SINGAPORE - The former group finance director of engineering firm Sembcorp Marine was on Wednesday sentenced to 39 months in prison, over some $300 million in trading losses that he had caused but hidden from the group over three years.
In a bid to cover his tracks, Wee Sing Guan, 65, falsified the accounts of Jurong Shipyard, a SembMarine unit which he was also a director of. He did this in quarterly reports starting from the first quarter of 2005 up to the third quarter of 2007, for losses incurred on positions held with a host of banks.
On Wednesday, Wee was sentenced after pleading guilty to nine of 57 charges, in what the prosecution called a "web of lies" that had led to one of the largest derivative losses in Singapore's corporate history.
The court heard that when Wee's offences were discovered in October 2007, the total unrealised loss to 11 banks was about $302.9 million, though this was negotiated down to $294.03 million net, before taxes.
After the Oct 19, 2007 announcement of the trading losses, which had been incurred on the foreign exchange market, SembMarine's closing share price dropped by about 15 per cent and about $1.78 billion in market capitalisation was wiped out.
This was loss borne by shareholders of the group, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Ang Feng Qian.
In passing sentence, Deputy Presiding Judge of the State Courts S. Jennifer Marie said a "strong signal" had to be sent to ensure that senior executives managing financial risks for companies would carry out their duties with "utmost professionalism".
Defence lawyer Julian Tay said the case was a result of his client's "overzealousness" in trying to recover the losses he had caused. Mr Tay added his client had contributed substantially to the firm since he joined Jurong Shipyard as an accountant in 1974, and that the last thing he wanted to do was harm the firm.
Wee could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined for each of the charges he faced.