KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysia court on Thursday (Dec 21) charged Singaporean James Phang Wah for taking illegal deposits a day after he was released from prison in the Republic.
Phang, 58, who gained notoriety for Singapore’s biggest Ponzi scheme, pleaded not guilty to two charges of violating Malaysia’s Banking and Financial Institutions Act. He had allegedly committed the offences between 2006 to 2008 while assisting the Malaysian affiliate of his multi-level marketing firm Sunshine Empire.
Each charge carries a maximum 10 years imprisonment or a maximum fine of RM10 million (S$3.3 million), or both, if convicted. Phang’s bail was fixed at RM1 million for each count despite the defence lawyer requesting for a lower bail sum.
“During his imprisonment in Singapore, the accused had lost his source of income and had health complications with his eyesight and hearing,” said Shah Rizal Abdul Manan, defence attorney for Phang.
The two charges against him was allegedly committed at Sunshine Empire’s two premises in Kuala Lumpur between July 14, 2006 and Oct 17, 2006 and between Oct 18, 2006 and April 4, 2008.
Phang began serving time in prison in Singapore in Dec 2011 after receiving a 9-year sentence and S$60,000 fine. He was released on Wednesday and brought over to Malaysia on an extradition agreement, according to a police source. The source added that Malaysian authorities had to wait for Phang’s Singapore sentence to be completed before charging him.
In March 2009, Sunshine Empire was charged in Malaysia under the same act for accepting deposits from the public without a valid license. Its Malaysian affiliate company was represented by director Mohd Azlan Bin Azman. The company pleaded guilty and was fined RM2 million in June 2010.
Prosecuting officer Alvin Ong told the court the scheme is believed to have amassed a sum of RM230 million (S$76 million), with RM20 million forfeited by the Malaysian High Court in 2013 under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.
Back in 2010, Singapore’s court fined Phang’s wife, Neo Kuon Huay, S$60,000 for falsifying payment vouchers while Sunshine Empire’s director Jackie Hoo Choon Cheat was given a 7-year jail term.
In Aug 2016, Hoo was charged in Malaysian court for the same offences upon his release from Singapore's prison.
Phang’s Sunshine Empire had sold over 26,000 “lifestyle packages” to Singaporeans promising high returns in investments. In 2007, Singaporean authorities raided his firm but recovered only S$21 million of nearly S$190 million scammed from the public. Phang was found to have been paid S$7 million in “consultancy fees” and had led a lavish lifestyle in the Republic.