The founder and former chief executive officer of air cargo carrier Transmile Group was among three people charged in court for their roles in one of Malaysia's biggest accounting fraud cases in recent years.
In a case that has been dubbed Malaysia's Enron, the Securities Commission accused Gan Boon Aun, 46, together with ex-chief financial officer Lo Chok Ping, 38, and ex-executive director Khiudin Mohamed, 50, of having made a ''misleading statement'' in the carrier's quarterly report for the financial year ending December 31, 2006.
The official news agency Bernama reported that the commission told the court the ''misleading statement'' was something that could have induced investors to purchase Transmile shares.
All three opted to contest the charges at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court and they were released on bail pending a hearing set for January. They face a minimum fine of US$289,855 and/or up to 10 years in jail if convicted.
Transmile, whose chairman is former Transport Minister Ling Liong Sik, is controlled by Hong Kong-based Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok. Other shareholders include US-based investment bank JPMorgan Chase and state-owned postal company Pos Malaysia.
The first alarm was raised in May when Transmile announced that it has failed to meet the deadline to submit audited financial statements for 2006.
A special audit by Moores Rowland Risk Management later revealed that the company had overstated its revenue from 2004 to 2006 by $180 million.
Transmile had actually made a pretax loss of $49.8 million in financial year 2006 instead of the previously reported profit of $59.9 million.
The revelation of the special audit commissioned by the company's major shareholders sent Transmile stock into a tailspin. In the past month, its share price has dropped to more than half of what it was worth a year ago. It closed at $1.66 on Thursday. A year ago, its share price was around $4.34.
The company's shareholders had already formed a committee to take over operations from the previous management.
Gan and Khiudin resigned from their top posts last month, though Khiudin's lawyer said his client remains an employee. It is not known when Lo left the firm.