16 AUG 2020
The Singaporean oil and shipping magnate Lim Oon Kuin – better known as OK Lim – has been charged with “abetment of forgery for the purpose of cheating” in connection with an allegedly fraudulent trade financing transaction.
According to prosecutors, OK Lim instructed a contracts executive at his firm, Hin Leong Trading, to falsify a document on the letterhead of UT Singapore Services, a tank farm operator on Jurong Island. The document showed a transfer of about one million barrels of gasoil to the China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corporation in mid-March. This document was then allegedly submitted to a financial institution as part of a fraudulent application for $56 million in trade financing.
If convicted, Lim could face a fine and a prison term of up to 10 years.
The criminal charge is the latest in a string of serious setbacks for the Lim family and its businesses. One of Lim’s creditors, OCBC Bank, won the appointment of judicial managers for the Lim-controlled Xihe Holdings on Thursday, citing an unusual transfer of $208 million from Xihe to Hin Leong Trading. Hin Leong and the family’s shipowning enterprise, Ocean Tankers, are already under judicial management.
Hin Leong and Ocean Tankers filed for debt relief in April, shortly after the COVID-19 oil price collapse, citing a debt load of about $3.6 billion owed to 23 banks. Singaporean police launched an investigation into Hin Leong and the Lim family’s enterprises shortly afterwards. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the appointed judicial manager for Hin Leong Trading, alleges that a review of the firm’s finances shows undisclosed trading losses in the range of $800 million over the past ten years. Lim confirmed the losses in a court filing in April, saying that he was responsible for the firm’s inaccurate financial statements. “In this regard, I had given instructions to the finance department to prepare the accounts without showing the losses and told them that I would be responsible if anything went wrong,” Lim said in the filing.
The judicial manager for Ocean Tankers, Ernst & Young, alleges that the shipping firm transferred $19 million to the Lim family’s personal bank accounts shortly before the company applied to the courts for debt relief. E&Y has filed a civil suit in an attempt to recover the funds.