Singapore’s widening corruption probe: What you need to know

Singapore was rocked by news this week that a cabinet minister and a property tycoon were arrested in one of the most serious graft cases in nearly four decades.
The unraveling case involving Transport Minister S. Iswaran and Ong Beng Seng threatens to dent the image of a country that prides itself on probity and clean government. Singapore has always been among the 10 least-corrupt in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index since it began in 1995.
Singapore’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) yearly. That’s a strategy its political leaders say has kept corruption low.
The investigation is taking place as the People’s Action Party that has ruled since the island’s independence in 1965 navigates a succession plan. The PAP will need to ensure that any fallout from the probe is contained before a general election that must be called by November 2025.
Here’s what we know about the case involving Iswaran and Ong:
Here’s a look at past controversies involving politicians from the PAP:
July 11
Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin apologized to an opposition member for using “unparliamentary language.” Tan said he was muttering to himself but his “private thoughts” were caught during a recording of the parliament hearing.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam were cleared of wrongdoing by the anti-corruption bureau for their rental of colonial houses near a high-end lifestyle hub. Lee ordered the review after the opposition asked if the ministers had paid below-market rates.
Balakrishnan apologized to an opposition member for his “private comments” in parliament. “I disagree with him on the issue, but I should not have said what I said,” the foreign minister wrote in a Facebook post.
PAP election candidate Ivan Lim withdrew from the 2020 race ahead of Nomination Day following online allegations about his past conduct. Lim said the claims were baseless, The Straits Times reported.
Member of Parliament David Ong resigned due to a “personal indiscretion,” according to The Straits Times. Residents in Ong’s single-seat ward voted to stay with the PAP in the by-election.
Michael Palmer resigned as Speaker of Parliament after admitting to an extramarital affair. His exit triggered a by-election in the single-seat district. The opposition Workers’ Party won in the four-cornered fight the year after.
Lee Kuan Yew, the island’s first prime minister, and his son Lee Hsien Loong, then-deputy prime minister, faced allegations of impropriety related to discounts on four luxury apartments developed by Ong’s Hotel Properties. Then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong said the investigation was needed to protect the government’s reputation. They were cleared in an inquiry.
Then-Minister for National Development Teh Cheang Wan was investigated by the CPIB for accepting bribes. Teh denied receiving the money and died before he could be formally charged.
Then-Minister of State for Environment Wee Toon Boon was sentenced to 18 months in jail for accepting a two-story house and land.

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