Bribery scandal dominates question time

For almost 45 minutes yesterday, Parliament debated one of the biggest corruption scandals that involved a Singapore company.

Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM), a unit of listed Keppel Corp, made US$55 million (S$73 million) in corrupt payments to land contracts in Brazil. Under a global resolution with the authorities of the United States, Brazil and Singapore, it has to pay fines totalling US$422 million.

Here are some of the main questions MPs raised, with the edited answers of Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

Was KOM given a conditional warning instead of being prosecuted in Singapore partly because the witnesses are outside the country?

Ms Indranee: The maximum fine under the Prevention of Corruption Act is $100,000 per charge. So this wouldn't get us anywhere near the penalty under the global resolution, or even Singapore's share of the current penalty.

Insofar as the company is concerned, it is not a light thing at all. They paid US$55 million worth of bribes. They have been slapped with a penalty of US$422 million, that's something like eight times what they paid out. With respect to the individuals, investigations are still ongoing.

Should KOM make implicated former employees forfeit their bonuses under the Penal Code or the Prevention of Corruption Act?

Ms Indranee: The Government does not intervene in a company's internal disciplinary actions. This is a matter for KOM and its board. But it is stated in the deferred prosecution agreement that KOM has imposed about US$8.9 million in sanctions on 12 former or current employees as part of its disciplinary process.

Why were the individuals under investigation not named?

Ms Indranee: The Government does not disclose names of individuals who are being investigated. All civilised jurisdictions that have rule of law uphold that principle, because you don't want to prejudice either the investigation or the persons being investigated.

Will the Government take civil action against those found in breach of fiduciary duties and seek compensation? Is this a matter for the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) or shareholders to consider?

Ms Indranee: The Government owns 100 per cent of Temasek, which owns just over 20 per cent of Keppel Corp. And Keppel Corp owns 100 per cent of KOM, the entity in question. So, the Government is not a direct shareholder of KOM. Shareholders appoint the boards. It is the boards' business to make sure the policies... and governance is proper. The Government does not interfere in the day-to-day management of Temasek portfolio companies.

KOM has engaged in extensive remedial measures, including taking disciplinary action against 17 former or current employees. Anything further than that is a matter for the Keppel Group or for KOM to determine, not the Government.

Were the senior KOM staff in Singapore orchestrating or sanctioning the corrupt payments?

Ms Indranee: All these are matters which are subject to investigation. I do not have this information. This is something which the Public Prosecutor, the Attorney-General's Chambers, and the CPIB are looking into. Let them deal with it. Let due process take place, and in time they will have to make the appropriate decision.

Grace Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2018, with the headline 'Bribery scandal dominates question time'. Print Edition | Subscribe