So, PAP MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Christopher de Souza was already involved with some grey area activities with a client back in 2018, it appears.
What happened was Amber Compounding Pharmacy and Amber Laboratories asked de Souza and his law firm Lee & Lee were asked to represent them in a High Court lawsuit.
At that time, Amber was involved in some shady breaches related to use of evidence against a company company they were suing.
An internal email showed that de Souza was aware of Amber’s breaches even before his firm Lee & Lee took over the suit.
Yet, Crooked Chris went ahead and took Amber on as clients.
And, according to investigations, at one point he buried information relating to his client’s breaches in an affidavit filed with the court, even though he knew it was his duty to report these breaches.
Not sure about how this plays out in legal circles, but to a layman it just appears to be disingenuous, dishonest and perhaps even bordering on helping his client hoodwink the court (again, a layman opinion because we’re not lawyers here).
de Douza was already in the thick of things in 2019, before the whiter than white GE2020 campaign, and formal proceedings against him had already begun in Sept 2020.
An independent committee appointed by the Law Society decided in 2021 that de Souza’s actions constituted professional misconduct under the Legal Profession Act and that he had breached his duty to the court.
The committee recommended that he be fined S$2000.
It’s uncertain if such an offence would be considered as quasi-criminal, but if ruled as so de Souza would likely have lost his MP seat and Deputy Speaker position.
That’s because of a law which states that a person is disqualified from standing for election to become an MP, or will lose their seat as a sitting MP, if they are fined S$2000 or more, or jailed for a year or more.
When John Tan was fined S$5000 for contempt of court before GE2020, he applied to the High Court for clarification on his status to stand for election.
The court held that matters considered quasi-criminal would suffice for disqualification.
What is considered quasi-criminal is broad – it can range from equity proceedings such as fraud, to family court offences, to regulatory offences such as health code violations.
That law was changed in May 2022, with the minimum amount being increased from S$2000 to S$10,000.
But even when debating that change to the law, Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan (Crooked Chris’ fellow PAP MP) suggested that a bar ought to be set in the Constitution that disqualifies a person from being an MP if the person is convicted of an offence that relates to dishonesty, fraud, corruption, though his suggestion wasn’t adopted.
Dishonesty, at least, sounds… perhaps strangely relatable here to Crooked Chris?
But luck (or not) was on de Souza’s side – he didn’t get fined in 2021 because the Law Society did not accept the committee’s recommendation and pushed for him to face a disciplinary tribunal chaired by the Chief Justice.
The tribunal has since found de Souza guilty of professional misconduct, and he has been ordered to pay S$18,000 in costs to the Law Society, as well as the society’s reasonable disbursements.
Sanctions to be imposed, which can include fines, suspensions and even disbarment, will be debated in a subsequent hearing.
de Souza is appealing the verdict, with the PAP publicly stating that he has denied any wrongdoing.
But it appears he has already lost in the court of public opinion.
So will Crooked Chris do the honourable thing and step down?
Or will it come to a point where he gets the boot because of all the swirling bad publicity, whether or not he gets off scot-free upon appeal?