Family furor over Singapore founder's will deepens after tribunal ruling

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The daughter-in-law of Singapore’s founding father has been found guilty by a disciplinary tribunal of professional misconduct over her involvement in preparing his will, which is at heart of a feud between the city-state’s first family.

The latest development in a long-running saga could sow further discord among the prime minister and his siblings – whose father Lee Kuan Yew co-founded the party which has ruled the island nation unbroken since independence – just as an election looms.

The family feud centers around the fate of the old house of Singapore’s first premier and the father of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“I disagree with the Disciplinary Tribunal’s report and will fight this strongly when it is heard in open court,” said Lee Suet Fern, a lawyer who is married to the prime minister’s younger brother. She made the comments in a text message replying to Reuters queries.

The prime minister’s brother, Lee Hsien Yang, and sister, Lee Wei Ling, want the house to eventually be demolished in accordance with what they said was their father’s wishes as stated in his will.

But the prime minister has questioned whether his father really wanted the home, near Singapore’s bustling Orchard Road shopping district, to be knocked down.

The Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) had last year referred to the Law Society a case of “possible professional misconduct” over the involvement of Lee Suet Fern in the will as her husband was one of the beneficiaries.

The tribunal in its findings last week, seen by Reuters, said it found that the charges against her have been proven beyond reasonable doubt and there was cause for disciplinary action.

It said that even if she had not been the senior Lee’s lawyer, she misled him, and procured his execution of the will on the basis of misrepresentations.

In her defense, her lawyers said Lee Kuan Yew was never her client and she was not instructed by him in relation to the will. She was merely assisting in a family matter at the request of her husband, they added.

Her case will be referred to the Court of Three Judges, the highest disciplinary body to deal with lawyers’ misconduct, and she could face a fine, suspension or be disbarred as a lawyer, newspaper Straits Times reported.

Her husband, Lee Hsien Yang, did not comment directly on the ruling, but shared his sister’s Facebook post on Sunday that criticized the decision.

He has previously said his wife “was never Lee Kuan Yew’s lawyer” and that “no one has complained from the outset on the process and circumstances” of his father’s signing his final will.

Singapore’s general election must be held by early next year.

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