Singapore authorities have filed several charges against the former chief executive of Envysion Wealth Management over alleged links to a nickel trading scam that cost investors over US$1bn. 

Envysion was one of numerous investors in a scheme orchestrated by Singapore-based Envy Group. Envy would purportedly purchase discounted nickel from an Australian supplier before selling it on at a higher price, passing the profits back to the initial investors. 

However, it emerged in March 2021 that the arrangement was effectively a Ponzi scheme. The nickel trades did not exist and profits were paid out from funds provided by subsequent investors, according to documents later filed in court by Envy Group interim judicial managers. 

At the time of the scheme’s collapse, Envy owed more than US$1.1bn to investors, little of which was recoverable. Its former director Ng Yu Zhi was soon hit with numerous fraud charges by Singapore authorities. 

An Envysion fund lost more than US$35mn it had invested in the scheme, prompting the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to conduct a review of its governance and risk management controls. 

Despite the similar name, and the fact Envysion had previously shared an office with Envy Group, Envysion said at the time it was “a wholly separate company, with separate interests”. 

In a March 7 announcement, MAS alleges that Envysion founder and chief executive Shim Wai Han, known as Veronica Shim, was complicit in the company failing to manage risks and mitigate conflicts of interest associated with its investment in Envy. 

Shim is charged with making false statements in connection with providing financial advisory services and two counts of forwarding email correspondence between MAS and Envysion onto Envy’s Ng. If proven, the charges are together punishable with up to five years’ imprisonment. 

MAS says the alleged conflicts of interest relate to loans received by Shim, as well as referral fees Envysion received for investing in Envy’s scheme. 

The authority has also charged Envysion’s former chief investment operating officers, Doo Chun Ki and Tan Kay Siong, with risk management failings. The charges carry a combined maximum fine of S$100,000. 

When contacted by GTR, Shim says: “I believe Envysion had taken all steps to uphold best practices and professionalism. I am consulting my lawyers on the charges.”

Envysion – now known as Hui Xun Asset Management, and not accused of any wrongdoing – could not be reached. 

The MAS investigation into Envysion was described as a “major ongoing case” in its enforcement report for 2020/21. By 2023, MAS had completed reviewing documents obtained from the company and interviewing people close to the case, later reports show. 


Fake trades and forged documents 

Envysion has long maintained it was a victim of Envy’s scam, telling GTR in April 2021 investments were made after extensive due diligence and board approval. 

Court documents seen by GTR in 2021 reveal that the scheme involved purported purchases of nickel from an Australian supplier, Poseidon, which would then ostensibly be sold onto other parties including BNP Paribas and Singapore-based trading company Raffemet. 

The majority of the receivables from those on-sales would theoretically be sold onto investors, who were offered returns of around 15%.  

In effect, those investors were supposed to be providing Envy with funds used to purchase nickel, with the opportunity to withdraw or roll over profits after 30 days, according to an affidavit from its former deputy managing director Lee Si Ye. 

However, Singapore police later found the forward contracts with Raffemet did not actually exist, and sources said at the time that BNP Paribas had no trading relationship with Envy. Ng was later charged with forging electronic banking records involving Citibank in the UK. 

Ng, meanwhile, reportedly used the proceeds to fund a lavish lifestyle, including the purchase of a luxury three-storey villa and a Pagani supercar. Lee’s affidavit said she and the rest of Envy’s management were unaware of any possible wrongdoing until charges were filed. 

GTR has seen three allegedly forged contracts between Envy and Raffemet that were provided to Envysion in support of its investment. The contracts are dated September, October and November 2020, and each relate to the sale of nickel briquettes for between US$8.5mn and US$9.25mn. 

At the time of the allegations Envysion had been due to launch a commodity finance investment fund in partnership with Mercuria, but later confirmed the agreement had been terminated. 

This article was updated on March 12, 2024, to include a comment from Veronica Shim.