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Couple linked to $8 billion penny stock crash in 2013 back in court

SINGAPORE – The couple linked to the penny stock crash of 2013 which wiped out $8 billion in market value was back in the High Court on Tuesday (May 11) with one of the alleged masterminds choosing not to testify.

Quah Su-Ling, who was unrepresented, told the court that the numerous adjournments of the trial had depleted her resources to pay for a legal counsel.

“I would like to place it on record that these numerous adjournments caused mainly by late disclosures of revised versions of evidence which was in drips and drabs, have severely prejudiced me in conducting my defence… I feel that it is therefore unfair and prejudicial if I were to take the stand without legal representation,” said Quah who is 55.

Malaysian John Soh Chee Wen, 61, and his girlfriend Quah are accused of masterminding Singapore’s most serious case of stock market manipulation.

They had failed last year in a bid to stay criminal proceedings against them.

In their application they claimed, among other things, that the prosecution was “effectively waging a war of attrition” instead of conducting the trial in an expeditious manner.

They cited an “exceptionally lengthy examination-in-chief of the prosecution witnesses, despite the use of conditioned statements prepared”.

But High Court judge Hoo Sheau Peng disagreed in judgment issued last September, saying the length of the examination-in-chief reflected the scale and complexity of the case, and the amount of evidence to be adduced from some of the key witnesses.

Soh is facing 188 charges while Quah has 177 charges against her.

The pair allegedly exploited family, friends and business associates to manipulate the share prices of Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group) and LionGold Group – collectively known as BAL.

The stocks surged by at least 800 per cent over nine months before plunging during three days in October 2013.

The High Court trial before Justice Hoo had started on March 25, 2019, with 96 witnesses testifying over 169 days.

They included trading representatives from local brokerages, 20 representatives of both local and foreign brokerages and private banks, officers of the companies in question and expert witnesses.

During earlier sessions, the court had heard from numerous witnesses who were trading representatives or third-party intermediaries how Soh and Quah apparently gave them trading instructions for accounts that were not under their names to place trades in BAL.

Several others also alleged that Soh and Quah had told them to manipulate the share prices, often in conjunction with company announcements.

On Tuesday, Soh, who is represented by N. Sreenivasan of K&L Gates Straits, took the stand and provided a brief background of his childhood.


John Soh took the stand at the hearing on March 11. ST ILLUSTRATION: SIMON ANG

Soh said he was born in Batu Pahat, Johor in 1959. His father was a shopkeeper in a rubber estate and his mother was a housewife.

He said he was admitted to Universiti Malaya in 1979 to study economics but dropped out after three days because he wanted to focus on his business.

At that time, he had started a multi-level marketing business selling T-shirts and shampoo. He claimed to have made his first million at the age of 22.

By 1984, Soh’s business had expanded to include over 100 items and he was running his own factories. But his business folded that year because he said the banking system in Malaysia was going through a crisis and banks were recalling loans to businesses.

Soh also recounted his relationships with some of the witnesses in the trial and his involvement in Malaysia politics.

In 1981, he said he joined the Malaysian Chinese Association and was made the youth leader and branch chairman of Petaling Jaya in a short time.

In 1995, he was appointed to the party’s presidential council. He said he was the only council member back then who did not hold any government position or was not a Member of Parliament.

And he said he became friends with then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

The trial continues.

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