Law enforcement agencies have a general policy of not disclosing the names of people who are under investigation, but there are certain exceptions to this rule.
These exceptions include cases where the individuals have absconded or left the jurisdiction while under probe, or when the facts surrounding the alleged offences and the individuals linked to them are already publicly known.
Mr Shanmugam, the Minister of Law and Home Affairs, was responding to questions posed by Mr Leon Perera and Mr Leong Mun Wai over the Government’s approach to revealing the names of people under police investigation.
Specifically, Mr Leong’s question notes that Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) and Mrs Lee Suet Fern (LSF) were publicly named and disclosed during their investigation with the Singapore Police Force for giving false evidence in judicial proceedings. In contrast, the names of six former management staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited (KOM) were not made public during their investigation with the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).
This question comes after Senior Minister, Mr Teo Chee Hean, in response to a question by MP Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang) on 2 March, disclosed that the police were investigating LHY and LSF for potential offences of giving false evidence in judicial proceedings.
In his reply, Mr Shanmugam listed five examples of when law enforcement agencies may disclose the names of individuals who are under investigation.
These include cases where an individual has absconded or left the jurisdiction, where the facts relating to the alleged offences and the individuals who may have committed the alleged offences are already publicly known, when an individual already convicted of several offences attempts to flee Singapore, when an individual makes a public statement regarding their case, and when there is a lot of misinformation being circulated regarding an investigation.
The Minister noted that the circumstances surrounding the Lees’ case straddle the first two exceptions mentioned by him.
He cited the case of Karl Liew, who was investigated for possible perjury after giving dishonest evidence under oath during the Parti Liyani case in 2020, as an example of a situation where the investigations against an individual were disclosed to the public.
He explained that the reasons for disclosing the investigations against the Lees were broadly similar to the reasons for disclosing the investigations against Mr Karl Liew, with the additional fact that the former two had also absconded from jurisdiction.
Reciting the judgements from the Disciplinary Tribunal and the Court of Three Judges, Mr Shanmugam said they found LHY and LSF to be lying and dishonest, which is public knowledge.
In contrast to the Lees’ case, Mr Shanmugam explained that the KOM case does not fall within the different examples he had given. He stated that it was KOM which had made the CPIB report and that the CPIB had conducted a thorough investigation with the information and powers available to them.
He added that the CPIB concluded that they could not sustain any charges in court, and that in such circumstances, the general policy of not disclosing the names of individuals who have been under investigation applies.
Mr Leong Mun Wai, who took time off from the funeral of his mother, said, “Yeah, well, the issue here is really about fairness. Before the law, whether we have the rule of law in Singapore or not.”
He asked if the police specifically issued a written order for the Lees to attend to the investigation at the police station.
Mr Leong also pointed that the KOM case was also of very wide public interest and the wordings of the stern warnings for the six individuals of the KOM would suggest that the six are guilty, but the prosecutor or CPIB decided not to pursue the case because of some other reasons.
“So we have a situation here that for the KOM case actually is a more serious case. They are actually guilty and we have two names in the foreign jurisdiction documents or that already. Actually, it is one point. Second point is that the case is actually of deep public interest. So why is there a double standard?”
Mr Shamguam said, “As I understand the member, he says that well, the KOM case is a case of public interest. People are interested to know the names. So why is there a double standard?”
“Did the member listen to the explanation on the difference between the QM case and the case of the Lees and Mr Liew? Perhaps the member can go into a little bit of detail based on the explanation I given on the differences and tell us which part of the explanation he disagrees before he alleges double standards,” asked Mr Shanmugam.
“Get to the facts. I have set out what the differences are. Tell me which part you don’t understand or you disagree with. And on his first question, did police issue a written order? They were given an email. They promised that they will come and agree to give an interview. They then left the jurisdiction and they have said both to the police and in public that they will not cooperate with the police. They will not even come back into the jurisdiction. I think that is why I said they are essentially absconded from justice.”
Mrs Sylvia Lim, MP for Aljunied GRC, asked whether the police had actually issued an order to LHY and LSF to attend the interview and that the police had not gotten to the stage when an order under the Criminal Procedure Code was actually issued to them.
Mr Shanmugam replied, “Yes, that is right, sir. A specific order under the CPC was not issued. The police normally would not issue such an order. They would first contact and speak with and send a written document. And if a party says that they will cooperate, the police would assume in good faith that that’s how they would proceed. And that is what was done.”
TOC understands from the cases that it has dealt with, the Singapore Police Force will issue a letter to request the attendance of the individual to assist in the investigation. Never has it been heard that individuals are being sent emails to arrange interviews for the purpose of investigations.
It is also questionable how Mr Shamugam essentially prejudiced the pending investigations against LHY and LSF by ascertaining that the two are guilty of lying in court—as the Minister for Home Affairs and Law in Parliament.
However, when asked by Ms Hazel Poa what exactly are the lies the two are guilty of, Mr Shanmugam asked her to read the disciplinary tribunal judgment and the court of three judges’ judgment as contained in the annex of Mr Teo’s parliamentary reply.