A Malaysian court yesterday charged Singaporean James Phang Wah with taking illegal deposits, a day after he was released from prison in the Republic.
Sunshine Empire founder 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.
In Malaysia, he had allegedly committed the offences between 2006 and 2008 while assisting the Malaysian affiliate of his multi-level marketing firm Sunshine Empire.
Prosecuting officer Alvin Ong told the court the scheme was believed to have amassed a sum of RM230 million (S$76 million), with RM20 million forfeited by the Malaysian High Court in 2013 under an anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing law.
Each charge against Phang carries a maximum 10 years' imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of RM10 million upon conviction. Phang's bail was fixed at RM1 million for each count.
"During his imprisonment in Singapore, the accused had lost his source of income and had health complications with his eyesight and hearing," said defence attorney Shah Rizal Abdul Manan.
The case's next mention is on Jan 26. The two charges against Phang were 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 December 2011 after receiving a nine-year jail sentence and $60,000 fine.
He was released on Wednesday and taken to Malaysia on an extradition agreement, according to a police source.
In March 2009, Sunshine Empire was charged in Malaysia with accepting deposits from the public without a valid licence. Its Malaysian affiliate company was represented by director Mohd Azlan Azman. The company pleaded guilty and was fined RM2 million in June 2010.
Back in 2010, Singapore's court fined Phang's wife, Neo Kuon Huay, $60,000 for falsifying payment vouchers, while Sunshine Empire's director, Jackie Hoo Choon Cheat, was given a seven-year jail term.
In August last year, Hoo was charged in Malaysia with 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, with nearly $190 million scammed from the public.