AHTC lawsuits

FMSS boss secretly recorded phone call in which she called Sylvia Lim hopeless

Ms How Weng Fan (left) said she recorded a 2016 phone call with a KPMG executive, in which she called WP chairman Sylvia Lim (right) hopeless, and then volunteered the recording as evidence.
Ms How Weng Fan (left) said she recorded a 2016 phone call with a KPMG executive, in which she called WP chairman Sylvia Lim (right) hopeless, and then volunteered the recording as evidence. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI, TIMOTHY DAVID

A conversation in which scathing remarks were made about Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim was recorded secretly by the person who was lashing out at her.

Ms How Weng Fan, who held various key roles in Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), had recorded her 2016 phone conversation with an executive of audit firm KPMG.

During the phone call, she described Ms Lim as "hopeless", and said AHTC would die under her watch. She also blamed Ms Lim for her husband's death in 2015.

Ms How then volunteered the recording as evidence for a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit brought against eight defendants, including herself and Ms Lim, over alleged improper payments AHTC made to its managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) and its service provider, FM Solutions and Integrated Services.

Ms How and her late husband Danny Loh, both WP supporters, were FMSS' main shareholders. The couple also held key appointments in AHTC from 2011 until 2015, when FMSS stopped work in the town council in July that year.

This chain of events was established yesterday when Ms How was cross-examined by lawyer David Chan, who is representing AHTC, which has been asked by an independent panel to sue three WP MPs and two of its own town councillors over $33.7 million in payments AHTC made between July 15, 2011 and July 14,2015.

Ms How's responses also answer questions raised on social media by some people, who wanted to know how the recording was made. It had been the subject of Ms How's testimony on Monday.

She, however, told the High Court yesterday, the 17th and last day of the trial, that she did not inform the KPMG executive that she was recording the call.

During re-examination by her lawyer Leslie Netto, Ms How also reiterated that a letter of intent that FMSS sent to AHTC on June 22, 2011, was not a confirmation that FMSS had been awarded the contract.

 
 
 

She said she needed Ms Lim's reply first, which she received two weeks later.

"While we have undertaken the commitment (to take on liability and risk as a company), we equally needed the commitment from her… We needed the documents to buy insurance. It was a bit uncertain if (WP) was still going to proceed to give FMSS the contract then," she added.

Besides Ms How, five other people who worked with AHTC, including one FMSS shareholder and three former staff members, also took the stand yesterday.

This wrapped up 17 days of hearings that began on Oct 5 in a case alleging that payments made to FMSS were improper and void, as former WP chief Low Thia Khiang and Ms Lim acted in breach of their fiduciary duties.

Others named in the suit include WP secretary-general Pritam Singh and Ms How.

The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) also filed a suit against AHTC to recover any losses suffered by Punggol East from the alleged wrongful payments. The constituency was under the town council from 2013 until 2015.

In total, 14 witnesses took the stand.

Ms Lim's cross-examination by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, representing PRPTC, was the longest, stretching over 41/2 days. Mr Low was cross-examined for 11/2 days.

Among other things, Mr Davinder Singh got Ms Lim to admit that she and the other MPs did not disclose to the rest of the town council what FMSS' rates were. He charged that this caused them to breach their duties as town councillors.

In their defence, Ms Lim and the other MPs said they acted in good faith and in the best interests of their residents, and that they had to work in a short timeframe to get a managing agent.

Last week, the three MPs raised more than $1 million for their legal fees through crowdfunding.

The Straits Times understands the lawyers have until Jan 18 to submit their closing arguments, and up to Feb 15 to respond to one another. There will be another hearing for both sides' closing arguments, and this is expected to be in March.

Justice Kannan Ramesh will give his judgment later.

If the WP town councillors and FMSS were found to have breached their fiduciary duties, a second round of hearings to determine damages will follow.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2018, with the headline 'FMSS boss secretly recorded phone call in which she called Sylvia Lim hopeless'. Print Edition | Subscribe