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Lee Hsien Yang, Lee Suet Fern 'essentially absconded': Shanmugam on reasons couple were named in police probe

Law enforcement agencies don't disclose names of people under investigation except for certain situations

The couple, Lee Suet Fern and Lee Hsien Yang have left Singapore and remain out of the country during the police's investigations
The couple, Lee Suet Fern and Lee Hsien Yang have left Singapore and remain out of the country during the police's investigations. (PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore and Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The probe into Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern for lying during judicial proceedings was made public because of several reasons, including the fact that they had "essentially absconded", Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in Parliament on Monday (20 March).

After the police began investigating the pair, they left Singapore, and sharing information about the matter was in the public's interest, Shanmugam told the House in response to parliamentary questions filed by two Members of Parliament (MP).

Furthermore, it was public record that both a court and disciplinary tribunal had determined that the couple lied, so any prejudice to them from the disclosure would be marginal, Shanmugam added.

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Citing that Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited's former management staff were not named as being investigated for corruption, non-constituency MP Leong Mun Wai asked if the police applied double standards.

Meanwhile, Aljunied GRC MP Leon Perera asked what steps were taken to ensure that such disclosures do not prejudice those being investigated.

Relevant and necessary to disclose ongoing police investigations

In his response, Shanmugam highlighted that the police usually disclose the names of those who have absconded when they are being investigated.

For example, the minister cited Pi Jiapeng and Pansuk Siriwipa, who fled Singapore last year while being investigated for a series of luxury goods fraud cases.

Shanmugam explained that in cases where there is some public interest, and where the people and facts of the crimes being investigated are already known, the police have also made their investigations public.

For instance, Karl Liew was investigated by the police for giving false evidence in a case involving his family's former helper Parti Liyani, on the heels of a High Court judgement that questioned his testimony.

The minister pointed out that the circumstances about Lee and his wife lay between the two examples. He also said the couple absconded after the police contacted them to help with investigations.

Disclosing the police investigation in Parliament did not "materially add to any cloud the couple may already be under", Shanmugam said.

The tribunal and the court findings which found that the couple had not told the truth and had been dishonest were already public record, he added.

A court of three judges had previously suspended Lee's wife for 15 months from practising in 2020 after finding her guilty of misconduct related to Lee Kuan Yew's last will and testament.

Based on these findings, police began an investigation but did not inform anyone that the couple was being investigated at the time in October 2021.

Teo Chee Hean, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security provided the details in a written parliamentary answer on 2 March.

The accuracy of an e-book titled 'The battle over Lee Kuan Yew's last will' and the accuracy of its outcome was also the subject of a question posed by Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang).

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam responded to MPs questions on why investigations on  Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern were made public in Parliament on Monday (20 March)
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam responded to MPs questions on why investigations on Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern were made public in Parliament on Monday (20 March) (PHOTO: MCI/YouTubeScreengrab) (MCI/YouTubeScreengrab)

To this, Shanmugam said that it was necessary to discuss the accuracy of those public statements and the honesty of Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern.

The disclosure that police investigations are ongoing was also "relevant and necessary" to provide an accurate and complete answer, he said.

He said, "To summarise, the Disciplinary tribunal and the Court of Three Judges had said Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern were lying. They had been found to be dishonest, and more. All of that is public. They have also essentially absconded from jurisdiction,"

"We take this seriously. And those facts were disclosed so that this House can have a full and complete picture when a question had been asked which related to their conduct.".

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