SINGAPORE (May 14): John Soh Chee Wen’s former romantic partner, Adeline Cheng Jo-Ee, had full control over a bank account used to trade in shares related to the 2013 penny stock crash – even though she was not the beneficial owner, the court heard today.

Cheng has been named as a prosecution witness in the trial of Soh and Quah Su-Ling, the alleged masterminds behind the stock manipulation scandal, but has yet to be called to the stand.

In court on Tuesday, Hafeez Ahmad Choudry, Chief Risk Officer of Crédit lndustriel et Commercial (CIC), revealed that Cheng had full authority over a corporate account owned by a British Virgin Isle-registered company, Carlos Place Investment Limited.

Cheng was both the authorised signatory of Carlos Place and the representative of its appointed external asset manager, Alethia Asset Management (AAM).

During cross-examination by senior counsel N Sreenivasan, who is leading the defence for Soh, Hafeez admitted that it could be problematic for Cheng to have full authority to trade with the account, as she was not the beneficial owner of the Carlos Place account.

“Do you agree that in terms of compliance, someone who is not the beneficial owner having total control of the account can create some problems?” asked Sreenivasan.

“Yes it could,” Hafeez replied.

Further, Hafeez told the court that Cheng was both the donor (giver) and donee (receiver) of the powers of attorney for the Carlos Place account. He also admitted that it was “not prudent” to do.

However, Hafeez explained that the beneficial owner of the account, Ooi Cheu Kok, had appointed Cheng to do so. He also agreed that Ooi had given Cheng the necessary mandates.

“So what the bank accepted was a person, who is not the beneficial owner, to have full authority in relation to the account,” suggested Sreenivasan.

“We were looking at this in totality. It was clear that she knew [Ooi] quite well, and she was his introducer. She was also a representative of AAM, and this puts her in the position to be signatory of the account,” Hafeez said.

He later disagreed when Sreenivasan put it to him that CIC was “inconsistent” in its concern about the ‘Know Your Client’ policies when it dealt with the Carlos Place account.

Sreenivasan also asked Hafeez if he knew about Soh prior to the crash, to which Hafeez replied in the negative.

“Why do you talk about someone you don’t know?” demanded Sreenivasan.

“Because I was told to appear before the prosecution in this case,” Hafeez answered.

Sreenivasan again pointed out that Hafeez had mentioned Soh and Quah in his condition statement, even though Soh and Quah were at no time mentioned as persons with power of attorney for the Carlos Place account.

“[Again,] why are you talking about someone you don’t know?” Sreenivasan thundered.

“Like I said, I was called by the CAD (Commercial Affairs Department) to appear before the prosecutor in relation to the Carlos Place account with CIC. And during the course of the interviews, I was asked if these two individuals were ever part of the arrangements with CIC,” Hafeez answered patiently.

The trial resumes May 16.

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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