2013 penny stock crash

Court rejects accused's bail bid, calls it 'fishing expedition'

Malaysian John Soh Chee Wen faces 188 charges over his alleged role in the 2013 penny stock crash. He was refused bail after he was ruled to be a flight risk and had tampered with witnesses.
Malaysian John Soh Chee Wen faces 188 charges over his alleged role in the 2013 penny stock crash. He was refused bail after he was ruled to be a flight risk and had tampered with witnesses.

Alleged mastermind had wanted access to documents he claimed could support his bail application

The High Court has rejected a bid by the alleged mastermind of the 2013 penny stock crash to get documents and witness statements he claimed could support his bail application.

Justice See Kee Oon ruled that John Soh Chee Wen's request amounted to a "fishing expedition", and pointed to "a real risk that disclosure of witnesses' statements to the extent sought will prejudice a fair trial, as the applicant can find ways to tailor his evidence ahead of trial".

Soh believes that prosecutors unfairly picked out portions of recorded conversations and witness statements that were detrimental to him when they opposed his bail application in February.

He wanted the High Court to allow him access to all recordings of conversations between him and remisier Gabriel Gan, and all witness statements obtained from Mr Gan, trading representative Ken Tai and former LionGold executive Peter Chen that contradict the allegations made by prosecutors.

Soh was refused bailafter he was ruled to be a flight risk and had tampered with witnesses. A hearing date for the latest bail application is yet to be set.

Soh's lawyer, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, argued in court that the prosecution, when opposing the bail application, used only certain extracts of a recorded conversation between Soh and Mr Gan that supported its position. The prosecution alleged that Soh chose not to leave Singapore before his arrest because he had been "complacent" and confident that investigators had no case against him.

Mr Tan said other parts of the recorded conversation allegedly contradicted that allegation, and showed that Soh had "always taken investigations very seriously".

But Justice See disagreed, saying in his ruling handed down yesterday that there was "nothing to suggest that (Soh) was readying himself for an inevitable conviction or fearful of the real prospect of a lengthy jail term".

"Rather, the transcript demonstrates a palpably discernible measure of defiance, even smugness," he noted.

Soh, who is from Malaysia, faces 188 charges over his alleged role in the 2013 crash. Shares of Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold rocketed between 150 per cent and 800 per cent in less than nine months before losing most of their market value in just three days in October that year. The crash wiped out more than $8 billion in value.

Justice See said yesterday that Soh made "a sweeping and broad-brush request for 'anything' that tends to contradict the prosecution's position".

"He does not know or have reasonable grounds to believe that there is any such evidence in existence... He is merely fishing or trawling in the optimistic hope of seeing what he can get to aid his case.

"The prosecution should not be placed in the untenable position of being compelled to aid Soh in... showing that he should be allowed bail," said the judge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Court rejects accused's bail bid, calls it 'fishing expedition' '. Print Edition | Subscribe