In a stunning turn of events, Singapore’s former cabinet minister, Subramaniam Iswaran, has been charged with corruption, creating ripples in a nation known for its pristine governance. The veteran, renowned for steering Singapore’s tourism during the Formula One Grand Prix debut, pleaded not guilty to 27 charges, including the serious charge of “obtaining gratification as a public servant.”
Iswaran resigned from his government post amidst the scandal, a move that dominated Singaporean media headlines. Prosecutors disclosed charge sheets alleging gifts exceeding S$160,000, ranging from flights and hotel stays to Grand Prix tickets, were supposedly exchanged for advancing property tycoon Ong Beng Seng’s business interests. Iswaran was also accused of receiving tickets to West End musicals and football matches.
His arrest last year, alongside Ong Beng Seng, a key figure in bringing the F1 race to Singapore, marked the beginning of the unfolding drama. Iswaran’s resignation came with a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, vehemently denying the charges and asserting innocence. Alongside his departure, Iswaran committed to returning all salaries and allowances received since the investigation’s commencement in July.
During his tenure, Iswaran held various portfolios, leaving an indelible mark on Singapore’s tourism landscape. Despite the scandal, his contributions during the government’s focus on developing casinos, hotels, and tourist attractions, including the F1 race, remain a significant part of Singapore’s recent history.
Singapore’s high-paid lawmakers, justifying their salaries as a deterrent to corruption, now face a glaring case within their ranks. Iswaran, a veteran of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and a director of major companies, is embroiled in a scandal that adds to a series of embarrassing incidents for the PAP, undermining its long-standing stance against corruption.
Prime Minister Lee, accepting Iswaran’s resignation, expressed determination to uphold the party’s integrity. This incident marks the first corruption probe involving a minister since 1986, when national development minister The Cheang Wan faced charges and tragically took his own life before legal proceedings.