Singapore — In his Ministerial Statement on the case of former domestic helper Parti Liyani, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam told Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 4) that she was charged with theft in August 2017 because the Attorney-General’s Chambers felt that there was sufficient evidence and it was in the public interest to do so.

The statement was made after the case raised questions about the country’s criminal justice system following the acquittal on appeal of Ms Parti two months ago.

Mr Shanmugam stressed that it was treated as a routine theft case and that there was no attempt by anyone to influence how it was dealt with.

It began with the filing of a police report in 2016 by Ms Parti’s former employer, Mr Liew Mun Leong. He was at that time chairman of the Changi Airport Group.

Mr Shanmugam said that, after she was arrested, Ms Parti admitted taking 10 to 15 items of male clothing without permission.

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In addition, her explanations for some of the items she was accused of stealing changed from one statement to another.

According to a report, Mr Shanmugam noted how, for example, on Dec 4, 2016, she had said in a police statement that two watches, one a “Vacheron Constantin” and the other a “Swatch”, were gifts from a friend.

However, in a later statement on May 29, 2017, she changed her story to say that she found the two watches — which turned out to be counterfeits — in the trash of Mr Liew Mun Leong’s daughter May.

Ms Parti also claimed that she had found some jewellery in the trash but Ms Liew said she never threw jewellery away and gave any unwanted jewellery to the Salvation Army or to friends.

Mr Shanmugam said: “It appeared that Ms Parti had stolen many items, including seemingly expensive items. It appeared she had been stealing for years, and it was not impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decisions.”

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On whether there had been a break in the chain of custody of the items, Mr Shanmugam said that this did not affect every single item in the case.

The trial judge had found Ms Parti to be untruthful, after hearing evidence from 12 prosecution witnesses and four defence witnesses. She was convicted in March 2019 of theft and sentenced to two years and two months in jail.

During the 3-day appeal hearing in September 2020, the High Court, however, came to a different view. The judge allowed the appeal because he was troubled by the unreliable statements made by Mr Liew’s son Karl.

The High Court’s acquittal is final and there can be no appeal, said Mr Shanmugam. He added that his statement was not an exercise of reopening the judgment. /TISG