Singapore's $8b penny stock crash: Goh Hin Calm jailed 36 months for abetment

Former interim Ipco International chief executive Goh Hin Calm, one of three people implicated in the penny stock crash, pleaded guilty on March 20, 2019, to two of six charges of abetment in manipulating the stocks of Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital and LionGold Corp. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Alleged mastermind John Soh Chee Wen and former chief executive of Ipco Quah Su Ling are accused of "orchestrating a scheme involving hundreds of thousands of trades placed in an extensive web of 189 trading accounts" which they controlled. PHOTOS: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - One of the three people implicated in the 2013 penny stock crash that wiped out $8 billion from the Singapore stock market was sentenced on Wednesday (March 20) to 36 months' jail for abetment in manipulating the stocks of three companies.

Former interim Ipco International chief executive Goh Hin Calm, who was charged with abetment in manipulating the stocks of Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital and LionGold Corp, had pleaded guilty to two of six charges of abetment earlier on Wednesday. Four other charges were taken into consideration.

He was sentenced to 36 months' jail for each charge, and both sentences will run concurrently. His prison term starts immediately.

Those counters rocketed more than 800 per cent in a span of nine months before crashing on Oct 4, 2013, triggering a rout of penny stocks on the Singapore Exchange.

Goh's decision to plead guilty has sparked speculation over whether he will turn prosecution witness ahead of the keenly-awaited trial of alleged penny stock crash mastermind John Soh Chee Wen and former chief executive of Ipco (now renamed Renaissance United) Quah Su Ling, which starts on March 25. The trial, initially slated to start on March 11, was postponed to March 25 after Goh's decision to plead guilty.

The historic trial - prosecutors have described the investigations as Singapore's largest securities fraud probe - will take place on a scale rarely seen in market-related cases.

The three defendants face more than 370 charges in total: Malaysian businessman Soh, who is represented by Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, has been hit with 189 charges, including eight counts of allegedly tampering or attempting to tamper with witnesses. Quah faces 178 charges.

Soh was arrested in November 2016 and is still in remand while Goh and Quah are out on bail.

Goh, a 59-year-old Singaporean, admitted to being an accomplice in a scheme allegedly orchestrated by Soh and Quah to manipulate the share prices of Blumont, Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group) and LionGold - collectively known as BAL.

Goh is accused of being the "treasurer" in the scheme and aided Soh, 59, and Quah, 54, to create a false market for the BAL shares.

Goh's lawyer Adrian Wee made a mitigation plea before High Court Justice See Kee Oon.

Market-rigging carries a fine not exceeding $250,000, a jail term of up to seven years or both, per charge.

Goh pleaded guilty to two charges under Section 197(1)(b) and Section 109 of the Penal Code, of "intentionally aiding two others in perpetrating the most audacious, extensive and injurious market manipulation scheme ever in Singapore".

The prosecution has asked for a sentence of three years' imprisonment per charge, with the two sentences to run concurrently.

In its submission for sentence, it said Goh played two main roles. Firstly, as early as 2008, he began opening multiple trading accounts at brokerages across Singapore in his name and that of his wife, Huang Phuet Mui, to allow Quah and later Soh to use.

"By doing so, he was effectively providing them the use of trading limits and credit... to use to trade and manipulate the market in BAL shares."

Secondly, by 2011, his role had grown to handling the finances for the scheme. He received and made more than 1,200 payments on behalf of Soh and Quah, into and out of a "float" or pool of funds that he managed for them. The size of this pool was more than $2 million at times. In total, Goh arranged approximately $30 million in outgoing payments on their behalf.

This made Goh "in effect both seed funder and finance manager" of Soh's and Quah's scheme.

When the scheme collapsed in October 2013, "the losses that were caused to innocent parties were massive". These include losses incurred in trading accounts, which remain unpaid till today, and which therefore fall on the financial institutions at which those accounts are held.

The unpaid losses in Goh's and his wife's trading accounts alone amount to $1.5 million. The total unpaid losses in the 189 Controlled Accounts are more than $350 million.

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