On April 18th, Singapore lawyer Tan Cheng Yew, who had been on the run for six years until his 2009 arrest in Germany, was jailed for nine years for criminal breach of trust and cheating involving a total of $4.8 million.
Tan comes from a family of lawyers—his older brother Professor Tan Cheng Han is the dean of the law faculty at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and a Senior Counsel, while is father, Tan Hock Kim, is a retired lawyer.
In February 2003, Tan fled Singapore for Perth, Australia. There, he stayed in his family’s house as well as hotels, and sent a text message to his parents in Singapore to say he was all right. Initially, he did not contact his family regularly as they ‘didn’t take what I had done… too well’, he said in court earlier this year.
Later that year he traveled to the U.S. using a fake passport and an assumed name—another crime. Passport and visa fraud are felonies in the US. Since Tan Cheng Yew’s forgery had other criminal links, the U.S. penalty is 15 years incarceration.
Tan Cheng Yew found employment in the U.S. as legal counsel in multinational companies—another crime as he was a fugitive and not licensed in the U.S. He flew regularly to Munich, Germany, for similar work and meetings.
Tan was arrested at Munich airport on June 2, 2009 and held in remand until his extradition to Singapore in October of that year.
The court record shows that Tan Cheng Yew was in touch with his family while wanted by the authorities. This means that those family members he contacted were “accessories after the fact,” if they did not report the incident to the authorities. Is brother Tan Cheng Han an “accessory after the fact?”
Our investigation shows that Tan Cheng Yew’s father, Tan Hock Kim, is a resident of Perth, Australia, hence the family house in Perth.
Since Tan Cheng Yew fled to Perth, and stayed in his family’s house in Perth, was his father there at the time? Did his father know that Tan Cheng Yew was staying at the family home in Perth? If so, his father, Tan Hock Kim, is certainly an “accessory after the fact.”
Why were Tan Cheng Yew’s brother and father not investigated by Singapore for their potential crimes? Would it be too embarrassing for Singapore to have a Senior Counsel and Dean of the NUS law faculty investigated for such a matter?
There is another instance in which Tan Cheng Han was associated with questionable individuals—an instance in which I was personally involved.
Tan Cheng Han was the matrimonial lawyer for Chung Hin Chew, my wife’s former husband, who had been incarcerated for a year in Brunei, and who had contacts with Dan Arnold, a CIA operative.
In our book, Escape from Paradise, we wrote the following about a court hearing presided over by Judge Amarjet Singh:
Tan Cheng Han stood up, stooped forward, and, looking a bit like a praying mantis, turned his head to look at John. Then turning to Judge Singh, Tan Cheng Han literally screeched, “Your Honor, we demand to know who is the Caucasian man, seated next to the Petitioner!”
Tien Hua quickly retorted, “Your Honor, the gentleman in question has no relevance to this case.”
Now it was my turn to speak up. “Your Honor, I would be only too happy to inform Your Honor who the Caucasian gentleman is.”
Judge Singh nodded.
Without saying a word, I returned to the witness stand, where I continued, “Your Honor, the gentleman seated next to me is John Harding. He was formerly with Inland Revenue, and is here to advise me on financial and tax matters, especially regarding the Chung companies”
Glancing at John, Judge Singh was a bit confused. Inland Revenue was populated exclusively with Chinese at the top, Malays in junior positions, and Indians cleaning the hallways and toilets.
Where did a Caucasian fit in?
How extremely observant of my wife, May Chu!
Tan Cheng Yew, Tan Cheng Han and Tan Hock Kim all do look a bit like the praying mantis.