NUS law prof withdraws application to leave Singapore

UPDATE on 3 Aug: Tey withdraws application to leave S'pore

National University of Singapore (NUS) associate law professor and former district judge Tey Tsun Hang has withdrawn his application to leave the country for a year.

Acting for the lecturer, who faces six counts of corruption in a sex-for-grades scandal with former student Darinne Ko, defence counsel Peter Low said in court on Friday that in light of Tey's suspension from duty, the university was unable to approve Tey's year-long sabbatical for leave or any other purpose.

It was revealed last week that the 41-year-old had a standing teaching appointment at Hong Kong University (HKU) that would start from 1 September this year to May next year -- one full academic year.

According to Low, director of Peter Low LLC, arrangements between Tey and HKU had been made since last May, and Tey had his sabbatical leave approved by NUS in March this year.

Further, the lineup of courses Tey would teach had been confirmed in May, and after news of CPIB's investigation on Tey emerged, HKU had informed him that it would still keep his teaching post open, "should circumstances permit him to be in Hong Kong".

Tey's employer, however, had other ideas, informing him on Wednesday night that as he has been suspended from active duty, approval for his sabbatical leave can no longer be given, and that the university is unable to support his application to leave Singapore to teach at HKU.

Separately, Tey on Friday released a statement in Mandarin that appealed to members of the media to report factually on the case, sticking to "truth and evidence".

He reiterated his belief that "there exists no legal basis" behind the charges currently levelled against him, and that he will vigorously defend himself against them.

In the statement, which he delivered verbally before attending court on Friday afternoon, Tey also called on the media to avoid involving members of his family, his colleagues, NUS, Ko or her family in their coverage, as doing so will cause them distress.

Tey also appealed to the media to be more understanding of the situation that he faces, so that reports on the case will not prejudice his right to a fair trial.

Last Friday, Tey was charged in court for having corruptly obtained sexual gratification from a Darinne Ko Wen Hui on two occasions in July 2010, when she had been a student at NUS, as inducement for showing favour in assessing her academic performance, court documents showed.

In the other charges, Tey allegedly obtained from Ko from May to July that same year a Mont Blanc pen worth S$740, two tailor-made shirts valued at S$236.20, an iPod Touch worth S$160 and payment of a bill amounting to S$1,278.60.

Addressing reporters last Friday, Tey noted the seriousness of the charges and allegations against him.

"At stake is my liberty, integrity and livelihood. My reputation has been tarnished and my family suffers a as result," he said.

"I am known to speak up, amongst other things, on the Singapore legal system. I write in good faith, and with no ill intent. In similar vein, I shall fearlessly defend myself against the charges, and vigorously.

"I have no illusion about the arduous journey ahead of me.

"I pray for a worthy trial -- a trial that allows the truth to come to light, a trial that allows me to vindicate myself," he said.

Tey appeared at the Subordinate Courts close to 930am last Friday with a walking stick and accompanied by a team of lawyers.

The pre-trial conference is set for 23 August. His passport has been impounded.

It was disclosed in court last Friday that Tey had been taken in for questioning by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau on Thursday morning and released only after midnight.

An NUS spokesperson said last week that the university has started an investigation into the case and suspended Tey from active duty.

"The University takes a very serious view of breaches of its regulations. NUS has a Code of Conduct to which its staff must adhere. In the event of breaches, appropriate action will be taken including dismissal for serious violations of the Code of Conduct," the spokesperson said.

It is understood that the Ko made the first move in approaching the professor, who is married with a daughter.

Ko, who has since graduated from NUS, was not arrested, although her statements were taken. According to The New Paper, which broke the story, Ko is currently a pupil at a local law firm.

Other local media reported that she had told some of her friends about her deal with Tey, believing it had blown over.

Before starting work at NUS Law, Tey was a district judge with Singapore's Subordinate Courts, and had even spent time as a state counsel at the legislation division of the Attorney-General's Chambers.

He did his postgraduate civil law degree at Oxford University, as well as his undergraduate law baccalaureate at King's College London, and had been practicing for a number of years at a top firm here.

Current students at NUS Faculty of Law described Tey as “charismatic”, “nice” and “eccentric”.

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