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33-year-old man charged with cheating in nickel investment fraud involving S$1 billion

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SINGAPORE: The director of two companies at the centre of massive investment fraud allegations was charged in court on Monday (Mar 22) with two counts each of cheating and fraudulent trading.

Ng Yu Zhi, 33, ran Envy Asset Management (EAM) and Envy Global Trading (EGT), allegedly raising money from investors to purchase nickel from Poseidon Nickel Limited and tricking the investors to buy in to a portion of receivables from EGT’s sale of nickel through forward contracts with BNP Paribas.

In reality, Ng’s companies did not purchase any nickel and the forward contracts did not exist, prosecutors say.  

He is accused of cheating fund manager Envysion Wealth Management and its CEO Shim Wai Han of more than S$48.9 million between September 2020 and January this year, and running the two companies “with intent to defraud”, charge sheets state.  

Ng’s companies currently owe investors at least S$1 billion, a court heard on Monday.

READ: Two companies probed for alleged fraud over nickel investment scheme

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) brought Ng’s companies to the attention of the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) in November last year, the police said in a news release.

Between October 2017 and February 2021, EAM and EGT are believed to have raised more than S$1 billion from investors to “finance nickel trading activities”, the police said. Investors were promised varying returns, averaging 15 per cent every three months.

About S$700 million was paid to investors and S$300 million was transferred to Ng’s personal account, a court heard. Another S$200 million remains unaccounted for. The CAD has seized assets, including property and bank accounts, from Ng valued at S$100 million.

COMPANIES DID NOT REQUIRE LICENSE FROM MAS

EAM and EGT were not required to be licensed by MAS because the companies dealt with physical assets and invested funds for a certain type of investor, the authority said in a media release.

MAS had placed the companies on the Investor Alert List in March last year after it received feedback that EAM had told customers that it was in the process of applying for a license from MAS. No such application had been made, MAS said.

When MAS received further information on transactions carried out by EAM and EGT, it conducted a deeper review and shared its findings with the CAD, triggering a police investigation. Ng was arrested on Feb 16 on suspicion of cheating.

“Notwithstanding that EAM and EGT are not licensed by MAS, MAS is concerned with the scale of the alleged investment fraud scheme,” the authority said.

“MAS, CAD and MoneySense have repeatedly advised investors to be aware of the risks of dealing with entities that are not regulated by MAS.”

MAS said it is working closely with the CAD to ascertain the number of individuals and companies that may have suffered losses.

BAIL AMOUNT LIKELY HIGHEST IMPOSED SINCE E-TAGGING INTRODUCED

Ng is now out on bail, set at S$1.5 million. The court also ordered Ng to wear an electronic tag, comply with a curfew between 10pm and 6am and to report to the investigating officer when directed.

This bail amount with electronic monitoring is likely to be the highest imposed so far after electronic monitoring was introduced as a condition of bail in the Criminal Procedure Code.

Prosecutors had asked for bail to offered at S$3 million in cash, pointing to Ng’s access to assets overseas and the fact that his family is also overseas. In addition to a company registered in the British Virgin Islands with a London bank account, Ng has significant investments overseas in Hong Kong, London and Switzerland.

Ng’s partner has returned to China with their child, the court heard. Prosecutors said he gave his partner expensive gifts and several cars in Singapore.

Ng will next appear in court on May 17, where further charges may likely be tendered by the prosecution, the court heard.

Investigations and recovery efforts are ongoing, said the police.

If convicted of cheating, Ng faces up to 10 years’ jail per charge and a fine. For each charge of fraudulent trading, he could be jailed for up to seven years and/or fined up to $15,000.  

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