Relationship was strictly business: Lawyer for FMSS

Ms How Weng Fan (left) and her lawyer Leslie Netto arriving at the Supreme Court, on Oct 5, 2018.
Ms How Weng Fan (left) and her lawyer Leslie Netto arriving at the Supreme Court, on Oct 5, 2018. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Ms How Weng Fan, and her husband, the late Mr Danny Loh Chong Meng, had no intentions of setting up FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) in May 2011, as they were then contemplating semi-retirement.

But Workers' Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang asked Ms How to reconsider, as he wanted a company to take over as managing agent for the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC), if the incumbent vendor, CPG Facilities Management, was to withdraw.

This was to prevent any disruption of services to residents in Aljunied GRC, which Mr Low and his team had won in a landmark victory during the May 7 General Election.

This was the scenario painted by lawyer Leslie Netto, who is representing Ms How and FMSS, the defendants in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that also involves three WP MPs and two councillors.

Ms How is also representing her husband, the late Mr Loh.

The lawsuit, initiated by AHTC under the direction of an independent panel, centres on $33.7 million in payments AHTC made from 2011 to 2015 to FMSS and service provider FM Solutions and Integrated Services (FMSI).

Ms How and Mr Loh, both shareholders of FMSS, were appointed AHTC's general manager and secretary respectively.

Addressing accusations that there were conflicts of interest and that friends or supporters of WP MPs and town councillors had benefited, Mr Netto said that Ms How will testify that the relationship was a purely business one, and there were no kickbacks.

Mr Netto added that though there was no requirement under the Town Council Act in 2011 for Mr Loh and Ms How to disclose their interests in FMSS, they did so anyway.

Last year, the Town Council Act was amended to require disclosure from the town council secretary and the managing agent of any conflicts of interest.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2018, with the headline 'Relationship was strictly business: Lawyer for FMSS'. Subscribe