Man admits to misappropriating over $1.4m in teak wood investment scam

Matthew Goh Tian Si was convicted on one count of criminal breach of trust. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - To dupe investors into pouring their money into a fake teak wood investment scheme, a man and his father invited potential investors to seminars and even a site visit to a teak plantation in Indonesia.

A total of 92 investors signed 131 investment agreements and paid $2.26 million to participate in the "investment schemes".

On Monday (May 23), Matthew Goh Tian Si, 44, the director of Prosperity Ventures Global and Abby Resource, admitted to misappropriating more than $1.4 million of the total amount.

He was convicted on one count of criminal breach of trust. Another similar charge will be taken into account in his sentencing.

Goh's father, Goh Toh Heng, 79, who claimed to be a director of an Indonesia-incorporated company identified in court documents as PT Abby Resources Minerals, was involved in the ruse. His case is pending.

The court heard that between December 2014 and July 2016, Prosperity Ventures was purportedly marketing mature teak investment opportunities offered by PT Abby Resources Minerals.

The first scheme claimed to offer a one-year investment with an annual return of 24 per cent, and the second a two-year investment with an annual return of 17 per cent.

The investment agreements assured investors of a guaranteed return of the principal sum at the end of the investment period.

The investors signed and received a sale and purchase agreement and a certificate of ownership of the share of teak trees.

Among other things, the agreement falsely represented that PT Abby Resources Minerals was the proprietor of plantation land in Indonesia and that it had planted teak trees there; that it owned two Indonesian plantations in Sulawesi Tenggara and at Kabuputen Gunung Kidul Daerah Istimewa in Yogjakarta; and that it was the sole owner of the teak trees.

Prosperity Ventures was operated by the younger Goh from a shared office workspace. He hired staff to market the investment schemes.

Potential investors were invited to attend seminars on the investment schemes and ask questions about the investments.

They were also invited to go for a site visit to a plantation in Yogjakarta.

The $2.26 million was deposited into Abby Resource's and Prosperity Ventures' bank accounts.

The younger Goh admitted knowing that PT Abby Resources Minerals did not own any teak plantations and that Prosperity Ventures made false representations to investors.

In July 2016, investors began lodging police reports saying that PT Abby Resources Minerals had defaulted on its promised returns.

To date, 17 investors have filed police reports, none of whom have received anything back from the sums invested, said deputy public prosecutors Stephanie Chew and Tay Jia En.

Between December 2014 and November 2015, the younger Goh transferred some of the money into his own personal account and into accounts of his father and other family members.

In April 2016, Prosperity Ventures told investors that it could not fulfil its obligations due to a shipping accident that caused the cargo to be lost at sea.

There is no evidence that this accident occurred, said the prosecution.

Both men left Singapore in June 2017. The younger Goh returned in June 2018, while his father returned in November that year.

The younger Goh is scheduled to be sentenced on May 30.

Those convicted of criminal breach of trust face a jail term of up to seven years, a fine, or both.

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