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PM Lee to take the stand in defamation trial of blogger Leong Sze Hian

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Singapore — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will take the stand against blogger Leong Sze Hian when the latter’s defamation trial opens in the High Court in October.

Mr Lee took legal action against Mr Leong for defamation after he shared an article on his Facebook page that alleged Mr Lee had helped to launder 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.

The article, which Mr Leong posted on Nov 7, stated that former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had signed “secret deals” with Mr Lee in exchange for Singapore banks’ help in laundering money from the embattled sovereign wealth fund.

On Monday (Aug 31), counsel for both parties attended a pre-trial conference before the trial judge, Justice Aedit Abdullah.

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In a Facebook page, Mr Lim Tean, who is the counsel for Mr Leong, said the trial had been fixed from Oct 6 to 9 and that both Mr Lee and Mr Leong would attend to give evidence and be cross-examined.

“The expert witness who is to be called by Mr Lee, Dr Tuan Quang Phan, will give evidence via video link from Hong Kong (provided Hong Kong law allows him to do so),” according to the statement on Facebook. It added that “this point is being confirmed by Mr Lee’s counsel at the moment”.

It will be a physical trial. As there is much interest in the case, Justice Abdullah informed counsel that the largest court room available will be arranged for the trial.

Lee Hsien Loong v Leong Sze Hian High Court Trial Fixed For 6-9 October 2020.

Posted by Lim Tean on Monday, 31 August 2020

Mr Lee will be represented by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh from Davinder Singh Chambers.

Mr Lee’s lawyers had said earlier that the article’s allegations were “false and baseless” and the Prime Minister sought aggravated damages and an injunction that Mr Leong be prevented from publishing or disseminating the defamatory allegations, or other allegations of complicity in matters relating to the embattled sovereign wealth fund.

Mr Leong denied that he was being malicious and said in court papers that he took down his Facebook post on Nov 10 after being told to do so by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Mr Leong also filed a counterclaim against Mr Lee, claiming that the defamation suit against him was an abuse of the process of the court. In March last year, the High Court allowed an application by Mr Lee to strike out the counterclaim. The court said the abuse of court process is not recognised in Singapore law as a basis for one party to bring legal action against another. /TISG

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