Indian-origin Singapore Minister resigns after being charged with corruption


S. Iswaran, Singapore’s former transport minister, (centre) arrives at the State Courts with his legal team, in Singapore, January 18, 2024.

S. Iswaran, Singapore’s former transport minister, (centre) arrives at the State Courts with his legal team, in Singapore, January 18, 2024.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Singapore’s Indian-origin Transport Minister S. Iswaran, who is facing corruption charges, resigned from the ruling People’s Action Party on Thursday, January 18, 2024.

The 61-year-old politician will also step down as a Member of Parliament, The Straits Times newspaper reported.

Iswaran was arrested on July 11 last year as part of an investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB).

His arrest was made public on July 14, although no details were provided on the nature of the investigation, according to media reports. Property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, who owns the rights to the Singapore Grand Prix and is chairman of race promoter Singapore GP, was arrested and asked to provide information about his interactions with Iswaran.

Iswaran rejects allegations

In his resignation letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, dated January 16, Iswaran rejected the various offences the CPIB charged him with.

“I reject the allegations in the charges and will now focus on clearing my name. Given the circumstances, I feel it is right for me to resign from Cabinet, as a Member of Parliament and as a member of the PAP,” the letter said.

In a separate letter to the Prime Minister, dated January 17, Iswaran said that he would be returning his salary and MP allowance received since the commencement of the CPIB investigations in July 2023.

“My family and I have decided to return the monies because we cannot in all good conscience benefit from them when I was unable, on account of the investigations, to discharge my duties as a minister and Member of Parliament,” he said, adding that he will not be seeking the return of these if he is acquitted.

Integrity is paramount: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Responding to Iswaran’s letter, the Prime Minister said on January 16, 2024, that he was disappointed and saddened that he (Iswaran) was leaving politics in these circumstances.

“But it is essential that I deal with such matters rigorously as per the law. It is the right thing to do. We must uphold the integrity of the Party (PAP) and the government. I am sure you understand the importance of doing so. Singaporeans expect no less,” said Lee.

In a separate statement, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said that Acting Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat will replace Iswaran effective Thursday. He will also be appointed Second Minister for Finance.

Meanwhile, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu will take over Iswaran’s portfolio as the Minister-in-Charge of Trade Relations.

Earlier on Thursday, Iswaran appeared before a district judge and was charged with two counts of corruption over bribes.

He arrived at the State Courts at about 8 am and did not respond to questions from reporters during his walk to the court entrance, according to a Channel News Asia report.

He pleaded not guilty to 27 charges – two of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act, one of obstructing justice and 24 of receiving gratification as a public servant under the Penal Code.

Iswaran is accused of accepting more than SGD 160,000 from Ong to advance the hotelier’s business interests in a Singapore Grand Prix contract with the Singapore Tourism Board in September and December 2022.

He also faces 24 charges of accepting valuable items worth more than SGD 218,000, including Singapore Grand Prix tickets, between November 2015 and December 2021 from Ong while being a public servant and one charge of obstructing justice in May 2023.

Iswaran was Minister for Transport since May 2021. His political career spans more than 26 years since he was first elected in 1997 as a Member of Parliament.

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