Former oil tycoon and Hin Leong founder O.K. Lim facing 23 more forgery-related charges

The 23 charges against Mr Lim Oon Kuin are expected to be tendered at the next court mention on April 8, 2021.
The 23 charges against Mr Lim Oon Kuin are expected to be tendered at the next court mention on April 8, 2021.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Another 23 charges of forgery-related offences are expected to be tendered against embattled Hin Leong Trading founder Lim Oon Kuin, prosecutors told the court on Monday (March 29) afternoon.

The new charges could not be tendered on Monday against the 78-year-old former oil tycoon - better known as O.K. Lim - as the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) could not complete recording the cautioned statements as Lim had said he was unwell, Deputy Public Prosecutor Navin Naidu told the court.

Cautioned statements are made by the defendant in his defence at the time the charges are presented to him.

The 23 charges are expected to be tendered at the next court mention on April 8.

"Between now and April 8, there should be sufficient time for all cautioned statements to be administered prior to the rendering of the 23 charges via video link," he added.

Lim's defence lawyer told the court that his client has "no objections to appearing by way of video link from the Police Cantonment Complex for the mention".

His $3 million court bail was extended on Monday.

Mr Lim was hit with two counts of abetment of forgery for the purpose of cheating in August and September last year. Lim was accused of instigating a Hin Leong employee to forge an e-mail and another document in order to obtain more than US$56 million (S$77 million) in trade financing, according to the police.

Abetment of forgery for the purpose of cheating carries a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine.

Lim was accused of instigating Mr Freddy Tan Jie Ren, a contracts executive of Hin Leong, to forge an e-mail purportedly sent by Hin Leong to China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corporation on Feb 26 relating to a sale.

Lim is accused of instructing Mr Tan to write the e-mail's subject header as "CAO - Sale of gasoil 10PPM sulphur".

The e-mail, along with a forged inter-tank transfer certificate mentioned in the first charge brought against Lim in August 2020, was intended to be used to secure more than US$56 million in trade financing, the police said.

The first charge alleged that Lim had instigated Mr Tan to make an inter-tank transfer certificate using UT Singapore Services' letterhead.

The document stated that Hin Leong transferred 1.05 million barrels of gasoil to China Aviation Oil on March 18.

It was then allegedly used to secure the trade financing, the police said.

After the two charges were brought against the elder Lim, HSBC, Hin Leong's largest creditor with about US$600 million owing, took legal action against the Lim family and a Hin Leong employee as the fake CAO cargo sale is also the subject of the bank's suit.

HSBC alleged that the defendants "fraudulently deceived" it into lending Hin Leong US$111.7 million by signing forged invoices that were submitted to obtain discount financing last year. But, in his defence papers, the elder Lim denied the allegations.

Separately, a High Court hearing is scheduled on April 5 of an application by PricewaterhouseCoopers judicial managers to freeze the assets, shares and funds held by the family in a bid to recoup US$3.5 billion (S$4.7 billion) of debt from the collapsed oil trader.

Hin Leong collapsed last year after the oil price plunge triggered a default that exposed years of hidden losses and alleged fraud by the Lim family. Shipping arm Ocean Tankers filed for judicial management last May, and in August, the court approved OCBC's application against Lim family-owned Xihe Holdings and subsidiaries. Hin Leong was wound up earlier this month.