PM Lee on Phey Yew Kok case: Singapore will not allow cover up even when it is awkward for Govt

Mr Phey Yew Kok, then president of NTUC, meeting the press on Singapore's first co-operative supermarket in 1973. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Government has maintained a clean and non-corrupt system in Singapore for half a century because it has zero tolerance for corruption, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

When it discovers wrongdoing, it does not hesitate to act, he said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (June 24). "We will not allow any cover up, even when it is awkward or embarrassing for the Government."

Referring to the surrender of former PAP MP and senior union leader Phey Yew Kok, Mr Lee noted that not many might remember Phey.

In 1979, he was charged with criminal breach of trust and misuse of union funds. The following year he absconded while on bail, and became a fugitive from justice, Mr Lee said.

"Two days ago, Phey turned himself in at our Embassy in Bangkok, and today he returned to Singapore. Phey was charged in court this afternoon, and the law will have to take its course."

His FB post echoed a statement that his office issued soon after news came that Phey, now 81, was brought back to Singapore on Tuesday night. (June 23)

Phey had jumped bail and fled Singapore on Dec 31, 1979, to escape charges for misuse of union funds. At the time, he had been charged with four counts of criminal breach of trust involving $83,000 on Dec 10, 1979.

He was also charged with two counts under the Trades Unions Act for investing $18,000 of trade union money in a private supermarket without the approval of the minister.

He pleaded not guilty to all six charges, and was released on bail of $100,000 with two sureties.

On Wednesday (June 24), all six charges were re-read to Phey. The prosecution has applied for him to be remanded at Changi Prison for investigations, and more charges will be tendered against him.

A pre-trial conference has been set for July 23.

Mr Chan Chee Seng, 83, who was Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social Affairs when Phey jumped bail and absconded, told The Straits Times: "We were very close parliamentary colleagues before and till this day I still feel it was very silly of him to run away. He should have stayed behind to answer the charges against him. After so many years, he still has to face the consequences of what he did."

"I am glad he is back finally to answer the charges against him and bring closure to the case after more than 30 years," he added.

Mr Lee Khoon Choy, 91, who was Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister Office between 1978 and 1984, was surprised that Phey surrendered himself after so many years. He said: "I thought he won't be back after hiding so long in Thailand. I was told he had been in Thailand all these years. I cannot even recall the details of the charges against now."

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