Singapore seeks to conclude Noble Group probe by third quarter

·3-min read
The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s enforcement report introduced a new section that provides updates on high-profile cases. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Edgar Su)
The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s enforcement report introduced a new section that provides updates on high-profile cases. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Edgar Su)

By Faris Mokhtar

(Bloomberg) — Singapore authorities aim to conclude their probe of commodity trader Noble Group Ltd. and its subsidiary for potential breaches by the third quarter, with investigations now at an advanced stage.

The investigations — which have been ongoing since November 2018 — involve suspected disclosure-related offences, according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s enforcement report published on Wednesday. As part of the probe into the company, whose collapse destroyed many investors’ savings, the MAS said it asked foreign regulators for help to get information from relevant individuals, it said.

Singapore has tightened oversight and pushed for more disclosure in recent years following a spate of corporate scandals that have rocked the city-state. At stake is its role as a global wealth hub, which has lured more investors — companies and uber-rich individuals — amid the pandemic due in part to its stable leadership and rule of law.

The MAS’s latest report, which covers the period from July 2020 to December 2021, introduced a new section that provides updates on high-profile cases to give greater transparency on probes into financial breaches.

In other disclosures, the MAS report stated:

  • MAS is looking into two firms that invested in alleged nickel scammer Ng Yu Zhi’s Envy Asset Management and Envy Global Trading — Envysion Wealth Management Pte., now known as Hui Xun Asset Management Pte., and Vickers Venture Partners (Singapore) Pte.. The regulator is reviewing documents obtained from the two firms to see if there had been governance or risk management failures in their conduct of business, and investigations are ongoing.

  • Investigations into former market darling Hyflux Ltd. are still ongoing, with authorities having to review announcements and financial statements by the water and power company between 2011 and 2018. MAS said it’s working closely with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to review the evidence.

  • The probe into Eagle Hospitality Trust, which sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection not long after its initial share sale in 2019, is also ongoing, with interviews conducted and help sought from relevant foreign authorities, the report said.

“MAS has continued to take robust enforcement actions against errant firms and individuals so as to safeguard the integrity of our financial sector,” Peggy Pao, executive director of enforcement, said in the report.

Read how Singapore is boosting fight against financial crime

The regulator said its priorities ahead include stepping up its focus on corporate finance advisory firms and fund management companies that fail to comply with requirements, as well as holding senior managers accountable for breaches by their subordinates or firms. It is also studying options for enhancing investors’ recourse for losses due to securities market misconduct.

Other key findings from the enforcement report:

  • The average time taken by MAS to complete its reviews and investigations is nine months for criminal prosecutions and regulatory actions. In the previous reporting period from January 2019 to June 2020, the time taken to complete such investigations was 24 months.

  • There were 20 prohibition orders issued against unfit financial representatives, banning them from re-entering the industry.

(Updates with MAS’ probe into two firms that invested in alleged nickel trading fraud in first bullet point)

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