SINGAPORE — Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament that he had rented the bungalow at 26 Ridout Road after making the decision to sell his previous family home in 2018.
In his ministerial speech on Monday (3 July) following investigations ordered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the rentals of black-and-white colonial bungalows by him and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Shanmugam clarified the refurbishment expenses and rental arrangement for the 26 Ridout Road property.
He stated that he spent over $500,000 on refurbishing the property and emphasised that he is not profiting by renting out his family home and living at the Ridout Road bungalow.
Financial motives and decision to rent and sell family home
To clear any doubts about his financial motives, Shanmugam clarified that he was using his previous lawyer's income to cover the rental expenses of 26 Ridout Road, which come to $26,500 per month.
"I am, in essence, using my previous lawyer's income to pay for the rental for 26 Ridout Road," he said. "I pay for the rental of 26 Ridout Road, mostly from renting out my family home. But taking into account property tax, because the family home is now non-owner-occupied, and two, income tax on the rental proceeds, there is a net deficit. I top up the deficit."
The decision to rent out his family home and put it up for sale came after a personal financial review. "I had decided to put my family home up for sale in 2018, after reviewing my finances in 2016 – as I was approaching my 60s – and realised too much of my savings were tied up in my family home," Shanmugam explained.
He emphasised that this decision was not driven by financial need but rather the prudence of diversifying his assets, considering his age and position.
Furthermore, Shanmugam clarified that his choice to sell his family home did not stem from regret or financial necessity, stating, "It is a privilege to be in public service. And if I am asked, I will make the same choice again."
Regarding the expenses incurred for the property, Shanmugam disclosed that extensive renovation work was needed, and he estimated spending over $500,000 on improvements.
He acknowledged that these investments would not benefit him after the lease expires, as the funds would be returned to the State, in keeping with the terms of renting a black-and-white bungalow.
In response to potential conflicts of interest, Shanmugam said that he recused himself from the dealings with the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), ensuring that there was no actual, potential or perceived conflict. He reaffirmed that he told his agent that everything had to be done strictly in accordance with the rules.
Refuted allegations on son's company
Shanmugam also vehemently refuted online allegations suggesting that a company led by his son had received preferential treatment in being awarded a contract for renovation works at his Ridout Road rental property. He condemned these claims as "utterly false and defamatory."
Addressing those responsible for the allegations, he added, "I say to these people: You want to come after me, you come after me. I'm perfectly capable of defending myself and they will find out that I will defend myself. But leave my family alone."
The matter was raised by Member of Parliament Nadia Ahmad Samdin, who inquired about the processes used by the SLA in awarding contracts for the restoration and maintenance of properties, specifically referencing the online allegations regarding home interior and renovation company Livspace, of which Shamugam's son Ravindran is listed as its Southeast Asian chief executive officer.
Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong categorically dismissed the accusations, labelling them as "completely scurrilous and unwarranted."
He clarified in his ministerial statement that Livspace had no transactions with the SLA and emphasised that the works carried out on the Ridout Road properties resulted from an open tender process, with a separate contractor appointed to perform the necessary tasks.
Shanmugam acknowledged the circulation of falsehoods surrounding the rental of the Ridout Road properties, expressing that it was "inevitable".
Dismissing the allegations, he posed a rhetorical question, asking, "Do these people really believe that CPIB (the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) would not have found this out if it were true?"
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