Soh saw weak case against him but believed he would be charged nonetheless, court told

He wants prosecution to furnish all information, documents he deems relevant to bail application

The man accused of masterminding the 2013 penny stock crash told a remisier before he was arrested in November 2016 that he did not think investigators had a strong case against him, but he believed they would still find a way to charge him and seek a prison sentence, it was revealed in arguments before the High Court on Wednesday.

Lawyers for John Soh Chee Wen want the court to compel prosecutors to provide documents, including all recordings of conversations between Soh and that remisier, that they say are relevant to their client's bail application.

The prosecution, however, argued that the application is tantamount to fishing for evidence.

Justice See Kee Oon said that he wanted time to consider the arguments made on Wednesday before giving his ruling, and has adjourned the case to Aug 8.

Soh is seeking all audio recordings of conversations between him and remisier Gabriel Gan; and evidence and statements obtained by investigators from Mr Gan, former analyst Ken Tai and former LionGold executive Peter Chen that are relevant or contradict the prosecution's arguments during a previous bail application in the lower court.

The earlier bail application was denied by a district judge in February this year, when prosecutors said that Soh was a flight risk and capable of tampering with witnesses.

In Wednesday's hearing, Soh's lawyer, Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng of Wong Partnership, argued that, in the interest of "justice and fairness", Soh needed access to the totality of evidence that is being used against him in his bail application, otherwise the prosecution could selectively present only the evidence that was detrimental to Soh.

Mr Tan's position relied on a recorded conversation between Soh and Mr Gan that was obtained following Soh's arrest in November.

According to a transcript read in court, Soh told Mr Gan: "I'm quite confident. Going forward, nothing has changed. They've got f**k all to charge me, but of course they will find something to charge me."

Soh also said: "The case against me is very weak . . . Of course, against (former Ipco International chief executive Quah Su-Ling) and the rest, it's stronger."

Asked by Mr Gan whether prosecutors will push for jail, Soh said: "Of course they will push for jail sentence."

Mr Tan argued that prosecutors had only used parts of the conversation that supported their stance, which was that Soh did not bother to leave Singapore prior to his arrest not because he was not a flight risk, but because he was so confident that investigators had no case against him. It was therefore possible that other information that the prosecution has not shared could support Soh's application, Mr Tan said.

The prosecution, presented by Deputy Public Prosecutor Peter Koy, countered that Soh had already been provided with six recordings of converations between Soh and Mr Gan for the earlier bail application.

Soh's request for records of all other conversations between him and Mr Gan, and for all additional evidence that may contradict the prosecutor's case, was too broad, Mr Koy said. It would also wrongly take the bail proceedings into the realm of a trial, which is where the evidence is supposed to be tested.

"This is in effect a fishing expedition," Mr Koy said, noting that the burden of proof lay with the accused in a bail hearing. "He is asking us to open our covers in the hope that they will get something . . . The application is telling us I don't have anything more than I already have and used in the bail hearings, but please give me all that you have so that I can see if there's anything there."

Mr Tan argued that the prosecution was trying to set an impossible standard of specificity given that Soh has no way of knowing what statements investigators had obtained from others.

"It is precisely because in a criminal matter we do not have this open exchange of documents that the prosecution is not entitled to take a restrictive view of their obligations," he said. "This is not a game of catch me if you can. This is not a battle of wits. While the criminal process is adversarial, both parties in this process are parties to the fair administration of justice."

Soh faces 188 charges related to the penny crash, in which the collapse of Asiasons Capital (now Attilan Group), Blumont Group and LionGold Corp in October 2013 triggered a massive sell-off in low-priced stocks on the Singapore Exchange. Quah and former Ipco interim chief executive Goh Hin Calm have also been charged in the case.

Kenneth Lim

03 August 2017


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