Errors, inaccuracies & false statements – Debunking the BNG Newcastle United takeover package

As far as Newcastle United takeover controversies go, the Bellagraph Nova Group ‘bid’ for the Magpies has to be up there as one of the most jaw-droppingly bizarre.

Wednesday, 2nd September 2020, 12:30 pm
One of the doctored BNG images sent out to the Gazette as part of their takeover promotion package. The Loh cousins, far left and right, are not in the original photo.

The Gazette broke the story of their interest last month – and revealed the fee the group say they put down on the table to buyout Mike Ashley from his 13 years of pain at St James’s Park.

Claims of Cristiano Ronaldo signing and an Alan Shearer endorsement have been intertwined with claims, counterclaims and ‘photoshop-gate’ – when snaps of Eva Shen with former US president Barack Obama were proven to be doctored to add in the two other interested investors in Newcastle United, Nelson and Terence Loh.

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Singapore-based, English-language daily broadsheet newspaper The Straits Times have shared their investigations on BNG with the Gazette – and their findings make for very interesting reading. Here are the weird and wonderful truths and untruths of BN Group, the Loh cousins and Shen.

Loh who?

According to the publication, the Lohs "aren’t particularly known in Singapore’s corporate circles”.

But, those who do know them say they are “very sociable, enjoyed the night life and were a bit flashy. They know how to put on a show, and like to drop names”.

While some have questioned their sporting interest, and subsequent reasons for the Newcastle United ‘bid’, they’ve reportedly made other sports investments in the past, consisting of sponsorships with the likes of the Singapore Muay Thai Federation, Xin Hua Novu Blaze basketball club, race car driver Yuey Tan and the St Michael’s Soccer Association (SMSA) through Novu Aesthetics clinic.

Eva Shen – empty offices & low-key, big-money deals?

Owner of Bellagraph Jewelry, Shen’s company are said to have showrooms in Vancouver, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Paris and Singapore. But according to The Straits Times, jewellers and gemologists spoken to by the publication in Europe and the US did not “know of the company”.

One Bellagraph outlet was found though, in Shanghai – in the basement of the Chinese city’s Peninsula Hotel along the iconic Shanghai Bund.

The publication report they visited the shop twice in the last seven days and describe the scene as “closed with curtains drawn and jewellery kept away from display cabinets. Above an empty display case hung a picture of Ms Shen and Mr Obama”.

The BN Group – business record holes & association denials

According to The Straits Times investigation, in which the Gazette helped provide information, they report that no business record of DORR Group – the Loh cousins’ company – exists in Singapore. It was said to be set up in 2008. Searches did show up a DORR Global Healthcare International, which was registered in 2016.

There is also no record of the Bellagraph Group in Singapore or China, but a Bellagraph SG does exist. It was registered in June last year.

On the Loh cousins’ ambitions for company Novena Global Lifecare, the Straits Times claim: “Loh cousins have talked of growing Novena Global Lifecare to be one of Asia’s largest integrated medical healthcare and aesthetic group with over 250 centres globally. Most of the medical professionals The Straits Times spoke to said they had not heard of Novena Global Lifecare Group until news about the doctored photo.”

It continues: “One Chinese company listed under the BN Group umbrella has denied links, though. A person close to the chief executive of Golden Ladies, an upmarket photography studio with over 400 stores, denied that the company had been in contact with anyone from the BN Group.”

And ex-US ambassador to Singapore, Kirk Wagar, was listed as a board member of the BN Group but the Straits Times claim he denies having any role.

It’s all in the name – if it exists

In the BN Group literature they claimed NETX as a company under their vast wing of organisations.

The investigations found NETX does not yet exist. Axington, bought by the cousins last month, with Shen on the board, are proposing to change their name to NETX and change their core business to robotics and AI but shareholders are yet to vote on this. The extraordinary general meeting from Thursday was postponed.

Hotel question marks & missing paperwork

The Straits Times investigation reports: “The group claimed to be working on a ‘luxurious anti-ageing’ clinic to be set up in Bulgari Hotel, Shanghai, by year-end. Italian luxury brand Bulgari said there is no such facility planned. It also has no contact with the group and any of its related companies. The brand is also looking into how a Novena Bulgari Aesthetics was registered.”

And as reported in The Business Times, Novena Global Healthcare and Novena Life Sciences have not filed annual returns since they were incorporated, in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

This is said to be under investigation by The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

Loh Brothers Foundation – missing directors & donations

The report states: “A website on the foundation named SGX Regulation chief executive officer Tan Boon Gin as a director. He is not on the board. It also said the cousins are patrons of Hong Kah grassroots and among other things, built two PAP Community Foundation (PCF) pre-schools. The People’s Association said both are no longer patrons, and that PCF has no record of donations from the men or their foundation towards the building of PCF Sparkletots pre-schools in the last five years.”

Unverified claims – the unknown and the outlandish

According to The Straits Times report the group lists Monica Belluci as a board member. It is not known if this refers to the famous actress, who did not reply to queries by the investigators.

The group’s reported $12 billion in revenue from last year is, as yet, unverified, as well as claims made on an Instagram post stating the group has “over 10,000 private jets” for clients. The report states: “While Dorr Group Private Jet Chartering is listed as an entity, no booking information was available on the now defunct web page.”

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