$8b penny stock crash trial

Witness coached by investigating officer, argues defence lawyer

John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-Ling are accused of manipulating 189 trading accounts of 60 individuals and firms to create a false market for three penny stocks.
John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-Ling are accused of manipulating 189 trading accounts of 60 individuals and firms to create a false market for three penny stocks.PHOTOS: LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE, WONG KWAI CHOW

The lawyer for John Soh Chee Wen, the alleged mastermind in the ongoing penny stock crash trial, argued yesterday that the prosecution's first witness had been coached by the case's investigating officer (IO).

The claim was centred on a statement made to the authorities by OCBC Securities remisier Ng Kit Kiat, who began testifying on Wednesday.

Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan cross-examined Mr Ng yesterday and asked him about this statement.

Mr Ng had stated that Soh and co-defendant Quah Su-Ling placed unauthorised trades for accounts that belonged to other individuals, including Quah's mother.

Quah is the former chief executive of Ipco International (now renamed Renaissance United) - the parent company of ESA Electronics.

Mr Ng said in the statement that it was likely that 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 Mr Ng himself.

Mr Ng had initially said he did not think using the word "nominees" would make any difference to the gist of his statement.

He later admitted that as he was Chinese-educated, he had not fully understood the word's meaning.

Soh, 59, and Quah, 54, are accused of manipulating 189 trading accounts of 60 individuals and corporations to create a false market for penny stocks Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group) and LionGold Corp.

The prosecution alleges that records of calls by Soh and Quah to Mr Ng's phone and trades placed by him shortly after receiving those calls support the remisier's statement that the two Malaysians were giving trading instructions.

However, Mr Sreenivasan argued that the connections between the calls and the trades had been described to Mr Ng by the IO.

Mr Ng denied that the officer had coached him over the statement.

He was later asked to take a call item in the phone records to show that it resulted in a certain trade.

"Without the help of your friendly investigating officer, please tell us which phone call resulted in this trade," said Mr Sreenivasan.

Seeing that Mr Ng was taking some time, the lawyer said: "All the connections you did in your statement were given by you because the investigating officer pointed out to you and told you, 'See, the documents show the connection.'

"So you were agreeing with the (officer's) conclusions, right?"

Mr Ng replied: "Yes."

In his earlier evidence, Mr Ng testified that Quah had threatened to take her business elsewhere if he pressed for a written authorisation from the account holders.

Quah's counsel, Mr Philip Fong, said in his cross-examination of the witness that Quah denied forcing Mr Ng.

He also pointed out to Mr Ng that these account holders would have received statements from the broking house or the Central Depository detailing the trades so they could have raised issues if they had found any discrepancies.

"So is there any doubt in your mind at that time that they were not aware of the trades? There was no doubt, right, because they had received all these statements?" Mr Fong asked.

Mr Ng said: "Yes, yes."

Cross-examination continues today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2019, with the headline 'Witness coached by investigating officer, argues defence lawyer'. Print Edition | Subscribe