Singapore Minister Hit With 27 Corruption Charges, Forced To Resign

By Victor Winston, updated on January 18, 2024

For the first time since 1986, a sitting cabinet minister in Singapore is embroiled in corruption issues.

Singapore's Transport Minister, S Iswaran, has resigned following serious corruption charges.

On Thursday, S Iswaran appeared in court, facing a staggering 27 charges. These included 24 counts of obtaining gratification as a public servant, two corruption charges, and one obstructing justice. Despite the overwhelming number of accusations, Iswaran pled not guilty to all charges.

The gravity of these charges compelled Iswaran to resign just two days before his court appearance. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Acting Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat would assume Iswaran's responsibilities. This swift change in leadership underscores the severity of the situation.

Iswaran's Significant Financial Concessions

In a notable act, Iswaran returned his ministerial salary and parliamentary allowances. This gesture was made since the start of the corruption probe in July. He firmly believed in his innocence and his commitment to clearing his name.

S Iswaran's statement highlighted his determination to prove his innocence. He stressed that the return of his earnings was not an admission of guilt but a measure to ensure public confidence. He said:

I am doing this even though I reject the charges and am innocent, so that there is no doubt, I will not be seeking the return of these monies if, as I strongly believe, I am acquitted.

The charges against Iswaran detail his alleged acceptance of tickets to high-profile events from billionaire Ong Beng Seng. These events included the Singapore Grand Prix, soccer matches, and shows in the UK, painting a picture of luxury and privilege.

The High Cost of Alleged Corruption

Investigators have calculated that between 2016 and 2022, Iswaran allegedly obtained 116 tickets to the Singapore Grand Prix. The total value of these tickets is estimated to be over S$347,000. This substantial figure adds a concrete dimension to the charges, illustrating the scale of the alleged corruption.

Ong Beng Seng, the billionaire at the center of these allegations, was arrested in July as part of the investigation into Iswaran. The ongoing inquiry into Ong's role underscores the complexity and breadth of this case.

This incident is the first time a cabinet minister in Singapore has been charged with corruption since 1986. The previous case involved Teh Cheang Wan, who was probed before his tragic suicide. Iswaran's case has thus broken a long-standing period of relative political cleanliness in Singapore.

A Rare Scandal in Singapore's Governance

Singapore is globally recognized for its clean governance and high ministerial salaries, ranking 5th on the Corruption Perceptions Index. The Iswaran scandal is a rare blemish on this record, bringing unwanted attention to the nation's political sphere.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's response to the scandal was immediate and firm. He emphasized his commitment to maintaining the highest standards of integrity within the government. His zero-tolerance stance towards corruption sends a strong message to the public and government officials.

Conclusion

In a significant corruption scandal, Singapore's Transport Minister S Iswaran faces 27 charges, including corruption and obstruction of justice, to which he pled not guilty. This case marks the first time since 1986 that a Singaporean cabinet minister has been embroiled in corruption, as previously seen in the case of The Cheang Wan.

Iswaran, asserting his innocence, returned his ministerial salary and parliamentary allowances since the start of the probe in July. The charges involve his alleged acceptance of tickets to events like the Singapore Grand Prix from billionaire Ong Beng Seng, amounting to over S$347,000.

Singapore, known for its clean governance, is facing a rare political scandal, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong maintaining a strict stance against corruption.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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