SINGAPORE — Both Minister for Transport S. Iswaran and hotelier Ong Beng Seng have now been named in an investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). Iswaran is currently on a leave of absence from official duty after the anti-graft agency announced on Wed, Jul 12 that the minister is assisting the anti-graft agency with an ongoing investigation.
The CPIB acknowledges that the matter involving a minister is of public interest. However, as the investigation is still ongoing, they are unable to provide further details. The CPIB has stated that they will thoroughly investigate this case, demonstrating their strong resolve to establish the facts, uncover the truth, and uphold the rule of law.
On the same day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed that the Director of the CPIB had briefed him earlier in the month on Jul 5 and sought his approval to commence a formal investigation on a case involving interviewing Minister Iswaran, among others.
“I gave Director CPIB my concurrence on 6 July 2023, following which the formal investigation began on 11 July 2023. Minister Iswaran is currently assisting CPIB with the investigations, which are ongoing,” said PM Lee in a statement on Jul 12.
PM Lee added that he had instructed Minister Iswaran to take a leave of absence until investigations are concluded, and Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat will be the Acting Minister for Transport.
Minister Iswaran to remain in Singapore with restricted access
In response to media queries, the Prime Minister’s Office stated that Minister Iswaran, during his leave of absence from official duties, will remain in Singapore and not have access to official resources or government buildings.
Iswaran, also the elected member of parliament of West Coast GRC, will have his constituency duty covered by other parliamentary colleagues.
“During this time, my fellow West Coast GRC MPs and I will step up and cover his duties on the ground, including Meet-the-People’s Sessions (MPS). We would like to assure residents of West Coast division that we will continue to serve them and ensure that their needs are supported,” mentioned MP Desmond Lee in a Facebook posting on Jul 12.
Notice of Arrest for Ong Beng Seng
In an announcement to the Singapore Exchange at 7.30 am on Jul 14, Hotel Property Limited said that CPIB had requested its managing director Ong Beng Seng to provide information in relation to his interactions with Minister Iswaran.
While no charges have been filed against the hotelier, a notice of arrest has been issued against Ong, and he has posted a bail of $100,000. He is currently out of the country from Jul 14 and will be surrendering his passport to CPIB upon his return to Singapore.
“Mr Ong is cooperating fully with CPIB and has provided the information requested. As this is an ongoing matter, he is unable to provide further details at this point. He has undertaken to provide updates to the Board if there are subsequent material developments,” said the statement by Hotel Property Limited.
A local media reported that Ong was seen leaving the CPIB building at about 4.55 pm on Wednesday, the day the anti-graft agency issued a statement that they had commenced investigations against Minister Iswaran.
DPM Wong: we will not sweep anything under the carpet
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong weighs in on the situation and calls on the public to allow investigations to take its course and refrain from speculation. He emphasises that this is evident in how the system works in Singapore and that they have always upheld a ‘clean and incorrupt system of government.’
“This is the foundation of the people’s trust in the PAP government, and PM Lee and I are fully committed to preserving this trust. We maintain a tough, zero tolerance stance against corruption. We will continue to uphold stringent standards of honesty and probity that Singaporeans expect of their political leaders,” said DPM Wong in a Facebook post.
“We will be upfront and transparent; we will not sweep anything under the carpet, even if they are potentially embarrassing or damaging to the PAP. This is how the PAP government has worked, and will continue to work — with transparency and integrity,” added the PM-designate.