Blogger pays $30,000 in costs over defamation case

Mr Ngerng raised more than $12,000 over the past two days after making an online appeal to the public for funds.
Mr Ngerng raised more than $12,000 over the past two days after making an online appeal to the public for funds.

Blogger Roy Ngerng yesterday paid $30,000 to cover the costs of a defamation case, as part of a payment arrangement reached with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Over the past two days, Mr Ngerng raised more than $12,000 after making an online appeal to the public for funds to help him pay the costs and damages he owes.

PM Lee's press secretary, Ms Chang Li Lin, said in response to media queries that Mr Lee's lawyer received $30,000 from Mr Ngerng.

The sum covers the costs of a three-day hearing last July to decide on damages due to Mr Lee after Mr Ngerng was found to have defamed him. Hearing costs aside, Mr Ngerng has to pay $100,000 in general damages and $50,000 in aggravated damages.

The blogger was found to have defamed the Prime Minister in a 2014 blog post alleging that Mr Lee misappropriated the Central Provident Fund savings of Singaporeans.

High Court Judge Lee Seiu Kin said in a judgment last December that Mr Ngerng's conduct was malicious and it was likely he "cynically defamed" Mr Lee to increase viewership of his blog.

Mr Lee agreed to Mr Ngerng paying the damages in instalments as long as he paid the $30,000 hearing costs by yesterday.

Mr Ngerng will take about 17 years to pay off the $150,000, and will not have to pay any interest as long as he makes the payments on time. He will start by paying $100 a month from April 1 this year. From April 1, 2021, the monthly amount will be increased to $1,000. He should be done paying the total sum by 2033.

Yesterday, Mr Ngerng explained on his website the use of most of the $127,000 that he raised from individuals and organisations in 2014 after he was sued for defamation.

Of that sum, $50,000 went to his first lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, while $30,000 was payment for his second lawyer, Mr George Hwang.

Mr Ngerng said he also paid $35,000 to Mr Lee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, which covers the cost of two earlier hearings.

The first was for a summary judgment that Mr Lee obtained against Mr Ngerng. This is a process where a judgment is sought without going for a full trial. The second was a hearing to decide if Mr Ngerng could get a Queen's Counsel from Britain to represent him.

Another $7,000 went to court fees, Mr Ngerng said, adding that he had spent $122,000 in all.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Blogger pays $30,000 in costs over defamation case'. Print Edition | Subscribe