A former domestic worker was yesterday cleared by the High Court of stealing more than $34,000 worth of items from Changi Airport Group (CAG) chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family.
Miss Parti Liyani, 46, who worked for the family from 2007 to 2016, had appealed against her conviction and sentence of two years and two months' jail.
Her lawyer, Mr Anil Balchandani, who acted pro bono, argued that the police report was a pre-emptive move to stop her from lodging a complaint against the Liews for illegal deployment.
Besides working at Mr Liew's Chancery Lane house, the Indonesian was also told to clean the office and home of his son Karl.
Justice Chan Seng Onn allowed her appeal and overturned her conviction on four theft charges.
He found that there was an "improper motive" on the part of Mr Liew and his son to prevent her from lodging a complaint.
However, the judge said the defence's allegation that there was collusion by all the members of the Liew family cannot stand.
This was because the defence had not cross-examined all the witnesses on the alleged collusion.
The court heard that in October 2016, the older Mr Liew, who was then overseas, decided to sack Miss Parti.
On Oct 28, 2016, Mr Karl Liew told Miss Parti that her employment was terminated and gave her two hours to pack.
While she was packing items into three jumbo boxes, she uttered a threat to lodge a complaint with the Manpower Ministry.
She returned to Indonesia that day, after asking Mr Karl Liew to pay for the boxes to be shipped to her.
The next day, the family opened the boxes, checked the contents and took a 21-second video of the items that were taken out.
They found items that allegedly belonged to members of the household and a police report was made on Oct 30, after Mr Liew Mun Leong returned to Singapore.
However, it was five weeks later, on Dec 3, that the police attended to the scene. It was the day after Miss Parti returned to Singapore and she was arrested.
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.
She was accused of stealing:
• A DVD player and two bags from Mr Liew;
• 120 pieces of clothing, two watches, two wallets, a DVD player, two phones, bedlinen and kitchenware from Mr Liew's son Karl;
• Two counterfeit watches and assorted fashion accessories from Mr Liew's daughter Cheng May; and
• A bag and a pair of sunglasses from Mr Karl Liew's wife Heather.
The items were allegedly found in three boxes that Miss 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 Karl Liew, and lowered the value of the items to about $34,000.
Miss Parti appealed to the High Court, which acquitted her yesterday. She still faces a charge of fraudulent possession of property.
In his 100-page judgment, Justice Chan found there was a break in the chain of custody of evidence.
This creates a reasonable doubt as to whether some of the allegedly stolen items discovered by the family were accurately documented by the photographs taken by the police some five weeks later.
During this period, the family were told by the police that they were free to use the items.
They took and put back items into the boxes but it is not clear if the items that were put back were the same ones removed earlier.
Justice Chan also found that two statements were taken from Miss Parti without an interpreter.
The judge also had serious doubts about Mr Karl Liew's credibility, finding his testimony to be "highly suspect".
Among other things, Mr Karl Liew claimed various items of female clothing, allegedly stolen by Miss Parti, belonged to him and that he sometimes wore women's T-shirts.
Justice Chan added that many of the allegedly stolen items were old, dysfunctional and low in value.
This reinforced Miss Parti's defence that she found these items in the trash. These included a damaged Gerald Genta watch, two old iPhones, a Prada bag with frayed edges and a pair of stained Gucci sunglasses.
Mr Balchandani told the court that he would be seeking compensation for Miss Parti as she has not worked for the past four years.
After the verdict, she sobbed and hugged her lawyer and staff from the migrant workers group, Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).
Miss Parti has been staying at Home's shelter since 2016. She told reporters: "I'm so glad that I'm finally free. I've been fighting for four years now and I have been strong all this while."