Not Friends: Singapore’s top cop ‘not involved’ in former associate’s case against maid

From left, Liew Mun Leong, Parti Liyani and Lucien Wong. Images: Changi Airport, Giving.sg, Attorney-General’s Chambers
From left, Liew Mun Leong, Parti Liyani and Lucien Wong. Images: Changi Airport, Giving.sg, Attorney-General’s Chambers

Singapore’s attorney general was not involved in the prosecution of a domestic helper accused by a former business associate of theft, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said today in response to questions about their relationship.

Attorney General Lucien Wong, who once worked in the same real estate venture with Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, sought to dispel perceptions of conflicting interests in pursuing Liew’s theft case against Parti Liyani after her conviction was overturned Friday, saying in a carefully worded statement the case “did not require” his attention.

“Neither Lucien Wong nor the Deputy Attorneys-General … were involved in any prosecutorial decisions regarding the charges brought in PP v Parti Liyani,” his office said in a statement. “This case was among those routinely handled … which did not require the involvement of the [Attorney-General] or the [Deputy Attorneys-Generals].”

Law firm says it ‘only played a very small part’ in surprise acquittal of Changi Airport chief’s ex-maid

His office’s handling of the case is now under internal review. 

In his ruling acquitting Liyani, high court judge Chan Seng Onn said Liew and his family had an “improper motive” for accusing their former maid and determined the prosecution had failed to prove its case. According to the case file, the Liews went to the police after Liyani, 46 of Indonesia, threatened to report them to labor officials for making her clean properties belonging to their son. 

Her 2019 conviction on four theft counts involving S$34,000 worth of items was vacated, and a single remaining count involving other items, including EZ-Link cards, was overturned Tuesday.

Questions have emerged over the relationship between Wong and Liew. Before Wong became Singapore’s top cop in 2017, he served on the board of real estate company CapitaLand, where Liew was president and CEO. 

His appointment to attorney general came months after Liew filed his case against Liyani. 

Despite that relationship, the two “did not have a personal relationship,” Wong’s office said, “and this continues today.”

It added that Wong on Saturday recused himself from his office’s review of the case for “personal reasons.” Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair is leading the review instead. 

One person questioning that relationship was People’s Voice Party founder Lim Tean.

“For public confidence to be maintained in our criminal justice system, no whiff of any conflict of interest can be tolerated,” he said yesterday.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers said that it was looking into the case’s handling to assess whether further action was required.

“[The judge’s] findings do raise questions which warrant further investigations,” the chambers said Sunday in response to the high court’s decision.  

Liew joined CapitaLand in 1996 and became president and CEO in 2000, the same year Wong sat on its board of directors. Liew resigned in 2012, three years after he was appointed chairman of Changi Airport Group.

The case between the helper and the wealthy Liew family drew attention to the hard work of migrant worker activists and pro-bono lawyer Anil Balchandani, who won praise from the judge for scrutinizing more than 100 pieces of evidence and making persuasive arguments. 

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