Former Singaporean Transport Minister S. Iswaran Faces 27 Charges in High-Profile Graft Case

Charges Include Alleged Kickbacks and Lavish Gifts from Property Tycoon Ong Beng Seng.

Singapore, 18, January: In a rare and high-profile case, former Singaporean Transport Minister S. Iswaran is facing 27 charges, including corruption and obstructing the course of justice, following allegations of graft involving property tycoon Ong Beng Seng. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) arrested Iswaran in July 2023, making it one of the most significant corruption cases involving a minister in Singapore in decades.

According to the charge sheets, Iswaran is accused of obtaining kickbacks valued at S$384,340.98 ($286,181) from Ong Beng Seng, purportedly to advance Ong’s business interests. The alleged favours include tickets to football matches, musicals, flights on Ong’s private plane, and tickets to the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix. Iswaran, who was an advisor to the Grand Prix’s steering committee, is now facing charges of corruption and obstructing justice, with a potential fine of up to S$100,000 or seven years in prison if convicted.

Former Singaporean Transport Minister S. Iswaran Faces 27 Charges in High-Profile Graft Case
Ong Beng Seng

Iswaran, who maintains his innocence, has resigned from his position and stated in his resignation letter that he will focus on clearing his name. His legal team, led by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, has entered a plea of “not guilty.” Iswaran is currently out on bail amounting to $800,000.

The charges span incidents allegedly occurring between 2015 and 2021, with the prosecution team led by Chief Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng presenting a case that includes two counts of corruption, 24 counts of obtaining items from someone he had business dealings with, and one count of obstructing justice.

The alleged bribes from Ong Beng Seng include gratifications related to Formula 1 contracts and proposals, with significant values attached to items such as flight tickets, hotel stays, and admission to high-profile events. Iswaran, 61, was also accused of obstructing justice by repaying $5,700 for a business class flight ticket from Doha to Singapore that he took in December 2022 at Ong’s expense.

This case has captivated Singapore, known for its low corruption levels, and has raised questions about the integrity of the political system. Civil servants in Singapore receive high salaries as an anti-corruption measure. In the context of this scandal, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has acknowledged that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has faced challenges due to the graft probe.

The last corruption case involving a minister in Singapore was in 1986, reflecting the rarity of such incidents in the country. Iswaran’s pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 1, 2024. The political landscape, already impacted by this scandal, is further complicated by upcoming elections in 2025 and the anticipated leadership transition within the PAP.

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