SINGAPORE - Mr Nelson Loh, 40, co-founder of Novena Global Healthcare Group (NGHG), which is under a police investigation, has left Singapore, said his cousin and former business partner Terence Loh.
Mr Terence Loh, 43, said in a statement on Friday (Nov 20) in response to the application by DBS Bank to wind up NGHG subsidiary Novena Global Healthcare Pte Ltd: "Perhaps more than anyone else, I feel deeply betrayed by Nelson, who has left Singapore and appears to have no intention to sort out this terrible mess we are left with."
The Straits Times understands from sources that Mr Nelson Loh is in China.
The Singapore Police told The Straits Times that it is unable to confirm whether Mr Nelson Loh has left the country, while the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said that it cannot discuss the details of individual cases due to confidentiality reasons.
On Tuesday, DBS had applied to the High Court to wind up Novena Global Healthcare Pte Ltd, which is believed to have owed the bank millions of dollars.
The application will be heard on Dec 11 and the subsidiary faces possible liquidation if the High Court agrees.
The Singapore subsidiary of the Cayman Islands-incorporated group also faces further enforcement action from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) for failing to file its annual returns, due on June 29, 2018. Another subsidiary, Novena Life Sciences, also co-founded by Terence and Nelson Loh, is also facing further enforcement action by Acra for failing to file its annual returns due on Dec 4, 2019.
In a letter sent to over 30 shareholders on Friday, seen by ST, Mr Terence Loh said he has been assisting the Commercial Affairs Department on the alleged forgery of certain NGHG documents.
“To update stakeholders, these investigations have also included the flow of money from the loans, and the business activities of various entities of NGHG and related parties,” he wrote.
But he said that he "firmly believes" the potential liquidation of the Singapore subsidiary, which operates six aesthetic clinics in Singapore, "may not necessarily result in the demise" of the parent company.
Accounting and consulting firm RSM has been appointed by the supervisory committee of Novena Global Healthcare Group to act as its special accountant.
Mr Terence Loh said: "I will continue to engage with RSM until any liquidation occurs and will assist any appointed liquidators to recover value."
In the letter to shareholders, he said that after Mr Nelson Loh left Singapore, he had called for the first of several meetings on Sept 29, to discuss with the five banks which have extended loans to NGHG. These banking relationships began only less than a year ago, he added.
ST understands from sources that the other banks are Citibank, United Overseas Bank, Maybank and Standard Chartered.
Mr Terence Loh also told shareholders that he has been “salvaging the business in Taiwan and increasing sales at the Novu level”.
There are six Novu aesthetic clinics formerly known as PPP Laser in Singapore which are run by the group.
When ST visited two of the outlets, at Raffles City and Bedok Mall, on Friday afternoon, the clinics were busy and several customers were seen waiting to enquire about the treatment packages.
One customer from China, who wanted to be known as only Lena, said she had been getting laser treatments at the clinic “since PPP days”.
Just last week, she spent about $1,000 on a new package for 22 laser treatments at the Raffles City outlet.
Lena, 40, who works in the IT sector, said she was shocked to learn that the company could face possible liquidation. “I was planning to get a treatment next week, but the clinic is already fully booked. Maybe I should try to book a slot at other outlets and try to use up my package soon,” she said.
A member of the staff at the Bedok outlet told ST that Mr Terence Loh had informed them via e-mail on Friday morning about the possible liquidation of the subsidiary and assured the staff that business would carry on.
The person, who asked not to be named, said: “Even though there has been a lot of negative news about the company lately, business continues to be good. All the staff are paid on time. Some customers have asked if we will shut down, but when we told them no, they continue to come and buy new packages.
“I think most people are not too worried because our packages are affordable at just over $1,000, not $10,000.”
On Wednesday, Acra confirmed with ST that six more entities owned by the Loh cousins had not filed annual returns. Enforcement actions against them are ongoing, the spokesman said.
The entities include Aesthetic Medical Partners and Rock Star Advisors.
An Acra search showed Citibank had put charges on two other entities incorporated by the Loh cousins - Novena Aptus and Novena Novaptus - earlier this year. A charge is usually taken by a lender or creditor to secure repayment of a loan.
In September, four directors of Novena Global Healthcare Group set up a committee to investigate its audited accounts after accounting firm Ernst & Young (EY) made a police report that its signatures were allegedly forged on the financial statements of the group.
Police investigations are still ongoing.
Mr Terence Loh had since legally separated his business interests from his cousin.
Under the separation agreement entered on Oct 6, Mr Nelson Loh will transfer all the shares he owns in three corporate entities - Novena Global Healthcare Group and all its subsidiaries, Singapore-registered Dorr Global Healthcare International and Singapore-registered Rock Star Advisors - to Mr Terence Loh for $1. Mr Nelson Loh will also resign as director of these three entities.
Mr Terence Loh will transfer all the shares he owns in Singapore-registered Bellagraph Nova (BN) Group to Mr Nelson Loh for $1 and resign as its director.
An Acra search showed Mr Terence Loh has ceased to be a director of Bellagraph Nova on Nov 10. The company was incorporated in July between the cousins and Chinese entrepreneur Evangeline Shen, 32.
The trio made a bid in July to buy football club Newcastle United, but Bellagraph Nova reportedly did not enter serious talks with club owner Mike Ashley.