$8b penny stock crash: 2nd prosecution witness breaks down on stand

The trial continues for alleged penny stock crash mastermind John Soh Chee Wen and fellow defendant Quah Su-Ling.
The trial continues for alleged penny stock crash mastermind John Soh Chee Wen and fellow defendant Quah Su-Ling.PHOTO: ST FILE

He asks to amend part of written testimony, admits he lied in two statements to police

An RHB Securities dealer broke down after admitting in court yesterday that he did not tell "the whole truth" when officers first questioned him about the 2013 penny stock crash.

Mr Alex Chew Keng Chiow broke down in the witness box after asking to amend part of his written testimony yesterday.

Mr Chew had said in his written testimony that when the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) questioned him in April 2014, he did not tell the truth in his first statement that it was in fact "Su Ling" and "John" who placed the orders, as he feared that he would get implicated in the case.

The names refer to alleged penny stock crash mastermind John Soh Chee Wen and fellow defendant Quah Su-Ling.

Mr Chew had said in this statement: "The first thing in my mind was that I should have gotten written authorisation for 'Su Ling' and 'John' to give orders in the clients' accounts, but I had not done so.

"After the first statement was recorded, I was given a break to have dinner. During this time, as I am Christian, I prayed about my fears. I eventually felt that I should tell the truth to the CAD.

"When the CAD officer returned in the evening to record my second statement, I told her the truth."

But yesterday, Mr Chew broke down and clarified that he told the truth only in the third statement.

 
 
 
 

He is the second prosecution witness who has admitted lying to the CAD.

The first witness - Mr Ng Kit Kiat, a former OCBC Securities remisier - claimed he came clean on the advice of his lawyer and after being shown all the documents by investigating officers.

Mr Chew said his changed testimony arose because "God told me to tell the truth".

Like Mr Ng, Mr Chew testified that Soh and Quah, instead of the actual account holders, had given trading instructions for four of the accounts he was managing.

Yesterday, the defence continued to push blame for the 2013 crash to remisiers who allegedly engaged in "layering", a form of market manipulation.

Layering involves entering relatively large orders but without the genuine intention that they will be executed. Orders are placed at prices that are unlikely to attract counter-parties and then deleted after the person has benefited from the price movement.

Defence lawyers accused Mr Ng and UOB remisier Alice Ang Cheau Hoon of placing "layering" orders to give an impression there was a large buyer for Blumont Group shares below the market price in order to achieve a better selling price.

Quah's lawyer, Mr Philip Fong, in his cross-examination of Mr Ng earlier yesterday, noted that on Jan 16, 2013, Ms Ang had placed a buy order for 1.5 million Blumont shares at 39.5 cents. This was below the best bid price of 41.5 cents.

But that buy order was deleted less than a minute later by Mr Ng. Shortly after, Ms Ang also entered sell orders on Blumont.

"Weren't you layering Blumont shares in tandem with Alice?" Mr Fong asked.

"What you did on Jan 16, 2013, by layering orders either by yourself (or) Alice, you were trying to give the impression there is a large buyer for Blumont shares below market price, allowing you and your clients to get a better selling price."

Mr Ng responded: "No. I never do it myself. I simply take instructions. I have totally no idea what the other side is doing."

Mr Fong said: "I suggest to you that all the contradictions in your evidence... show you were trying to hide your own market misconduct.

"You are insistent on distancing yourself from Soh and Quah because you are hoping to divert attention away from your own market misconduct."

Soh and former Ipco International chief executive Quah have been charged with conspiring to create a false market for stocks of Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group) and LionGold Corporation.

They are accused of employing a raft of 189 trading accounts held in the names of Quah and 59 other individuals and firms at 20 financial institutions to "dominate" the market for the three counters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2019, with the headline '2nd prosecution witness breaks down on stand, admits lying'. Print Edition | Subscribe