Singapore has accused a 33-year-old businessman of fraud over his alleged involvement in cheating investors to put at least S$1 billion ($746 million) into nickel deals that never took place.
Singaporean Ng Yu Zhi was charged with four counts on Monday, a month after the police said they were investigating Envy Asset Management Pte and Envy Global Trading Pte., where Ng served as a director. Investors were promised varying returns, which averaged 15%, over a period of three months, and many rolled over their contracts to reinvest their principal and returns, according to court proceedings.
Singapore, known as a global trading hub for raw materials from crude oil to base metals, has seen heightened disputes over trades with some high-profile corporate failures and fraud allegations in recent years. These cases have spurred regulators to tighten oversight and push for more disclosure.
READ MORE: Singapore Corporate Scandals Spur Push for More Transparency
Of the more than S$1 billion that was invested in the two companies, about S$700 million was paid to investors and S$300 million was transferred to Ng’s personal account, the court heard. An estimated S$200 million of these funds remained unaccounted for. Singapore’s white-collar crime police has seized S$100 million of assets from Ng, who was released on a S$1.5 million bail.
Ng’s companies currently owe investors about S$1 billion on the face value of the outstanding contracts, according to court proceedings. The case is adjourned to May 17.
An external representative of Envy Global Trading couldn’t immediately comment on the matter, while emailed inquiries sent to Envy Group, which owns Envy Global Trading, were unanswered. Envy Asset Management is no longer active, the representative had said in response to Bloomberg questions in February.
Here are more details of the accusations against Ng, according to court proceedings and charge sheets seen by Bloomberg News. The accusations span different entities, but involve trading arrangements of the same metal:
- As a director of Envy Asset Management, between January 2018 and March 2020, Ng was knowingly a party to cheating investors to lend money to his firm to buy nickel from Poseidon Nickel Ltd., an Australian mineral exploration company, with the promise to repay the loan with returns. Envy Asset Management made no nickel purchases
- Between April and July 2020, Ng was knowingly a party to Envy Global Trading’s fraudulent purpose of deceiving investors to buy a portion of receivables from its sale of nickel through forward contracts with French lender BNP Paribas SA. These forward contracts didn’t exist
- From Sept. 2020 to January 2021, Ng allegedly cheated Envysion Wealth Management Pte. and its founder Shim Wai Han of at least S$48 million to buy nickel briquette receivables, which never existed
Phone messages left with Poseidon Nickel weren’t returned. Shim Wai Han declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. BNP Paribas said it is unable to comment on this matter.
Fund Manager Review
The Monetary Authority of Singapore, the city-state’s financial regulator, placed Envy Asset Management on its Investor Alert List in March last year, the financial regulator said in a statement on Monday.
It is conducting a supervisory review of Envysion Wealth Management to see if there have been governance or risk management failures by its board and senior management. In addition, it has ordered the fund manager to stop accepting new monies for investment into Envy Global Trading’s nickelscheme.
Both Envysion and Envy Global Trading are situated in Centennial Tower, an office building in the central business district, according to government registry filings.
By Chanyaporn Chanjaroen, Alfred Cang and David Ramli, March 22, 2021, published on Bloomberg