SINGAPORE - Hin Leong Trading founder Lim Oon Kuin did not show up in State Courts on Thursday morning (April 29) to face 23 new charges of forgery-related offences as he had obtained a medical certificate stating he was unfit to attend court.
As a result, Mr Lim could not be tendered the new charges for a third time on account of his health issues.
The 79-year-old former oil tycoon - better known as O.K. Lim - was deemed unfit to attend court by his doctor as he has been diagnosed with acute and chronic sinusitis, which will require surgery.
However, he has not undergone surgery as he was on blood thinner medication Plavix, according to Lim's defence lawyer, Mr Navin Thevar of Davinder Singh Chambers.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Navin Naidu told the court that all 23 cautioned statements have been served on Lim on April 12. These refer to statements made by the defendant in his defence at the time the charges are presented to him.
"Prosecution has indicated that Lim's presence is required but he is not in court. And it's 9.05 am," the DPP said.
District Judge Terence Tay earlier this month ruled that Lim's attendance is required if fresh charges are being served to him "and or otherwise requested by the investigation officer due to applications made by the prosecution that will require his presence".
But on account of Lim's medical status, his lawyer on Thursday asked for a two-week adjournment to give him time to recover.
But Judge Tay responded: "Your letter says your client is required to go for surgery, and you are asking the court and prosecution to wait until when? When will you get updates?"
"What I have is an open-ended letter with no clarification," he said.
The DPP objected to the defence's request for a two-week adjournment, and asked the judge to consider whether Lim should be made to attend court today.
The DPP argued: "Lim saw the doctor on April 20 and was told to come back for review in a week, on April 27. But on April 22, he went back to the doctor again. What we have here is a document dated April 28 saying Lim is unfit to attend court on April 29... But no medical assessment was done between April 22 and 28."
He further added: "At the last mention (on April 8), Lim was also absent because he was on a five-day stay-home notice (SHN). I placed on record then there were issues with the SHN. He saw the same doctor on a Saturday (April 3) but the SHN commenced one day after he saw the doctor."
Had the SHN commenced on April 3, it would have ended on April 7, and not April 8, the date of the last mention, the DPP said.
But Judge Tay noted: "As far as the court is concerned, I'm not in a position to override the position of doctors."
Objecting to the defence's request, the DPP then asked for the hearing to be fixed on Friday.
But Mr Navin argued: "My client is 79. He suffers from a slew of chronic medical conditions and is generally in poor health... The fact that he is unfit today, it may be prudent to give us a few days."
But Judge Tay disagreed. "He is unfit today. The MC doesn't say he will be unfit tomorrow."
The hearing was thus set for 9am on April 30 at the State Courts.
Lim and the bailor are to be present, Judge Tay said. His $3 million court bail was extended on Thursday.
In August and September last year, Lim was hit with two counts of abetment of forgery for the purpose of cheating.
He is accused of instigating a Hin Leong employee to forge an e-mail and another document in order to obtain more than US$56 million in trade financing, according to the police.
Hin Leong collapsed last year after the oil price plunge triggered a debt default that exposed years of hidden losses and alleged fraud by the Lim family. The firm was wound up last month, after failing in a year-long effort to restructure about US$3.5 billion in debts.
Its shipping arm Ocean Tankers filed for judicial management last May, and in August, the court approved OCBC Bank's application against Lim family-owned Xihe Holdings and its subsidiaries.