Property tycoon Ong Beng Seng, the managing director of Hotel Properties Limited (HPL), is currently under investigation by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) regarding his interactions with Transport Minister S Iswaran. Although no formal charges have been filed against Mr. Ong, the anti-corruption agency has arrested him. He is actively cooperating with the investigation. HPL confirmed that he will surrender his passport to the CPIB upon his return to Singapore. His travels begin from July 14. Mr. Ong has also posted bail in the amount of S$100,000 (US$75,700).
HPL stated in an announcement that Mr. Ong is fully cooperating with the CPIB and has provided the requested information. As the investigation is ongoing, Mr. Ong is unable to provide further details at this time. However, he has promised to update the board on any significant developments. Law enforcement agencies issue a notice of arrest to inform individuals that they are under arrest. On the other hand, courts issue a warrant of arrest for accused persons who have violated the conditions of their bail.
On Wednesday, Mr. Ong was observed entering and leaving the CPIB’s headquarters after the agency announced Mr. Iswaran’s involvement in a case without disclosing the nature of the investigation. Following this news, HPL’s shares dropped over 6% from the previous close.
The 77-year-old billionaire businessman is well-known for his role in securing the deal in 2007. He brought the first-ever night race, the Singapore Grand Prix, to the country. He owns the rights to the Singapore Grand Prix and serves as the chairman of race promoter Singapore GP. Last year, the government signed a contract extending Singapore’s hosting of the Formula 1 Grand Prix for an additional seven years. This marked the fourth renewal and the longest extension. Investigations reveal, Mr. Iswaran actively engaged in the government’s interactions with Formula 1. He attended press conferences where they announced future plans for the event.
HPL, the company founded by Mr. Ong, owns renowned hotels such as Four Seasons and Hilton, as well as properties in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In May 2022, HPL, alongside state-owned investment firm Temasek, acquired the real estate assets of media firm Singapore Press Holdings.
HPL affirmed in its announcement that its nominating committee has evaluated the current situation. They have determined that Mr. Ong remains suitable to carry out his responsibilities as managing director. The board and nominating committee will continue to monitor the progress of the investigation. Subsequently, they will reassess the appropriateness of Mr. Ong’s continued appointment.
In response to the investigation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong instructed Mr. Iswaran to take a leave of absence until the investigation is concluded. The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Mr. Iswaran will remain in Singapore during this period. They also added that he will not have access to official resources and government buildings.
Mr. Iswaran has had a political career spanning over 26 years. He began by serving as a Member of Parliament for West Coast GRC since 1997. Before joining the Cabinet in 2006, he held various positions in government parliamentary committees. He was the Deputy Speaker of Parliament from September 2004 to June 2006. He has been Minister for Transport since May 2021 and concurrently serves as Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) since May 2018. Prior to his political career, Mr. Iswaran worked in both the public and private sectors, including positions at MTI and Temasek Holdings.