(Bloomberg) -- A multi-year dispute between Singapore businessman Oei Hong Leong and Raffles Education Corp Ltd. continues to escalate, with the private school operator saying the latest claims by the tycoon are misleading even as authorities probe possible wrongdoing at the firm.
Several directors including the company’s chairman and founder Chew Hua Seng are being investigated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Commercial Affairs Department for a potential breach of rules in relation to loan facilities in Malaysia, the company said earlier this week. They have surrendered their passports as part of the investigation procedure, and Raffles Education has been asked to provide documents in the case which involves its Malaysia subsidiaries.
Oei, the second-largest shareholder in Raffles Education, has had a tumultuous relationship with the company since 2017 after a placement diluted his stake. He and his firm Oei Hong Leong Art Museum Ltd. failed in attempts to oust Chew in 2017 and 2020. He also sued Raffles Education last year over a plan to raise its holdings in a Chinese property firm.
In the latest salvo from Oei, the tycoon accused Chew in an Oct. 16 letter of filling the firm with all adult members of his family and paying them high salaries, as well as getting perks such as family holidays and wine under the guise of company business. Raffles Education in a filing on Thursday said the claims were made “without evidence” and were “baseless and misleading.”
It said that the figures Oei cited, such as the S$5 million ($3.7 million) payout Chew allegedly received, were “grossly inflated and inaccurate,” adding that the chairman’s emoluments amounted to almost S$2.9 million. Raffles Education said it had written to Oei on Oct. 20 to ask for an explanation on the basis for his allegations, or alternatively, to retract them.
Singapore regulators are trying to boost oversight and push for more disclosures by companies amid a spate of business scandals hitting the city-state.
Raffles Education, which set up its first school more than 30 years ago, says it has more than 18,000 students enrolled in its programs. Its shares rallied as much as 20% Friday after a three-day halt. Its stock price had plunged almost 27% to a 19-year low on Monday amid heavy selling by Oei.
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