SINGAPORE - After a day of to-ing and fro-ing, the $29,000 owed in costs to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whom blogger Roy Ngerng had defamed, was finally paid on Friday evening.
It comes after two payment deadlines were missed following disagreement between Mr Ngerng and his lawyer M. Ravi.
Mr Ravi had said on Friday afternoon that Mr Ngerng has taken the money and "remains uncontactable".
He also said that he had refunded Mr Ngerng the money "urgently at his request in the presence of many other persons".
But Mr Ngerng said it was Mr Ravi who returned the money of his own accord, asking him to make the payment directly.
"Ravi explained that he is in the midst of setting up his new firm and hasn't been able to process the payment to Drew and Napier yet. He handed me back the money and asked me to make the payment directly to Drew and Napier," Mr Ngerng said.
The amount is for legal fees and related expenses, incurred over a defamation case, that the High Court had awarded to Mr Lee last month.
In a summary judgment last November, Justice Lee Seiu Kin ruled that Mr Ngerng, 34, had defamed Mr Lee by suggesting the Prime Minister had misappropriated Central Provident Fund savings.
Mr Lee's lawyers from Drew & Napier had sent a letter to Mr Ravi asking for the $29,000 to be paid by Jan 29. When the deadline was missed, another letter was sent on Jan 30 asking for payment to be made by Feb 2, said the Prime Minister's press secretary Chang Li Lin in response to media queries on Friday.
There were no replies to both letters.
On Feb 3, Mr Ngerng called Drew & Napier to ask to make the payment in cash directly.
But "under the lawyers' professional rules, a lawyer cannot without the consent of the opposite party's lawyer deal directly with the opposite party", said Ms Chang.
So Mr Lee's lawyers wrote to Mr Ravi the same day to ask if he would have any objections to them being paid directly by Mr Ngerng.
They did not get a reply and eventually wrote another letter to ask that the payment be made by noon on Monday. If this was not done, an application will be filed in Court to compel payment and for costs, said the letter.
On finding out the new deadline, Mr Ngerng went to Drew & Napier's offices on Friday with the $29,000 in cash.
The firm again wrote to Mr Ravi, but did not get a reply, said Ms Chang.
Around 7.30pm, a representative from Mr Ravi's law firm called Drew & Napier to give approval, and Mr Ngerng handed over the money.