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HomesingaporeHin Leong founder and former oil tycoon OK Lim to testify in...

Hin Leong founder and former oil tycoon OK Lim to testify in his own defence in US$111.7 million case

SINGAPORE: The founder of collapsed oil trading firm Hin Leong Trading, who is accused of instigating forgery and cheating a bank in a US$111.7 million (S$148.7 million) case, will testify in his own defence, a court heard on Friday (Oct 13).

Lim Oon Kuin, 81, went on trial in a district court in April for three criminal charges: Two counts of cheating the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) and one count of instigating a contracts executive of Hin Leong Trading to forge a false record.

More than 100 other charges against Lim have been stood down while this trial proceeds. The amount involved in the proceeded charges for trial is about US$111.7 million, even though the amount across all charges is many times of that.

The prosecution’s case is that Lim cheated HSBC into disbursing the sum to Hin Leong, by making it seem that the oil trading company had entered into two contracts for the sale of oil with China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corporation and Unipec Singapore.

Hin Leong later told HSBC that it was facing liquidity issues and would be requesting a standstill agreement with its lenders.

Lim and his two children, Lim Huey Ching and Lim Chee Meng, later had a teleconference call with HSBC representatives.

According to the prosecution, HSBC was told that the discounting applications for the sales to CAO and Unipec had been sent mistakenly due to “miscommunication”

Hin Leong filed for insolvency days after the call on Apr 17, 2020, in one of the world’s largest collapses of an oil trading firm.

The police cracked open investigations soon after, resulting in the over 100 charges Lim faces.

JUDGE CALLS ON OK LIM TO GIVE EVIDENCE

Principal District Judge Toh Han Li found on Friday that the prosecution had made out a case against Lim on all three charges.

He said there was some evidence to satisfy each element of the charges, and called on Lim to give evidence.

He told Lim that he had two courses available to him – either to testify in the witness box, or choose not to testify, with the opportunity to call on other witnesses for evidence.

He stressed that the court could take an adverse inference should he choose not to testify.

Lim, who has been out on bail of S$4 million, said through a Mandarin interpreter that he would be testifying.

Fifteen days have been set aside for the defence’s case. Lim is represented by lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers.

Mr Navin Thevar told the court that his client would be one of two witnesses – the second being Dr Yeo Seem Huat.

On questioning by the judge, the defence lawyer said Lim’s children would not be called to testify “at the moment”.

He added that he would be asking for more breaks for Lim, who is of ill health and wheelchair-bound.

The lawyer also said Lim would be giving oral testimony, unless he gives instructions otherwise. In that case, he might give testimony by way of conditioned statements.

In response, lead prosecutor Christopher Ong said he did not think the Criminal Procedure Code precludes the accused giving evidence by conditioned statements.

It is a practice usually used by the prosecution.

Mr Ong said the prosecution would have to consider it if this was the course the defence would like to take.

Lim is set to take the stand on Oct 30 onwards, for about two to three days, by the defence’s estimate.

A separate civil case against Lim is ongoing in the High Court. Liquidators in that case are seeking US$3.5 billion from Lim to pay off the company’s debts, for what they allege are years of fraud.

Related:

'The Lim family must be held accountable': Liquidators seek US$3.5 billion from ex-oil tycoon OK Lim
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