Singapore appeals court rules in favor of nephew of PM

Reuters, SINGAPORE

Wed, Sep 05, 2018 - Page 6

The Singapore Court of Appeal on Monday ruled that the prime minister’s nephew, Li Shengwu (李繩武), can contest a government move to serve him court papers in the US, a potential setback for the prosecution’s high-profile contempt of court case against him.

Singapore’s attorney general’s office began proceedings against Li, an assistant professor at Harvard University, last year over a Facebook post in which he said the Singaporean government is “very litigious and has a pliant court system.”

Li has said that the Attorney General’s Chambers was wrong to serve him court documents outside Singapore, a technicality that could further delay and potentially halt the prosecution’s case against him.

The Court of Appeal threw out an earlier ruling that denied Li the chance to argue that a court order that allowed Singaporean authorities to serve him papers in Massachusetts late last year was improper.

The ruling could give Li’s legal team the chance to suspend the contempt of court proceedings, “unless they find a way to re-serve” the papers, his lawyer, Abraham Vergis of Providence Law, said after the hearing.

Li has said he had no intention of going back to Singapore, and that he had a happy life and a fulfilling career in the US.

He left Singapore in July last year and his Facebook post came amid a bitter public feud among the children of Singapore’s founder, Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), including the current prime minister.

Li’s father, Lee Hsien Yang (李顯揚), and his aunt have accused their older brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍), of going against their father’s wish to have the family house demolished and trying to use it for political gains.

The attorney general’s office did not comment after the hearing.

“We will give direction for the appeal to be expedited,” said the presiding judge, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon of Singapore.

“It shouldn’t be left hanging,” Menon said.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Lee Hsien Yang said the court decision “vindicates our belief that Shengwu has raised serious issues that need proper consideration.”

“The Court of Appeal will have the opportunity in open court to consider — for the first time — whether Singapore courts have jurisdiction outside the country in the circumstances of his case,” he said.