SINGAPORE: As Singaporean entrepreneur and philanthropist George Goh Ching Wah put himself forth as an independent candidate for the presidency of Singapore, some online are pointing to two significant developments and have expressed concerns about his financial integrity and eligibility for public office.
One of the developments involves Ossia International, a company founded by Mr Goh, which has been placed on the SGX watchlist. The watchlist inclusion stems from Ossia’s consecutive pre-tax losses and an average daily market capitalization below S$40 million over the past six months.
Although Ossia reported pre-tax profits for the previous three financial years, it fell short of the market capitalization requirement. Mr Goh remains confident, emphasizing that Ossia represents only one of his many companies, and he believes it will not impact his eligibility as a presidential candidate.
Nevertheless, questions have emerged regarding the financial performance of Ossia and its potential implications on Mr Goh’s overall business ventures.
Responding to concerns, Mr Goh’s team said on Wednesday (14 June): “In Singapore, any Company listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange which records pre-tax losses for the 3 most recently completed consecutive financial years, based on audited full year consolidated accounts and average daily market capitalization of less than S$40milllion over the last 6 months, will be placed on a Watch-list. Once the Company is profitable and has a market capitalization exceeding S$40million, the Company will be taken off the Watch-List.”
The team acknowledged that Ossia was placed on the SGX Watchlist on 5 December 2017 because the shares of the company have been trading below the required S$40mil market capitalisation.
It explained: “One of the key reasons is that Mr Goh and his two brothers hold 75 per cent of the shares, which means less liquidity. However, the Company has been reporting pre-tax profit every year since the year ended 31 March 2017 until 31 March 2023 (a total of 7 years).
“But Ossia now has a market capitalisation of $46million as of 14 June 2023, above the $40 million SGX marker. Most importantly, the Net Asset Value(NAV)/Shareholders’ equity of the Company as at 31 Mar 2023 is $55 million, which is above the required average daily market capitalisation of S$40 million. The NAV has been above the required average daily market capitalisation of S$40 million since the year ended 31 March 2020 until 31 March 2023.”
In a separate matter, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) launched the Offshore Leaks project in 2013, unveiling a vast collection of leaked data from offshore service providers. The leaked documents exposed the complex web of offshore companies, trusts, and accounts used by individuals and entities to manage their wealth and assets.
The significance of the Offshore Leaks revelations lies in the scrutiny it sheds on the potential misuse of offshore entities for illicit purposes, including tax evasion, money laundering, and asset concealment.
Within the Offshore Leaks database, an individual named “Goh Ching Wah” was listed as a person allegedly using offshore accounts. While it remains uncertain if this individual is the same as George Goh Ching Wah, it is crucial for Mr Goh to address whether he is the person mentioned in the offshore leaks.
It is important to note that inclusion in the Offshore Leaks database does not automatically imply illegal conduct, as legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts exist. The list also includes prominent individuals like the late Queen Elizabeth of England.
However, instances have arisen where individuals listed in the offshore leaks were subsequently found to be involved in activities such as tax evasion.
The role of the elected president of Singapore includes serving as the custodian of the nation’s reserves, making financial integrity a paramount consideration for any candidate.
Given Mr Goh’s pursuit of public office, it becomes imperative for him to address any potential connections between himself and the individual listed in the offshore leaks. Transparency and accountability are qualities expected of public figures aspiring to hold high office.
The Offshore Leaks revelations underscore the importance of maintaining ethical business practices and complying with tax regulations. While it remains uncertain if Goh Ching Wah is indeed George Goh Ching Wah, it is vital for Mr Goh to declare whether he is the same person listed in the offshore leaks. Such a declaration would provide clarity and ensure transparency regarding his involvement, if any.
As the presidential campaign progresses, Mr Goh’s response to these questions will play a crucial role in shaping public opinion.
Singaporeans seek reassurance regarding the integrity, transparency, and adherence to the law of their potential leaders. By declaring any potential connections to the offshore leaks and offering transparent explanations, Goh can uphold the trust of the electorate and demonstrate his commitment to ethical conduct.
The Singapore electorate values ethical conduct and accountability in their elected representatives, and Mr Goh’s voluntary declaration regarding any potential connection to the individual listed in the offshore leaks will contribute to a more comprehensive assessment of his qualifications and suitability for the presidency.
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