Photo of Keppel Corp from Reuters

Despite Keppel having being convicted for bribery in Brazil, the Singapore government will not be charging nor charging 17 Keppel employees in court. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) nor the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) legalised the corruption and did not charge the 17 in court.

Due to CPIB’s inactions, the move sparked speculations that the 17 employees are “ghost employees” who do not exist in Keppel, and merely “strawman” used to protect the senior management including Keppel’s current Chairman, former PAP Minister Lee Boon Yang. Singapore’s Attorney General Lucien Wong is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s former private lawyer.

States Times Review received a tip-off suggesting that current Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, could be involved in the corruption case. Minister Ong Ye Kung was Keppel’s Director of Strategy from Jan 2013 to Aug 2015, in the same period when the corruption took place. Minister Ong Ye Kung is also one of the three potential Prime Minister sucessors besides Minister Chan Chun Sing and Minister Heng Swee Keat.

According to Keppel, only “disciplinary actions” were taken against the 17 former and current employees. However the official statistics given by Keppel did not tally: 7 were fired, 7 were demoted or given warning letter, 12 former or current employees fined S$8.9 million, and 6 were given anti-corruption and compliance training. No name is given.

International media Reuters reported that they saw an official document of a secret deal struck between the Singapore government and the others to reach a “settlement” – possibly to cover up for the senior management of Keppel:

“In the document seen by Reuters, U.S. authorities listed remedial measures taken by Keppel Offshore & Marine as part of ‘relevant considerations’ toward the deferred prosecution agreement the firm signed as part of the settlement.”

A former lawyer with Keppel, Jeffrey Chow, who pleaded guilty also told the media that Keppel’s legal department “cut a deal” to offer a settlement.

Keppel was fined S$567 million earlier in the month, and the fine is split between Brazil (50%), US (25%) and Singapore (25%). The Singapore state-owned company paid US$55 million in bribes to officials at Brazilian state-owned oil giant Petrobras and the Workers Party of Brazil, the then-governing political party, to win 13 contracts with Petrobras and Sete Brasil. In return, Keppel earned US$351.8 million from the rig-building projects. The corruption was uncovered by Brazil’s anti-corruption police and the US Department of Justice.

In an announcement on Friday (Dec 29), the opposition Workers’ Party will be questioning the government on the corruption case, specifically on Keppel’s owner Temasek Holdings’ role and involvement. However, it is unlikely questions will be answered truthfully as the CEO of Temasek Holdings is the Prime Minister’s wife, Ho Ching.

It is not uncommon in Singapore to get away with corruption when one is a valued member of the ruling party dictatorship, and especially when one is close to the Singapore dictator Lee Hsien Loong.