The recent case of Parti Liyani in which the high court acquitted the domestic worker of four theft charges she was previously convicted on following a police report filed by her former employer, Liew Mun Leong, reminds us of another case between an employer and domestic worker about alleged theft.
Back in 2016, an Indian National preschool teacher, Desai Asti Amit was sentenced to seven weeks in jail for framing her domestic helper of stealing a gold pendant.
In that case, the employer, Ms Desai, was unhappy with her domestic worker’s work performance—also an Indian National, named Kinmei Dangmei—and purported poor attitude since she started working at her employers flat.
Mdm Kinmei asked twice to leave, but was not allowed to. At some point when Mdm Kimei was out with her employer’s son at the playground, Ms Desai planted a gold pendant and a metal prayer cup in the domestic workers luggage so that she might be caught red-handed for stealing.
The next day, Mdm Kimei ran away and sought sanctuary at a welfare organisation before being taken to the maid agency. However, she only took a small bag with her containing her wallet, phone and passport. She left her luggage in the flat.
Later, her employers brought her luggage to the maid agency where it was inspected. It was then that the gold pendant and prayer cup were found, prompting Ms Desai’s husband to call the police.
Mdm Kimei was arrested and held in a police station lockup for a day before being released on bail.
A couple of weeks or so later when giving a police statement, Ms Desai admitted to the police that she had framed her employee who had since returned home.
In court, Ms Desai’s lawyer, Louis Joseph, said that his client’s conscience pricked after lodging the report against her helper and when Ms Kinmei was arrested. On the same day, Ms Desai and her husband even went back to the police station to attempt to withdraw the report but were unable to do so.
The lawyer said she felt truly remorseful and offered to compensate Ms Kinmei.
In that case, the employer confessed to framing her domestic worker of theft and she was sentenced to 7 weeks of jail for that. The maximum punishment for giving false information to a public servant is one year of jail and a $5,000 fine.
Compared to the recent case of Parti Liyani, Mr Liew—chairman of Changi Airport Group—seemed adamant in seeing through the charges against his foreign domestic worker of nine years and putting her in jail.
Parti would have had to serve a sentence of two years and two months in jail if the conviction hadn’t been overturned by the High Court. The Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) has sought a three-year jail term but it was reduced by the District Judge through the effort of Parti’s lawyer, Anil Balchandani.
In his findings, High Court judge Justice Chan Seng Onn noted that he found the Mr Liew and his son, Karl Liew, to have “improper motive” in filing a report against Parti.
In the High Court judgement, Justice Chan wrote:
“It is clear to me based on the evidence at the trial below that Parti was in fact made to do illegal cleaning work at Karl’s residence at 39 CL and at Karl’s office. Parti’s evidence is that she received $10 for two to three days of work, and the payment was not regular. In fact, there was a prior dispute between Parti and the Liew family over the cleaning of the toilet in 39 CL; when Mdm Ng requested Parti to do so, she refused. There was also another incident where Parti refused to cook extra food for Karl.”
It is significant that at some time prior to her termination, Parti had expressed unhappiness for being made to do additional cleaning work at Karl’s home in 39 CL and at his office, probably without adequate compensation. It demonstrates Parti’s prior unhappiness in relation to such an arrangement, which was illegal and an offence against the MOM regulations.”
Later in the judgment, after considering several other specific evidences showing that the prosecution witnesses were inconsistent and questionable in its testimony, he said: “In the light of the above circumstances, the Defence has sufficiently demonstrated an underlying factual basis in support of its allegation of an improper motive on the part of Karl and Mr Liew.”
Following from that, the question this raises is why the Attorney General’s Chamber (AGC) did not spot these inconsistencies during the original trial? And why did the DPP prevent Parti’s lawyer, Mr Balchandani, from clarifying these statements made by the Liew family during the course of the trial?
And if, as the 2016 case shows, the AGC is so strict about false statements and reports, what will it do regarding the Liew family now in light of Justice Chan’s findings of improper motive?