Former Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family had been looking to replace domestic helper Parti Liyani as far back as in 2015, Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said in Parliament on Nov. 4.
The Liews already had their suspicions at that time about Parti stealing items, he added, but no firm decision regarding her employment was taken that year.
Shanmugam shared these details addressing the landmark case in a ministerial statement after questions were filed by various members of parliament in the weeks prior.
He outlined details of the case as repeated in court during Parti's trial at the state court level pertaining to the Liew family's actions regarding Parti's employment, and how they decided to go to the police on their suspicions that she was stealing items from them.
Termination decision was made in Sep. 2016
Shanmugam noted that the Liews' decision to fire Parti was made in September 2016, after an apparent incident in May that year where Liew received a specially-designed power bank from France that "disappeared" a few days later.
At that point, the only occupants in the house were Liew, his wife Ng Lai Peng, and Parti herself, although others may have had access to the house, Shanmugam noted.
The minister said it was also that month when Liew and his wife informed Parti's maid agency of their decision, and decided to let her go once a replacement helper was available.
Liew's son broke the news of termination to Parti
While he was travelling, Liew asked his wife to arrange for people to be around to serve Parti's notice of termination to her. His son Karl headed to his father's residence in the morning of Oct. 28, 2016 with Parti's employment agents in tow to do the deed.
Karl told Parti that the family was sending her home. Shanmugam said no reasons were initially given.
When Parti asked why she was being dismissed, Karl said "there are missing items in the house. And the only people staying in the house were my father, my mother, and you".
Parti was then asked to pack her belongings and given two months' salary as compensation on top of her salary for October.
Three boxes were provided at her request, which she packed with assistance from the Liews' other employees. Karl agreed to pay for the boxes to be sent back to Indonesia with her, and she left with her agent and flew back to Indonesia that night.
Items found in boxes served as catalyst for police report against Parti
When Karl returned home, he told his wife Heather Lim about what had transpired.
Lim then said the boxes should not be sent back without them being aware of their contents.
The next afternoon, Ng, Lim and Karl opened the boxes and went through the items within over two hours, saying they discovered items they owned but had not seen for years.
Liew also returned to Singapore that day, and spent a short time going through the contents of the boxes as well.
The next day (Oct. 30, 2016), Liew lodged a police report at Tanglin Police Station, alleging that some of the contents of Parti's boxes were family items that had been stolen.
Parti was arrested on Dec. 2, 2016, when she returned to Singapore to visit her friend.
Police visited the Liews' houses the day after Parti's arrest
The police then headed to Karl's and Liew's homes on Dec. 3, 2016.
They found one of the three boxes at Karl's place, which Karl said contained items that belonged to him. It contained clothing, bedding, kitchenware and utensils.
The items were photographed and used in recording various statements but were not seized by police.
Over at Liew's house, police seized 51 items from the remaining two boxes.
They did not take some items that were seen as "daily use" items claimed by the Liews. Photographs of these items were taken instead.
The police then continued in their investigations, taking statements from Parti, the Liews and other witnesses, before referring the matter to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC).
The conduct of the Liews during the investigation
In his statement, Shanmugam also voiced his view that the Liews seemed to show a "cavalier attitude" in regard to the case, particularly in how they identified items that belonged to them, and the way monetary value was ascribed to some of them.
The minister also observed that there were many aspects of Karl's conduct and evidence that he found "highly unsatisfactory", and which raised scepticism based on what said at trial.
"It is natural to expect that you will know and take your duties seriously when you file a police report. Be careful in what you say and do, commensurate with your knowledge and experience.
When you claim an item, you make sure it is yours. When you ascribe a value, make sure you have a basis. Questions do arise about how one or more of the Liews have conducted themselves on these and other aspects.
I don't want to say more. There is more I would have liked to have said. I haven't made any comments about honesty. I have been somewhat restrained because of the investigations."
In addition, Shanmugam observed that Karl gave inconsistent answers throughout the trial. In some instances, the testimony of one of the Liews was either contradicted or at variance with the evidence of another family member.
"He appeared not to be a credible witness," Shanmugam remarked.
High Court doubted Karl's credibility
As such, the High Court had doubts about the Liews' credibility, with the following among Karl's testimony and evidence singled out in particular:
- His failure to clearly identify some pieces of clothing that Parti was accused of stealing, such as a black dress, as having been in his possession,
- His "difficulties with some of the other items of clothing" like a red blouse and cream polo T-shirt,
- His claim that he wore women's T-shirts,
- The fact that none of his family members could recall giving him two wallets as gifts -- a Gucci and a Braun Buffel,
- His claim that a Helix watch was a gift to him from Liew, especially because Liew himself denied ever having owned it,
- His assignment of S$25,000 in value to a Gerald Genta watch that was later placed at S$500 by a defence expert given its state, and
- His claim that he bought a bedsheet from Habitat in the UK when his wife testified that she had never seen it before, and it had the same pattern as a quilt cover that had an "IKEA" label on it.
These, Shanmugam noted, led to the High Court's decision to give little weight to what Karl said in court, saying he was unreliable.
Karl now under investigation for potential criminal offences, including perjury
On this matter, Shanmugam said Karl had since undergone a now-complete investigation as to whether he had committed any criminal offences, including perjury.
Statements were taken from Karl regarding:
- Whether the items highlighted by the High Court had been in his possession, and
- His explanation for his inconsistencies at trial, regarding these particular items in question.
Shanmugam added that a view on the matter is likely to be given later this evening.
Totally unrelated but follow and listen to our podcast here
Top image collage left image screenshot from CNA YouTube, right image from NUS Facebook