Singapore’s Prime Minister’s Office said Transport Minister S. Iswaran resigned on Thursday after being accused of corruption, marking a historic development for a city-state that prides itself on having a squeaky-clean government.
The charges against Iswaran are part of the biggest corruption investigation involving the ruling Singapore People’s Action Party in decades. The scandal also fell into the trap of a hotel magnate. Best known for bringing the Formula 1 Grand Prix to the city, it was one of a series of government controversies last year that shocked the entire country.
Iswaran is the first minister in the country to be charged with a criminal case.
Prosecutor Tan Kiat Feng told the court on Thursday that Iswaran, whose political career spanned nearly 30 years, faces 27 charges, including corruption and obstruction of justice.
According to allegations seen by CNN, these charges include allegations that he received a gift from Malaysian billionaire Ong Peng Seng—more than 160,000 Singapore dollars ($119,000) in bribes—in exchange for promoting his business interests. These gifts allegedly include business class flights, luxury hotel stays, and tickets to Formula 1 Grand Prix races, English Premier League matches, and West End musicals.
The former minister appeared in court on Thursday morning, accompanied by his legal team, and pleaded not guilty. He is currently free on bail.
In a statement sent to CNN, Iswaran said he rejected the accusations and allegations against him. “I am resigning as a cabinet minister, member of Parliament, and member of the People’s Action Party because I believe it is the right thing to do,” the statement said.
“The last few months have been very difficult for me and my family,” added Iswaran. “I am innocent, and now I will focus on clearing my name.”
Iswaran was arrested along with hotel tycoon Ong last July. Ong is also the sole shareholder of the Singapore Grand Prix, and the organizer of the prominent sporting event. As Singapore’s Minister of Transport, Iswaran serves as an advisor to the Grand Prix Steering Committee.
Singapore has long had a reputation for clean governance and is currently ranked fifth in the world in Transparency International’s annual rankings. Corruption Perception Index.
Corruption investigations involving ministers are rare in a country where officials are paid handsomely to prevent corruption. The average annual salary of ministers According to the government, it costs about 1.1 million Singapore dollars (about $834,000).
The last corruption case involving a minister in Singapore was in 1986.
The Chiang Wan, who served as Minister of National Development and is known for proposing a ban on the sale of chewing gum in Singapore, is being investigated for accepting bribes from private companies. Although he insisted on his innocence, he died before being charged.
Singapore’s anti-graft agency, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, which reports directly to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is leading the investigation into Iswaran’s case.
Lee said in a statement Thursday that he accepted the resignation of Iswaran, who agreed to return him the government salary he had been receiving since the investigation began in July.
“The government has handled this matter strictly by the law and will continue to do so. “I am determined to protect the integrity of the party and government and our reputation for honesty and non-corruption,” Li said in the statement.
Lee is the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore and founding father.
The corruption investigation of Ong and Iswaran came at a critical time for me because he was planning to step down after almost 20 years of leading the country. Singapore is scheduled to hold its next round of general elections in 2025.
“This case has hurt the PAP government, which needs to redouble its efforts to rebuild the trust of Singaporeans,” said Eugene Tan, a former appointed member of Singapore’s parliament and adjunct professor of law. at Singapore Management University, told CNN. .
“What will favor it is that the government will act decisively and be damned because one of its members is claiming to be far below the standard of public life expected of him.”