Alleged 2013 penny stock crash mastermind fails in second bid to get bail

John Soh Chee Wen faces 188 charges related to the events surrounding the 2013 penny stock crash.
John Soh Chee Wen faces 188 charges related to the events surrounding the 2013 penny stock crash.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The man accused of masterminding the 2013 penny stock crash has failed in a second bid for bail after a High Court judge decided that he remains a "flight risk" even if he were subject to stringent bail conditions.

Justice Hoo Sheau Peng rejected John Soh Chee Wen's bid for bail on Tuesday (Feb 27), citing that he remains a flight risk as he has "his ways and means to leave Singapore undetected".

The Straits Times understands that Soh's lawyers are taking instructions on whether their client will appeal the ruling. Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan was appointed as Soh's lawyer in November last year after Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng discharged himself.

Soh had failed in an earlier application for bail to the lower court on February 28 last year. He has been in remand since November 26, 2016.

In refusing to grant bail, Justice Hoo noted that Soh is "a Malaysian, with no family ties in Singapore. By (his) own admission, from 1999-2002 , he has travelled in and out of Singapore `freely and frequently'. However, based on a check by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority using the applicant's old and new Malaysian identity card numbers, during that period, there are no records of (Soh) entering or exiting Singapore.

"This, together with other pieces of evidence adduced by the Prosecution which I shall not detail here, indicate to me that (Soh) has his ways and means to leave Singapore undetected."

Soh didn't abscond while he was on bail during investigations from April 2, 2014 to November 24, 2016, but the judge noted there "has been a change in the circumstances."

Soh was charged on Nov 25, 2016 for various offences under the Securities and Futures Act, the Penal Code and the Companies Act. He faced 181 charges initially but a further seven charges were brought against him on Feb 25 last year.

All the charges are related to the events surrounding the October 2013 crash in stock prices of Asiasons Capital (now known as Attilan Group), Blumont Group and LionGold Corp, which triggered massive sell-offs in a number of penny stocks.

Justice Hoo also found "some evidence of tampering" with three of the prosecution's witnesses, "which took place over a considerable period of time, and in the course of the investigations."

"Considering the gravity of the charges faced by (Soh), should he be granted bail, there is the possibility of witnesses being tampered with," she said.

The judge also cited a looming trial for denying bail.

Taking into account that Soh may remain in remand for a lengthy period, Justice Hoo said she will "urge parties to give priority to the matter, so that the trial can proceeds, progress and conclude expeditiously."

"Expedited trial dates can be sought for this matter," she added.