Parliament: Keppel Corp unit not let off lightly in corruption scandal, says Indranee Rajah

Keppel Corp was not let off lightly after giving US$55 million in bribes, being punished with a penalty of US$422 million. PHOTO: KEPPEL CORPORATION LIMITED

SINGAPORE - It was no slap on the wrist: Singapore-listed Keppel Corp's offshore marine unit "did not get off lightly" for receiving a conditional warning in lieu of prosecution, for its role in one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit Singapore, said Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah in Parliament on Monday.

It is being penalised more harshly under a global resolution reached with criminal authorities in the United States, Brazil and Singapore than if the matter had been prosecuted under Singapore laws alone, said Ms Indranee.

For paying US$55 million in bribes, KOM and its American subsidiary were fined eight time more - US$422 million - two weeks ago under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

"Any penalty or claim that KOM might be subject to under Singapore law would be far less than what KOM is now liable for under the coordinated resolution," said Ms Indranee, adding later that the maximum fine under Singapore's Prevention of Corruption Act is $100,000 per charge - which "wouldn't get us anywhere near the penalty under the global resolution".

She said: "As far as the company is concerned, make no mistake, there has been a heavy price to pay and deservedly so."

The minister was responding on Monday (Jan 8) to three Workers' Party MPs who asked about the corruption scandal involving KOM.

Among them, WP MP Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) spoke of public concern over "what is perceived to be some lenient treatment being given to KOM", given the large sums of money involved and the blow to Singapore's reputation.

Ms Indranee said that aside from the penalties levied on the company, certain individuals are being investigated. "That outcome has not been determined," she said.

"Nobody has got off - or not got off, as the case may be."

In the first comment by a government leader on the graft scandal, Ms Indranee said that the case has hurt Singapore's reputation and that the Government is "extremely disappointed as well in what has occurred".

She also stressed that the Government does not condone corruption by Singaporeans or Singapore companies overseas, and expects them to comply with the laws of the countries.

"They cannot lower their own standards of integrity and they must not bring back to Singapore practices alien to the norms which we have established with such great effort here," Ms Indranee said.

On why the names of individuals under investigation are not made public, Ms Indranee said that there is no agreement that prevents disclosure of the individuals under investigation.

But it is standard practice in Singapore and in many other jurisdictions to not identify those under criminal investigation. This is to avoid jeopardising the investigation or prejudicing individuals or companies if it turns out that no offence is disclosed, she said.

Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) asked if the trail leads back to senior Keppel staff in Singapore. To this, Ms Indranee said that she does not have the information. The authorities, she added, are looking into it. "Let the due process take place and in time they will have to make the appropriate decision."

The public prosecutor will determine whether to prosecute the individuals concerned after investigations, she said. To that end, the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) is working on a request for mutual legal assistance, where one country formally seeks assistance from another to get evidence for use in its own investigations. This is because the case involves many projects in Brazil, goes back to 2001, and most of the evidence including documents and witnesses are located in different jurisdictions.

"Our intention is to move as expeditiously as possible. But not all aspects of the investigation are within our control," she said.

"If there is good reason to investigate, the authorities will do so, whether or not the company is a Government-linked company," she added.

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