WHAT HAPPENED IN COURT
Dressed in a blue shirt and a dark jacket, Iswaran entered the courtroom at about 8.15am and stood in a huddle with his lawyers for almost an hour, listening to the charges being pre-read to him by a court employee.
District Judge Brenda Tan, who was presiding over the mentions court on Thursday morning, entered the courtroom at about 9.05am.
The prosecution was a three-man team led by Chief Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng, along with Deputy Public Prosecutors Jiang Ke-Yue and Kelvin Chong.
Iswaran was represented by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, Mr Navin Thevar, Mr Rajvinder Singh and Ms Sheiffa Safi Shirbeeni.
Chief Prosecutor Tan listed the charges Iswaran faced and asked for his plea to be taken. “CP, you are asking for the plea to be taken now?” asked Judge Tan.
Chief Prosecutor Tan confirmed this, and Iswaran spoke, saying: “Yes, I intend for the plea to be taken now. Not guilty, your honour.”
The prosecutor then asked for the case to be adjourned for a pre-trial conference. He asked for agency bail – of S$800,000 – to be extended to Iswaran.
Iswaran’s lead lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, then raised “a matter” with the judge on the number of charges.
He said: “Your honour, on Monday, the CPIB charged my client with 36 charges and took cautioned statements on all 36 charges. This morning, we learnt from documents that were handed to us by the prosecution that there are now 27 charges.”
“I’d like to know from my learned friend whether the prosecution is proceeding with the remaining nine charges,” said Mr Singh, turning to the chief prosecutor.
Chief Prosecutor Tan replied that the prosecution is not proceeding with the other nine charges after “considering all the evidence that was in this case”.
Mr Singh then asked the court to note this decision.
“It would appear that in the matter of two days, a decision has been taken not to proceed with the nine charges,” Mr Singh told the judge.
“According to my learned friend, that is because they have reviewed all the evidence. But I would have thought, your honour, that the evidence would’ve been reviewed thoroughly before the 36 charges were levelled against my client on Monday. And so, for now, all I would say is that it is surprising but highly significant that after what I assumed was a thorough review and the levelling of the nine charges, in a matter of two days, there has been a complete change of position. I will say no more about that for now,” said Mr Singh.
In response, Chief Prosecutor Tan said: “I think my learned friend will understand that the evidence will include whatever the accused has stated in his cautioned statements. That’s all I have to say so far. If my learned friend wants to pursue this subsequently we will address it in future.”
After further back-and-forth, the judge fixed the case for a pre-trial conference on Mar 1.
After the charging, Iswaran retreated to a nook just outside the courtroom where he spoke to his lawyers for several minutes before choosing to take the escalators down four floors instead of the lift.
He declined to comment.