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Coastal Oil ex-employees charged with cheating Singapore, HK banks of over US$340m

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SPF did not identify the individuals or the company in its statement, but said that the 60-year-old man was the company's former chief finance officer while the 34-year-old woman was the former treasury manager.

TWO former employees of crude oil products supplier Coastal Oil Singapore were charged in court on Friday for allegedly cheating eight banks in Singapore and Hong Kong of more than US$340 million, according to court documents seen by The Business Times (BT) on Friday.

The accused are Singaporeans Ong Ah Huat, 60, and Huang Peishi, 34, the court documents show.

The banks named in the documents include DBS Bank (Hong Kong), China Merchants Bank (CMB) and OCBC (Hong Kong).

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) had said in a press statement on Thursday night that two individuals would be charged for their suspected involvement in a series of cheating offences involving over US$340 million in loans disbursed to a company by eight banks.

SPF did not identify the individuals or the company in its statement, but said that the 60-year-old man was the company's former chief finance officer while the 34-year-old woman was the former treasury manager.

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The duo allegedly created fictitious sales contracts and invoices to obtain financing from the banks between July 2017 and December 2018, investigations by SPF's Commercial Affairs Department revealed. The loans were then disbursed to their company.

BT reported last January that trouble at Coastal Oil Singapore, which filed for liquidation in December 2018, hit at least 10 banks, including Singapore's Big Three local banks which are owed about half the total debt of US$354 million.

Also in early January 2019, Hong Kong-listed Cosco Shipping International had disclosed in a stock exchange filing that a number of banks demanded repayment of alleged debts owed by its wholly-owned subsidiary, Sinfeng Marine Services, to Coastal Oil.

"Based on a preliminary assessment, the management of Sinfeng is of the view that the documents in relation to almost all of the alleged debts are not genuine," Zhu Jianhui, vice-chairman and managing director of Cosco Shipping International, said then.

Ong faces 58 charges including 44 counts of abetting forgery and nine counts of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat, according to SPF's statement on Thursday. Meanwhile, Huang faces 63 charges for similar offences, including 49 counts of abetting forgery for the purpose of cheating.

Each offence of cheating or forgery for the purpose of cheating carries a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine. The two individuals may also be liable to a fine of up to S$500,000, a jail term of up to 10 years, or both, for each offence of abetting the entering of an arrangement to facilitate the benefits of criminal conduct.

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