The Republic of Singapore has long prided itself on being one of the world’s rare anti-corruption havens — but things are changing now in a wild saga that involves Formula 1's Grand Prix in the city-state. Transport Minister S. Iswaran has resigned after being charged with corruption, CNN reports, and part of that corruption involves allegations that he accepted gifts from Malaysian billionaire Ong Beng Seng, a hotel tycoon who helped bring F1 to Singapore and serves as the sole shareholder of the Grand Prix. Right now, Singapore insists that the upcoming September 2024 race will go on as planned, but it’s time to dig into this saga.
Let’s wind it back to establish a little context. In order to discourage corruption and the temptation to accept bribes, Singapore pays its government ministers quite handsomely — on average, over $800,000 per year, CNN reports. Its last corruption scandal involving a minister took place all the way back in 1986 (and involving the guy who wanted to ban chewing gum; he died before he was able to be charged), earning it high marks in 2022's Corruption Perception Index, which ranks 180 countries based on their perceived levels of public sector corruption. Singapore secured fifth place, tied with Sweden. By contrast, the U.S. ranks down in 24th.
All of that being said, the Grand Prix is still set to take place in September, as far as Singapore is concerned. The event is currently contracted to run until 2028, and Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry is currently satisfied that the organization of the event was legally conducted. However, it’s another example of the kinds of corruption that can happen in and around the high-dollar racing world.
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