High Court dismisses appeals by directors of Profitable Plots

Profitable Plots directors Timothy Goldring (centre) and John Nordmann were convicted a year ago of cheating investors and jailed for a total of 15 years. Ms Geraldine Thomas (left) was acquitted during the trial.
Profitable Plots directors Timothy Goldring (centre) and John Nordmann were convicted a year ago of cheating investors and jailed for a total of 15 years. Ms Geraldine Thomas (left) was acquitted during the trial.ST FILE PHOTO

TWO directors of land-banking firm Profitable Plots, who were jailed a total of 15 years for cheating investors, have had their appeals against their sentences dismissed by the High Court.

Britons Timothy Goldring, 60, and John Nordmann, 55, were both convicted in the State Courts a year ago on 18 charges of cheating after a 64-day joint trial that began in April 2013.

Goldring was jailed for seven years and Nordmann got an eight-year sentence after investors lost around $915,000.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang, in judgment grounds released yesterday, said their jail terms were neither "unduly harsh" nor "too lenient". Pointing to aggravating factors, he said that despite the evidence against them, they blamed "virtually everyone else except themselves" for Profitable Plots' downfall and failed to provide restitution to those they cheated.

This despite receiving just over US$1 million (S$1.3 million) in remuneration along with fellow director Geraldine Thomas, 46, from the Boron investment scheme they used. They had lured clients to invest in it by promising 12.5 per cent returns within six months. Instead, they lost $3.1 million after part of the returns was used to pay Profitable Plots' existing debts.

Some 68 other charges were stood down. Ms Thomas, a Singaporean, was acquitted during the trial.

Profitable Plots, set up in 2005, was known for its TV commercials that featured former English football stars Bryan Robson and Steve McMahon urging viewers to "buy UK land".

The authorities took notice when angry clients stormed its offices in Stanley Street near Shenton Way, demanding what they claimed were overdue payouts.

Both Goldring and Nordmann appealed to the High Court, representing themselves and arguing that the district judge was "wrong in several ways and for a whole gamut of reasons".

They provided 29 appeal grounds each and their written submissions ran into 377 pages, noted Justice Tay, who heard the appeals in February and April this year.

The judge was not convinced and affirmed both conviction and sentence. He found that both men "concealed material information from the staff and investors", having known from the outset that Boron product sales were insufficient to produce the returns they had promised and clients' investments were spent elsewhere.

Justice Tay noted that Nordmann and his wife Geraldine had shipped 18 tonnes of personal effects from their home in Malaysia to France while the probe was going on.

"Clearly they had ample means and opportunity to make restitution, at least in part, to the victims of the Boron scheme," he wrote, noting that only $66,000 remained in the firm's bank accounts seized by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) during its probe.

"Despite the evidence... they blamed virtually everyone except themselves for (Profitable Plots') downfall. They blamed CAD for intervening, third parties for speaking up in the public sphere and hastening (Profitable Plots') downfall, investors for trying to defraud them."

However, he rejected the prosecution's call to enhance the jail terms imposed.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2015, with the headline 'High Court dismisses appeals by directors of Profitable Plots'. Print Edition | Subscribe