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OK Lim relied on hard copy printouts from staff as he did not use a computer: witness

OK Lim relied on hard copy printouts from staff as he did not use a computer: witness

Source: Business Times
Article Date: 26 May 2023
Author: Anita Gabriel

During the hearing, the prosecution attempted to establish the tasks and processes involved in the accounts department.

Singapore's former oil tycoon Lim Oon Kuin of the failed Hin Leong empire did not have or use a computer in his office and relied on his staff to bring hard copy printouts on the firm’s cash flow position to him to base his operational decisions on, said a long-time employee of the group’s trading arm.

“Usually, every one to two weeks I will print the cash flow (document) and give it to Mr Lim and tell him what has been updated. I have to print it (out) as he does not have a computer and does not use a computer,” said Hin Leong Trading’s (HLT) accounts executive Katherine Ong.

During the 17th day of the hearing on Thursday (May 25), the prosecution attempted to establish the tasks and processes involved in the accounts department where Ong worked for more than two decades. Within the accounts department at Hin Leong, Ong said there was a “small team” of five including her, that worked under a unit called the “bankers department”.

This unit was responsible for updating the company’s “cash flow” on an Excel spreadsheet, a task which Ong would also carry out. The spreadsheet comprised, among others, a record or information on loans and claims, inflow of funds from bunker sales, payment to suppliers and banks, trust receipts (TRs) as well as discounting.

Based on this cash flow position, the team at the “bankers department” will instruct or make enquiries with the banks on when the company would pay down a loan, or when it needed TRs or has decided to settle the TRs, said Ong in response to deputy public prosecutor Kelvin Chong’s questions.

Telegraphic transfers to pay suppliers or involving intercompany transfers or transfers from one bank to another were also matters that the department would handle, said Ong, who spoke in Mandarin; her responses were translated by a court interpreter at the hearing.

The unit, according to Ong, will execute these tasks based on Lim’s detailed instructions.

“Who were the bosses of Hin Leong as of March 2020?” Chong asked. “Mr Lim is our boss,” she replied.

“And apart from him?” asked Chong. She replied that Lim’s son Lim Chee Meng and daughter Lim Huey Ching were also the company’s signatories for bank documents, but she did not know if they were also the “boss”. She added that Lim Huey Ching was in charge of the company’s accounts department and as far as she knew, Lim Chee Meng was “one of the traders”.

Ong is the prosecution’s fifth witness to take the stand in the trial that began on Apr 11. She is the third employee of HLT that has been called to testify; the first two witnesses were from HSBC.

HLT, flagship of the oil and offshore Hin Leong empire, was wound up two years ago as it buckled under crippling debt, at the time the pandemic decimated energy demand and triggered a historic oil crash.

Prosecutors have slapped 130 forgery and cheating charges on Lim, 81. Of these, three charges – two related to cheating and the other, forgery – are on trial.

Prosecutors have accused Lim of cheating HSBC by representing to the bank, through Hin Leong’s employees, that the company had entered into two contracts for the sale of oil with China Aviation Oil and Unipec Singapore, and submitting two invoice-financing applications on these purported transactions.

The invoices were submitted based on a “Silent Confirmation and Discounting Agreement” – a financing facility offered to Hin Leong through which it could apply to HSBC to discount invoices for the sale of oil to customers. 

Prosecutors have claimed that the two transactions were “complete fabrications, concocted on the accused’s directions”. They claimed that Lim instructed Hin Leong employees to make the fraudulent “discounting applications” to HSBC and as a result, the bank was “dishonestly induced” into disbursing some US$111.68 million to Hin Leong.

The hearing before Judge Toh Han Li continues, and will take place over several dates till Jul 20.

Source: Business Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.


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