Singaporean Billionaire Ong Beng Seng Offered Luxury Accommodation to Maldives Officials

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PUBLISHED 14 July 2023

Billionaire Hotelier Ong Beng Seng has been issued a notice of arrest by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and is cooperating with the anti-graft body to provide information in relation to his interactions with Transport Minister S. Iswaran as per Singapore newspaper Straight Times. 

Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) said in a statement to the Singapore Exchange at 7.30am on Friday that no charges have been filed against Mr Ong, 77, who is the founder and managing director of the company.

“He will be travelling from July 14 and will be surrendering his passport to CPIB upon his return to Singapore. He has been given a notice of arrest and has posted bail of $100,000,” the statement read.

Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao photographed the tycoon leaving CPIB’s headquarters on Wednesday after CPIB announced that Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, is assisting with investigations into a case it uncovered. It did not give details on the nature of the investigation.

HPL said Mr Ong is cooperating with the CPIB and has provided the information requested.

“As this is an ongoing matter, he is unable to provide further details at this point. He has undertaken to provide updates to the Board if there are subsequent material developments,” the company said.

HPL added that Mr Ong will continue his duties and responsibilities as managing director in the meantime after the nominating committee determined that he is suitable to do so.

“The board and the nominating committee will continue to monitor the progress of the matter and the nominating committee will continue to re-assess the suitability of the continued appointment of Mr Ong,” the company said.

Mr Ong is also known as the man who brought Formula One to Singapore. He is chairman of Singapore GP, which organises the F1 night race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit annually.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a Singapore GP spokesman said the race promoter continues with the planning and preparations for this year’s race, which will take place on Sept 17.

Mr Iswaran, 61, has been instructed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to take a leave of absence until the investigation is completed, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday. He will remain in Singapore during this period and will have no access to any official resources and government buildings.

He has been involved in government engagements involving Formula One from as early as 2008.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry and Singapore Tourism Board fund 60 per cent of the cost of staging the $135 million night race. The balance is footed by Singapore GP.

The contract for Singapore to continue hosting Formula One for another seven years was signed in 2022. This is the fourth renewal and the longest extension so far.

HPL owns the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Singapore, among other properties in Canada, Australia, Britain and the United States. It was also part of a consortium – along with state-owned investment firm Temasek – that in May 2022 bought the real estate assets of Singapore Press Holdings.

Shares of HPL tumbled 5.4 per cent to $3.65 when trading opened on the Singapore Exchange on Friday.

Properties owned and operated in Maldives by HPL Includes :

Four Seasons Maldives Explorer 

Four Seasons Maldives Private Island at Voavah 

Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa 

Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru 

Gili Lankanfushi 

Holiday Inn Resort® Kandooma Maldives 

InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort 

Six Senses Kanuhura 

Six Senses Laamu 

HPL has also bought Kanuhura to be soon opened

As at December 31, 2022, HPL’s Hotel Division has a portfolio of 38 hotels and resorts operating under renowned hospitality brands that include COMO Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Hard Rock Hotels, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International, Six Senses Hotels & Resorts and Concorde Hotels.  hotels are spread across 15 countries including Bhutan, Indonesia, Italy, Maldives, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Vanuatu.

The Hotel Division’s latest acquisition is Kanuhura Maldives.   This resort is currently undergoing major refurbishment and is expected to open under the management of Six Senses Hotels & Resorts in the second half of 2023.

The Maldives Former president Yameen was part of a massive scheme leasing out dozens of islands and lagoons to tourism developers without public tender, according to an investigation.

A report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) says islands were leased at discounted prices and the beneficiaries of the scheme included local tycoons and major investors from around the world.

The report came in September 23 , 2018 and it exposé implicating President Abdulla Yameen in massive corruption.

The investigation is based on leaks and documents – including the contents of three iPhones belonging to former vice president Ahmed Adeeb, internal government documents and banking records.

Files from the Tourism Ministry show the president helped with at least 24 of the no-bid lease deals done by  Adeeb and that Yameen was involved in discussions over the no-tender lease.

Reporters cross-checked the leaked files with public records and the Paradise Papers leak from offshore services firms in Bermuda and Singapore.

Singaporean billionaire hotelier Ong Beng Seng was among the names and offered luxury accommodation to the president and vice president while his Hotel Properties Limited was negotiating for at least two islands.