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Singapore: Hin Leong Trading Founder testifies for the first time in his own defence

Lim Oon Kuin spoke in detail about his group of businesses including Ocean Bunkers and Ocean Tankers as well as testified that his former PA was responsible for negotiations with banks for new financing.

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The Singapore State Courts on Monday (30 October) heard Hin Leong Trading (Pte) Ltd Founder Lim Oon Kuin, who is accused of alleged cheating and forgery charges involving USD 111.7 million (SGD 148.7 million), taking the stand for the first time in his own defence.

According to The Business Times, Lim, also known as O.K. Lim, who spoke in Mandarin that his group of businesses which included Hin Leong, Ocean Tankers, Ocean Bunkers, Xihe Holdings and Xihe Capital, operated on a “left pocket, right pocket” model. 

Lim, as quoted, testified: “Sometimes, if one company needs anything, the other will help. If one company needs funds, another company will send the funds over.”

One of Lim’s lawyers Navin Thevar asked Lim for details of each company that was under Lim’s control to which he responded that Hin Leong was in the business of purchasing and selling oil. Hin Leong then set up the other companies. 

Lim said shipping firm Ocean Tankers was set up to manage and rent out ships, while Ocean Bunkers was established to supply bunkers to the ships. Ocean Bunkers was managed by Ocean Tankers.

Xihe Holdings and Xihe Capital were holding companies that owned over 100 tankers, while Universal Group Holdings was the largest oil storage terminal in Singapore, and was used to store different types of oil.

Lim was the managing director of Hin Leong in 1973 until either March or April 2020.

The Straits Times reported Lim also testified that his former personal assistant Serene Seng was responsible for buy and sell negotiations with clients, and negotiations with banks for new financing, among other responsibilities at Hin Leong. 

Lim said there was more work for Seng to be responsible for as Hin Leong’s business grew and there were more interactions with banks. 

Seng was eventually appointed head of contracts and corporate affairs manager “so clients would understand what she does”, according to Lim.

In April, the Singapore State Court heard Seng confess to lying during investigations by Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), when she said she was unable to recall events connected to a transaction that is related to Lim Oon Kuin’s criminal charges.

 The 61-year-old who had worked at Hin Leong Trading for close to 30 years and whose last position was Manager of Corporate Affairs, testified against her former boss, Lim, who faces cheating and forgery charges.

Under cross-examination by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh of Davinder Singh Chambers, representing Lim, Mrs Seng admitted she had lied to CAD, about not being able to remember the circumstances relating to the transaction in order to protect her children. 

She expressed fear of prosecution which may lead to jail time while her school-going children were still young.

Mrs Seng is also one of four defendants, along with three members of the Lim family, in a lawsuit filed by HSBC against the Lim family and a Hin Leong employee to recover USD 85.3 million of its USD 111.7 million exposure to Hin Leong.

Mrs Seng is also one of four defendants, along with three members of the Lim family, in a lawsuit filed by HSBC against the Lim family and a Hin Leong employee to recover USD 85.3 million exposure to Hin Leong.

An extensive coverage by Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times regarding the fall of Hin Leong can be found below:

Related: Singapore: Hin Leong Trading Founder to testify in USD 111.7 mil cheating, forgery case
Related: Singapore: O.K. Lim, children faces liquidators and HSBC in USD 3.5 bil civil lawsuit
Related: Former PA to Hin Leong Trading Founder found lying in CAD investigations
Related: Singapore: Hin Leong Trading Founder goes to trial for cheating, forgery charges
Related: Hin Leong Trading Founder faces additional 105 cheating, forgery charges in court
Related: Ocean Tankers judicial managers progressing to liquidate firm after expiry of court order
Related: Singapore: Hin Leong Trading Director charged with obstructing course of justice
Related: Court of Appeal: Hin Leong, Lim family claim ‘without any factual or legal basis’
Related: Singapore: High Court dismisses UniCredit Bank USD 37 million claim against Glencore over Hin Leong transaction
Related: Singapore: Hin Leong takes Deloitte to court over alleged auditing failures
Related: Hin Leong Trading Founder OK Lim facing 23 new forgery-related charges at State Courts
Related: Application to wind up Hin Leong Trading subsidiary, Hin Leong Marine approved
Related: Singapore High Court approves Hin Leong Trading wind up order application
Related: Hin Leong Trading liquidates a third of its fleet to recover USD 3.5 billion debt
Related: Lim family aims to wind up Hin Leong Trading subsidiary, Hin Leong Marine
Related: Judicial Managers of Hin Leong Trading Pte Ltd file for winding up order
Related: Hin Leong judicial managers to hold meeting of creditors to discuss fees incurred
Related: Lim family files application to wind up Hin Leong Trading subsidiary, Hin Leong Marine
Related: First creditors meeting of Ocean Tankers to be held in early January 2021
Related: Bank of China takes legal action against BP Plc and Lim family to recover $312.9 million
Related: OBS to wind up operations; creditor list alleges estimated USD 42 million debt
Related: Ocean Tankers publishes notice for creditors to prove any debts or claims for publication
Related: Hin Leong Trading founder denies allegations of forgery put forward by HSBC
Related: Singapore: Xihe Holdings and subsidiaries to be placed under judicial management
Related: HSBC takes Lim family and Hin Leong employee to court to recover USD 85.3 million
Related: Da An Shipping Pte Ltd passes winding-up resolution and publishes notice to creditors
Related: Xihe Capital and subsidiaries, Nan Guang Maritime to undergo voluntary liquidation
Related: MPA: Ocean Bunkering Services licenses suspended ‘until further notice’ and not revoked
Related: Ocean Bunkering Services bunker claims against ASL Marine & Offshore heads to arbitration
Related: Ocean Tankers to return most ships to owners to reduce $540,000 a day cash burn
Related: Singapore: Ocean Bunkering Services license suspended until further notice
Related: PwC publishes ‘investment opportunity’ for Singapore independent bunker fuel supplier
Related: Hin Leong founder O.K. Lim hit with second charge of abatement in forgery
Related: Hin Leong judicial managers and legal firms could rack up SGD 17.3 million in fees
Related: Winson Group wins ICC backing in dispute against banks over credit for Hin Leong Trading
Related: O.K. Lim and two children sued for USD 3.5billion; receiver appointed for 3 Xihe ships
Related: Managers of Ocean Tankers looking to recover USD 19 million from Lim family
Related: Argus Media: Singapore’s Hin Leong founder charged with forgery
Related: Xihe Holdings placed under IJM as OCBC reverses decision for ‘consensual restructuring’
Related: Xihe replaces Directors, forms new management team to chart fresh course for Group
Related: Hin Leong Trading lawyers publish application to fulfill requirements for hearing to proceed
Related: Ocean Tankers legal team publishes application to be placed under judicial management
Related: Judicial management applications for Hin Leong Trading and Ocean Tankers delayed
Related: Lim family to inhibit law firm Rajah & Tann from representing troubled HLT & OTPL
Related: OCBC files for Xihe Holdings to be placed under judicial management
Related: Judicial managers of Ocean Tankers discover discrepancies and fraud in exposure claims
Related: Judicial managers of Ocean Tankers to present restructuring proposals to owners
Related: PwC probes uncover mass grave of financial skeletons and alleged fraud within HLT
Related: Winson Group seeks SGD 30.4 million from Standard Chartered over HLT related trade
Related: Winson Group seeks SGD 30.4 million from OCBC over credit pull in Hin Leong trade
Related: Ocean Tankers: Notice to prove debt or claim published by interim judicial managers
Related: ‘Reasonable prospects’ to keep Ocean Tankers as a going concern, states Director
Related: Singapore: Ocean Tankers, a separate entity of Hin Leong, seeking judicial management
Related: Singapore High Court concedes interim judicial management to Hin Leong Trading
Related: Sembcorp commences legal proceedings against Hin Leong Trading over gasoil cargo
Related: Sembcorp Cogen aborts gasoil supply and storage contract with Hin Leong Trading
Related: Report: Sinopec expresses interest in Hin Leong Trading stake of Universal Terminal
Related: Report: Hin Leong Trading appoints PwC as interim judicial manager
Related: Singapore’s Police Force commence investigations into Hin Leong Trading
Related: Report: Hin Leong Trading founder gave instructions to hide USD 800 million losses
Related: Singapore: Ocean Bunkering Services to discontinue marine fuel deliveries
Related: Hin Leong in debt restructuring exercise; Ocean Tankers a separate entity, says CEO
Related: Report: Hin Leong Trading finances under scrutiny, amid credit pull from two banks

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 31 October, 2023

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Legal

Shipowner and captain fined for using heavy fuel oil around Svalbard

Foreign shipping company has been fined NOK 1 million for having sailed one of its cargo ships with heavy fuel oil on board within the territorial waters around Svalbard; captain has been fined NOK 30,000.

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A foreign shipping company has been fined NOK 1 million (USD 94,632) for having sailed one of its ships with heavy fuel oil on board within the territorial waters around Svalbard, which is a breach of the Svalbard Environment Act, according to the Governor of Svalbard on Thursday (13 June). 

In addition, the captain has been fined NOK 30,000.

On 6 June 2024, the cargo ship passed into Svalbard's territorial waters, despite the vessel having heavy fuel oil on board, which was established by an inspection carried out by inspectors from the Norwegian Maritime Directorate on the same day.

“This is a breach of Section 82a of the Svalbard Environment Act, which stipulates that ships calling at Svalbard cannot use or have heavy fuel oil as a means of transport. The provision applies to the whole of Svalbard and was introduced on 1 January 2022,” Lars Fause said. 

For the violation of Section 82a of the Svalbard Environment Act, the Governor of Svalbard has issued a forfeiture order against the foreign shipping company of NOK 1,000,000. In addition, the captain of the ship has been fined NOK 30,000.

“It is the first time that the Governor has fined a company in connection with a breach of the heavy oil provision on Svalbard,” he added. 

The fines have not been accepted. The shipping company provided a guarantee for the sum of the fine and was thus allowed to sail down from Svalbard on Wednesday evening, 12 June.

The main hearing in the case is scheduled for the Nord-Troms district court in early October.

 

Photo credit: Venti Views on Unsplash
Published: 20 June, 2024

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Legal

Captain of oil tanker “PS Dream” pleads guilty for pollution violations

Captain Abdurrahman Korkmaz, in his plea, acknowledged presenting the books to Coast Guard knowing that they omitted information about discharging oily waste to ocean before arriving in United States.

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PS Dream vessel

A Turkish captain of an oil tanker pleaded guilty on Tuesday (11 June) to a two-count information charging him with violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and for obstructing proceedings. 

Captain Abdurrahman Korkmaz, 37, was the captain of the PS Dream, a Panama-flagged motor tanker. The two related companies that operated the PS Dream pleaded guilty last month to environmental crimes.

The PS Dream arrived in New Orleans on 26 January, 2023. The U.S. Coast Guard conducted an inspection which included a review of the vessel’s oil record books. In his plea, Korkmaz acknowledged presenting the books to the Coast Guard knowing that they omitted information about discharging oily waste to the ocean before arriving in the United States. 

The falsified logs were intended to conceal the fact that beginning on 11 January, the crew had dumped oil-contaminated waste overboard on the voyage to New Orleans and was not complying with international treaties regulating oil pollution from ships.

According to documents and statements filed in court, Korkmaz ordered his crew to pump overboard from the residual oil tank which contained oily waste. A portable pump placed inside the tank and connected to a long flexible hose was used to discharge directly into the ocean without any required pollution prevention equipment or monitoring. The waste oil, including sludge, originated in the engine room and had been improperly transferred into the residual oil tank on the deck of the ship by a prior crew.

Senior managers at Prive Shipping LLC and Prive Shipping Denizcilik Ticaret – two related companies that operated the ship – were aware that the oil-contaminated waste remained in the tank and were informed by Korkmaz that it had been dumped overboard. Both companies pleaded guilty and are scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 26.

Korkmaz is scheduled to be sentenced on 10 September. He faces a maximum penalty of six years in prison, with a fine of up to USD 250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the offence, for the APPS charge. 

He also faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, with a fine of up to UDD 250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the offence, for the obstruction charge. 

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Manifold Times previously reported that two related companies that operated PS Dream – Prive Overseas Marine LLC and Prive Shipping Denizcilik Ticaret – pleaded guilty to conspiracy, knowingly violating the APPS and obstruction of justice related to the falsification of the tanker’s Oil Record Book, which is a required log.

Related: Shipping firms face USD 2 mil fine after pleading guilty for dumping oil at sea

 

Photo credit: büra keskendir / MarineTraffic
Published: 18 June 2024

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Environment

Hellenic Overseas and Leth Incargo charged for bunker fuel spills into Singapore waters

Hellenic Overseas Maritime Enterprises and Leth Incargo Marine Services were each handed one charge under Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Act in two separate cases at a Singapore court.

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Shipping companies Hellenic Overseas Maritime Enterprises and Leth Incargo Marine Services were each charged on Tuesday (4 June) for bunker fuel spills into Singapore waters, according to Channel News Asia (CNA). 

In two separate cases in a Singapore court, they were each handed one charge under the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Act.

Leth Incargo Marine Services was the agent of crude oil tanker Pacific A Dorodchi, which allegedly discharged about 100 litres of high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) onto its deck and into Singapore waters.

The incident took place when the tanker was receiving the fuel from another tanker Maria Cosulich at the Eastern Bunkering Anchorage A on 29 November 2022. 

In the other case, Hellenic Overseas Maritime Enterprises was the agent of crude oil tanker Star Prosperity, which was receiving low-sulphur fuel oil (LSFO) from another oil tanker, MT Decorum, also at Eastern Bunkering Anchorage A on 9 January 2023.

Star Prosperity allegedly discharged about 100 litres of LSFO from the port quarter vent pipe of its vessel due to a broken valve onto its deck and into Singapore waters.

CNA reported that the crew allegedly “failed to take all reasonable precautions after the damage or discharge was discovered, in order to prevent or minimise oil escaping into Singapore waters”.

Both cases are scheduled to be heard again in July.

 

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 5 June 2024

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