THE EDGE SINGAPORE - The long-running trial of John Soh Chee Wen and co-accused Quah Su-Ling took yet another twist with Justice Hoo Sheau Peng denying the defence counsels’ application for either a permanent, or conditional stay of proceedings on Aug 17. 

A permanent stay would have brought the trial of Soh and Quah, the alleged masterminds behind the manipulation of three penny stocks back in 2013, to a premature end. A temporary/conditional stay would also have required the prosecution to pay the defendants costs to minimise the “prejudice” they suffered due to the lengthy delays and the adjournments during the trial.

Other conditions include ascertaining if all material disclosed by the prosecution is complete and accurate, such as through a thorough review of their exhibits and evidence adduced thus far. A submission dated April 1 by Soh’s defence counsel, senior counsel N Sreenivasan of K&L Gates Straits Law, states that the “trial has come to a point where the prejudice [Soh] has faced is simply incurable and a fair trial is no longer possible”. Phillip Fong of Harry Elias, acting for Quah, states that “proceedings have deteriorated to the point where intervention is necessary to prevent further unfairness being occasioned”.

Among the basis of these applications were the prosecution’s breach of a disclosure obligation where statements and materials “that clearly undermine the prosecution’s case or strengthen the defence [were] disclosed at a very late stage of proceedings,” Fong’s submission states. “This placed the defence at a significant forensic disadvantage in conducting the trial”.

Furthermore, key pieces of evidence that the prosecution relied on “were found to be incomplete and inaccurate in the course of trial”, including order and trade data as well as statistical analysis undertaken by the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, Fong adds.

Soh and Quah face 189 and 179 charges respectively for manipulating the share prices of Blumont Group, LionGold Corp and Asiasons Capital (now known as Attilan Group). They are accused of allegedly using a network of associates and brokers to inflate the value of these shares before their prices crashed spectacularly in October 2013, wiping out some $8 billion in market value and putting an end to the scheme.

While The Edge Singapore understands that there has been no reported case in Singapore where the Court has ordered a stay, the basis for the defence counsel’s applications stem from Section 6 of the Criminal Procedure Code Singapore. Here it is stated, “As regards matters of criminal procedure for which no special provision has been made by this code or by any law for the time being in force, such procedure as the justice of the case may require, and which is not consistent with this code or such other law, may be adopted.”

Even though the section does not explicitly grant any specific power unto the Court, its inherent vague and “imprecise” wording is exactly what was intended to allow the Court to act as it sees fit in any given criminal proceedings. The defence counsel also reference cases that took place overseas where the Court had either ruled for a permanent or conditional stay of proceedings.

 

‘Misguided attempt’

The prosecution has called the defence’s application “baseless” and “yet another misguided attempt that delays and disrupts these proceedings”. “Not only has no legal basis been proffered for imposing such conditions on the public prosecutor, the very nature of the conditions sought demonstrate that they have no place in criminal proceedings,” the prosecution argues. The prosecution adds that the conditional stay application is “really a disguised application for bail and costs” and that such a scenario is a “meaningless condition to impose”.

The prosecution also denied allegations of a breach of disclosure obligations, adding that the defence have “not established any legal basis for the court to order a party to the proceedings to provide an undertaking”.

In delivering her decision on Aug 17, Justice Hoo disagreed with the defence’s argument that there has been seriously unfair, prejudicial or oppressive conduct on the part of the prosecution. “I also do not agree that these matters have rendered a fair trial impossible,” she ruled. As for the defence’s prayer on costs, she responded that “while there might have been wasted costs, this would not, in my view, render a fair trial impossible”.

The trial continues with Sreenivasan and Fong’s cross-examination of two prosecution witnesses — Jordan Chew Yong Liang and Peter Chen Hing Woon.

 

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