Will former NMP Edwin Khew be the first to fall foul of the new contempt of court laws?

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Edwin Khew (SEAS Chairman) with Minister Iswaran

By: Howard Lee

Tan Wu MengAt the debate for the Contempt of Court (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on 15 August, Member of Parliament Tan Wu Meng rose in support of the Bill, as he believed that the Bill enforces court orders and “court orders protect the vulnerable”.

Without contempt of court laws, court orders will be nothing but “words on paper”, he said.

Fellow People’s Action Party MP Lily Neo also supported the Bill, similarly saying that it would help to enforce court orders to help victims.

It is not clear if either MPs were referring to specific cases, but TISG is aware of three such court orders that are still pending fulfilment.

Anaergia Pte Ltd (currently known as APL Bioengg Pte Ltd) withdrew from a waste-to-energy project in May 2016. The project was awarded by the Public Utilities Board, with S$3.5 million given to APL.

APL also took on a similar project with Seng Choon Farms, contracting some of the sub-contractors for both jobs.

The courts have ordered APL to pay Brilliant Engineering Pte Ltd S$850,000, Boon Wee Construction (s) Ptd Ltd S$171,000, and Structura Construction Pte Ltd more than S$1.7 million for money owed for one or both projects. TISG believes there could be more such court orders among other sub-contractors.

APL has to date not paid the sub-contractors, in spite of legal notice from Lee and Lee, the law firm representing Brilliant Engineering, issued on June 2016.

The sub-contractors have tried to contact APL to no avail. Their last attempt was to submit the court orders to Anaergia Singapore when they exhibited at Singapore Water Week this year.

The sub-contractors were requesting for parent company Anaergia Inc to assist. However, a representative for the “Anaergia group of companies” said that “all obligations and liabilities of APL were owed by it alone and not by its owner, which owner is in any event no longer any of the companies within the Anaergia group”.

The Anaergia group representative also claimed that the sub-contractors have been “making false statements, false accusations, and spreading rumours” about them and threatened “appropriate actions”. The representative did not clarify what was meant by these false statements, accusations and rumours.

The Anaergia group representative also told the sub-contractors that they should approach the owners of APL for payment, and said that APL was acquired by a T.S. Loh. However, ACRA records indicate a Tan Kangxi as director since March 2016.

picture credit: Koelnmesse Marcom Flickr feed
picture credit: Koelnmesse Marcom Flickr feed

According to ACRA records, Former Nominated Member of Parliament Edwin Khew was the founding director of APL and was part of the award of the PUB project, at least until December 2015 when his directorship ceased.

He was also a director of Anaergia Singapore Pte Ltd at least up until April 2016, shortly before their taking up of the PUB project was announced in May 2016, but is currently not registered with either APL or Anaergia Singapore.

So, who owes the sub-contractors money and is the rightful respondent to the court orders – former director Edwin Khew, registered director Tan Kangxi, or presumably current owner T.S. Loh? How can they find out and how do they locate these people? How effective, really, are our contempt of court laws, if such cases can go on indefinitely?

With the new Bill passed, can the sub-contractors expect police assistance in fulfilling the court orders by tracking down the paying party and enforcing payment? If not, will a jail term or fine be imposed?

These sub-contractors would likely be the vulnerable victims that the law should aim to help, so perhaps Tan Wu Meng, Lily Neo or the Law Minister himself can help point them in the right direction.
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