A-G not involved in ex-maid's case, recuses himself from review

Deputy A-G Hri Kumar Nair to lead review into issues raised in High Court ruling

Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair will lead the review into the case of Ms Parti Liyani, who was acquitted last Friday of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong (third from left) and his family. Attorney-General Lucien Wong (
Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair (right) will lead the review into the case of Ms Parti Liyani, who was acquitted last Friday of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family. Attorney-General Lucien Wong (left) has recused himself from the review, citing personal reasons.PHOTOS: ST FILE, LUCIEN WONG
Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair will lead the review into the case of Ms Parti Liyani, who was acquitted last Friday of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong (third from left) and his family. Attorney-General Lucien Wong (
Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair will lead the review into the case of Ms Parti Liyani (right), who was acquitted last Friday of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong (left) and his family. Attorney-General Lucien Wong has recused himself from the review, citing personal reasons.PHOTOS: ST FILE, LUCIEN WONG

Attorney-General (A-G) Lucien Wong and the deputy attorneys-general were not involved in any prosecutorial decisions in the case of former domestic worker Parti Liyani.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said this yesterday, adding: "This case was among those routinely handled by AGC which did not require the involvement of the A-G or the DAGs."

It issued a statement in response to media queries on the case, which has made the headlines since last Friday, when Ms Parti was acquitted by the High Court of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family.

The AGC added in its statement that Deputy A-G Hri Kumar Nair will lead the review into the case.

Mr Wong had, for personal reasons, already recused himself from the review of this case last Saturday, soon after the High Court judgment was released, the AGC added.

Its statement did not elaborate on the reasons.

But the AGC noted that some years prior to his appointment as attorney-general, Mr Wong sat on the board of directors of CapitaLand while Mr Liew was president and chief executive of the company.

Mr Wong stepped down from the board in January 2006.

He was appointed attorney-general in 2017.

"A-G Lucien Wong and Mr Liew did not have a personal relationship, and this continues today," the statement added.

Several comments online and on social media following Ms Parti's acquittal had noted that Mr Wong and Mr Liew were on the CapitaLand board at the same time.

Ms Parti, 46, who worked for the Liew family from 2007 to 2016, was acquitted of theft last Friday in a judgment that also raised questions about the motivation of Mr Liew and his family in lodging a police report against the maid.

Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair will lead the review into the case of Ms Parti Liyani, who was acquitted last Friday of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong (third from left) and his family. Attorney-General Lucien Wong (
Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair will lead the review into the case of Ms Parti Liyani (right), who was acquitted last Friday of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family. PHOTOS: ST FILE

The AGC said on Sunday that it was studying the judgment to assess what further action, if any, ought to be taken in the light of Justice Chan Seng Onn's comments.

Justice Chan, in his 100-page judgment, found the trial judge's conviction against Ms Parti to be unsafe.

He cited, among other things, the improper motive behind the allegations of some family members.

He noted that "some time prior to her termination", Ms Parti had expressed unhappiness at being made to do the additional work of cleaning the house and office of Mr Liew's son Karl.

"There is reason to believe that the Liew family, upon realising her unhappiness, took the pre-emptive first step to terminate her employment suddenly without giving her sufficient time for her to pack, in the hope that Parti would not use the time to make a complaint to MOM," the judge noted.

 
 
 

When Ms Parti threatened to complain to the Manpower Ministry (MOM) after her sudden termination, Mr Liew and his son followed up with a police report to prevent her return to Singapore to make the complaint, said the judge.

He also cited issues with the handling of the evidence by the police, and the recording of the allegedly stolen items.

The police and MOM have also said they are studying the judgment.

On Tuesday, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said the authorities take very seriously the judge's comments on the case.

"Something has gone wrong in the chain of events. We have to look at that, and deal with what went wrong," he said.

"In the process, we should not be defensive. It should not be a witch hunt. It's got to be a fair process. We have to find out what happened, why it happened and then deal with it. And be accountable," he added, saying this was the best way to build trust in the system.

Yesterday, a message with a clipping of a Straits Times (ST) front page article from 1986 headlined "Report made against lawyer for alleged removal of legal files" was also circulated among some lawyers.

It concerned a woman senior partner at a leading law firm who was reported to the police for alleged wrongful removal of company files. She was seen with them in a carpark with her male lawyer friend.

The ST article did not name the lawyers but the male lawyer is understood to be Mr Wong.

The Online Citizen said in a report that the case was stood down after the AGC decided not to pursue the matter, and that a complaint was made to the Law Society but it was never resolved publicly.

Yesterday, a Law Society spokesman said of the report: "The complaint was dismissed as being unmeritorious."


About the case

Indonesian Parti Liyani was initially charged in 2018 with stealing items worth more than $50,000 from Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family.

The items were allegedly found in three boxes that Ms Parti packed after she was sacked on Oct 28, 2016.

She contested the four charges in a 22-day trial, saying that the items were either bought by her, given to her, discarded and found by her, or had been put into the boxes by someone else.

In March last year, a district judge found her guilty and handed down a 26-month jail sentence.

The judge removed two wallets and five items of clothing from the charges, as there was doubt over whether they belonged to Mr Liew's son Karl, and lowered the value of the items to about $34,000.

Ms Parti appealed to the High Court, which acquitted her last Friday.

On Tuesday, she was cleared of a fifth charge of fraudulent possession of property, making her free of all criminal charges.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2020, with the headline 'A-G not involved in ex-maid's case, recuses himself from review'. Subscribe