SINGAPORE (Mar 6): In a regulatory filing close to midnight on March 5, Mainboard-listed TEE International has revealed that its founder and former Group Chief Executive Officer Phua Chian Kin has been interviewed by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

Phua has also surrendered his travel documents to the CAD.

This comes a day after TEE International announced that the white-collar crime unit had raided its office and “taken certain documents and items from the premises”.

The group had also been ordered by CAD to provide access to supporting documents for all remittances between the group and Phua as well as Oscar Investment, a British Virgin Islands-incorporated entity wholly and beneficially owned by him.

The unauthorised remittances, amounting to $6.55 million, were the subject of investigations conducted by external investigator PricewaterhouseCoopers Risk Services (PwC).

In a summary report released March 3, PwC suggested TEE International could have been involved in several potential breaches of the Companies Act as well as possible non-compliance with Singapore Exchange (SGX) Listing Rules and the Code of Corporate Governance.

See: Independent investigation into TEE International unearths potential legal breaches: PwC

CAD on March 4 also ordered TEE International to hand over the minutes of board meetings since June 1 2017, general ledgers of the group for FY2018 and FY2019, as well as signing limits of bank accounts given by TEE International to Phua.

The authorities had also asked to examine all correspondence between TEE International, its auditors Deloitte & Touche, its internal auditors Protiviti, and external investigator PwC, pertaining to the Investigations.

The CAD has not given any further details of its investigations,” TEE International said in a statement on March 4, adding that it “intends to cooperate fully with the CAD on its investigations”.

See: CAD commences probe on TEE International's Phua

Termination of employment

In the latest announcement on March 5, TEE International said it has terminated Phua’s employment with immediate effect in view of his role in the unauthorised remittances.

With the termination, Phua is also required to resign from his position as director of TEE International and its subsidiaries.

In a subsequent announcement on March 9, the company said Phua has resigned as a director. 

However, it added that Phua will continue to be available to assist the company if requested to do so.

In its summary report, PwC had noted that Phua is recognised by the staff as the ‘de facto’ owner of the group, despite the group’s listing on the SGX since 2008.

Update on Group CFO

Further, TEE International on March 5 announced that – “in order to minimise disruption to the finance operations of the company” – Group Chief Financial Officer Yeo Ai Mei will remain in her role until a new CFO is appointed.

TEE International on Feb 27 had announced that Yeo had tendered her resignation as Group CFO “to dedicate more time to her personal commitment”.

It added that the company is in the process of finding a replacement for the position of CFO or equivalent.

Two days later, on Feb 29, the group issued a clarification, stating that the Executive Committee had earlier already decided to terminate her services once the PwC report was released, due to her involvement in the unauthorised remittances.

However, TEE International’s Nominating Committee had on Feb 14 further decided that the company would ask Yeo to leave, or terminate her services, without waiting for the release of the external investigator report.

The group then revealed that Yeo had decided to tender her resignation after the interim Group CEO, Phua Boon Kin, informed her of the Nominating Committee’s decision.

Removal of signatories

TEE International added on March 5 that it will be removing its Financial Controller, Tan Keng Hean, as an authorised signatory for all payments by the group.

PwC’s investigations had uncovered that, on several occasions, Tan had signed off on the approval of payment vouchers for the remittances only weeks after the funds had been transferred.

He had also signed the payment vouchers despite the lack of proper supporting documents. The Finance Controller said he had assumed the necessary approvals had been obtained, since the instructions had come from the Group CFO.

The Nominating Committee had earlier on Feb 14 also decided to remove Yeo as authorised signatory for all payments by the group. The company says it is still in the process of removing her as an authorised signatory for all payments by the group with their bankers.

Phua had already been removed as authorised signatory for all payments by the group in September last year, when news of the unauthorised remittance first broke.

Shares in TEE International tumbled another 10% to close at 3.6 cents on Thursday. Since March last year, the counter has plunged by more than 70%.