Founder of troubled Singapore oil trader Hin Leong charged with second forgery offence

Lim Oon Kuin having his charges read to him outside State Courts September 25, 2020. — TODAY pic
Lim Oon Kuin having his charges read to him outside State Courts September 25, 2020. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 25 — The founder of debt-ridden homegrown oil-trading firm Hin Leong Trading, Lim Oon Kuin, was charged today with a second count of abetting forgery for the purpose of cheating.

The 78-year-old Singaporean, better known as OK Lim, was first charged last month with instructing a Hin Leong contracts executive, Freddy Tan Jie Ren, to forge a document. 

This allegedly made it look like Hin Leong had transferred more than a million barrels of sulphur gasoil to China Aviation Oil (Singapore) on March 18.

The Singapore police said the forged document was used to secure more than US$56 million (RM233 million) in trade financing from a financial institution.

Lim is now further accused of telling the same employee to come up with an email, purportedly sent on February 26, to China Aviation Oil (Singapore), regarding the sale of sulphur gasoil.

Prosecutors said today that they intend to press additional charges against Lim.

Lim could not physically enter the court premises as he was ill. 

His lawyer Navin Thevar from Davinder Singh Chambers said he has “quite persistent and long-drawn respiratory problems”.

In light of that, District Judge Christopher Goh advised the prosecution to tender charges “in one shot”.

Lim remains out on bail of S$3 million and will return to court on November 23.

If convicted of abetment of forgery for cheating, he could be jailed up to 10 years and fined for each charge.

Background

Hin Leong, formerly one of Asia’s largest oil traders, filed for bankruptcy in April and is now struggling to pay off debts amounting to nearly US$3.85 billion.

This happened as banks had demanded repayment of loans when oil prices crashed due to falling demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lim then revealed that he had directed Hin Leong staff to hide more than US$800 million in losses from speculating oil futures over the years. He resigned from the firm on April 17, but said he wished for his two children to remain as directors.

In May, Singaporean shipping firm Ocean Tankers, a unit of Hin Leong, also applied to be placed under the management of a court-appointed supervisor.

Lim was first charged on August 14, two weeks before Hin Leong’s judicial manager PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services sued him and his children for US$3.5 billion in outstanding debts.

The Singapore courts had appointed the accounting firm to oversee Hin Leong’s debt restructuring exercise in April. — TODAY

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