Singapore minister charged in corruption case for allegedly taking over S$160,000 ‘gifts’

Subramaniam Iswaran directed Singapore’s tourism industry during Formula One Grand Prix

Subramaniam Iswaran, Singapore’s former transport minister, arrives at the State Courts with his legal team, including Senior Counsel Davinder Singh (L), in Singapore, January 18, 2024. — Reuters

A Singapore cabinet minister quit his post in government Thursday after being charged with corruption, in a rare case that has shocked a nation which prides itself on squeaky-clean governance, the BBC reported.

Subramaniam Iswaran, known for overseeing Singapore’s tourism industry during the Formula One Grand Prix, pleaded not guilty to 27 charges, including “obtaining gratification as a public servant.”

Prosecutors released charge sheets that revealed allegations that Iswaran received over S$160,000 in gifts in exchange for advancing property tycoon Ong Beng Seng’s business interests, as well as receiving tickets to West End musicals and football matches.

Iswaran was arrested last year along with Ong, who was instrumental in bringing the F1 race to Singapore in 2008. Ong was named in all of Iswaran’s charges, often as the party offering the alleged bribes.

In a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on Thursday, Iswaran wrote: “I reject the charges and am innocent.”

Besides announcing his resignation, he also said he would return his salaries and allowances since investigations into his case started last July.

Iswaran, a veteran of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), was put on a leave of absence when he was arrested, but he was still being paid S$8,500 a month. As an MP, he was also receiving an allowance of more than S$15,000 a month.

Singapore’s lawmakers, including ministers, earn over S$45,000 a month, in a move to combat corruption.

The former government official held various portfolios including prime minister’s office, home affairs, communications, and transport ministry.

His most notable role was in the trade and industry ministry, where he significantly contributed to Singapore’s tourism development in the late 2000s and 2010.

Singapore PM Lee said on Thursday that he has accepted Iswaran’s resignation and that his government has dealt with this case “rigorously”.

“I am determined to uphold the integrity of the party and the government, and our reputation for honesty and incorruptibility. Singaporeans expect no less,” he said.

The last time a minister faced a corruption probe was in 1986 when national development minister Teh Cheang Wan was investigated for accepting bribes. He took his own life before he was charged.

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