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Singapore Trader’s Lavish Lifestyle Allegedly Fueled By $740 Million Fraud

At 33, Ng Yu Zhi had all the trappings of a wildly successful trader: a Rolodex full of rich clients, a three-story villa in a posh Singapore neighborhood and a Pagani Huayra supercar reportedly worth more than $5 million.

Local prosecutors allege Ng also had a dark secret: His lavish lifestyle, they say, was built on lies.

In a case that has riveted Singapore’s moneyed-classes, Ng was charged last month with four counts of fraud for allegedly raising at least S$1 billion ($740 million) from investors for commodity trades that didn’t exist.

The police have called it one of the city-state’s largest-ever suspected investment fraud schemes. It’s also the latest in a series of scandals in the financial and commodities-trading hub, where assets under management have swelled to S$4 trillion thanks largely to inflows from overseas.

Much about Ng and his dealings remains shrouded in mystery. But open court proceedings, interviews with investors and charge sheets by Singapore prosecutors indicate the young financier was able to raise huge sums of money by touting average quarterly gains of 15% –- a track record that would have placed him in the same league as the world’s top-performing hedge fund managers.

While Singapore offers plenty of legitimate business opportunities, there will likely be other instances of suspect behavior as money flows into the country and investors reach for returns in an era of historically low interest rates, according to Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking who’s been working in the country’s finance industry for more than three decades.

“This won’t be the last case and that’s the sad reality,” Song said.

At 33, Ng Yu Zhi had all the trappings of a wildly successful trader: a Rolodex full of rich clients, a three-story villa in a posh Singapore neighborhood and a Pagani Huayra supercar reportedly worth more than $5 million.

Local prosecutors allege Ng also had a dark secret: His lavish lifestyle, they say, was built on lies.

In a case that has riveted Singapore’s moneyed-classes, Ng was charged last month with four counts of fraud for allegedly raising at least S$1 billion ($740 million) from investors for commodity trades that didn’t exist.

The police have called it one of the city-state’s largest-ever suspected investment fraud schemes. It’s also the latest in a series of scandals in the financial and commodities-trading hub, where assets under management have swelled to S$4 trillion thanks largely to inflows from overseas.

Much about Ng and his dealings remains shrouded in mystery. But open court proceedings, interviews with investors and charge sheets by Singapore prosecutors indicate the young financier was able to raise huge sums of money by touting average quarterly gains of 15% –- a track record that would have placed him in the same league as the world’s top-performing hedge fund managers.

While Singapore offers plenty of legitimate business opportunities, there will likely be other instances of suspect behavior as money flows into the country and investors reach for returns in an era of historically low interest rates, according to Song Seng Wun, an economist at CIMB Private Banking who’s been working in the country’s finance industry for more than three decades.

“This won’t be the last case and that’s the sad reality,” Song said.

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