US$1.1b nickel scam accused Ng Yu Zhi faces possibly over 20 years in jail if convicted
His case will be heard by the High Court has the power to mete out sentences that exceed the District Court’s maximum sentencing jurisdiction of 20 years. His bail amount has also has been raised to S$6 million from S$4 million.
Alleged nickel trading fraudster at the centre of a US$1.1 billion scam, Ng Yu Zhi faces the spectre of a lengthy imprisonment exceeding 20 years if convicted, now that his case is to be heard by the High Court.
This comes as the prosecution has designated the High Court to hear one of Singapore’s largest investment fraud schemes, for which Ng is facing 105 charges. The High Court has the power to mete out sentences that exceed the District Court’s maximum sentencing jurisdiction of 20 years.
Also, Ng’s bail amount on Thursday (Jan 19) has been raised to S$6 million from S$4 million, upon the prosecution’s application on grounds that the accused is a heightened flight risk now that he could possibly be sentenced to a longer imprisonment should he be found guilty.
Ng faces 105 criminal charges in relation to a nickel trading investment scheme offered by his companies, Envy Asset Management (EAM) and Envy Global Trading (EGT). The charges are for cheating, criminal breach of trust, forgery, fraudulent trading and money laundering.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Gordon Oh on Thursday argued before the Magistrate’s Court for the increase in bail amount, saying that Ng’s charges are serious and a significant amount of money involved remains unrecovered.
For instance, the money-laundering charge carries a maximum of 10 years of imprisonment, while the cheating and misappropriation charges have prescribed mandatory jail terms.
And Ng has received a total of S$486.2 million out of the S$1.46 billion taken in by his two companies involved in the fraudulent trading charges, the prosecution said in its submissions. “To date, investigations confirm that a significant portion of these monies remains unrecovered.”
The 35-year-old recently bankrupted accused, who has changed his lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers to Dentons Rodyk & Davidson, objected to the S$2 million increase in bail amount.
Ng’s lawyer Navin Naidu said: “This is really a crushing and baseless application by the prosecution… It would be an error to say the increase in jurisdiction increases the flight risk.”
Naidu pointed out that nothing “material” in circumstances has changed; and Ng has known for six to seven months the transfer to the High Court, but he has not run away. Moreover, Ng is subject to “restrictive” bail conditions and a curfew.
If Ng is remanded, preparation for his defence would be “severely hampered”, Naidu argued.
Ng had earlier been out on bail put up by his 72-year-old retiree father, who had liquidated all his stock holdings in July 2021, the court heard on Thursday. Ng’s bail was increased from S$1.5 million to S$4 million in July 2021 after he was slapped with more charges.
He was remanded right after the court hearing was over on Thursday, but can be bailed out when his bailor posts the S$6 million bail.
A bankruptcy order was made against Ng on Dec 22, 2022, upon the application by the liquidators of EGT and EAM. It was to recover S$416.5 million and US$17.7 million from his personal assets, as the liquidators alleged the funds were transferred wrongfully into Ng’s personal accounts.
About 1,000 investors, including business people, lawyers and financiers, sank their money into the scheme, which touted average quarterly gains of 15 per cent. High-profile investors among the list of victims include Vickers Venture Partners founder Finian Tan and former Law Society president Thio Shen Yi.
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