SINGAPORE (Mar 3): Former Phillip Securities remisier Henry Tjoa admitted to raking in some $1 million in commissions from rolling the shares of LionGold Corp, Blumont Group and Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group) over the course of a year.

However, taking the stand today as a prosecution witness in the trial of alleged 2013 penny stock crash masterminds John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-Ling, Tjoa said he was unsure of the exact amount he pocketed.

Prior to being declared a bankrupt in May 2017, Tjoa was one of the “inner circle” of brokers and remisiers used by Soh and Quah to allegedly manipulate shares in the three counters. The eventual collapse of the counters had wiped out some $8 billion in market value.

Senior counsel N Sreenivasan of K&L Gates Straits Law, who is Soh’s defence counsel, attempted to pin down inconsistencies between Tjoa’s stances and those of former prosecution witness Ken Tai Chee Ming.

Tai, another “inner circle” broker, had introduced Tjoa to Soh and Quah back in 2011.

“You have in the course of giving evidence said that Tai was frequently giving you instructions on all the BAL shares from mid-2012? Do you confirm that that’s your position?” asked Sreenivasan.

Tjoa agreed. Further, he added that he did not conduct trades without any instructions from concerned parties such as Tai, Soh, Quah, or trading representatives such as Dick Gwee Yow Pin and Gabriel Gan.

The court later heard that Tjoa had been aware of entering trades in which he was aware of Tai being the “counterparty” – the person who was on the opposing side waiting to buy the shares Tjoa had sold.

Sreenivasan flagged that Tjoa’s knowledge of the identity of the counterparty made these transactions illegal.

“The reason why what you were doing was illegal, was because you were coordinating with Tai. You knew you were taking instructions and putting shares into the market so one of Tai’s accounts could be the counterparty,” said Sreenivasan.

Tjoa agreed, and said he was aware when Tai and Gan were “counterparties” in his trades.

However, he insisted that he did not participate in a “scheme” with Tai to pocket commissions.

In particular, Sreenivasan zeroed in on a transaction that took place on the morning of Oct 4, 2013 – just before the crash.

On this day, Tai had sold a total of 80,000 Asiasons shares, which Tjoa had then purchased through an account belonging to Goh Hin Calm – the alleged “treasurer” to Soh and Quah.

Just half an hour later, Tjoa had sold a total of 200,000 Asiasons shares belonging to Goh, resulting in a loss of $213,000.

“Are you aware that Tai avoided a very big loss by selling 80,000 shares to Goh?” asked Sreenivasan.

Tjoa denied any knowledge. “At that time, we were just doing the rolling over [of shares]. But my concern was when the market started falling, I was very worried then because I could not get hold of Soh and Quah,” he said.

Destroying evidence

Sreenivasan then asked about disposable phones used by Tjoa and his three assistants, which were purportedly destroyed after the crash.

“I threw mine and my assistants’ phone into the sea in East Coast. I was alone, I drove there alone and threw the phones [into the sea],” said Tjoa.

To this, Sreenivasan brought the court’s attention to Tai’s conditioned statement which stated that Tai had collected phones from Tjoa and his assistants, among others, and disposed of them.

“You were getting rid of evidence that was pertinent to investigations,” said Sreenivasan. ”Tai, at least, must have been concerned about the investigations otherwise there would have been no reason to throw the phones away.”

“I put it to you that this is a made-up story where you and Tai got mixed up about who is supposed to be the protagonist,” Sreenivasan added.

Tjoa also claim to have reformatted the central processing unit (CPU) of his computer in the Manhattan House office at Mohamed Sultan Road for the “safety” of records of rollovers of shares.

This was done under the recommendation of Tai, said Tjoa.

When grilled by Sreenivasan on the possibility of things inside the desktop that had to be hidden, Tjoa said that he did not know what was inside the computer as he seldom used it.

“The trades itself would have been captured by SGX, so you can’t hide the trades. You can’t hide the parties making the trades. So there must be something in the local CPU in the Manhattan House computers that you all were trying to hide, right?” asked Sreenivasan.

Again, Tjoa denied having knowledge of any such information, as his assistants were the ones who used the computer.

The trial will resume on Wednesday, when Sreenivasan 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)