Hin Leong founder O.K. Lim charged with abetment of forgery for cheating, out on $3 million bail

Lim Oon Kuin was accused of instigating a Hin Leong employee to forge a document.
Lim Oon Kuin was accused of instigating a Hin Leong employee to forge a document.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Embattled oil tycoon Lim Oon Kuin is out on $3 million bail after being charged on Friday (Aug 14) with abetment of forgery for the purpose of cheating.

Better known as O.K. Lim, the 78-year-old founder of Hin Leong Trading was accused by the Singapore police of “instigating” Mr Freddy Tan Jie Ren, a contracts executive of the company, to forge a document purportedly issued by UT Singapore Services.

Charge sheets filed in the State Courts contend that Lim instructed Mr Tan to make an “ITT certificate” – or Inter-Tank transfer certificate on the letterhead of UT Singapore Services. 

The document stated that Hin Leong had transferred 1.05 million barrels of gasoil to China Aviation Oil (Singapore) Corporation on March 18.  The document was then allegedly used to secure more than US$56 million in trade financing from a financial institution, the police said in a statement on Friday (Aug 14). 

The charge follows investigations into Hin Leong by white-collar crime agency Commercial Affairs Department.

Investigations continue into other offences allegedly committed by Lim.

Abetment of forgery for the purpose of cheating carries a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine. The next mention will take place on Sept 25 at 3pm.

The charge against Lim came a day after the High Court appointed Grant Thornton Singapore as interim judicial managers for Xihe Holdings, which is owned by Lim and his son, Mr Evan Lim Chee Meng. 

Creditor OCBC Bank successfully applied on Aug 13 for the interim judicial managers to be appointed, citing strong distrust of the firm’s current management after US$208.1 million (S$285.4 million) was transferred by the Xihe group to Hin Leong “for no valid commercial purpose”.

Xihe Holdings is the third company related to the Lim family to be brought under interim judicial management following Hin Leong and its shipping arm Ocean Tankers, which came under full judicial management on Aug 7.

Both companies had initially sought a six-month moratorium on debts of more than US$3.6 billion to 23 banks but have since withdrawn this application.

Hin Leong’s troubles escalated following a probe by the police and increased scrutiny by several regulators. 

This came after the elder Mr Lim said the firm hid about US$800 million in losses incurred from futures trading over the years on his orders. Hin Leong sold a substantial part of the inventory it had used as collateral to secure loans from its banks, according to filings.

PricewaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services, Hin Leong’s judicial managers, said it found evidence to suggest that the company had suffered accumulated derivatives trading losses of about US$808 million over the past 10 years. 

In addition, Ernst & Young (EY), the judicial managers of Ocean Tankers, have sued Lim, his son and daughter, Ms Lim Huey Ching, over US$19 million allegedly transferred from Ocean Tankers’ bank account to the trio’s bank accounts just days before the company filed for the debt moratorium. 

EY said in court documents seen by The Straits Times that the sum of US$15 million allegedly transferred on April 3 to Lim and his daughter was either a “partial repayment of shareholders loans” they had extended to Ocean Tankers or a “gift given to (them) for no consideration”.

Similarly, the US$4 million allegedly transferred on April 13 to Mr Evan Lim was also “a gift given for no consideration”. EY is seeking a court order for full restitution of the $19 million to Ocean Tankers. 

Correction note: This article has been edited for accuracy.