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Singapore’s top 3 ministers accused of graft in 2023 — all of Indian-origin

Lauded as the least corrupt country in Asia, Singapore saw three Indian-origin Ministers face graft charges in the year 2023 alone — the same year an economist of Indian descent took over the reins of the city-state as its ninth President.

While two of them — Vivian Balakrishnan and K. Shanmugam were cleared of all charges as the year drew to a close, S. Iswaran’s pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 1, and he is presently out on bail of SG$800,000.

The trio belongs to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), which has been in power since 1959 and holds a sizeable majority in the country’s Parliament.

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With the next election due in November 2025, political experts say that the graft allegations could hit PAP’s support base in a country that is ranked the fifth-least corrupt country in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index.

Over the years, the government has justified seven-figure ministerial paychecks to keep out corruption. According to a Bloomberg report, the country’s public officers are among the world’s best-paid, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong earning a total compensation of about S$2.2 million ($1.7 million) per annum.

The country witnessed its last corruption case in the year 1986, which saw Teh Cheang Wan, a national development minister, being probed for allegedly accepting kickbacks.

The case of Balakrishnan and Shanmugam Home Affairs and Law Minister Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Balakrishnan were accused of corruption relating to the rental of their colonial-era bungalows in the city-state.

The 26 and 31 Ridout Road are two 100-year-old bungalows in the Ridout Park area that have been rented to the two Ministers.

In May last year, opposition Reform Party Chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam questioned if the two Ministers were “paying less than the fair market value” for their rental of the two-state properties.

It was debated in the Parliament in July, following a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) investigation and a review by senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.

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