It's on the front page of many newspapers today.
Former Member of Parliament (MP) Phey Yew Kok turned himself in on Monday (Jun 22) and appeared in court on Wednesday (Jun 24), after being on the run for 35 years.
The former NTUC chairman was charged on Dec 10, 1979, with four counts of criminal breach of trust of a total of S$82,520, and other offences under the Trade Union Act.
More than 35 years ago, he failed to turn up in court on Jan 7, 1980 after being charged.
On Dec 31, 1979, he took a train to Kuala Lumpur and vanished upon reaching Bangkok.
Phey is scheduled to appear in court on Jul 23.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has commented on the matter, stressing that a "clean and non-corrupt system" has been maintained in Singapore because of its "zero tolerance for corruption".
Below are three excerpts from the exchanges between parliamentarians about Phey Yew Kok during the 35 years when he was on the run.
1) 1998: "Whether the search for Mr Phey has been abandoned" - J B Jeyaretnam and Ho Peng Kee
J B Jeyaretnam asked the Minister for Home Affairs (i) whether the search for Mr Phey Yew Kok has been abandoned and (ii) what success the police have had to secure the return of the man reported to be hiding in Macau after the suicide of the late Mr Teh Cheang Wan.
Assoc. Prof. Ho Peng Kee (for the Minister for Home Affairs): Sir, any effort in tracking down Phey Yew Kok is now very much dependent on available intelligence on his exact whereabouts. Without this, no specific effort can be mounted. Meanwhile, he is still on the wanted list of all Interpol member countries. Also, the warrant of arrest against him is still in force.
Jeyaretnam: Considering that this man Phey Yew Kok has been out of the country for more than 20 years, and we hear the Minister saying that the Police has still not been able to find where he is, are we to understand that the Police are now abandoning the search because I cannot see any purpose? The second question is: are the Police aware or do they know if the wife of Mr Phey Yew Kok regularly takes trips out of Singapore or not?
Ho: Sir, as to the first question, I have stated just now that he is still on the wanted list of Interpol. The case is therefore still alive. As to the second question, because the case is alive, it would not be prudent to divulge information on the operation procedures of the CPIB.
2) 1989: Taxpayers' monies spent on finding Phey - Lee Siew-Choh and Prof Jayakumar
Dr Lee Siew-Choh asked the Minister for Home Affairs if he will inform the House how much of the taxpayers' monies have been spent on (i) maintaining surveillance on the movements of Mr Francis T Seow in the United States and (ii) attempts to find Mr Phey Yew Kok.
Prof. Jayakumar: Mr Speaker, Sir, the amount spent on observing Seow's movements are well within the budget allocation for such investigations requested by the Public Prosecutor. The amount is modest compared to the gravity of the crimes being committed, namely, deceiving the court, suborning the process of justice, and fabricating false evidence... The cost of the investigations has been repaid many times over by the value of the deterrence on others like Francis Seow, who believed that, once out of jurisdiction, when in the States, they are at liberty to suborn the course of justice by concocting false medical certificates by unregistered so-called Human Rights physicians and by feigning illness [...]
In Phey Yew Kok's case, we do not know his whereabouts. But in Francis Seow's case we knew his whereabouts [...]
Lee: Mr Speaker, Sir, [...] How does he compare the investigation against Francis Seow to the investigation against Phey Yew Kok?
Prof. Jayakumar: I thought I said in my answer just now, Sir, that in the case of Mr Francis Seow we knew his movements. In the case of Mr Phey Yew Kok we do not know his movements. How do we compare? The facts speak for themselves.
When Phey Yew Kok failed to appear in court on 7th January 1980, CPIB took the following actions. First, CPIB officers were sent to look for him at his residence, place of work and places which he used to frequent. A 24-hour observation was kept at his house and office. A warrant was obtained for his arrest. Interpol was alerted to look out for him. An appeal was made in the local press for information of his whereabouts. Immigration and Heads of Missions abroad were also asked to keep a look-out for him.
When we thought that he was in Bangkok, CPIB officers went there to get the assistance of the Thai authorities to locate Phey Yew Kok and bring him back. And this action was taken even though there was no extradition treaty with Thailand. The Thai Authorities even raided premises where it was thought that he might have stayed. All that needs to be done was done. Phey Yew Kok's whereabouts now are not known. He is still on the Interpol's list for arrest on sight. There is still a warrant of arrest for him and there is no period of limitation on his offence.
Lee: What about Taiwan?
Jayakumar: If the Member has some special inside information that he may be in Taiwan, I shall be most pleased to have it and I will pass it on to the authorities.
Lee: The Minister has still not answered the question about what was the sum spent.
Jayakumar: As I have said, it is irrelevant.
3) 1986: "If the police have given up all hope of finding Mr Phey Yew Kok" - Jeyaretnam and Lee Boon Yang
Jeyaretnam asked the Minister for Home Affairs if the Police have given up all hope of finding Mr Phey Yew Kok.
Dr Lee Boon Yang (for the Minister for Home Affairs): Mr Speaker, Sir, I shall answer on behalf of my Minister.
I would like to inform the Member for Anson that the warrant of arrest against Phey Yew Kok is still in force and he remains on the wanted list of all the Interpol member countries.
Jeyaretnam: May I ask the Minister of State that in view of the great speed and efficiency in which the Singapore Police have been able to track others who have left Singapore, there are doubts now being raised in the public mind of the efficiency of the Singapore Police when they seem unable to track down Mr Phey Yew Kok. Is he aware of that?
Lee: Mr Speaker, Sir, the speed at which the Police Force has been able to trace other fugitives from justice in Singapore is, to a large extent, dependent on the good and reliable information that the Police Force has obtained in those cases. There had been cases where Interpol had provided timely information which resulted in the apprehending of these fugitives.
In the case of Phey Yew Kok, unfortunately, such information has not been forthcoming.
Jeyaretnam: Is the Minister of State aware of the answer that was given, I think, in the last Parliament by the then Minister for Home Affairs that this man was somewhere in a neighbouring country and I asked for this country to be named and that was not divulged? Is he also aware that this House was then told that the Police were anxiously keeping surveillance to see whether he was moving out of that country to anywhere else? Would the Minister of State tell us something more? Is that man still hiding in one of the neighbouring countries?
Lee: Mr Speaker, Sir, the Member for Anson mentioned that he was informed at the last Parliament that Phey Yew Kok was still in a neighbouring country. I would like to point out to him that the House was actually informed that, as far as the Police investigation was concerned, he was traced to have left Singapore on 31st December 1979, proceeding to Kuala Lumpur, and from there on he was understood to have left for Thailand. And from there on the trail disappeared.
The Police does not have any information at the present moment on the whereabouts of Phey Yew Kok. But if the Member for Anson has any information which he thinks might be relevant to the case, he is welcome to assist the Police by supplying this information so that a detailed investigation and apprehension of Phey Yew Kok can be carried out.
Jeyaretnam: Will the Minister of State tell us whether the family of this man, Mr Phey Yew Kok, is still living in Singapore?
Lee: Yes, the family of the man is still in Singapore.
Jeyaretnam: Will the Minister tell us whether the Police are aware if the man is in contact with members of his family or have they lost all contact with him?
Lee: Mr Speaker, Sir, as I have said, the Police have no knowledge of the whereabouts of this man. The Police does not know if he has been in contact with his family.
Jeyaretnam: Have the Police interviewed members of the family recently? Have they seen or censored any post coming to the family from abroad?
Lee: Mr Speaker, Sir, is the Member for Anson suggesting that we conduct a Police investigation on the members of the family? There has been no information as to whether he has been in contact with the family or not. Does he now propose that the Police launch a surveillance and a persecution of the family?
Jeyaretnam: Mr Speaker, Sir, may I assure the Minister of State that I am not suggesting that the family should be put under third degree treatment. But is the Minister saying that the Police are averse to interviewing the family and averse to keeping watch on any correspondence received by this family from abroad because I know that is done in other cases?
Lee: Mr Speaker, Sir, I am not aware of what has been done in other cases in terms of surveillance of the letters and correspondence. I do not know what the Member for Anson is suggesting. If he has any facts in regard to such surveillance, he should bring these to the House.
The Police will do whatever is necessary to trace the whereabout of Phey Yew Kok. I do not think it is necessary or relevant at this point of time to inform the House of all the Police procedures in this case.
Sir, the Member for Anson has a penchant for raising this case regularly.
Jeyaretnam: Ask the public.
Lee: By his frequent raising of this subject, he is serving notice to the fugitive that he should make himself scarce.
Top photo from National Archives of Singapore.