Temasek Holdings rushed to defend former CapitaLand boss Liew Mun Leong this week after Singapore’s high court acquitted a former servant to the corporate chieftain on charges of theft filed by Liew and his family.
Liew, who serves as chairman of Singapore’s Changi Airport Group, along with his family, had accused Indonesian domestic worker Parti Liyani in 2016 after the family housekeeper had filed a labour complaint against her employers for coercing her into assignments beyond her contract, according to records in the case.
Liew, who also serves as chairman of Temasek-owned urban development consultancy Surbana Jurong, had terminated the maid’s nine year employment on two hours’ notice.
Judge Questions Behaviour of Corporate Chieftain
In acquitting Parti on the last of the charges against her on Tuesday, Justice Chan Seng Onn indicated that there was reason to believe that the Liew family had terminated their domestic worker with the intent of preventing her from filing a complaint with the city’s Ministry of Manpower, after Parti had complained over being required to do extra work on behalf of Liew’s adult son at a separate household.
“There is reason to believe that the Liew family, upon realising her unhappiness, took the pre-emptive first step to terminate her employment suddenly without giving her sufficient time for her to pack, in the hope that Parti would not use the time to make a complaint to MOM,” Chan said in a 100 page judgement.
When Parti reacted to her termination by threatening to notify the labour authorities, Liew and his son Karl Liew, “followed up with the police report to ensure her return would be prevented”, the judge said, referring to the family’s apparent attempt to block Parti from returning to Singapore from Indonesia. He went on to add that, “In my view, the Liew family might not have made a police report had Parti not made her express threat on Oct 28, 2016 to report the matter to MOM.”
Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers are now examining the original case against Parti after the judge went on to find that, when the employee indicated that she would complain to the Ministry of Manpower, Liew and his son Karl Liew filed a police report alleging theft of their household items, with the court indicating that it disbelieved the testimony and evidence presented by the family against their domestic worker.
A lower court last year had convicted Parti on four counts of theft and sentenced her to more than two years in jail. In response to the issues raised by the high court regarding the nature of the Liew family’s complaint, the attorney general’s office said that, “His findings do raise questions which warrant further investigations.”
Crazy Rich Temasek Bosses
Following the court ruling on Tuesday, Temasek chief executive Dilhan Pillay defended the long-time head of companies controlled by the government investment fund, calling attention to his achievements in the corporate sphere. Now 74, Liew had served as founding president and CEO of Temasek’s CapitaLand from when it was formed in 1996 until 2012.
“There are many individuals who have contributed to both public service and to the private sector in Singapore, for the benefit of Singapore and our population as a whole,” Pillay said. “Liew Mun Leong is one of those persons, and his track record at CapitaLand, at Changi Airport Group and at Surbana Jurong attests to that.”
Singapore’s netizens were less inclined to give Liew a pass, with hundreds of comments left on the Changi Airport Group’s Facebook page criticising the company’s millionaire chairman for his abuse of workers.
Some online accounts have also tied Parti’s acquittal to the sudden departure last week of Surbana Jurong International CEO Teo Eng Cheong who resigned from the company chaired by Liew on 2 September – two days before Parti was acquitted of four of the five counts against her.
The outgoing Surbana Jurong executive is married to Singapore’s Minister of Manpower, Josephine Teo, whose office received a labour complaint against Liew and his family in November 2017. The Ministry issued a caution to Liew’s wife and an advisory to Karl Liew following Parti’s actions, but declined to pursue more serious charges.
Teo Eng Cheong, who reported to the Surbana board chaired by Liew Mun Leong, was said to be leaving his role with the firm to pursue other interests.