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Singapore tycoon Ong Beng Seng returns from Bali amid corruption probe

SINGAPORE — Prominent businessman Ong Beng Seng, 77, returned to Singapore from Bali on Monday afternoon, amid an ongoing corruption probe by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

Ong, a Malaysian billionaire who is a prominent figure in the Singaporean business world, flew back to the city-state aboard a private jet that landed at Seletar Airport around 5.15 pm—according to Straits Times.

The tycoon, who left for Bali last Friday, was allowed to travel overseas while on bail.

He was seen departing from the Seletar Business Aviation Centre, accompanied by his wife, Mrs Christina Ong.

Airport security, citing a private event, did not permit reporters to approach the couple closely.

News of Ong’s arrest, along with that of Transport Minister S. Iswaran, broke last Tuesday when CPIB disclosed the arrests in relation to a corruption case. However, the bureau has not released any specifics regarding the ongoing investigation.

Both Ong and Iswaran were subsequently released on bail, with Iswaran’s passport confiscated. The amount of bail for Iswaran was not disclosed, but it was known that Ong was granted bail of $100,000.

Hotel Properties Limited (HPL), in a statement to the Singapore Exchange, clarified that no charges have been filed against Ong, who is the founder and managing director of the company. HPL, which owns several luxury brands including Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, added that Ong is currently cooperating with the CPIB investigation.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has directed Minister Iswaran, 61, to take a leave of absence until the investigation is completed. The Transport Minister will remain in Singapore during this period and will be denied access to any official resources and government buildings.

Ong is best known as the man who brought Formula One to the city-state.

In 2007, he secured the deal to bring the prestigious Formula One race to Singapore, primarily due to his rapport with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. Ecclestone is currently facing allegations of failing to declare a trust in Singapore with a bank account holding about £400 million.

Last year, Singapore GP, backed by Ong and the Singapore Tourism Board, extended the city-state’s contract to host the F1 night race through 2028.

This was the fourth and longest contract renewal, with previous deals ranging between four and five years.

Iswaran, who was the former Minister for Trade from 2015-2018, said that the decision to host Formula One for another seven years came after thoroughly evaluating the long-term benefits that such an extension could bring to Singapore.

In 2021, Iswaran told the media that talks were ongoing with Formula One management and race organisers Singapore GP to renew the contract.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry and Singapore Tourism Board jointly cover 60% of the S$135 million annual night race costs, while race promoters Singapore GP bear the remaining expenses.

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