SINGAPORE: The Malaysian businessman accused of masterminding the 2013 penny stock crash will spend Christmas in remand as his lawyers prepare to respond to allegations by the prosecution that he tampered with key witnesses in the investigation.
The lawyer acting for John Soh Chee Wen, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, argued there is “no truth” to the new allegations. However, he told the court he was not immediately prepared to argue his case as the prosecution had filed multiple affidavits containing the new allegations just days before the hearing on Tuesday (Dec 20).
“We are now faced with highly prejudicial evidence for which we have no opportunity to address the court,” Mr Tan said, seeking an adjournment to allow his client to file an affidavit in response.
A district judge ordered the prosecution to hand over copies of audio recordings allegedly containing evidence that Soh had tampered with key witnesses to the defence.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Guan Siew said the recordings were recently recovered from a key witness in the course of investigations into listed investment services company ISR Capital Limited, which saw its shares plunge 55 per cent following Soh’s arrest last month.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department subsequently launched an investigation into ISR Capital, and the recordings discovered on the witness' laptops, DPP Teo said.
The prosecutor agreed to hand over copies of the recordings to Mr Tan by Friday.
In the meantime, Soh will remain in remand pending another hearing on Dec 30.
He was first charged on Nov 25 with 181 counts for allegedly rigging the market and for false trading under the Securities and Futures Act. Prosecutors allege that Soh, his girlfriend Quah Su Ling and their "treasurer" Goh Hin Calm controlled more than 180 trading accounts, used to manipulate shares in Blumont Group, LionGold and Asiasons Capital (now known as Attilan Group). All saw huge run-ups in their share prices, turning them briefly into billion-dollar businesses.
On Oct 4, 2013, shares in the companies plunged in a frenzied 40 minutes of trading, losing more than S$8 billion in shareholder value in less than two days of trade. The crash is said to be the biggest securities fraud case Singapore has seen.
Soh and Quah are also accused of cheating financial institutions Goldman Sachs and Interactive Brokers LLC into extending more than S$170 million in margin financing to their accounts, using manipulated shares as collateral to secure the multimillion-dollar loan.
Quah, a former director and chief executive officer at IPCO International, faces 178 charges while Goh faces six counts. Both are out on bail and will next appear in court on Jan 5.
The prosecution objects to granting bail for Soh, on grounds that he is a "flight risk”.