Singapore freezes two firms' bank accounts after alleged nickel fraud
HANOI/SINGAPORE, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Singaporean authorities have frozen the local bank accounts of commodity trader Envy Global Trading Pte and Envy Asset Management Pte following an investigation into their nickel trading, Envy Global Trading said on Monday.
The development follows a string of scandals involving Singapore trading firms that have shaken investor and banker confidence in the sector over the last year when some commodities, including nickel, have rallied strongly. Singapore police's financial crime unit investigated Envy Global Trading Pte and Envy Asset Management Pte for alleged fraud after they raised funds from investors that were meant to finance nickel trading, police said in a statement on Friday. "Investors were promised varying returns, depending on the scheme they joined. Investigations arose due to the suspicion that investor monies were misused," the statement said.
Police have interviewed staff and reviewed documents, Envy Global Trading said in an emailed statement to Reuters on Monday. It also said it would appoint an independent audit firm to conduct a parallel investigation. "While investigations are being conducted, the local bank accounts of Envy Global Trading and Envy Asset Management have been frozen by authorities and customer funds are fully protected," it said. Envy Asset Management was a precursor to Envy Global Trading before an internal restructuring in June 2020 and is now inactive, the statement added. Envy Global Trading, wholly-owned by private investment firm Envy Group, is a commodities trader specialising in physical nickel and futures trading. Benchmark three-month nickel prices on the London Metal Exchange gained 19% last year and another 18% so far this year, as stimulus and global economic recovery related to the COVID-19 pandemic fuelled rallies.
The police statement said a 34-year-old man who serves as a director of both companies had been arrested for "suspected cheating". However, Envy Global Trading said on Monday that none of its employees was in police custody. Envy Global Trading's office in Singapore was open on Monday when visited by Reuters. Police declined to give further details on Monday, citing ongoing investigations.
(Reporting by Mai Nguyen in Hanoi and Chen Lin and Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; editing by Barbara Lewis) Messaging: email@example.com))