Saturday, September 29, 2012

Court of Appeal throws out Sunshine Empire case

SINGAPORE : The Court of Appeal threw out the Sunshine Empire case on Friday, after their lawyers failed to prove that the case raised any questions of law and public interest.

Sunshine Empire founder James Phang Wah and former director Jackie Hoo Choon Cheat were jailed for offences that include running a fraudulent trading company, falsifying accounts and criminal breach of trust.

Phang was sentenced to nine years in jail while Hoo has to serve seven years in prison.

The pair ran the now-defunct Sunshine Empire, a multi-level marketing company that came to be touted as the biggest Ponzi-like scheme in Singapore.

They sold 'lifestyle packages' that promised high returns, but the 'investment returns' were generated from new members signing up rather than from genuine profits.

Their appeals were dismissed by the High Court in November last year, but they successfully applied for permission to take their case to the Court of Appeal.

In court, their lawyers fleshed out their case in front of a three-judge court made up of Justices Andrew Phang, V K Rajah, and Lee Seiu Kin.

Hoo's lawyer Philip Fong said that to call Sunshine Empire a Ponzi scheme was unfair and needed clarification.

Subhas Anandan, who was acting for Phang, said that there were many unresolved issues of law affecting the case, which needed to be resolved in light of Singapore's desire to be a global commercial hub.

But their arguments failed to convince the judges.

Justice Phang noted that just because a company can produce a perfectly legal contract, it does not mean that fraudulent practices cannot occur.

He then described the case as a "backdoor appeal", where the lawyers were disputing facts rather than points of law.

In conclusion, the three judges said no questions of law and public interest have arisen in this case, and added that Phang and Hoo were correctly convicted in law.

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