One of the many objections to the building of the casinos was that it would attract a new breed of unsavoury characters to town, villians which clean-cut Singaporeans are not accustomed to dealing with. But nobody expected the first to be conned would be a large group of lawyers.
The Inter-Pacific Bar Association group called IPBA 2010 had planned their conference to be held at Marina Bay Sands in May 2010. The US$5.5 billion MBS was originally scheduled to be opened in September 2009, leaving a good 8 months for the kinks to be ironed out, barring contingencies and unforeseen circumstances. After all, had not Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson publicly declared that MBS will open for business only when its full suite of facilities was ready?
Other than the September opening date, IPBA was also assured that their conference would not be the first large scale one to be held at the new premises - nobody, lawyers included, wants to be a guinea pig. Boy, were they in for a ride. IPBA charged that:
1) Requests for site visits to check out the facilities were postponed or refused;
2) MBS used their conference event to secure the Temporary Occupation Permit and Casino Regulatory Authority licence "ahead of normal course of events";
3) They had to scrap the opening reception at the SkyPark* as it was not ready;
4) The actual conference was plagued by power failure, sound system breakdown and interruption by ongoing construction. Hotel rooms had non-functioning air-conditioning and toilets.
For being shortchanged, IPBA withdrew a $300,000 payment, for which MBS has sued the lawyers. Now, that has to be chutzpah. IPBA 2010 group has influential members, including Mrs Lee Suet Fern, daughter-in-law of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. This is one smart lady who will not be treated shabbily; just ask her husband, Lee Hsien Yang.
* The lawyers should be thankful the SkyPark was not ready for the proposed reception. Jutting 218 feet into thin air, the cantilevered observation deck portion of the SkyPark has to be supported by two counterweights of 700 tons each. Even so, engineers designed the cantilever to carry the total weight of 900 people safely, not the 1,000 lawyers and judges invited for the bash, including Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, and former Vice-President Al Gore. Add the usual complement of security personnel and hangers-on, and it would have been a recipe for disaster.