90 invested in venture linked to ex-Sakae director

90 invested in venture linked to ex-Sakae director
Griffin, at which Mr Ong is a senior manager, bought the North Bridge Commercial Complex for $46 million in 2009. It is being refurbished, and will be renamed Bugis Cube after the works are finished.

SINGAPORE - About 90 investors have put money into a property venture linked to former Sakae Holdings director Andy Ong Siew Kwee, who faces allegations of financial impropriety.

Filings with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) show that they invested in various companies, which ultimately own Griffin Real Estate Investment Holdings.

Griffin in turn invested in Bugis Cube, a six-storey commercial building still being refurbished in North Bridge Road.

Among the companies with a stake in Griffin is Singapore Exchange-listed Sakae, which raised concerns in January and last month about "irregular" transactions at the company.

These involved alleged payments of substantial sums to companies related to Mr Ong, a senior manager of Griffin, who also sat on Sakae's board.

Sakae has removed Mr Ong from its board and filed a civil lawsuit, while informing the Commercial Affairs Department. Sakae and managing director Douglas Foo have also taken out an application to appoint receivers "to preserve and secure" assets in Griffin pending the legal action.

Aside from Sakae, there are other companies with direct and indirect stakes in Griffin.

ERC Holdings and Gryphon Real Estate Investment Corp hold direct stakes, while ERC Associates Investment Company has an indirect stake through Gryphon Real Estate Investment Corp.

Acra records show that ERC Holdings has investments in at least one other property venture. It is unclear if Gryphon Real Estate Investment Corp or ERC Associates Investment Company have any other investments.

These three companies have about 90 shareholders in total. Each has invested varying amounts, from as little as $7,000 to as much as $1 million. About 50 of these shareholders put in $100,000 or more.

Griffin bought the North Bridge Commercial Complex for $46 million in 2009.

It has sold many of the units to individual buyers for $142 million in total.

The building will be renamed Bugis Cube after refurbishment works are completed, likely in June.

Despite the legal dispute involving Griffin, Mr Ong and Sakae, one investor said he is still "quite confident" about his Griffin investment, when contacted.

It is likely that many of these investors attended property investment seminars held by Mr Ong from as early as 2009.

Mr Ong held free "course introductions" at the ERC Institute, a company linked to him.

Some people signed up for a seminar, the Property Investment Programme, a two- to three-day weekend event.

The fee was more than $1,000, according to some course attendees, while others said they paid more than $2,000.

The investors attending the seminar would also travel by chartered bus to view various properties around Singapore.

A spokesman for Mr Ong said that he has received no complaints or expressions of concern from any of the small-time shareholders.

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