Singapore maid case 'wasn’t biased in favour of rich employer'

Singapore maid case 'wasn’t biased in favour of rich employer'

In this file photo taken on March 15, 2006, the then president and CEO of CapitaLand Group Liew Mun Leong (right) speaks after signing an agreement with US gaming giant MGM Mirage in Singapore. Liew, the chairman of Singapore's airport operator, stepped aside late on Sept 10, 2020 after he faced a public backlash when a judge cleared an Indonesian maid accused of stealing from his family and criticised the case. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on March 15, 2006, the then president and CEO of CapitaLand Group Liew Mun Leong (right) speaks after signing an agreement with US gaming giant MGM Mirage in Singapore. Liew, the chairman of Singapore's airport operator, stepped aside late on Sept 10, 2020 after he faced a public backlash when a judge cleared an Indonesian maid accused of stealing from his family and criticised the case. (AFP)

The 2019 conviction of an immigrant domestic helper for stealing wasn’t improperly biased in favour of her rich and powerful employer, Singapore Law Minister K Shanmugam said in an address to Parliament Wednesday.

Parti Liyani, the Indonesian worker, has since been acquitted, casting a spotlight on the social divide between the rich and poor and raising questions about the fairness of the legal system. In response, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, police and manpower ministry agreed to review the case.

The review found breaches of protocol, but it didn’t point to bias or influence in favour of Liew, Shanmugam told Parliament.

“There was nothing improper nor any undue pressure on the police or the Attorney-General’s Chambers at any stage of these investigations and proceedings,” said Shanmugam, who is also the Home Affairs Minister.

“The credibility of our system, the foundation of our society depends on us ensuring that there is rule of law, that the law applies equally to all. If that principle is compromised, then Singapore is compromised.”

Liew Mun Leong, the former chairman of Changi Airport Group, had told police that Parti had stolen S$34,000 ($24,830) from the household, and she was found guilty and sentenced to more than two years in jail. In September, the high court found the Liew family had levied its allegations in an attempt to keep Parti from complaining about illegal violations of her work contract and cleared her of all charges.

Following public outcry, Liew resigned from his role at the award-winning airport as well as chairmanship of Surbana Jurong, a government-linked infrastructure and services company. He also stepped down from positions at state investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte.

Though the weeks-long internal review didn’t find undue influence or pressure in favor of Liew, there were several protocol breaches, Shanmugam said. For instance, investigators took five weeks after the police report was filed to seize some items involved in the theft. There wasn’t also any proper photography of the evidence soon after the police report was filed.

Internal investigations are being carried out to look into the conduct of police officers involved in the case and action will be taken as necessary, Shanmugam said.

Liew Mun Leong’s son, Karl Liew, who had testified in the trial, has also been investigated for criminal offences, including lying on oath, Shanmugam said. This comes after the high court found inconsistencies in Karl Liew’s testimony. Among his claims, Karl Liew said he likes to cross-dress when questioned why he owned women’s clothing after claiming that those items found in Parti’s possession belonged to him.

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