S’porean kidnapped in Thailand while out on bail gets jail for criminal breach of trust

Mark Cheng Jin Quan leaving the State Courts in Singapore on Nov 8, 2021. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean man, who was kidnapped in Thailand in 2020 while out on bail over three counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving more than $320,000, was on Wednesday convicted of the charges linked to the monies and sentenced to 17 months’ jail.

After a trial, District Judge Soh Tze Bian also found Mark Cheng Jin Quan, 34, guilty of consenting to a company’s conduct in the business of fund management, even though it did not have a capital markets services licence – an offence under the Securities and Futures Act.

One of his accomplices was sentenced to 18 months’ jail in August 2021 after pleading guilty to offences, including two counts of criminal breach of trust. The accomplice, Loh Zhi Xiang, then 31, is also known as Jeff.

The case involving an alleged accomplice, Peh Wei Siang, 34, is pending.

Court documents did not disclose any details about the kidnapping incident.

In earlier proceedings, the court heard that Cheng was the operations director of Zabel Global Investments, a company that was incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in August 2013.

The court heard that from April to June 2014, multiple parties were solicited to invest in funds the company managed, and they delivered more than $8.3 million to it.

Zabel had no other sources of income apart from the funds it managed. It was also involved in fund management – a regulated activity.

Ms Cheng Yuxi, then a deputy public prosecutor, had said: “At the time that Zabel was conducting the regulated activity… Zabel did not hold the requisite (capital markets services) licence, nor was it exempt from the requirement to have (it).”

In February 2014, Cheng opened a UOB Kay Hian trading account solely for Zabel’s use as a temporary measure until bank accounts were opened in Zabel’s name.

The following month, he opened a personal UOB current account to receive funds from the UOB Kay Hian trading account.

Ms Cheng Yuxi had earlier told the court: “The funds that Zabel collected from its investors… were deposited into the accused’s (UOB Kay Hian) trading account. When these monies were to be paid out, they were withdrawn… deposited into the accused’s UOB (current) account, and thereafter withdrawn from the latter.”

In May and June 2014, more than $320,000 was paid out of the monies in Cheng’s UOB current account for items such as commissions to Peh and Loh.

UOB Kay Hian made a police report against Zabel, Peh, Loh and Cheng on July 1, 2014. The Commercial Affairs Department started its investigations two days later.

The prosecution told the court that Cheng and Loh had conspired to dishonestly misappropriate the monies, adding: “They were not entitled to use these monies for anything but investment at the material time.”

The Straits Times had previously reported that Cheng was out on bail in January 2020, and supposedly on a one-day trip to Thailand, when he was kidnapped there.

Cheng had claimed that his kidnappers beat and electrocuted him using wires while demanding he pay his own ransom of US$500,000 (S$703,500) in Bitcoin.

According to Cheng, he managed to flee his captors and was picked up by a man on a motorcycle who dropped him off at Ongkarak police station in Nakhon Nayok province, about a 90-minute drive from Bangkok. He returned to Singapore soon after.

On Wednesday, the court heard that Cheng intends to file an appeal and was offered bail of $160,000.

For each count of criminal breach of trust, an offender can be jailed for up to seven years and fined.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.