Singapore — Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s son, Dr Goh Jin Hian, has bowed out of the board of Swiss-based crypto bank Seba.
Dr Goh is being sued over losses of about US$156.5 million (S$212 million) by the creditors of Inter-Pacific Petroleum (IPP), a now-insolvent marine fuel and cargo firm he used to direct.
Dr Goh was a director of Seba. Its spokeswoman told finews.asia that he had resigned last week from the board for personal reasons. Seba has removed his name from its website although he continues to be featured as a director in the Swiss commercial registry.
The Cordlife Group, a leading Singapore cord blood banking services firm, announced on Monday (Oct 5) that Dr Goh had stepped down as its chairman in view of the lawsuit brought on by IPP’s judicial managers (JMs).
In a Singapore Exchange filing, the CordLife Group said Dr Goh was stepping down as chairman “to devote more time to his personal affairs” and that its nominating committee (NC) and board found it appropriate to allow the legal proceedings to run their course.
Dr Goh remains the chairman of the New Silkroutes Group (NSG). The NC and board of NSG said that Dr Goh was suitable to continue serving as Chairman since the legal action involving IPP is a civil suit. He became chairman on Oct 1 after vacating his role as CEO.
In a statement on Tuesday (Oct 6), NSG’s board said “the board understands that Dr Goh has every confidence that he will be wholly vindicated when he defends himself in court”.
It added that Dr Goh’s lawyers, TSMP Law Corporation, have advised that the allegations in the IPP lawsuit are without merit and that the judicial managers (JMs) acting for IPP have been provided with “detailed, with clear explanation, why there is no justifiable case” against Dr Goh.
NSG further said that it is in the interest of the company and shareholders that Dr Goh remains as non-executive chairman given his character and integrity.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
Dr Goh joined IPP, a Singapore bunker supplier and bunker craft operator, as its executive director when he decided to move from of the healthcare sector in 2011. He served as executive director from 2011 to 2014 and became a non-executive director from 2014 — the year he joined Digiland, which was later renamed New Silkroutes Group (NSG).
IPP began to go under last year after it was charged over bunkering malpractices. The firm went defunct after the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) revoked its licences and the company filed for judicial management at the High Court on Aug 16.
Four days later, Dr Goh left the firm.
On Friday night (Oct 2), Deloitte & Touche – the JMs of IPP – filed a lawsuit against Dr Goh in the High Court, accusing him of breaching his director’s duties which he owed to the company, to act with due care, skill and diligence to ensure that IPP’s affairs were “properly administered and that its assets and property are not dissipated”, among other things.
IPP’s two largest investors, Maybank and Societe Generale, which are owed US$88.3 million and US$81.3 million respectively, are funding the legal action against Dr Goh in a bid to recover the losses they claim were caused by his alleged negligence.
The JMs have demanded that Dr Goh make restitution for IPP’s debt of US$156.5 million to the two investors for what they claimed were drawdowns of trade facilities in June and July last year for “sham” transactions.
The JMs hold Dr Goh responsible, claiming that he signed off on IPP’s financial statements for 2017 and certified that the audited financial statements gave a true and fair view of the company’s financial position when the JM’s checks found that some invoices for transactions between 2017 and 2019 did not exist.
The JMs alleged that the fictitious transactions would have come to light and the funds would not have been drawn down from the banks had Dr Goh discharged his duties with care and diligence.
Dr Goh has said that he was “surprised that the judicial managers have commenced an action so unilaterally” without first hearing his side of the story. He told The Straits Times: “What did the banks who are experts in trade financing miss that I should have picked up? What should I have done as a director that I did not do?”
Meanwhile, the Commercial Affairs Department’s (CAD) has launched an investigation into a possible breach of the Securities and Futures Act by NSG. The police probe into NSG is not related to the IPP case. /TISG
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