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March 7, 2013 7:19 pm
US senators are pressing Singapore to allow a greater role for the FBI in investigating the death of a young American engineer in the city-state.
Mary and Rick Todd, the parents of Shane Todd, have met with members of Congress and the ambassador from Singapore in Washington in recent days to push for the FBI’s full involvement in the inquiry.
Shane Todd, 31 at the time of his death, headed a team at the Institute of Microelectronics (IME), a Singapore government research agency, working on the development of gallium nitride, a substance with both commercial and military use. He was found hanging in his apartment in June, two days after he left his job at IME with plans to return to the US
Todd’s parents, who flew to Washington this week from their home in Montana, have been unhappy with the Singapore police investigation and believe the police too quickly considered their son’s death a suicide. The Todds were told a week ago that the FBI would be drawn into part of the inquiry.
“We’re asking [the senators] to push for a congressional investigation and push the Singapore government . . . [and] . . . police to give full transparency to the FBI and to include them in every part of the investigation,” Mrs Todd said.
The case has taken on a sensitive political dimension since an FT investigation revealed that IME had discussed a research project with Huawei, the Chinese telecoms group, on gallium nitride. Huawei and IME have said the project did not go ahead.
The two senators from Montana, Max Baucus and John Tester, urged the ambassador to allow the FBI to engage fully in the investigation, Mr Tester told the Todds after the meeting.
The FBI had offered its assistance in Singapore but the Singapore police initially rejected it. Last week, the police asked for help in “two specific areas”, according to an email from the American embassy in Singapore to the Todds.
The embassy did not say what these two issues were. The Todds told the FT that the FBI was to examine the hard drive that they found in their son’s apartment as well as a report written by a psychiatrist who had seen their son in 2002.
The Todds declined to say if they will authorise the FBI to turn over its findings to the Singapore police if the police do not provide them and the FBI with a copy of Shane’s computers that the Singapore police took from Shane’s apartment.
A spokesman for the Singapore embassy in Washington said Ashok Mirpuri, the ambassador, had assured the senators of the Singapore police’s commitment “to a fully transparent and open investigation process”.
The spokesman said once the investigation was complete, the findings will be submitted to the coroner, who will review them and interview witnesses to establish the cause of death.
“The family of Shane Todd will be invited to attend this inquiry and may raise questions to witnesses,” the spokesman said.
Mr and Mrs Todd said Singapore’s request to the FBI was tardy and limited and they were unwilling at the moment to allow the hard drive to be examined by police in the city-state.
“We feel that right now they’re asking the FBI for the information a little too late and without full co-operation and transparency,” said Mrs Todd.
The FBI is now believed to be examining the disk but the Todds declined to discuss this element of the case.
Mrs Todd said she thought the ambassador in their meeting had seen the “faces of parents who were not ‘nutty-koo-koo’ and would not be going away until they got answers”.
The FBI did not respond to requests for comment.
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