On 4 September, the High Court ruled to acquit former domestic worker Parti Liyani of four theft charges brought against her by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) following a police report made by her former employer, Liew Mun Leong.
Mr Liew—who recently announced his early retirement from Changi Airport Group, Surbana Jurong, Temasek Foundation and Temasek International—alleged that Ms Parti stole over S$50,000 worth of items belonging to him and his family.
However, Justice Chan Seng Onn, in allowing Ms Parti’s appeal against her conviction and jail sentence of two years and two months, branded the Liew family as having “improper motives” against Ms Parti.
We noted in a previous article that, two years ago, the district judge in Ms Parti’s trial as well as the prosecution blocked her lawyer’s attempts at bringing up her former employers intentions to prevent Ms Parti from lodging a complaint to the Ministry of Manpower over her illegal deployment to other locations.
On top of that, however, the court documents also show another instance of Ms Parti’s lawyer, Anil Balchandani of Red Lion Circle, being prevented from corroborating a fact that Karl Liew had confirmed.
When questioning Mr Liew’s son, Karl Liew, over an allegedly stolen female clothing belonging to the younger man, Mr Balchandani questioned him about his tendency to wear female clothing, asking: “Do you have a habit of wearing women’s clothes?”
Mr Liew said he wore women’s “t-shirts sometimes”.
However, the Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) then felt that question was asked with the intention to “insult or annoy” Mr Liew. And despite clarifying that he was merely establishing facts, District Judge Olivia Low did not allow Mr Balchandani to continue with that line of questioning.
However, when cross-examining senior Mr Liew’s wife, identified as Mdm Ng, Mr Balchandani attempted to clarify with her on her son’s habit of wearing women’s clothing but was prevented from doing so.
DPP Tan Yanying argued that such a question should not be asked of this particular witness, even though Mr Balchandani countered Mdm Ng would be able to corroborate whether her son did in fact wear women’s clothes as he claimed he sometimes did.
The judge said that such a question is “not relevant”.
Karl confirms he has worn the allegedly stolen black dress before
In another part of the cross-examination on 17 August 2018, Mr Balchandani asked Mr Liew if one of the items that he claimed Ms Parti stole from him—a strappy black dress—was something he had worn before.
Referencing Mr Liew to a photograph of the dress, Mr Liew initially confirm that the dress was, in fact, in his possession.
He then confirmed that he cannot recall the last time he wore the dress.
When pressed further by Mr Balchandani on whether he has actually worn the dress before, Mr Liew confirm that it is possible he has worn it before.
A few minutes later, Mr Liew backtracked on his answer to say that he was actually looking at a different item instead of the dress that the defence counsel was referring to.
Karl’s assertion that he sometimes wear women’s clothing is “high unbelievable”
What is worth noting, of course, is that in his full judgment on the appeal, Justice Chan did take into account these facts, which informed his decision to acquit Ms Parti.
Justice Chan noted:
“In her decision to convict Parti on the 2nd charge for having stolen the 115 items of clothing that were in Karl’s possession, the Judge did not find the need to delve into the details of each and every item.
“Instead, it would appear that the Judge based the conviction on the fact that Karl “confirmed that he had never given [Parti] any clothes” and Mdm Ng only gave Parti clothes that were hers (meaning, Mdm Ng’s), and not anyone else’s.”
Further down, he said:
“Karl’s evidence was internally inconsistent and contradicted by the other witnesses. Karl’s testimony that he had in his possession multiple female items that Parti allegedly stole from him is also highly suspect.
“It is unclear how the Judge could have arrived at the conclusion that this was a result of Karl’s “inability to recall if some items had ever been in his possession”, especially when some of the items were observed by the Judge to be “smaller-sized female clothing” and wallets that “did not appear to be men’s wallets.”
He further said, “When confronted with the question if he had a “habit of wearing women’s clothes”, Karl replied that he sometimes wore women’s T-shirts. This assertion is highly unbelievable, especially in the light of the concessions Karl made at trial regarding the women’s clothing removed from the 2nd charge.”
Background of the case
Ms Parti was convicted in March last year of stealing items belonging to Mr Liew and his family — his son Mr Karl in particular. Ms Parti’s employment was abruptly terminated on 28 Oct 2016.
Mr Liew had asked Mr Karl to oversee Ms Parti’s termination and repatriation process to Indonesia, as the former was abroad at the time.
Prior to being sent back to her home country, Ms Parti was given only three hours to pack her belongings despite having worked for the family for almost nine years.
Mr Liew subsequently reported the purported theft on 30 October the same year after returning to Singapore.
Less than two months later, Ms Parti was arrested at Changi Airport on 2 December upon her return to Singapore.
Parti was charged with stealing items totalling S$50,000. Though the amount was reduced to S$34,000 when District Judge Low removed several items from the charge sheet and reduced the estimated value of certain items, such as knocking down the value of a damaged Gerald Genta watched from S$25,000 to S$10,000.
Judge Low sentenced Ms Parti to two years and two months of jail after removing items from and reducing value on the allegedly stolen items that Mr Anil had successfully disproved in the State Courts hearing.
The prosecution originally sought a three-year jail sentence.