Minister charged with corruption took tickets to F1 races, musicals

SINGAPOREAN Transport Minister S. Iswaran was charged Thursday in the first ministerial corruption case ever seen in the Asian financial hub known for squeaky clean government.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau said in a statement that Iswaran, 61, faces 27 charges: two for corruption, 24 for receiving gifts as a public servant, and one for obstructing the course of justice. Iswaran said after leaving court that he had resigned from his post on Tuesday, and denied the charges.

He was alleged to have received goods worth nearly SG$385,000 ($286,000) between 2015 and 2022 from Malaysian property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, some in return for helping the Singapore-based businessman advance his business interests. The gifts included free tickets for Singapore's Formula 1 Grand Prix, as well as football matches and musicals in the U.K. Ong owns the right to the local F1 race, and Iswaran was chairman of and later advisor to the Grand Prix's steering committee.

"I reject the charges and the allegations against me. I am innocent and will now focus on clearing my name," Iswaran said in a statement.

Iswaran, a senior politician in the long-ruling People's Action Party, was first arrested last July with Ong, who has not been charged. Both were released on bail and details were not revealed at the time. Iswaran was put on leave with a reduced salary pending the probe.

The indictment is an embarrassment to the long-ruling People's Action Party, which prides itself on a clean image. Another cabinet minister was investigated for graft in 1986, but died before charges were filed.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Iswaran's case has been dealt with vigorously according to the law. He said he accepted Iswaran's resignation from the government and from the PAP, which has governed Singapore since it became independent following separation from Malaysia in 1965. / AP


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