SINGAPORE: Mr Li Shengwu, the grandson of Lee Kuan Yew and son of Lee Hsien Yang, has been found guilty of contempt of court and fined S$15,000.
If he does not pay the fine within two weeks, he will have to serve a week’s jail in default, said Justice Kannan Ramesh in his verdict on Wednesday (Jul 29).
The judge also ordered Mr Li to pay S$8,500 for costs of proceedings and another S$8,070 for disbursements such as filing fees, photocopying charges, service of documents on Mr Li in the US and database fees.
The Attorney-General’s representatives, who had pressed for the fine, noted that Mr Li had been notified of the hearing but did not turn up.
Mr Li, a Singapore citizen, is an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University and lives in the United States.
The Attorney-General had sought an order of committal for common-law contempt of court, under the inherent jurisdiction of the court, against Mr Li over a post on his Facebook page, said Justice Ramesh.
The post was made in 2017 by Mr Li, the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
It included a link to a New York Times editorial titled Censored In Singapore, and a description saying: “Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system.”
The Attorney-General’s representatives had contended the post scandalised the judiciary by creating a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore.
Justice Ramesh found that the Attorney-General had proven the three elements required to show contempt of court: That Mr Li intended to publish the post, that the post posed a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice, and that the post did not constitute fair criticism.
The first point was not in dispute, as Mr Li had accepted that he published the post. On the second point, Justice Ramesh found the post impugns the impartiality of the judiciary.
He noted that Mr Li had described the court system as “pliant”, a term described in the dictionary as “easily bent or inclined to any particular cause”.
He said he had difficulty accepting Mr Li’s assertion that he had used the term “pliant court system” to refer to Singapore’s defamation jurisprudence.
Justice Ramesh said the post was “controversial and inflammatory”, with the timing of the post “important”.
“There was significant public interest in the Oxley Road dispute,” he said, adding that “allegations of nepotism” had been made.
Mr Li had also made himself out to be someone with inside knowledge, saying in a comment on Facebook that Singapore news was “heavily controlled by the Government”, and that he was “in a position to know”.
The post was not fair criticism as it had to be supported by some basis to be more than just an unsupported attack of the courts.
SINGAPORE (Sept 3): A Singapore court on Monday ruled that the prime minister’s nephew, Li Shengwu, can contest a government move to serve him court papers in the United States, a potential setback for the prosecution’s high-profile contempt of court case against him.
Singapore’s attorney general’s office began proceedings against Li, an assistant professor at Harvard University, last year over a Facebook post in which he said the Singapore government is “very litigious and has a pliant court system”.
Li has argued that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) was wrong to serve him court documents outside Singapore, a technicality that could further delay and potentially halt the prosecution’s case against him.
The Court of Appeal threw out an earlier ruling that denied Li the chance to argue that a court order that allowed Singaporean authorities to serve him papers in Massachusetts late last year was improper.
The ruling could give Li’s legal team the chance to suspend the contempt of court proceedings, “unless they find a way to re-serve” the papers, his lawyer, Abraham Vergis of Providence Law, told Reuters after the hearing.
Li has told Reuters previously he had no intention of going back to Singapore and that he had a happy life and a fulfilling career in the United States.
He left Singapore in July last year and his Facebook post came amid a bitter public feud among the children of the city state’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, including the current prime minister.