Sunshine Empire Founder: From Spore Jail to KL Court for Charges

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Fresh from release from prison in Singapore on Wednesday, the founder of Sunshine Empire Sdn Bhd was brought to a Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur barely a day later to face charges of accepting illegal deposits, said to be amounting to RM230 million.

  • Released from Singapore prison after serving 9-year jail term, charged in KL court the next day
  • Two counts of accepting some RM230m deposits without a valid licence in 2006 and 2008
  • Facing up to10 years’ jail/RM10m fine, or both
  • Freed on RM2m bail
  • Accused allegedly in shock, had not expected to be charged in Malaysia

Singaporean James Phang Wah, 58, claimed trial to two counts of accepting deposits from the depositors without a valid licence under Section 6(4) of the Banking and Financial Institutions Act.

Sumisha Naidu

At the time of committing the offence, Phang was assisting in the management of Sunshine Empire, an investment company based here.

For the first charge, he allegedly committed the offence at Menara Uncang Emas in Jalan Loke Yew, between Jul 14 and Oct 17, 2006.

For the second charge, he allegedly committed the offence at Bangunan, Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, between Oct 18, 2006 and Apr 4, 2008.

Phang was charged under Section 25(1) Banking and Financial Insti­tutions Act 1989 (Act 372) which carries a maximum 10-year jail term or a fine of up to RM10 million, or both, upon conviction.

In asking the court to fix bail at RM1.5 million for each of the charges, Bank Negara prosecuting officer Alvin Ong told the court yesterday that the scheme was believed to have amassed a sum of RM230 million.

RM20 million was forfeited by the Malaysian High Court in 2013 under an anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing law.

Lawyer Shah Rizal Abdul Manan, who represented Phang, asked the court to impose a lower bail.

“During his imprisonment in Singapore, the accused had lost his source of income and had health complications with his eyesight and hearing,” he said.

Sessions Court judge Hasbullah Adam then fixed RM1 million bail for each count.

The court also ordered the accused to provide two Malaysians residing in Kuala Lumpur or Selangor to be bailors. His passport was also confiscated and he is required to report to the police every month.

Phang raised the bail.

The case is set for mention on Jan 26 next year.

Phang gained notoriety for Singapore’s biggest Ponzi scheme. His company sold over 26,000 “lifestyle packages” to Singaporeans, promising high returns on investments. However, the returns came from new investors, rather than genuine profits.

He was convicted in Singapore and had served a nine-year sentence along with a S$60,000 fine for running a fraudulent trading company and falsifying accounts.

In June 2010, Sunshine Empire Sdn Bhd pleaded guilty to two charges of the same offence. It pleaded guilty and was fined RM2 million.


 Also in 2010, a Singapore court fined Phang’s wife, Neo Kuon Huay, S$60,000 for falsifying payment vouchers, while Sunshine Empire’s director, Jackie Hoo Choon Cheat, was given a seven-year jail term. 

In August last year, Hoo was charged in Malaysia with the same offences upon his release from Singapore’s prison.

Phang began serving time in prison in December 2011 and was released on Wednesday, following which he was taken to Malaysia on an extradition agreement.

“He felt shocked. He did not know. He was not ready, in fact, to be charged in Malaysia. He thought initially that the case was over in Singapore and the Malaysian government or authorities would not charge him for whatever offences he was seen to have done in Malaysia.

“But, unfortunately, turn of events, he’s charged now in Malaysia,” Channel News Asia reported Phang’s lawyer Shah Rizal Abdul Manan as saying.