SINGAPORE (Oct 25): The defence counsels for John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-Ling, the alleged masterminds behind the 2013 penny stock crash, in court on Friday sought to suggest that prosecution witness Ivy Tan Ai Bee was more than just a “personal assistant” to Soh’s former romantic partner.

Tan is described as the PA to Adeline Cheng Jo-Ee, the ex-girlfriend of Soh and owner of Alethia Asset Management.

Starting as a teller at the now-defunct Overseas Union Bank, Tan had worked her way up to later become an assistant vice president at Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation, where she met Cheng.

Tan had told the court on Thursday that she believed Cheng was asked to leave HSBC because of “performance issues”. Cheng later contacted Tan to work in Alethia as her personal assistant, she said.

However, the court heard that Tan was appointed as a director of Alethia soon after joining the company.

See: Court hears of 'empire' building dreams amid love triangle woes with John Soh

Under cross-examination by Soh’s lawyer, senior counsel N Sreenivasan of K&L Gates Straits Law, Tan revealed that Cheng had asked her to put her name on Alethia’s Capital Market Services license as the company needed someone with “banking experience”.

Tan added that, under the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s regulations, she was “a fit and proper person”.

Tan recalled that Alethia was then in the process of upgrading its CMS license, which was for only up to $250 million in assets under management (AUM).

Tan also revealed that her personal relationship with Cheng was “okay”. But after a month of working at Alethia, she said she felt that Cheng “can be quite difficult at times and temperamental”. And while Cheng had confided in her, Tan said she did not confide in Cheng.

Tan explained that Cheng also had difficulties in obtaining her representative licenses due to some court cases. She recounted that these had to do with some unpaid parking tickets and a court case with Cheng’s neighbour.

When asked by Sreenivasan why she agreed to be on the CMS license when she was hired to just be a personal assistant, Tan said that she thought she should help Cheng since she had joined the company and Cheng was “nice”.

However, Tan revealed did not ask for more money for being on the CMS license, and was not coerced into accepting it.

Tan added that when she asked Cheng what was necessary to fulfil the licensing requirements, Cheng told her that there were certain things that she did not need to know. Tan said that she did not press further after that.

“Right-hand woman”

Later, Sreenivasan asked Tan to produce her offer letter from Alethia. The letter stated that Tan would be the general manager.

Questioned about the title she held at the firm, Tan then claimed that her title would change from time to time, from general manager to business development manager.

She explained that, because Alethia was a small firm, employees would have to do everything. She then described herself as the “general manager cum PA”.

When asked about a message she had sent to Cheng offering to help with sales, Tan said that the message referred to a marketing campaign. She reiterated that in a small company like Alethia, employees had to do everything.

“Your relationship with her is not just PA and boss,” Sreenivasan suggested. “You’re her right-hand woman all the way.”

Tan would later admit that she was to a “certain extent more than a PA.”

Pregnancy plot

The court on Friday also heard more details about Cheng’s relationship with Soh, and her aspiration to hit $1 billion in AUM. It had been revealed the day before that Cheng was “in a love triangle with Soh and Quah”.

Sreenivasan put it to Tan that Cheng wanted to have a relationship with Soh so that he could introduce new clients to her in order to fulfil her business goal. And Tan had encouraged Cheng to “get her hooks into Soh,” the defence lawyer suggested.

Sreenivasan also surfaced details of an alleged plot by Cheng to get pregnant with Soh’s baby. When pressed by Sreenivasan, Tan revealed that she recalled Cheng had plans to get pregnant.

When state prosecutors raised objections to the defence counsel’s line of questioning, Sreenivasan said he would reserve these questions for Cheng. The prosecution had earlier mentioned that Cheng will be appearing in the next tranche of the trial.

Later, Quah’s counsel, Philip Fong, managing director of Eversheds Harry Elias, told the court that Cheng was doing whatever she could to win Soh away from Quah.

Fong said this included plans on getting pregnant with Soh’s baby. Referencing messages between Tan and Cheng, he noted that Tan had told Cheng not to make any big moves.

Fong also pointed out that there were no messages between Cheng and Quah that indicated his client was placing orders in any account in Alethia. Fong later revealed that Cheng was hiding a “secret account” from Quah.

Tan could not recall which account this was, but indicated that it was one of two accounts at Societe Generale.

When asked why Cheng did not tell Quah about the account, Tan put it down to fighting for business.

The trial resumes on Oct 29.

What the 2013 Penny Stock Crash trial is about

John Soh Chee Wen is the alleged mastermind behind the penny stock crash of 2013, which prosecutors have called “the most audacious, extensive and injurious market manipulation scheme ever in Singapore”.

Together with his alleged co-conspirator and girlfriend Quah Su-Ling, Soh and his associates are alleged to have been behind the massive rise and sudden collapse of shares in Blumont Group, LionGold Corp and Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group), which wiped out some $8 billion in market value.

Subscribers can click here to read our 8-page special pullout on the penny stock crash trial.

Don’t miss out on these highlights in the penny stock saga so far:

Second tranche of witnesses (starting Oct 1, 2019)

First tranche of witnesses (March 11, 2019 to May 24, 2019)