SINGAPORE (Mar 8): The trial of the largest case of stock market manipulation in Singapore’s history was to have started on March 11. But in a twist of events at the 11th hour, Goh Hin Calm, one of the three defendants, has become a witness for the prosecution, pushing back the scheduled dates of the trial, The Edge Singapore understands.

Goh, who was formerly interim CEO of IPCO International (now known as Renaissance United), allegedly acted as the “treasurer” for John Soh Chee Wen, the alleged mastermind of the operations, and his alleged co-conspirator, Quah Su-Ling.

Goh faces six charges for his alleged involvement in the case. He has held directorships in 33 companies, including Annica Holdings, one of the companies said to be linked to Soh.

Soh and Quah have been slapped with 189 and 178 charges respectively, mostly relating to giving instructions with respect to several trading accounts that were used to manipulate shares in Asiasons Capital (now known as Attilan Group), Blumont Group and LionGold Corp. According to the charge sheets, they had used 189 trading accounts with 20 financial institutions, held in the names of 59 individuals and entities.

Soh and Quah each also face six counts of conspiring to create a false appearance with respect to the market for Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold shares, four counts of conspiring to manipulate and support the share prices of these counters and six counts of cheating financial institutions. Soh has also been charged with three counts of managing Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold while being an undischarged bankrupt and seven counts of witness tampering.

The trio were arrested on Nov 24, 2016, with Soh being held on remand since, while Goh and Quah were subsequently released on bail. 

The trial would have been the culmination of a massive investigation that officially began in April 2014, six months after the penny stock crash. More than 70 people have been hauled up for questioning and investigators combed through over two million emails, half a million trade orders and thousands of telephone records and financial statements.

The scale of the crimes Soh, Quah and Goh are alleged to have committed seems to outweigh that of former Asia Pacific Breweries executive Chia Teck Leng. In 2004, Chia was found guilty of forging documents to cheat a number of banks of $117 million over four years. He was sentenced to 42 years in jail, the longest sentence for commercial fraud so far.

“[Soh] potentially faces the longest custodial term ever imposed for financial crime in Singapore,” the prosecution team stated in its submission during Soh’s bail application.

Goh now joins a list of over 60 witnesses that are likely to take the stand to make their case against Soh and Quah. Regardless of the delay, the trial, which was scheduled to run for more than 80 days, is likely to have far-reaching consequences. Market watchers will also be looking out for others who may turn prosecution witness.

As the odds are stacked against Soh and Quah, their former comrades might decide to switch sides. One such individual might be Dick Gwee, former chairman of IPCO International, who was convicted in 2002 of manipulating shares in Mid-Continent Equipment Group. Gwee is known to be a close associate of Soh’s.

Up until the committal hearing of this case last June, Goh was represented by Nicholas Jeyaraj s/o Narayanan, of Nicholas & Tan Partnership. The latter is also a director of Annica Holdings. In a July 26, 2018 announcement, Annica said Nicholas Jeyaraj was interviewed by the Commercial Affairs Department on July 17, 2018 for an unspecified investigation. On Sept 27, 2018, Annica announced that four other directors had been interviewed by the CAD as well. Goh’s defence counsel is now Adrian Wee of Characterist LLC.

With Goh set to testify against his former co-defendants, would Soh or Quah be the next to cave? To find out more about the crash, read our story in this week's The Edge Singapore (Issue 827, week of Mar 11) or subscribe here

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