Three charged with $5.6bn market manipulation

Three people whose alleged fraud wiped $5.6bn off the Singapore stock exchange were charged Friday with manipulating the market.

Malaysian John Soh Chee Wen and Singaporean Quah Su-Ling are accused of being the “masterminds” behind a plot that involved using over 180 trading accounts to inflate the share prices of three companies, authorities said.

Calling it the largest market manipulation in the city-state’s history, prosecutors, police and the central bank said the “complex and elaborate fraud” involved the shares of Blumont Group, Asiasons Capital and LionGold Corp.

Soh and Quah used the shares as collateral, convincing several banks including Goldman Sachs to extend more than Sg$170m (US$119m) credit to finance their scheme, a statement added.

They then used this cash to create demand for penny stocks, with previous reports saying they managed to push up some prices by around 800 percent in the nine months leading up to October 2013.

But on October 4, prices crashed, wiping huge sums off the value of the Singapore exchange.

Singapore authorities say the incident dented investor confidence and directly affected trading volumes in 2014.

Soh faces 181 charges of market manipulation and cheating, while Quah, whom prosecutors say is in a relationship with Soh, faces 178 similar charges. A third man, described as a “key accomplice”, has also been charged.

No bail was offered to Soh, who faces additional charges for being involved in the management of Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold while being an undischarged bankrupt.

Quah was offered bail of Sg$4.0m ($2.8m).