Ownself Check Ownself is Not a Virtue and May Lead down a Slippery Slope to Cover-Ups & Corruption.
Updated: Jun 2
There has been much furore over the past week about the statement made by Singapore’s Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. Ong said "People can say 'ownself check ownself', but I see it always as a virtue — if ownself cannot check ownself, you're in big trouble".
The system of #ownselfcheckownself coupled with cronyism and a Government with a penchant to keep the reputation of the country pristine, faces the risk of being abused to protect well-connected elites, members of the Government and associated companies from investigations into any wrongdoing. If members of the Singapore Government don't need oversight, then why should anyone else?
If everyone did the right thing there would be no need for a police force, regulators, a legal system, auditors, compliance etc. We wouldn't need a second opinion from a doctor or witnesses to our signatures on legal documents. But we don't live in a perfect world and to expect anyone to believe that when a citizen takes up a role in Government, they suddenly become a righteous person with the highest standards of morals and ethics is egregious. Hence why there needs to be checks and balances from top to bottom, more so where a power imbalance exists.
When I attempted to expose a fraud, I came up against a system that tried to obfuscate, divert, intimidate, attack and buy silence, whilst never addressing the fundamental problems. I saw a system with a lack of willingness to face up to the truth and deal with it, instead trying desperately to sweep things under the rug by whatever means necessary. But a rotten situation never smells better over time and inevitably corporate collapses followed which left both local and international investors, creditors and two of Singapore's largest financial institutions facing significant losses.
Some might say I struck the jackpot, I was up against a system where there were conflicts of interest not just within a Government Linked Bank, but also the Ministry of Law and the Attorney General's Chambers.
I found myself raising serious concerns about a Board Member of several SGX listed entities who was legally represented at the time by Edwin Tong, who was a PAP MP and is now the Second Minister of Law. The Head of the law firm Allen & Gledhill (A&G) was Lucien Wong the current Attorney General, and their client was an influential client of Government Linked bank DBS, Lionel Lee Chye Tek (Lee). I'm not suggesting that Lucien Wong or Edwin Tong did anything wrong, but undoubtedly both would find themselves in positions of conflict if any investigations were to take place into Lee's conduct. The role of their legal firm would have been to protect Lee, even if that meant facilitating a Settlement Agreement which would hide an alleged pattern of fraud which implicated Lee.
Immediately when I raised concerns, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau should have been appointed. There should have been no 18-month "desktop assessment" undertaken by the Singapore Police given the conflict of interest of the Attorney General and the Second Minister of Law in any investigation into their former client. There was a A$3.5 million can of worms just waiting to be opened.
Even when I reached out to both Presidents Tony Tan and Halimah Yacob requesting that the CPIB be engaged because of the evident conflicts of interest in the upper echelons of the Singapore Government, the Singapore Police would respond on their behalf. I found myself facing the very #ownselfcheckownself system that Minister Ong was claiming to be a virtue. Perhaps Mr. Ong could explain to Singaporeans and international investors just how this system is virtuous and why the Singapore Government should be "trusted" to do the right thing and not use the system to protect themselves and/or well-connected elites?
The Actions of Government Linked Bank DBS Don't Pass the Sniff Test Either!
Wong Partnership, the DBS appointed lawyers were absolutely correct in their recent response to the Asian Sentinel Editor about my journey to expose a fraud, I don't accept the status quo because we have been egregiously wronged in a transaction which involved an influential DBS client. A transaction which couldn't have been accomplished without the assistance of a conflicted DBS. Therefore, under the circumstances, it would be totally inappropriate for DBS to also partake in the virtuous #ownselfcheckownself system, without providing evidence. Especially when Lee, an influential client of DBS was described as being able to request favours of a senior member of DBS staff, who agreed if DBS were not made aware.
DBS client Lee, whose own empire was facing an iceberg, was attempting to purchase an Australian Company and its subsidiaries in Singapore and Vietnam. His attempts were frustrated when I uncovered a conspiracy to defraud involving the use of a sham option deed being used by Lee's dubious sidekick. Lee's sidekick was the CEO of another SGX listed entity and has since been charged with cheating and false trading in an unrelated matter. Allen & Gledhill drew up the original option deed for Lee's company, but they have failed to confirm if they also drew up the sham version of the document which was used in the conspiracy to defraud.
I also uncovered allegations implicating Lee and his personal assistant in the affixing/witnessing of forged signatures to four documents, which had been signed on behalf of a struck off Bahamas entity. But like a superhero out of a comic book, two DBS letters would swiftly come to Lee's rescue. The DBS letters would threaten to foreclose on the Australian company's Singapore asset unless they introduced a new investor acceptable to DBS. The timing of the DBS letters was impeccable, and DBS knew that there was no new investor, it was their own influential client Lee that was struggling to acquire the Australian company and its assets. DBS were conflicted.
The Australian law firm Minter Ellison didn't raise concerns with a junior DBS customer service clerk, but with the most senior legal person within DBS. The DBS Managing Director, Head Group Legal, Secretariat and Compliance was advised that the DBS letters had been used to wipe A$30m -A$40m (92.2% - 96.6%) off a week-old valuation of a company which DBS client Lee was attempting to acquire. And that the letters were used to amend the company Constitution to defraud a shareholder. DBS were asked if the DBS letters were authentic, because frankly to say they were amateurish would be an understatement. Knowing the number of scams within the banking sector and that a transaction was pending, DBS should have responded to that letter within 48-hours at a minimum. If DBS was well aware that they weren't allowed to authenticate any documents due to banking privacy obligations, which by the way would be an incredulous loophole for crooks to abuse, that standard spiel could have been sent within hours.
But DBS took eight-weeks to respond to the Australian lawyers and during that period Lee's company would complete its acquisition. Following the recent Asian Sentinel article about my journey, the DBS Board via their external lawyers, after threatening legal action would then publicly claim that the two DBS letters are authentic and have not been tampered with, but still providing no evidence. Others and I are sceptical of the findings because of the background to the transaction, the individual involved and because it has been DBS Legal, Compliance and Secretariat investigating DBS Legal, Compliance and Secretariat, with no evidence produced. I have no faith that there is any virtue in this #ownselfcheckownself scenario which Minister Ong claims. When a purportedly independent whistleblower program stipulates from the outset that any questions in relation to the authenticity of the DBS letters are off-limits, it just adds to the concerns.
As Heads of a Government Linked Bank, both DBS CEO Piyush Gupta and DBS Chairman Peter Seah should be hauled over the coals, together with the financial regulator and asked to please explain. Why would it take DBS bank eight-weeks to respond to a letter which should have immediately rung alarm bells, when DBS knew that a transaction was imminent and that it involved their influential client Lee?
Minister Ong should explain what virtue there is in #ownselfcheckownself when arguably it is encouraging a system which is devoid of independent checks and balances and could be leading Singapore down the slippery slope to cover-ups and corruption, if it's not already there yet.