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Advances of S$24.6 million extended by HPL to joint entities tied to Ong Beng Seng’s interests

Under the shadow of a corruption probe involving Managing Director Ong Beng Seng, Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) revealed extending S$24.6 million (approx. US$18.1 million) to two jointly controlled entities linked to Mr Ong’s interests.

S$18.2 million went to Great Western Enterprises, where Mr Ong and board member David Fu each possess a 15 per cent beneficial interest. An additional S$6.4 million was provided to HPL Dolomites (UK), with Mr Ong holding a 20% beneficial interest.

These disclosures followed a request from the Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo).

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Hotel Properties Limited (HPL), currently facing scrutiny due to a corruption investigation involving its managing director, Ong Beng Seng, has unveiled that it extended S$24.6 million (approximately US$18,1 million) in advances to two jointly controlled entities, in which Mr. Ong is perceived to hold an interest.

Out of this total, S$18.2 million was allocated to Great Western Enterprises, where Mr Ong and board member David Fu each possess a 15 per cent beneficial interest.

Additionally, approximately S$6.4 million was provided to HPL Dolomites (UK), where Mr Ong holds a 20 per cent beneficial interest.

These financial details were disclosed in response to a request from the Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo).

The regulatory body sought clarity on various transactions conducted by HPL during the first half of the fiscal year, concluding on 30 June.

HPL faced inquiries because it displayed an increase in the “amount due from associates and jointly controlled entities,” which escalated from S$49.1 million as of 31 December 2022, to S$56.5 million as of 30 June 2023.

The Company explained that this is “mainly attributable to investments during the period, including equity contribution and advances of S$25 million to associates and jointly controlled entities in which certain directors are deemed to have an interest.”

However, SGX raised questions, urging HPL to provide a more detailed breakdown of the transactions during 1H2023, elucidating the nature and value of the transactions, the entities involved, and the relationships giving rise to related party transactions.

Concurrently, there was also a rise in non-current assets held by associates and jointly controlled entities, increasing to S$956.6 million as of 30 June, from S$912.7 million as of 31 December 2022.

Prior to this, the company had exclusively attributed these figures to investments made during the period, encompassing equity contributions and advances amounting to S$25 million for associates and jointly controlled entities, wherein specific directors are deemed to hold an interest.

In response to SGX on Tuesday (22 Aug), HPL highlighted that its advances to other associates and jointly controlled entities amounted to s$18.8 million, while exchange realignment on advances accounted for s$18.4 million.

However, the company abstained from providing a more detailed breakdown of these figures.

Nevertheless, HPL disclosed a S$11.5 million loss attributed to the share of results and reserves of associates and jointly controlled entities for 1H 2023.

SGX RegCo also inquired about HPL’s “other operating income” for 1H2023, which surged over 600 per cent to S$20.7 million for the first half of the year, up from S$2.8 million in 1H 2022.

In response, HPL attributed this to a S$16.1 million “net gain on the disposal of property, plant and equipment”.

To substantiate this, the company referred to a note from its 11 August company announcement, outlining that other sources contributing to the S$20.7 million encompass dividend income of S$1.9 million, along with interest income of S$1.2 million.

Moreover, there was a S$113,000 reversal of doubtful trade receivables and a net foreign exchange gain of S$33,000.

The remaining S$1.3 million was categorized as “other,” without a further detailed breakdown.

Arrests of Transport Minister and Billionaire Ong Beng Seng spark intrigue in ongoing CPIB investigation

On 14 July, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) disclosed that both Transport Minister S. Iswaran and prominent billionaire businessman Ong Beng Seng were arrested on 11 July.

They are currently cooperating with the authorities in connection with a case that the CPIB had discovered. However, specific details regarding the nature of the probe were not provided by the CPIB.

Mr Ong is renowned as the exclusive shareholder of the Singapore Grand Prix (GP), serving as the organizer of this annual sporting event, which forms part of the Formula One World Championship.

In addition, he owns various hotels worldwide. Ong and his wife, businesswoman Cristina Fu, are esteemed members of Singapore’s 25 richest couples.

In 2007, he secured the deal to bring the prestigious Formula One race to Singapore, primarily due to his rapport with former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.

While Singaporeans await further information from the CPIB regarding Minister Iswaran’s arrest, reports by the online media outlet Asia Sentinel suggest that the origins of this affair could be linked to the London trial for fraud involving Bernie Ecclestone, former Formula One CEO.

On 2 August, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Mr Lawrence Wong, noted that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), Singapore Police Force, and Attorney General’s Chambers “have worked closely with UK authorities on their investigation and prosecution” of Ecclestone.

He clarified, “Singapore proactively shared relevant information with our UK counterparts, which helped them develop their case.” Addressing the bank inspection, Mr. Wong said, “In 2017, MAS conducted an inspection of the bank cited in recent media reports to assess its controls for mitigating money laundering and terrorist financing risks. During the inspection, MAS specifically reviewed the bank’s handling of its relationship with Mr Ecclestone.”

He elaborated on the findings, stating, “While MAS found that there was room for improvement in the bank’s anti-money laundering processes, it did not find gaps or weaknesses that were systemic in nature. MAS also noted that when adverse news about Mr Ecclestone first surfaced in 2013, the bank promptly subjected the account to enhanced monitoring controls by requiring all transactions to be flagged for scrutiny and approval.”

As for the future, Mr Wong promised, “MAS will continue to work with financial institutions to ensure that our financial sector’s defenses against financial crime remain robust.”

Mr Wong was responding to Parliamentary questions (PQ) filed by Chua Kheng Wee and He Ting Ru, both Members of Parliament for Seng Kang GRC from the Workers’ Party.

Chua questioned whether the MAS was satisfied with the anti-money laundering measures at the bank where Ecclestone’s funds are allegedly held; while Ms He asked if the Singapore Government had received any requests from UK law enforcement agencies regarding the Ecclestone case, and, if so, what the nature of the provided assistance was.

The case revolves around Ecclestone being accused of acting “dishonestly” and intending to gain by providing misleading information about his assets to the UK government’s HMRC officers.

The charges stem from an allegation that Ecclestone failed to declare a substantial trust fund held in Singapore, a claim Ecclestone has consistently denied.

 

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So all this gibberish and finger pointing going on, does one really have faith in the system?
I mean look, recently a spate of arrests involving foreign nationals with crazy money.
Then minister getting arrested for alleged corruption, then ministers caught red handed living in luxurious properties and can’t be tied down by anything?
Wow…safe haven for corruption now.

Maybe now Singapore is aspiring to become a global money laundering safe haven with all the recent happenings. This is where quick profit can be made. Money laundered here will be certified as whiter than white.

VTO. VTO.

Should n’t there be a higher level of scrutiny in the GICs and TH? SGX is asking about money transfers from HPL ? How about TH’s transfer of $3billion to NKS? How is this accounted for? As a loan or is it a share transfer? How is this recoverable?

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