Senior Minister of State For Finance And Law Answers Questions Regarding Keppel Corruption Case

Mon (8 Jan) marked the first Parliament sitting of 2018. Before we venture bravely into the new year, there are a few lingering issues from 2017 to clear up. Namely, the Keppel Offshore Marine (KOM) corruption scandal.

As you may have heard, KOM – a subsidiary of the Keppel Corporation – is caught up in a bit of a bother. They recently agreed to pay US$422 million (S$570 million) to end a probe into bribery conducted by the United States’ Department of Justice.

And for the sitting of Parliament, Workers’ Party MPs Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim and Png Eng Huat filed a series of questions regarding the matter.

The questions were directed at the Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, but Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah responded to the questions instead.

If you have not been keeping up to date with this case, fret not, for we’ve got you covered.

The Corruption Scandal

Right. Let’s get this over in as few words as possible. I know you don’t have all day.

Basically, KOM gave a lot of money to Brazilians in key positions in order to secure contracts, earning them a lot more money than was given. The grateful recipients comprised of both executives from Petrobras (Brazil’s largest state-owned oil company) and the Workers’ Party (the Brazilian one).

Picture unrelated.

Since KOM made use of United States banking systems to disguise the source of bribe payments by laundering them through a series of shell companies, the good ol’ US of A conducted the investigation through the Department of Justice.

Eventually, KOM reached a three-way resolution with Brazilian, American, and Singaporean authorities, which means they have to pay the aforementioned US$422 million, with roughly half the fine going to Brazil, with USA and Singapore sharing the remainder.

Questions asked and answers given

In the line of questioning, Senior Minister Indranee said that “we (the Government) do not condone or tolerate corruption” and that they are “extremely disappointed” in what KOM has done.

The disappointment was so great, the world turned black and white momentarily

But for just as much as she said, there were equally more that she didn’t.

Workers’ Party MP Pritam Singh wanted to know if a certain Mr Choo Chiau Beng, who was named as one of the 5 executives who knew about and authorised the bribes to the Brazilian officials, was removed from his ambassadorial role to Brazil because of his involvement in the matter.

Ms Indranee gave no tangible response and instead deftly sidestepped the question:

I do not have that information. What I can say is that he has stepped down and he is not involved in an ambassadorial role at the present time.

She also seemed to exhibit the telltale signs of double standards when asked about the “dissonance” between the current case and that of Ang Mo Kio town council general manager Victor Wong.

When investigations are ongoing, the Government does not disclose identities of people being investigated.

She also made like Overwatch’s resident robot ninja Genji and deflected questions about the Government’s knowledge of Keppel’s dealings.

The Government does not interfere in, nor influence the business decisions or operations of Temasek or its portfolio companies.

When bringing a knife to a gun fight works out.

Keeping our companies clean in other countries is difficult

In her Parliamentary speech, Ms Indranee said the following:

We cannot be a global policeman. Singapore companies have to operate in all kinds of environments.

But as a matter of principle, we expect that they must do so while keeping their systems clean, and complying with the laws of the countries where they operate.

How we wish that it were that simple, Ms Indranee. But just as we can hope that our companies can keep themselves clean when they venture to do business beyond our shores. However business practices are different all around the world, and it is a sad fact that corruption is a commonly used business practice in certain areas of the globe.

Featured image from YouTube