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UPDATE 1-Singapore probes nickel trading fraud, Envy Global director charged

(Changes dateline to SINGAPORE, adds details from chargesheets)

SINGAPORE, March 23 (Reuters) - Prosecutors in Singapore filed charges of fraud and cheating on Monday against a director at commodity trading company in connection with a nickel trading scheme that raised at least S$1 billion ($746 million) from investors.

The case is the latest in a string of scandals involving trading firms in Singapore.

Ng Yu Zhi, a 33-year-old director of Envy Global Trading Pte Ltd and Envy Asset Management Pte Ltd, was charged with two counts of cheating and two of fraudulent trading. Prosecutors said they expect to bring more charges.

A court granted Ng bail on Monday after the charges were read. Police have seized about S$100 million worth of his assets.

Fraudulent trading can carry a prison term of up to seven years, while cheating is punishable with up to 10 years.

Ng is accused, according to chargesheets, of being involved in duping investors into lending money to buy nickel from Poseidon Nickel Ltd and to buy receivables from forward contracts with BNP Paribas, though there were no such deals.

His companies, according to police, are believed to have raised at least S$1 billion ($746 million) from investors to fund nickel trading activities between October 2017 and February 2021.

Investors were promised varying returns, which averaged 15%, over an investment period of three months.

The prosecution told the court that some S$300 million was transferred into Ng’s personal account.

It said investors were paid about S$700 million, but are still owed about S$1 billion, based on the face value of the outstanding contracts, as many had rolled over their contracts.

A further S$200 million remained unaccounted for, according to the prosecution.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it was unclear how many investors were entangled in the scheme as the investigation is ongoing.

A media representative for Envy Global Trading did not respond to a request for comment. Now inactive, Envy Asset Management was a precursor to Envy Global before an internal restructuring in June 2020.

Reuters was unable to contact Ng.

So far only one investor that he allegedly cheated has been named.

Ng was charged with deceiving fund manager Envysion Wealth Management Pte Ltd and its chief executive Shim Wai Han into paying at least S$48 million to Envy Global in connection with non-existent nickel forward contracts with Raffemet Pte Ltd.

BNP Paribas and Poseidon had no comment. Raffemet did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ($1 = 1.3408 Singapore dollars) (Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore and Mai Nguyen in Hanoi; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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