SINGAPORE: In an about-turn, Former China tour guide Yang Yin, 42, on Wednesday (Jul 27) told the court he would not plead guilty to dishonestly misappropriating S$1.1 million from a wealthy widow.
Though Yang had said he wanted to plead guilty midway through his trial last month, he returned to court on Wednesday having changed his mind. “We have much evidence we have yet to show”, he told Judge Jennifer Marie via a Mandarin interpreter.
Yang is accused of misappropriating S$500,000 from Mdm Chung Khin Chun in 2010, and another S$600,000 in 2012.
YANG LIED TO POLICE, ADMITS HIS LAWYER
Yang had told investigation officer Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Jane Lim from the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) that the money was a gift shortly after he said he had used the sum to buy six paintings.
However, DSP Lim’s investigation did not find any receipts or documents to support this.
In court on Wednesday, Yang’s lawyer Irving Choh admitted his client had lied to the police. “The majority of (Yang’s) answers to your questions were untruthful. This is what he tells me,” Mr Choh told DSP Lim. The lawyer said whatever money was transferred to Yang over the years had been done with the “blessing” of Mdm Chung.
Mr Choh claimed Yang and Mdm Chung, who had developed an unlikely friendship after he served as her tour guide on a trip to China in 2008, had cooked up the “painting story” to avoid “jealously and gossip”.
“Yang told you the money was used to buy paintings, but that was not true. This was what Mdm Chung and Yang agreed to tell people if they were questioned”, Mr Choh said. “Ultimately, only Mdm Chung and Yang would know the nature of these transactions”, he added.
However, DSP Lim said that though she had interviewed Mdm Chung, the elderly widow who now suffers from dementia, was of little help.
“She could not remember Yang. She could not remember he had lived with her. When I showed her photographs of Yang, she remembered him as a friend from China. That was about it”, DSP Lim said.
YANG MOVED LARGE SUMS OF MDM CHUNG’S MONEY
Though DSP Lim said investigators could not find concrete evidence that Mdm Chung had or had not gifted monies to Yang, she did find a long paper trail showing the movement of millions of dollars from Mdm Chung’s account to Yang’s and vice versa. Yang had apparently routed and re-routed Mdm Chung’s money in the bank in a complex series of transactions dating back to Feb 1, 2010, prosecutors said.
DSP Lim revealed that before the alleged criminal breach of trust offences, Mdm Chung had around S$2.74 million in liquid assets. These included about S$950,000 in her bank account as of February 2010, and S$1.7 million in unit trusts as of December 2009.
By 2014 though, Mdm Chung was left with only around S$9,000 in her bank account. She had also transferred her unit trusts to Yang Yin in 2010.
The officer had also spoken to bank employees who had handled some transactions for the pair. They told her they heard Mdm Chung tell Yang the money she was entrusting to him was to be used for her well-being, DSP Lim told the court.
Among the multiple suspicious transactions uncovered by the CAD, only two sums – totaling the S$1.1 million at the centre of the trial – were unaccounted for.
The rest of the money, though moved between bank accounts and used to buy insurance policies or put into fixed deposits, had not been withdrawn or “illegitimately transferred” by Yang. Had they been, they would likely have been the subject of more charges, the court heard.
When Yang was charged, the CAD seized several of his bank accounts, which remain frozen.
YANG AWAITING SENTENCE FOR OTHER CHARGES
In a previous court session, the prosecution said that Yang increasingly took over control of Mdm Chung’s financial affairs, and by 2012, the childless widow had given Yang control over her welfare and assets via Lasting Power of Attorney.
However when Mdm Chung was diagnosed with dementia in 2014, her niece, Mdm Hedy Mok, stepped in and took Yang to court. He was charged with 349 criminal offences in September and October 2014.
He pleaded guilty in May 2016 to 120 charges, the bulk of which were for the falsification of receipts amounting to S$186,900. The remaining 227 charges will be taken into consideration when he is sentenced.
Yang had set up a company, Young Music and Dance Studio, to gain an employment pass followed by permanent residency in 2011. Prosecutors said that in order to create the impression that the business was profitable and support his Singapore permanent residency applications, Yang had set up a bank account associated with his company and used it to round-trip funds.
He falsified numerous receipts, the subject of 110 charges, showing payments received by the company for piano tuition, singing lessons and the sale of paintings – none of which were genuine.
In fact, the company had no real business, no revenue and paid Yang no salary, but in order to perpetuate the scam, Yang paid income tax on his declared “salary” of S$5,000 to S$7,000, according to court documents from a previous hearing.
The case will be heard next on Aug 2. The defence counsel said that Yang will likely take the stand then to give his side of the story.