Ipco boots out CFO, names new investor as finance chief

Mainboard-listed Ipco International has dismissed its executive director and chief financial officer, Carlson Smith, 63, on several grounds of "misconduct", effective Feb 27, the construction and turnkey project company said in a filing to the Singapore bourse on Thursday.

This comes after Ipco's new investor James Blythman, 33, requisitioned Mr Smith's ouster during an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) held on Jan 19.

According to Ipco's latest announcement on Friday, Mr Blythman replaces Mr Smith as the group's new CFO.

Australian Mr Blythman became a 14.24 per cent shareholder in September last year after pumping S$1.58 million into Ipco through a placement at 0.18 Singapore cent per share. He also succeeded in appointing two new independent directors to Ipco's board at the EGM, replacing two who left last year.

In its statement on Thursday, the group said it decided to fire Mr Smith due to his continued absence from the office, and also because he did not conduct on-site visits of the group's subsidiaries in China and the US where he was the key officer over the last four years. Ipco's subsidiary in the US is known as Capri Investments.

Another reason Ipco cited for Mr Smith's dismissal was his decision to "surrender Capris' right to future land development", without first consulting the board.

In addition, as a former board member, Mr Smith had failed to inform shareholders that his passport had been impounded by the Singapore Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) since 2014, Ipco said. "This affected his ability to discharge his duties as executive director and CFO for the company's overseas operations, especially as sole manager of Capri Investments LLC."

Earlier last month, The Business Times reported that Mr Smith had his passport impounded in relation to the 2013 penny stock crash. But he said he has not been charged by the CAD, and has not been called in for questioning regarding this in more than three years.

Meanwhile, former Ipco CEO Quah Su Ling and Ipco's interim CEO Goh Hin Calm have been charged, but are out on bails of S$4 million and S$750,000, respectively.

On Feb 27, the alleged mastermind of the penny stock crash, John Soh Chee Wen, failed in a second bid for bail after a High Court judge ruled that he remains as a "flight risk".

When contacted by BT on Friday, Mr Smith said the allegations mentioned by Ipco are "substantially the same" as the ones raised at the group's EGM last month, and that none of these allegations were raised to him until he "objected to the abnormal procedure for appointing the two new independent directors". He added that he was not allowed to interview these candidates proposed by Mr Blythman.

Shares in Ipco last traded at 0.3 Singapore cent apiece on March 1. The group currently has a market cap of S$18.54 million.

Rachel Mui
03 March 2018


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