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The Straits Times
April 14, 2023
Karl Liew, the son of Changi Airport Group’s former chairman Liew Mun Leong, was sentenced to two weeks in jail on Friday for lying to a district judge in an earlier trial.
It involved the family’s former maid, Ms Parti Liyani, who had been accused of stealing from their household.
Three weeks before testifying at her trial, Karl Liew was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to muscle tremors as well as difficulty in walking and balancing.
In his oral grounds, District Judge Eugene Teo noted that both the prosecution and defence in Karl Liew’s case had asked for him to be given the maximum fine of $5,000.
The judge said he could not agree with such a sentence.
He stressed that the case involved a person who knowingly furnished a false statement to the police that someone had committed an offence.
After that, the person went to court to also furnish false testimony under oath to the judge.
Judge Teo said: “Whilst I register the point that a wrongful conviction did not ultimately result, it does not change the fact that those actions just recounted are all innately serious and ought to be met with the clearest degree of condemnation.
“The result here must leave no one with any doubt about our tolerance for such brazen fraud in the face of the court, and upon the court. In my judgment, nothing less than an imprisonment sentence is due for such cases.”
Among other things, Judge Teo noted that the false statement did result in the police and the prosecution being misled, and Ms Parti being investigated.
He added: “It is abhorrent for the justice system to result in the wrongful conviction of an innocent person, and efforts to prevent that must be taken.
“In this case, Mr Karl Liew’s actions in the false evidence charge sought to precisely defeat some of those efforts just spoken about in order to bring about the outcome which no one should find palatable to stomach.”
Judge Teo said the legitimacy of Singapore’s justice system relied on the continuing faith of the public that all efforts would be taken to do what is right.
He added: “In my judgment, those efforts must include responding properly to take appropriate punitive action whenever it is established that someone has sought to mislead and abuse the justice process to pervert its outcomes.
“It is a grave violation because it goes against our most cherished and foundational notions of right and wrong.”
The judge also said the prisons had confirmed that they can accommodate Karl Liew’s health condition.
Liew, 45, pleaded guilty on March 30 to giving false information to a public servant, and could have been jailed for up to two years, fined or both.
Ms Parti, 49, started working as a maid in his household in March 2007. The Indonesian was asked in March 2016 to do chores at his home and clean his office at another location.
She was unhappy about being made to do extra work.
The Liew family terminated her employment in October 2016, and she was given two hours to pack her belongings into three boxes.
Ms Parti threatened to lodge a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower before returning to Indonesia.
She had asked Karl Liew to pay for the boxes to be shipped to her. The day after she left, the Liew family opened the boxes.
A police report was made, claiming that some of the items she had packed in the boxes belonged to the family.
Ms Parti was arrested when she returned to Singapore in December 2016 to find work.
She was later charged with multiple counts of theft and was tried before District Judge Olivia Low from April 2018 to March 2019.
One of these charges alleged that she had stolen items with a total value of $46,856. They included 120 pieces of clothing that were valued at $150 each.
These included a cream polo T-shirt and a red blouse.
Karl Liew was called as a prosecution witness during the trial and Ms Parti’s pro bono lawyer, Mr Anil Balchandani, cross-examined him.
On July 17, 2018, Liew falsely testified that the cream polo T-shirt and red blouse belonged to him.
Judge Low later amended the charge on March 20, 2019, removing from it five articles of clothing, including the T-shirt and blouse. She found that the two garments did not belong to Karl Liew.
But Ms Parti was convicted of stealing more than $30,000 worth of items from the Liews, and in 2019 was sentenced to two years and two months’ jail.
She was acquitted in 2020 after the High Court overturned her conviction on appeal.
The High Court ruled that the original conviction was unsafe, highlighting the police’s handling of the evidence.
In February 2022, the media reported that two police officers who were involved in Ms Parti’s case had neglected their duties and fallen short of expectations.
Both officers were fined, and the penalties were calculated through the number of months of salary increments forgone, said Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam on Feb 14, 2022.
In an update in Parliament on the internal investigations of the case, Mr Shanmugam had said that both the investigation officer and his supervisor had neglected their duties.
On Friday, Karl Liew’s bail was set at $15,000, and he was ordered to surrender himself at the State Courts on May 8 to begin serving his sentence.