S’porean linked to Newcastle United takeover bid arrested for forgery after 2 years on the run
Nelson Loh Ne-Loon, co-founder of Novena Global Healthcare Group (NGHG), and his employee Michael Wong have been arrested and charged, the police said on Monday.
The two men, both 43 and Singapore citizens, were charged in court on Monday. Loh had been a director at NGHG and its related companies, while Wong, also known as Wong Soon Yuh, was an employee of the group who worked closely with him.
Both Loh and Wong are being remanded at the Police Cantonment Complex.
They left Singapore in early September 2020 and had been wanted by the police for the last two years. Within days of their departure, the police received a report that signatures of accounting firm Ernst & Young (EY) had been forged on some of NGHG’s financial statements.
A warrant of arrest and an Interpol Red Notice were later issued against each of them.
According to Interpol’s website, the notice requests law enforcement units worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender or other legal action.
The police said: “With the cooperation and assistance of our foreign counterparts in the People’s Republic of China, the two men returned to Singapore on Dec 24 and were arrested by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) on the same day.”
Both men, who are facing two counts of forgery offences each, allegedly forged financial statements of NGHG in 2019, and used them to obtain bank loans amounting to $18 million.
According to charge sheets, around July 2019, Loh allegedly affixed EY’s electronic signature on NGHG’s financial statements for its 2018 financial year with the intention of using these documents to cheat Standard Chartered Bank into disbursing loans to the company.
He allegedly did this again around October 2019, this time to cheat Maybank Singapore.
On both occasions, Wong allegedly submitted these documents to Standard Chartered Bank and Maybank Singapore, thus cheating the banks into disbursing loans of $15 million and $3 million respectively to Novena Global Healthcare, a subsidiary of NGHG.
If convicted, they can be jailed for up to 10 years, and fined. Further investigations are ongoing.
Mr David Chew, director of CAD, said China’s Ministry of Public Security helped to bring the two men back to Singapore.
He added: “The police will do whatever is necessary and legally permissible to detain and repatriate individuals hiding overseas, to face justice in Singapore. We will work with Interpol and our wide network of overseas law enforcement partners to locate persons who commit crimes in Singapore and attempt to evade justice by fleeing abroad.”
NGHG was set up by Loh and his cousin Terence Loh. Several other companies linked to the two, including Novena Global Healthcare, were earlier reported to be facing enforcement action from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority for failing to file annual returns.
The cousins first made headlines in 2020 for their £280 million (S$456 million) takeover bid for English Premier League club Newcastle United. The bid was made under the Bellagraph Nova Group (BN Group), which they founded with Chinese entrepreneur Evangeline Shen in July 2020.
In October 2020, after news of the alleged forgery broke, the two cousins legally separated their business interests.
Under the separation agreement, Nelson Loh would have to transfer all the shares he owns in three corporate entities – NGHG and all its subsidiaries, Singapore-registered Dorr Global Healthcare International and Singapore-registered Rock Star Advisors – to Mr Terence Loh for $1. Nelson Loh would also resign as director of these three entities.
Mr Terence Loh would transfer all the shares he owns in Singapore-registered BN Group to Nelson Loh for $1 and resign as its director.
The cousins were previously declared bankrupt due to outstanding debts owed by their firms to various banks.