Minister Shanmugam noted that serious questions had been raised about how one or more of the Liews had conducted themselves.
Ministerial Statement (Part 1, paragraphs 170–172):
170. Moving to the Liews, there are many aspects of Karl’s conduct and evidence, some of which I have dealt with, which are highly unsatisfactory, which raise skepticism based on what he said at the trial. He appeared not to be a credible witness. Filing a Police report, making claims on items, needs to be taken seriously. It doesn’t have to be a comprehensive account, but it must be done with careful consideration. Looking at the evidence, the impression one gets is that there seems to have been a cavalier attitude on the part of the Liews, in the way some items were identified as belonging to them, and in the way values were ascribed to some items.
171. It is natural to expect that you will know and take your duties seriously when you file a Police report. Be careful in what you say and do, commensurate with your knowledge and experience. When you claim an item, you make sure it is yours. When you ascribe a value, make sure you have a basis.
172. Questions do arise about how one or more of the Liews have conducted themselves, on these and other aspects.
Minister Shanmugam also noted inconsistencies in Mr Karl Liew’s conduct and evidence during the trial, and said that Mr Liew was under investigation as to whether he had committed any criminal offences.
Minister Shanmugam noted inconsistencies in many of Ms Parti Liyani’s statements. Her answers changed from one statement to another, and the Police and AGC thought she was untruthful. Based on the Police’s investigations, they assessed that she did steal, and that was why she was charged. Several aspects of Ms Liyani’s evidence in Court also raised questions.
Ministerial Statement (Part 1, paragraphs 18–19):
18. On 2 December 2016 at about 9pm, Ms Liyani returned to Singapore. She was arrested at the airport based on the PG. Ms Liyani said in her statement to the Police, that she came back to visit a friend and go sight-seeing thereafter, and she planned to return to Indonesia before going to Hong Kong to work. Later in Court, she said that she in fact returned to Singapore to look for her agent and seek employment.
19. When she was arrested, some items were found on her. These are listed at Annex 1, Table A to my statement, which will be distributed later. There’s only one Annex before Members, that is a different Annex. But the others are outside. In the interest of time, we won’t distribute each Annex as I go through. The Liews said these were also stolen items. These items were seized and subsequently included in the charges against her.
Minister Shanmugam explained that the case had been handled as a routine theft case by the Police and AGC, noting the reasons that Ms Liyani had been charged.
Ministerial Statement (Part 1, paragraphs 37–47):
37. From the Police and AGC’s perspective, this was handled as a routine theft case. There was no attempt by anyone to influence them. A police report was filed, and the matter was dealt with as such reports are usually dealt with.
38. I will come back to this.
39. AGC decided to charge Ms Liyani for two main reasons. There was sufficient evidence which showed that theft offences were likely to have been committed, and second, it was in the public interest to prosecute. Let me explain this.
40. The evidence that was before AGC at the time was as follows. The Liews had identified all the items in the charges as items belonging to them and gave some detail.
41. In contrast, based on what AGC saw, Ms Liyani gave answers which raised many questions. I will highlight some of these. Ms Liyani claimed that she had found some jewellery in May’s trash. May stated that she would never throw jewellery away. She would give unwanted jewellery to the Salvation Army, or friends. AGC’s assessment was that the evidence of May was more believable. Ms Liyani also claimed that she had found items such as a Prada bag, two Apple iPhones, and a pair of Gucci sunglasses in the trash. AGC did not find this to be credible. The list of items that Ms Liyani said she found in the trash (and their photographs) are at Annex 3.
42. Ms Liyani also expressly admitted to taking some items, 10 to 15 items of clothing. Let me explain this. In her first statement dated 3 December 2016, Ms Liyani was asked how she came into possession of the male clothing. She said the clothing belonged to her employer. She said she took the clothing because the clothes were small. She assumed her employer’s son Karl would not want the clothes. She did not ask Karl whether she could take the clothes. She admitted to taking the pieces of male clothing in early-2015.
43. In her second statement dated 4 December 2016, Ms Liyani said, “I only took about 10 to 15 men’s clothing belonging to my employer’s husband… I admit that I took it without informing my employer or her husband”; and she also said, “I only admit to taking the 10 to 15 men’s clothing belonging to my employer’s husband without consent,” and “I did not steal any other items.”
44. Her statement that she did not steal any other items is also very significant. Prima facie, on the statements, this would appear to be theft. AGC assessed the case based on this and other material. I should add that under cross examination in Court, Ms Liyani said she was only given permission to take these items if Karl did not want them, but she did not ask Karl, meaning she just took the items.
45. Ms Liyani also gave contradictory accounts to the Police on several other items. These inconsistencies are set out in Annex 4. I will highlight two instances of inconsistencies as illustrations – First, “Vacheron Constantin” and “Swatch” watches. In her statement dated 4 December 2016, Ms Liyani said these watches were gifts from a friend. However, in a later statement dated 29 May 2017, she said she had found these watches in May’s trash. Next, a pair of “Gucci” sunglasses. In her statement dated 4 December 2016, she said this was a gift from LML’s previous helper. In a later statement of 29 May 2017, she said she found it in her room at LML’s home, when she first started working for LML. I should add, later in Court, Ms Liyani was asked about these contradictions. She gave explanations. Her explanations are also set out in the table at Annex 4.
46. Putting together Ms Liyani’s apparent inconsistencies, her answers on the jewellery, and the other items which she said she found in the trash like the Prada bag, two Apple iPhones, the pair of Gucci sunglasses, her other questionable answers, and her admission to taking some male clothing without permission, AGC’s view was that there was a case to prosecute. At that stage, the Liews’ position was that the items were theirs.
47. AGC also took the view that there was a clear public interest in prosecuting Ms Liyani. Two reasons – One, it appeared that Ms Liyani had stolen many items, including some seemingly expensive items. Two, it appeared that she had been stealing for years, and it was not impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decisions.
Minister Shanmugam also affirmed that there had been no attempt by anyone to influence the Police or AGC.
Minister Shanmugam stated the Government’s continuing commitment to upholding the Rule of Law.
Ministerial Statement (Part 2, paragraphs 11–21):
11. This case is in fact an illustration of how the Rule of Law applies. A Foreign Domestic Worker is charged. The High Court acquits her. The Complainant is a wealthy, powerful person. But all are equal before the Law. It doesn’t matter who the parties are. Justice according to the facts and the Law as the Courts see it.
12. We may agree or disagree with the State Court’s or High Court’s decisions and conclusions. But that is a different matter.
13. If you look at a systemic level, at the highest level, you talk about “the Criminal Justice System”. We have the Police who investigate in accordance with the legal framework for Police investigations. AGC makes the charging decision based on (1) available evidence; and (2) public interest. The Trial Courts consider the sufficiency of the evidence and the legal issues. The Appellate Courts review the decision of the Trial Court. This case shows that the criminal justice system as a whole works.
14. If you drill down to the next level, we have “systems”. For example, these would comprise, investigative protocols, SOPs for how Police and DPPs operate. I have mentioned some errors that were made, we have to try and strengthen the “systems” at that level, try and prevent re-occurrence. I have also mentioned the challenges.
15. Besides these levels to the system, there will always be the risk of mistakes by individuals. These lapses will have to be dealt with. The idea of Rule of Law is central to our ideas of Fairness, Equality and Justice. It is even more important, in the current zeitgeist that is sweeping through countries.
16. Societies around the world are grappling with debates on inequality. A sense that the elite are creaming off most of the economic benefits and bending the rules and systems to their own advantage, and in the process, buying off, suborning those in Government. People are fed up with unfair structures. Equal opportunities are drying up.
17. In Singapore, we are not in the same situation. Our active intervention in socioeconomic issues has helped most people to benefit. But our people know. We must jealously guard the availability of equal opportunities. We must ensure that everyone has a fair shake. We must be alert, guard against the wealthy and the powerful, taking unfair advantages.
18. If a significant section of our people feel that the system favours some, or that it is unfairly stacked against them, then Singapore will lose its cohesion and it can’t succeed. Thus it is essential that we have a fair system, that we have a clean system, that we have a system that gives opportunities to all.
19. These are our fundamental concerns. If LML did unfairly influence the proceedings, then it will be a hit to our foundations. It will hit to our sense of fairness, equality, justice and a dent to Project Singapore itself, because Singapore is built on these ideals.
20. We have always been jealous about guarding against such corrosion. It does not mean there will be no abuse of power and no corruption. But when it happens, swift, decisive action must be taken. Members will know successive Governments have been clear about this.
21. There has to be a ruthless intensity in upholding integrity. Mr Lee Kuan Yew set the tone. The case of Mr Teh Cheang Wan is a prime example of that approach.
Minister Shanmugam also stressed the importance of the Government maintaining high standards of conduct.
Read the Ministerial Statement on the Review of the Case of Parti Liyani v Public Prosecutor (2020): Part 1, Part 2 andPart 3