The F1 Singapore Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious and popular events in the Formula One calendar, attracting millions of fans and tourists from around the world. The race, which is held at night on a street circuit in the heart of the city, showcases the glamour and excitement of Singapore as a global destination. The race was first held in 2008, and has been extended until 2023.
However, the race has also been marred by a corruption scandal involving two prominent figures in Singapore: S Iswaran, the former transport minister, and Ong Beng Seng, the billionaire hotelier and businessman. Both men have been charged with multiple counts of corruption, relating to their roles and interests in the F1 Singapore Grand Prix.
According to the charge sheets, Iswaran is accused of obtaining gratification from Ong in exchange for advancing Ong’s business interests in relation to the F1 Singapore Grand Prix. The gratification allegedly included tickets to the race, flights, hotel stays, and entertainment in Singapore and abroad, worth more than S$384,000 (US$287,000). The charges span from 2016 to 2022, when Iswaran was the minister-in-charge of trade relations and the co-chair of the Singapore-India Joint Ministerial Committee.
Ong is accused of offering and giving gratification to Iswaran, as well as to other public officials and foreign dignitaries, in order to secure and maintain the hosting rights and the commercial benefits of the F1 Singapore Grand Prix. Ong is the founder and managing director of Hotel Properties Limited (HPL), which owns and operates several luxury hotels and resorts in Singapore and the region. Ong is also the director and shareholder of Singapore GP Pte Ltd, the company that organizes and manages the F1 Singapore Grand Prix.
The corruption scandal of Iswaran and Ong has damaged the reputation and credibility of the F1 Singapore Grand Prix, as well as of Singapore as a host and a partner of the Formula One. The scandal has exposed the potential conflicts of interest and the lack of transparency and accountability in the bidding and the running of the race. The scandal has also raised questions and doubts about the integrity and the ethics of the officials and the stakeholders involved in the race. The scandal has also tarnished the image and the trust of Singapore as a clean and efficient country that prides itself on its high standards of governance and anti-corruption.
The corruption scandal of Iswaran and Ong has also affected the future and the viability of the F1 Singapore Grand Prix, as well as of the Formula One in general. The scandal has cast a shadow over the negotiations and the arrangements for the extension and the renewal of the race contract, which is due to expire in 2023. The scandal has also triggered a review and a reform of the governance and the regulation of the race, as well as of the Formula One as a whole. The scandal has also impacted the financial and the operational aspects of the race, as well as of the Formula One, which have already been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the changing preferences and expectations of the fans and the sponsors.