Singapore court rules S. Iswaran, who faces corruption charges, can leave for Australia, but with extra bail conditions

The prosecution had no objections as long as Iswaran adhered to additional bail conditions – including an extra bail sum of S$500,000 (US$372,000) in cash on top of his existing bail of S$800,000.

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Defence lawyer Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and Chief Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng – were absent in court on Thursday.

Their subordinates attended the hearing instead – with Navin Thevar making the application on Iswaran’s behalf, and Deputy Chief Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue responding for the prosecution.

Thevar said the defence filed the application for Iswaran to leave the country, mainly because “he needs to settle his son into university”.

He added that the defence accepts the conditions set out by the prosecution.

Singapore’s former Transport Minister S. Iswaran (centre) faces 27 charges, comprising 24 counts of receiving gratification as a public servant, two counts of corruption, and one count of obstructing justice. Photo: EPA-EFE

Apart from the additional cash bail, Iswaran is required to provide his travel itinerary and overseas address to the investigating officer, as well as remain contactable by the IO at all times.

The bailor, a man with the surname Ng, said he agreed to those conditions. When approached by CNA to explain his relation to Iswaran, Ng did not respond.

District Judge Brenda Tan approved the travel application and imposed the bail conditions asked for by the prosecution.

Iswaran’s case will also be transferred to the High Court, with the prosecution citing “strong public interest considerations”.

Both sides agreed on the matter.

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The defence added that Iswaran wanted an early trial “so the evidence can be fully aired, and the matter decided as soon as possible”.

“So now that the prosecution has indicated they will be taking the case to High Court, we are happy with that decision. We absolutely agree that this is a matter that should be heard in the High Court,” Thevar said.

He then asked if the prosecution would agree for an “early trial” to be held in the High Court, saying the defence cannot see why this should not or cannot happen since investigations have taken “a long time”.

Jiang responded that this is “in consideration” and that the judge’s diary in the High Court “ought to be taken into account”.

“These are matters we need not trouble your honour on, and we can address this before the High Court registry when a case conference is called,” he said.

Iswaran was charged on January 18, months after a probe into him was made public.

He pleaded not guilty to all 27 charges, saying after his charging that he would focus on clearing his name.

The charges were read again to him on Thursday, as required when a case is transferred to the High Court.

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Among the charges, two were of corruptly obtaining bribes from Ong, 24 of obtaining valuables as a public servant and one of obstructing justice.

The former minister is accused of corruptly receiving more than S$166,000 (US$123,300) worth of flights, hotel stays and tickets to events in exchange for advancing the billionaire’s business interests.

He is separately accused of obtaining about S$218,000 worth of valuable items in his capacity as a minister who also dealt with Ong and his company. Iswaran was chairman of the F1 Steering Committee.
S. Iswaran is part of the largest political scandal to hit the city state in close to four decades. Photo: Bloomberg

Iswaran resigned from his positions in government two days before being formally charged in court. He had previously been placed on a leave of absence pending an investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

A criminal case disclosure conference for the case will be held in the High Court on March 22.

This refers to a formal system where both sides disclose information about the case – including outlining their cases and the evidence they will be relying on – to facilitate the trial process.

If convicted of obtaining a valuable thing as a public servant, Iswaran can be jailed for up to two years, fined, or both.

If convicted of corruptly obtaining gratification under the Prevention of Corruption Act, he can be jailed for up to seven years, fined up to S$100,000, or both.

If convicted of obstructing justice, he can be jailed for up to seven years, fined, or both.

This story was first published by CNA

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