Former National University of Singapore law professor Tey Tsun Hang said on Friday that the “sex-for-favours” case against him was politically motivated right from the beginning.
In his first response to Yahoo Singapore via e-mail right after his acquittal from six corruption charges, he also spoke strongly against Singapore’s judiciary and prosecutorial regime, saying he had “no confidence” in them.
“I have always maintained, and continue to maintain, my innocence,” he wrote, saying he was repeatedly disallowed from seeking evidence that his prosecution was politically motivated by former Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye, who presided over his trial.
Tey said he made his view that the case was politically motivated clear to the leadership at the NUS Law school after he was discharged from Alexandra Hospital, where he was admitted after facing 12 hours of interrogation.
He said the NUS Law faculty were kept abreast of the allegations made against him throughout, noting that after they conducted an internal investigation and found no wrongdoing, they continued paying him his full salary. This went on until 28 May last year, the day he was convicted of corruption, when the university dismissed him from his post.
“Notwithstanding the acquittal, the whole prosecution and trial by media destroyed my integrity as an academic, with the clear aim of booting me out of the jurisdiction,” he said.
“The damage has been cruelly — with the way the Singapore mainstream media reporting was conducted — and irreversibly inflicted on my integrity, academic career, and academic future, and most importantly, my credibility as an academic critic of the Singapore system,” he wrote.
Previous commentary speculated Tey could have been prosecuted in part because of a book he wrote criticising Singapore’s judiciary.
Legal Consensus—Surpreme Executive, Supine Jurisprudence, Suppliant Profession of Singapore was published in end 2011 by the Hong Kong University. In it, Tey wrote about numerous defamation suits the ruling People’s Action Party had levelled against its critics in order to silence them.
He also argued that Singapore’s judiciary has “internalised the supreme political ideology, resulting in excessive deference to the executive determination of public interests, and the watering down of both criminal and civil-political rights”.
In the book, he also referred to clashes between the government and the Law Society in the 1980s, and voiced his belief that the Law Society had its role and authority diminished over the years, amid the rise of the Singapore Academy of Law, part of a plan to divide the legal profession and an exercise of co-option.
In February 2012, former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong criticised his writing. Two months later, he was taken in for investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.
When news of the case emerged in July that year, the Attorney-General’s Chambers denied any link between Tey’s corruption charges and the book, or articles, he wrote previously.
Not all Tey said in the wake of his acquittal was negative, however. The 42-year-old, who is now residing overseas with his wife and daughter, also said he was “extremely fortunate” to have the help of his NUS Law colleagues throughout. “There are many out there who are not as fortunate as I had been throughout the ordeal,” he added.
“I have no confidence in the Singapore judiciary, and I do not think much of Singapore’s prosecutorial regime,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, Tey was acquitted of his six corruption charges by the High Court, after his defence lawyers submitted an appeal. By then, he had already served a five-month jail term last year and was penalised a sum of $514.80 for the charges, and served out his sentence before leaving the country.
In handing his judgement to Tey’s lawyer Peter Low, Justice Woo Bih Li noted that Tey had opted to serve his jail term first and requested for his appeal hearing to be delayed in order for him to give meaningful instruction to Low’s team.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers also said in response to Justice Woo’s judgement that both he and former Chief District Judge Tan recognised that there was a case that needed to be answered with regard to Tey.
“The presumption applicable for public bodies has been triggered, and this means that the Accused (Tey) has to explain why his conduct was not corrupt,” an AGC spokesperson said.