The legal firm appointed by an independent panel to represent Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) in the trial against Workers’ Party (WP) parliamentarians and town councillors, Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh, has revealed that it will submit its bill to AHTC.
The independent panel, that was convened to look into allegations of improper past payments by AHTC, made this announcement on Wednesday and said that legal firm Shook Lin & Bok will submit its bill to AHTC once the lawsuit concludes.
The panel added that AHTC has yet to pay any professional fees to Shook Lin & Bok. It added: “AHTC has only met certain disbursements, in particular for its portion of the hearing fees”.
Interestingly, a document dated June 2017 shows that the panel appointed Shook Lin & Bok – which also served as legal advisers of audit firm KPMG, whose 2016 report on AHTC triggered the independent panel to be formed – without calling for a tender.
Shook Lin & Bok was hired by the independent panel to give legal advice with regards to “the recovery of improper payments,” before the panel appointed the firm to represent the town council on an ad-hoc basis as AHTC became involved in arbitration proceedings with former managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) over money FMSS claimed it was owed.
The June 2017 document, signed by the three panellists, explains that a tender was not called before the law firm was appointed because Shook Lin & Bok “was already apprised of much of the factual and legal material, and therefore there would be time and costs savings in appointing them”. The document added that “there was urgency given the possibility of applicable time bars”.
According to a July 2017 document, the panel had unanimously “concluded to appoint Shook Lin & Bok to represent AHTC in the suit”.
The three WP MPs at the centre of the trial have just concluded a fundraising appeal to raise money for their own hefty legal fees.
Last Wednesday, the opposition party leaders revealed in their blog that they have “depleted our personal resources,” having already paid $600,000 from their own pockets to their legal team as the trial progresses.
Adding that they have not used any party funds, the trio asserted that they are committed to fighting vigorously against the unfounded claims that have been levelled against them.
Shortly after the parliamentarians made their appeal for financial support, many gave to the town councillors and flooded social media with words of encouragement for the three political leaders.
Within six hours of the appeal going live, the public donated $100,000 to the MPs. Within a day, the MPs raised nearly half a million dollars. Within two days, over $900,000 had been donated to the MPs by thousands.
By the time the MPs closed the appeal, they had received SGD $1,008,802 from over 5000 donors. Donations kept pouring in though, and the MPs raised a total of $1,130,552.07 as of yesterday evening.
This Wednesday, the WP MPs paid the bulk of the $1.1 million they raised to their lawyers, as promised. The MPs said that the remaining $130,552.07 after payment to their lawyers is kept in their bank account for now and promised to regularly update the movements and balance in this account.