Govt defends lack of charges

IN the absence of key witnesses and sufficient evidence, a decision was made to issue stern warnings instead of prosecuting six former senior management staff of Keppel Offshore & Marine Limited (KOM) over alleged bribe payments, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah in Parliament.

However, if compelling and new evidence surfaces, the Public Prosecutor (PP) can and will re-evaluate the decision, she added, stressing that Singapore’s zero-tolerance policy towards corruption must be upheld in a manner that complies with the rule of law.

Responding to 17 parliamentary questions filed on the matter, Indranee said, “Simply put, there is a lack of sufficient evidence, either documentary or through witnesses, which would establish any criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt against a specific individual.”

Referring to a press release that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) issued in January, Indranee said the agency had done its best, including working with international partners to uncover evidence.

“CPIB conducted an in-depth investigation within Singapore, within the scope of its legal powers.

“However, the difficulty with this case is that several potentially key witnesses are not in Singapore and CPIB has not been able to secure their cooperation or agreement to testify in Singapore,” said Indranee.

She added that both the CPIB and Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) had done a careful and thorough review of the relevant documents, including the Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) and plea bargains.

“The Public Prosecutor has advised that those are insufficient to meet the burden of proof,” she said.CPIB had made two fact-finding trips to Brazil in 2019. The AGC and CPIB had sent three mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests to Brazil to secure needed evidence, and also an MLA request to another relevant foreign authority to interview other potential material witnesses.

“The contents and outcome of these MLA requests are confidential, but I can inform the House that they have either not yielded evidence that could be used to secure a conviction before our Courts, or the responses have not been helpful in advancing the case,” said Indranee, who is also Leader of the House.

There was also a foreign witness whose evidence in other proceedings could have been relevant to establishing the offences in Singapore, but was unwilling – and cannot be forced – to provide evidence here, she added.

On Jan 11, the CPIB said the six ex-employees had been investigated over allegedly conspiring with one another to give bribes amounting to about US$55mil to foreign consultants involved in Keppel O&M’s business interests in Brazil.

The money was then used to pay bribes to officials of Brazilian state-owned company Petrobras, pertaining to rig-building contracts that it or its related firms had awarded to Keppel O&M.

Under a global resolution led by the US Department of Justice and involving Brazil and Singapore, a conditional warning in lieu of prosecution was issued to the company.

Keppel O&M then paid a total fine of US$422mil and fulfilled all obligations under the conditional warning.

On why the six former staff were not named, Indranee said CPIB does not reveal names unless individuals are charged in court, to avoid prejudicing the person’s right to due process and avoid any presumption of guilt in the absence of formal findings.

She urged MPs who felt strongly about the matter to petition for change, though she cautioned that it would be a major policy change and “it cannot only be for this case, it must be for all future cases”. — The Straits Times/ANN

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bribe , Keppel , corruption


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