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Singaporean authorities finally take action against Noble

Singapore authorities finally took action today against locally listed commodities trading house Noble Group more than three years after the first reports of accounting irregularities surfaced at the company.

The Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force (SPF), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) announced today that they are jointly investigating suspected false and misleading statements and breaches of disclosure requirements under the Securities and Futures Act by Noble Group, and potential non-compliance with accounting standards by its wholly-owned subsidiary, Noble Resources International. The authorities are now seeking further documentation from Hong Kong-based Noble.

Iceberg Research, led by a former Noble employee, first alleged accounting irregularities at the company founded by Richard Elman in 2015. Noble denied the claims and took Iceberg to court, but the research outfit continued its attacks on Noble comparing the company to Enron, the Texan energy giant that collapsed from a huge fraud 17 years ago.

Since Iceberg Research started filing reports on Noble in 2015, Noble’s net worth has plummeted by around $10bn to stand at just $115m. It has just got approval for a large restructuring.

In his first interview with Splash since revealing he is the main man behind Iceberg Research, Arnaud Vagner lashed the Singapore Exchange (SGX) for its “prehistoric” regulatory environment.

Vagner, formerly a senior credit analyst at Singapore-listed commodities firm Noble Group, spoke with Splash this August in an interview during which he had tough words for the Singapore financial authorities.

“The regulatory environment of the SGX is prehistoric,” Vagner told Splash, adding: “The problems are structural, not superficial. The functions of stock exchange and regulator have to be separated. Putting the onus on the auditor and expecting them to behave is absurd.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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