Agencies looking into issues judge raised in acquitting maid of theft

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the police and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) are looking into the case of a former domestic worker acquitted of stealing from Changi Airport Group chairman Liew Mun Leong and his family.

This comes after Justice Chan Seng Onn, in his 100-page judgment on the case last Friday, found the trial judge’s conviction against her to be unsafe.

He cited the handling of the evidence by the police, the recording of the allegedly stolen items and the improper motive behind the allegations of some family members.

Ms Parti Liyani, 46, who was working for the Liew family from 2007 to 2016, was accused of stealing more than $34,000 worth of items from them. After a trial in the State Courts, she was found guilty on four counts of theft and sentenced to jail for two years and two months in March last year.

She appealed to the High Court against her conviction and sentence, and was acquitted last Friday.

In a statement yesterday, the AGC said that it will study Justice Chan’s judgment.

This is to assess what further action, if any, ought to be taken in this case, in the light of Justice Chan’s comments, the AGC added.

In his judgment, Justice Chan found that “some time prior to her termination”, Ms Parti had expressed unhappiness at being made to do the additional work of cleaning the house and office of Mr Liew’s son Karl Liew.

“There is reason to believe that the Liew family, upon realising her unhappiness, took the pre-emptive first step to terminate her employment suddenly without giving her sufficient time for her to pack, in the hope that Parti would not use the time to make a complaint to MOM,” he said.

He also found that when Ms Parti threatened to complain to MOM after her sudden termination, the two Mr Liews lodged the police report to prevent her return to Singapore to make the complaint.

The AGC said Justice Chan also disbelieved the evidence of several members of the Liew family on various issues. “His findings do raise questions which warrant further investigations,” it added.

In a separate statement yesterday, MOM said it is in consultation with the AGC as to whether further action ought to be taken in this case.

The ministry said that in October 2017, Ms Parti made a report about being illegally deployed by the elder Mr Liew’s wife, Madam Ng Lai Peng, to her son’s residence between September and October 2016, and to his office around 2012 and 2013.

MOM investigated the complaint and found that this had happened on different occasions. It then issued a caution to Madam Ng and an advisory to Mr Karl Liew.

“The issuing of a caution, on these facts, is consistent with the approach taken in other similar cases,” added the ministry.

The police said yesterday that they would be looking into several observations on police investigations made by Justice Chan.

While the police statement did not elaborate on what these observations were, the judge had found that there was a break in the chain of custody of evidence. This created a reasonable doubt as to whether some of the allegedly stolen items discovered by the family were accurately documented by the photographs taken by the police some five weeks later.

During this period, the family were also told by the police that they were free to use the items. They took and put back items into the boxes, but it was not clear if the items that were put back were the same ones removed earlier.

Justice Chan also found that two statements were taken from Ms Parti without an interpreter.

When contacted by The Straits Times, Mr Liew Mun Leong declined to comment on the judgment.

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