This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on November 7, 2022 - November 13, 2022
It has been a decade since the 2012 discovery of financial irregularities at Silver Bird Group Bhd that revealed a RM112 million hole in its finances, which later turned out to be more than twice that size at RM297 million. The problems arose from several doubtful payments for property refurbishment and machinery upgrades, as well as unverifiable sales.
The bread maker fell into Practice Note 17 status that same year, while its founder and then group managing director Datuk Jackson Tan Han Kook, together with the group executive director at the time, Derec Ching Siew Cheong, were suspended and subsequently terminated.
The group — which then counted Lembaga Tabung Haji, Berjaya Corp Bhd and Koperasi Permodalan Felda Malaysia Bhd among its substantial shareholders — went on to file a RM125 million lawsuit against the duo for criminal breach of trust (CBT) and for conspiring with eight others to defraud the company.
Tan and Ching were also jointly charged in 2012 and claimed trial to 134 charges of cheating Malayan Banking Bhd by using forged invoices to apply for banker’s acceptance facilities for three companies.
A year later, the two were also charged by the Securities Commission Malaysia for furnishing false information relating to Silver Bird’s revenue to Bursa Malaysia Securities in 2010 and 2011. Tan was slapped with seven counts of the offence, while Ching was hit with eight.
While both were acquitted in 2020 of all the 134 charges of cheating Maybank, they pleaded guilty to one charge each of furnishing false information to Bursa. Last Thursday, after nine long years since they were charged for the offence, the duo were finally sentenced: to one day in jail and a fine of RM500,000 each, in lieu of 50 more months of imprisonment.
In that time, the company that was once known for its “High 5’” brand bread loaf and “Silverbird” cakes was delisted in October 2014, with accumulated losses of RM462.29 million. It ceased operations in June 2016, following a court order to vacate its premises.
The latest court decision marks the close of another chapter for the bread maker. But have Silver Bird’s minorities, whose investments in the company went up in flames, got the justice they deserve? One doubts if they would think so.
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