20 January 2017
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Art gallery owner avoids jail over procedural issue

Straits Times
20 Jan 2017
Selina Lum

Contempt of court sentence reduced to fine after lawyer argues she was not given a chance to explain key breach

Art gallery owner Jasmine Tay Kar Oon yesterday avoided an eight-week jail term for flouting four court orders against the backdrop of a US$1.6 million (S$2.3 million) art deal dispute, after winning her appeal on a procedural issue.

The Court of Appeal reduced her sentence for contempt of court to a $10,000 fine, accepting her lawyer's arguments that the lower court had not given her a chance to explain a crucial breach.

The breach in question - withdrawing $3,000 from her bank account even though the court has issued a Mareva injunction to prevent her from moving her assets - was a major factor in why she was sentenced to jail.

Tay set up the Museum of Art and Design, or MAD, in Tanglin Road in 2009.

In March 2014, Indonesian tycoon Tahir, who goes by one name, paid her US$1.6 million for a sculpture by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, known as Couple Dancing. Three months later, he paid her another US$38,100 for shipping fees.

The deal was called off in July that year. He contended she had failed to show that the sculpture was being delivered to him. She said Mr Tahir backed out of the deal after alleging it was a fake.

Mr Tahir lodged a police report against her and filed a civil suit to get his money back.

Judgment was entered against her after she failed to respond to the suit.

To enforce the judgment, Mr Tahir applied for Tay to be questioned in court to determine the assets she had available for paying him back.

She ignored the court date and failed to complete a questionnaire about her finances.

Mr Tahir then obtained the Mareva injunction to freeze her assets. Under the order, she had to disclose her assets in Singapore within seven days.

She did not do this and was, again, a no-show at a rescheduled court hearing.

Mr Tahir then took out contempt of court proceedings against her for repeatedly breaching court orders.

During the third hearing last February, Tay finally produced her bank statements, which disclosed that she had withdrawn $3,000 on Oct 28, 2015, a day after the injunction was issued.

In sentencing Tay to jail in April, Judicial Commissioner Edmund Leow noted that her concealment of the withdrawals was "the most aggravating fact of all".

Yesterday, Tay's lawyer, Mr Salem Ibrahim, argued that his client had not been given the opportunity to take the stand to explain her state of mind and motives for the withdrawals.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, delivering the apex court's decision, said the lower court can take into account the breach of the Mareva injunction in sentencing her.

"However... it was necessary to ensure that proper notice was given to the appellant and that she was given an opportunity to put her case across," he said.

This "does not appear to have taken place", he said, adding that the breach of the Mareva injunction was a "decisive factor" in the lower court's decision that a jail term was warranted.

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Grace Electrical Engineering Pte Ltd v EQ Insurance Co Ltd - [2016] SGHC 233

Medicines Act - Medicines (Medical Advertisements) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 548 of 2016)

Business trusts need to adopt new financial framework: MAS

Business Times
20 Jan 2017
Jamie Lee

[Singapore] THE financial statements of authorised collective investment schemes (CIS) - which include real estate investment trusts (Reits) - will not have to follow the new and upcoming Singapore financial reporting framework, but business trusts listed in Singapore will have to.

Authorised CIS will continue to prepare financial statements using accounting practices recommended by the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA).

The decision comes after Singapore's Accounting Standards Council (ASC) said in 2014 that Singapore-incorporated companies listed on Singapore Exchange (SGX) must apply the new standard for annual periods beginning on or after Jan 1, 2018. The new framework is identical to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

The ASC decision does not cover the financial statements of registered business trusts and authorised CIS schemes of Singapore-constituted issuers under MAS purview.

MAS said that its move "will align the treatment for registered business trusts with that of Singapore-listed companies". The treatment for authorised CIS is "consistent with practices in other major fund jurisdictions" such as the UK and the US. MAS added that its decision followed feedback from the industry.

The move towards a single international standard for accounting allows for like-for-like comparisons of companies in the world. Most capital markets use IFRS. But the US applies its unique accounting standard, known as the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). According to a 2016 PwC paper, Japan, India, and China are also jurisdictions without a mandate to adopt IFRS.

There will be "transitional relief" for historical financial statements in prospectuses of Singapore-listed business trusts lodged on or after Jan 1, 2018.

Business trusts are run differently from Reits. For one thing, Reits must distribute at least 90 per cent of taxable income to enjoy a tax-exempt status. Business trusts are not subject to such a distribution rule. Reits also have a cap on debt, unlike business trusts.

In the area of governance, business trusts are run by a trustee-manager, which manages assets and holds assets on unitholders' behalf. But Reits have a separate trustee and manager, with the trustee holding assets and the manager managing assets for unitholders' benefit.

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Te Deum Engineering Pte Ltd v Grace Electrical Engineering Pte Ltd - [2016] SGHC 232

Medicines Act - Medicines (Licensing, Standard Provisions and Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 547 of 2016)

Raising the disclosure bar: What next for quarterly reporting?

Business Times
20 Jan 2017
R. Sivanithy

WHEN it comes to raising the bar on corporate governance, the best approach is a holistic one that encompasses substance over form, quick regulatory enforcement when rules are broken and placing the needs of investors at the forefront of all disclosures.

This much was made clear by Singapore Exchange's chief regulatory officer Tan Boon Gin when he delivered the closing speech at last week's Acra-SGX-SID Audit Committee Seminar when it was announced that companies which issue substandard accounts could be forced to reissue them and that errant directors could be made to face criminal charges.

These developments are welcome and well-received as they represent genuine steps forward in the constant push to improve the quality of disclosure; however, Mr Tan also touched on two items of relevance that deserve greater elaboration.

The first is the new wider definition of materiality in the recent amendment to Section 199 of the Securities and Futures Act. Previously, if a company makes a false statement, it could escape punishment if it can be shown that the statement had no impact on the firm's share price. This has now changed - companies can face sanctions even if there was no effect on the share price as long as it can be shown that the information, objectively speaking, could have wrongly influenced investor behaviour.

In other words, the bar for proving wrong doing has been set lower, whilst the bar for ensuring truthful disclosures has been set higher. According to governance experts, this is a welcome change as it will force companies to be much more careful when issuing material information.

The second is that in his final comments, Mr Tan said SGX sees an opportunity presented by the increased transparency of financial statements, the exchange's more individual and targeted engagement with companies, the broadened definition of materiality, and the more robust enforcement of disclosure breaches by both the regulators and the market to recalibrate its continuous disclosure regime.

"I know what is on your mind, so I might as well say it: yes, this will include our policy on quarterly reporting," he added, somewhat enigmatically.

What we do know is that SGX has said it will review quarterly reporting (QR), which means that a consultation paper is likely to be issued. Judging by the comments above, it appears that SGX's thinking is that if the entire governance framework is being strengthened with a new test of materiality, with companies having to place substance over form in their announcements and with various other regulatory initiatives, then there could be some leeway for tweaking and perhaps relaxing current rules surrounding QR.

Whether or not this reading is accurate will become clear in due course. On the one hand, there's little doubt that requiring companies with a market capitalisation of at least S$75 million to report their results every three months has been controversial and largely unpopular with listed entities, many of which cite increased compliance costs, unnecessary share price volatility and an over-emphasis on short-termism as the main objections.

On the other side of the reporting coin though, are governance and shareholder advocates who argue that more information is always better than less and that QR is needed to keep shareholders and the market updated on a company's performance.

To satisfy both sides, it could be that the eventual form is a compromise such as raising the market cap requirement, rather than an outright scrapping or retention of the present arrangement in its entirety.

Whatever the case, it will certainly be interesting to see which side of the divide the exchange eventually settles on, though of course this would be known only after the consultative process is completed. In the meantime, it's noteworthy that steady progress is being made on the disclosure front.

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Public Prosecutor v Sibeko Lindiwe Mary-Jane - [2016] SGHC 228

Medicines Act - Medicines (Labelling of Chinese Proprietary Medicines) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 546 of 2016)

Square Yards slapped with fine, six-month ban

Business Times
20 Jan 2017
Lynette Khoo

THE Council for Estate Agencies has taken Square Yards Singapore Pte Ltd to task for failing to provide a written advisory message to an investor to draw his attention to the risks involved in purchasing foreign properties.

Besides slapping a financial penalty of S$7,500 on the two-person agency, CEA has - for the first time concerning foreign properties - imposed a condition to Square Yards' licence that it is not to market or transact in any foreign property for six months with effect from March 1, 2017.

The previous time a licence condition was imposed was last year, when HSR International Realtors was banned from undertaking any collective sale work for one year from April 220, 2016.

In the case of Square Yards, the investor had bought a property in North Dakota in the United States for US$74,950 through the agency. He made partial payment of US$33,982.50 to the US developer in 2014 and was not able to recover the sum after the developer was charged for alleged fraudulent activities.

Square Yards was charged for breaching the Practice Guidelines for Estate Agents and Salespersons Marketing Foreign Properties (PGMFP) and the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care (CEPCC) under the Estate Agents Act.

In early August 2014, Square Yards and US developer North Dakota Developments LLC conducted a seminar in Singapore to promote and sell the Transhudson Hotel, Parshall Project, located in North Dakota. The US developer also introduced its other project - the Great American Lodge, Montana Project - to prospective investors at the seminar.

After the seminar, the investor bought a unit at the Transhudson Project through Square Yards at a purchase price of US$74,950. He paid a total of US$33,982.50 to North Dakota Developments LLC in mid-September 2014, which included the booking fee, closing fee, and balance of the first stage payment. Square Yards subsequently received about US$3,900 as commission for this transaction.

"Throughout the transaction process, Wai Yin Peng Shermaine, key executive officer of Square Yards, and her property agents did not provide the investor with a written advisory stating that he must conduct due diligence," the CEA said.

"They did not highlight to the investor the risks that are involved for foreign property consumers and that the transaction is subject to foreign laws, and to any change in policies and rules in the US."

Investigations also revealed that Square Yards had facilitated the sale of two other units - one investor had purchased a unit at the Transhudson Project, and another investor at the Montana Project. The three investors paid a total of US$112,279.50 to North Dakota Developments LLC.

But around May 5, 2015, the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged North Dakota Developments LLC for allegedly raising over US$62 million fraudulently from investors worldwide through the sale of interests in the development of housing projects based in the US, including the Transhudson and Montana Projects.

These three investors have not recovered the amounts they have paid to North Dakota Developments LLC.

Under the PGMFP, however, estate agents appointed by the developer "shall provide a written advisory message to the consumers that they must conduct due diligence, drawing their attention that risks are involved for foreign property consumers and that the transaction is subject to foreign laws, and to any changes in policies and rules in the country where the property is located".

Estate agents and salespersons must also perform their work in accordance with applicable laws and must not perform estate agency work that they are engaged to perform unless they have the relevant knowledge to do so, including having to be fully conversant and compliant with the Estate Agents Act and the policies, practice circulars and guidelines of the CEA.

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Public Prosecutor v Pham Duyen Quyen - [2016] SGHC 227

Medicines Act - Medicines (Labelling) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 545 of 2016)

New school's cohort urged to focus on family, criminal law

Straits Times
19 Jan 2017
Toh Wen Li

In a clarion call to the inaugural cohort of SIM University School of Law, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah urged them to lead the way in realising the school's vision - to fill the impending shortage of family and criminal lawyers.

"With this law school, we intend to bring the practice of family and criminal law to a whole new level," Ms Indranee told the 60 students of Singapore's third law school yesterday. "The impact of what you do goes far beyond money. It has a great impact on people's lives, and also determines the kind of society that we are."

Nearly 400 people applied for the 60 places in UniSIM's law school. Of these, 80 per cent went to mature students with prior work experience.

Ms Indranee, speaking at UniSIM in Clementi Road, said this was done deliberately, as those with work and life experience will be better able to handle the rigours of family and criminal practice.

Fewer young lawyers have been entering or remaining in these fields. The most common reason given was the emotional toll of the job.

There are now about 1,600 family and criminal lawyers, and over the next decade an average of 30 lawyers each year will reach age 65, she added.

The curriculum at the new law school will be focused on practical skills, and will include courses on social services and forensics.

Dispelling the idea that practising family and criminal law would only involve domestic work, she said: "With globalisation and cross-border interactions, both these areas of law increasingly have international aspects."

"The real measure of your success, and the success of this law school, will be in terms of real impact you make in the lives of real people in real life," she added.

One of the students in the law school's juris doctor programme is Muhammad Aadil Dafir, 32, a maths and science teacher. He said: "As a teacher, I have been exposed to a lot of problems in the community."

Mr Muhammad, who has a degree from Nanyang Technological University in mechanical and aerospace engineering, believes his life experiences have made him better at communicating with people and gaining their trust.

He said: "Family law isn't just about knowledge, it's about how you communicate."

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Public Prosecutor v Selamat bin Paki and others - [2016] SGHC 226

Medicines Act - Medicines (General Sale List) Order 2016 (S 544 of 2016)

Susan Lim saga: Husband appeals against High Court ruling

Straits Times
19 Jan 2017
Selina Lum

Retired banker acted 'on his own conscience' when he filed complaint to the Law Society

The husband of prominent surgeon Susan Lim acted "on his own conscience" when he filed a complaint to the Law Society - saying that the opposing lawyers in disciplinary proceedings against her had inflated their fees.

This emerged in Singapore's highest court yesterday when Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang asked lawyer Abraham Vergis, who is representing Dr Lim's husband Deepak Sharma, why the complaint had been made by his client instead of Dr Lim herself.

Mr Abraham Vergis replied: "He explained that he felt that what the lawyers had done was wrong and he was acting on his own conscience to make the complaint."

Mr Vergis noted that Dr Lim had filed an affidavit stating she was aware of and endorsed her husband's complaint. Mr Sharma, a retired banker, is challenging the decision of a Law Society review committee to dismiss his complaint alleging that Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo and Ms Melanie Ho, of WongPartnership, had overcharged his wife.

Dr Lim had been ordered to pay the legal costs for the Singapore Medical Council after she lost a court battle to block a disciplinary hearing against her - over $24 million she had billed a patient in 2007.

She was eventually suspended for three years and fined $10,000 on 94 charges of overcharging the sister of the Queen of Brunei, who died of cancer in 2007.

WongPartnership put up three bills detailing the fees of the two lawyers, amounting to about $1 million. The fees were brought down to $340,000 by an assistant registrar, and finally adjusted to $370,000 by a High Court judge.

In 2014, Mr Sharma, who had funded Dr Lim's legal expenses, complained to the Law Society against Mr Yeo and Ms Ho for "gross overcharging" which amounted to improper conduct.

A two-member review committee dismissed his complaints, except for one against Ms Ho. Dissatisfied, Mr Sharma asked the High Court to quash the decision and to order a fresh review of his complaints.

He argued that the review committee had erred in deciding his complaints were lacking in substance. He also contended that since the costs had been significantly reduced by the court, the review committee should have referred the case for an inquiry to determine if there had been professional misconduct.

The Attorney-General's Chambers, which was also involved, said this was not a case of "gross overcharging" of a client by a lawyer as it involved a "party and party" situation in which lawyers for the winning party are making a monetary claim for costs from the losing party.

Mr Sharma's application was dismissed last May. Justice Woo Bih Li found the review committee had not made errors of law and was entitled to dismiss his complaint.

In his judgment, Justice Woo said a significant reduction will not necessarily mean there is gross over-claiming amounting to misconduct. In any case, a significant reduction could never in and of itself be sufficient to constitute misconduct.

Yesterday, Mr Sharma appealed against Justice Woo's decision.

Mr Vergis argued that the significant reduction requires an explanation from the lawyers involved before any determination can be made on whether "an actionable misconduct is disclosed".

The Law Society, represented by Mr Christopher Anand Daniel, and the AGC, represented by Mr Khoo Boo Jin, argued that Justice Woo's findings should be upheld.

The Court of Appeal will give its decision at a later date.

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CCM Industrial Pte Ltd (in liquidation) v Chan Pui Yee - [2016] SGHC 231

Medicines Act - Medicines (Export Licence for Psychotropic Substances) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 543 of 2016)

Labour Court can't make employer pay

Straits Times
19 Jan 2017
Toh Yong Chuan

Case of worker told to recover wages himself after boss missed deadline highlights issue

Last month, a construction company boss was ordered by the Labour Court to pay a Bangladeshi construction worker $7,363 in unpaid wages.

But when the employer did not meet the payment deadline last Thursday, the court's hands were tied. Instead, the worker was asked to go to the State Courts to take action to recover the sum, a step that would require him to fork out money he does not have.

The case highlights a little-known limitation of the Labour Court, and the dilemma workers face when employers refuse to comply with its orders.

At the centre of the dispute is Mr Islam Rafiqul, a 42-year-old construction worker, and his employer Md Shamsuzzaman, sole proprietor of Geosray Engineering and Services.

Mr Islam, a work permit holder, started working for the company in February 2015, earning about $700 a month in basic salary and $1,000 a month with overtime.

He did not receive his full salary between October 2015 and June 2016. From July last year, the salary payment stopped completely.

He complained to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) last September and was given a special pass to remain in Singapore while his salary claim was being processed. The pass prohibits him from working.

"I have not sent money home for many months," said Mr Islam, who is supporting his wife and two children, aged five and 10. MOM held meetings between Mr Islam and his employer in September and October. The employer agreed to pay, but later went back on his word.

The case then went before the Commissioner of Labour, or what is commonly called the Labour Court, which held a closed-door hearing on Dec 29.

The employer was ordered by the Labour Court to pay Mr Islam $7,363 by Jan 12. He did not.

Mr Islam met MOM officials again on Jan 13 and was told, in writing, to go to the State Courts himself to apply for a court bailiff to seize the employer's assets and auction them off to recover the unpaid wages.

He was given a letter that said the court action will cost him more than $1,000 which includes a $300 deposit, about $400 in legal fees, $50 an hour to hire a bailiff and fees to the court and auctioneer. MOM said that he had to take this route because salary recovery matters are "civil claims" .

"I was angry," said Mr Islam, who has been working here since 1998.

When contacted, Mr Shamsuzzaman said that he could not pay Mr Islam because a main contractor owed him more than $100,000.

"My company is no longer active. I am working as a delivery man now," said the Bangladesh national, who is a Singapore permanent resident.

Company records showed that the firm is registered to a shell office at International Plaza while Mr Shamsuzzaman, who is in his late 40s, lives in a Woodlands Housing Board flat.

Mr Patrick Tay, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, said enforcement of Labour Court orders can be "challenging" if employers do not comply. "Perhaps special help and relief can be provided to assist workers, especially the low-wage workers, in this respect," he suggested.

Mr Alex Au, treasurer of Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), said the case "shows how the process can be ineffective, leaving the worker high and dry". Mr Islam had sought help from TWC2 last September.

"Singapore can reduce the incidence of such default cases by making it a criminal offence on the part of directors of companies to ignore Labour Court orders," Mr Au added.

Despite the setback, Mr Islam is still holding on to the slim hope of getting his unpaid salary.

"I have a wife and two children (to support). I cannot go home without the money," he said.


MOM: Salary recovery matters are civil claims

The Labour Court can order an employer to pay a worker what he is owed, but cannot enforce the order because it is a matter between the worker and employer.

Such salary recovery matters are "civil claims", a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spokesman said.

MOM gets about 4,500 salary claims by foreign workers a year, "less than 0.4 per cent" of the foreign workforce. Nine in 10 of them are settled through mediation. The rest go to the Labour Court.

"Most employers comply with Labour Court orders. They are debarred from employing new foreign workers at least until they have done so," the MOM said.

The rest were mostly in financial trouble or had ceased operations.

Workers can try to enforce the order by applying to the State Courts to seize the employer's assets and sell them off. About 10 workers do so each year, and MOM will give advice and help with paperwork.

The costs incurred can be recovered. But MOM said: "Workers should have a realistic expectation of what could be recovered from a company which has ceased operations."

Mr Islam should not have let the unpaid salary pile up, it added. "The likelihood of salary recovery would have been higher if the worker had come forward earlier instead of allowing the sum owed to accumulate and the firm to rack up higher debts to other creditors," it said.

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Southern Realty (Malaya) Sdn Bhd v Chen Jia Fu Darren (alias Tan Suryo) and others - [2016] SGHC 230

Medicines Act - Medicines (Cessation of Application of Act to Oral Dental Gums) Order 2016 (S 542 of 2016)

Yeo has 'play poker mentality', says judge

Straits Times
19 Jan 2017
Marissa Lee

An unreliable witness with a "play poker mentality" who refused to admit the truth until confronted with incontrovertible evidence.

This is how District Judge Ng Peng Hong described former BSI banker Yeo Jiawei in his grounds of judgment released yesterday.

Yeo, 34, was sentenced to 30 months' jail last month for witness tampering in a probe over the money laundering case involving billions of dollars allegedly misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.

Yeo denied wrongdoing throughout his trial.

He was convicted on four charges of witness tampering. Witness tampering can carry a jail term of up to seven years and fines.

In his judgment, Judge Ng wrote: "Having considered the totality of the evidence, I was of the view that the approach taken by the accused was consistent with his 'play poker' mentality and I found him to be an unreliable witness."

At the trial, it was stated that Yeo had told his former boss, Kevin Swampillai, to "play poker" with the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) if they questioned him.

The judge also cited other instances that showed Yeo's "lack of candour and credibility".

In court, Yeo repeatedly played down his connections with Malaysian tycoon Jho Low, who is at the centre of the money laundering scheme.

For example, Yeo initially said he did not stay in Low's apartment in Hong Kong in September 2014, but later said he spent a few hours there.

Likewise, Yeo initially did not recognise the name "Chuan Teik Ying", but subsequently recognised her as Low's girlfriend.

Yeo also could not recall flying on Low's private jet from Shanghai to Hong Kong on June 4, 2015, but later said that it could be possible.

Yeo had also claimed that he never met Low without another BSI banker, Yak Yew Chee, being present, but later acknowledged that he did meet Low by himself on at least two occasions - a badminton session in Singapore and a meeting at the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados.

Judge Ng said that Yeo should not be treated as a first-time offender as his interference with Swampillai and associate Samuel Goh, and the other interference with Amicorp employees Jose Renato Carvalho Pinto and Mun Enci Aloysius, were distinct offences.

"In short, he had multiple charges. Moreover, these two instances did not arise out of a single incident," Judge Ng said.

He added that Yeo's offending was aggravated since he sought not only to frustrate investigations into offences concerning him, but also CAD's wider investigations involving Low, and transactions worth billions of dollars.

Yeo still faces money laundering charges to be heard in court in April.

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Humpuss Sea Transport Pte Ltd (in compulsory liquidation) v PT Humpuss Intermoda Transportasi TBK and another - [2016] SGHC 229

Medicines Act - Medicines (Cessation of Application of Act to Therapeutic Products) Order 2016 (S 541 of 2016)

Socialite drops protection order bid

Straits Times
19 Jan 2017
Ng Huiwen

Jamie Chua had sought court order against harassment by business partner Sharon Tang after falling out last year

Socialite Jamie Chua has withdrawn an application for an anti-harassment protection order against business partner Sharon Tang, who had posted a photo of a wreath she received on her birthday.

The photo on social media platform Instagram sparked "hateful" comments from netizens over several weeks last year, some of which went as far as to threaten violence against her family, Ms Chua claims.

Ms Chua, 43, has also dropped applications for similar orders against six others, though she still has protection orders against 58 netizens, mostly anonymous users, barring them from making personal attacks against her.

The court order, made under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), prohibits them from posting "threatening, abusive or insulting words" towards Ms Chua. The order also allows her to retrieve details of the users from Instagram if such comments are made.

Ms Chua, who describes herself as a celebrity influencer and brand ambassador, was thrust into the spotlight in 2011, when her divorce from Indonesian tycoon Nurdian Cuaca was widely covered after she sought $450,000 a month in maintenance. She had married at age 20 and left her job as an air stewardess with Singapore Airlines.

She also opened the first Manolo Blahnik shoe boutique in South-east Asia at the Hilton Hotel in 2007, and another in Marina Bay Sands in 2010. The stores closed in 2011, but she remained a fixture at society dos. She has been profiled often for her multimillion-dollar closets, which include about 200 Hermes Birkin and Kelly bags, and double-digit carat diamond accessories.

She and Ms Tang, 38, are the co-founders of Closet Raider, an online listing platform for buying and selling second-hand luxury goods.

According to court documents seen yesterday by The Straits Times, the pair had a falling out in the month leading up to the Instagram post. Ms Chua alleged in her affidavit that this was after she ticked off Ms Tang for allegedly using her name to obtain freebies from sponsors.

The online attacks allegedly started last February, after Ms Tang uploaded a photo on her Instagram account showing a wreath being delivered to her residence on her birthday. Ms Tang, in the caption, wrote: "Some malicious people actually sent wreath to my place instead of wishing me Happy Birthday."

At the time, Ms Tang had about 21,000 followers. Netizens left "abusive and threatening" comments on the photo against Ms Chua, with some hinting that she was responsible for sending the wreath. Comments targeting Ms Chua's boyfriend, two children and businesses were also made on her Instagram profile, which currently has more than 400,000 followers. A month later, Ms Chua applied for expedited protection orders against 65 people, who included Mr Sunny Tan, a friend of her boyfriend.

In her affidavit, Ms Chua said the "acts of harassment" caused her "many sleepless nights and episodes of extreme mood swings".

In April, the court approved the orders against 58 of them, who were known only by their Instagram usernames, while the seven others entered mediation and negotiations with Ms Chua.

In September, she withdrew applications against six of them - mostly close friends of Mr Tan or Ms Tang - after reaching a private settlement. Early this month, she ceased her action against Ms Tang. Ms Chua has been ordered to pay $7,500 in legal costs to Ms Tang.

Under POHA, victims may apply directly for a protection order to stop the harassing behaviour. Breaches of a protection order may amount to a criminal offence.

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, Ms Chua said she dropped the case of her own accord. "In the past year, all the posts have since been taken down, so there is no need to go to trial," she said. "It is not a case of who wins or loses. We just hope to move on."

In a Facebook post last Friday, Ms Tang wrote that she was "finally vindicated". She said: "I stood my ground till the very end because I was innocent..."

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Common Gaming Houses Act - Common Gaming Houses (Exemption) (No. 1) Notification 2017 (S 28 of 2017)

Health Products Act - Health Products (Composition of Offences) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 540 of 2016)

ADV: Career opportunities at NUS Faculty of Law

Singapore Law Watch
19 Jan 2017
National University of Singapore

Environmental Protection and Management Act - Environmental Protection and Management Act (Amendment of Second Schedule) Order 2017 (S 27 of 2017)

Health Products Act - Health Products (Oral Dental Gums) Regulations 2016 (S 539 of 2016)

V. K. Rajah: The 'reluctant' A-G and his ethos of fairness

Straits Times
18 Jan 2017
K.C. Vijayan & Ng Huiwen

Retired Attorney-General reviewed AGC sentencing positions to avoid 'disproportionate' punishments

Before he became the Attorney-General in 2014, Mr V. K. Rajah twice declined the offer in 2007 and 2013.

"I was a reluctant A-G, but once I decided to be A-G, I put my heart and soul into it," he said in an interview with The Straits Times at his office last Friday. "I put in 110 per cent, and as long as I held office, I wanted to discharge my responsibilities to the best of my ability."

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Rajah, who left the post last Saturday, said one of the changes he implemented soon after taking the job was a reporting mechanism to review the prosecution's sentencing positions. If the position was excessive or disproportionate, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) would inform the defence counsel to go ahead and appeal, and prosecution would not object.

Mr Rajah, 60, said prior to this, prosecutors reported to the senior leadership matters that might attract media or public attention.

"I was more interested in (other) matters and our sentencing position that would affect the larger swathe of the population, from shoplifting to property, offences of any sort... and I wanted us to review our sentencing position on every possible area of criminal activity," he said.

All cases that were concluded were reported in the form of a summary report and Mr Rajah would review these cases every evening.

In one unusual case, the AGC even appealed for a sentence to be reduced. The accused, a cyclist who had knocked down an elderly person, did not have his own lawyer.

Originally sentenced to eight weeks' jail in 2015, his sentence was reduced to three weeks after the Deputy Public Prosecutor appealed to have it slashed.

Mr Rajah said his "obsessiveness for looking at things granularly" boiled down to a need to exercise the power of the prosecution carefully. Not all were on board at first with the decisions he made, including the move to appeal to have the cyclist's sentence reduced.

Some colleagues had told him the decision would not have been possible in the AGC a decade ago, because "that's not part of our culture".

"But having said that, I think all of them were immediately on the same side because they realised and appreciated that this accorded with their role as ministers of justice.

"My operating ethos in every ... office that I held is to ensure fairness. And fairness includes, apart from due process, proportionality. It's in no one's interest for individuals to be punished harshly," he said.

Another initiative launched in his time involved lawyers in the AGC who volunteered to work with abused foreign workers. They halved the time it took to resolve cases that otherwise would require the foreign workers to stay for months or even years in Singapore to resolve their situation in court.

Mr Rajah hailed the work of AGC staff. "Many officers in the AGC and in the public service work anonymously as they should and get very little credit.

"They put in long, long hours of work over weekends, over holidays, and they do this not because they are looking for recognition, but they do this because they believe it's the right thing and they are serving a wider cause."

Mr Rajah spent 20 years in the private sector, becoming managing partner of law firm Rajah & Tann. In 1997, he was among the first lawyers to be appointed Senior Counsel.

He was then on the Bench for 10 years, first being appointed Supreme Court justice in 2004 and then Judge of Appeal three years later. It was then, in 2007, that he first declined the Attorney-General post.

"I enjoyed my work. Further, I was keen to continue working with Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, whom I greatly respected. I regard him as the finest legal mind who has held public office in Singapore."

Outside of his office, Mr Rajah reads extensively on social and political issues that affect Singapore and the wider world, as well as the sciences, such as psychology and neuroscience. "But since I became A-G, I've read only a handful of books," he said, as he spent more time reading up on ongoing cases, even the minor ones, such as shoplifting.

Mr Rajah said: "I could leave my law firm when I wanted to and the fact that it continues to thrive 13 years after I left it means that I left it with good foundations and in good shape." Former defence minister Howe Yoon Chong, in a conversation with Mr Rajah years ago, called the same quality a "walking capital" and the term stuck with him.

He entered the role as the "reluctant A-G", but with his retirement, he said: "I made sure everything that I've done, every institution I've done, I have left it in better shape."


V. K. Rajah on two cases of significance

WHY AGC DID NOT PUSH FOR A HEAVIER SENTENCE FOR DAD WHO KILLED SON

Banker Philippe Marcel Guy Graffart, then 42, had killed his five-year-old son last year amid a bitter custody battle.

The charge was reduced from murder to culpable homicide as the Belgian national was assessed to be suffering from a major depressive disorder.

His estranged French wife had engaged lawyers to press for a higher sentence.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), said Mr Rajah, would use the full force of law to prosecute cases that were cold-blooded and premeditated.

"Where homicide takes place as a result of mental issues, it's unpremeditated, where there is a momentary loss of control, we appraise the facts differently," he said.

He also observed that the case arose out of a bigger divorce squabble.

This is why family law should be practised in a more collaborative and amiable way, he said.

Mr Rajah added: "Unfortunately after reading the file - and I went through it very thoroughly - I felt that the lawyers advising the couple added fuel to the fire."

WHY PROSECUTION APPEALED TO REDUCE CYCLIST'S SENTENCE

Mr Rajah said the public might not be aware but the AGC has informed counsel to appeal when a sentence is excessive or disproportionate after reviewing the case.

The 2015 case involving Mr Lim Choon Teck, then 35, was different as he did not have a lawyer. Mr Lim had received a jail sentence of eight weeks for knocking down an elderly pedestrian while cycling on a pavement. After a review, Deputy Public Prosecutor Prem Raj Prabakaran appealed to have the sentence reduced, arguing that the prosecution believed the original sentence was disproportionate to his culpability and the fact that he had pleaded guilty at the first reasonable opportunity.

"If (Mr Lim) appealed, there was no certainty that the High Court judge might agree with him... So I directed my colleagues, and they were taken aback that we should appeal," said Mr Rajah. Mr Lim's jail term was cut to three weeks.

Mr Rajah said: "I'm glad the case was publicised because it also assured the public that AGC was trying to do right rather than to punish people excessively."

Ng Huiwen


V. K. RAJAH...

ON HIS ROLE AS ATTORNEY-GENERAL

I was a reluctant Attorney-General, but once I decided to be A-G, I put heart and soul into it. I put in 110 per cent and, as long as I held office, I wanted to discharge my responsibilities to the best of my ability. There is no point having a half-hearted A-G.


ON UPHOLDING FAIRNESS

My operating ethos in every appointment or office that I held is to ensure fairness. And fairness includes, apart from due process, proportionality. It's in no one's interest for individuals to be punished harshly.


ON SELECTING HIS TEAM

I pay particular attention to the way people interact and I am less than impressed by people who manage upwards and are all brown-nosed... I rather let the work speak for themselves.

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A guide to child maintenance

Straits Times
18 Jan 2017
Priscilla Goy

What is a reasonable sum of money needed to raise a child? Lawyers, judges and divorcing parents will be better able to answer that question, when new guidelines on child maintenance are expected to be released by early next year.

They will be based on actuarial data on family expenses, offering a more objective view of how much is needed to bring up a child. A table will suggest different maintenance amounts depending on the child's age and parents' income.

These factors are already considered in divorce cases today, but lawyers do not have a template with which to determine what is "reasonable".

The move is thus welcomed, given that the issue of child maintenance is one of the most acrimonious when parents separate.

There are accusations of expenses being inflated. There are charges that the money is used for the parent's, usually the mother's, own expenses.

With no guidelines, duelling parties wield multiple receipts and credit card statements as ammunition for how much they spend - or not - on the child.

Then there is the subjective question of what exactly constitutes a child's needs. Take tuition. Is it a necessity? Parents have very different answers.

A woman writes on The Straits Times' Facebook page: "I don't see anything wrong in giving child maintenance (for) tuition and enrichment classes, which may be crucial for the child to get direct admission into the school based on his talent.

"Birthday parties and yearly travels should be included as they help de-stress the child and develop his social skills."

Others disagree. One alludes to a "greedy ex-wife who always wanted more to feed her lifestyle".

The new guidelines, drafted by a third party, should thus go some way in reducing acrimony, the time taken to close divorce cases and parents' legal costs.

The biggest beneficiary will be the child himself. Having to deal with parents who are separating is already a huge change. With the new guidelines that can reduce rancour between his parents, he can hopefully adjust better to his new life.

Priscilla Goy

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Businessman convicted of murdering wife's ex-lover

Straits Times
18 Jan 2017
Selina Lum

A 56-year-old businessman was yesterday convicted of the savage murder of his wife's younger former lover, after the High Court rejected his tangled tale pinning the crime on a mysterious man named Ali.

Chia Kee Chen was found guilty of forcing the victim, 37-year-old material analyst Dexmon Chua Yizhi, into the back of a van and assaulting him, together with 33-year-old Indonesian Febri Irwansyah Djatmiko, between Dec 28 and Dec 29, 2013.

The victim's body was dumped at a military live firing area in Lim Chu Kang. Chia later led police to the spot. The attack was so vicious that almost every bone, from the eye socket to the lower jaw, in the victim's face was fractured.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Chia alone had the motive and intention to kill or cause grievous hurt to Dexmon," said Justice Choo Han Teck.

Chia, who will be sentenced at a later date, faces either the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Earlier during the trial, Chia's wife, 51, testified about her year-long affair with Mr Chua, which began after he started taking her home in his car from their workplace. Mr Chua even filmed their trysts, she said.

During his trial, Chia said he and his two accomplices waited for the victim at a carpark near the younger man's flat to get back a thumbdrive containing a sex tape of his wife. However, he denied assaulting the victim. Instead, he pushed the blame on Ali, whom he claimed to have hired to get back the thumbdrive. His narrative also included an "Indian man" who acted as Ali's messenger.

Chia's account was rejected by Justice Choo, who called him an "unreliable witness". "There is absolutely no other evidence that persuades me that there may be a possibility that Ali and the Indian man might have been involved. Chia started a story which he had difficulty fabricating into a coherent whole."

The judge noted that Chia had given various versions of events which contradicted his own testimony and those of others, as well as "incredible accounts".

For instance, Chia phoned his brother-in-law at about 3am on Dec 29 to seek his help to move a body. But Chia said the purpose of his call was to ask about the market price of birds.

While the judge also found that both Chia and Febri, who is still at large, had the common intention to assault the victim, Chia was the one to deal the crucial blow. "He was the man with the motive and the hatred for Dexmon," he noted.

Chia had also enlisted the help of long-time friend Chua Leong Aik, who drove the van but fled. The 67-year-old is serving a five-year jail term.

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PUB to take action against contractor for unauthorised drainage works

Straits Times
18 Jan 2017
Zhaki Abdullah

National water agency PUB will be taking action against construction firm Sato Kogyo after it was discovered that the firm had carried out unauthorised works that affected the public drainage system in Upper Thomson Road.

PUB had conducted investigations into the drainage system following a flash flood in the area on Christmas Eve last year.

The flood affected at least eight businesses in the Upper Thomson area, one of which suffered an estimated $30,000 in losses.

Sato Kogyo is responsible for the construction of the Upper Thomson MRT station - one of the stops on the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line - near Thomson Plaza.

Earlier investigations found that a choked drain at the construction site had contributed to the flood.

The agency found the Japanese firm had constructed an undersized temporary diversion drain along Jalan Keli opposite Thomson Plaza. The firm was also found to have altered the public drainage system near Lorong Mega, which is adjacent to the plaza.

Both of these works were done without PUB's approval.

"Contractors must seek approval from PUB and notify PUB before carrying out any works affecting the storm-water drainage systems within and near their construction sites to ensure that these do not affect the functioning of the public drainage system," said a spokesman for the agency.

She added that contractors must not "construct, alter, discontinue or close up" any storm-water drains without its approval.

PUB will take action against Sato Kogyo under the Sewerage and Drainage Act.

The contractor faces a fine of up to $20,000 for unauthorised alteration of the public drainage system.

If found guilty, it could also be fined up to $50,000 for works affecting the public drainage system.

The firm is no stranger to public infrastructure projects here.

Besides the $374 million contract for the Upper Thomson station, it is also working on several Downtown Line projects.

These include the construction of the Mattar, Bencoolen and Bedok North stations, all due to be completed by the end of this year.

A spokesman for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that as part of the works for the Upper Thomson station project, it has been widening the canal in Upper Thomson Road and Jalan Keli across from Thomson Plaza "to enhance the drainage system and improve the overall flood resilience in the area".

The spokesman said that Sato Kogyo, which is carrying out the works, could not build a diversion drain of the desired width because of the narrow site conditions along Jalan Keli, "resulting in a localised constriction".

After the flash flood incident, the contractor has worked closely with PUB to carry out temporary improvement works to increase the drainage capacity in the area, said the spokesman.

To prevent similar incidents, the LTA said it has instructed the firm to expedite the completion of the canal widening along Jalan Keli.

"Once the canal is completed, it will improve the recurring flash-flood situation in Jalan Keli," added the spokesman. "LTA will continue to work closely with our contractors to ensure that they comply with agencies' requirements for all our construction projects."

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Acquitted: Ex-SMRT bus driver accused of rash act

Straits Times
18 Jan 2017
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

The prosecution failed to prove its case in the trial of a former SMRT bus driver accused of a rash act while driving a public bus, leading to an acquittal yesterday.

Mr Zhang Kun, now 43, had been accused of driving bus service 700A above the speed limit of 50kmh before losing control of it while negotiating a sharp bend at the slip road of Bukit Timah Expressway towards Dairy Farm Road.

This happened at around 8.50am on July 21, 2013.

The bus fell onto its right side, killing Malaysian Sasikumar Gunasakaran, 18, and injuring Mr Ramanand Panday A Panday, 52.

After a 26-day trial, the Chinese national was acquitted of the two charges against him.

District Judge Michelle Yap noted that the prosecution could not determine exactly what Mr Zhang's speed was when he entered the slip road.

The prosecution had used speed data from the black box of the bus, and mapping the data out against its various locations, it submitted that Mr Zhang had entered the road at a speed of at least 56kmh.

But the judge said: "I do not think the prosecution had sufficiently proven that the accused's speed was at least 56kmh when he entered the slip road, and even assuming for the sake of argument that the accused was indeed travelling at 56kmh, it was not sufficiently proven that that this speed had caused the accused to lose control of the bus."

She also said the defence was not given an opportunity to conduct its own inspection of the bus.

The prosecution's expert inspected the bus between September and October 2013, and the vehicle was returned to SMRT by Oct 23.

Mr Zhang was charged in court about two months later.

The judge said: "According to the defence, some parts of the bus had since then been dismantled. It was not disputed that the bus was no longer in its original state immediately after the accident.

"What this meant is that the accused would not have been able to inspect the bus in its original state even if he had requested so immediately after he was charged. Undeniably, the accused had been disadvantaged in the conduct of his defence."

Mr Zhang declined comment.

His lawyer, Mr Anil Narain Balchandani, assigned by the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, later told The Straits Times: "My client is drained from the process. He has been unemployed for (about) 37 months."

Those convicted of causing death by performing a rash act can be jailed up to five years and fined.

The maximum sentence for causing hurt by performing a rash act is a year's jail and a fine of $5,000.

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Is Government a person? Court rules on anti-harassment law provision

Straits Times
17 Jan 2017
Selina Lum

In a rare split decision, the Court of Appeal ruled, 2-1, that the Government cannot invoke an anti-harassment law that allows persons to stop the publication of false statements against them.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon was the sole dissenting judge, in a case that hinged on the narrow legal question of whether the Government could be considered a "person" under Section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act.

Under the provision, a person who is a victim of a false statement can seek relief by asking the court to order that the statement not be published unless it drew attention to the truth.

In a written judgment released yesterday, Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang ruled that the law applied only to human beings.

However, Chief Justice Menon disagreed. He concluded that the Government does fall within the scope of "person" under the law and is able to apply under the provision for relief.

The decision arose in a case in which the Attorney-General had invoked the law against five individuals who ran socio-political site The Online Citizen (TOC) as well as Dr Ting Choon Meng, co-founder of medical device firm MobileStats Technologies.

MobileStats had sued the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) in 2011 for infringing its patent for a mobile emergency medical station. The suit was eventually dropped.

In January 2015, TOC published an interview with Dr Ting, in which he made various allegations against Mindef.

The ministry responded on its Facebook page, refuting his allegations that it had knowingly infringed his patent and that it had dragged out court proceedings to wear him down financially.

TOC published Mindef's statement in full and provided a link to it from the offending article.

The next month, the A-G sought a court order that the allegations cannot be published without a notification that they were false and that Mindef's statement gave the truth.

In May 2015, a district judge found Dr Ting's statements to be false and granted the A-G's ap- plication.

TOC, represented by Mr Eugene Thuraisingam, and Dr Ting, represented by Mr Choo Zheng Xi, appealed to the High Court, arguing that Mindef cannot apply for such an order as the Government is not a "person" under the provision.

Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon agreed, ruling that only human beings are entitled to apply for such court orders.

The A-G then appealed to the Court of Appeal, Singapore's highest court, arguing that there was no clear parliamentary intent to exclude the Government from the protection of the Act.

The A-G argued that the objective of the provision was to deal with false statements and not merely harassment, so the Government and corporate entities have the right to invoke the law.

Delivering the court's majority decision, Justice Phang referred to parliamentary debates in which Law Minister K. Shanmugam talked about giving people a "lower tier" remedy against falsehoods.

Justice Phang said it was clear that the minister's focus was solely on human beings, pointing to the many references to "victims" and "harassment" in his speech.

No references were made with regard to the rights of other entities, he noted.

Justice Phang added that even if the majority accepted that the law applies to Mindef, they did not think it was "just and equitable" to grant an order against TOC and Dr Ting.

He noted that TOC had provided a balanced view.

"Additionally, Mindef was anything but a helpless victim. It is a government agency possessed of significant resources and access to media channels."

Through his lawyer Mr Choo, Dr Ting said he was glad that this episode was concluded.

Mr Thuraisingam said his clients are "happy that the position they have taken has been vindicated by the High Court and the majority of the Court of Appeal".


CJ's dissenting judgment

In his dissenting judgment, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon found that non-natural persons, such as the Government, can invoke Section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha) as a remedy against false statements.

He based this on the ordinary meaning of the words in the provision, which refer to falsehood being made about "any person".

CJ Menon referred to the Interpretation Act, which states that "person" can include "any company or association or body of persons, corporate or unincorporated".

Turning to parliamentary debates, CJ Menon noted that in response to a question by an MP as to whether "person" included corporations, Law Minister K. Shanmugam had replied that the definition in the Interpretation Act would apply.

The Chief Justice found that Section 15 provides a standalone remedy to deal specifically with false statements, distinct from the other provisions in the Act.

He found that Dr Ting Choon Meng's false statement, alleging that the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) was deliberately delaying court proceedings, was a serious one. Even though The Online Citizen had published Mindef's statement, CJ Menon said this was insufficient to draw attention to the falsehood and the true facts.

He noted that the nub of Mindef's complaint is the false statement that it was conducting the litigation in an oppressive manner.

"This was untrue for the simple reason that the litigation involving Dr Ting was in fact controlled not by Mindef, but by its contractor," he said.

Given the seriousness of the false statement and that the publication of a notice stating that Dr Ting's statement has been adjudged to be false was a "low- level restriction", he said he would have granted the order sought by Mindef.

Selina Lum


Law Ministry's response

In response to the Court of Appeal's split decision, the Ministry of Law said the Government's policy intent was to allow natural persons, as well as the Government and corporations, to rely on Section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act (Poha).

A Law Ministry spokesman noted that The Online Citizen (TOC) had published falsehoods about the Ministry of Defence (Mindef). On the advice of the Attorney-General's Chambers, Mindef had asked TOC to report corrections to the falsehoods.

"We note that the Court of Appeal has confirmed that TOC had indeed published falsehoods," said the spokesman.

But the majority ruled that only natural persons can rely on the provision, which requires those who have published falsehoods to also publish corrections and the true facts. Therefore, the Government cannot ask for corrections under Poha.

The spokesman noted that "fake news" has become a major problem for many societies.

"As recent events elsewhere show, the spreading of false and misleading information can be highly destructive of the institutions of democracy."

He added: "The Government notes the dissenting judgment of the learned Chief Justice, and the reasons the Chief Justice has given for his views.

"The Government will study the judgment, and consider what further steps it should take to correct the deliberate spreading of falsehoods."

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Custody battle: UK judge orders boy's return

Straits Times
17 Jan 2017
K.C. Vijayan

London court notes Singaporean father had absconded from order requiring his stay in UK

An English judge has ruled that a five-year-old boy locked in a custody battle between his Singaporean father and Mongolian mother should be returned to her full-time care as it is "overwhelmingly" in the child's best interests that it be so.

His father, 39, had fled from London last September to be here so he could file a final bid to keep the boy in Singapore. Justice Jennifer Roberts, in wardship proceedings, noted the father had "absconded" from a British passport order which required him to remain in London until the child was returned there.

The boy, who will turn five in July, has lived in Singapore with his paternal grandparents for about three years under a voluntary care arrangement with the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Child Protective Service.

He was born in London, but was sent to his grandparents in late 2013 while his mother, now 33, prepared for exams in London. The marriage faltered and her husband divorced her in a Singapore court while she sued to split in England.

Justice Roberts, in judgment grounds released last week, which had the parents names redacted, acknowledged "without reservation" that the boy is now settled in his home surroundings here and was well attached to his grandparents, who had done a good job in caring for his physical needs.

"However, a very important component element of the boy's world is missing from his life and I am satisfied that this element (his mother) will remain absent from his life for so long as he remains in the primary care of the paternal family or any one of its members," said the judge.

Last year, a Singapore family court judge had also ordered the boy be returned to his mother to settle the issue in a London court.

There have been no fewer than 11 British court orders stating that the child is a resident of Britain and a ward of the British court, noted District Judge Tan Peck Cheng.

However, the boy remains here as the father's appeal against the Singapore court order is pending.

District Judge Tan had pointed out that there was no evidence the child's return would expose him to grave risk of physical or psychological harm, or an intolerable position.

"It would neither be against the best interests of the child nor public policy for me to make orders to mirror certain UK orders and I order accordingly," she said.

In her decision grounds, Justice Roberts also expressed concern about the tenor of the father's evidence to the court in Singapore, in the light of the history of the case.

"The evidence suggests that this father has lost all objectivity in relation to the English litigation. He has, indeed, rewritten history for the purposes of advancing his case in the Singapore proceedings."

Justice Roberts noted that the boy's mother would lose all contact with him if he was to remain here, and said that it would be "little short of catastrophic for this child were that situation to arise".

The judge also rejected the father's claim that the mother's unlawful bid to snatch their son from Singapore in 2014 had disqualified her from being a full-time mother. While the mother's action was not to be condoned, it was clear how distressed she was, the judge noted.

Justice Roberts said the father held a strong and mistaken belief that he was an innocent player in the debacle, and the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice by his son's mother and the English courts. She added that the passport orders which prevented him from leaving Britain were the "direct result of his own unlawful actions".

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Lucien Wong sworn in as Attorney-General

Straits Times
17 Jan 2017
Ng Huiwen

Singapore's ninth Attorney-General, Mr Lucien Wong, was sworn in yesterday at the Istana, in a ceremony presided over by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Mr Wong, 63, will serve a three-year term. He was also appointed a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights for a term of three years.

He took over as the Government's top legal adviser and public prosecutor from Mr V.K. Rajah, who retired last Saturday.

Mr Wong told The Straits Times that he is honoured by the opportunity to serve as Attorney-General.

"I have been extremely impressed by the quality of the Attorney-General's Chambers' (AGC) officers and their work, as well as the dedication and professionalism displayed by them," he said.

"I look forward to working with them to build on the foundations laid by my predecessors, in particular by my immediate predecessor A-G V.K. Rajah, who has instituted several transformational projects within AGC."

Mr Wong was chairman and senior partner of Singapore's largest law firm, Allen & Gledhill. He has over 30 years of legal experience, specialising in banking, corporate and financial services work.

He started as a legal assistant at Drew & Napier in 1979, after graduating top of his law class at the University of Singapore, now the National University of Singapore. In 1982, he became partner of the firm.

He then moved to Allen & Gledhill, where he was managing partner from 1998 to 2012.

In recent years, he was involved in some of the largest and most high-profile corporate and commercial transactions undertaken in Singapore. He led a team on the $4.25 billion share sale of Tuas Power to China Huaneng, and Lion Power Holdings' acquisition of Senoko from Temasek for $3.65 billion.

He also sat on several committees that reviewed amendments to Singapore's company and securities law.

Mr Wong was previously chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. He was also on the board of Singapore Press Holdings.

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New Acra rule helps investors

Straits Times
17 Jan 2017
Wong Wei Han

More red tape? Some observers fretted over new powers unveiled last week that mean firms can be forced to restate, re-audit and refile financial statements if they commit severe reporting breaches.

After all, sifting through all those numbers again is a gruelling process that some industry practitioners think may even lead to lawsuits.

But the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority's (Acra) new rule, which kicks in on April 1, is an important step that improves the quality and timeliness of financial information for retail investors.

Yes, failure to comply will see Acra holding company directors accountable - potentially resulting in fines or even criminal charges, depending on the severity of the breaches - but the focus of this new approach is not on deterrence and penalty. Rather, it is to ensure that investors will get the most accurate and up-to-date financial information, as soon as possible.

This is crucial as retail investors may not have the expertise to analyse complex financial reports, let alone report breaches. The more information for investors to make informed decisions, the better.

Other new rules, such as a requirement starting this year for a more in-depth auditor's report to highlight areas with bigger risks of misstatement, will have similar benefits.

The enhancements also complement a string of new investor-protection policies rolled out by regulators in recent times. Last week, Parliament passed a law to bring wide-ranging changes to the Securities and Futures Act, including the tightening of accredited investor criteria so that uninformed investors face a smaller chance of being exposed to sophisticated and risky investment products.

As the Government continues to improve its regulatory regime, it bodes well not only for investors, but also for Singapore as a financial services hub, which relies very much on a strong reputation and transparency to stay competitive on the global stage.

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Protecting minors suspected of crime

Straits Times
17 Jan 2017

Most teenagers taken in for police questioning would likely feel afraid, whether or not they have done anything wrong. A new scheme to have adult volunteers accompany minors during police interviews should therefore reassure parents that the interests of their children are protected even as the law takes its course. It comes a year after a 14-year-old fell to his death hours after police questioning over an alleged molestation. Like those with intellectual or mental disabilities, persons under 16 deserve the protection of society when they face the power of the law. Other jurisdictions have similar Appropriate Adult schemes in place. In Britain and parts of Australia, a parent, guardian or social worker must sit in when the police question people under 18.

Singapore does not allow parents, teachers or anyone who knows the young person to be present at the interview as that might hinder the investigation process. Instead, young persons here will be accompanied by independent trained volunteers. What matters is that these volunteers are neutral and do not help either the young persons or the police. If a minor is taken to the police station from school, someone familiar to him, such as a teacher or a counsellor, will accompany him in the police car. The police are also to inform the minor's parents as soon as possible.

Figures released by the Home Affairs Ministry help shed light on the challenge of finding the right balance between public and private interests. The police arrested more than 7,000 young suspects between 2011 and 2015 for offences that include rioting. That group would include some who were innocent and others who were first-time offenders, but also repeat offenders involved in serious crimes. The police would want to question the last group without delay so as to track down accomplices, for instance. There is thus a need to uphold the public interest in solving and preventing crime, while balancing the interests of young suspects.

It is apt that the scheme being rolled out is the result of an inter-agency effort and that the National Council of Social Service is involved in its implementation. On its part, the Education Ministry has pledged to work out follow-up steps when such cases arise, and these would include monitoring the child's well-being and offering counselling support. That will be a source of help to parents who are shocked to learn that their child is suspected of a crime. The role of schools is crucial because they are, after all, the institution with which most parents would be most familiar. Still, at the heart of it all is the young person, whose resilience and willingness to face up to wrongdoing is perhaps the key factor in deciding the outcome in such cases. The sad truth is that if the young suspect is unable to accept what has happened, no scheme can save him.

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Pingat Pentadbiran Awam (The Public Administration Medal) (Amendment) Rules 2017 (S 17 of 2017)

Medical and Elderly Care Endowment Schemes Act - Medical and Elderly Care Endowment Schemes (Medifund Committees) (Amendment No. 7) Order 2016 (S 528 of 2016)

Doctor lands in trouble again for misconduct

Straits Times
17 Jan 2017
Tan Tam Mei

Suspension, $10k fine for GP who also failed to provide proper care

A doctor who was suspended for six months in 2004 for overprescribing sleeping pills found himself in trouble again.

Dr Peter Yong Thiam Look had failed to keep proper notes and did not dispense enough advice before performing trigger finger surgery on a patient. He also did the operation at his consultation table, despite guidelines requiring such surgery to be performed in a procedure or operating room.

Patients with a trigger finger feel finger aches and pain from activities such as continuous typing on a keyboard.

In February last year, Dr Yong - a general practitioner with the AcuMed Medical Group who is no longer employed there - pleaded guilty to three charges before a Singapore Medical Council (SMC) disciplinary tribunal - two for professional misconduct and one for failing to provide appropriate care to the patient.

His errant ways came to light in June 2013, following the patient's complaint, and Dr Yong was given a six-month suspension and a $10,000 fine in May last year.

The grounds of decision by the tribunal, led by trio Dr Yap Lip Kee, Professor Lee Hin Peng and Mr Bala Reddy, was published yesterday.

Dr Yong, who has been practising for over 30 years, was also censured and had to give a written undertaking to the SMC stating that he will not engage in similar conduct in future. He will also have to cover the costs of the proceedings, including SMC's solicitors.

Dr Yong had his practice restricted after three sets of complaints were made against him between 1994 and 1995 while practising in various hospitals in Australia. He was also among four doctors punished by the SMC in 2004 for overprescribing sleeping pills. He was suspended for six months and fined $5,000 for failing to maintain proper medical records among various charges.

In court documents, the tribunal highlighted Dr Yong's 2004 conviction as a "further aggravating" factor in the latest complaint as he had breached an undertaking given to the SMC not to repeat similar conduct.

The patient, who was not named, had consulted Dr Yong in August 2012 and was diagnosed with trigger finger. Dr Yong advised him to undergo surgery the same day, but did not adequately explain the nature, benefits, risks and possible consequences of it.

A month later, the patient sought a second opinion at Singapore General Hospital's (SGH) department of hand surgery. He had an infected wound on his left palm, numbness in his finger and a poorly healing post-surgery wound.

The patient had to have follow-up treatment and consultations on another eight occasions at SGH.

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Pingat Bakti Setia (The Long Service Medal) (Amendment) Rules 2017 (S 16 of 2017)

Medical and Elderly Care Endowment Schemes Act - Medical and Elderly Care Endowment Schemes (Approved Institutions) (Amendment No. 6) Notification 2016 (S 527 of 2016)

ADV: Career opportunities at NUS Faculty of Law

Singapore Law Watch
17 Jan 2017
National University of Singapore

Pingat Berkebolehan (The Efficiency Medal) (Amendment) Rules 2017 (S 15 of 2017)

Common Gaming Houses Act - Common Gaming Houses (Exemption) (No. 58) Notification 2016 (S 526 of 2016)

New guidelines on child maintenance expected next year

Straits Times
16 Jan 2017
Priscilla Goy

Expected next year, they're based on actuarial data and may hasten closure of divorce cases

Divorcing parents will have a better idea of how much they need to pay for child maintenance, when guidelines for this are expected to be released by early next year.

The guidelines will be based on actuarial data on family expenses, giving family lawyers and judges a more objective view of how much is needed to raise a child.

Currently, there are no such rules; information on children's living expenses is declared - and often inflated - by divorcing parties.

With the move, lawyers expect divorce cases to be settled more quickly as the issue of child maintenance is one of the most acrimonious.

The guidelines will be set by a panel co-chaired by Mr Gerard Ee, president of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, and Judicial Commissioner Valerie Thean.

Mr Ee said these guidelines will include a table suggesting different maintenance amounts depending on two factors: the child's age and parents' income. "These factors have always been considered in divorce cases but there was no actuarial template to refer to," he added.

Having such guidelines will "help improve consistency and cost-effectiveness" in divorce cases involving children, said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon last week at the opening of the legal year, when he announced the setting up of the panel.

Countries with child maintenance guidelines include Germany, Canada and Australia. The table Mr Ee mentioned is similar to Germany's Dusseldorf Table, which has been updated nearly every year for the past decade. Mr Ee said the one in Singapore will be refreshed regularly too, to reflect changes in living costs.

The move comes amid a rising number of break-ups, though the divorce rate has been stable. The latest available data shows there were 7,120 divorces in 2015, a rise of 11 per cent from the number in 2005.

Family lawyers welcomed the move, with some saying child maintenance is one of the most rancorous issues argued about in court as there are inconsistencies over how much is needed to raise a child.

Said Mr Rajan Chettiar: "Often, the father thinks the mother is deliberately inflating the child's expenses to get more maintenance, and worries that the mother will spend the extra money on herself."

Ms Gloria James agreed that many divorcing parties inflate expenses, citing a case in which the court's view of the children's monthly expenses was about $1,300 less than what the mother had argued for. The mother had included items like "staycations", "photography" and "birthday parties".

Ms Sharanjit Kaur said judges face an "uphill task" in assessing the average cost of living for children owing to changing expectations and needs."The cost of living for children has changed significantly, with parents spending more on things like enrichment classes."

Currently, parents must give evidence such as receipts for expenses incurred by the child.

Lawyers Ivan Cheong and Michelle Woodworth said the guidelines could lead to divorce cases being closed more quickly. This will also reduce parents' legal costs.

Mr Ee said the panel will consult other lawyers on the guidelines, and possibly the public later this year.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Telecommunications (Amendment) Act 2016 - Telecommunications (Amendment) Act 2016 (Commencement) Notification 2017 (S 14 of 2017)

Regulation of Imports and Exports Act - Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 525 of 2016)

Big local law firms take spots in 2016 M&A activity tables

Business Times
14 Jan 2017
Claire Huang

WongPartnership, Allen & Gledhill in top five by value of deals

[Singapore] TWO of Singapore's Big Four law firms emerged among the top legal advisors in South-east Asia by value of merger and acquisition (M&A) deals sealed in 2016.

A Mergermarket report, which projected an uncertain outlook in this arena in the year ahead, noted that WongPartnership retained its second spot from 2015. Allen & Gledhill, in pole position in the legal advisors' league table in 2015, slipped to fourth place last year.

WongPartnership had US$8.8 billion in deals done in 2016, 81.4 per cent less than in 2015. Allen & Gledhill clocked deals amounting to US$8.2 billion, down 85.1 per cent year-on-year.

Taking the crown was Linklaters, which leapt 17 spots to be the firm with 2016's highest deal value - US$9.2 billion.

In terms of deal count in the region, Allen & Gledhill took the top spot with 28. WongPartnership and Linklaters each moved up a spot to claim the second and third position with 26 and 21 deals respectively.Rajah & Tann rose took 11th position in the table with 10 deals in 2016; Drew & Napier made it to the 15th with eight.

Globally, the value of deals done in 2016 was lower than in 2015.

The Mergermarket report said: "Despite a series of political shockwaves, global M&A activity (17,369 deals, US$3.2 trillion in 2016) managed to reach its third- highest deal value since 2007 (US$3.7 trillion), despite value dropping 18.1 per cent compared to 2015 (18,039 deals, US$4 trillion), with 670 fewer deals announced."

The report listed the Brexit negotiations, the nature of president-elect Donald Trump's presidency and the upcoming French and German elections as events that will put a question mark on 2017's outlook.

By geography, the United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) recorded falls in deal value; in contrast, deal value grew in central and south America, Africa and the Middle East and Japan.

The US continued to be the most sought-after location for M&A deals by both deal count and value. In 2016, there were 4,951 deals worth US$1.5 trillion, the second-highest annual value on Mergermarket data since 2001. And this was despite deal value falling 22.9 per cent year on year and with 347 fewer deals announced.

That said, Mr Trump's surprise electoral victory in November has brought an uncertain future for US M&A, the report said, noting his plan to clamp down on high-profile acquisitions such as the AT&T/Time Warner deal announced in October.

M&A activity was given a boost last year by a surge in deal making in the energy, mining and utilities sector, which had US$337.4 billion deals in 439 transactions - an all-time high for the sector.

The report said: "Arguably, the most prominent trend of the year was China's seemingly unquenchable appetite for overseas acquisitions." It added that Chinese deal-makers engaged in 258 transactions worth US$185.3 billion during the year, 3.8 times higher than 2015's previous record value (US$49.1 billion, 177 deals), with 81 more deals.

It added, however, that a recent change to legislation suggests that deal-making will likely become more muted in the coming year. With the change, the Chinese government will scrutinise overseas transactions worth more than US$2 billion, in a drive to reduce capital outflows that are draining the country's foreign-exchange reserves and depreciating the renminbi.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Constitution of the Republic of Singapore - Public Service (Special and Senior Personnel Boards) (Amendment No. 2) Order 2017 (S 13 of 2017)

Sale of Food Act - Sale of Food (Prohibition of Chewing Gum) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 524 of 2016)

Companies, auditors face higher reporting standards

Straits Times
14 Jan 2017
Wong Wei Han

Listed firms that commit serious breaches may be made to restate financial statements, says Acra

Listed companies that have committed serious reporting breaches may have to restate their financial statements under new rules that may lead to warnings, fines or even criminal charges being laid against errant directors.

The new enforcement approach announced yesterday by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) aims to raise reporting standards and better protect investors.

Acra chief executive Kenneth Yap said that previously, the first step was to sanction directors for breaches of accounting standards but this changes on April 1 when a "restatement first" approach will kick in.

This will involve two possible courses of action.

Firms that have committed lesser breaches will be asked to restate some comparative figures in the following year's financial statement.

But those with serious breaches will be required to not only restate, but also re-audit and refile the past financial statements.

If companies do not comply, Acra will apply to the courts to compel them to do so.

Acra has previously ordered company directors to issue restatements but the new approach will shift this first-level accountability to companies.

"And only if companies fail to do so, will we hold the directors accountable. Sanction could be levied through the issuance of warnings, composition fines or even prosecution for the egregious cases," Mr Yap said, adding that Acra will also issue press releases highlighting the breaches and action taken.

The new approach is a key feature of revisions to the Financial Reporting Surveillance Programme, an initiative where Acra selectively reviews financial reports of listed companies to ensure compliance and reporting standards.

Acra's new rules, which were unveiled at the annual Audit Committee Seminar, were met with some degree of reservation among those present.

Keppel Corporation audit committee chairman Danny Teoh said: "To me, restatement is a super serious thing.

"If you were in the United States and restated your quarterlies, you would probably have an avalanche of lawsuits directed at the company. It's something to be taken very seriously when decisions are made about restatements."

Mr Yap responded that the decision-making process will be as rigorous as before, backed by the views of experts and an independent review panel.

A new Audit Committee Guide was launched at the seminar by the Singapore Institute of Directors to help auditors and companies cope with tougher reporting standards.

The guide outlines the principles and approaches of an audit committee's responsibilities. It incorporates the Guidebook for Audit Committees in Singapore, which was last updated in 2012 and co-issued by Acra, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Exchange.

Directors can refer to it for the latest reporting requirements, such as those around the preparation of an enhanced auditor's reports (EAR), which became compulsory for all listed companies at the start of this year.

An EAR has an expanded reporting scope. It requires external auditors to disclose "key audit matters" in their dealing with a company, such as major transactions or areas with significant risks of financial misstatement.

More than 500 audit committee members and senior management figures from listed companies attended the seminar held at the Marina Mandarin hotel.


'RESTATEMENT FIRST' APPROACH

Previously, our first course of action was to sanction directors for breaches of accounting standards. With effect from April 1, Acra will instead adopt a 'restatement first' approach... And only if companies fail to do so, will we hold the directors accountable. Sanction could be levied through the issuance of warnings, composition fines or even prosecution for the egregious case.

ACRA CHIEF EXECUTIVE KENNETH YAP, on the new enforcement approach by Acra, which aims to raise reporting standards.

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Professional Engineers Act - Professional Engineers (Amendment) Rules 2016 (S 12 of 2017)

Securities and Futures Act - Securities and Futures (Licensing and Conduct of Business) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 523 of 2016)

Dentist delegated procedures to assistants

Straits Times
14 Jan 2017
Selina Lum

Instead of personally carrying out orthodontic procedures on a patient, a dentist delegated the tasks to his clinic assistants, who were not qualified to do so.

For breaching the ethical code and guidelines of the Singapore Dental Council (SDC), Dr Sng Wee Hock, 43, was suspended from practising for 15 months and fined $40,000.

Yesterday, he appealed for a lighter punishment but the High Court dismissed his bid and upheld the suspension and fine.

This is not Dr Sng's first brush with a disciplinary inquiry for professional misconduct.

In 2014, he was fined $15,000 for wrongly telling a patient that the cost of her dental implant could be fully claimed from Medisave.

Dr Sng practises under the name of WH Dental Surgeons, which has clinics in Punggol, Hougang and Seletar.

In July last year, he faced a disciplinary committee on 14 charges of delegating the administration of various orthodontic treatments to his dental assistants.

All charges involved the same patient.

He pleaded guilty to four charges relating to cementing of molar bands, bonding of loose brackets, placing occlusal glass ionomer cement and removal of orthodontic arch wires. The other 10 charges were taken into consideration.

In ordering the suspension and fine, the committee said it was sending a clear message to the profession that delegation of duties is a serious breach of the law governing dental practitioners.

"Orthodontic treatment not done properly by trained professionals can give rise to serious and damaging side effects. It should not be carried out by untrained and unqualified persons," said the committee in its grounds of decision.

Dr Sng's suspension will take effect from Feb 24, after his lawyer S. Selvaraj asked for some time for him to settle business matters.

Mr Chia Voon Jiet, lawyer for the SDC, did not object.

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Charities Act - Charities (Exempt Charities) (Amendment No. 2) Order 2017 (S 11 of 2017)

Securities and Futures Act - Securities and Futures (Financial and Margin Requirements for Holders of Capital Markets Services Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 522 of 2016)

Appropriate Adult Scheme for young persons: Further clarification needed - Voices

TODAY
14 Jan 2017

I refer to the reports “Young suspects to be accompanied by trained volunteers to police interviews” (Jan 6) and “School staff ‘cannot be with young suspects during police interviews’” (Jan 11).

The move by the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the ministries concerned to extend the Appropriate Adult Scheme to young persons aged under 16 is a right step towards providing the support needed for adolescent suspects in police investigations, in light of the Benjamin Lim case.

In addition, the Education Ministry (MOE) should be commended for implementing additional measures to support students while they are sent for police investigations. Could the MOE also clarify if similar measures will be implemented in our Institutes of Technical Education, public polytechnics and universities? These institutes of higher learning also enrol young students.

Besides being trained to monitor signs of distress in young persons, what other skills and training have teachers and school counsellors received to better equip them to manage young suspects while accompanying them to police stations? Also, what is the protocol for schools when no Appropriate Adult is present at the police station?

Also, a point of contention in the appointment of Appropriate Adults is the issue of the “neutral party”.

Parents of students who are called up for police investigations may wonder why they are unable to accompany their children during questioning, and more explanation is needed as to why school counsellors may not be neutral.

Could the Ministry of Home Affairs or the police clarify the criteria for a neutral party in police investigations, and provide examples of people who are considered non-neutral parties?

This will improve transparency and understanding in police procedures, especially when handling investigations involving young suspects who tend to be vulnerable and need support from familiar persons.

Timothy Toh Hong Ern

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Charities Act - Charities (Exempt Charities) (Amendment) Order 2017 (S 10 of 2017)

Financial Advisers Act - Financial Advisers (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 521 of 2016)

Two new High Court judges appointed

Straits Times
13 Jan 2017
Fabian Koh

Judicial Commissioners See Kee Oon and Chua Lee Ming have been elevated to High Court judges.

They were appointed by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, on the advice of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement yesterday. They will assume office on Jan 31, and their swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Feb 1 at the Istana.

With the appointments, the Supreme Court will have 16 judges, including four Judges of Appeal and the Chief Justice, along with nine Judicial Commissioners, five Senior Judges and 12 International Judges.

Mr See, 50, was appointed judicial commissioner on April 14, 2014, for three years.

With more than two decades of judicial experience, he had earlier been appointed, on Oct 1, 2013, as Chief District Judge of the then Subordinate Courts, now known as Presiding Judge of the State Courts. He still holds this appointment.

While he was judicial commissioner, he juggled managing the State Courts while also taking on adjudication work, including presiding over the City Harvest Church trial.

He chaired numerous committees, such as the Probation Committee, the Community Justice Centre and the Criminal Legal Assistance Steering Committee.

He is also deputy president of the Industrial Arbitration Court, a member of the Rules of Court Committee and the Sentencing Council, and sits on the board of the Singapore Judicial College and the Singapore Mediation Centre.

He is also part of the Monetary Authority of Singapore's appeals advisory panel, Military Court of Appeal and various committees in the Singapore Academy of Law.

Mr Chua, 57, joined the legal service in 1984, and was appointed judicial commissioner on Feb 1, 2015, for two years. He started as a deputy registrar, magistrate and coroner of the then Subordinate Courts.

He served in the Supreme Court Registry for three years before becoming a deputy public prosecutor in the Attorney-General's Chambers.

In 1991, he became a partner of law firm Lee & Lee.

He joined Singapore's global investment firm GIC in 1998, where he became general counsel before joining the Bench.

Mr Chua has contributed significantly to the field of company law.

He is a member of the Civil Justice Commission, Civil Justice Steering Committee, the Singapore Management University School of Law Advisory Board and the Lawnet Management Committee of the Singapore Academy of Law.

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Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill (Bill 5 of 2017)

Housing and Development Act - Housing and Development (Precincts for Upgrading Works) (Home Improvement Programme) (No. 9) Order 2016 (S 520 of 2016)

Big Four law firms dominate in 2017 Chambers Asia-Pacific guide

Business Times
13 Jan 2017
Claire Huang

THE Big Four law firms continued to dominate the legal scene here, garnering the most number of top rankings in various practice areas in the 2017 Chambers Asia-Pacific guide.

Allen & Gledhill racked up 13 Band 1 rankings, the most among the Big Four firms.

The firm also led the pack with 48 lawyers ranked this year - the highest number in Singapore.

Both Rajah & Tann and WongPartnership received seven Band 1 rankings, while Drew & Napier was awarded six Band 1 rankings.

In terms of total firm rankings, WongPartnership moved up to 16, reclaiming its position in the tax table this year.

Of the international firms, Clifford Chance came out top with seven Band 1 rankings, followed by Allen & Overy with five.

Gareth Deiner of Clifford Chance, Philip Hall of Linklaters, Swee Yen Koh of WongPartnership and Nicholas Lingard of Freshfields made it to the guide's Outstanding Young Partners list for Singapore.

Two domestic boutiques also earned their first rankings in the guide this year - Eldan Law made it into the construction table at Band 3 and BlackOak achieved the same ranking in restructuring/insolvency (domestic).

Said Sarah Kogan, editor of Chambers Asia-Pacific: "The Singapore legal market is one of the most competitive and influential across Asia and the rest of the world. International clients are looking with interest at developments within these leading Singaporean law firms as they grow and develop."

The Chambers Asia-Pacific guide is in its 10th edition and is the product of research which includes interviews with several thousand lawyers and clients in the past year.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Income Tax Act - Income Tax (Land Intensification Allowance) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (S 9 of 2017)

Income Tax Act - Income Tax (Exemption of Foreign Income) (No. 5) Order 2016 (S 519 of 2016)

Top lawyer takes stand over $5m late relative gave to trio

Straits Times
13 Jan 2017
Selina Lum

She was not of sound mind, acted under undue influence: Philip Jeyaretnam

In a change of courtroom roles, Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam took the witness stand yesterday to testify how he uncovered circumstances that led him to suspect a distant relative had been exploited into giving $5 million to her maid, a construction worker and an engineer.

The relative is the late Dr Freda Paul, a retired doctor who died in August last year at the age of 87.

In his capacity as one of two executors of her estate, Mr Jeyaretnam is suing the trio and two others to get back the money she had given away in 2010. He argued she was mentally incapable of understanding the effect of the gifts and had acted under undue influence.

Mr Jeyaretnam, a son of late politician J. B. Jeyaretnam, is not a beneficiary of her estate. His grandfather and Dr Paul's father were cousins.

"The reason we brought the suit is (that) there is a whole plethora of suspicious circumstances," he said when cross-examined.

Among other things, he noted that Dr Paul's written instructions to a lawyer in 2009 were uncharacteristically peppered with spelling errors. He also found it "deeply suspicious" that monthly payments of $9,000 she got from a reverse mortgage in 2007 were cashed out immediately.

Dr Paul, who was a paediatrician at Singapore General Hospital, never married and her sole asset was a house in Haig Road, which was sold in 2009 for $15.4 million.

In 2001, she befriended Mr Kulandaivelu Malayaperumal, a worker at a nearby construction site, and his supervisor, engineer Gopal Subramaniam. Both were from India.

She was then living with her mentally disabled sister and Sri Lankan maid Arulampalam Kanthimathy.

In 2007, she willed the bulk of her wealth to be used to set up a bursary fund for needy female medical students at the National University of Singapore. Four cousins in Malaysia were the other beneficiaries.

By May 2009, Mr Malayaperumal would occasionally stay over at her home. In September 2009, after her sister died, Dr Paul told her lawyer to prepare a power of attorney, authorising Mr Subramaniam to sell the house. He deposited $10 million into her bank account, gave $1 million to Mr Malayaperumal, $1 million to Ms Kanthimathy, and $912,000 to himself. He also used $2.4 million to buy a smaller house in Ceylon Road for Dr Paul.

Six months later, Mr Malayaperumal and Ms Kanthimathy each received another $1 million. Property agent Parvathi Somu, who handled the deals, received $500,000.

The maid was added as a joint holder of Dr Paul's bank account.

Around the same time, Dr Paul made a will, this time leaving most of her assets to Mr Malayaperumal and Ms Kanthimathy. There was no bequest for the bursary fund.

In his testimony, Mr Jeyaretnam said that in 2012, another relative - Dr Ruhunadevi Joshua - told him she and her husband had visited Dr Paul, but the maid did not let them in. Mr Jeyaretnam said that when he visited Dr Paul, she could not recognise him.

In 2013, he and Dr Joshua applied and were appointed to be deputies under the Mental Capacity Act to manage Dr Paul's affairs. On finding out, among other things, that Dr Paul made the 2010 will even though she was medically unfit, he suspected she had been exploited, he said.

He and Dr Joshua went to court to reinstate the terms in the 2007 will.

They also sued five people, including the lawyer who prepared the power of attorney, to recover the $5.4 million. A default judgment was obtained against the maid after she failed to respond to the suit. The claims against the property agent and lawyer were settled out of court.

Mr Malayaperumal and Mr Subramaniam argued that Dr Paul was of sound mind at the time.

Mr Malayaperumal contends she had willingly given him the money.

Mr Subramaniam denied exercising any undue influence, saying his role was limited to carrying out his duties as her legal representative.

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Destitute Persons Act - Destitute Persons (Welfare Homes) (Amendment) Notification 2017 (S 8 of 2017)

Common Gaming Houses Act - Common Gaming Houses (Exemption) (No. 57) Notification 2016 (S 518 of 2016)

Are Natural Cool shareholders acting in concert?

Business Times
13 Jan 2017
Melissa Tan

The links between them are tangled; if they are acting in concert, this could trigger a takeover offer

IN THE short space of just two months, two groups of shareholders have separately tried to oust Natural Cool executive chairman Joseph Ang. He, in return, has sought to draw links between them, connecting them and their actions all to the company's proposed divestment of a 16 per cent stake in an oil and gas exploration firm, HMK Energy.

That raises the question of whether the two nominally disparate groups might possibly be considered concert parties. It may seem an academic one - there has been no public sign thus far from regulators that the two groups of shareholders are acting in concert.

But the definition of concert parties might be broad enough to include cases such as this, and if the shareholders are in fact acting in concert, their combined stakes are certainly high enough to require them to make a mandatory general offer for Natural Cool.

The Singapore code on takeovers and mergers, as shown on the Attorney-General's Chambers' online statutes page, defines concert parties thus: "Persons acting in concert comprise individuals or companies who, pursuant to an agreement or understanding (whether formal or informal), co-operate, through the acquisition by any of them of shares in a company, to obtain or consolidate control of that company."

Mr Ang's suggestion is that the shareholders who requisitioned the EGMs know each other and are working towards the same goal: preventing Natural Cool from divesting HMK Energy. Some of them have also recently snapped up more shares in the Catalist-listed firm, amassing enough to theoretically control it.

The first attempt shareholders made to remove Mr Ang was around a month ago, at an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Dec 12, and the proposal narrowly failed to pass. That EGM was requisitioned by substantial shareholder Lim Teck Chuan, who runs Catalist-listed electrical products retailer Choo Chiang Holdings.

In parallel, Mr Lim and the company's chief executive officer Tsng Joo Peng together filed a writ of summons against Mr Ang and Natural Cool late last year, to invalidate a substantial share placement to an investor, Ng Quek Peng, whom Mr Ang brought in.

Another EGM

Shareholders' second and most recent attempt to remove Mr Ang was announced earlier this week. This EGM was called by Ong Mun Wah and Edi Ng and has yet to be scheduled. The two requisitioners want to boot out all the directors on the board except for Mr Tsng and appoint four new ones.

The connections between Mr Ong, Ms Ng, Mr Lim and Mr Tsng are somewhat nebulous and certainly tangled, but one possible common central figure does crop up: a man named Omar Loebis, who controls HMK Energy.

Mr Ang said in a Nov 25 circular that Mr Loebis and Mr Ong were both substantial shareholders and directors of HMK Energy as at Nov 21, 2016.

For Mr Lim, Mr Loebis's investment holding company Rhodus Capital owned 14 per cent of Choo Chiang as at March 23 last year based on Choo Chiang's FY2015 annual report, Mr Ang noted in the circular. Mr Ang added that Mr Lim had proxied his Natural Cool shares to Mr Loebis during the company's annual general meeting in April last year and again at an EGM in June last year.

As for Ms Ng, she shares the same registered address as someone called Wong Leon Keat, according to a Straits Times report. Mr Wong and Mr Loebis jointly owned Rhodus Capital as at January 2013, Mr Ang said in the circular. Coincidentally, Mr Wong is one of the people that Mr Ong and Ms Ng want to appoint to the board.

Adding up all the shares that Mr Ong, Ms Ng, Mr Lim and Mr Tsng hold, the total would exceed 30 per cent, the threshold for a mandatory general offer.

Mr Lim became the single largest shareholder last month after he and Mr Ong both snapped up shares on the open market. He owned 11.35 per cent and Mr Ong 10.99 per cent as at Thursday, and Mr Tsng had 6.93 per cent. That already sums to 29.27 per cent. Ms Ng held 11.2 million shares or about 4.5 per cent, according to the EGM notice she and Mr Ong wrote on Jan 9, which easily tips the balance over.

Cases where parties have been determined to be acting in concert and forced to make an offer have occurred before, though not in recent memory. In 2001, the Securities Industry Council ordered the ousted chief executive officer of Serial System to make a general offer after he asked a friend to help him buy more shares in Serial System and the purchase took their combined stake over the takeover threshold. It is unclear whether something similar will happen for Natural Cool, but at this juncture it ought not to be ruled out.

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Parks and Trees (Amendment) Bill (Bill 4 of 2017)

Government Procurement Act - Government Procurement (Application) (Amendment No. 3) Order 2016 (S 517 of 2016)

KPMG, EY call for patent box regime to attract, retain IPs

Business Times
13 Jan 2017
Chai Hung Yin

[Singapore] TWO of Singapore's major accounting firms have called for policies that will encourage innovation and intellectual property (IP) creation, among a multitude of suggestions in their Budget 2017 wish lists.

KPMG and Ernst & Young (EY), who released their lists on Thursday, have both proposed the introduction of a patent box regime, which usually offers reduced tax rates on income derived from IP.

It aims to attract research & development (R&D) or innovative activities into the country, and thus create and add value to the economy.

KPMG head of tax Chiu Wu Hong said that it is difficult to attract companies to migrate IPs from their home countries to Singapore as there will be exit taxes imposed on them.

He said: "It is easier to attract companies to develop their IPs in Singapore. That is where R&D comes in very handy and useful."

Currently, where a company based in Singapore acquires IP rights, such costs can be eligible for a writing down allowance only if the company acquires both the economic and legal rights to the IP.

For companies that create IP here, such costs can only be deductible if they fall within the R&D criteria.

Tan Ching Khee, partner of tax services at EY, said: "A review and enhancement of various types of IP will go a long way in ensuring that the Singapore IP tax regime is aligned with other jurisdictions."

He also said the definition of IP can be broadened and called for the government to reconsider the current requirement of both legal and economic ownership of IP rights before writing down allowance can be made.

At KPMG's forum for the launch of its pre-Budget report, the panel alluded to the exodus of IPs from Singapore, such as the acquisitions of local brands at high premiums by foreign companies, where a strong brand is also considered an IP.

KPMG's Mr Chiu said: "We should not lose the value of IPs generated internally because if we don't give them the value, some companies would start unlocking the value by selling their businesses to other companies."

But he said not all companies are like startups that are built and sold to make money. Mr Chiu said: "Some businesses have sentimental and emotional value. They would like to continue. But let's say someone came with a very attractive premium, it would be silly not to sell.

"That's because they see the intangible value in the local company that has been established for many years with strong network in the region."

But somehow this was not recognised, Mr Chiu noted.

He said: "If we could value this somehow, have some way to recognise it, that would deter some of them from selling and continue to build their brand name and expand what they are doing.

"And this will be good for us because it will create stronger and globally-competitive companies."

Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, said that losing IPs also has strategic implications. He said: "We worked so hard, we built it and then as a private individual, they have all the rights and they decide to be acquired but Singapore as an economy, loses the ownership and the specialist in that particular business space.

"For economic and strategic reasons, I see the need for a long-term incentive to attract continued domicile in Singapore for businesses that have reached a certain level of establishment."

The firms also called for incentives to help businesses transform themselves for the digital economy.

KPMG proposed a double tax deduction to retrain employees for roles supporting the digital business, as well as allow more flexibility to employ foreign manpower with IT skills to address a current shortage.

Meanwhile, EY suggested a preferrential tax rate of 10 per cent or lower to promote financial innovation by financial services companies.

As the Productivity and Innovation Credit scheme expires after year of assessment 2018, KPMG has called for the scheme to be extended for another year, considering the L-shaped growth that small and medium enterprises are experiencing.

EY hopes the government can grant enhanced deduction claims on training costs incurred by businesses for their employees, with the option to convert qualifying training deductions into a non-taxable cash benefit.

KPMG's poll of 123 companies large and small in the last two months of 2016 showed that 70 per cent of them cited global economic outlook as their top three business concerns over the next three years.

In the 2015 poll, 50 per cent of businesses polled were pessimistic about the global economy.

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Planning (Amendment) Bill (Bill 3 of 2017)

Town Councils Act - Town Councils Financial (Amendment) Rules 2016 (S 516 of 2016)

Public consultation on changes to Trustees Act

Straits Times
13 Jan 2017
Yasmine Yahya

Members of the public will have a chance to comment on proposed changes to the Trustees Act that are intended to help counter money-laundering, terrorism financing and tax evasion.

The consultation paper on the proposals can be seen on the Law Ministry's website and submissions can be made until Jan 31.

The changes aim to make the ownership and control structures of trusts more transparent, and improve financial record-keeping by trustees.

They include provisions to empower the Law Minister to make rules to prescribe duties on trustees to obtain and maintain financial records, as well as information on the parties relevant to and dealing with the trust.

The minister would also be allowed to prescribe the specific groups of trusts that are exempt from the proposed amendments and designate any rule breach as an offence and impose a penalty of a fine not exceeding $1,000.

The proposed amendments are aligned with international standards set by two global bodies - the Financial Action Task Force and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes - of which Singapore is a member.

The Ministry of Law noted that Singapore takes a tough stance on financial crime to maintain its reputation as a clean and trusted international financial centre, and has over the years invested substantial efforts to enhance its anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing regime.

"They form part of Singapore's whole-of government ongoing review to ensure that corporate vehicles and trusts are not misused for improper purposes," the Ministry of Law said in a statement yesterday.

Yasmine Yahya

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Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill (Bill 2 of 2017)

Requisition of Resources Act - Requisition of Resources (No. 4) Order 2016 (S 515 of 2016)

Terrex detention issue a matter of law

Straits Times
13 Jan 2017

The parliamentary discussion this week of the Terrex detention issue clarified a major point, that this is an issue of law. As Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen explained, the seizure of the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex infantry carriers in Hong Kong does not comply with international or Hong Kong law. The fact is that the vehicles are the property of the Singapore Government, and hence protected by sovereign immunity, meaning that they cannot legally be detained or confiscated by other countries. This principle, being well established under international law, is also the law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). Hence, it is only natural that Singapore looks forward to the carriers being returned.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying underlines the need for the return. The Hong Kong authorities' assurance, that the SAR government would handle the matter according to its laws, is a welcome response which would make Singaporeans hope that the return of the Terrex carriers is a matter of administrative time only. Clearly, whether the shipping company carrying the Terrex vehicles complied with the rules of Hong Kong port is a matter between the company and the Hong Kong authorities, which should follow the due process of Hong Kong law. That issue does not affect the legal reality that the Terrexes are the property of the Singapore Government.

In spite of the legal clarity of the issue, the detention of the Terrex vehicles has raised questions in the public mind about whether the move is an act of Chinese retribution for Singapore's perceived defiance of their interests. These could do with China's relations with Taiwan, where the Terrex carriers participated in a military exercise before their journey to Singapore was interrupted in Hong Kong; or Singapore's stance on the South China Sea dispute. The truth is that neither Singapore's long-established military exercises in Taiwan, nor its principled position on a peaceful resolution of the maritime dispute consonant with international law, subverts a fundamental and abiding commitment to its "one China" policy.

After all, the military exercises have co-existed with Singapore's growing economic and political relations with China since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1990. As for the South China Sea, Singapore cannot be faulted for having adopted a consistent and clear line on the dispute despite not being a claimant state. Instead, it is international law that Singapore turns to, issue after international issue, because it is that law which enables small states like itself to exist in the interstices of international relations. Nations such as the United States and a resurgent China no doubt play a leading role in the evolution of international power politics, but Singapore must believe in the power of law over the law of power.

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International Enterprise Singapore Board (Amendment) Bill (Bill 1 of 2017)

Income Tax Act - Income Tax (Exemption of Interest and Other Payments on Economic and Technological Development Loans) (No. 3) Notification 2016 (S 514 of 2016)

Ex-bank manager's lies misled 1MDB probes

Straits Times
13 Jan 2017
Grace Leong

Lies told by a Swiss national, who was jailed here this week over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, denied the authorities vital clues to Malaysian tycoon Jho Low's alleged role in the saga.

Prosecutors said that when the central bank here shut down Falcon Private Bank last October over its role in the 1MDB scandal, it had not been made aware of the extent of Mr Low's involvement in several accounts managed by the bank.

Former Falcon branch manager Jens Sturzenegger's lies had misdirected money laundering probes into suspicious 1MDB transactions and hid Mr Low's role as the true controller of the accounts, they said.

Mr Low is being accused by the authorities worldwide of being at the heart of alleged massive money laundering linked to 1MDB. Hundreds of millions of dollars were allegedly transferred from accounts at Falcon to him and his associates.

Had the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) known Mr Low was orchestrating suspicious transactions of about US$1.265 billion into two accounts at Falcon, this would have "added to its adverse findings" against the bank, which was shut down and fined $4.3 million on Oct 11.

According to court papers, Sturzenegger was "extremely apprehensive" at the sudden inflow of "astronomical" sums into the Falcon accounts in March 2013. He called his boss, Mr Eduardo Leemann, who in turn called Mohamed Ahmed Badawy Al-Husseiny, Falcon's then chairman and former CEO of Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Aabar Investment PJS, and Mr Low, and told them the supporting transaction documents were a "joke" and "ridiculous".

Although Sturzenegger suspected that the inflows were related to money laundering, he did not report the suspicious transactions to the MAS. Instead he feigned ignorance about Mr Low's involvement and tried to misdirect the investigations away from him to his close associate, Mr Eric Tan Kim Loong.

In asking for a "retributive and deterrent" sentence against him, Deputy Public Prosecutor Leong Weng Tat said Sturzenegger had "persistently maintained his false statements to MAS and the commercial affairs department over the course of more than a year". Even after he was arrested on Oct 5 and released on bail, he "showed absolutely no compunction in lying even when confronted with evidence".

Sturzenegger was sentenced to 28 weeks' jail and fined $128,000 on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to six of 16 counts, including consenting in the bank's failure to comply with anti-money laundering rules. The other charges were taken into consideration.

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Telecommunications (Amendment) Act 2016 (Act 30 of 2016)

Law Soc: Offficial Receiver Practice Circular 1 of 2017 – Revision of administration fee as prescribed under Fees (Winding Up and Dissolution of Companies and Other Bodies) (Amendment) Order 2017

Law Society

Official Receiver's Practice Circular 1 of 2017
Revision of administration fee as prescribed under the Fees (Winding Up and Dissolution of Companies and Other Bodies) (Amendment) Order 2017

The Official Receiver has issued Practice Circular No. 1 of 2017 informing that with effect from 3 January 2017, the prescribed sum required to be placed with the Official Receiver under rule 32(1)(e) of the Companies (Winding Up) Rules will be revised pursuant to the Fees (Winding Up and Dissolution of Companies and Other Bodies) (Amendment) Order 2017. The amendments will revise the Preliminary Administration Fee upwards to $1,400 and the Administration Fee upwards to $9,000. (Refer to G.N. S 1/2017)

The revised prescribed sum in relation to an application to Court to wind up a company will therefore be $10,400.

For queries on the circular, contact Ms Tan Yu-Wen at 6325 1498 or e-mail TAN_Yu-Wen@mlaw.gov.sg.

Click here to view the circular.

Falcon Bank's ex-branch manager jailed 28 weeks, fined S$128,000

Business Times
12 Jan 2017
Claire Huang

Supporting documents for 1MDB funds flow into Falcon accounts described as "a joke" and "cut-and-paste" job

[Singapore] SWISS national Jens Sturzenegger, the former Singapore branch manager of Falcon Bank, was on Wednesday sentenced to 28 weeks' jail and fined S$128,000 after pleading guilty to six charges linked to the movement of funds from scandal-riddled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Another 10 charges were taken into consideration for sentencing purposes on Wednesday.

Sturzenegger, 42, was charged a week ago for failing to disclose suspicious transactions totalling some US$1.3 billion and giving false information between July 2015 and October last year that were intended to cause authorities to omit to probe Mr Low Taek Jho's involvement in several bank accounts managed by Falcon Bank. Mr Low, better known as Jho Low, is a Malaysian financier and a central figure in the 1MDB scandal.

In sentencing Sturzenegger, district judge Ow Yong Tuck Leong considered mitigating factors like Sturzenegger's full co-operation and him being a first-time offender, but he also explained why a deterrent sentence was warranted.

In his grounds for decision, Judge Ow noted that for the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to carry out its role as a regulator, it must have accurate information that the accused was obliged to provide.

In giving false information to MAS and to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), Sturzenegger wasted public resources and rendered investigations incomplete, he said.

The prosecution submitted: "Despite the obligations placed on him arising from his position as branch manager and knowledge of the regulatory requirements to report such transactions, the accused deliberately omitted to do so, notwithstanding that the accused was already well aware during the material time that the system was blinking red as a result of an inexplicable and incomprehensible inflow of US$1.265 billion into the Falcon Accounts, and the provision of supporting documents which his group CEO, Eduardo Leemann, had characterised were 'a joke', 'cut and paste' and 'ridiculous'."

Prosecutor Leong Weng Tat, who had urged the court to impose jail of 30 to 32 weeks and a fine of S$150,000, made the point that the accused's lies misdirected investigations and had shielded Mr Low from being investigated vis-�-vis the operation of the Falcon Accounts.

In mitigation, Sturzenegger's lawyer Tan Hee Joek had pushed for a jail term of between 20 and 24 weeks and a fine of S$104,000, saying his client did not derive any personal gain from the relevant transactions.

Sturzenegger's "very early plea of guilt" clearly signals his "deepest remorse and regret", Mr Tan pointed out, adding that his client is willing to co-operate with future investigations or prosecution where needed.

Falcon is one of two Swiss private banks at the centre of Malaysia's protracted financial scandal.

Sturzenegger is the first foreigner and fifth person to be charged in Singapore's ongoing high-profile money laundering probe into the tainted funds. Others implicated in the massive probe include Yeo Jiawei, one of three former BSI bankers. He was handed a 30-month jail term for attempting to pervert the course of justice. Yeo faces a separate trial linked to 1MDB, expected to begin in April at the earliest.

Two other ex-BSI bankers, Yak Yew Chee and Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, were sentenced to jail terms of 18 weeks and two weeks, respectively, for forging documents and failing to disclose suspicious transactions allegedly related to Low. Both were also fined.

Former remisier at Maybank Kim Eng Securities Kelvin Ang was charged with corruption in the 1MDB-related case last April.

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Constitution of the Republic of Singapore - Public Service (Special and Senior Personnel Boards) (Amendment) Order 2017 (S 8 of 2017)

Law Soc: ACRA-MOF - Public consultation on proposed changes to Companies Act, Limited Liability Partnerships Act and Accountants Act

Law Society

ACRA and MOF launch public consultation on proposed changes to the Companies Act, Limited Liability Partnerships Act and Accountants Act

​The Ministry of Finance ('MOF') and ACRA have launched a public consultation exercise to seek feedback on proposed amendments to the Companies Act, Limited Liability Partnerships Act, and Accountants Act. The public consultation runs from 27 December 2016 to 13 January 2017. This follows the earlier public consultation held in October 2016 on proposed amendments to the Companies Act to introduce an inward re-domiciliation regime in Singapore.

The press release and consultation documents are available on the ACRA website here.

The amendments from the October 2016 round of public consultations, as well as Companies Act amendments in this second round will be incorporated into a single Companies (Amendment) Bill. The Accountants Act amendment will be included as a related amendment in the Companies (Amendment) Bill. Amendments relating to the Limited Liability Partnerships Act will be in a separate Limited Liability Partnerships (Amendment) Bill.

SFA changes to make it easier for MAS to prosecute market misconduct

Business Times
12 Jan 2017
Michelle Quah

[Singapore] CHANGES to the Securities and Futures Act (SFA), announced this week, are set to make it easier for regulators to prosecute cases of market misconduct and insider trading - with a case in point being that involving air cargo firm Airocean some years ago.

Among the changes to the SFA that were passed into law on Monday was a section on strengthening the enforcement regime against market misconduct.

The change to Section 199 of the SFA clarifies that a disclosure made by a company can be considered false or misleading even if it did not affect the company's share price.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS) brief on the changes said that the new section "will clarify that the SFA prohibits disclosures where a material aspect of the statement is false or misleading and is likely to have an effect on the market price of the securities, securities-based derivatives contract or CIS (collective investment scheme) unit, regardless of the significance of the price effect".

The MAS explained that false or misleading disclosures may not necessarily result in significant price movements "because of other contemporaneous and irrelevant market factors such as general market sentiment or market liquidity", and yet may wrongly influence investors to trade in the market.

It stressed that the word "material" in Section 199 is meant to describe only the nature of the false or misleading statement and not the extent of the market effect that the statement has.

The change came about because of the eventual result of the case involving Airocean and its directors.

The case centred on an announcement made by Airocean's board in 2005; it concerned then-chief executive, Thomas Tay, but the announcement omitted to state that Mr Tay had been questioned by Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officers on matters involving Airocean subsidiaries.

The announcement made it appear that the CPIB investigations concerned other companies in the industry rather than Airocean itself.

The directors were charged, found guilty of making a false and misleading statement under the SFA, but eventually acquitted upon appeal in 2012 (with the last director, Ong Chow Hong, acquitted in 2014).

In a landmark ruling then, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong said there was a lack of evidence to prove that the announcement was materially misleading or that it was likely to materially impact Airocean's share price.

Corporate governance advocate associate professor Mak Yuen Teen said then of the ruling: "While I respectfully accept that the judgment may be legally correct given the SFA provisions and the burden of proof, it essentially makes the SFA provisions virtually unenforceable in my opinion."

Of the amendments to the Act, Prof Mak said, "The amendment to Section 199 is important because it had (previously) set too high a bar. For example, if a company falsely discloses that it has an internal audit function but does not have one, it would be difficult to prove that such a clearly false disclosure would have an impact on price or investment decisions.

"With the amendment, companies, directors and officers will have to be much more careful about making patently false or misleading statements, including those in their corporate governance reports."

Lawyer Nicholas Narayanan, who was involved in the Airocean case, told The Business Times: "The current amendments to Section 199 appear to have dispensed with the market enforcers' burden of proving under the current law that the false or misleading statement had the likely effect of a significant change in the price or value of the securities in question. These amendments, when in force, will have a major impact on market enforcement actions moving forward."

Changes have also been made to strengthen the MAS's ability to pursue insider trading cases.

A statutory definition has been introduced of "persons who commonly invest" to better reflect market participants who are accustomed to or likely to invest in the particular product in question.

This term will be a reference point in determining liability for insider trading - it will help to assess whether a particular piece of information is generally available and whether it is likely to have a material price impact by influencing the behaviour of common investors.

This change came about because of the case that the MAS took against Kevin Lew, a former executive of WBL Corporation, for suspected insider trading. The Court of Appeal ruled in 2012 that "persons who commonly invest" in securities were the "reasonable investors" who possessed general professional knowledge about when to buy or sell securities.

However, its definition of "general professional knowledge" was of a very high standard and not reflective of the average investor in the market, the MAS said. The Court of Appeal had also excluded the daily retail investors and the expert investors who specialise in the research of investing in securities.

The new definition will enable the MAS to pursue insider trading cases without having to meet the unrealistically high standard for "persons who commonly invest". It would also allow the courts to take into account the reality that there can be different classes of "persons who commonly invest", each with a different level of knowledge and expertise.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Income Tax Act - Income Tax (Exemption of Foreign Income) Order 2017 (S 6 of 2017)

IPOS, under Patent Cooperation Treaty, to accept international applications in Chinese

Acra getting more teeth to deal with reporting breaches

Business Times
12 Jan 2017
Michelle Quah

It will be able to bring the courts to bear on firms with financial reporting errors and force them to make corrections

[Singapore] Companies which commit less serious breaches will be asked to restate the comparative figures, or include or improve the disclosures in the following year's financial statements.

If they fail to do so, they will be publicly named and shamed and their directors held accountable.

These are among the major policy changes to be announced on Friday by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra).

The regulator will detail these changes at the Audit Committee Seminar 2017, which it will jointly hold with the Singapore Exchange and the Singapore Institute of Directors.

It shared some of the key aspects with The Business Times ahead of the event.

Currently, directors of companies found to have one or more instances of severe non-compliance with financial-reporting requirements stated in the Companies Act are given warning letters; those whose instances of non-compliance are less serious are given advisory letters.

Soon, Acra will have the courts behind it, giving it the firepower to act against companies which refuse to restate their accounts.

Acra chief executive Kenneth Yap said: "Our focus is to ensure that financial reporting breaches are remediated on a timely basis, and communicated promptly for the benefit of investors."

The changes flow from Acra's Financial Reporting Surveillance Programme (FRSP), which was launched in 2011 to ensure that financial statements present a true and fair view of a company's financial health and comply with the accounting standards.

The programme was ramped up in its second cycle in 2014 under a larger drive by the government to uphold corporate-governance standards and safeguard Singapore's markets against abuse.

Mr Yap said: "One striking observation from our last two review cycles, which led to the review of the FRSP policies and processes, is that poor-quality financial reporting is often due to the directors' ignorance of accounting standards, rather than deliberate errors that are fraudulent in nature."

However, with business transactions becoming more convoluted and accounting standards, more complex, Acra recognises that more areas in financial reporting - such as revenue recognition, impairment and ad hoc gains - will be subject to estimates and judgement.

This means greater subjectivity and possible misapplication of accounting standards.

With that in mind, the regulator hopes to adopt a "restatement first" approach for the next cycle of its FRSP, which starts on April 1.

It is an approach also adopted by jurisdictions such as Australia and the United Kingdom.

To that end, directors of companies which commit serious financial reporting breaches will have to restate, as well as re-audit and re-file the affected financial statements. They will also have to announce the restatement within a prescribed time.

Directors of companies who commit less serious breaches will be asked to re-state the comparatives or include or improve the disclosures in the following year's financial statements. Acra will publicly name the companies that refuse to do so and hold their directors accountable.

Later this year, Acra will also be empowered by a change in legislation to apply to the courts to compel companies to re-state their financial statements. Directors will also be empowered to voluntarily correct defective accounts.

"The ideal end-point would be a market culture that considers high quality financial reporting to be the minimum standard in our corporate landscape, with all stakeholders in the eco-system playing an active part such that FRSP is no longer needed," Mr Yap said.

Acra also recognises that such measures - regulatory sanctions and requiring restatements - alone will not address the root cause of financial mis-statements.

Findings by the FRSP and other studies that Acra has commissioned have pointed to, in some cases, a lack of skills and competency on the part of the company's finance function.

This, in turn, results in the auditor having to spend time to correct the financial statements, instead of focusing on conducting a good audit. The regulator is, therefore, "looking upstream" and exploring the feasibility of developing a set of indicators that would help companies assess the adequacy and competency of their finance function, perhaps even better, identify key attributes and best practices to emulate and make necessary investments to improve.

These financial reporting indicators (FRIs) would enable companies to assess their own standard of financial capability.

Mr Yap said: "No doubt, the FRIs will not be a silver bullet to ensure quality financial reporting; and this exercise is not going to be easy, as we also need to take into account the differences across industries, countries of operations and complexities in business model among companies listed in Singapore.

"However, we hope that the indicators will strengthen the conversation between the board, CEOs and CFOs (chief financial officers) on implementing high standards throughout the financial reporting process.

It will also enable companies to showcase to investors that it has robust financial reporting framework in place, to assure them of the trustworthiness of its financial information."

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Currency Act - Currency (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (S 5 of 2017)

State Ct RC No 5 of 2016: Centralised Appeals Registry

State Courts

'CAD probing S'porean' wanted over US scam

Straits Times
12 Jan 2017
Tan Tam Mei

80-year-old, an ex-owner of numerous firms, is out on bail over unrelated case, sources say

An 80-year-old Singaporean wanted for his alleged role in a multimillion-dollar scam in the US is being investigated by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) here.

The man, Ho Fook Kee, is out on bail for a case unrelated to the scam in the United States, sources told The Straits Times. But details of the case in Singapore are not known.

A Singapore police spokesman said it was inappropriate to comment as investigations are ongoing.

ST tracked down the full name and employment history of the man known only as F.K. Ho in US court documents.

He was formerly the director and owner of numerous companies in the oil and gas industry, based on a search of local company records.

Ho's last known address in 2010 was a condominium in Siglap. But no one was home when ST visited on Tuesday. Neighbours said they did not know anyone who fit Ho's profile living in the unit.

ST reported on Tuesday that Ho and five accomplices allegedly swindled victims from the US and all over the world out of more than US$50 million (S$72 million), based on an indictment unsealed by the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York last month.

They allegedly impersonated American government officials to lure at least 12 victims to invest in a fraudulent scheme known as the "Cities Upliftment Programme (CUP)". The group told investors that the CUP was backed by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Additional court papers ST obtained showed that among those cheated was an unnamed victim in Singapore, who was allegedly approached by Ho in 2015 and parked US$1 million in the scheme.

In another case, Ho, together with other accomplices, not only lured a lawyer in Hong Kong into the scam, but also duped him into acting as a money mule. The lawyer transferred US$31 million, including his own monies, to the syndicate's accounts.

Court documents also painted an intricate web of international money trails used to cover their tracks.

A total of US$54 million was wired to and between 15 accounts in banks in the US, Sri Lanka, Barbados and Britain.

Bogus invoices were also issued as cover for the wire transfers.

An affidavit filed last month revealed that agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) posed as potential investors to uncover the fraudulent scheme.

A Singaporean investment consultant, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, 50, nearly fell prey to the scam. He said a US business partner, who had met Ho in person, told him about the CUP.

"He thought to link me up, because the man (Ho) was Singaporean. So I tried to set up a meeting with Ho, but he never responded to our requests," said Mr Tan, who showed ST forged documents used by the suspects.

Indictment papers alleged that the group had promised "exponential" returns, where a US$1 million investment could yield US$150 million in less than four months.

Ho was charged last month with five counts relating to committing wire fraud and impersonating a US officer, among others.

His alleged accomplices included four Americans - Michael Jacobs, 64; Ruby Handler-Jacobs, 64; Lawrence Lester, 71; and Rachel Gendreau, 46 - and Sri Lankan national and alleged mastermind Rienzi Edwards, 55.

All six were charged in US courts last month, though Ho and Edwards were on the run then. Edwards is still at large.


US indictment papers alleged that the group had promised "exponential" returns, where a US$1 million investment could yield US$150 million in less than four months.

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Constitution of the Republic of Singapore - Legal Service (Personnel Boards) (Amendment) Order 2017 (S 4 of 2016)

Family Justice Court PD Amendment No. 5 of 2016 - New para 16 and Form 197

Laws to be amended to drive industrial energy efficiency

TODAY
12 Jan 2017
Neo Chai Chin

SINGAPORE — The Government will announce measures this year to give the industrial sector a bigger push to become more energy efficient, with changes to be made to the Energy Conservation Act, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

This is to achieve Singapore’s commitment under the Paris Agreement to cut emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

The ministry will announce its plans at its parliamentary Committee of Supply debate in March, and Mr Masagos told about 40 representatives from the sector at a consultation session yesterday that there will be new initiatives as well as the enhancement of some existing measures.

Industry is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Singapore, accounting for about 59 per cent of total emissions in 2012. The sector pledged to improve energy efficiency — which essentially means producing the same amount of goods using less energy — by 0.7 per cent in 2014, but fell short of the target with actual improvement of 0.4 per cent.

“Certainly we can do more,” said Mr Masagos, pointing to Belgium and the Netherlands improving industrial energy efficiency by 1 to 2 per cent annually.

Asked why Singapore’s industrial sector fell short of its target, he said the Energy Conservation Act was introduced in 2012 and the sector needed time to adjust and understand what it had to do. The sector is varied, but companies are now more familiar with reporting requirements and how efficiencies can be achieved, he said.

Under the Energy Conservation Act, energy intensive users in the industry sector (consuming 54 terajoules or more a year, or about the energy consumption of 3,300 four-room public housing households) had to appoint certified energy managers from April 2013, and monitor and report their energy use and annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy managers, senior management and company heads at the consultation session said government grants will help. Grants are important for small or medium companies that do not have access to as much capital as multinational firms. And government schemes should not be too onerous to apply for, they added.

Large firms are able to apply solutions to a large base of equipment and can leverage central solutions, which smaller firms are not able to do, said Mr Lee Kok Choy, managing director and Singapore country manager of Micron Semiconductor Asia.

While companies can equip new plants with energy-efficient equipment, the retro-fitting of existing plants is trickier — for one, the return-on-investment must be justifiable, attendees said.

And after reaping low-hanging fruit, the next step may be very complex. “The typical industry will have 2,000 to 5,000 pumps. Let’s say 50 per cent of the pumps are easily replaceable — we call it the roughing pump, which can be changed easily, and it will not affect the manufacturing process. The other 50 per cent are process pumps and directly relate to the process (such as bringing in the gas and pumping out chemicals) … That chain is much more challenging,” said Mr Jagadish C V, chief executive of Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Co.

Singapore also lacks energy experts with skills specific to industries such as oil and gas or food manufacturing, some attendees said.

The Government could be clearer on its environmental priorities when there are competing objectives — for instance, treating waste water and harmful gas emissions are desirable but would consume energy, noted a participant.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act - Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) (Regulated Financial Products and Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (S 3 of 2017)

SILE: CPD Scheme Phase 3 Commences 1 January 2017

Some personal data needed to resolve disputes: Case - Forum

Straits Times
12 Jan 2017

We thank Mr Tan Kar Quan for his feedback ("Why send personal data to disputing party?"; Jan 9).

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) takes consumers' data privacy seriously.

When handling a complaint, the personal data of consumers may sometimes need to be disclosed to the business, so that the business is aware of the identity of the consumer and the transaction that occurred, so as to follow-up on the complaint.

In such an event, Case will disclose only consumers' personal data as is reasonably required to carry out our duties.

Under Case's standard operating procedure for handling consumer complaints, in the event that there is no receipt or record of the transaction between the consumer and the business, consumers will be advised to lodge a police report and submit it as a supporting document for their claim.

In this case, we acknowledge that we should have informed Mr Tan, before sending the letter to the business, that Case intended to provide it with a copy of the police report, which contained his personal data.

Notwithstanding the resolution of the matter, we recognise this oversight in how the complaint was handled and apologise for any distress it may have caused him.

Loy York Jiun

Executive Director

Consumers Association of Singapore

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act - Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) (Exemption from Prohibition against Dealing) Order 2017 (S 2 of 2017)

ACRA: Financial Reporting Practice Guidance No. 1 of 2016 - Areas of review focus for FY2016 financial statements

Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority
Financial Reporting Practice Guidance No. 1 of 2016 - Areas of Review Focus for FY2016 Financial Statements

Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority ('ACRA') has issued Practice Guidance No. 1 of 2016. In view of the weakening economy, this Practice Guidance highlights seven financial reporting areas which may require more attention by company directors before approving the 2016 Financial Statements. These include going concern assumption, impairment assessment of long-lived assets, recognition of one-off gain or loss, and business acquisitions. The Practice Guidance is available for download here.

The primary objective of the Financial Reporting Surveillance Programme ('FRSP') is to guide directors to comply with the prescribed Accounting Standards in Singapore. In September 2016, ACRA published its second annual FRSP report on key findings from reviews of listed companies’ 2014 Financial Statements. The four areas with the highest instances of findings were new consolidation standards, business acquisitions, impairment of long-lived assets and fair value of properties. The report can be accessed here.

S'pore's status as legal hub boosted by changes to law: Civil Law (Amendment) Act

Straits Times
11 Jan 2017
Seow Bei Yi

Amended Civil Law Act allows third-party funding in global commercial arbitration

Amendments to the Civil Law Act passed yesterday will allow businesses involved in international commercial arbitration cases here to get funding from third parties, a move that has been described as a boost to Singapore's position as a legal hub.

The framework may be broadened to other types of cases after a period of assessment, said Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

"We want to have (it) tested in a limited sphere," she said. "If the framework works well, as and when appropriate, the prescribed categories of proceedings may be expanded."

Third-party funding - where an entity not connected to a dispute provides funds to one party in return for financial gain - is allowed in major arbitration centres such as London and Paris.

The new Bill framework will set out rules for parties.

Only professionals whose principal business is funding claims will be allowed, and lawyers will have to disclose who the fund providers are.

The lawyers also should not hold shares or have ownership interest in these fund providers, or receive referral fees and commission, to prevent conflicts of interest.

While MPs yesterday agreed that third-party funding helps facilitate access to justice by enabling parties who may not have the financial means to prosecute a genuine dispute, they also raised suggestions and concerns on issues such as regulation.

Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) suggested that such funding be allowed in litigation and domestic arbitration.

Potential beneficiaries are small and medium-sized enterprises facing cash-flow issues, but which may have legitimate claims.

Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC) suggested considering contingency fee arrangements, where lawyers may receive a sum of money only if a case is won.

"Unlike jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, Australia and even the United States, we have until now not permitted more creative fee arrangements," he said.

"So in our competition to be a hub for international arbitration, Singapore is sometimes at a disadvantage," he added.

Contingency fees may have a "bad reputation" with astronomical claims, but the risk of that may not be as great here.

Singapore does not have class-action litigation, he said, where lawyers take on claims for large groups of unnamed people, or jury trials where "a lot of the largest personal injury awards are made".

In response, Ms Indranee said event-triggered fee arrangements, including contingency fee arrangements, will be studied as part of the review of the civil justice system.

Until then, it remains prohibited for lawyers and law firms.

Other issues raised touched on the regulation of third-party funding and how bad practices will be dealt with.

A heavy regulatory framework will have "little practical effect", said Ms Indranee, as many parties, counsel, arbitrators and fund providers will not be in Singapore's jurisdiction.

The preference was for "soft law regulation", for example, through International Bar Association guidelines, or collective self-regulation through a code of conduct, she said.

To tackle abuses typically arising from "lack of transparency and conflicts of interest", she added, disclosure will be a central tenet.

Legal practitioners have to disclose if their clients are receiving third-party funding but not the commercial terms of the funding agreement, enhancing transparency.

"The proposed approach to regulation would be in line with that in other jurisdictions," she said.

While Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan asked if disclosure would affect the willingness of third parties to provide funding here, Ms Indranee said disclosure received "major support" from most professional fund providers who responded to the public consultation.


New law could draw more mediation cases here

The Mediation Bill passed yesterday to make international commercial settlements more enforceable could help to draw more of such cases to Singapore, said Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

She also gave the assurance that high standards of mediation would be maintained.

While parties currently have to start legal proceedings to enforce a settlement agreement, the Bill provides another means of enforcement.

Parties may record an agreement as an order of court, which may be directly enforceable if not complied with. They can apply to halt ongoing court proceedings pending the outcome of mediation as well.

The Bill also clarifies circumstances where mediation communications can be disclosed or admitted to court.

Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) and Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) highlighted the need to maintain high standards and levels of professionalism. Prof Fatimah asked if the issue of specialist mediators had been considered.

Ms Indranee replied that the Singapore Mediation Centre and Singapore International Mediation Centre already have specialist mediators spanning areas such as banking, finance and family.

She added that bodies such as the Singapore International Mediation Institute, set up in 2014, will act as an independent group to promote mediation and set high standards.

The Bill will not apply to mediation under the Industrial Relations Act, by the Family Justice Courts and the Women's Charter, or under the Small Claims Tribunal, "to prevent inconsistency with existing legislative frameworks", she said.

Community mediation is also excluded.

Seow Bei Yi


MORE CREATIVE FEE ARRANGEMENTS, PLEASE

Unlike jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, Australia and even the United States, we have until now not permitted more creative fee arrangements.

 

MR VIKRAM NAIR (SEMBAWANG GRC), on the possibility of allowing contingency fee arrangements.

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Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (Amendment) Act 2016 (Act 28 of 2016)

State Ct RC No 4 of 2016 - Closure of registries and counters

State Courts

Singapore solar energy retailers lock horns over patent on electrical meters

TODAY
11 Jan 2017
Siau Ming En

SINGAPORE — Solar energy retailer Sun Electric has taken Sunseap, believed to be the biggest market player in the solar industry here, to court over a patent infringement related to an aggregation and metering system used at tech giant Apple’s facilities here. Sunseap, however, has responded by challenging the validity of the patent, and countersuing Sun Electric.

The patent suit stems from a landmark contract between Sunseap Group and Apple last year, where the solar firm would supply Apple with clean energy, making the latter the first firm in Singapore to be fully powered by renewable energy.

Part of the energy comes from the solar panels installed on the rooftop of Apple’s Ang Mo Kio office, while the rest comes from offsite solar energy that is harnessed from multiple sites installed with solar systems.

Sunseap currently installs and manages solar photovoltaic systems on the rooftops of more than 800 government, residential, commercial and industrial buildings. According to Sunseap, it currently has about 80 megawatts of built solar capacity, or about 70 per cent of the market share.

In court documents obtained by TODAY, Sun Electric claimed that Sunseap was using meters that measure the amount of electricity imported from the national grid to these buildings, and the solar energy exported by these buildings to the grid, among others. The meters installed at Apple’s facilities at Knightsbridge mall and Ang Mo Kio also determine the tech firm’s power consumption.

Sun Electric claimed that these meters infringed its meter patent, and asked for unspecified costs.

In its defence, Sunseap argued that Sun Electric’s patent was invalid and has also countersued, noting that the latter’s threats had affected Sunseap’s chances of landing new contracts.

Sunseap noted that in its agreement with Apple, it supplies energy to the tech firm by buying electricity from the National Electricity Markets of Singapore, and resells it at agreed tariff rates.

Sunseap claimed that it neither owns nor operates a meter that measures power imported from, or exported to, the national grid. It also does not own or operate a consolidation unit to determine the solar power supplied by the buildings to the grid.

Instead, it is informed of the amount of solar energy supplied by the buildings to the grid through a third-party provider such as SP Services, Sunseap said in its defence.

In its counter-suit, Sunseap noted that Sun Electric had made threats of infringement proceedings to the former’s clients and potential customers.

Citing a tender called by Keppel Infrastructure Holdings around last August, Sunseap said that it was initially awarded the project.

But before the details of the project could be finalised, Sun Electric’s chief executive officer Matthew Peloso allegedly told Keppel that Sunseap had infringed his company’s patent, and that the tender award would be vulnerable, claimed Sunseap.

This led to Keppel eventually deciding not to award the tender to Sunseap.

Sunseap, in its counter-suit, also claimed that Sun Electric had committed the “tort of unlawful interference with trade”, including defaming Sunseap’s subsidiaries by making and publishing statements that were “calculated to disparate the plaintiffs”.

The resulting losses included loss of contracts from existing and potential customers, and damage to its reputation and market standing, Sunseap added.

In response to TODAY’s queries, Dr Peloso noted that Sun Electric’s lawyers are examining the counter-suit and will be filing an appropriate defence in due course.

On the patent suit against Sunseap, he added: “We are confident of our position. We continue to press on with our research projects in Singapore, which have already yielded several additional patent applications in Singapore.”

Separately, Sunseap founder Frank Phuan said: “We are confident that there is no merit in Sun Electric’s claims. We will be defending the claim vigorously, and will also look to Sun Electric for all damage caused to us.”

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Fees Act - Fees (Winding up and Dissolution of Companies and Other Bodies) (Amendment) Order 2017 (S 1 of 2017)

Family Justice Court PD Amendment No. 4 of 2016: New para 161A, Form 266A and App D, revised Form 21

Exchange over A-G's appointment age

Straits Times
11 Jan 2017
Charissa Yong

The age of the incoming attorney-general (A-G) came up for debate in Parliament yesterday.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim disagreed over whether there is an age limit for the A-G in the Constitution.

Top corporate lawyer Lucien Wong, 63, will succeed outgoing Attorney-General V.K. Rajah on Saturday, the day Mr Rajah turns 60.

Ms Lim, an MP for Aljunied GRC and a lawyer, asked if Mr Wong's appointment was in line with Article 35(4) of the Constitution, which governs the appointment of an A-G.

Replying, Mr Shanmugam, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said: "The appointment of the new attorney-general is in accordance with Article 35 of the Constitution."

The law states that the A-G may be appointed for a specific period and if so appointed, shall vacate his office at the end of that period.

Otherwise, he shall hold office until he turns 60.

Among other things, the law also states that an A-G who has turned 60 can be permitted to remain in office for a period agreed on by the Government and the A-G.

Ms Lim, in disagreeing with Mr Shanmugam, said the law "does not seem to contemplate the appointment of a new A-G who is more than 60 years old to assume the post".

The minister said that would be quite an inaccurate reading of the law. He added that there are two ways to appoint an A-G. The first is to appoint an A-G without a specific term, which can be done only if the candidate is younger than 60. The appointment ends when the A-G turns 60 - as in Mr Rajah's case.

The second way is to appoint an A-G for a specified term, regardless of his age. This appointment ends when the term ends, and the term can be extended by the Government.

Mr Wong's appointment is for three years. He was chairman and senior partner of Singapore's largest law firm, Allen & Gledhill.

Mr Shanmugam also cited previous attorneys-general such as Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, who was older than 60 when he was appointed to the post. Justice Chao was 63 when he was appointed for a two-year term, and 65 when he left office.

Mr Shanmugam said: "All these appointments were in accordance with the Constitution, and the interpretation I put forward... is something we have confirmed with the Attorney-General's Chambers."

Ms Lim suggested that the Government apply to court to clarify the matter. Mr Shanmugam replied: "That is quite ridiculous. The Government has taken advice, I am satisfied, anybody who reads it will be satisfied. If the Member feels that there is something wrong, I would leave it to the Member to apply."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Revised Workfare Income Supplement Scheme) Regulations 2016 (S 738 of 2016)

State Ct PD Amendment No. 4 of 2016: New PD 25, 35, 37, 38, App B, C, E, F

State Courts

Industry watchers welcome changes to Securities and Futures Act

Straits Times
11 Jan 2017
Wong Wei Han

Wide-ranging changes made to the Securities and Futures Act (SFA) are a positive move that will ramp up investor protection and improve market confidence, industry watchers said.

Parliament passed the SFA Amendment Bill on Monday to tighten the classification of accredited investors, a status necessary for them to be sold risky and sophisticated investment products.

Previously, those with over $2 million of personal assets could qualify to make such investments but new rules kicking in will limit the contribution of an individual's primary residence to $1 million, at most, of the $2 million.

Along with an additional mechanism to let investors choose and remain "unaccredited", it will now be harder for uninformed or illiquid investors to be exposed to risky investments.

DBS consumer banking and wealth management head Tan Su Shan said the changes are positive for two reasons. "Firstly, customers will be required to have higher disposable assets. Secondly, the new regulations will amplify the point to customers that they have a big role to play in making investment choices."

She said DBS has similar practices in place, so the new rules will not be an issue for the bank.

The Bill also deals with section 199 of the SFA, which prohibits materially false or misleading disclosures that may affect share prices. The Monetary Authority of Singapore will be able to take enforcement actions regardless of the price effect of these disclosures.

National University of Singapore associate professor and governance expert Mak Yuen Teen said this part will be "most important in raising investor confidence in the capital market".

"It has proven very difficult to enforce section 199, as we have seen in a number of cases where arguably material false or misleading disclosures have been made, but there have been no enforcement actions or successful actions pursued because it was difficult to prove that false or misleading disclosures have a material effect on price or decisions to buy, hold or sell securities," Mr Mak said.

With the amendment, it is easier to pursue enforcement actions in such cases, he noted.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act - Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act (Amendment of Schedule) (No. 3) Notification 2016 (S 737 of 2016)

Law Soc: Increase in State Courts' jurisdiction

Law Society

Increase in State Courts' jurisdiction 

With effect from 1 December 2016, the State Courts' jurisdiction for claims arising out of road traffic accidents and personal injuries arising out of industrial accidents is increased from $250,000 to $500,000. All such claims must still be filed in the High Court. The system will then automatically transfer the case to the State Courts and assign the case with a new case number. For more information and for a filing guide, please refer to the eLitigation website.

Private-hire car services could be suspended if drivers flout rules

Straits Times
11 Jan 2017
Adrian Lim

Changes to the law proposed in Parliament yesterday could give the authorities the power to clamp down on private-hire car services such as Uber and Grab if their drivers are found to be operating without proper licences and insurance.

Under the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, a blackout period of up to a month can be imposed on these services, during which private-hire drivers will be prohibited from driving for the errant ride-hailing service. This essentially suspends its operations and ability to serve commuters.

Such a suspension order can be imposed if a private-hire car service has had three or more instances of drivers flouting the rules within a year. For instance, drivers who use unlicensed vehicles to conduct chauffeur services, operate without a valid vocational licence and do not have appropriate motor insurance.

A spokesman for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said: "Frequent infringement of these rules poses potential safety risks for commuters and hence a suspension order may be necessary."

The suspension order for the car service will come on top of penalties imposed on the errant drivers.

A motorist operating an unlicensed public service vehicle, for example, can currently be fined up to $3,000 or jailed for up to six months.

The Bill will have to be read a second and third time before it is passed.

The proposed penalties dovetail with new regulations that will be imposed on the private-hire car industry by the first half of this year.

Under these regulations, private-hire drivers will be required to go through a vocational licensing course and undergo a background screening and medical check.

Cars being used for services such as Uber and Grab must also be registered with the LTA, and they must have decals identifying them as private-hire vehicles.

When asked about the latest proposed changes, Uber said it is "supportive of any effort by the Government to improve the well-being and safety of riders and drivers".

An Uber spokesman said the firm will study the implications of the proposed amendments.

A Grab spokesman said the firm has several checks in place to ensure its drivers are compliant, including a robust registration process and a vehicle inspection framework.

He added that these existing processes will help support the proposed amendments.

There are an estimated 25,000 cars being used for Uber and Grab.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (New Minimum Sum Scheme) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S 736 of 2016)

Law Soc: IPOS - Public consultation on proposed designs-related legislative amendments

Law Society

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (‘IPOS’)
Public consultation on proposed designs-related legislative amendments

Intellectual Property Office of Singapore ('IPOS') informs that the Registry of Designs has launched a public consultation to seek feedback on proposed designs-related legislative amendments. The proposed amendments pertain to the Registered Designs Act (Cap. 266) and its subsidiary legislation and the Copyright and Registered Designs legislation on the interface between copyright and registered designs.

The public consultation will run from 11 November 2016 to 11 December 2016. The consultation documents are available on the IPOS website and can be accessed here - Public Consultation on Proposed Designs-Related Legislative Amendments

This set of proposed designs-related legislative amendments seeks to implement the conclusions from the 2016 review of the registered designs regime that was conducted by the Ministry of Law and IPOS. The changes are intended to provide a conducive legal and policy framework to support the growth of the local design industry.

Need to balance laws with individual responsibility: Active Mobility Bill

Straits Times
11 Jan 2017
Chong Zi Liang

The final business of yesterday's Parliament sitting highlighted the necessity, and also the limits, of changes to regulations to deal with new technologies and trends such as the rising popularity and use of personal mobility devices.

MPs were debating the Active Mobility Bill - new legislation that will enable the setting up of a framework to regulate the use of devices such as e-scooters, skateboards and hoverboards.

The use of such devices has been on the rise here, and the Government views this as a positive step as the country transits towards becoming less reliant on cars.

But there have also been accidents involving those who use these devices, and reports of recklessness and inconsiderate behaviour on walkways.

And so for 2 1/2 hours, MPs debated proposed regulations that include speed limits, where people will be allowed to use these mobility devices, and penalties when rules are breached.

They welcomed the legislation, but several also pointed out that having the right regulation was only one part of the equation to ensure a safe environment for pedestrians, cyclists and users of other mobility devices.

Equally important is the role that people themselves play in being sensible and responsible when zipping around on their set of wheels.

As Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) put it: "Legislation is only a first step towards creating public awareness on what is right and wrong, with legal penalties serving to deter reckless behaviour. The responsibility of creating safer roads and pathways lies with every individual."

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo, who responded to MPs during the debate on the legislation, also reiterated at several points that the ultimate aim is to shape a culture of gracious and considerate sharing of public paths among all users.

"While cultural norms take time to develop, we can support their formation through appropriate rules and enforcement," she told the House.

In other words, a sound regulatory framework is not an end in itself.

It exists to deter bad behaviour by defining and penalising what is beyond the pale, at least until good habits become the norm.

This is also needed to reduce the inevitable friction that emerges when people have to change the way they use and share public spaces like pathways.

Perhaps there will come a time when such laws are no longer needed and the Government does not need to step in to regulate the cycling or scooter-riding habits of Singaporeans.

Over the years, there has been growing sentiment in some quarters that the Government should intervene less in the different aspects of lives of Singaporeans.

Yet, whenever something goes awry, there will unfailingly be a chorus of calls from the public for something to be made illegal, or for the authorities to clamp down on devices or practices.

Some of these calls prompted the review of the law. And reflecting such sentiments, several MPs felt the proposals in the Bill did not go far enough to regulate the use of mobility devices.

Some wanted it made compulsory for users of such devices to buy insurance, while one suggested a minimum age for users.

While the instinct to safeguard the well-being of citizens is understandable, it may also dilute a long-term aim of the Bill - that of fostering a society where courtesy, care and the responsible sharing of public spaces becomes the norm.

This may sound like an overly optimistic goal. But cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Tokyo - examples that Mrs Teo cited - show that it is an achievable aim.

The potential positive impact of individual action also surfaced during a particular exchange during Question Time.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin spoke about the issue of suicide among the elderly when responding to Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, who asked about suicide rates among this group.

The number of suicides in this age group has increased from 95 in 2010 to 126 in 2014.

Minister Tan outlined various ways that the Government is dealing with the matter, such as through programmes to encourage seniors to be socially active and setting up hotlines for those who wish to seek help.

While these initiatives are important, he said "the most critical role played would be by the individuals, families and the community".

"Individuals should take personal responsibility and practise self-awareness so that they seek help early when feeling overwhelmed and emotionally distressed."

Likewise, family members, colleagues, friends and neighbours can also help pick up signs of distress, give emotional support and offer assistance.

"Without these steps, even the best support programmes will be rendered ineffective," he added.

Indeed, sometimes a top-down government approach - however well intentioned and thoughtful - cannot have the same effect as the personal touch of a loved one.

In the end, the efforts by the Government can only go so far.

Individual responsibility remains the stronger, and perhaps more vital, component of ensuring a safe and pleasant living environment.

Whether at home, or when out on public pathways, people will have to increasingly take charge of their well-being and recognise that shared space means precisely that - shared.


Over the years, there has been growing sentiment in some quarters that the Government should intervene less in the different aspects of lives of Singaporeans. Yet, whenever something goes awry, there will unfailingly be a chorus of calls from the public for something to be made illegal, or for the authorities to clamp down on devices or practices.


Registration, plates for e-bikes to boost safety

Move may extend to all motorised PMDs if effective in bid to curb illegal modifications

Electric bicycles will soon need to be registered to an owner and have registration plates, as the Government seeks to clamp down on those who illegally modify the devices.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo announced this yesterday in Parliament, which approved a new law to regulate the use of personal mobility devices (PMDs).

The Transport Ministry will give details later and amend related legislation under the Road Traffic Act.

The new registration regime could be extended to all motorised devices if found effective, Mrs Teo said. The move comes after a series of fatal e-bike accidents late last year.

The Transport Ministry had signalled last year that it intended to register e-bikes, but this is the first time it has mentioned that they will need registration plates.

Mrs Teo said e-bikes were being targeted as they "were prone to illegal modification to achieve high speeds on roads".

Speaking during the debate on the Active Mobility Bill, Mrs Teo said cycling and the use of PMDs were an "essential part" of Singapore's drive to go car-lite.

The Bill was passed after a vigorous debate, which saw 13 MPs flag concerns over the safety of pedestrians as these devices gain popularity with Singaporeans young and old.

To boost safety, they gave various suggestions - from improving infrastructure to mandating protective gear such as helmets.

Mrs Teo said the popularity of these devices was a positive development "as active mobility is a key pillar of our vision for transport in Singapore". Such modes of transport were green, convenient and efficient for short distances, she said.

"They are essential to Singapore's transition to car-lite mobility, centred on public transport," she said.

The new law was drafted based on guidelines by an advisory panel last year. It governs how and where bicycles and PMDs such as e-scooters can be used, as well as criteria they must meet, such as weight.

It also legalises the use of bicycles and PMDs on footpaths, cycling paths and shared paths. E-bikes will be allowed only on roads, and cycling and shared paths.

The new law also spells out harsh penalties for those who flout the rules, for example, reckless riders and retailers who sell non-compliant devices.

PMD users who do not stop to help victims in an accident could be fined up to $3,000, jailed for up to a year, or both. Sellers of non-compliant PMDs could be fined up to $5,000, jailed for up to three months, or both.

Addressing concerns over safety, Mrs Teo said the burden lies with cyclists and PMD users to show they can be "safety-conscious and responsible users of public paths".

"There is not a shadow of doubt that pedestrian safety is paramount," she said, adding that Singapore needed to develop a culture of graciousness and consideration similar to cycling cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Tokyo.

But this could take several years.

In the meantime, the Government will act to "reduce friction between the different users".

It will build more dedicated cycling paths where possible, establish a set of rules and norms for all users, and educate people and enforce the law actively, Mrs Teo said.

A-Tech Bike Supply owner Chris Kuah felt the move to register e-bikes will only force errant riders to switch to devices such as e-scooters. "We shouldn't penalise all e-bikers when it is only a few black sheep who break the rules," he said.

But Mr Denis Koh, who heads e-scooter interest group Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, said: "If you ride safely, you have nothing to fear. The licensing is just a formality."

 

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Minimum Sum Scheme) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S 735 of 2016)

Law Soc: LDAU Circular 2 of 2016 - E-Applications under the Residential Property Act - Final phase

Law Society

Land Dealings Approval Unit
LDAU Circular 2 of 2016 - E-Applications under the Residential Property Act (Cap. 274): Final Phase 

The Land Dealings Approval Unit ('LDAU') informs that the launch of the third and final phase of the online submissions of applications under the Residential Property Act ( the 'Act') can be made at www.sla.sg/ldau.

The final phase will be implemented on 18 November 2016 for the following 4 applications:

Application by a Singapore entity with residential properties to become a converted entity and for retention of its residential properties under section 26 of the Act;

Application for change of existing use of non-residential property to use for residential purposes under section 28 of the Act;

Application for approval for residential development on land deemed non-residential under section 28A of the Act; and

Application by a housing developer to purchase residential property for construction of flats or dwelling-houses for sale under section 31 of the Act.

As such, the forms for the above applications will no longer be available for download from 18 November 2016.

In addition, attention is drawn to the Singapore Corporate Access ('CorpPass') which was introduced on 7 November 2016. For more information on CorpPass, visit www.corppass.gov.sg.

Click here to access the circular.

Parliament debates removing century-old law

Straits Times
11 Jan 2017
Toh Yong Chuan

A proposal to remove a century-old law governing the running of a local community hospital went before Parliament for debate yesterday.

It ended with members of the House voting to send the proposal to a specially convened Select Committee for extra scrutiny - a rare step that last happened in 2004 with the Building Maintenance and Management Bill.

Often, proposed changes to an Act are debated and passed by the House at the same sitting.

The Ministry of Health told The Straits Times that the Kwong-Wai- Shiu Free Hospital (Transfer of Undertaking and Dissolution) Bill was sent to the Select Committee so that the affected hospital staff can have their say on the move.

At issue yesterday was whether to remove the Kwong-Wai-Shiu Hospital Ordinance so that the hospital can expand its services.

The law was enacted in 1910 when the hospital was set up.

But it has since become outdated, said Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min during the second reading to debate the Bill, which proposes removal of the law.

Its provisions are antiquated and impede Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital's development and growth as a modern healthcare provider, he said.

He cited four examples to show how the law has hindered the hospital's growth.

First, it restricts the hospital to providing healthcare services to poor people from the Kwong-Chau, Wai-Chau and Shiu-Heng prefectures in China's Canton province.

It also requires the hospital to keep its accounts according to the Chinese lunar calendar and submit them to the "Secretary of Chinese Affairs", a position that is now defunct, Dr Lam noted.

Third, it does not spell out corporate governance standards that charities have to meet, such as guidelines to avoid conflicts of interest.

And fourth, it imposes red tape on the hospital. For example, it has to get permission from the High Court and apply to the Attorney- General each time it wants to dispose of immovable assets.

"This unduly hampers Kwong Wai Shiu's ability to efficiently manage and control its assets and property to respond to the changing needs of Singapore," Dr Lam said.

Meanwhile, the hospital is modernising and expanding to meet the healthcare needs of Singapore's ageing population, he added. It runs a nursing home, a seniors' care centre and a traditional Chinese medicine clinic, as well as provides care services for seniors at their homes.

At the end of this year, it will run Singapore's largest nursing home, with more than 600 beds.

Dr Lam noted that the hospital has already gone beyond the restrictions of the old law. For instance, its services are open to the public, regardless of the race, religion and dialect of the patients. The move to repeal the law was initiated by the hospital management, he added, without saying when.

Without the law, the hospital will be run as a company.

It was incorporated and registered as a charity last year. The hospital will be governed by the Companies Act and supervised by the Ministry of Health as a charity.

"The hospital's operations will not be affected and patients are unlikely to experience any inconvenience or any adverse changes as a result of the transition," Dr Lam assured the House.

Three MPs spoke in support of the repeal. They were Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC)and Nominated MP Thomas Chua.

The Bill is before the Select Committee headed by House Speaker Halimah Yacob. Among its members is Mr Low Thia Khiang, leader of the opposition Workers' Party.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Minimum Sum Topping-Up Scheme) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 734 of 2016)

State Ct RC No 3 of 2016 - Relocation of entrance of State Courts building

State Courts

School officer to accompany students to meet police

Straits Times
11 Jan 2017
Pearl Lee

The person will be familiar to them and will ensure 'proper handover' at police station

Students who are called to the police station for interviews while they are in school will be accompanied by a school officer familiar to them. These officers could be their teachers, the year head or a school counsellor.

Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng announced this in Parliament yesterday, as he updated the House on what the Ministry of Education (MOE) is doing to provide more support to students who are being investigated by the police.

Mr Ng said that the measures follow recommendations made by a multi-agency committee which had studied State Coroner Marvin Bay's suggestions to mitigate the risk for young suspects.

Coroner Bay had presided over the case of North View Secondary School student Benjamin Lim, who was found dead on Jan 26 last year, hours after being questioned at Ang Mo Kio Police Division for allegedly molesting an 11-year-old girl in a lift.

Benjamin was not accompanied by school officers to the police station, as it was not the practice then.

The Ministry of Home Affairs last week announced a new scheme that will allow Appropriate Adults, who are independent, trained volunteers, to accompany young suspects during police interviews.

Mr Ng said the school officer will make sure that there is a "proper handover" at the police station as far as possible.

But if no Appropriate Adult is present, the school officer would "have to make a judgment call to stay with the young person until such an adult shows up", he said.

Whether the school officer will remain at the police station throughout the whole period will also depend on the circumstances at the time, he added.

Besides these measures, the school will provide the police with relevant information on the student being investigated, which will help them better understand the personal circumstances of the student, said Mr Ng.

He also said the police will inform the student's parents of the arrest as soon as possible.

The measures will go into effect next month in all primary and secondary schools, as well as junior colleges.

Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh asked whether the school counsellor could be with the student throughout the police interview.

But Mr Ng said the school counsellor would be known to the student, and would not be considered a neutral party. Appropriate adults are required to remain neutral and not advocate for either side.


JUDGMENT CALL

If there is no Appropriate Adult present, the school counsellor will have to make a judgment call to stay with the young person until such an adult shows up.

MR NG CHEE MENG, Minister for Education (Schools).

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Revised Minimum Sum Scheme) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S 733 of 2016)

Law Soc: Launch public consultation on proposal to introduce an inward re-domiciliation regime in Singapore

Law Society

Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (‘ACRA’) and Ministry of Finance (‘MOF’)
Launch public consultation on proposal to introduce an inward re-domiciliation regime in Singapore 

The MOF and ACRA have launched a public consultation exercise to seek feedback on proposed amendments to the Companies Act to introduce an inward re-domiciliation regime in Singapore. This public consultation will run from 26 October 2016 to 16 November 2016. The press release and consultation documents are available on ACRA's website.

This set of proposed legislative changes will form part of a larger Companies (Amendment) Bill 2017 and seeks to ensure that the corporate regulatory regime continues to stay robust, yet internationally competitive and relevant to the realities of the local corporate landscape. MOF and ACRA will also be launching another public consultation later this year to invite public feedback on another set of proposed amendments that seeks to further enhance transparency in their markets and this will be launched when the draft amendments are ready. Members will be informed ahead of the consultation.

Rape lie: Woman gets detention order

Straits Times
11 Jan 2017
K.C. Vijayan

A woman's rape claim last year sparked a police probe which lasted about seven hours before she admitted she had lied to cover up the fact that she had casual sex.

Esther Chua, 30, was sentenced to a detention order of two weeks to be served in jail, which means that she will not have a criminal record, despite spending time behind bars.

In deciding on the detention order, District Judge Low Wee Ping said in his judgment grounds issued last week that the difference between imprisonment and a detention order is "significant".

Chua, who had a boyfriend at the time, said she had lied to cover up the casual sex she had with someone she met just hours earlier.

She had told police last May that six men were involved in the incident, which allegedly took place at about 4am on May 10, behind an HDB lift lobby in Telok Blangah Crescent.

The tale led police to check closed-circuit television camera footage and screen phone records.

Chua was also interviewed by officers of the Serious Sexual Crime Branch, where her fake story about one man forcing sex on her while five others in the same gang kept a lookout unravelled, within seven hours of her initial report.

Chua explained that she had made up the story to cover up for the consensual sex she had with a person named "Mackie".

She said she had met Mackie and drank alcohol with him prior to the alleged incident. While walking towards her block, she ran into a group of six men.

Chua admitted that she and Mackie ignored the group and went to the back alley near the HDB block, where they had sex.

She said she was worried that she might have been impregnated, and would have difficulty explaining it to her boyfriend, so she decided to come up with the fake story.

At issue before Judge Low was the kind of sentence Chua, who was described as having an unnamed mental condition, should get.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhammad Zulhafni asked for a short jail term.

Her lawyer Raphael Louis urged the court to impose a maximum two-week detention order instead.

This would mean that Chua would not have a criminal record, thus helping with her "redemption", Mr Louis said.

"It's already hard for her to get a job because of her mental condition and if she has a criminal record, Your Honour, it'll be really difficult for her to move on with her life."

Mr Louis said Chua did not lie out of malice, and added that she was not "on a vendetta, going after somebody and lying about it".

"She met this guy on the same day. She was intoxicated. Her judgment was impaired. She thought she was raped," the lawyer said.

Judge Low accepted that "significantly, the accused did not commit this offence out of malice".

"This court was persuaded by the accused's several mitigating factors. The accused was a divorcee and had to give up custody of her only child. According to Mr Raphael Louis, the accused 'faces the guilt of not providing, or giving, her best as a mother'."

The judge said the court also appreciated that Chua had taken positive steps to get help, and that psychiatrists and professionals at the Institute of Mental Health confirmed she was "on the right path".

The prosecution is appealing against the two-week detention order.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Topping-Up of Special Account) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 732 of 2016)

Short detention order imposed for offence under s 157(1) Companies Act

Legislation
20 Jan 2017

Voluntary scheme started to accredit specialist lawyers

Business Times
10 Jan 2017
Claire Huang

[Singapore] TO help the public identify lawyers who have expertise in certain practice areas, the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) has rolled out a voluntary accreditation scheme so practitioners can apply to have their skills recognised.

For a start, lawyers specialising in building and construction law can apply under the Specialist Accreditation Scheme. The first batch of accredited specialists in this field will be announced in January 2018.

The pilot programme, launched by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the opening of the legal year 2017, is expected to be expanded later to include shipping law and arbitration.

The move is meant to improve the quality of Singapore's legal services and the standard of the Bar in general, without disadvantaging those who choose to remain non-accredited, he said.

"Participation in the scheme will be entirely voluntary and will not be exclusionary. Thus, non-accredited lawyers will continue to be able to practise in their field, in the same way that those who are not appointed Senior Counsel are nonetheless able to practise as advocates. But accreditation will function as a mark of recognition that a particular lawyer in fact has particular skills and expertise," said Mr Menon.

The scheme will have two tiers: a lower tier (accredited specialist) for younger legal practitioners and an upper tier (senior accredited specialist) for more experienced legal practitioners. Candidates will be selected by a panel comprising judges, legal practitioners and industry professionals.

The assessment is based on the candidate's involvement in the practice area and panel interview, among other things. Younger lawyers will have to sit an examination while senior lawyers are exempted.

The specialist accreditation will have to be renewed every two years.

SAL said the scheme is expected to benefit more than 900 legal practitioners who practise building and construction law.

Former Law Society president and senior counsel Lok Vi Ming, who now runs his own dispute resolution practice, welcomed the accreditation scheme as it will "encourage practitioners to keep up with latest developments in a particular industry or practice area" and will ramp up different expertise.

"The public is always looking for product differentiation - people who can deliver better in a particular area of expertise and if you have a mark of excellence that is presented to them, they will gravitate towards that mark," added Mr Lok.

The SAL is also developing the Legal Industry Framework for Training and Education (Lifted), which is part of the nationwide SkillsFuture initiative and will help lawyers develop core and specialist competencies in their areas of practice.

For a start, Lifted will identify competencies and courses for corporate and commercial law, family law, legal technologies and legal support roles. It will be implemented in phases this year, starting with legal support roles.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Town Councils Act - Town Council of Chua Chu Kang (Common Property and Open Spaces) (Amendment) By-laws 2016 (S 731 of 2016)

New initiatives and revised regulatory approach for audit committees in Singapore

Business
20 Jan 2017

CJ urges legal sector to embrace march of technology

Business Times
10 Jan 2017
Claire Huang

Sundaresh Menon endorses tech blueprint for Singapore courts over next five years

[Singapore] DEVELOPMENTS in technology have forced lawyers to rethink practice areas and legal eagles in Singapore must stride towards these advances "with receptive openness".

This, as technology is expected to improve the quality of services and lead to cost savings for law firms, and ultimately, for society, said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the opening of the legal year at the Supreme Court on Monday.

Already, online dispute resolution platforms that allow users to find resolution without having to litigate have been implemented in the Netherlands, CJ Menon said, adding that it is "likely just a matter of time" before these avenues that "blend negotiation, mediation and arbitration" could be applied in fields such as motor accident and workplace injury claims, as well as insurance claims or disputes.

To harness technology to enhance the administration of justice, he has endorsed the technology blueprint for the courts over the next five years.

A unified One Judiciary IT Steering committee would also be set up to review, revise and update the blueprint initiatives.

In tandem, the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) presented its Legal Technology Vision outlining the aims of adopting legal tech and incubating a legal tech scene here.

One of the aims, specifically targeting small- and medium-sized law firms, is to encourage adoption of baseline technologies, including office productivity suites, billing and practice management systems.

Another is to look into the possibility of collaborative and shared virtual platforms and workspaces, as well as web- and cloud-based tools that can be accessed remotely. This could create a virtual marketplace that matches demand for and supply of legal services, provide information and rating tools for the benefit of lawyers and clients.

A further goal is to create fresh legal technologies by finding ways to link the legal sector up with innovative professionals from other disciplines, said Mr Menon.

He also touched on the appointment of three Senior Counsels - judicial commissioner Edmund Leow who is returning to the private sector, the Attorney-General's Chambers' (AGC) solicitor-general Kwek Mean Luck, and deputy chief prosecutor of the AGC, Francis Ng.

In closing his speech, the Chief Justice paid a tribute to outgoing Attorney-General (AG) VK Rajah, who steps down on Jan 13. Congratulating Mr Rajah for his "many remarkable achievements over the course of more than three decades in the law", Mr Menon said: "You have devoted yourself tirelessly to advancing the interests of justice throughout your career. There can be no higher calling for a lawyer; and you have discharged it with great distinction."

Veteran lawyer Lucien Wong has been appointed the new AG and will serve a three-year term. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also thanked Mr Rajah for his outstanding contributions to Singapore in a valedictory letter dated Jan 4.

"Of particular note were your decisions that concerned criminal law. You delivered landmark rulings that clarified the law on criminal liability for common intention, as well as aspects of the law on sentencing. These judgements reflected your commitment to a fair criminal justice system that tempers justice with compassion," Mr Lee wrote.

He added that Mr Rajah has done much to improve Singapore's legal system and has made a difference to a future generation of lawyers.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Administration of Muslim Law Act - Administration of Muslim Law (Muslim Religious Schools) Rules 2016 (S 730 of 2016)

IPOS Case Summary: Audi AG v Lim Ching Kwang [2017] SGIPOS 02

Judgments
20 Jan 2017

Legal sector launches tech road map

Straits Times
10 Jan 2017
K.C. Vijayan & Ng Huiwen

Processes must be transformed as day of reckoning can no longer be put off: CJ

Singapore has launched a new five-year road map aimed at helping the legal sector adopt and create new technologies, in preparation for what Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon describes as the "uberisation" of the law practice.

In the Legal Technology Vision document released by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL), small and medium-sized law firms will get help to adopt "baseline technologies" such as office productivity suites and online profiling and communications tools.

Two other prongs include setting up collaborative and shared virtual platforms and workspaces, as well as Web- and cloud-based tools that can be accessed remotely, and link-ups with other sectors to help create fresh legal technologies.

Speaking at the opening of the Legal Year 2017 yesterday, CJ Menon revealed details of the road map as he explained why the legal process must be transformed in response to technology because "the day of reckoning can no longer be put off".

He cited how the advent of online dispute resolution platforms and easy public access to reliable and readily available standard precedents suggest that "some of the spaces that have traditionally been occupied by lawyers will diminish".

"But it would be wrong to approach technology as if it is something to be vanquished just because it threatens to disrupt or challenge how we have been accustomed to operate," added CJ Menon.

"Technology holds the promise of greater productivity and effectiveness. This should translate to higher quality legal services and cost savings for law firms and, ultimately, for society."

For instance, he said, rapid and unbroken information flows will give clients greater access to resources on the law and lawyers.

"The traditional practice of retainers may fade in favour of a system that more efficiently matches supply and demand, leading to the 'uberisation' of legal practice," said CJ Menon, in a reference to the impact of ride-hailing service Uber on people's travel patterns.

The annual event at the Supreme Court was attended by members of the legal fraternity, three Chief Justices from Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

Outgoing Attorney-General V.K. Rajah said in his address yesterday that investigation papers used for prosecution work are now digitised. But he called for "an entirely electronic platform" to allow sharing of information between stakeholders at different stages of the criminal justice process.

In his speech, Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran added that financial support will be given to these firms to adopt IT solutions.

Besides the SAL road map, CJ Menon also announced a five-year technology blueprint charting the "courts of the future", based on the study by a task force set up last year. The blueprint proposes various IT initiatives that will be reviewed, revised and updated by a unified One Judiciary IT Steering Committee.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Income Tax Act - Income Tax (International Tax Compliance Agreements) (United States of America) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 729 of 2016)

SHC finds that foreign liquidators appointed in a voluntary liquidation abroad can be recognised in Singapore

Judgments
19 Jan 2017

Opening of the Legal Year 2017 speeches: Full text

Singapore Law Watch
10 Jan 2017

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Prescribed Amount for Special Account) Notification 2016 (S 728 of 2016)

SCA: Applicable test - Application for leave under s 216a Companies Act to intervene in on-going proceedings

Judgments
19 Jan 2017

Outgoing A-G praised as 'an innovative thinker about the law'

Straits Times
10 Jan 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon have paid tribute to outgoing Attorney-General V.K. Rajah as "an innovative thinker about the law", and for his "outstanding contributions" to Singapore.

"In every appointment, you have carried out your duties with dynamism and commitment. You have improved our legal system and made a difference to future generations of lawyers," PM Lee said in a valedictory letter to Mr Rajah last week that was released to the media yesterday.

Chief Justice Menon said of Mr Rajah during his speech at the Opening of Legal Year 2017 event yesterday: "You have devoted yourself tirelessly to advancing the interests of justice throughout your career. There can be no higher calling for a lawyer; and you have discharged it with great distinction."

Mr Rajah will retire as Attorney-General on Saturday on reaching 60, and will be succeeded by Mr Lucien Wong, 63.

Mr Rajah began his public service career as a judicial commissioner in 2004 after 20 years in private practice and was then one of Singapore's leading commercial lawyers.

Within a year, he became a Supreme Court judge, and three years later, he was made Judge of Appeal - a position he held until 2014.

PM Lee noted that Mr Rajah left his "mark" during his decade on the Supreme Court bench, "contributing prolifically to Singapore's jurisprudence" and that many of his judgments "have shaped the development of Singapore law".

"Of particular note were your decisions that concerned criminal law. You delivered landmark rulings that clarified the law on criminal liability for common intention, as well as aspects of the law on sentencing. These judgments reflect your commitment to a fair criminal justice system that tempers justice with compassion."

PM Lee also commended Mr Rajah for helming several committees "which have enhanced the administration of justice and the vibrancy of our legal profession".

PM Lee cited the Committee to Develop the Singapore Legal Sector as perhaps the most significant, noting it reviewed the entire legal services sector, and made bold and important recommendations.

Both PM Lee and Chief Justice Menon lauded Mr Rajah's move in a 2015 case where the prosecution for the first time appealed for a reduced sentence on behalf of the accused person because he considered it to be manifestly excessive.

"As Public Prosecutor, you were steadfast in upholding justice and fairness as guardian of the public interest," said PM Lee. "You emphasised fair prosecution and outcomes, even when cases did not go in the Chambers' favour."

PM Lee revealed that Mr Rajah had declined the offer to continue as Attorney-General beyond his current term as he wanted to retire and pursue a more active role in arbitration. "I respect your decision, and look forward to your contributing in this new capacity to promote Singapore as an international arbitration hub," said PM Lee.

Mr Rajah, speaking at the Legal year event, said he found his work gratifying and the law "a most meaningful and fulfilling profession".

Stressing that "law is a force for common good", he had these parting words for lawyers: Have a sense of higher purpose and hold on to it.

"Do not be afraid to embrace and champion bold ideas for an even stronger and better legal system, and always approach your work with both your head and heart," he said.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Reserved Amount) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 272 of 2016)

Changes to investment management law: what’s new, what’s not, and what might cause you to end up in a knot

Legislation
18 Jan 2017

Trio join the ranks of senior counsel

Straits Times
10 Jan 2017
Ng Huiwen

Three senior counsel were appointed yesterday for the new legal year: A veteran tax lawyer and two legal eagles in the Attorney- General's Chambers.

They are Mr Edmund Leow Hock Meng, 54, Mr Kwek Mean Luck, 43, and Mr Francis Ng Yong Kiat, 41. They join 77 others in the top ranks of Singapore's lawyers.

Their appointments were announced by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon yesterday at the opening of the Legal Year 2017.

The accolade - Singapore's equivalent to Britain's Queen's Counsel - is given to outstanding lawyers with extensive knowledge of the law and the highest professional standing. The scheme started in 1997.

"It is indeed a great honour... As litigators, we do not go to court alone; we go as a team. So this is really a reflection of the calibre of the officers in the Attorney- General's Chambers (AGC)," said Mr Kwek, who will be Solicitor- General of the AGC from Saturday.

Currently Second SolicitorGeneral, Mr Kwek began his career in Singapore's legal service and moved up the rungs.

He served as a justices' law clerk at the Supreme Court and then became district judge in the Subordinate Courts (now the State Courts) and senior assistant registrar in the Supreme Court. He has also held various appointments in the Administrative Service.

Mr Kwek, who is married with four children aged between three and 17, credited his success to strong family support.

An example was when his seven- year-old son once asked what his job entailed, to which he replied: "I try to help people." His son was quiet for a while, before quipping: "In that case, you should work harder!"

Mr Kwek added: "This honour will also give me great impetus and a keener edge to develop the next generation of litigators."

Mr Leow joined law firm Dentons Rodyk as senior partner on Jan 1 to head its tax practice, after three years as a judicial commissioner. He is among the two senior counsel at the firm. "I am humbled and it means a lot to be receiving the recognition from the Bench as well as my fellow lawyers," said Mr Leow, who has nearly three decades of legal experience.

He has two children, aged 20 and 24, who are both in law school.

Mr Ng, who is the deputy chief prosecutor of the AGC, previously headed the Legal Policy Division at the Ministry of Law.

Outside of work, the former national kayaker is also the vice-president of the Singapore Canoe Federation. He is also the commanding officer of an infantry battalion.

"The appointment of senior counsel is something that young, aspiring litigators should look towards," said Mr Ng, who is married with four children aged two to 11.

"With hard work and dedicated practice, it is something within the realms of what they can achieve."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Lifelong Income Scheme) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S 726 of 2016)

SHC: Receiving payments from a company when winding-up proceedings have been commenced against it

Judgments
17 Jan 2017

Revised SFA: Tighter definition for accredited investors

Business Times
10 Jan 2017
Jamie Lee

[Singapore] A TIGHTENED definition for accredited investors is among the wide-ranging amendments to Singapore's Securities and Futures Act (SFA) passed into law on Monday.

The latest rules, which banks have been made aware of since 2014, will introduce an opt-in regime such that to-be accredited investors have to decide to take on the status, on top of qualifying for it.

"The choice is ultimately his to make, depending on his own risk profile, investment needs and circumstances," Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung told Parliament on Monday in delivering the Bill.

The tighter rules also mean individuals who are deemed suitable for complex financial products will now exclude investors who have most of their wealth sunk into property.

Prior to the amendment, individuals qualify as accredited investors if they have more than S$2 million of net personal assets. The government has now legislated that the net equity of an individual's primary residence can only contribute up to half - or S$1 million - of the S$2 million threshold.

Several members of Parliament questioned if an income threshold alone is enough to determine the sophistication of investors.

Responding, Mr Ong said that the opt-in regime makes the income threshold less critical, since the investors exercise their right to get access to various financial instruments as accredited investors.

If they consider themselves sophisticated investors, they can buy restricted products such as bonds with a subscription of at least S$250,000.

And this comes as many bonds issued by oil-related companies have since been restructured by debt-ridden companies, via deferred interest payments and extended maturities.

Wealthy investors have also burnt their fingers with more complex instruments, such as accumulators that allow investors to bet on the price range that a security will trade within.

Mr Ong added that the use of wealth is a fairly objective proxy, and is widely used by regulators around the world.

Banks have said there are just small numbers of accredited investors who would no longer qualify under that status with the new SFA.

Certain lenders such as DBS also already offer clients a choice to opt for accredited investor, or retail, status.

The amended SFA will offer more protection to retail investors, as well. Specifically, any gold buy-back scheme will have to be launched with a prospectus registered with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). In these gold buyback schemes, investors buy gold at a premium to the market price, and receive monthly payouts. The firms then pledge to re-purchase the gold a few months later at an even higher premium.

Members of Parliament advocated more forceful dissuasion from the government in retail investment in such products. Mr Ong, who is also an MAS director, said that it was difficult to prejudge whether products, while risky, are fraudulent.

But with the SFA amendment, the government has raised the maximum civil penalty awarded against an errant individual to the greater of S$2 million, or three times the benefits gained or losses avoided. Previously, for cases with small benefits, the effective penalty was S$50,000. The SFA also makes clear that MAS can go after insiders who make materially false or misleading disclosures, regardless of the effect on the price of the relevant securities.

Mr Ong would not reveal details on resources spent on such enforcement action - other than saying they compare with efforts around the world - saying that the information has to be kept from ill-intentioned individuals.

In the area of over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives, MAS will now be empowered to require certain OTC derivatives products to be traded on exchanges. MAS is finalising rules for the central clearing of widely traded OTC derivatives contracts here, the Singapore dollar and US dollar interest rate swaps.

Derivatives are usually priced and traded as OTC products - that is, traded directly between two parties. This is unlike exchange-traded products, which are priced and traded through an exchange. The global financial crisis was linked to the trillion-dollar credit default swaps market, reflecting in large part bets on defaults in the US subprime housing market.

MAS will also regulate the creation of financial benchmarks, following cases of manipulation of London Interbank Offered Rate that then distorted prices of interest rate swaps. These benchmarks are used to price loans. Traders who manipulate the benchmarks can now be slapped with criminal sanctions and civil penalties.

Mr Ong said while the US and Japan have begun their requirements to trade OTC derivatives products on organised trading facilities, others such as the European Union, Hong Kong and Australia have yet to do so. MAS is watching the developments.

MAS will also streamline existing regulatory regimes for commodity derivatives and exchange-traded derivatives, "to strike a balance against our objective to promote ease of doing business, innovation and a vibrant financial sector", said Mr Ong.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Workfare Income Supplement Scheme) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 725 of 2016)

Civil Law (Amendment) Act 2016: Singapore to allow third-party funding in international arbitration

Legislation
17 Jan 2017

ADV: Kaplan - Choose to study law with Birmingham City University!

Singapore Law Watch
10 Jan 2017
Kaplan

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Withdrawals for ElderShield Scheme) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 724 of 2016)

Amendment protocol to the India-Singapore tax treaty inked

Business
13 Jan 2017

Proposed changes spell out nuts and bolts of presidential elections

Straits Times
10 Jan 2017
Charissa Yong

Presidential hopefuls will get more time to submit their papers, and the committee that decides if they qualify to run for office will have more time to vet the applications as well.

These are two of the changes to the Presidential Elections Act proposed in Parliament yesterday.

They follow broader constitutional changes to the elected presidency passed last November, and spell out the nuts and bolts of how presidential elections will be carried out.

The deadline to apply for a certificate of eligibility will be extended to five days after the Writ of Election is issued, up from three days. This will give candidates more time to prepare their applications, which will require more information.

Additionally, Nomination Day will be at least 10 days after the Prime Minister issues the Writ of Election, up from five days. This will give the Presidential Elections Committee more time to go through applications.

MPs will debate the amendments when Parliament sits next month, and are likely to pass the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill in time for the upcoming election, due by the end of August.

In another change, a 16-member Community Committee will be set up to assess whether a candidate belongs to a particular racial group, to ensure the practice of reserved elections runs smoothly.

Under changes passed in November, provisions were put in place to reserve an election for members of a racial group if there has been no president from that group for the five most recent presidential terms.

The Community Committee will consist of a chairman and three five-member sub-committees for the Chinese, Malay, and Indian and other minority groups.

All who want to run for president must declare to the committee which of the three main communities they consider themselves a part of. They will be issued a certificate if the sub-committee is satisfied they belong to that community.

Every candidate must also declare their racial group in an open election, to help determine when reserved elections should happen.

A person who does not belong to the three main communities will not be issued a community certificate, but can still stand in an open election if he gets a certificate of eligibility. For example, a naturalised Singaporean of Japanese heritage might not be considered part of the Chinese, Malay or Indian and other minority communities.

Other changes will mean elections are run more efficiently. The deadline to register as an overseas voter will be extended to make it easier for overseas Singaporeans to vote. The deadline will be two calendar days after the Writ of Election is issued, instead of up until the writ is issued.

Votes will also be automatically recounted if the vote margin between the top candidate and any other candidate is 2 per cent or less of the total valid votes, to avoid unnecessary delays. Now, the 2 per cent margin allows candidates to ask for a recount.

Three other Bills were also introduced yesterday, including one proposing changes to the Parks and Trees Act. It will give National Parks Board (NParks) officers teeth to enter non-NParks premises to check the condition of trees and plants. They can now do so only if trees are in imminent danger of falling.


The deadline to apply for a certificate of eligibility will be extended to five days after the Writ of Election is issued, up from three days. This will give candidates more time to prepare their applications, which will require more information.

Additionally, Nomination Day will be at least 10 days after the Prime Minister issues the Writ of Election, up from five days. This will give the Presidential Elections Committee more time to go through applications.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Medisave Account Withdrawals) (Amendment No. 3) Regulations 2016 (S 723 of 2016)

[ASEAN] Competition bites – ASEAN & Beyond

Business
13 Jan 2017

Singaporean, 80, on the run over $72m US investment scam

Straits Times
10 Jan 2017
Tan Tam Mei

He allegedly marketed scheme to investors and impersonated American officials

An 80-year-old Singaporean man is on the run for his alleged role - including impersonating American government officials - in a US$50 million (S$72 million) investment scam in the United States.

An indictment unsealed last month revealed that the Singaporean, known only as F.K. Ho, was part of a syndicate that allegedly lured investors to park their money in a fraudulent scheme known as the "Cities Upliftment Programme" .

At least 12 victims, including some outside the US, took the bait from June 2013 to August last year, Ms Dawn Dearden, a spokesman for the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, told The Straits Times. She declined to share more details about the Singaporean and how the scam was uncovered.

US court documents stated that Ho was charged with five counts relating to committing wire fraud, impersonating a US officer and identity theft, among others. His alleged accomplices included four Americans - Michael Jacobs, 64; Ruby Handler-Jacobs, 64; Lawrence Lester, 71; Rachel Gendreau, 46 - and Sri Lankan national Rienzi Edwards, 55.

They were also charged with numerous counts of committing fraud, identity theft, money laundering and impersonating US officers.

In December, Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested four of them. All six were charged in US courts last month, but Ho and Edwards remain at large.

The scheme was allegedly designed by investment banker Edwards, carried out with the help of couple Jacobs and Handler-Jacobs, and marketed to investors around the world through brokers Ho, Lester and Gendreau.

They allegedly told potential investors that it was backed by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the investments were guaranteed by the US government.

In a statement last month listing the charges, Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said: "In reality, it was all a lie; there was no government-backed programme and no plan to invest, only an alleged plan to steal the investors' money."

The group also promised "exponential" returns and claimed that a US$1 million investment would yield US$2 million a day, and could earn up to US$150 million in less than four months.

Investors would keep half, while the rest went to revitalising American cities recovering from the 2008 financial crisis.

To strengthen the ruse, the group produced counterfeit documents bearing names of real Fed officials and even impersonated them when meeting victims or speaking with them over the phone, alleged the indictment.

In one instance, Ho allegedly posed as a New York Fed representative in an August 2014 meeting with a potential investor in Manhattan.

But once the victims made transfers to bank accounts in the US, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, the money was wired to other accounts controlled by Edwards. When investors did not get their money back, they claimed the programme had been delayed. In most cases, they ceased communication with the victims.

Soon after the charges were released, Edwards rejected the accusations and claimed he did not know the others in the alleged scam.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorney Daniel Noble from the US Department of Justice's Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.

Court records showed that Lester and Gendreau appeared in a New York court last Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to the three charges each faced. Their cases will be mentioned again in April.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2016 (S 722 of 2016)

Series of changes to employment laws in 2017

Business
12 Jan 2017

Committee to look into setting norms for child maintenance

TODAY
10 Jan 2017
Faris Mokhtar

A committee has been established to come up with the norms for child maintenance based on actuarial data on family expenses, so that there is more consistency across cases, as well as cost-effectiveness.

Announced by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon yesterday at the opening of the legal year, this will come in the form of a table with which the appropriate quantum of child maintenance can be derived.

It will serve as a “judicial tool” that will not only provide quantitative guidance to judges when deciding on the quantum, but also ensure parity in the awarding of such maintenance by treating parents and children who are in similar situations alike.

“The experiences of other jurisdictions show that such a tool also serves to reduce acrimony and facility settlements between parents by making the calculation and determination of child maintenance more objective, thus helping to free up valuable court resources and judicial time,” said a spokesperson from the Family Justice Courts, in response to queries from TODAY.

The committee will be chaired by Mr Gerard Ee, the president of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, and Judicial Commissioner Valerie Thean.

Speaking to TODAY in a phone interview, Mr Ee said that there are similar models in countries such as Canada and Germany. Norms will be based on a template that takes into account the cost of living and how much it would cost to raise the child based on different age groups.

While child maintenance is currently determined by factors such as the financial needs of the child as well as whether the child has any physical or mental disability, Mr Ee noted that the maintenance outcome can also be influenced by arguments made by the lawyers.

“When you have a template to refer to, I think the maintenance awarded is less dependent on arguments. So, it’s more equitable,” he said.

Meanwhile, CJ Menon also revealed that the Family Justice Courts are looking to draw up clear standards of professional conduct for family law practitioners, who often deal with competing demands.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Medisave Account Transfers) Regulations 2016 (S 721 of 2016)

Singapore law year in review 2016 and year to come

Business
12 Jan 2017

Seized Terrexes protected by international law: Ng Eng Hen

Straits Times
10 Jan 2017
Chong Zi Liang

S'pore looks forward to return of infantry carriers from HK, minister tells Parliament

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday explained why the seizure of the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex infantry carriers in Hong Kong does not comply with international or Hong Kong law.

He also told Parliament that Singapore looks forward to the carriers being returned.

The vehicles, Dr Ng said, are the property of the Singapore Government. "They are protected by sovereign immunity, even though they were being shipped by commercial carriers. This means that they are immune from any measures of constraint abroad.

"They cannot legally be detained or confiscated by other countries.

"This principle is well established under international law, and we are advised by lawyers that it is also the law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region," Dr Ng said in his reply to MPs' questions.

"The Singapore Government has asserted our sovereign rights over the SAF's Terrexes," he added.

Singapore has informed Hong Kong several times in the past two months that the Terrex vehicles belong to the Singapore Government and are, therefore, immune from any measures of constraint, he said.

"Accordingly, we have requested the Hong Kong authorities to return our property immediately."

He added that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has written to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying to reiterate the same message. Hong Kong has replied that investigations are ongoing and will take some time to be completed.

Singapore welcomes this response, Dr Ng said. "Adherence to the rule of law has been the fundamental basis for peace and stability for the last half century in Asia.

"It has enabled countries both large and small to build trust and confidence in one another, cooperate and prosper together," he said.

The nine vehicles were seized by Hong Kong Customs on Nov 23 while in transit on their way back from a military exercise in Taiwan.

Responding to MPs' questions, he reiterated that the Terrex vehicles were used for training and did not contain sensitive equipment. SAF has since done a comprehensive review of its shipping procedures to "reduce the risk of SAF equipment being taken hostage en route".

When Mr Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) asked if the Ministry of Defence had anticipated that such "hostage situations" could happen, Dr Ng replied: " Hong Kong is an international port of repute and there is no reason to believe that our SAF assets will be seized."

The SAF is also considering other options, like housing the equipment at its overseas training sites to avoid shipping it back.

The current practice is not to ship all equipment directly as this will cost more and add several hundred million dollars to the annual defence budget. The navy does not have ships big enough to handle all of the SAF's shipping logistics, but will study if its Landing Ship Tanks should be replaced by larger ships.

Existing commercial shipping arrangements have allowed the SAF to ship equipment safely and economically without significant incidents in the past 30 years, he said.

There are rare exceptions, like the transport of advanced weapon and sensor systems, in which the SAF may charter a ship, mandate direct shipping or deploy protection forces. But the Terrex vehicles do not fall into this category, he said.

He added: "We look forward to the Hong Kong government returning our Terrexes in accordance with international law."


Hong Kong government to handle seized SAF vehicles under Hong Kong law

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Office has said that the government will handle the seizure of Singapore's military vehicles according to the city's laws.

A spokesman yesterday confirmed receipt of a letter from Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, adding that the matter is being investigated by the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department.

PM Lee has written to the Hong Kong leader to ask for the return of nine Terrex infantry carriers that belong to the Singapore Government.

The armoured vehicles and other equipment, which were being transported by a commercial vessel operated by APL from Taiwan back to Singapore, were seized by Hong Kong Customs when the vessel was in transit in Hong Kong on Nov 23 last year.

The Terrex vehicles were used by the Singapore Armed Forces in routine overseas training in Taiwan.

It was not the first time that an APL vessel carrying Singapore- bound military equipment had transited in Hong Kong. The city's Customs authorities have yet to give an official reason for the seizure.

They did not answer questions from The Straits Times yesterday, but said that "the case is still under investigation".

In a response soon after the vehicles were impounded, a spokesman told The Straits Times that cargo in transit generally does not require an "import or export licence" as it will remain at all times on the ship. However, such a licence will be required for "certain types of strategic commodities".

APL declined to comment if it has the proper documentation required by the Hong Kong authorities.

However, a source with the Hong Kong Customs who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Straits Times yesterday that the Singapore-bound shipment was seized due to a lack of documentation.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament yesterday that as the vehicles are the property of the Singapore Government and protected by international law, they cannot be seized.

Singapore could take legal action in Hong Kong courts based on the principle of sovereign immunity of military assets, a Hong Kong-based senior lawyer specialising in marine claims was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Days after the seizure, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated that China "firmly opposes any of the countries that have diplomatic ties with them (China) to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including defence exchanges and cooperation".

Yesterday, Beijing again urged Singapore to "abide by the 'one China' principle", and called on Singapore to be cautious in its remarks and actions in handling the matter.

"We hope the Singapore side can conscientiously abide by Hong Kong's laws," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular briefing in Beijing.

Joyce Lim & Chong Koh Ping


Sovereign immunity

Professor Tan Cheng Han of the National University of Singapore's law faculty explains what this means.

Q What is sovereign immunity?

A The doctrine of sovereign immunity is a principle of international law that one state cannot be sued in the courts of another state without the consent of the first mentioned state, nor will the courts of a state seize or detain property that belongs to another state.

Q What does this mean for the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles?

A As the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles are clearly the property of the Singapore Government, if the doctrine of sovereign immunity is applied, the outcome in principle should be the release of the vehicles.

Q What is the process for invoking sovereign immunity?

A A claim of sovereign immunity can be invoked at any time over government property that has been seized or detained.

Q Is sovereign immunity recognised internationally? Does Hong Kong recognise sovereign immunity?

A The doctrine of sovereign immunity is recognised internationally. There are decisions of the Hong Kong courts that recognise this doctrine.

Q Are there precedent cases where sovereign immunity was applied successfully?

 

A One relatively recent case in Hong Kong was the 2011 decision of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal that recognised the Democratic Republic of the Congo was entitled to sovereign immunity.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Central Provident Fund Act - Central Provident Fund (Financial Penalties) Regulations 2016 (S 720 of 2016)

MOF issues regulations to implement Common Reporting Standard in Singapore

Legislation
11 Jan 2017

Revisiting the S'pore-India Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement

Business Times
10 Jan 2017
Ramkishen S Rajan & Sasidaran Gopalan

Singapore, being India's largest trade and investment partner in Asean, has additional bargaining power over other tax havens and should expect a fair renegotiation

FOREIGN direct investment (FDI) inflows into India have been growing robustly since the 2000s, reaching a new high of US$55 billion in 2015-2016 or about 2.7 per cent of India's GDP. An examination of the breakdown of these inflows of FDI into India by source country reveals that the combination of Mauritius, Cyprus, Singapore and Netherlands constitute about 60 per cent of overall FDI equity inflows on a cumulative basis over the period 2000 to 2016. Among these countries, Mauritius has traditionally been the dominant source country, accounting for about one-third of India's FDI equity inflows, with Singapore constituting another 16 per cent over the same period. In 2015-2016, Singapore surpassed Mauritius as the single largest source of FDI into India, with almost 35 per cent of FDI equity inflows into India originating from Singapore as against just over 20 percent from Mauritius.

All the four countries mentioned above impose very low-to-negligible capital gains taxes domestically and have in place Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs) with India. The DTAAs have traditionally implied that there will be exemptions to capital gains taxes for investments from these countries which in turn have facilitated their role as important sources of FDI into India. However, over the years, the DTAAs have also given rise to widespread concerns in India that they may have been misused by several Indian companies and individuals to avoid domestic taxation and instead engage in round-tripping of funds back to India or trans-shipping of funds from third countries, not unlike what was done historically in Hong Kong vis-a-vis China.

However, it is not altogether appropriate for India to have lumped Singapore with tax havens such as Mauritius and Cyprus. Singapore has for long been an established bone fide international financial centre and a regional headquarters for several firms undertaking significant business activities in the rest of Asia.

While the Singapore-India DTAA came into force in 1994, it received an impetus when it was revised as part of the landmark Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in 2005. In 2011, when India became concerned about tax loopholes in the DTAA, Singapore was the first country to be willing to agree to a "Limit of Benefit" (LOB) provision which was expected to prevent "treaty shopping" - a major tax leakage source - and restrict the misuse of the DTAA by third-country investors. It reflected Singapore's confidence that most firms were primarily using Singapore as a hub to invest in India and elsewhere rather than as a means of tax avoidance.

The CECA has widened the nature of engagement with Singapore on several key fronts, including trade in goods, services and investment flows. On the investment front, closer connectivity between the two countries have resulted in Singapore emerging as a key offshore hub for Indian corporates. To date, there are about 6,000 Indian firms registered in Singapore that use it as their regional base and headquarters to tap the larger Asia-Pacific region.

On the trade front, the expansion has been particularly significant since 2005, with bilateral trade jumping from about US$7 billion in 2004-05 to about US$15 billion in 2015-16. Singapore is India's largest trade and investment partner in the Asean region. Nearly 30 per cent of India's overall exports to the Asean group of countries from 2015-16 was destined for Singapore. Thus, the economic relationship between the two countries is highly robust and is not just about tax exemption issues.

In contrast, although the DTAA with Mauritius was signed in 1983, it has been the subject of a variety of controversies ever since and the path to renegotiating the DTAA to plug the possible loopholes has been riddled with difficulties. After 33 years, the DTAA with the country was finally amended on May 10, 2016, with the key changes including an introduction of capital gains taxation at source from April 1, 2017, incorporation of an LOB, as well as updating the information exchange between the countries. Similarly, the DTAA with Cyprus was revised in November 2016, replacing its original one signed in 1994.

SINGAPORE-INDIA DTAA: VICTIM OF COLLATERAL DAMAGE?

A significant collateral damage of the revised DTAA with Mauritius in particular was its impact on India's DTAA with Singapore, as the capital gains tax exemption under the Singapore DTAA was "co-terminus" with the exemption of capital gains tax under the Mauritius DTAA. This implied that a revision to the DTAA with Singapore was unavoidable to some extent. Consequently, on Dec 30, 2016, the DTAA with Singapore was revised by signing a "Third Protocol" that is closely (although not fully) aligned with the Mauritius DTAA.

The "Third Protocol" allows for source-based taxation of capital gains arising from transfer of shares from April 1, 2017, while allowing grandfathering of investments made before the effective date of implementation, subject to the LOB clause as per the earlier protocol agreed on in 2005. The amendment also allows a transition period of two years, similar to the Mauritius treaty, with any capital gains accruing during this period to be taxed at 50 per cent of the domestic tax rate subject to LOB fulfillment. However, the withholding tax on interest payments remains at 15 per cent for Singapore which compares unfavourably to 7.5 per cent offered to Mauritius.

As much as it is true that the tax treaty between Singapore and India had a provision that any changes in the Mauritius treaty would automatically apply to the one with Singapore, the Republic is certainly within its rights to be dissatisfied with repeated renegotiations. It was also rather inopportune that the timing of the DTAA renegotiations with Singapore coincided with the demonetisation initiative in India.

Speaking at a "demonetisation report-card" press conference on Dec 29, 2016, the Indian finance minister remarked that "… since there have been efforts by the government of India to eliminate black money and its users in India, where it can, revisiting of this treaty was important" seeming to refer to the reworking of the Singapore DTAA. This seemed to give a probably unintended but unfortunate impression that Singapore was a part of the Indian government's anti-corruption drive.

Singapore has shown abundant good faith by being willing to be part of this renegotiation process. This is testimony indeed of Singapore's long-standing warm and deep economic and geo-political ties with India. If there is a silver lining for Singapore, one could also argue that the renegotiation of the India-Singapore DTAA was, in fact, preferable for the Republic now as it removed some uncertainty of possible retroactive changes that might be imposed by India later, which has remained a possibility with non-treaty countries.

Regardless, India would, however, do well to realise that too frequent renegotiations on previous agreements could adversely impact its reliability as an economic partner and may even nullify the effectiveness of its economic agreements with other countries as they engender uncertainty and may lack credible commitments.

Ramkishen S Rajan is professor of economics at ESSEC Business School, Asia-Pacific in Singapore.

Sasidaran Gopalan is a research fellow at Asia Competitiveness Institute, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Views expressed are personal.

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Property Tax Act - Property Tax (Prescribed Interest Rates) Regulations 2016 (S 719 of 2016)

SHC grants summary judgment for infringing goods bought off defendant’s website

Judgments
11 Jan 2017

Re-employment age to rise by 2 years to 67 on July 1

Business Times
10 Jan 2017
Lee U-Wen

Employers can transfer their re-employment obligations but cannot cut salaries when staff turns 60

[Singapore] THE statistics are telling. Nearly one out of every eight residents in Singapore's labour force - about 12 per cent - was 60 or older in 2015, more than double the 5.5 per cent in 2006.

Amid a sluggish job market and the challenges of an increasingly ageing workforce, lawmakers here voted in favour of a set of amendments to the existing legislation to help more elderly workers stay in a job.

There are three key changes to the Retirement and Re-Employment Act that will take effect on July 1 this year. They are:

• raising Singapore's re-employment age by two years to 67;
• allowing workers to be re-employed by another company; and
• doing away with the option for employers to cut their workers' salaries when they turn 60.

The current laws state that the minimum retirement age is 62 years, and employers are not allowed to dismiss anyone younger than this due to the person's age.

Instead, they have to offer re-employment to eligible workers who turn 62, up to the age of 65. This will be raised to 67 from July 1, and this new re-employment age applies to those who were born on or after July 1, 1952.

Speaking at the start of a lengthy debate in parliament on Monday that lasted almost three hours, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say noted that the tripartite partners - the government, employers and the unions - had agreed to the changes after extensive consultations and negotiations.

He added that all local workers with at least a satisfactory job performance and are medically fit should be offered re-employment until 67.

Mr Lim cited a 2015 survey that found that over 98 per cent of private sector local employees who wanted to continue working at the age of 62 were eventually offered re-employment.

Out of all those who accepted re-employment in the same job, 98 per cent did not experience any cut in their basic wages.

Employers that are unable to re-employ an eligible worker must then offer an Employment Assistance Payment (EAP) to help him tide over while he hunts for another job.

The EAP, meant to be given out only as a last resort, is a one-off payment equivalent to three months' salary, subject to a minimum of S$4,500 and capped at S$10,000.

The government already provides a 3 per cent additional wage offset to encourage companies to voluntarily re-employ people beyond the prevailing re-employment age of 65.

This scheme benefits around 120,000 Singaporean employees aged 65 and above every year, and is on top of the Special Employment Credit of up to 8 per cent for hiring Singaporeans aged 55 or older and who earn no more than S$4,000 a month. With this wage offset scheme due to expire on July 1 this year, Mr Lim said that the government was studying the need and manner to extend it to encourage voluntary re-employment after the re-employment age goes up to 67.

He said that the government was aware that older employees and their employers need clarity on the future of the scheme, and a decision would be made well ahead of the expiry date.

The second change will give eligible employees the opportunity to be re-employed by another company, in an effort to increase the options for both companies and workers.

The existing rules state that employers are not allowed to transfer their re-employment obligations to another employer, but they will be given the green light to do so from July 1.

Mr Lim explained that this move would benefit all the parties involved. The original employer will be deemed as having fulfilled his re-employment obligations, while the worker will have more chances to be re-employed and enjoy re-employment protection under his new company.

The second employer, meanwhile, will stand to gain from hiring an employee with experience, said Mr Lim as he outlined several safeguards that will be put in place to protect the employee.

The employee has to first agree to the re-employment terms with the second employer, and the latter has to commit to take over all applicable re-employment obligations for this particular employee.

If either condition is not met, the original employer still has to fulfil its re-employment obligations, and offer EAP if it cannot find a job for the worker in the company.

The third major change will remove the current option to slash a person's wages at age 60. Mr Lim recalled how it was back in 1999 when this was introduced to help companies with seniority-based wage systems to manage their costs when the retirement age was first raised from 60 to 62.

"Since then, with the restructuring and re-shaping of Singapore's economy, tripartite efforts have been successful in moving employers away from seniority-based wage systems," he said.

In his remarks, Mr Lim said that the amendments to the laws were the culmination of tripartite efforts over the last few years to strike the "delicate balance" between enhancing job opportunities for older workers while giving enough flexibility to employers.

"We recognise that there are older employees in all sectors and occupations, with different circumstances and needs, not all of which can be addressed by this Bill," he said.

"We will continue to work closely with tripartite partners to continue to enhance employment opportunities for older workers and to build age-friendly workplaces in Singapore."

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Insurance Act - Insurance (Accounts and Statements) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 718 of 2016)

SHC: Joint accounts – The new shield?

Judgments
06 Jan 2017

Support for young suspects

Straits Times
10 Jan 2017
Seow Bei Yi

Being questioned by the police can be a stressful experience, especially for young people aged below 16 and their parents.

A new scheme starting in phases from April that allows independent trained volunteers - or Appropriate Adults (AA) - to accompany young suspects in police interviews could help. Based on an existing scheme for people with intellectual or mental disabilities, the AAs will be a more comforting presence compared to uniformed police officers and provide emotional support. More importantly, being trained in police procedures, they can prevent miscommunication.

The AA scheme was announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs last Friday after a multi-agency review of the criminal investigation process for minors.

While AAs are involved only in the police interviews, the Education Ministry has also made changes by ensuring that youngsters picked up from schools are accompanied by staff in police vehicles.

The tweaks are the Government's response in addressing concerns sparked by the suicide of Benjamin Lim, 14, in January last year, hours after he was taken from school and questioned by the police.

The case had led parents to ask if officers should be allowed to interview minors alone, and what schools should do when the police arrive to question students. While many cheer the new scheme, some have questioned why parents cannot sit in on the police interviews and why the police retain the discretion on whether to involve an AA.

But it is important to note the need to balance solving crimes and protecting the interests of minors. Not all cases will require AAs too. More than 7,000 young suspects were arrested between 2011 and 2015, but only 15 per cent were prosecuted.

AAs are also no foolproof solution to youth suicides. But the scheme does provide a safeguard against similar cases - as long as the police exercise discretion judiciously. For a start, it requires the public's support in coming forward as volunteers.

The death of one schoolboy, even if he had been treated sensitively, is still one too many.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Education Endowment and Savings Schemes Act - Education Endowment and Savings Schemes (Amount of Edusave Contribution for 2017) Order 2016 (S 717 of 2016)

MTI announces support measures for marine and offshore engineering companies

Business
06 Jan 2017

Win-win way to curb tax evasion

Straits Times
09 Jan 2017
Yasmine Yahya

At the start of this year, banks and other financial firms in Singapore had to begin establishing the tax residency status of all their account holders.

It may seem like yet another form of disclosure that banks have to make, but it has a major purpose, being part of a multi-year international effort to clamp down on tax evasion.

Financial institutions have to do this as Singapore is now adhering to what is known as the "Common Reporting Standard". The key word here is "reporting" - under this international standard, countries that have agreements with one another will soon start automatically exchanging financial data for tax purposes.

PwC Singapore tax partner Brendan Egan noted that financial institutions have to get their clients to fill in forms on their tax residency.

They will then have to report to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore the financial account information of account holders who are tax residents of jurisdictions with which Singapore has Competent Authority Agreements (CAAs).

Singapore has so far signed CAAs with Australia, Britain and Japan, among others. This means, for example, that once the CAA takes effect, Singapore will automatically share with Australia the financial account information of accounts in Singapore held by Australian tax residents. Australia, in turn, will do the same with Singapore for the financial account information of accounts in Australia held by Singapore tax residents.

So, if someone were to consider parking his money in an overseas account to evade taxes or hide illicit funds, he would likely be deterred, knowing that if he were to open an account in, say, Singapore, his data would automatically be reported to his home country, or the country to which he owes taxes.

Not only does this international effort benefit those jurisdictions that are strapped for cash and need all the tax revenues they can get, but it is also a win for Singapore as this ensures that the funds parked here are clean.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Banking Act - Banking (Exemption from Sections 15A and 15B) (Amendment) Order 2016 (S 716 of 2016)

Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) (Amendment) Act 2016 effective from 9 December 2016, SPRING appointed administering agency

Legislation
06 Jan 2017

Why send personal data to disputing party?: Forum

Straits Times
09 Jan 2017

I recently sought the help of the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) in a dispute with a merchant.

Because there was no receipt, the officer from Case advised me to lodge a police report and submit it as a supporting document to facilitate Case in approaching the merchant for a resolution.

I was later sent a copy of the "vendor letter", which was delivered to the merchant along with the police report.

I was surprised to see that the entire police report, including data such as my full home address, was sent to the merchant.

If I had a receipt, I would not have needed to submit a police report, and my home address would not have been revealed.

Hence, was it necessary for Case to have sent data like my address to the other party in the dispute?

Wouldn't doing so potentially open an avenue for sabotage or future vengeance?

If it was necessary for the police report to be presented in its entirety, couldn't certain data have been redacted first?

Tan Kar Quan

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Income Tax (Amendment No. 3) Act 2016 (Act 34 of 2016)

SCA discusses meaning of “serious misconduct” in employment contract

Judgments
05 Jan 2017

Right to restrict powers of private security guards: Forum

Straits Times
09 Jan 2017

Police officers and private security guards have different and specifically defined roles ("Give security guards power to arrest troublemakers" by Mr Jonathan Chee Fook Heng; Jan 6).

The police are agents of the Government, and their main concern is the welfare and safety of the public.

Private security guards, however, are agents of private companies, and are hired for a fee to protect private property.

Detaining a suspect and arresting him are two different issues.

For example, private security guards can detain suspected shoplifters until the police arrive, but cannot make an arrest.

Singapore laws generally protect police officers from being sued for false arrest so long as there were valid reasons for arresting the suspect.

However, a private security guard and his employer may be sued in a civil court if the guard detains an innocent person.

If private security guards are given powers of arrest, it may open the door to abuse or misuse, as they are not familiar with the Penal Code and criminal procedures.

If they are empowered to arrest troublemakers, would they also be allowed to search people and property?

The fact remains that security guards are ordinary citizens. Hence, they should have restricted power to act.

Francis Cheng

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Common Gaming Houses Act - Common Gaming Houses (Exemption) (No. 71) Notification 2016 (S 715 of 2016)

MAS issues consultation paper on “Proposed Amendments to the Code on Collective Investment Schemes”

Business
05 Jan 2017

Swifter justice for abused foreign workers

Straits Times
09 Jan 2017
Joanna Seow

Average time taken to bring closure to cases has nearly halved - thanks to AGC group of lawyers

Domestic helper Evangeline (not her real name) was called all manner of offensive names by her employer's adult son.

He also slapped her a few times on her face and back.

The 33-year-old from the Philippines suffered the abuse silently for more than four years until last June.

But when she raised the issue with her employer, he told her he was sending her home and cancelled her work permit.

Alarmed, she sought help from the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) and has been staying at its shelter while her case is being investigated. She has not been able to work during this time.

Ms Evangeline's plight is typical of the 244 cases that came before a special group of lawyers in the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) between October 2014 and June last year.

Formed in October 2014, the group's task is to bring a swifter end to the ordeal of abused foreign workers who may have to stay for months or even years in Singapore to resolve their situation in court.

There were 237,100 domestic workers in Singapore as  of June last year, the latest figure available.

The group's work has borne fruit. It has nearly halved the average time taken to bring closure to the cases. And the median time taken from the first police report to sentencing has plunged to 356 days, compared with the 741 days in the two years before the group was established.

Some of the prosecutors from the AGC's criminal justice division, who have at least three years of experience, form the group. They volunteer their time, taking on the cases on top of their regular work.

Said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz, a member of the group: "We want to make sure their hardship is not exacerbated by the system in any way. At the same time, we want to ensure the quality of the process is maintained and justice is served."

In handling the cases, the prosecutors worked with teams in other agencies such as the Manpower Ministry and Singapore Police Force to set up specific points of contact. That reduced the time taken to locate liaisons in other agencies, and gave the AGC better oversight on all cases.

They also identify the straightforward cases that could be expedited. These could be cases where the accused persons are forthcoming with information or there is clear evidence like closed-circuit television footage.

The group also streamlined internal processes so that lawyers are ready to go to trial as soon as the case is brought to court, instead of having to wait for a later occasion to set a trial date.

In the past, there were delays when the prosecutors were not immediately ready for trial, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sellakumaran Sellamuthoo, another member of the group.

If a victim urgently needs to go back to her country, the team tries to apply for a special hearing date ahead of time to present the evidence, so that she does not have to stay for the full trial.

The group also seeks compensation for all the cases they prosecute if employers do not voluntarily compensate the victim.

DPP Sellakumaran said the group's mandate includes helping abused male foreign workers as well but, so far, the cases predominantly involve women.

Home's executive director Sheena Kanwar, in lauding the initiative, said the long wait victims face "can be mentally detrimental, because they're stuck in limbo. They can't go home and they can't work".

Although the AGC lawyers often have to interview the maids after a day's work or on weekends, DPP Sharmila said the work is fulfilling.

"I want to ensure justice is served, and help the women regain a degree of dignity they may have lost from being abused," she said.


ENSURING JUSTICE IS SERVED

We want to make sure their hardship is not exacerbated by the system in any way. At the same time, we want to ensure the quality of the process is maintained and justice is served.

DEPUTY PUBLIC PROSECUTOR SHARMILA SRIPATHY-SHANAZ

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Child Development Co-Savings Act - Child Development Co-Savings (Application of Employment Act Provisions) (Amendment) Order 2016 (S 714 of 2016)

MAS revises MAS Notices 643 and 639A to implement changes to related party transaction requirements with effect from 21 November 2018

SLW Commentary
30 Dec 2016

Laws on films, broadcasts will be updated: Yaacob

Straits Times
08 Jan 2017
Charissa Yong

The Films Act and the Broadcasting Act will be amended this year to take into account changes in technology, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

Dr Yaacob said in an interview with Malay daily Berita Harian, published yesterday, that the Government has a duty to ensure what is accessible here does not undermine racial and religious harmony or national security.

What is and is not a film has become less clear over time, he added, noting that smartphones can now shoot videos, for instance.

"Anybody can be a film-maker. Films can be distributed and transmitted via the Internet. It's a totally different regime," he said.

New services such as Netflix, a paid subscription service offering movies online, have also become popular and are now in Singapore.

The changes to the law will ensure that content ratings of streaming sites are in line with Singapore norms, he said.

"People don't watch movies in the theatres any more. They watch movies in their home, over the Internet, through their TV," said Dr Yaacob.

"How do we ensure the content meets our standards? Those are the things we have to look into."

Such trends mean that an update of the laws regulating films in Singapore is timely, the minister added. However, he acknowledged that some items such as videos on YouTube will be difficult to regulate.

In the interview, Dr Yaacob also talked about two other priorities for his ministry this year. They are: to introduce the cyber-security Bill to build up Singapore's defences, and to develop manpower to meet the needs of the infocomm technology (ICT) industry.

Singapore currently does not have a law governing cyber security.

The new law, when passed, will give the Government powers to audit sectors and make sure they have cyber defence systems in place. It will also spell out what powers the Government can have in the event of a large-scale cyber attack, for instance.

"Suppose there's an attack taking place, a big hack or a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack in our power sector.

"What are the powers... the minister has to ensure we can work together with the sector to face the challenge as quickly as possible?" said Dr Yaacob on what the upcoming law will cover.

His ministry will also ensure that there is a steady stream of trained graduates from the universities and polytechnics, as well as people switching careers, to fill the jobs created in the ICT industry. It already faces a shortage of manpower.

"By 2020, we'll create 30,000 jobs but we need people for those jobs. We need to make sure there'll be enough Singaporeans to come in," said Dr Yaacob.


The new law, when passed, will give the Government powers to audit sectors and make sure they have cyber defence systems in place. It will also spell out what powers the Government can have in the event of a large-scale cyber attack, for instance.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Child Development Co-Savings Act - Child Development Co-Savings (Part-Time Employees) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 713 of 2016)

[GBR] COA considers scope of liability for misrepresentation and efficacy of disclaimers against the same in case involving claims made by a secondary market investor against an issuer of bonds.

SLW Commentary
30 Dec 2016

New rules on declaring tax residency to financial firms kick in

Business Times
07 Jan 2017
Jamie Lee & Melissa Tan

Information will be automatically exchanged from 2018 with tax jurisdictions that have signed pacts with S'pore under CRS

[Singapore] CUSTOMERS of banks and other financial institutions here must now declare their tax residency status to their respective financial institutions - and that information will be automatically exchanged from 2018 with at least 15 tax jurisdictions that have signed tax pacts with Singapore.

The new rules come amid the global crackdown against tax evasion through in part the transfer of assets to offshore accounts.

Singapore is among the several jurisdictions that have agreed to implement an international tax reporting framework known as the common reporting standard (CRS), said the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) in a media statement on Friday.

With the CRS, the taxman will be able to get information, through the financial institutions, of account holders that are tax residents of jurisdictions with which Singapore has agreed to exchange tax information.

To date, Singapore has such agreements with 15 jurisdictions: Australia, United Kingdom, Japan, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Norway, Italy, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Malta, Ireland, Latvia and New Zealand.

The CRS took effect from Jan 1, 2017, and Singapore has "made an international commitment" to start exchanging tax information automatically under CRS from 2018.

For providing false tax information to the financial institutions, customers can be fined up to S$10,000, imprisoned for up to two years, or both.

Michael Velten, tax partner at Deloitte Singapore, said that the CRS is unlikely to stymie Singapore's growth in the wealth management space. "The implementation of CRS in Singapore supports global efforts to achieve tax transparency and address tax evasion, and should act to enhance Singapore's reputation as a financial centre," he said. "The CRS procedures to establish tax residency shouldn't unduly slow down customer onboarding."

A PwC report in 2015 called CRS the global version of the US's "intricate" Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca). "Meet Fatca's intriguing new sibling."

The automatic exchange of information between tax jurisdictions will cut the red-tape involved with existing means of getting cross-border tax information, the audit firm noted.

"The exchange of information by request approach or spontaneous approach is currently conducted on a case-per-case basis, which quantitatively and qualitatively limits the scope of information exchanged," PwC said. "It expands the scope of the exchanged information, with relatively hassle-free bureaucratic procedures involved."

IRAS said in general, an individual is deemed to be tax resident in a certain jurisdiction if he or she is physically present at that location in a year. The tax residency of companies is generally determined by "the place of incorporation or effective management", IRAS added.

For new accounts opened on or after Jan 1, 2017, financial institutions will have customers fill in a self-certification form seeking basic identification details, the tax residence, and the tax identification number.

"The information provided by Singapore shall only be disclosed and used for tax purposes," IRAS said. "Information collected may not be used for other purposes unless such disclosure is also permitted in Singapore and with approval from Singapore."

OCBC's head of group corporate communications Koh Ching Ching said that it has put in place the system to establish the tax residency status of its account holders, and will meet the reporting requirements of IRAS by the regulatory timeline.

A DBS spokeswoman said that the bank has also begun collecting tax information of new accounts. "In addition, we are required to carry out certain steps to identify existing accounts that have foreign indicia and collect information on the tax residence of such accounts within a certain period of time. We are working on this."

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Child Development Co-Savings Act - Child Development Co-Savings (Childcare Leave and Extended Childcare Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (S 712 of 2016)

ABS enhances disclosure standards for private banks in the Private Banking Code of Conduct

Business
29 Dec 2016

Zouk not in a party mood after China club uses its brand name

Straits Times
07 Jan 2017
Anjali Raguraman

China has a counterfeit version of iconic Singapore club Zouk, known as Zouk Changsha and located in Hunan province.

Zouk's management has known about this since last year but has not decided on a course of action.

A spokesman told The Straits Times: "We've been aware since last year of Zouk Changsha's events and them using our trademark.

"We are also aware that they have made reference to Zouk Singapore and our ranking as the No. 6 club in the world (based on the 2016 DJ Mag club polls) in some of their event posters and have also worked with credible sponsors (including Jaguar and Evisu) for some of their events."

Although the Chinese club appears to have since changed its name to "Zook", Zouk may still pursue the matter.

"We are exploring our options at the moment," the spokesman added.

The Hunan club's imitation stretched to the use of Zouk's logo and DJ Mag Top 100 ranking in promotional posters, according to reports.

While some DJs have said they played at the club thinking it was related to Zouk Singapore, they are performers with smaller followings.

As recently as September last year, the club hosted Korean DJ Jangil Han, who performs under the moniker Reverse Prime, and Ukrainian duo DJ Duo-Cox.

Both have shared videos of their sets at the club, which appears to have low ceilings and female dancers on podiums.

Currently, Zouk's only sister club is Malaysia's Zouk Kuala Lumpur.

Apart from beach festival ZoukOut, there is also an iteration of Zouk called Zouk At Sea on cruise ship Genting Dream.

The bogus claims come at a time when Zouk is entering a new era.

Ownership has changed hands from founder Lincoln Cheng to conglomerate Genting Hong Kong (GHK).

The club, which recently moved into new premises at Clarke Quay from Jiak Kim Street, was bought by GHK at the end of 2015.

GHK's chief information officer Hui Lim has hinted that he intends to take the club further abroad.

In an earlier interview with The Straits Times, he did not write off future expansion in Europe and the United States.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Child Development Co-Savings Act - Child Development Co-Savings (Paid Maternity Leave, Maternity Benefit, Adoption Leave, Shared Parental Leave and Paternity Leave) Regulations 2016 (S 711 of 2016)

Latest developments: Arbitration, Employment Law and Family Law

Business
29 Dec 2016

Businessman ordered to pay $2m in casino losses

Straits Times
07 Jan 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Amount is believed to be highest single sum owed that MBS got back in court last year

A premium casino player who once won US$2 million (S$2.9 million) at a Phnom Penh casino saw his fortune roll the wrong way at Marina Bay Sands - and MBS taking him to court for about $2 million in losses.

Mr Darwin Liman, 70, a Singaporean businessman, was ordered by the High Court to pay the sum after MBS obtained a summary judgment last month.

The sum comprised $1.92 million in credit due in July 2015, and another $113,696 in interest computed to April last year.

The amount is believed to be the highest single sum owed by a patron that MBS successfully got back in court last year.

While court papers filed show Mr Liman made multiple visits to the casino from 2010, the debt incurred arose from $2 million in credit chips which were issued to him in June 2015 and due some two weeks later.

He paid $50,000 in November and was given a $28,765 discretionary rebate by MBS based on his chip rolling turnover, under the programme he was enrolled in.

After deducting these two sums, he still owed MBS $1.92 million.

Drew & Napier lawyer Kelvin Tan applied for a summary judgment without the need for a full trial, arguing that Mr Liman's defence against the case was no more than a bare denial.

He said Mr Liman had not raised anything else other than not admitting the claims, and cited past case law that held this was not enough for a case to go to trial.

"Where the defence amounts to nothing more than a bare denial of the claim, the defendant is not showing cause but merely challenging the plaintiff to show proof," he said, citing court practice authority Jeffrey Pinsler from the National University of Singapore.

He added that Mr Liman had not filed any affidavit to lodge evidence of any issue that justified a trial, and given a clear case of a debt, he had to show there was a reasonably acceptable defence.

Supreme Court assistant registrar Shaun Perera agreed and ordered a final judgment for MBS, which included $6,500 in costs.

The outcome for Mr Liman was in sharp contrast to an earlier incident reported by Cambodian media in 2003, which said the US$2.04 million he won at the Naga floating casino was cleared by a Phnom Penh court.

His lawyer Low Chai Chong from Dentons Rodyk & Davidson declined to comment yesterday.

Last year was also the first time the casino sued the estate of a late patron to recover a debt.

Kluang-based Malaysian Lee Seng Wei was said to have been advanced $150,000 in April 2015. It was not repaid and MBS is seeking High Court sanction to serve the suit papers across the border on the two executors of his estate.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Child Development Co-Savings (Amendment No. 2) Act 2016 - Child Development Co-Savings (Amendment No. 2) Act 2016 (Saving and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2016 (S 710 of 2016)

Revisiting pre-action discovery: Applications against network service providers for subscriber details

Business
29 Dec 2016

Penny stock crash: Bail hearing of alleged mastermind adjourned

Straits Times
07 Jan 2017
Grace Leong

The bail hearing of the alleged mastermind of the 2013 penny stock crash has been adjourned to Feb 28.

John Soh Chee Wen, who faces 181 charges over alleged violations of the Securities and Futures Act, has been in remand since his arrest on Nov 24.

His alleged girlfriend and former Ipco International chief executive Quah Su Ling, who was also arrested the same day, posted bail of $4 million on Jan 5.

Their alleged accomplice Goh Hin Calm, who was the interim chief executive of Ipco, made bail of $750,000 on Dec 14.

The trio were charged in relation to a massive fraud to manipulate the shares of Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital - now called Attilan Group - and LionGold Corp between August 2012 and October 2013.

The three stocks surged between 150 per cent and 800 per cent in less than nine months before losing most of their market value in just three days in October 2013, wiping out more than $8 billion in value.

The prosecution objected to Soh being granted bail, citing new evidence allegedly showing that he had tampered with key witnesses linked to a fresh investigation of listed firm ISR Capital before his arrest in November.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Guan Siew told the court at a previous hearing that the new evidence came to light when the authorities were investigating ISR's share price crash on the day of Soh's arrest in November.

Mr Tan said audio recordings of conversations Soh had had with one Mr Gabriel Gan had been retrieved from Mr Gan's laptop.

ISR shares crashed 55 per cent on Nov 24 and were suspended from trading three days later.

The Singapore Exchange cited "circumstances that prevent trading in the shares of the company on an informed basis".

ISR was notified by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department on Dec 7 that an investigation was underway into an alleged offence under the Securities and Futures Act.

ISR was asked to produce several documents, including employee records and board minutes.

ISR's chief executive at the time was Ms Quah Su Yin, the sister of Quah Su Ling. Ms Quah Su Yin stepped down from her post on Dec 31 to focus on family business.

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Child Development Co-Savings (Amendment No. 2) Act 2016 - Child Development Co-Savings (Amendment No. 2) Act 2016 (Commencement) Notification 2016) (S 709 of 2016)

Resolving neighbour disputes through the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal, State Courts of Singapore

Business
28 Dec 2016

Volunteers to offer minors support in police interviews

Straits Times
07 Jan 2017
Seow Bei Yi

Appropriate Adult Scheme for suspects