A Singaporean oil tycoon has denied using forged documents to cheat HSBC, the global banking giant, out of a vast sum of money.
The 81-year-old Lim Oon Kuin, known as OK Lim, who founded the collapsed oil trading firm Hin Leong Trading, went on trial in Singapore on Tuesday accused of forgery and cheating HSBC out of $111.7 million.
The former oil tycoon attended court in a wheelchair and pleaded not guilty through a Mandarin interpreter, Singaporean media outlet CNA reported.
Lim’s lawyer Davinder Singh could not immediately be contacted for comment.
The trial focuses on three out of a total of 130 charges. It has been fixed for 49 days and is expected to run until July.
‘Fabricated’ Oil Deals
The prosecutor’s opening statement on Tuesday said HSBC disbursed $111.7 million in March 2020 to Hin Leong as payment for two oil sales contracts the trader purported to have entered into with China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corp Ltd (CAO) and Unipec Singapore Pte Ltd.
“The two transactions were complete fabrications, concocted on the accused’s (Lim’s) directions, and the invoice financing applications were supported by forged or fabricated documentation,” the deputy public prosecutors said in court documents seen by Reuters.
CAO and Unipec told HSBC “they had not entered into, and had no record of, each of their respective alleged transaction with Hin Leong,” the prosecutors said.
They said HSBC had lodged a police report on April 21, 2020.
Unipec’s parent company Sinopec said it could not comment given the ongoing court case. HSBC could not be immediately reached for comment.
CAO said in emailed comment it told HSBC in April 2020 it had not entered into the alleged sales contract with Hin Leong without specifying the precise date.
Singapore’s High Court in March 2021, approved an application to wind up Hin Leong after it failed to restructure about $4 billion in debt following a crash in the oil price during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The court documents said that at the time of the alleged offences, Lim was managing director and a 75% shareholder of Hin Leong Trading.
The firm was set up in 1973 and was owned by Lim and his children Evan Lim and Lim Huey Ching.
A Singapore court in May 2021 approved a freeze on up to $3.5 billion of the Lim family assets, which could increase the chances of debt recovery from the former oil trading empire that counts some of the world’s biggest banks among its creditors.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard