Record jail term for market manipulation in Singapore

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At the end of a trial that spanned almost 200 days, John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-ling were convicted as masterminds behind the most serious case of market manipulation in Singapore’s history. This conviction highlights the MAS’s resolve to act against market manipulation offences “that harm the investing public and financial market participants”.

On the 28 December 2022, John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-ling were convicted of artificially inflating the share prices of three penny stocks listed on the Singapore Exchange: Blumont, Asiasons and LionGold (collectively known as the “BAL Shares”) through wash trading. This is a form of market manipulation in which a trader makes a simultaneous purchase and sale of the same security, generating an illusion of demand even though there is no change in beneficial ownership of the security. Soh was handed 36 years’ jail while Quah was handed 20 years’ jail – the longest jail sentences in the history of Singapore for market manipulation.

Furthermore, the duo used contra-trading in multiple accounts to roll-over their positions in the market repeatedly, driving share prices up while using the least amount of funds. When executing a contra-buy order, investors do not collect the shares they purchase and instead arrange to sell the share within the settlement period. In doing so, investors do not have to pay in full the stocks they purchase and settle only the difference in losses or profits. Soh and Quah’s scheme kept the prices of the BAL Shares on an upward trend, through which the duo avoided losses from their contra orders.

The scheme was carried out through the usage of 187 securities trading accounts under the names of 58 individuals and corporate nominees, concealing their manipulation.

Below is a timeline of events leading up to the landmark sentencing of Soh and Quah:

2012 to 2013

August 2012: Manipulation scheme began. Between August 2012 and October 2013, prices of each of the BAL Shares surged by at least 800%. With the inflated BAL Share prices, the duo offered the shares as collateral to deceive Goldman Sachs International (GS) and Interactive Brokers LLC (IB) into providing more than S$142 million and S$815 million respectively to finance their trading accounts.

October 2013: BAL Share prices started falling following several adverse news reports. Soh and Quah were unable to support the falling prices and eventually, the BAL Shares crashed. Over two days, each individual stock dropped between 82%-94%. In total, S$8 billion of market capitalisation was wiped out from Singapore’s stock market.


April 2014: Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) launched an investigation into what was then described as the country’s largest securities fraud probe. As part of the investigation, CAD searched over 50 locations, interviewed more than 70 people and analysed some two million emails, half a million trade orders, thousands of phone records, and financial statements.


November 2016: Soh and Quah were arrested and charged under the Securities and Futures Act (SFA) for cheating offences.

2017 to 2018

Soh was denied bail twice. Fresh charges mounted against Soh for witness tampering.


Soh and Quah’s trial began.


After a long-running trial spanning 194 hearing days, Soh was convicted of 180 charges and handed 36 years’ jail while Quah was convicted of 169 charges and handed 20 years’ jail. The two were charged under the SFA, the Penal Code, and the Companies Act. Their charges include creating a false appearance with respect to the market for BAL Shares, manipulating and supporting the share prices of BAL Shares, deceiving financial institutions, conspiring to cheat GS and IB and tampering with evidence.

The jail terms are unprecedented in scale and would be the longest jail sentence in the history of Singapore for market manipulation. In a joint statement by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), Singapore Police Force (SPF), and the MAS, the authorities reiterated their resolve in acting against market misconduct by detecting, deterring and prosecuting bad actors, with the objective of ensuring that Singapore’s capital markets remain fair, orderly and transparent.

How we can help

Our team in Singapore provides regulatory and compliance support to firms looking to meet the MAS requirements regarding market conduct and trade surveillance, including drafting policies and internal audit services.

Make sure your compliance frameworks are fit for purpose by getting in touch.

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