7 takeaways from Shanmugam's ministerial statement on Parti Liyani case

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam spoke at length in Parliament on the case involving Ms Parti Liyani (above).
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam spoke at length in Parliament on the case involving Ms Parti Liyani (above).PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam spoke at length in Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 4) on the case involving Ms Parti Liyani, a maid who was acquitted of stealing from her former employers, the family of former Changi Airport Group Chairman Liew Mun Leong. The case had sparked public uproar about the criminal justice system.

Here are seven key takeaways from his speech.

1. The decision of the Liews to terminate Ms Parti Liyani's employment was made some time ago

In his judgment, Justice Chan Seng Onn described the termination as "sudden" and noted there was reason to believe that it was a "pre-emptive first step" by the Liews to ensure that Ms Parti could not complain to MOM.

However, Mr Shanmugam said further investigations have shown that the Liews had told their maid agency by end-2015 that they wanted a new helper as they had suspected Ms Parti of stealing.

Ms Parti was dismissed on Oct 28, 2016, because a new helper became available on that day, said Mr Shanmugam.

2. Police and the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) had handled the case as a routine theft case

Mr Shanmugam reiterated that there was no undue influence on the police or the AGC by Mr Liew, or by anyone acting on the family's behalf.

However, he acknowledged that there were lapses in the investigation process, namely how there had been a five-week gap from when the police report was filed, to when the police officers visited the scene.

3. The AGC had reason to charge Ms Parti for the crime based on the evidence before them

Police investigators and prosecutors had assessed that Ms Parti was untruthful, in initial investigations, and there was sufficient evidence to charge Ms Parti for theft, said Mr Shanmugam.

Her statements to the police had several inconsistencies, he added, noting Ms Parti had initially admitted to taking several items of male clothing without permission.

4. Mr Karl Liew's "highly unsatisfactory" evidence and conduct during trial

Mr Shanmugam said there appears to have been a "cavalier attitude" on the part of the Liews in the way that some items were identified as belonging to them and in the way values were ascribed to some items. Mr Karl Liew, in particular, was singled out as many aspects of his evidence and conduct in court had "raised scepticism", said Mr Shanmugam.

5. Attorney-General (AG) Lucien Wong recused himself from the case because his history of differences with Mr Liew could affect the perception of fairness

AG Lucien Wong had resigned from the Board of Directors of CapitaLand, because he had a "difference of viewpoints" with Mr Liew, who was then president and chief executive, on some issues, Mr Shanmugam revealed in parliament.

6. The District Judge had convicted Ms Parti after she had found "serious inconsistencies" in Ms Parti's evidence, among others

The lower court had also found that Ms Parti's evidence on some items were "implausible", said Mr Shanmugam.

This includes Ms Parti's claims to have picked up two iPhones, jewellery and a Prada bag from the trash. The district judge had preferred the Liews' evidence that they would not have discarded such items, said Mr Shanmugam.

7. The High Court had acquitted Ms Parti primarily based on the finding that there was reasonable doubt of improper motive, and a break in the chain of custody for allegedly stolen items

The High Court judge had also expressed doubts on the credibility of the prosecution's witnesses, and on whether Ms Parti's statements to the police should be used against her as there were inaccuracies in the way the questions were phrased and grammatical errors, said Mr Shanmugam.