SINGAPORE (Feb 14): Day two of a court hearing on John Soh Chee Wen’s latest bid to be released on bail saw his lawyers calling evidence produced by prosecutors that he is likely to tamper with witnesses “ambiguous”. It also came to light that a sum of $500,000 received by former DMG broker Gabriel Gan from Soh was in the form of cash.

See: Penny stock saga trial could start in Oct even as alleged mastermind John Soh continues to seek bail

Senior Counsel N Sreenivasan, from Straits Law, zeroed in on the recordings of conversations between Gan and Soh, which prosecutors had produced in court. The recordings, made surreptitiously by Gan, captured Soh and Gan discussing what to do in the event the investigators from the Commercial Affairs Department came calling, and conversations that demonstrated Gan had received money from Soh. “It was not John Soh talking to Gabriel Gan, but Gabriel Gan talking to John Soh with the purpose of taping the conversation,” Sreenivasan argued.

Sreenivasan also told the court that conditions in prison made it difficult for Soh to prepare for his trial, describing in detail the small plastic boxes that prisoners use as desks and noting that Soh’s case involves some 70 witnesses and events that happened over a long period of time. “Prosecution needs 12 weeks to compile the evidence,” said Sreenivasan, referring to Soh’s current effort to be granted bail. “That will tell you the magnitude of the case.”

Soh is alleged to be the mastermind behind the steep rise and sudden fall in 2013 of shares in Blumont Group, LionGold Corp and Asiasons Capital (now called Attilan Group). He has been slapped with 188 charges, mostly for market manipulation as well as cheating and witness tampering. He was arrested on Nov 24 2016 and has been held in remand ever since.

Sreenivasan also sought to deflect the argument of Soh being flight risk by raising the principle of presumption of innocence. “We need to clear on one basic point, everyone is a flight risk when on bail. You can’t say low flight risk, high flight risk. Only high flight risk has flight risk,” he said in court. “The fundamental basis of bail is the presumption of innocence. One cannot acknowledge it, then impose onerous terms that it cannot be satisfied,” he added.

In a subsequent back and forth with between Sreenivasan and Deputy Public Prosecutor Peter Koy, it was revealed that a sum of $500,000 that Gan received from Soh was in the form of cash. This came to light when Tan responded to Sreenivasan pointing out that the prosecution had not produced evidence of the sum being transferred besides the recording made by Gan.

“[Prosecution] felt there was no need to put in documentary evidence of the movement of the $500,000 in cash,” said Koy. Sreenivasan responded by saying, “[Soh] never denied that he has given Gabriel Gan small amounts of money. What I take issue with is the $500,000, which was used to tamper with the witness. The paper trail is easy to find, the prosecution admits that all they have is Gabriel Gan as a witness.”

Justice Hoo Sheau Peng is scheduled to rule on Feb 27.