Singapore

Plan afoot to grant companies amnesty for certain corporate offences

A new legal framework that can grant companies amnesty for certain corporate offences is being proposed in Singapore.

Deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) could be offered to corporations as long as they comply with specific requirements, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said yesterday during a dialogue with lawyers.

The framework is one of several proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code and the Evidence Act.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking at the Modernising Criminal Justice: New Developments in Criminal Procedure dialogue at The Arts House.

Under the proposed DPA framework, the public prosecutor can agree to dismiss the charges a company faces providing it agrees to undertake strict obligations.

DPAs are already in effect in Britain and the United States.

The framework is separate from prosecution against individuals. All DPAs will need to be approved by the High Court, which must be satisfied that it is in the interests of justice and the terms are fair, reasonable and proportionate.

The mechanism will allow for corporate reform. DPAs must also be published after the court approves them.

The announcement for the proposed legal tool follows an international corruption probe involving Keppel Corporation's offshore and marine unit.

Keppel Offshore and Marine had entered a DPA in the US.

The DPA framework was brought up during the public consultation for proposed amendments late last year, according to Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran.

Speaking on the sidelines of the dialogue, he said the framework is "not a case of going light on corporations", but reflects a forward-looking approach for Singapore's open economy.

He added: "There is obviously going to be a focus on the many corporations who set up in Singapore who want to be able to carry on business and put a bad episode behind them.

"It does allow a very practical avenue for which there can be discussion for some protection in place for the public because the High Court is still going to scrutinise the matter."

More than 70 criminal law practitioners attended the dialogue, where Mr Shanmugam addressed feedback from the public consultation.

COURT & CRIME