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Singapore Grand Prix 2023 preparations continue amid ongoing corruption probe involving Ong Beng Seng

SINGAPORE — Despite an ongoing corruption probe involving key figures behind the event, preparations for the upcoming Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix(GP) 2023 in September will proceed as scheduled.

Ms Ong Ling Lee, the executive director for sports and wellness at the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), reaffirmed the commitment to collaborate with all partners involved to ensure the event’s success.

The race is set to be held from 15 to 17 September at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Despite the ongoing investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) involving its chairman, Ong Beng Seng, Singapore GP confirmed last week that planning and preparations for the race were continuing as scheduled.

Singapore GP acknowledged that CPIB’s investigations are ongoing and stated that it is “not at liberty to provide any further information”.

On 12 July, race organizers unveiled the full entertainment line-up for the event, featuring renowned acts such as American band Kings Of Leon and British groups Culture Club, Groove Armada, and Madness, in addition to previously announced headlining performers American rapper-singer Post Malone and English pop star Robbie Williams.

Last Friday (14 Jul), the CPIB disclosed that both Transport Minister S. Iswaran and tycoon Ong Beng Seng were arrested on 11 July.

They are currently cooperating with the authorities in connection with an investigation into a case that the CPIB had discovered. However, specific details regarding the nature of the probe were not provided by the CPIB.

Both Mr 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.

Mr Ong’s arrest was first disclosed by his company, Hotel Properties Limited, earlier the same day.

This disclosure came a day after The Online Citizen Asia (TOC) published allegations that Ong had been asked to assist in a CPIB investigation related to rumours linked to the 2022 Singapore GP, an event chiefly organized by Ong.

Ong is best known as the man who brought Formula One to Singapore

Mr Ong is renowned as the exclusive shareholder of the Singapore GP, serving as the organizer of this annual sporting event which forms part of the Formula One World Championship.

Additionally, he holds ownership of various hotels worldwide. Ong and his wife, businesswoman Cristina Fu, are esteemed members of Singapore’s 25 richest couples.

In 2007, he secured the deal to bring the prestigious Formula One race to Singapore, primarily due to his rapport with former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Singapore GP extended contract to host the F1 night race through 2028

Last year, Singapore GP, backed by Mr 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.

The renewal has sparked debates on the value of hosting the event, as it involves substantial costs of approximately S$150 million annually, with the government covering 60 percent of the expenses.

Mr 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.

While the race has undoubtedly put Singapore on the global map and promoted its entertainment facilities in Sentosa, the benefits and costs have become topics of discussion.

The Tourism Board stated that the race attracts around 350,000 visitors annually and generates hundreds of millions in receipts and sales. However, concerns have been raised about the associated expenses and the government’s financial involvement.

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