SINGAPORE – The Singapore prime minister’s nephew said on Wednesday he had hired top British lawyer David Pannick to advise him on a contempt of court case at the heart of a feud among members of the city-state’s first family.
Pannick, who counts Queen Elizabeth II and Saudi Arabia among his clients, is one of the lawyers who this week won a landmark case to overturn the British government’s suspension of parliament in the weeks before the deadline to exit the EU.
“Over the past two years, my legal team has taken advice from David Pannick, a leading expert,” the nephew, Li Shengwu, said in a Facebook post.
“I’m grateful for Lord Pannick’s guidance and help, even as he has been in the midst of winning a landmark constitutional case in the UK.”
Gary Oliver, a spokesman for Pannick at Blackstone Chambers, confirmed Pannick had been instructed by Li in an advisory capacity, without giving further details.
Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) began proceedings against Li, an assistant professor at Harvard University, in 2017 over a private Facebook post in which Li said the Singapore government is “very litigious and has a pliant court system.”
In a letter to Li nine days after he made the post, Senior State Counsel Francis Ng said the post was an “egregious and baseless attack” on the Singapore legal system. He asked Li to apologize and sign a declaration that he had made false allegations and was in contempt of the judiciary.
Li did not concede and said that his private Facebook post was taken “completely out of context” and that any criticism he made was “in good faith.” If found guilty of contempt of court, Li could face fines or jail.
The case came amid a wider public feud among the children of the island’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, which pitted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against his siblings Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling. Lee Hsien Yang is Li’s father.
The dispute initially centered on what to do with the state founder’s house, but later entered the political arena with Lee Hsien Yang publicly backing a new opposition party.
Lee Hsien Loong has held power since 2004 and is widely expected to step down after elections set to take place within months.