How an epic gamble exposed the rot inside an oil empire

Singapore-based oil trader Hin Leong has been in media searchlights recently, on account of a case surrounding a major loss on oil speculation hidden for years. Now, the company is unraveling.

Photo: Edgar Su/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

The letters started to arrive in early April. One after the other, the titans of global finance, from JPMorgan Chase & Co. to HSBC Holdings Plc, demanded the immediate and urgent repayment of hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.

On the receiving end was Hin Leong, one of the most powerful and secretive names in oil trading. Founded in 1963 by a Chinese immigrant known to everyone in the industry as OK Lim, it was a giant in the world of shipping fuel from its base in Singapore.

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