Singapore court freezes US$3.5bil assets of founding family of collapsed oil trader Hin Leong Trading

Hin Leong Trading founder Lim Oon Kuin. - The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE, May 22 (Bloomberg): Singapore’s High Court approved a request to freeze as much as US$3.5 billion of assets belonging to the founding family of collapsed oil trader Hin Leong Trading (Pte) Ltd, the company’s liquidator told creditors.

Lim Oon Kuin and his family will be asked by lawyers representing liquidator Goh Thien Phong to disclose their assets to the court in the next few days, according to the email seen by Bloomberg News that was sent to creditors on Friday. The Lims may file an appeal against the asset-freeze order, Goh told creditors.

The asset freeze order is a step toward debt recovery for bank creditors including HSBC Holdings Plc and DBS Group Holdings Ltd., which together are owed about US$3.5 billion by Hin Leong.

The Lims have sold assets worth millions of dollars in recent months, including a 41% stake in a Singapore commercial storage facility to state-backed operator Jurong Port Pte in March.

The Lims have also divested dozens of ships owned by the family’s Xihe Group, according to VesselsValue, which tracks such sales.

Independent liquidator Goh wasn’t immediately available for comment outside business hours. Lawyers for the Lim family at Davinder Singh Chambers LLC didn’t reply to an email seeking comments outside office hours.

Hin Leong, once the city-state’s largest independent oil trader, made an application through its then-judicial managers earlier this year to freeze assets, shares and funds held by its founder, known as OK Lim, and his two children. The application was motivated by a risk of asset dissipation as more than 20 banks fought to recover billions of dollars in loans to the fabled trader.

The court approved the winding up of the company in March. Lim has been charged with forgery and related offenses.

OK Lim’s business empire spanning from oil trading to bunkering to storage businesses collapsed last year after wrong-way bets on oil prices unfurled hidden losses and alleged fraud. The fallout reverberated across global markets, prompting financial institutions to reassess their exposure and shaking out large tracts of the often-opaque $4 trillion oil-trading industry.

The family’s assets include properties in Singapore and Australia, cash and investments, insurance policies, shares and club memberships, according to a court filing. OK Lim and his children are allowed to remove any of their assets from Singapore, or dispose or reach deals with their possessions so long as the total unencumbered value of their holdings still in Singapore remains no less than $3.5 billion, according to the filing. - Bloomberg
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