Death of American ‘spy’ in Singapore

SPYBITS - The Philippine Star

The death of an American working as an IT engineer in Singapore in June last year has escalated into a US national security concern with speculations that the man may have been caught in an alleged plot to steal secret technology for the Chinese. Singapore authorities have ruled the death of Shane Todd as a “suicide,” but his parents are convinced their son – who worked for a Singapore government firm – was murdered, finding inconsistencies in the official report that said the American devised a complicated system of ropes and pulleys to hang himself in his bathroom.

The physical evidence don’t add up, Todd’s parents insisted, finding no screws in the wall where their son was supposed to have put up a hangman’s noose, so to speak. Even the supposed suicide note found on the man’s computer did not sound like him, they said, and a report from the American pathologist hired by the family said the body had bruise marks that indicated a struggle prior to death.

Before quitting his job at the Singapore Institute of Microelectronics (IME) – a research organization that was working on a project with controversial Chinese telecommunications company Huawei – Todd reportedly told his parents that he feared for his life, and that he did not want to participate in a project involving sensitive technology that would prove dangerous to US national security. Chinese firm Huawei has been identified as a national security risk by the United States and was in fact banned by the Australian government over allegations that Huawei is engaged in spying for the Chinese military.

Todd was reportedly working on Gallium Nitride or GaN (an innovative semiconductor material that the American reportedly specialized in) – something which both Huawei and IME denied. But not surprisingly, the issue has become highly political, with the US Congress pressing for an investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation stepping in to look into the circumstances behind the American “spy’s” death – or murder.

Bobby Ongpin’s kingdom

With the HDO (hold departure order) issued against him by the Sandiganbayan, businessman Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin is spending more and more of his time focusing on the exclusive Balesin Island Club. The super high-end resort developed by Alphaland Corp. has so far been extremely successful with the membership (comprising a good cross section of very affluent foreigners and Filipinos) shares almost completely sold out. Alphaland president Mario “Babes” Oreta told us the Balesin Resort Club was fully booked during the Holy Week, with many members bringing an average of 10 guests along with them.

Bobby Ongpin (shown in photo looking out to his “kingdom by the sea”) said the island has several themed villages that include an Ifugao Village that we are told is part of Balesin’s CSR project (since the club doesn’t earn from it and in fact subsidizes the utilities). Ongpin (also known as RVO) is leaving no stone unturned in making the 500-hectare resort as perfect as possible for guests, reveling on the positive feedback and acting on suggestions to make the stay of members and guests even more convenient. In fact, the resort recently took delivery of a second British Aerospace Jetstream aircraft that can fly in more passengers with a third expected sometime this year. Everything is being streamlined from billing to reservation – all conveniently done online. Intercoms have been installed at every villa and room to give guests instant access to the villa manager and the Balesin clubhouse. 

The themed villages are inspired by world class destinations all over the world like Bali, Phuket, Toscana, Costa del Sol, St. Tropez and Mykonos, with the latter two described by several guests as the embodiment of the said destinations “in spirit,” particularly with the landscaped pools and restaurants that provide an impressive view of the ocean.

According to RVO, the paradise island’s creative director Rico Sison and interior designer Monica Olbes flew to Spain and Italy to absorb Spanish and Italian culture and architecture and apply these to the finishing touches being done at Costa del Sol and Toscana, both of which will be operational by midyear.

MVP ‘going green’

Manny Pangilinan (MVP) is all set on “going green” judging from the installation of an environment friendly solar photovoltaic generator at the Makati Medical Center – estimated to reduce carbon monoxide emission by 30,000 kgs per year (equivalent to taking out over 200 cars off the streets) and which could save the medical institution as much as half a million pesos annually. No doubt the solar generator is a great step towards reducing pollution in Metro Manila. According to a report by the World Bank, 5,000 Filipinos die prematurely every year due to lung-related illnesses caused by air pollution, with Metro manila registering the biggest percentage of deaths compared to all regions in the country.

Hopefully, other establishments will follow the lead of the First Pacific-owned Makati Medical Center to “go green” by utilizing alternative and environment-friendly systems in their operations. After all, air pollution has become a major problem that costs the Philippine economy over $1.5 billion a year. 

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