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  • Writer's pictureJulie O'Connor

Is the Singapore Establishment a Bastion of Integrity or an Institution of Betrayal?

Updated: Aug 25

Singapore's leaders so often talk of their institution's high standards of honesty, integrity, and propriety. But if it were to condone the powerful using their resources/connections to protect friends or to persecute foes, that would not only be an institution devoid of integrity, but one betraying its citizens, and misleading international investors. Leaders are more than happy to talk about accountability and having the buck stop with them, but having the courage and integrity to walk that talk when the buck knocks at their door, is quite another matter.

In 2016 I spoke out publicly about allegations of fraud involving a well-connected Singaporean which had been covered up, and in August 2018, a former MD of Temasek reached out to me. Someone had shared my posts with him, and he started ploughing through my evidence to find out what had gone so wrong. He was flabbergasted at what he said reminded him of something you would read in a John Grisham novel. It is an extraordinary chain of events, none of which would ever have seen the light of day if two Singaporeans and their associates hadn't conspired to take our shares away for $1, when they were worth over a million times more! But as is usually the case, the cover-up by others turned out to be far worse.

What followed is perfectly described by the Sir Walter Scott quote “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”. The errant activities that had taken place would then drag in the names of prominent Singapore law firm Allen & Gledhill, Government Linked bank DBS and others, who at the time may have been totally unaware of what was taking place, but who ended up stuck on the back of a tiger. I reported allegations including but not limited to forgery, a conspiracy to defraud, plans to manipulate a share price, failure to disclose material information on a timely basis, false or misleading disclosures, failure to disclose interests in transactions, and failure to discharge directors’ duties, to Singapore authorities. In addition, I provided evidence that an offer of A$3,500,000 had been made, which would hide a writ containing allegations of fraud from SGX investors prior to US$2 billion of proposed transactions being announced. Also, that a bank, amongst other things, had compromised a whistleblower submission. These are serious concerns and are of course in the public interest. The integrity of law firms, the abuse of banking secrecy and the impotence of Singapore's regulators was being called into question. I wasn't the only person raising red flags about the same group of companies, which had left Singaporean and international victims in its wake.

I watched on as the Singapore authorities were chomping at the bit to investigate and prosecute Indonesian maid Parti Liyani for a purported S$34,000 theft of goods based on flimsy and perjured evidence provided by her well-connected, elite employers. Yet, the authorities had no appetite to open the can of worms and investigate the well-connected elite that I was offering up to them on a plate!

The individual I was reporting had been formerly legally represented by the current Second Minister of Law (Minister Tong). The law firm then headed up by the current Attorney General (Lucien Wong) had purportedly drawn up the documents that were used in the conspiracy to defraud, together with letters produced by Government Linked bank DBS. Whilst there is nothing to suggest that the Attorney General, the Second Minister of Law or DBS were complicit in what took place, they are all conflicted parties, and the reluctance for an investigation only adds to concerns that an institutional cover-up has/is taking place.

After a Singaporean was offered A$3,500,000 which would cover up the allegations of fraud that implicated Minister Tong's former client, the individual suddenly developed amnesia! Despite dozens of emails, face to face meetings in Singapore, his driver picking us up from the hotel, emails asking me to bring over Ugg boots for his two daughters, asking me to pick up his legal documents and keep them in my garage, he would tell the Australian Major Fraud Squad that he had never heard of me. Of course, they didn't believe him as they had seen the evidence and told him so...He then told them she is now on her own! The Singapore legal bodies continue to claim lack of sufficient evidence to even conduct an investigation, all the while knowing that this person had been paid for his silence. But the evidence is there, and a rotten situation doesn't smell sweeter over time, it just festers.

Given the clear conflicts in the highest echelons and the refusal for an investigation, I recently asked the Prime Minister to request that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) investigate. If the Prime Minister does refuse an investigation, Singaporeans have been assured that there are safeguards in place! The CPIB who just happen to report to the Prime Minister's Office, can ask that the President agree to CPIB investigating. I struggle typing this with a straight face when all roads lead to Rome. If there was ever a report of corruption in Singapore's highest echelons, who is the independent watchman, me, myself and I?

I already had concerns about the lack of independence of the CPIB given its reporting structure, and these concerns were heightened when I read an article published by the FCPA blog yesterday. The article stated that in Singapore the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) is vulnerable and sometimes under threat from politicians and businesspeople. Immediately, the findings in the Ridout scandal and the Keppel bribery case sprung to mind. What I also found interesting from the description under the 'threat' link, was that it can include anti-corruption agencies that become “attack dogs” against the government’s political opponents. Was this how the Singapore establishment were able to quell dissent, whilst on the surface looking like a bastion of integrity? In addition, of course, to allowing well-connected folk to offer financial incentives to cover up their dirt and play their part in keeping Singapore looking clean.

Even before reading the FCPA article, when I read about any individual who has spoken up against Singapore's ruling party and is being accused or charged with some crime or another, I am sceptical. Whenever I read about allegations against a well-connected individual or entity not being investigated or who is let off with a stern warning, I am sceptical. I find myself questioning whether a powerful individual has been allowed to coerce or entice others to look the other way or even worse to provide false evidence against them? I never wanted to be put in a position of having to sell my silence, but I found myself there. If my husband was to receive anything for his shares, I would have to agree to endorse and ratify documents alleged to contain forged signatures, to handover the evidence and retract the complaints I had made to authorities, to protect someone who frankly doesn't deserve protecting. He should never be allowed to control the funds of investors again, whether hiding behind a beneficial interest or not. But protected he is.

How many would be whistleblowers in Singapore are being intimidated, coerced or enticed into silence to keep Singapore looking clean? How many more Lee Hsien Yang's will find themselves in exile because they speak truth to power? How many more journalists or activists will be sued? How many more Parti Liyani's will be prosecuted on perjured evidence because they happen to cross a powerful elite? How many businessmen will be threatened, and innocent families financially destroyed because another well-connected Singapore elite believes that the establishment will protect them? We all make a choice whether to be a perpetrator, bystander, upstander, or a rescuer.

Victims like the one below might be threatened by Singapore's 'protected' so they don't speak up publicly, but their voices will never be silenced:


I keep on following you from a distance, it is good that you keep on posting about these people. What I underestimated it the fact that for the outside they represent the good and their word is truth. I am the loser. When things went sour, they threatened that I would never work in the business again; they would make sure of that. The strength of their network is almost diabolical, if you fight one of them, you fight all of them. Please do not give up, keep telling the world how corrupt these individuals are."

~A European Businessman

In my case, not one person has had the courage to admit that what has taken place was wrong, even though members of the Cabinet, DBS Board, AGC, CPIB and two Presidents have been appraised. The longer a cover-up continues, the worse leaders appear. If an institution cannot be trusted in the simplest matters of honesty, then why should it be trusted at all?

I will leave the reader with the question; do you believe the Singapore Establishment is a Bastion of Integrity or an Institution of Betrayal?

DBS LETTERS | Banking On The Truth

DBS - HE WHO RIDES A TIGER | Banking On The Truth

Hitting a Brick Wall - Banking Secrecy, Legal Privilege and a Conspiracy to Defraud (

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