CNA Explains: What happened in the AHTC court case, what the latest findings are and what’s next

SINGAPORE: The Court of Appeal ruled on July 7 on the liability of Labor Party (WP) leaders implicated in civil lawsuits brought by Aljunied-Hougang City Council (AHTC).

The court found Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang liable for negligence in the AHTC payment process but acquitted WP boss and opposition leader Pritam Singh on the matter.

The Supreme Court also found all three executives and other councilors liable for negligent conduct towards the Sengkang City Council in connection with the same payment transaction.

CNA is following the history of the year-long case, what the results mean, and what’s likely to happen next.


To fully understand this complex case, let’s first take a look at the history of how WP came to govern the areas in question.

In May 2011, WP won the five-man Aljunied GRC in the general election, retaining its only seat in Hougang. This was the first time an opposition party had won a GRC.

WP formed Aljunied-Hougang City Council and FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) was formed and hired as City Council Executive.

After winning Punggol East’s sole seat in a 2013 by-election, WP incorporated it into its existing town council and the entity was renamed the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC).

Months later, MPs from the People’s Action Party (PAP) questioned WP about a possible conflict of interest during a parliamentary debate. This was because AHPETC’s CEO, FMSS, was owned by WP supporters.

In February 2015, the Auditor-General’s Office reviewed AHPETC and found deficiencies in corporate governance and compliance, including the fact that FMSS owner Danny Loh was the city council secretary and had the authority to co-sign checks, while his wife, How Weng Fan, was AHPETC’s executive director.

WP lost Punggol East to the PAP in the September 2015 general election and the city council was renamed AHTC.

In November 2015, the Court of Appeals ordered AHTC to appoint accountants to address failings identified by the Office of the Comptroller.

Auditing firm KPMG conducted an audit and found what it called “improper payments” totaling over S$33.7 million (US$25.4 million) to FMSS and its subsidiary FMSI.

In February 2017, AHTC appointed an independent panel to review the report’s findings.

On behalf of AHTC, the independent body filed a civil lawsuit against the three WP MPs – Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Low Thia Khiang and Mr Pritam Singh – to recover the money.

Shortly thereafter, the Pasir Ris-Punggol City Council also filed a separate lawsuit against the three WP leaders over losses allegedly incurred while WP ran the Punggol East constituency.

In 2020, after WP won the newly formed Sengkang GRC, the Pasir Ris-Punggol City Council referred its lawsuit to the Sengkang City Council, which now controlled the disbanded Punggol East constituency.

Although AHTC’s lawsuit and the lawsuit brought by Pasir Ris-Punggol City Council and later Sengkang City Council were separate, the court allowed them to be heard together.

This is not a criminal process where a person is found guilty and sentenced to a number of options such as imprisonment or a fine, but a civil process where a person found guilty may have to pay damages to the plaintiff.

In court

The defendants in the lawsuits are: Ms Lim, Mr Low, Mr Singh, Councilors David Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo, FMSS leader How Weng Fan and her late husband Danny Loh, and FMSS itself.

The trial for both lawsuits began in October 2018 and received extensive media coverage and high-profile attorneys from both sides. Senior Counsel Davinder Singh led the team that acted for the Pasir Ris-Punggol City Council while a team of Shook Lin and Bok led by Mr David Chan represented AHTC.


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