SINGAPORE (May 23): The prosecution and defence in the 2013 penny stock crash trial on Thursday crossed swords over how conditioned statements had been prepared, and the relevancy of questions raised in cross-examination of these statements.

Deputy public prosecutor Peter Koy said questions by the defence counsels for alleged co-conspirators John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-Ling were a “distraction from the facts”.

“Questions as to what was shown to the witness, what trade and telephone data were shown to the witness, which data was filtered and shown to the witness, are irrelevant to whether the accused persons instructed the trades,” he said.

“Much time has been spent in this trial in the cross-examination of witnesses on the drafting and preparation of their conditioned statements, asking them hypothetical questions and possibilities, instead of challenging the witnesses on their evidence and putting the defense’s case to them,” he added. “Such questions are also a distraction from the facts in issue.”

Koy explained the difference between litigation privilege and legal advice privilege.

“[Legal advice privilege] is concerned with protecting confidential communications between lawyers and clients, and [litigation privilege] is concerned with protecting information and materials created and collected for the dominant purpose of litigation,” Koy said.

Senior counsel N Sreenivasan, the defense counsel for Soh, refuted these points.

“We have a major problem in the prosecution's submission,” Sreenivasan said. He argued that it was relevant to assess whether a witness’s evidence in trial was “unvarnished [and] uncontaminated evidence”.

His view was seconded by Quah’s defense counsel, represented by Sui Yi Siong, a senior associate at Eversheds Harry Elias.

“It is also a truism of the criminal justice process that cross-examination is the greatest legal engine invented for truth, and we are here to find the truth. We are entitled to cross-examine how they are prepared,” Sui said.

Taking all arguments into consideration, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng disagreed with the prosecutions’ submissions.

“To test the reliability of the contents of a conditioned statement, as well as the recollection of events by the witness, it may well be necessary to question the witness on the preparation of the statement and how he was prepared for his evidence in court,” Hoo explained.

Later, in his re-examination of former Maybank Kim Eng Securities (MBKE) dealer Ong Kah Chye, Koy referred Ong to the two trades made through the Friendship Bridge account.

He asked Ong to recollect if Soh had given him any instructions, as he had received and made calls to Soh close to the time of the transactions.

“I will not say firmly the instruction were from [Soh], because there was a certain time lapse,” Ong replied.

Later in the day, MBKE remisier Lim Teck Leong took the stand as the 12th prosecution witness – and the final in the first tranche of witnesses in trial.

Lim was a covering officer for Ong, which meant that he would take Ong’s calls when the latter was away.

Lim said he would “help [Ong] execute his clients' trade instructions by keying them into my trading terminal”.

During cross-examination, Sreenivasan asked Lim if he knew Soh personally.

Lim responded that he did not, and only performed Soh’s trades when “[Ong] was not around”. He added that he had performed the trades requested by Soh.

Sreenivasan then drew reference to the three instances highlighted in Lim’s statement to the CAD. He asked how Lim identified them as situations in which Soh had given instructions.

Lim responded that he had identified them based on the call logs and trade transaction data presented to him by the Investigating Officer.

“The fact is somebody else told you and you parroted it in your statement,” Sreenivasan said.

The hearings for the second tranche of witnesses will begin on Aug 19, 2019.

2013 Penny Stock Crash

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.

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