The criminal prosecution against three directors of land banking firm Profitable Plots for cheating investors of about US$2.5 million (S$3.1 million) reached a juncture yesterday, with jail terms handed down to two of them, while the third was acquitted.
Briton Timothy Nicholas Goldring, 60, was sentenced to seven years in prison, while his compatriot John Andrew Nordmann, 55, was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for 18 cheating charges, following a trial that ran from April last year to January this year.
But State Courts judge Chay Yuen Fatt acquitted Nordmann’s Singaporean wife, Geraldine Anthony Thomas, 45, ruling that she had no role in making false representations about the investment scheme in question.
However, the trio still face outstanding charges. The court’s decision yesterday related only to 18 out of 86 charges pressed against each of them.
Yesterday, the judge said the investment scheme involving a fuel additive called boron did not amount to a Ponzi scheme, as argued by prosecutors.
Rather, it was dishonest only to the extent of two false representations they had made to investors: That money invested would be used exclusively for the purchase of boron products and that the products had already been pre-sold to major corporations.
The latter misrepresentation gave the impression that the investment was safe and able to generate returns of 12.5 per cent in six months for investors. In reality, the money invested was largely used for Profitable Plots’ expenses and the boron products were never pre-sold to corporations, from their launch in November 2008 until the scheme was terminated in August 2010, when the company was raided by the Commercial Affairs Department.
Prosecutors, however, had argued that the entire scheme was a sham hatched to deal with Profitable Plots’ cash-flow problems caused by money owed to investors in a separate land banking scheme.
The trio also used a shell company incorporated in Dubai to bear the contractual obligations of the boron scheme, while Profitable Plots took and kept investors’ funds, prosecutors contended, in calling for Goldring and Nordmann to each be sentenced to 12 to 14 years’ jail.
Although he disagreed that the entire boron scheme was bogus, the judge ruled that the false representations were enough to dishonestly induce investors into parting with their money. He also rejected Nordmann’s defence that the criminal charges were nothing more than contractual breaches.
Nordmann and Goldring said they would appeal against the court’s decision. Their bail was increased from S$200,000 to S$240,000 yesterday and Thomas’ bail was extended because of the remaining charges.
In court yesterday, Profitable Plots investors made up the majority in the full public gallery, including some who had not purchased boron products.