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  • Writer's pictureJulie O'Connor

Will Lawrence Wong's Leadership Signal Equitable Justice or a Continuation of Financial Ruin, Defamation Suits and Unanswered Questions?

Updated: May 7




"I've lost $250K, and there are hundreds of others in the group", was the message I received from a Singaporean about the losses he faced as a bondholder following the collapse of the SGX listed EZRA Holdings Group. He knew, like many others than something didn't smell right, not least of which was the refusal by the Singapore authorities to undertake any investigation.


I personally had nothing invested in that group, but I had raised the alarm with board members, banks and authorities as far back as 2014, that something was amiss. I knew that shareholders were being misled, that a writ accusing a board member of forgery and the misappropriation of shares had been hidden following the offer of A$3.5M to the authorised representative of the Plaintiff. There had been non-disclosures, misleading disclosures, a plan to manipulate a share price, a conspiracy to defraud, and much more. I could fully understand why Iceberg Research wrote the article titled 'How Singapore’s Regulators have failed Noble’s Investors and Shielded the Fraudsters', because that's how I felt in relation to the EZRA Holdings Group. But I was also aware that parties in Singapore's upper echelons could be placed in positions of conflict if any investigation was undertaken into the companies controlled by their former client.


And I hadn't been alone speaking out. Highly respected NUS Professor Mak Yuen Teen voiced his own grave concerns regarding this group of companies in a meticulously detailed series of five articles titled "EZRA and the Tri-tanic." Furthermore, it's evident from the numerous articles written by international maritime journalists, that the shipbuilding industry at large was 'gobsmacked' by the pattern of deception and misinformation perpetuated by Triyards, its parent company EZRA Holdings, and the lack of action by the authorities. And don't even get me started on the ring fencing of assets, and the likely rising of the Phoenix!


If Lawrence Wong and his party genuinely prioritized the well-being of Singaporeans, rather than just their privileged supporters, and they held Singapore's reputation above political embarrassment, they would exhibit the courage and integrity to take decisive action in cases like this. Authorities would actively pursue leads, conduct thorough investigations, and ensure accountability at every level. Those found responsible would face consequences, preventing them from tarnishing Singapore's reputation and deceiving investors, both at home and abroad, ever again, even if they have friends in high places! But that has not happened. Perhaps Singapore's ruling party are happy for an international reputation of sleazy and dodgy money, bribery, and corruption," with regulators described as being impotent, banks driven by greed, and claims that fraudsters enjoy protection. But that doesn't exactly fit with their promises of a zero tolerance to corruption, no cover-ups allowed and no-one being above the law does it?


For those who may not be aware, Lawrence Wong currently holds key positions as Chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Finance Minister. I've personally brought my concerns to the attention of him and his colleagues. Also, both MAS and SGX are well-versed in the complaints I and others have raised. However, despite the glaring conflicts of interest of parties in Singapore's upper echelons, the authorities have consistently declined to launch investigations, citing claimed insufficient evidence. Which is as untrue as DBS lawyers claiming that I had acted with malice! As Lawrence Wong steps into the role of Prime Minister under the watchful eye of his former boss, there's a palpable risk that the core principles and direction of governance will remain tethered to the overarching goals of the party, heralding little substantive change beyond the titular shift in leadership.


I find it truly brazen that the Singapore Police and the Attorney General's Chambers have the audacity to claim there's insufficient evidence to even entertain the notion of investigating the client(s) of the former law firm of the Attorney General, Minister of Law and Second Minister of Law. Yet, when these same authorities appear to have a knack for gathering evidence, no matter how flimsy, or in at least one case fabricated, when it comes to probing individuals like Lee Hsien Yang, Terry Xu, Lee Suet Fern, Parti Liyani, Li Shengwu, and many others.

 

As with others, there's little doubt in my mind that the EZRA Holdings Group was a hotbed of irregularities, and possibly even fraudulent activities. I watched in disbelief as board members, including both audit committee chairs, fled the scene after I sounded the alarm bells to the EZRA Holdings and Triyards audit committees. But what's truly baffling is the apparent paralysis of SGX, MAS, the Singapore Police, and the Attorney General's Chambers. Are they simply incompetent at piecing together enough evidence to support an investigation, drowning in their workload, or is there a convenient cloak of cover-up shielding the well-connected? It's no wonder that the refusal to launch investigations of some, whilst chomping at the bit to investigate others, raises questions about the true motives behind such egregious inactions/actions.


Former Temasek MD Michael Dee aptly captured the essence of the saga I detailed from 2012 when he likened it to a Grisham thriller. The events that transpired and continue to unfold in full view of the Singapore authorities, are truly jaw-dropping in their audacity.

When I penned an open letter to the Chief Justice, it wasn't a lighthearted gesture; it stemmed from genuine apprehension. My concern lay in the perceived or actual persecution of those who challenge figures entrenched in the power structure, contrasted with the protection afforded to the well-connected. Equitable justice transcends mere courtroom proceedings, as some may never even have the opportunity to enter those halls before the matter is shut down.


I believe I have exhausted every available avenue to address concerns:




The events following the raising of my concerns could either be a long string of coincidences or indicate a deliberate effort to conceal information due to the numerous conflicts which existed, but who is there to investigate matters where conflicts of interest exist within Singapore's top levels?


Recently, Lee Hsien Yang and many others highlighted the facts regarding the Ridout rentals, but it would be Lee Hsien Yang who was sued for defamation by the two Senior Singapore Government Ministers who were leasing the properties at the centre of the saga. When conflicts arise at the highest levels which may well emit foul odours, using defamation suits to silence those who draw attention to the malodour only serves to raise more suspicion. Instead, transparency should be demonstrated with a 'nothing to hide here' response. Investigations overseen by colleagues and undertaken by a body reporting to the head of the party where the conflict originates, are not perceived as providing independent scrutiny, neither are defamation suits!




 

As Lawrence Wong approaches the threshold of assuming leadership, time will tell if this PAP leopard can change its spots with actions and not mere rhetoric! You have my details minister Wong...






Asian Sentinel is now blocked in Singapore

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A refusal to investigate EZRA Holdings, but investors are expected to trust the authorities?



No mention of non-compliance, ineffective regulators, avaricious financial institutions, and shielded fraudsters contributing to market distrust? Despite early warnings from Iceberg Research and others, it seems ego and arrogance may be obstructing Singapore's leadership from seeing through their own smoke and mirrors!

"How Singapore’s Regulators have failed Noble’s Investors and Shielded the Fraudsters"


"Thousands of individual investors are left high and dry. Their life savings, invested in this once-upon-a-time blue chip, will never be seen again. Unfortunately, my friends, individual investors like you do not count in Singapore. Your hard-earned money has been used to fund the bank accounts and lavish lifestyles of Noble’s managers.


Stock exchange regulators are defined by the actions they take against major frauds. Noble’s fraudsters will get away with no consequence in Singapore. I compared Noble to Enron in my reports because of the similarities in their accounting practices, and both filed for bankruptcy. But the regulatory environment made all the difference. Enron’s management faced a jury after nine months. Its CEO and CFO served time in prison. Singapore regulators, on the other hand, took seven years for a slap on the wrist and some “stern” warnings."


"Singapore’s regulators just don’t care. They can’t be criticized by the press. They can try to discredit whistleblowers. They are the unreachable elite. I have spoken to enough victims of this fraud, to know their anger over the way the regulators have handled this debacle is widespread. Who made money in this saga? The foreign fraudsters, the foreign auditor (E&Y). As for the regulators, they are very nicely paid for a highly questionable performance. "

~ Iceberg Research


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