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IPCO office was 'admin centre' for penny stock scandal, witness reveals

Pauline Wong

SINGAPORE (Oct 10): A witness in the trial of John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-Ling – the alleged masterminds of the 2013 penny stock crash – has revealed that the office of IPCO International appeared to be a sort of “administration centre” for the movement of funds in the scheme.

Najib Mohamed Najib Abdul Rashid, who was IPCO’s company driver, told the court on Oct 10 that he would cash out cheques made to his name from either Goh Hin Calm or Chiam May Ling (pictured above).

Goh is the former interim CEO of IPCO, while Chiam was the company’s human resource officer.

One such cheque, dated October 2, 2012, was for $140,000 for which Najib was the cheque payee.

“I was the cheque payee and the cheque was not crossed. The cheque was issued from a UOB bank account belonging to [Goh Hin Calm]. I recall receiving such cheques, that is, cheques issued to me which were not crossed, on a few rare occasions,” Najib said in his conditional statement.

From time to time, Najib would take over the duties of his colleague Jumaat Adam. In these instances, he would make cash payments to several brokerages on behalf of Quah or Goh.

Najib clarified that he was never told whose accounts those payments were for, only the name of the brokerage employee he was supposed to pass the money to. These employees include Jack Ng Kit Kiat from OCBC Securities, Alex Chew Keng Chiow and Gabriel Gan from DMG, and one ‘Candy’ from Philips Securities. Ng, Chew and Gan are all also prosecution witnesses in the trial.

The court also heard from Chiam, who revealed that IPCO kept cheque books belonging to, among others, Lee Chai Huat, former Innopac Holdings CEO Wong Chin Yong, Richard Chan and James Hong. Chiam said she recalled that Chan and Hong were top management of Blumont Group or Magnus Energy Group.

A spreadsheet of all the bank account holders’ details and the cheques issued, along with the cheque books, were kept in a safe in IPCO’s office.  Chiam added that she and Goh maintained and updated whenever cheques were issued from these accounts.

“I have also issued cheques where no invoices are involved. I would only prepare and issue such cheques on [Goh Hin Calm’s] instructions. These cheques would either be handed to me by Goh, or he would tell me which cheque book in the IPCO safe to issue the cheque from,” she said. “I do not know how the cheque books came to be in IPCO's safe, [or] why these persons allowed their cheque books to be used.”

Goh, who was sentenced to three years in jail on March 20 for aiding and abetting Soh and Quah, had acted as the “treasurer” in the scheme.

Chiam also said she did not recall if those cheques were pre-signed. But upon examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Loh Hui Min, she clarified that at least some of the cheques were pre-signed.

Soh, a bankrupt businessman, is facing 189 charges for alleged stock manipulation, cheating and witness tampering in relation to the October 2013 penny stock crash. The sage saw shares in three companies – Blumont Group, LionGold Corp and Asiasons Capital, now known as Attilan Group – rise sharply before crashing spectacularly in a matter of months.

 Quah, as his alleged co-conspirator, faces 178 charges of stock manipulation and cheating.

What the 2013 Penny Stock Crash trial is about

John Soh Chee Wen is the alleged mastermind behind the penny stock crash of 2013, which prosecutors have called “the most audacious, extensive and injurious market manipulation scheme ever in Singapore”.

Together with his alleged co-conspirator and girlfriend Quah Su-Ling, Soh and his associates are alleged to have been behind the massive rise and sudden collapse of shares in Blumont Group, LionGold Corp and Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group), which wiped out some $8 billion in market value.

Subscribers can click here to read our 8-page special pullout on the penny stock crash trial.

Don’t miss out on these highlights in the penny stock saga so far:

Second tranche of witnesses (starting Oct 1, 2019)

First tranche of witnesses (March 11, 2019 to May 24, 2019)