Ex-Jade director sentenced to record jail term and fine

Anthony Soh Guan Cheow, the former president of Jade Technologies Holdings, was charged with 39 offences on 20 July 2012 connected with his botched takeover bid for the firm in 2008.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Former Jade Technologies Holdings director Anthony Soh Guan Cheow, convicted of share rigging and insider trading, has been sentenced to eight years and nine months in jail and fined S$50,000 - the highest sentences imposed for such offences in Singapore to date.

Soh, 60, was convicted on all 39 charges against him under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA) and the Companies Act, in connection with a failed takeover bid for Jade Technologies.

Of these, 11 charges proceeded at trial. They included one count under Section 140 of the SFA - the first time a person was charged and convicted under this.

Soh had announced in February 2008 an offer to buy all issued shares of Jade Technologies, now known as Cedar Strategic Holdings, via Asia Pacific Links (APL).

Also the director and sole shareholder of APL, he had priced his offer at 22.5 Singapore cents a share so as to raise the stock price and then dump the shares at an inflated price.

But he faced immense financial pressure when Jade's share price fell and when a series of margin calls came from lenders for Jade shares he had earlier pledged for loans.

Soh knew he needed at least S$116 million for the bid but he had only a net worth of between S$3 million and S$5 million. So he abruptly withdrew his bid just a week before the offer deadline in April 2008.

Other than keeping Jade's share price up at an artificial level between February and April 2008, the takeover offer resulted in the sale of more than S$10 million worth of Jade shares to the public at an inflated price.

Soh then used the proceeds of the sales for his own financial obligations.

Among the charges he faced were market rigging, insider trading and providing a false report to Singapore Exchange (SGX) and the Securities Industry Council (SIC).

In his grounds for decision, District Judge Soh Tze Bian said Soh's offences were "egregious" and "committed without any regard to the consequences that would have followed".

"No one in the history of Singapore's stock market has been convicted of the offence under section 140(2) of the SFA, which in itself is a very serious offence. The accused person had the audacity to commit this offence when he knew the risk and the adverse consequences if the voluntary general offer (VGO) were to fail and yet he put the market at great risk by his offences, purely for his own financial benefit."

The judge said Soh was clearly unremorseful during the trial and had "spun a web of lies to try to evade and confuse".

To send a strong deterrent message that the investing public has to be protected and to restore confidence in Singapore's securities market, the law must come down hard on him, said the judge.

Soh has indicated his intention to appeal and is now out on bail of S$800,000.

This article was first published on August 15, 2015. Get The Business Times for more stories.