Karl Liew Kai Lung, the son of former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong, has been sentenced by the State Court to two weeks of imprisonment for lying in the case of migrant domestic worker Parti Liyani.
The sentence was delivered by District Judge Eugene Teo at around 3.45 pm on Friday after an hour’s delay at the State Court.
On 30 March, Karl pleaded guilty to a count of intentionally providing information he knew to be false to District Judge Olivia Low during the trial of Ms Parti, an offence under s182 of the Penal Code.
The Liew family had accused Ms Parti of stealing items from the family after she was dismissed as their domestic worker in 2016.
Additionally, he is accused of making a false statement to a police officer at his home on December 10, 2016, indicating that he had discovered “119 pieces of clothing” in boxes packed by Ms Parti, which he claimed were his own. This was taken into consideration for sentencing.
Both the prosecution and Karl’s lawyer had asked for the maximum fine of S$5,000 for Karl. The prosecution did not ask for a custodial sentence on account of Karl Liew’s claim he has Parkinson’s disease.
Karl’s lawyer had earlier told the court that Karl was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 41 before giving his testimony in the trial.
Karl will start his sentence on 8 May.
Sentence cannot be just a fine
Judge Teo said he could not agree that Karl’s actions should be met with only a fine and pointed out that the submissions by the prosecution read like a mitigation and were lifted wholesale and repeated for effect by the Defence in its own Mitigation & Submissions on Sentence.
“In its most concise form, this case is about a person who knowingly furnished a false statement to the police that someone has committed an offence, and who subsequently went to court to also furnish false testimony under oath to the judge to get that person convicted of that offence,” said the judge.
“Whilst I register the point that a wrongful conviction did not ultimately result, it does not change the fact that those actions just recounted are all innately serious and ought to be met with the clearest degree of condemnation. The result here must leave no one with any doubt about our tolerance for such brazen fraud in the face of the court, and upon the court.”
While the judge accepts that Karl suffered from Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressively debilitating disease, a letter from the Singapore Prisons Service confirmed that the prisons can accommodate Karl’s condition.
Judge Teo said it may be difficult for Karl to accept this outcome when his lawyer’s efforts had “wrought him a position by the prosecution not to seek an imprisonment term against him”.
“Sentencing is still the responsibility of the court, and perhaps the most intuitive way to appreciate how sentencing should be conducted here would be to consider what ought to be done if the tables were turned,” he said.
“I do not think Mr Karl Liew would take kindly to anyone falsely accusing him of being a criminal or petty thief or that he was guilty of some wrong-doing, and being dragged all the way through police investigations, and then subsequently being charged in court, expending time, effort and expense in his defence, suffering the associated anxiety and consequences to his public reputation throughout that process and period, in order to clear his name and prove his innocence,” said the judge.
“Rightly so,” he added. “If Mr Karl Liew acknowledges that, then he ought to channel all of his righteous indignation in that scenario and demand that such behaviour of one who would deign to do that to him must be met with an appropriately robust penalty to deter such conduct and prevent others from suffering that same fate. That is precisely what this court is doing.”
Considering the cases tendered, the other points made by the defence in mitigation, and the condition Karl suffers, the judge adjusted the term significantly to imprisonment of two weeks for his false evidence charge.
Charged for furnishing false information
On 4 November 2020, Singapore Police said that Karl would be charged with two counts under Sections 177 and 193 of the Penal Code.
Section 177(a) and (b) stipulate that a person found guilty of furnishing false information to a public servant may be sentenced to a maximum imprisonment term of six months, or with a maximum fine of S$5,000, or both.
In any other case, they may be punished with a maximum fine of S$10,000.
Section 193 stipulates that a person found guilty of intentionally giving false evidence at any stage of a judicial proceeding or fabricating false evidence for the purpose of such may be sentenced to a maximum imprisonment term of seven years.
The charge of s193 was amended to s182 during the process of the hearing.
s182 stipulates that a person found guilty of providing to any public servant any information which he knows or believes to be false, causing the injury or annoyance of any person may be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both.
No explanation was given for why the prosecution changed its charge against Karl.
Karl shows no remorse, says Ms Parti
Ms Parti, in a statement on the pending sentence, said:
Since the day Liew Mun Leong filed a report to the police to the day the hearing at the State Court concluded, never once Karl showed any seriousness in giving honest evidence.
For whatever reason that made him anxious during the trial, if at one point he realized that he had given an incorrect statement to police officers or to the judge, he would have had ample time to retract his statement or amend his testimony. In reality, he remained in his stance by accusing me of theft until the trial concluded.
“The act of giving testimony in court is something that needs to be taken seriously, as we take an oath to tell nothing but the truth. Karl Liew, as all other people residing in Singapore who are obligated to obey law, should have treated the entire legal process seriously, considering that he already has several bad records on him. One example is that in 2017 when faced with another lawsuit, he was seen by Justice Audrey Lim as a dishonest and evasive witness, whose evidence was riddled with inconsistencies.
There had been no sign of remorse nor any apology from himself and his family after my acquittal. It took facing legal charges that finally made him admit guilt.
My hope remains high that this case would become the right lesson to us all. As also supported by the Embassy of Indonesia in Singapore in their formal statement, it is hoped that my case shall be the last and shall not be experienced by others in the future.”
It is interesting to note that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) indicated to Ms Parti’s solicitor that they did not require her victim impact statement as part of their sentencing under section 228(2) CPC.
The AGC provided no explanation as to why they did not require it for the purpose of sentencing.
The appeal and acquittal of Ms Parti by the High Court
Ms Parti was sentenced to 26 months of imprisonment by District Judge Olivia Low on 25 Mar 2019 at the State Court over charges of stealing 114 items worth $50,856 belonging to Mr Liew, and three of his family members; his son and daughter-in-law, Karl and Ms Heather Lim Mei Ern, and his daughter, Ms Liew Cheng May.
She then filed an appeal against the conviction, which was heard by Justice Chan Seng Onn. After three days of hearings between November 2019 to August 2020, Justice Chan ultimately overturned the convictions from the lower court as he finds them unsafe.
Matters which were disallowed in the state court hearing — such as Ms Parti’s MOM complaint — were introduced to the High Court hearing.
At the appeal hearing, the defence highlighted that Karl’s testimony on the alleged stolen items was in contrast to what was heard in a video played in court of a conversation between him and his mother, Ng Lai Peng, aka Mrs Liew.
Mrs Liew was heard making a remark on how “the karang guni man” had helped her to move the items in the boxes.
Karl was also heard saying to Mrs Liew that she “cannot get the karang guni man” to the house as it is “still her things”.
This particular point was also noted by Justice Chan in his High Court judgement in September 2020, which overturned District Judge Olivia Low’s conviction and sentencing of Ms Parti.
“As captured in the Video, Mdm Ng’s initial reaction was not to salvage the items but to engage the help of the karang guni man to remove the items,” Justice Chan remarked.
He added that if the clothing items were stolen from Karl, it would be expected for Karl “to have claimed that they were his clothes” instead of stating that the items could not be moved because they were indeed Ms Parti’s items.
In his judgement, Justice Chan branded the Liew family as having “improper motives” against Ms Parti.
The “improper motives” revolved around Mr Liew and his son Karl Liew’s plans to lodge a police report against her to stop her from notifying MOM regarding the cleaning work she was made to do at Karl’s home at 39 Chancery Lane and his office at Killiney Road.
The judge also stressed that the prosecution had failed to demonstrate that there was no improper motive by Mr Liew and Karl in making the police report against Ms Parti “just two days” after she made an expressed threat to alert the MOM about her illegal deployment to the latter’s residence and office.
Read: District Judge, DPP prevented defence counsel from questioning CAG chairman’s son’s credibility as witness | The case of Parti Liyani: All you need to know