After 17 days, the first part of the AHTC trial ended on October 26, three days ahead of schedule. The defense an plaintiffs are required to submit written closing submissions in January 2019, with oral closing submissions expected to be held sometime in March.
Afterward, a ruling from Justice Kannan Ramesh will be released, determining if the defendants are liable, whereupon the amount in damages will be settled.
Day 17 of the high-profile trial proceeded relatively quietly, in comparison with previous days. There were six defense witnesses who were called in for evidence, a few of whom were not even asked any questions. A number of the witnesses worked for either FMSS or AHTC.
Leslie Netto, who represented the FMSS and its founders, How Weng Fan, and the late Danny Loh, quickly went through his witnesses.
One noteworthy part in the proceedings occurred when David Chan, the lawyer for AHTC, asked Ms. How, the first witness for the day, concerning a matter that had been brought up on Monday by senior counsel PRPTC Davinder Singh, who was absent at the trial on Tuesday, October 26.
Mr. Singh had read to the court parts of the transcript of a phone conversation made in 2016 between Ms. How and an employee of putting from KPMG.
In the course of the conversation, Ms. How had expressed her doubts concerning Sylvia Lim’s competence, telling KPMG staffer “the town council would die.”
Mr. Chan asked Ms. How if she had been the one who made the recording, to which Ms. How replied that the conversation had been recorded via an automatic system in her office.
However, when asked, Ms. How admitted that the KPMG staffer did now know that the recording was being made.
Chelva Retnam Rajah, senior counsel for the WP MPs and AHTC councilors, also asked Ms. How questions briefly.
The next witness to take the stand was Yeo Soon Fei, FMSS shareholder, and former deputy general manager of the town council.
In the course of questioning Mr. Yeo, Mr. Chan made the post that the process of payment had been facilitated by “the very people the payment was being made to”.
Mr. Yeo is a “conflicted person” in the report from KPMG, referring to those with ownership interests in FMSS or FMSI, its service provider, while at the same time holding management positions in the town council.
In a response to Mr. Chan’s suggestion that FMSS heads, namely Ms. How, Mr. Loh and Mr. Yeo himself had prepared works orders, tax invoices, and payment vouchers as part of the payment process, Mr. Yeo said that in the end, the town council itself still made the major decisions. If they don’t approve, we don’t get the payment,” he said.
Furthermore, Mr. Yeo later said that since the MPs themselves prepared the checks, they were in the position of overnight. He said, “If we don’t perform, the MPs will come after us. The MPs, they saw us working from day to night from 2011 to 2015 … and I got high blood because of that, it’s very stressful. We scratch our head to ensure that we cannot let the town council down.”
After Mr. Yeo stepped down from the witness stand, Mr. Chan questioned Ronley Ng and Tan Han Hoe, who worked for FMSS and AHTC, still along the lines of the process of making payments.
Mr. Ng said that his role concerning this was merely to compile pertinent documents and present these to the town council chairman, while Mr. Tan said he only checked the documents given to the finance department.
The lawyers had no questions for the other two witnesses, Serene Loi and Chong Huey Jiuan, formerly connected to Hougang Town Council.
In the trial, Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang and Pritam Singh, as well as AHTC town councilors Kenneth Foo and Chua Zhi Hon are being accused of transgressing fiduciary duties when the new managing agent, FMSS, was appointed after GE 2011.
In question is $33 million worth of “improper payments” to FMSS and third-party service providers. Vital to the allegations is the fact Ms. How and Mr. Low, who both had positions in the town council, owned and started FMSS.
The WP MPs, Messrs. Foo and Chua, as well as Ms. How and the late Mr. Loh, are defendants in the lawsuit filed by AHTC and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), due to audit reports made by KPMG and PricewaterhouseCooper.