SINGAPORE: Former Transport Minister S Iswaran, who faces multiple charges including corruption, returned to court on Thursday (Feb 8) where a judge granted him approval to leave the country for about two weeks.
The 61-year-old applied for permission to leave Singapore for Australia between Feb 16 and Mar 4 to help his son settle into university.
The prosecution had no objection as long as Iswaran adhered to additional bail conditions – including an additional bail sum of S$500,000 (US$372,000) in cash on top of his existing bail of S$800,000.
Top guns on both sides – defence lawyer Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and Chief Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng – were absent in court on Thursday.
Their subordinates attended the hearing instead – with Mr Navin Thevar making the application on Iswaran’s behalf, and Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke-Yue responding for the prosecution.
Mr Thevar said the defence filed the application for Iswaran to leave the country, mainly because “he needs to settle his son into university”.
He added that the defence accepts the conditions set out by the prosecution.
Apart from the additional cash bail, Iswaran is required to provide his travel itinerary and overseas address to the investigating officer, as well as remain contactable by the IO at all times.
The bailor, a man with the surname Ng, said he agreed to those conditions. When approached by CNA to explain his relation to Iswaran, Mr Ng did not respond.
District Judge Brenda Tan approved the travel application and imposed the bail conditions asked for by the prosecution.
CASE TRANSFERRED TO HIGH COURT
Iswaran’s case will also be transferred to the High Court, with both sides agreeing on the matter.
Mr Thevar said there was some context to the application to transfer the case.
“On Jan 31, 2024, we wrote to my learned friends to ask or to indicate that it is our client’s intention to ask for early trial to be held as soon as possible, so the evidence can be fully aired and the matter decided as soon as possible,” said the lawyer.
“So now that the prosecution has indicated they will be taking the case to High Court, we are happy with that decision. We absolutely agree that this is a matter that should be heard in the High Court.”
Mr Thevar then asked if the prosecution would agree for an “early trial” to be held in the High Court, saying the defence cannot see why this should not or cannot happen since investigations have taken “a long time”.
Mr Jiang responded that this is “in consideration” and that the judge’s diary in the High Court “ought to be taken into account”.
“These are matters we need not trouble your honour on, and we can address this before the High Court registry when a case conference is called,” he said.
All 27 charges Iswaran faces were re-read to him, as required when a case is transferred to the High Court.
A criminal case disclosure conference for the case will be held in the High Court on Mar 22.