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Hin Leong Trading founder O.K. Lim on trial accused of cheating HSBC out of $148m

Hin Leong Trading founder O.K. Lim on trial accused of cheating HSBC out of $148m
Founder of collapsed oil trading firm Hin Leong Trading Pte Ltd, Lim Oon Kuin, better known as O.K. Lim, arrives at the State Courts in Singapore, on April 30, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

SINGAPORE- The 81-year-old founder of collapsed oil trading firm Hin Leong Trading Pte Ltd went on trial in Singapore on Tuesday (April 11) accused of forgery and cheating HSBC out of $111.7 million (S$148 million)

The former oil tycoon Lim Oon Kuin, also known as O.K. Lim, attended court in a wheelchair and pleaded not guilty through a Mandarin interpreter, Singaporean media outlet CNA reported.

Lim's lawyer Davinder Singh could not immediately be contacted for comment.

The trial focuses on three out of a total of 130 charges. It has been fixed for 49 days and is expected to run until July.

The prosecutor's opening statement on Tuesday said HSBC disbursed $111.7 million in March 2020 to Hin Leong as payment for two oil sales contracts the trader purported to have entered into with China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corp Ltd (CAO) and Unipec Singapore Pte Ltd.

"The two transactions were complete fabrications, concocted on the accused's (Lim's) directions, and the invoice financing applications were supported by forged or fabricated documentation," the deputy public prosecutors said in court documents seen by Reuters.

CAO and Unipec told HSBC "they had not entered into, and had no record of, each of their respective alleged transaction with Hin Leong," the prosecutors said.

They said HSBC had lodged a police report on April 21, 2020.


Unipec's parent company Sinopec told Reuters it could not comment given the ongoing court case.

HSBC could not be immediately reached for comment.

CAO in emailed comment said it told HSBC in April 2020 it had not entered into the alleged sales contract with Hin Leong without specifying the precise date.

Singapore's High Court in March 2021, approved an application to wind up Hin Leong after it failed to restructure about $4 billion in debt following a crash in the oil price during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The court documents seen by Reuters said that at the time of the alleged offences, Lim was managing director and a 75per cent shareholder of Hin Leong Trading.

The firm was set up in 1973 and was owned by Lim and his children Evan Lim and Lim Huey Ching.

A Singapore court in May 2021 approved a freeze on up to $3.5 billion of the Lim family assets, which could increase the chances of debt recovery from the former oil trading empire that counts some of the world's biggest banks among its creditors.

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