SINGAPORE (Mar 4): Prosecution witness Henry Tjoa, the former Phillips Securities remisier who was once part of the “inner circle” of brokers used by alleged masterminds John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-Ling, in court on Wednesday admitted to witness tampering and lying to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

Tjoa was one of the brokers and remisiers allegedly used by the duo to manufacture the massive rise of shares in LionGold Corp, Blumont Group and Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group).

The eventual collapse of the counters in October 2013 had wiped out some $8 billion in market value.

Under cross-examination by Soh’s lawyer, senior counsel N Sreenivasan of K&L Gates Straits Law, Tjoa was cornered into explaining why he was not entirely truthful during both his interviews with the CAD – first in 2013, and then in 2018.

In the first interview with CAD in 2013, Tjoa had purportedly concealed facts about the market rolling activities that took place in LionGold’s office at Mohamed Sultan Road.

At this office, Tjoa and his three assistants had engaged in the buying and selling of shares, alongside another “inner circle” broker, Ken Tai Chee Ming.

Tai, who also appeared earlier in the penny stock trial as a prosecution witness, had introduced Tjoa to Soh and Quah in 2011.

However, in his statements to CAD, Tjoa had avoided mention of Tai.

“You wanted to hide the operations from the CAD,” said Sreenivasan. “You did not implicate Tai because you wanted to hide your own role in the operations.”

Tjoa agreed. However, he stressed that he had wanted to shield his assistants as well.

“[This was] because the trail would eventually come back to you as you were one of the key players,” Sreenivasan countered.

Tjoa agreed.

Witness tampering, blatant omissions

To coincide with his lies to the authorities, Tjoa had instructed his three assistants to tell untruths when they were questioned as well.

“After the first and second interviews by the CAD, I had a meet-up with my assistants, and asked them to follow what I said,” Tjoa told the court.

However, Tjoa said that when he later decided to come clean with the CAD, he had informed his assistants to “go ahead” with disclosing information in totality.

“Have you been charged with witness tampering?” asked Sreenivasan.

Tjoa replied that he had not.

Later, Sreenivasan also took issue with Tjoa’s omission of what he deemed to be some “imperative details” in the conditioned statements.

Sreenivasan honed in on the fact that Tjoa had only disclosed the involvement of Dick Gwee Yow Pin, another trading representative used in the “inner circle”, in his second conditioned statement recorded on April 18, 2018.

Sreenivasan asked if Tjoa had done this because he was confronted with evidence of Gwee’s involvement, or on his own accord.

Tjoa attested that he had done this on his own, without any form of prompting from the authorities.

“At this point, you were already telling the whole truth. Hence, every part of Gwee’s involvement should have come out when you said this,” said Sreenivasan.

In this conditioned statement, Tjoa had recounted what Sreenivasan described as “painful” details about Gwee. These included facts such as that Gwee was a “Hwa Chong boy” like Tjoa himself, and that he was “friendly”.

However, Sreenivasan pinned down a major factual omission in the statement: Tjoa had failed to disclose how Soh had said that Gwee was there to help Tjoa in the trading of the three counters’ shares and, thereby, assist Soh in the manipulation of the market.

According to Sreenivasan, this was “the most important detail” that should have been disclosed from the get-go.

However, Sreenivasan pointed out that Tjoa only brought up Gwee in his conditioned statement in 2018 – after the case had been taken to trial, during which Gwee’s name had already been mentioned.

“Why didn’t you put this when you told the truth and the complete truth?” asked Sreenivasan. “I’m suggesting to you that it was not mentioned because it was not the truth. You added it later because you wanted to pin down Soh.”

Tjoa disagreed. He argued that the omission was because there had been no questions raised about Gwee’s involvement during that time.

He went on to say that he had added in details about Gwee in his second statement as the deputy public prosecutor had pressed for more details.

“When you changed the story and added in this detail [about Gwee], I’m suggesting that you made it up so you could fix Soh,” said Sreenivasan. “It was something important and you omitted it.”

The trial will resume on Thursday, when Quah’s lawyer, Philip Fong, managing partner of Eversheds Harry Elias, will continue his cross-examination of Tjoa.

What the 2013 Penny Stock Crash trial is about

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.

Subscribers can click here to read our 8-page special pullout on the penny stock crash trial.

Don’t miss out on these highlights in the penny stock saga so far:

Third tranche of witnesses (From Jan 2, 2020)

Second tranche of witnesses (Oct 1, 2019 to Oct 31, 2019)

First tranche of witnesses (March 11, 2019 to May 24, 2019)