Parti Liyani not seeking compensation from Liew Mun Leong; lawyer says her losses amounted to $71,000

Ms Parti Liyani and her lawyer Anil Balchandani arriving at the Supreme Court on Oct 27, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Former domestic worker Parti Liyani, who was acquitted last month of stealing from the family of prominent businessman Liew Mun Leong, has decided not to approach her former employer for compensation, the High Court was told on Tuesday (Oct 27).

Instead, she is seeking compensation from the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) under a provision that caps the sum at $10,000, the High Court heard on Tuesday (Oct 27).

She made the decision despite suffering losses which her lawyer Anil Balchandani quantified at $71,000. The sum includes her salary for four years and the expenses incurred by non-governmental group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) in sheltering her since December 2016.

Mr Balchandani told Justice Chan Seng Onn that "a lot has transpired" since the High Court judge acquitted Ms Parti, primarily that Mr Liew has resigned from his posts at the Changi Airport Group and Surbana Jurong.

"In regard to that, my client's instructions were not to add more to his problems," said Mr Balchandani.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, if an accused person is acquitted of any charge, and if it is proved to the satisfaction of the court that the prosecution was frivolous or vexatious, the court may order the prosecution or the complainant or the person on whose information the prosecution was instituted to pay up to $10,000 as compensation to the accused.

Justice Chan suggested that the parties try going for mediation, bearing in mind that the sum Ms Parti can claim is limited to $10,000.

He noted that public funds are involved and the cost of a two- or three-day hearing into the legal arguments, such as what amounts to "frivolous or vexatious", will come up to more than that.

"Is it worth it? It doesn't seem so," said the judge.

Justice Chan suggested getting former attorneys-general, such as Justice Chao Hick Tin, Mr Chan Sek Keong and Mr V.K. Rajah, as mediators.

"Your main point is for your client to get some money back," he told Mr Balchandani. "The vexatious and frivolous test is the means to the end, the end is the compensation."

Mr Balchandani said he understood that the threshold to prove the case is high, but his client was seeking "a nominal amount to show that something went wrong".

He added: "The appellant, who is now a free person was wronged, and the AGC could be a little wiser the next time round."

Ms Parti was fired by the Liews on Oct 28, 2016. She was arrested on Dec 2 that year when she returned to Singapore and has stayed at a shelter run by Home since then.

On Tuesday, Justice Chan questioned Mr Balchandani on the $71,000 figure, which included $20 a day for her stay, making a total of $29,220.

The judge noted that the expenses incurred by Home cannot be considered as a loss to Ms Parti.

Justice Chan also asked about money that was raised for Ms Parti through crowdfunding.

Mr Balchandani said one part of the $28,000 will go to Ms Parti and another will go towards the expenses for her stay here.

The case was adjourned for parties to consider mediation.

If the mediation attempt fails, Mr Balchandani has two weeks to file written submissions, after which the prosecution has three weeks to respond and Mr Balchandani has another week to reply.

The high-profile case sparked public outcry, with questions raised about the evidence-gathering process and the way in which the trial was conducted.

Last week, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon allowed investigations to proceed against the two prosecutors who handled Ms Parti's trial after she filed a complaint against them.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam is expected to make a ministerial statement in Parliament next week to address questions that have been raised about the case.

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