Singapore

Prosecutors outline case on first day of penny stock crash trial

Trial of pair behind penny stock crash starts

Malaysian businessman John Soh and his girlfriend Quah Su-Ling tapped family members, friends, associates and companies related to them and "exploited contra trading to serve their nefarious ends", prosecutors outlined on the first day of the trial of Singapore's most serious case of stock market manipulation.

Soh, the alleged mastermind of the 2013 penny stock crash that wiped out $8 billion from the Singapore market, and Quah, the former Ipco International chief executive, pleaded not guilty to 189 charges and 178 charges respectively yesterday to manipulating the share prices of Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group) and LionGold Group - collectively known as BAL.

The first tranche of their joint trial before High Court Justice Hoo Sheau Peng is expected to end on May 24 with at least 26 witnesses testifying.

The witnesses include former LionGold executive Peter Chen Hing Woon and Adeline Cheng Jo-Ee, another "romantic partner" of Soh's.

For more than a year, from Aug 1, 2012, to Oct 3, 2013, the pair masterminded and carried out a massive scheme of market manipulation by artificially inflating the liquidity of and manipulating the prices of the BAL stocks.

They were aided by former Ipco interim CEO Goh Hin Calm, who last Wednesday pleaded guilty to two of six charges of aiding and abetting Soh and Quah.

Goh, 59, who was described as a "treasurer" in the operation, was sentenced to a jail term of three years for each of those charges, which will run concurrently.

Through an army of 189 trading accounts held in the names of Quah, Goh and 58 other individuals and companies at 20 financial institutions, Soh and Quah "dominated the market for BAL shares", deputy chief prosecutor Peter Koy said yesterday.

INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP

The duo were responsible for trades in 1.1 billion Blumont shares, 3.4 billion Asiasons shares, and 4.3 billion LionGold shares in this period - representing 60 per cent, 88 per cent and 90 per cent of all trades in the companies respectively.

Soh and Quah have been acquainted since 2002. At the time of the offences, they were in an intimate relationship, prosecutors said.

The pair allegedly drew on personal and business relationships to control trading accounts belonging to family, friends, associates and companies related to them.

They included Soh's two sons, his brother, brothers-in-law, and the wife of one of his brothers-in-law.

Soh also controlled trading accounts belonging to Ms Cheng, as well as two companies owned by her and her father.

As investigators closed in, Soh sought to hide his and Quah's involvement in the scheme by tampering with no less than four witnesses, prosecutors said.

Soh, 59, was arrested in November 2016 and is still in remand while Quah, 54, is out on bail.

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COURT & CRIME