Pofma order issued to Kenneth Jeyaretnam over comments about money laundering, other recent issues, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Pofma order issued to Kenneth Jeyaretnam over comments about money laundering, other recent issues

Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam has been issued a third correction direction under the law against fake news, this time over comments made in social media posts about three issues recently in the news.

They are the arrests of 10 foreign nationals during an islandwide anti-money laundering blitz, the corruption probe into Transport Minister S. Iswaran and Mr Ong Beng Seng, and the Ridout Road property rentals by Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) said on Tuesday that Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong issued the instruction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) to Mr Jeyaretnam.

He is required to put up correction notices on the posts he made on Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter, on Aug 18.

Mr Jeyaretnam falsely stated that the arrests of 10 foreign nationals on Aug 15 for forgery and money laundering offences were a result of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and China, putting pressure on Singapore.

“As stated in the police news release on Aug 16, they had identified the suspects through intelligence probes and extensive investigations including the analysis of suspicious transaction reports,” said MinLaw.

“These operations and the planning of the arrests had been in the works over many months. They were not at the behest or because of any foreign party.”

MinLaw added that no foreign parties had been informed of these cases before the arrests. 

In his post, Mr Jeyaretnam also made the false statement that the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) probe into Mr Iswaran and Mr Ong, too, was a result of foreign pressure.

The CPIB had been investigating a separate matter, and came across some information concerning Mr Iswaran, the ministry explained. CPIB then looked into the matter.

These facts were stated publicly on multiple occasions, including in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Education Minister Chan Chun Sing’s statements in Parliament on Aug 2, CPIB’s press release on July 12, as well as the PM’s statement and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong’s doorstop interview on the same day, MinLaw added.

Mr Jeyaretnam in his post also said the rental rates paid by Mr Shanmugam and Mr Balakrishnan for 26 and 31 Ridout Road, respectively, were locked in over nine years, which is untrue.

MinLaw said the tenancies are renewable every two or three years, and the rentals are reviewed based on prevailing market value.

“When the tenancies of the two properties were up for renewal after the initial three years, a revaluation was carried out by professional valuers to peg the rentals to the prevailing market rate,” it added. “This valuation was based on market comparables.”

The property at 26 Ridout Road was renewed in June 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, for three years with the rent maintained at $26,500 per month. The property at 31 Ridout Road was renewed in October 2022 for three years with the rent increased to $20,000 per month, from $19,000 per month.

Additional clarifications were also published in Government fact-checking website Factually on Tuesday.

Mr Jeyaretnam had in the same Facebook post claimed that “it took proof from German courts about F1’s Ecclestone paying bribes and a (British) investigation into his tax issues involving a Singapore bank, for the bank to be overhauled and three other Singapore financial institutions with it”, referring to former Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone.

The Factually article said DPM Wong had provided information on the facts in Parliament on Aug 2, where he stated that Singapore had proactively shared information with the British authorities to help them develop their case against Ecclestone.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) conducted an inspection of the bank cited in media reports to assess its controls for mitigating money laundering and terrorist financing risks, as early as 2017, about five years before Ecclestone was charged, he had also shared.

And while MAS found that there was room for improvement in the bank’s anti-money laundering processes, it did not find gaps or weaknesses that were systemic in nature. When adverse news about Ecclestone first surfaced in 2013, MAS promptly subjected the account to enhanced monitoring controls by requiring all transactions to be flagged for scrutiny and approval.

“The bank addressed the specific areas identified for improvement as required,” stated the Factually article.

“This did not amount to an ‘overhaul’ which in the ordinary meaning of the word, would suggest that a thorough remake, renewal or revision had been necessary.”

Mr Jeyaretnam was previously twice directed under Pofma to correct separate posts for comments made on the Ridout Road rentals.