SINGAPORE - The defence counsel for John Soh Chee Wen, the alleged mastermind in the ongoing penny stocks trial, on Thursday (March 28) argued that the prosecution's first witness had been coached by the investigating officer (IO).
Senior Counsel N Sreenivasan, in his cross-examination of OCBC Securities remisier Ng Kit Kiat, queried Mr Ng at length about his police statement, in which he fingered Soh and co-defendant Quah Su-Ling as the ones placing unauthorised trades for accounts held in the names of six others. Mr Ng had said in a statement given to the Commercial Affairs Department that "it is likely that these calls to his mobile phone from August 2012 to October 2013 had contained trade instructions from the duo for the nominees' accounts".
Mr Sreenivasan focused on the word "nominees", and got Mr Ng to confirm that the word was used by the IO and not him. Mr Ng initially said he did not think using the word "nominees" would make any difference to the gist of his statements, and said that, being Chinese-educated, he had not fully understood the meaning of the word. The witness, who was testifying in English, had thought that it symbolised the accounts.
Mr Ng disagreed with Mr Sreenivasan that the IO had coached him on the contents of his statement.
The 12 accounts at the heart of Thursday's cross-examination belonged to one company and five individuals, including Quah's mother. The prosecution alleges that the accounts were controlled by Soh and Quah to create a false market for Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group) and LionGold Corp, collectively known as BAL.
The prosecution is alleging that records of calls by Soh and Quah to Mr Ng's mobile phone and trades placed by him shortly after receiving those calls support Mr Ng's statement that Soh and Quah were giving trading instructions in those calls. Mr Sreenivasan, however, argued that the connections between the calls and the trades had been described to Mr Ng by the IO, and Mr Ng had simply agreed with the IO's depiction.
There was some drama during the morning session when the prosecution took issue with a man seen standing near the dock when Mr Sreenivasan was talking to Soh. Public members must get approval from the court before talking to Soh, who is now in custody, the prosecution pointed out.
Mr Sreenivasan objected forcefully to the implication, and assured Justice Hoo Sheau Peng that the man was a visiting partner at his law firm and did not talk to Soh. Justice Hoo reminded all present that only the parties and the press are allowed in the well, the space where the Judge's bench, the counsel tables, media gallery and the dock are.