3 arrested over 2013 penny stock crash

Mr Soh has been alleged to be the "mastermind" behind the 2013 crash that wiped out $8 billion in market value.
Mr Soh has been alleged to be the "mastermind" behind the 2013 crash that wiped out $8 billion in market value.

The alleged "mastermind" behind the 2013 penny stock crash and two other former senior executives were arrested yesterday, The Straits Times has learnt.

Mr John Soh Chee Wen, 57, is likely to be charged this morning for his alleged role in Singapore's biggest securities fraud case, according to his lawyer, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng of WongPartnership.

In January, the Public Prosecutor dubbed Mr Soh the "mastermind" behind the crash that wiped out $8 billion in market value in just three days in October 2013.

The Malaysian businessman, whose passport was seized in April 2014, has been helping the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) in its probe, which centres on possible violations of the Securities and Futures Act over trading in Blumont Group, LionGold Corp and Asiasons Capital.

These shares surged by between 150 per cent and 800 per cent in less than nine months before losing most of their value in October 2013.

Sources told The Straits Times yesterday that Mr Soh, along with former Ipco International chief executive Quah Su Ling and Mr Goh Hin Calm, former independent director of Annica Holdings and ITE Electric, were "picked up by the CAD at 6am (yesterday) at their homes".

Ms Quah, who quit Ipco in April last year to focus on her "present personal challenges", was among several parties sued over $79 million in losses sustained by US stock trading firm Interactive Brokers in the wake of the penny stock crash.

CAD raided about 50 locations, including brokerages, interviewed more than 70 people and seized hundreds of electronic devices.

Shares of ISR Capital, formerly Asiasons WFG Financial and also linked to the penny stock crash, dived 55 per cent or 15.8 cents to 12.7 cents yesterday, prompting a query from the Singapore Exchange. ISR requested a trading halt yesterday.

Small investors were hit hard in the 2013 meltdown, which battered investor confidence and led to tighter trading rules.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline '3 arrested over penny stock crash'. Print Edition | Subscribe