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Witness Ken Tai 'disgusted' by the way boss John Soh treated his closest allies

Benjamin Cher

SINGAPORE (Oct 3): John Soh Chee Wen, alleged mastermind of the 2013 penny stock crash, was a boss who did not treat closest members of his market-rolling gang well.

This was revealed in court on Thursday as the prosecution finished up its examination-in-chief of prosecution witness Ken Tai Chee Ming, who was once part of Soh’s “inner circle”.

In one instance, Tai revealed how some $40 million from an acquisition deal of Sino Construction -- one he helped Soh broker with Edward Lee Ewe Ming -- had been transferred to another account belonging to the mother of Soh’s alleged co-conspirator and girlfriend Quah Su-Ling. Tai had been informed of this by the then chairman of Sino Construction, Andy Chee.

Chee told Tai that Soh had a habit of pushing the blame to his guys, causing them to declare bankruptcy. Soh would also “drip feed” his guys to keep them loyal. Tai also learnt how Soh had unfriended Dick Gwee Yow Pin, who had taken the bullet for Soh after the Mid-Continental scandal.

Gwee was among the parties who once theatened to sue The Edge Singapore for publishing the story under the headline, “Hunting for the truth” (Issue 641, Sept 1, 2014).

See: Penny stock trial: Argument over procedural unfairness turns the spotlight on the role of a man named Gwee

See also: Hunting for the truth redux: Our coverage of the penny stock saga attracted threats and lawsuits

“After Dick was released from prison, [Soh] didn’t treat him like a friend, meaning even if he saw [Gwee] on the street, Soh would treat him as transparent,” said Tai.

Gwee also told Tai how Soh’s son Soh Han Quan, had caused trader Leroy Lau Chee Heong to lose $32 million while helping Soh and Quah roll Innopac shares.

Recounting the incident between him and Soh’s son which happened in the Dubai room, Gwee said he had just bought a block of Innopac shares and was monitoring it when Soh’s son asked him why he was monitoring it.

Soh’s son sold his block of Innopac shares shortly after, causing Lau to take the $32 million loss. Both Gwee and Tai believed it was Soh who issued the instruction to sell the block of shares. This was on top of the six lawsuits that Soh had orchestrated against Tai in Malaysia, using the Malaysian account holders to sue Tai.

“Only [Soh] could have done it with a large block of shares. If [Soh] had told me he was the one who orchestrated the lawsuits, I might have remained loyal, but he lied to me,” said Tai.

The way Soh treated other traders like Wong Xue Yu and even Peter Chen Hing Woon, someone who had been friend with Soh for over a decade, also outraged Tai.

“It feels disgusted when my own boss gave instructions to finish off his own friends. The way he skinned Leroy $30 over million in one shot, I feel that’s very disgusting,” said Tai.

In the subsequent cross examination by Soh’s defence counsel N. Sreenivasan of K&L Gates Straits Law, Tai admitted to a link between him and Roger Tan, the chief executive officer of Voyage Research, formerly SIAS Reseach. Tan’s father, was revealed to be Tai’s godfather.

Tai also admitted he had lied to the prosecution and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), saying the trades in Algo Capital’s Interactive Brokers account were “fat finger trades” when these were, in fact, keyed in by him personally.

Sreenivasan asked Tai about why he had lied to CAD and to the prosecution, to which Tai said replied he did not want to incriminate himself any further.

“If you look at the things I did for [Soh], I think I’ll go to jail longer than Goh Hin Calm,” said Tai.

Goh, former interim IPCO International chief executive, was sentenced in March to 36 months' jail after pleading guilty to two of six charges for his role in manipulating the penny stocks.

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

Sreenivasan also questioned Tai on whether he had been granted immunity, to which Tai replied that while his lawyer has made verbal requests to officers from CAD and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), he did not get a response.

Sreenivasan followed it up by asking why Goh was charged but not him, to which Tai replied he did not know why.

Tai also said that he was unaware of the margin call by Goldman Sachs on Oct 1, which sparked a fall in prices. All he knew was that his buy orders were getting fulfilled very fast after being told to support the share price on Oct 3, with the market filling his 1 million shares buy order 10 times.

The trial resumes tomorrow when defence counsel Sreenivasan will continue his cross examination.

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)