Politics

#AHTC trial explained – a detailed summary of Who, What, Why

What is the #AHTC trial all about?

The AHTC trial is two multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits filed against three Workers’ Party MPs, two town councillors and owners of FMSS, an entity appointed as AHTC’s managing agent.

Two town councils, Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) filed the lawsuit.

AHTC wants the three Workers’ Party MPs – Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang and Pritam Singh – as well as two of its town councillors David Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo, including AHTC’s managing agent FMSS and its owners How Weng Fan and Danny Loh (deceased), to account for S$33.7 million in payments the town council made between 2011 and 2015. The payments are alleged to be improper and void.

AHTC also wants compensation from the defendants for S$2.7 million in payments made from the wrongful appointment of an architect.

PRPTC wants to recover any losses allegedly incurred when Punggol East constituency was managed by the WP-led town council.

This is the first tranche of the trial with the next phase slated for March 2019 where the town councils and defendants will give their closing statements. Subsequently, the Judge will deliver his verdict.

If the defendants are found to have breached their duties and made improper payments, a second round of hearings will commence to assess compensation amount.

In all, 14 witnesses were called and questioned by lawyers.

Who is suing?

Plaintiff #1: Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) – directed by an independent panel. (read opening statement)
The three-member independent panel was appointed on behalf of AHTC to look into the auditors’ report by KPMG and PwC filed in 2016 on AHTC’s governance. Its members are:

  • Senior counsel Philip Jeyaretnam
  • Senior counsel N. Sreenivasan
  • KPMG managing partner Ong Pang Thye

Plaintiff #2: Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) (read opening statement)

Who is getting sued?

Read the opening statements by all 8 defendants

Defendant #1: Sylvia Lim Swee Lian; Workers’ Party MP (read affidavit)

Defendant #2: Low Thia Khiang; Workers’ Party MP (read affidavit)

Defendant #3: Pritam Singh, Workers’ Party MP (read affidavit)

Defendant #4: David Chua Zhi Hon, Town councillor (read affidavit)

Defendant #5: Kenneth Foo Seck Guan, Town councillor (read affidavit</a)

Defendant #6: How Weng Fan, FMSS owner (read affidavit)

Defendant #7: Danny Loh (deceased), FMSS owner and late husband of How Weng Fan

Defendant #8: FM Solutions & Services (FMSS) Pte Ltd

What are the claims by AHTC and PRPTC?

AHTC wants the three Workers’ Party MPs – Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang and Pritam Singh – as well as two of its town councillors David Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo:

  • to compensate S$2,794,560 for the wrongful appointment of architects
  • to account for S$33,717,535 in payments the town council made between 2011 and 2015, and to repay any money paid out wrongfully

(Read breakdown of figures from AHTC’s claims here)

PRPTC wants to recover any losses allegedly incurred when Punggol East constituency was managed by the WP-led town council. The WP had won the seat in a 2013 by-election but lost it in the 2015 General Election.

(Read highlights from PRPTC’s Statement of Claims)

What were the auditors’ reports that led to the AHTC trial?

Read highlights from KPMG’s 2016 audit report

Read highlights from PwC’s 2017 audit report

Who are the lawyers?

For AHTC:
David Chan
Shook Lin & Bok LLP

For PRPTC:
Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, Sngeeta Rai and Chan Yong Wei
Drew & Napier LLC

For 1st to 5th Defendants:
(Sylva Lim, Low Thia Khiang, Pritam Singh, David Chua Zhi Hon, Kenneth Foo)
Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah, K Eusuff Ali, Zara Chan and Riko Isaac
Tan Rajah & Cheah

For 6th to 8th Defendants:
(How Weng Fan, Danny Loh, FMSS)
Leslie Netto, Lucy Netto, Srijit Jeshua and Roqiyah Begum
Netto & Magin LLC

Who are the Plaintiffs’ witnesses?

Witness #1: Owen Hawkes (read affidavit)
Executive director of auditing firm KPMG, which was tasked to look into AHTC’s accounts in 2016.

Witness #2: Goh Thien Phong (read affidavit)
Partner at PwC, which was hired by PRPTC to look into KPMG’s audit report

Who is the judge for the AHTC trial?

The AHTC trial judge is Justice Kannan Ramesh, Judge of the High Court.

Before his appointment as a Judicial Commissioner, Justice Ramesh was Managing Partner of Messrs Tan Kok Quan Partnership, where he specialised in dispute resolution, insolvency and restructuring, and international arbitration.

(Read Justice Kannan Ramesh’s biography)

Key dates in AHTC saga:

(View detailed chronology of events of the #AHTC trial here)

May 7, 2011: Workers’ Party (WP) wins Aljunied GRC in a general election.

May 12, 2011: Ms How Weng Fan’s husband Danny Loh applies to register FM Solutions & Services’ (FMSS) company name.

May 13, 2011: Ms How sends a letter, with Hougang Town Council’s (HTC) masthead, to Aljunied Town Council, saying “we” have been instructed by WP to take over the town council.

May 30, 2011: CPG tells Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) it wishes to terminate its contract, which has another two more years.

June 2, 2011: FMSS presents a proposal on providing managing agent services but this is circulated only among the elected MPs.

June 10, 2011: Action Information Management (AIM), the software company CPG uses, says it will give a one-month notice of termination. AIM does so 12 days later, but extends its services to Aug 31, and later, at AHTC’s request, to Sept 9.

June 15, 2011: FMSS takes over HTC’s staff, through a formal replacement of their employment contracts.

June 22, 2011: FMSS sends AHTC a letter of intent.

July 15, 2011: FMSS starts work as managing agent for AHTC.

Aug 1, 2011: CPG’s last day.

Aug 4, 2011: AHTC meets for the second time since its formation, and appoints FMSS as its managing agent and waives calling a tender.

June 19, 2012: Ms Lim e-mails FMSS’ owners to give a “heads up” they would need to justify their higher rates at a town council meeting.

July 14, 2015: FMSS stops work at AHTC.


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