HSBC Holdings Plc said it was deceived by oil tycoon Lim Oon Kuin and his children as civil lawsuits brought by the bank and liquidators of his collapsed fuel trading empire kicked off in Singapore.
(Bloomberg) — HSBC Holdings Plc said it was deceived by oil tycoon Lim Oon Kuin and his children as civil lawsuits brought by the bank and liquidators of his collapsed fuel trading empire kicked off in Singapore.
Hin Leong Trading Pte. and its court-appointed managers are suing the Lims as they seek to recover funds to pay more than 20 bank creditors including HSBC and DBS Group Holdings Ltd. HSBC’s suit against the Lims also got underway in a case alleging conspiracy and fraudulent misrepresentation over two transactions, It’s seeking to recover more than $85 million, a fraction of what was lost.
“It is HSBC’s case that it has been a victim of brazen fraud perpetrated by the defendants,” the bank’s lawyers said in an opening statement, adding the Lims cheated various banks into extending financing by hiding Hin Leong’s dire business straits.
The lenders combined are owed about $3.5 billion after Singapore-based Hin Leong failed under a cloud of alleged fraud and hidden losses about three years ago. The company was once one of the largest fuel traders in the Asian finance hub.
OK Lim, as the 81-year-old businessman is popularly known, is separately facing multiple charges of cheating and forgery brought by prosecutors. He pleaded not guilty in a trial earlier this year with the verdict yet to be announced.
“The Lim family must be held accountable for their fraudulent actions,” lawyers for the liquidators Drew & Napier LLC said in their opening statement. “The egregiousness of their conduct warrants no less a response than that.” Hin Leong’s liquidators are PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s Chan Kheng Tek and GTP Advisory PAC’s Goh Thien Phong.
Cavinder Bull, leading the liquidators’ suit, said the Lims’ defense that hinge on blaming a team of employees who let them down was not credible. The Lims deliberately perpetuated a fraud and none of the banks would have dealt with them if they knew the truth, Bull said.
At the same hearing, Sarjit Singh Gill of Shook Lin & Bok LLP, representing HSBC, accused the Lims of deliberately concealing “staggering losses” from its financiers. “It is now diabolical for the Lims to try to throw their employees under the bus,” he said.
In their defense, Lim’s lawyers from Davinder Singh Chambers LLC said in their opening statement that the liquidators’ claims have no merit in law and in fact, and should be dismissed. It said the same of HSBC’s claim, adding the lender’s evidence is “riddled with inconsistencies,” not supported by documents and is self-serving.
London-based HSBC is seen as having the most exposure to Hin Leong’s collapse at $600 million, based on earlier estimates in court filings. DBS, ABN Amro Bank NV and Singapore’s Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. are next at about $200 million to $300 million each.
Lim’s family, including his children Evan Lim Chee Meng and Lim Huey Ching, had as much as $3.5 billion of assets worldwide frozen by the Singapore High Court in 2021. The children were both directors of Hin Leong.
–With assistance from Alfred Cang, Chanyaporn Chanjaroen and Shamim Adam.
(Updates throughout with detail from trial)
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