16 Apr 2021
At 33, Ng Yu Zhi had all the trappings of a wildly successful trader: a Rolodex full of rich clients, a three-story villa in a posh Singapore neighborhood and a Pagani Huayra supercar reportedly worth more than $5 million.
Local prosecutors allege Ng also had a dark secret: His lavish lifestyle, they say, was built on lies.
In a case that has riveted Singapore’s moneyed-classes, Ng was charged last month with four counts of fraud for allegedly raising at least S$1 billion ($740 million) from investors for commodity trades that didn’t exist.
The police have called it one of the city-state’s largest-ever suspected investment fraud schemes. It’s also the latest in a series of scandals in the financial and commodities-trading hub, where assets under management have swelled to S$4 trillion thanks largely to inflows from overseas.
Much about Ng and his dealings remains shrouded in mystery. But open court proceedings, interviews with investors and charge sheets by Singapore prosecutors indicate the young financier was able to raise huge sums of money by touting average quarterly gains of 15% –- a track record that would have placed him in the same league as the world’s top-performing hedge fund managers.
While Singapore offers plenty of legitimate business opportunities, there will likely be other instances of suspect behavior as money flows into the country and investors reach for returns in an era of historically low interest rates, according to Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking who’s been working in the country’s finance industry for more than three decades.
“This won’t be the last case and that’s the sad reality,” Song said.
Attempts to reach Ng for comment via email were unsuccessful. His lawyer, Davinder Singh, executive chairman of Davinder Singh Chambers, didn’t reply to emailed questions. It’s unclear from charge sheets and court proceedings whether Ng has entered a plea. A citizen of Singapore, he’s been released on S$1.5 million bail and is subject to electronic monitoring. The court will hear further proceedings in coming weeks.
While little is known about Ng’s early life, he had become an increasingly visible figure in Singapore’s philanthropic, supercar and corporate communities in recent years.
In August 2020, he won praise from the prestigious Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore for his contribution to a fundraising drive.
A Pagani Huayra supercar was among S$100 million of assets seized from Ng by the nation’s Commercial Affairs Department, the Straits Times reported, citing sources it didn’t name. “It is inappropriate to comment on ongoing police investigations,” the Singapore police said when asked about the seizure.
Industry sources have valued Ng’s Pagani Huayra at between S$7 million and S$8 million, according to the Straits Times.
Alfred Cang, David Ramli and Chanyaporn Chanjaroen, Bloomberg, 14 April 2021
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