SINGAPORE - Financial adviser and blogger Leong Sze Hian has rejected allegations that when he posted on his Facebook page an article about Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, he was acting maliciously and to damage Mr Lee.
Mr Leong, 65, was responding on Wednesday (Dec 5) to media reports earlier this week that PM Lee had begun legal action against him for defamation after he shared the article from Malaysian website The Coverage, which states that the Prime Minister had helped to launder 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds.
In the response posted on his Facebook page, he said he had shared the article on Nov 8.
Two days later, he received a notice from the Infocomm Media Development Authority to take the post down within six hours, he said, adding that he complied.
So, he said he was “bewildered” to receive a letter of demand from PM Lee’s lawyers on Nov 12, instructing him to make a public apology within three days and compensate Mr Lee for damages by submitting a written offer of damages and cost.
When he failed to comply, PM Lee’s lawyers from Drew & Napier commenced legal action.
Mr Leong also said the Nov 12 letter of demand stated “I had posted The Coverage article maliciously and to damage his client”.
He added: “I reject all these allegations categorically.”
The offending article, originally published in the States Times Review blog on or around Nov 5, stated that former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak had signed "secret deals" with PM Lee in exchange for Singapore banks' help in laundering money from the embattled Malaysian state fund.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore subsequently made a police report against the author of the article, saying it contained defamatory statements that were "false and malicious" and impugned its integrity.
The Coverage article was also described as "fake news and clearly libellous" by Singapore's High Commission in Malaysia.
In his Wednesday Facebook post, Mr Leong also stressed that he did not add any comments or embellish the article taken from The Coverage when he shared it.
But court documents obtained by The Straits Times earlier this week show the offending words in the post referred to the title of the article. These were: "Breaking news: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB's key investigation target - Najib signed several unfair..."
These words "meant and were understood to mean that the Plaintiff (PM Lee) was complicit in criminal activity relating to 1MDB", said the Prime Minister's lawyers from Drew & Napier.
There are also offending words in the article and when taken with those in the title, they "are false and baseless and were calculated to disparage and impugn the Plaintiff in his office as the Prime Minister", the lawyers said.
Mr Leong also showed on his Facebook page pictures of court documents that Drew & Napier representatives posted on his gate.
Court documents said the representatives had tried twice, without success, to deliver the documents by hand. On both occasions, Mr Leong's domestic helper told them he was not at home and that she did not know when he would return home.
In view of Mr Leong's evasion, the court had permitted the writ of summons and statement of claim to be posted on the gate of his home, as well as served on him by registered post, e-mail and Facebook Messenger.