iswaran’s suspension as a Member of Parliament. However, this motion was ultimately rejected, and MPs decided to revisit the matter upon the conclusion of the investigations.

Iswaran Denies Charges, Steps Down as Minister

On 9 January 2024, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing confirmed that the CPIB had completed its probe into Iswaran. This paved the way for the formal charges and legal proceedings that are currently unfolding.

A week later, Iswaran handed in his resignation letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, where he stated that, “I reject the allegations in the charges and will now focus on clearing my name. Given the circumstances, I feel it is right for me to resign from Cabinet, as a Member of Parliament and as a member of the PAP.”

In another letter, Iswaran expressed his intention to return all monies received by way of salary and allowances as Minister and Member of Parliament respectively since his arrest in July 2023. 

He wrote in his second letter, “I am doing this even though I rejected the charges and am innocent” and he cannot, “in good conscience benefit from them when I was unable, on account of the investigations, to discharge my duties as a minister and Member of Parliament.”

Iswaran further clarified that he would not seek the return of the monies if he was found to be innocent. 

Addressing Iswaran’s resignation, PM Lee wrote in a statement, “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.”

In a later press release, it is revealed that Acting Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat will replace Iswaran as transport minister. He will also be appointed second minister for finance.

Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu will be the new minister-in-charge of trade relations.

The legal saga involving Iswaran has broader implications, emphasizing the commitment to honesty and incorruptibility within Singapore’s political system.

PM Lee, speaking at the People’s Action Party conference in November last year, underscored the importance of upholding these values.

He made it clear that any transgressions would not be tolerated, stating that the commitment to incorruptibility was “absolutely non-negotiable.”

He further expressed that the PAP must prove itself especially when it is tested, by putting principles into action “regardless of any embarrassment or political cost” and dealing with the issues “without fear or favour”.

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