Penny stock crash timeline: John Soh and Quah Su-Ling’s marathon trial comes to a close

John Soh was sentenced to 36 years in jail on Wednesday, while his co-conspirator Quah Su-Ling was handed 20 years. PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO, ST FILE

SINGAPORE – John Soh and Quah Su-Ling’s trial for their involvement in an October 2013 penny stock crash that wiped $8 billion in market capitalisation from penny stocks in the Singapore Exchange (SGX) has arrived at the finish line.

After about 200 days in court over nearly four years, Soh was on Wednesday sentenced to 36 years’ imprisonment – including his time in remand since Nov 25, 2016 – while Quah was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Both have applied for a stay of sentence and will mount appeals.

In May, the duo were found guilty of all the market manipulation and cheating charges laid before them. Soh was found guilty of 180 of 188 charges faced, while Quah was convicted of 169 of the 177 charges faced.

Their accomplice, Goh Hin Calm, was in 2019 sentenced to 36 months’ jail after pleading guilty to abetment charges.

The entire saga predicates on “wash trading” – an industry term for a form of market manipulation, in which a trader buys and sells a stock simultaneously, creating an illusion of demand for the security. This series of actions then artificially inflates the price of the stock.

In Soh and Quah’s case, about 187 trading accounts connected through 20 financial institutions and held in the names of 58 individuals and companies – including Soh’s sons and relatives, and Quah’s family – were used to manipulate the share prices of three companies.

Those companies were Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital and LionGold Corp.

Below is a timeline of events – going back over a decade – leading to Soh and Quah’s sentencing.


Aug 1, 2012: Soh and Quah – who were romantically linked at the time – begin their manipulation scheme. Between Aug 1, 2012, and Oct 3, 2013, Soh and Quah manipulate the share prices of Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold with Goh’s assistance.

As a result, the share prices of each individual counter surge by at least 800 per cent in the nine months before the subsequent crash.

Using the companies’ artificially inflated shares as collateral, Soh and Quah additionally deceive Goldman Sachs and Interactive Brokers into extending margin financing and paying out more than $230 million to finance the gambit.


Oct 4, 2013: Share prices of the three companies collapse, sparking a wider sell-off in penny stocks on the SGX. The market capitalisation of the three companies stood at $9.3 billion at the close of Oct 3, 2013. By the time their stocks are suspended on Oct 4, their market value has more than halved to $4.1 billion.

Over two days, each counter craters between 82 per cent and 94 per cent. All in, some $8 billion in market capitalisation is wiped out among penny stocks on the SGX.


April 2, 2014: The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) launches an investigation into what was then described as the Republic’s largest securities fraud probe. As part of the investigation, CAD searches more than 50 locations and interviews more than 70 people. Additionally, some two million e-mails, half a million trade orders, thousands of phone records, and financial statements are analysed.


Nov 24, 2016: Soh, Quah and Goh are arrested.

Nov 25, 2016: Soh and Quah are charged under the Securities and Futures Act for cheating offences, while Goh is charged with abetment.


Feb 28, 2017: Soh is denied bail. At this point, he faces 188 charges, including seven fresh charges for witness tampering. Bail was previously set at $4 million for Quah and $750,000 for Goh.


Feb 27, 2018: Soh is denied bail a second time.


March 20, 2019: Goh pleads guilty to two of six charges of abetment, and is sentenced to 36 months’ jail for his role as Soh and Quah’s accomplice.

Goh Hin Calm arriving at the Supreme Court in 2019. PHOTO: ST FILE

March 25, 2019: Soh and Quah’s trial begins.


May 5, 2022: After a trial spanning 194 hearing days, Soh and Quah are found guilty of all market manipulation and cheating charges laid before them. Both are acquitted of eight charges of deception. Soh is found guilty of 180 of 188 charges faced; Quah is convicted of 169 of 177 charges faced.

Dec 28, 2022: Soh is sentenced to 36 years’ imprisonment, including his time in remand since Nov 25, 2016. Quah is sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. Both are appealing against their sentences. THE BUSINESS TIMES

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