SINGAPORE (May 6): The trial of John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su Ling resumed on Monday with defence counsels accusing former Lim & Tan remiser Andy Lee Chee Wee of lying and concealing facts in court.

Soh’s lawyer, Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, confronted Lee, asking why he had chosen to lie despite warnings by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) officer before each interview. 

In the warning, interviewees are told that they could decline to answer questions if it implicated themselves, but that lying would constitute an offence.

“I know that I was supposed to tell the truth, but I did not know I could [stay silent] at that point of time,” says Lee.

Lee said he had made up stories to conceal Quah’s and UOB KayHian remiser Alice Ang Cheau Hoon’s roles in the crash because he did not want to testify in court as he was afraid details of his involvement would be revealed as well.

In a later re-examination by deputy public prosecutor Randeep Singh, Lee said that he thought it was the most convincing story he could come up with at that time as Quah, then CEO of listed company IPCO International, was not expected to be a secretary to the account holders.

Soh is the alleged mastermind behind the manipulation of three stocks -- Blumont, Asiasons (now known as Attilan Group) and LionGold – back in 2013. He faces 189 charges of stock manipulation, cheating and witness tampering and has been on remand since November 2016. 

Quah, who is said to be in a relationship with Soh, faces 178 charges of stock manipulation and cheating.

Sreenivasan also questioned Lee about the Singapore Exchange’s trading query on Blumont on Oct 1 2013, in which the bourse operator said unusual movements of its share price had been detected for a period of nine months.

SGX would later suspend trading of Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold shares on Oct 4 2013. These three counters would later become designated securities on Oct 6 2013, which prohibited short selling and required buyers to pay cash upfront when purchasing them.

“Wouldn’t this have a severe downward pressure on the share price?” asked Sreenivasan, to which Lee agreed.

Quah’s defence counsel Philip Fong then questioned Lee’s statement about the Malaysian syndicate controlling the accounts. When asked if Thomas Chng had used the term “Malaysian syndicate”, Lee said yes.

“My understanding was that Ooi Kwee Seah, Ong Kah Lee and Peter Chen Hing Woon were part of the syndicate,” says Lee.

Fong also tried to minimise his client’s involvement in issuing instructions, by showing how Quah had only contacted Lee once in the morning of Dec 28 2012, delinking her from trades done before her call to him. As Lee could not recall the details of the trades, he bristled at the questions Fong posed.

“It is unfair to me, using the basis of these few trades to [which I cannot] identify the originator, unfair to pin that on me that I am lying,” says Lee. “[I am] telling the truth of the fact. The number of trades is in the hundreds of thousands, how do I know every one of these trades?”

It was later revealed by the prosecution after Lee left the stand that at least two numbers, which Lee could not recall, had originated from The Fullerton Hotel and Orchard Hotel. Lee maintained that only Quah and Ang had given him trading instructions, with most of the trades instructed by Quah.

Fong reiterated the defence’s position that Quah merely acted as an intermediary when Lee continued to answer “no” to his assertions that Quah did not play an active role in getting him a job at Sino Construction and negotiating his salary.

In a later re-examination, Lee said that he had the impression that Quah, Soh and Ang were working together, with Ang on the “sell side”.

Fong also tried to suggest Lee had not only lied in his statement to the CAD but in court as well. In Lee’s statement to the CAD, Fong noted that Lee was saying negative things about Quah, referring to receiving instructions from a “Su Ling” for the accounts, feigning to have no knowledge of Quah’s full name.

“I don’t think [I have lied] in this court, I have lied in the CAD investigation, but not here. To a certain extent, I lied to try and recover the losses after so many damn years. How can you say [that my words are] rubbish?” says Lee.

The trial resumes at 10am on May 7, Tuesday, where a new prosecution witness will be called to the stand.

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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