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Penny stock crash scandal's 'treasurer' sentenced to three years' jail

Pauline Wong

SINGAPORE (Mar 20): Goh Hin Calm, the “treasurer” for 2013 penny stock crash masterminds John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su Ling, has been sentenced to serve three years in prison for aiding and abetting the duo in what is the largest-ever market manipulation case seen in Singapore.

Goh, who was interim CEO of IPCO International (now known as Renaissance United), pleaded guilty to two charges pertaining to his involvement in the scandal, which wiped out $8 billion in market value.

In delivering the sentence, Justice See Kee Oon said there is evidence of extensive losses at unprecedented levels, which has led to an adverse reaction and injured the confidence and reputation of the country.

He ruled that Goh played an integral role in the scheme. “He had autonomy, and [I] cannot accept that his role is peripheral. [He was] entrusted with some authority and some powers of oversight because he is trusted and loyal,” said See.

See: Two stock market manipulation precedents invoked as prosecutors call for 3-year sentence for Goh Hin Calm

See also: Banks, brokerages incurred over $350 million in losses from penny stock crash

Goh, who was calm when the sentence was read out to him in court on Wednesday, had acted as the treasurer for Soh and Quah. He managed payments for the numerous trading accounts controlled by the duo and kept track of the shareholding schedules of those accounts.

He also gave Quah and Soh control of trading accounts held in his and his wife’s name. The trading accounts were used to manipulate shares in Asiasons Capital (now known as Attilan Group), Blumont Group and LionGold Corp.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Tan submitted that Goh’s role as Soh and Quah’s “finance manager” was instrumental to the extensive damage of the scheme hatched by the duo to rig the markets, and to the misrepresentation of the stocks in Asiasons, Blumont and LionGold.

“His role in managing the finances of the scheme was substantial, egregious and instrumental to a scheme of this nature,” Tan said. “He was no mere automaton, he had autonomy as he liaised directly with brokers and facilitated payments without seeking permission from Soh and Quah.”

Tan also argued that Goh was indispensable to Quah, with whom he had a good working relationship, and that he was motivated by the need to keep that relationship due to opportunities afforded him by Quah.

“The accused was a senior accountant and director, and was well qualified to appreciate the importance of what he was doing,” said Tan.

Defense counsel Adrian Wee, Director, Characterist LLC, in his submission argued that Goh’s role was “peripheral” and he had no part in conducting, strategising, nor formulating any of the trades which were part of the scheme to manipulate the shares.

“He did [as he was told by Quah] out of a misguided sense of loyalty. He was, if I may use the analogy, part of ‘backroom operations’. Not only is his function peripheral, but his discretion in respect to the performance of his function was limited,” Wee said.

However, Tan objected to the idea of Goh merely being a "backroom boy," given that he was managing payments of over $30 million to the various accounts.

Goh, through Wee, expressed remorse for his participation in the scheme and for the injuries caused to the shareholders and parties who suffered losses due to the scheme.

Justice See sentenced Goh to 36 months in prison on each of the two proceeded charges, with the sentences to be run concurrently.

Goh will proceed to serve his sentence immediately.

The trial of Soh and Quah, who face 189 and 178 charges, respectively, will begin on March 25.