Harry Elias Partnership lawyer assisted as amicus curiae in watershed judgment on sentencing for income tax evasion offences

Harry Elias Partnership lawyer assisted as amicus curiae in watershed judgment on sentencing for income tax evasion offences
10 Jun 2021

Our Senior Associate, Kok Yee Keong, was appointed as amicus curiae in Tan Song Cheng v PP and another appeal [2021] SGHC 138, under the Young Amicus Curiae Scheme 2020 of the Supreme Court of Singapore.

He assisted the High Court in the novel issue of whether it was appropriate to develop a sentencing framework for the offence of tax evasion under Section 96(1) of the Income Tax Act, and if so, what should be the sentencing framework, and in particular, whether the quantum of tax evaded should be the primary determinant of harm and any impact of the mandatory penalty on the sentence.

In his detailed 130-page written submissions, after considering 80 legal authorities including the jurisdictions in Hong Kong, Australia and the United Kingdom, Yee Keong agreed with the Prosecution’s position that a sentencing framework ought to be developed, and that the “five-step sentencing bands” sentencing approach be adopted with some modifications. The High Court ultimately adopted the Prosecution’s “five-step sentencing bands” approach with some modifications.

In the written judgment, the Honourable Justice See Kee Oon recorded his appreciation to Yee Keong “for diligently preparing an objective, detailed and comprehensive analysis from which [the Judge] derived considerable assistance”.

The High Court judgment may be viewed at: https://www.supremecourt.gov.sg/docs/default-source/module-document/judgement/-2021-sghc-138-pdf.pdf

In his submissions, Yee Keong also advocated for the “five-step sentencing bands” approach to be the universal sentencing approach to determine the sentencing framework for any given offence (assuming a sentencing framework is appropriate for such offences in the first place). The High Court opined that the “suggestion is well-intentioned” and “may well merit reconsideration at a future point” but that ultimately “it is unnecessary for the purpose of dealing with the present appeals”. An adapted version of Yee Keong’s submissions on this issue is published on The Singapore Law Gazette, “Perhaps It is Time to Consider a Spandeck Approach to Developing Sentencing Frameworks”, Featured Article, May 2021: see https://lawgazette.com.sg/feature/perhaps-it-is-time-to-consider-a-spandeck-approach/

Yee Keong is a consummate disputes lawyer with complementary legal experience as NUS Legal Skills Instructor, PIPD Committee Member, CLC Committee Member, CLAS Defence Counsel, Young Amicus Curiae Scheme 2020, and SMC Accredited Mediator. He is experienced in contentious and advisory work in (1) construction and engineering, (2) restructuring, insolvency and asset recovery, (3) personal injury and property damage, (4) landlords and tenants, (5) MCSTs and Managing Agents, and (6) the wider civil and commercial litigation matters. For more information: https://www.harryelias.com/associates/yee-keong-kok

For more information, please contact our Business Development Manager, Ricky Soetikno, at [email protected].