Parliament: AGC developing guidelines for valuation of items after Liew family inflated prices of allegedly stolen items


SINGAPORE - The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) is developing guidelines on how to properly value allegedly stolen items after it emerged during the Parti Liyani trial that the prices of certain items were inflated by the complainants.

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam told Parliament this is one of two areas the AGC has identified that need rectification, after reviewing its actions in the Parti Liyani trial, where the maid was acquitted of all theft charges on Sept 4.

He also stressed that the prosecution's overarching role is to ensure that justice is done, and not to "win the case at all costs".

"This point is not being made by reference to this case - it is a general point," said Mr Shanmugam. He noted that Attorney-General Lucien Wong has publicly stressed this on many occasions.

"AGC has consistently emphasised this point to all its officers, and will continue to do so."

Delivering a ministerial statement on the case of Ms Parti, Mr Shanmugam acknowledged that independent assessment of the value of items "may have helped" in some of the items in this case, as prosecutors had derived the value of items by relying on the Liew family's estimates.

This has been the general practice for the valuation of items and there are no formal guidelines, said Mr Shanmugam, adding that prosecutors are expected to use their "judgment and discretion".

During the trial, the courts had found that the values of some of the items had been "overestimated", including a Gerald Genta watch that was originally priced at $25,000 by the prosecution.

Mr Karl Liew, the son of the former Changi Airport Group chairman, had claimed the watch was worth that much, based on his own "impression", even though the strap was broken and it had a missing button knob.

A witness called by the defence placed its current value at $500 instead, adding that the date function was faulty. The worth of the watch was eventually reduced by the courts to $10,000.

Mr Liew also told prosecutors that a Helix watch was worth $50, but a horologist who was called to the stand testified that the watch was a free gift from the petrol company Shell.

The second area that AGC will improve on is that all such relevant physical exhibits should have been shown to witnesses before they take the stand, said Mr Shanmugam.

He noted that the Liew family was mostly shown photographs of the exhibits during witness interviews.

On exhibits, the High Court judge also said prosecutors should have fully disclosed the defect found in a $1,000 DVD player Ms Parti was accused of stealing during the trial. The prosecution only conceded that they had some difficulties playing a DVD disc with the machine in the appeal stage.

This element proved crucial in supporting Ms Parti's point that the DVD player was "spoilt" and the High Court judge found that it was likely that the Liews no longer wanted the player as it was partially spoilt.

Mr Shanmugam said the matter is now the subject of disciplinary proceedings, where a full account of what the prosecutors did will be given, and as such he would refrain from commenting on it.