Workers' Party's legal bill $800k to date, AHTC to let court decide its fees

Workers' Party's Pritam Singh, Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim at the Supreme Court on Oct 8, 2018.
Workers' Party's Pritam Singh, Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim at the Supreme Court on Oct 8, 2018.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Workers' Party (WP) town councillors involved in multimillion-dollar lawsuits over alleged improper payments have paid their lawyers another $195,800.

This brings their legal bill to around $800,000 to date.

The latest bill was for "work done in the final pre-trial stage", WP chairman Sylvia Lim, secretary-general Pritam Singh and former chief Low Thia Khiang said on their blog In Good Faith yesterday, along with a picture of the receipt.

Last week, the trio raised over $1.13 million in a crowdfunding exercise that closed after three days, as the amount raised "substantially covers the legal fees required at this point in time", they wrote then.

Prior to the exercise, they had paid about $600,000 in fees out of their own pockets.

Of the crowdfunded amount, $1 million was deposited with law firm Tan, Rajah & Cheah. Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah is representing the trio and two other Aljunied-Hougang town councillors in the civil suits, for which the first leg of hearings ended on Tuesday.

The quintet, former AHTC managing agent FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) and its owners How Weng Fan and her late husband Danny Loh, have been sued by AHTC over $33.7 million in alleged improper payments.

AHTC was directed to sue by an independent panel led by Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam.

 
 

Separately, the panel said in an update on Wednesday that the law firm representing AHTC will let the High Court determine its fees after the case ends, through a legal process known as taxation.

The update added that the law firm had not been paid any professional fees so far, and AHTC has only paid for its share of the hearing fees.

Mr Cyril Chua, director of law firm Robinson LLC, said taxation is a "transparent process that pre-empts accusations of lawyers being overpaid".

He added that judges determine the appropriate legal fees based on the time spent by lawyers and the complexity of the case, among other things.

The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council has also launched a lawsuit against the defendants, to recover its share of losses allegedly incurred when Punggol East constituency was managed by the WP-led town council from 2013 to 2015. It is represented by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh of Drew & Napier.

When asked about Mr Singh's legal fees, Punggol East MP Charles Chong said he would not be commenting as long as the case is still before the courts.

FMSS' lawyers Netto & Magin LLC also declined to speak about their clients' fees to date.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2018, with the headline 'WP's legal bill $800k to date, AHTC to let court decide its fees'. Print Edition | Subscribe