John Soh Chee Wen, 2013 penny stock crash mastermind, slapped 181 charges

The close associates and alleged accomplices of Soh were given 178 charges and six charges respectively under the Securities and Futures Act.

Mastermind of 2013 penny stock crash slapped with 181 charges
Office workers walk to the train station during evening rush hour in the financial district of Singapore March 9, 2015. Reuters

Malaysian businessman John Soh Chee Wen, the alleged mastermind behind the penny stock crash in 2013, was slapped with 181 charges on Friday for market manipulation, false trading, cheating and other offences.

Quah Su Ling and Goh Hin Calm, the close associates and alleged accomplices of Soh, were given 178 charges and six charges respectively under the Securities and Futures Act, similar to that of Soh. Soh's 181 charges also include cheating and being involved in the management of certain corporations while being an undischarged bankrupt.

The 2013 stock crash involved three companies, including Blumont Group, LionGold and Asiasons Capital (now known as Attilan Group). On October 4, 2013, the shares of these three companies crashed in 40 minutes of trading and plunged further when trade resumed after a brief suspension, resulting in a loss of more than S$8 billion in shareholder value in less than two days of trade.

Following the crash, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) launched an investigation as it was the biggest securities fraud case in the history of Singapore.

In a joint release on Friday, the Attorney-General's Chambers, Commercial Affairs Department, Singapore Police Force and the Monetary Authority of Singapore said "a massive amount of evidence was uncovered, including over two million emails, half a million trade orders and thousands of financial statements".

The statement added that the trio's scheme involved exploiting over 180 trading accounts, which they secretly controlled "to create an illusion of liquidity and demand for these shares ... and to control the supply of these shares available to the market so as to influence the price of these counters".

Soh and Quah also conspired to cheat financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs International and Interactive Brokers LLC into extending more than S$170 million in credit to the accounts, which were controlled by them, in order to finance their scheme.

Setting the bail amounts for the trio was a serious issue of contention on Friday but finally the judge set Goh's bail at S$750,000. However, the prosecutors sought for S$1 million. Quah's bail amount was fixed at S$4 million.

Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, who has been hired by Soh, sought an adjournment to take further instructions from his client. Thus, Soh will remain in remand.