Ex-domestic worker seeks compensation from Singapore AGC over theft acquittal, claims S$71,000 losses

Parti Liyani (left) and her lawyer Anil Balchandani (centre) outside the Singapore High Court October 27, 2020. — TODAY pic
Parti Liyani (left) and her lawyer Anil Balchandani (centre) outside the Singapore High Court October 27, 2020. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Oct 28 — The former domestic worker of businessman Liew Mun Leong returned to the High Court yesterday to seek compensation from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), after being acquitted of theft last month in a high-profile case.

Parti Liyani’s lawyer Anil Balchandani said that his client has suffered losses of about S$71,000 (RM217,149) as she has been unable to work for the past four years due to the criminal proceedings.

However, under the Criminal Procedure Code, the 45-year-old Indonesian worker can get a compensation order of up to S$10,000 only if the court is satisfied that the prosecution was frivolous or vexatious.

Balchandani, who has represented Parti pro bono since the trial in the State Courts, told High Court judge Chan Seng Onn that they ditched plans to approach Liew for compensation after he resigned from various public and private sector roles last month.

This includes the chairmanship of Changi Airport Group and infrastructure consultancy Surbana Jurong.

Balchandani told Justice Chan: “There has been a lot that transpired since the (acquittal)... My client’s instructions were not to add more to (Liew's) problems.”

The judge had overturned Parti’s conviction for stealing more than S$34,000 worth of items from Liew and his household.

Her lawyer elaborated on the losses of S$71,000:

  • S$41,000 for Parti’s salaries with contractual increments over the past four years, as a domestic worker with 20 years of experience. She would have earned a monthly wage of S$750. 
  • S$29,220 in expenses for her accommodation at a shelter run by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, a migrant workers’ support group

Justice Chan pointed out that the cost of court hearings for a compensation order would run far higher than S$10,000, given the need for arguments over whether the prosecution was frivolous or vexatious.

He also noted that after her acquittal, Parti received S$28,000 in donations from a crowdfunding effort within a day.

He then suggested getting a third-party mediator to resolve the issue outside of court and come to a confidential compensation amount.

In response, Balchandani said that he was open to mediation and that compensation should be a “short, quick, sharp determination.”

The lawyer said: “There has been, in our opinion, some amount of injustice that we wish the court to hear and order compensation. The prosecution has to show why they commenced prosecution with a reasonable prospect of conviction.

“The cost of compensation is a fraction or nominal way to show that something went wrong. (Parti) is now a free person who was wronged. The AGC could be a little wiser the next time — that’s all.”

After several minutes of arguments over procedural matters, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Mohamed Faizal said that the AGC will respond on whether it is open to mediation by Friday.

The case

Yesterday’s hearing came on the back of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon’s decision last week to appoint a disciplinary tribunal that will investigate a misconduct complaint filed by Ms Parti against two prosecutors who had handled her theft trial.

She had filed an originating summons in June to begin disciplinary proceedings against Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Tan Wee Hao and Tan Yanying.

They had prosecuted her in the State Courts, where she was convicted and sentenced to 26 months’ jail.

Justice Chan then overturned the conviction last month after she appealed. The high-profile case sparked public outcry, raising questions about how her trial was conducted and if there were issues with the evidence-gathering process.

Following the acquittal, Parti was unsure whether to proceed with the misconduct complaint for reasons such as wanting to return home to Indonesia.

She decided to press on with legal action on October 15.

The disciplinary tribunal will submit its findings to the Chief Justice, who can either dismiss the complaint or order the DPPs to be punished.

The complaint centres around a Pioneer DVD player valued at S$1,000, said to have belonged to Liew.

Parti had believed that the DVD player was spoilt. In the same vein, she denied stealing any of the other items as they had been discarded, were meant to be recycled or belonged to her.

The DPPs had already found that it was not fully functional, but did not disclose this in court and instead asserted during a demonstration in the trial that it worked properly. This led to Parti wrongly conceding that it worked.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam is expected to make a ministerial statement on the case in Parliament next week, after reviews of it by the police and the AGC are completed. — TODAY

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