AHTC trial defendants Low, Lim & Pritam acted in good faith, their lawyers say in closing submissions

Plaintiffs' case dismissed as it didn't take into account defendants' actual circumstances.

Belmont Lay | January 21, 2019, 11:30 PM

Lawyers for the defendants in the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) trial filed their closing submissions on Friday, Jan. 18.

The closing submissions make for technical reading, as reported by Channel News Asia on Monday, Jan. 21.

But in summary, the closing submissions for the defendants said:

1. The town councillors acted in good faith at all times and in execution of the Town Council Act (TCA) and Town Councils Financial Rules (TCFR).

2. The town councillors owe only statutory duties, which they have acted in accordance with.

3. Lawyers for the defendants Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Pritam Singh, as well as former AHTC town councillors Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo, contended that while there are statutory duties owed by the town councillors in accordance with the TCA, the statutory duties owed “does not give rise to a fiduciary obligation”, unless Parliament intended otherwise.

4. For Chua and Foo to be saddled with fiduciary duties would also be “unduly onerous”, as they are resident volunteers volunteering their services “for the common good”, and were only paid an honorarium of S$300 each a month.

Other three defendants

5. The other three defendants involved in the suit are director and shareholder of FMSS How Weng Fan, and her late husband FMSS owner Danny Loh and FMSS itself.

6. Loh and How acted in good faith too, said their lawyers from Netto & Magin LLC, and they were not town councillors -- their appointments were for administrative purposes and did not carry fiduciary duties.

7. Loh and How were also not members of the town council and did not have voting rights or decision-making powers.

8. So, Section 15 of the TCA, which restricts disclosure of interest to members of the town council, does not apply to both of them.

All in accordance with processes and circumstances

9. Lawyers for the first five defendants also stressed that the appointments of FMSS, its service provider FMSI, the third-party contractors as well as the payments made to them were done in accordance with the processes in AHTC and with the consent of the town councillors.

10. Lawyers for the first five defendants also argued that witnesses called by AHTC and PRPTC were not independent expert witnesses and that the plaintiffs’ only basis for their claims are the reports by audit firms KPMG and Pricewaterhousecoopers (PwC).

11. The plaintiffs had also attempted to build their case by subjecting the defendants to the “standards of perfect hindsight” using hypothetical scenarios that “did not take into consideration the actual circumstances that the town councillors faced at the time”, the defence lawyers wrote.

The case in brief

AHTC and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) are suing the eight defendants over alleged improper payments involving millions of dollars.

They are also accused of breaching their fiduciary duties in the appointment of town council managing agent FM Solutions and Services (FMSS).

Parties will have up to the middle of February to file replies to each other’s submissions, before making oral submissions in person in March.

Plaintiff closing submissions: