Ming Yi breaks down in court: Covering up was ‘biggest mistake’

Ming Yi breaks down in court:
Covering up was ‘biggest mistake’

By Andre Yeo

July 24, 2009 Print Ready Email Article

ONE was a monk trying to start a hospital to help the poor and the sick.

Click to see larger image
IN COURT: Ming Yi (above) and Mr Harry Lim (below) appeared in court yesterday. ST FILE PICTURES

The other was a drug addict, who was determined to go straight after his stint in a drug rehabilitation centre (DRC).

Perhaps it was the close relationship the two men had, and how they had supported each other in their hour of need.

Whatever the reason, the mention of Ren Ci hospital’s first and former treasurer, Mr Wee Beng Seng, caused the hospital’s founder and former CEO Shi Ming Yi to cry in court.

It was the first of two times the 47-year-old broke down when he took the stand yesterday, in day eight of the 14-day trial, where he is accused of falsifying documents and misappropriating Ren Ci’s funds.

His former personal assistant, Raymond Yeung, 34, is also on trial.

Deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Jaswant Singh, who had been cross-examining Ming Yi in the past few days, told the court at the start of yesterday’s session that he was done questioning the monk.

Click to see larger image

Ming Yi’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Andre Yeap, then went through some parts of his testimony during the trial.

It was the mention of Mr Wee’s name that caused the previously calm monk to quiver.

Mr Yeap had asked his client what he considered to be important attributes to be a treasurer.

Ming Yi said that person had to be honest and be able to look at the organisation’s accounts.

Mr Yeap asked him if he had reason to think that Mr Wee, 54, was not honest and the monk said no.

He said that when he started Ren Ci, there weren’t many people who had supported him in his mission.

Mr Wee was one of the few.

Ming Yi said he had known Mr Wee, a former drug addict, since the latter was in a DRC.

And after Mr Wee left the DRC, he helped Ming Yi in his religious work.

Then, Ming Yi got emotional, while talking about how Mr Wee had shown people how he had turned his life around since leaving the DRC 20 years ago, and how he was now a family man.

Said the monk: ‘He has changed significantly.’

Breaking down and choking on his tears, he added: ‘He is already married with two children now.

‘He will contribute a lot of his time to help me in a lot of the religious work. He will be somebody who cares in the work that I do, and supported me in the work that I do.

‘I have no reason to believe he is dishonest.’

Mr Wee, who had testified in the trial earlier as a prosecution witness, started the Mandala Buddhist Cultural Centre with Ming Yi in 1996.

In July 1998, the monk and Mr Wee bought a piece of land in Perth, Australia, and built a house on it, which they sold in 2002.

The second time Ming Yi broke down was when Mr Yeap asked him about his ‘baby’, Ren Ci.

Ming Yi repeated his earlier testimony that he had made the biggest mistake in his life when he had agreed to help Yeung cover up the $50,000 loan.


He said: ‘Yes, it’s my biggest mistake. That I did not give much further thought to it when Raymond approached me for a loan from Mandala and I said okay to it.

‘It’s my biggest mistake that I had not followed up with him to ensure he had it properly recorded in Mandala’s books.

‘It was my biggest mistake he did not make sure he had paid up the $50,000 loan.

‘It was my most terrible mistake that I had agreed to help him cover up by continuing to say that the $50,000 was used to purchase wood.’

In an unusual move, Ming Yi went on to apologise to the people who were investigating him – the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) – and to his supporters.

Then he cried as he said: ‘I let Ren Ci down. I wanted to do more for Ren Ci but instead…’

Mr Singh interjected and asked: ‘Where is this going? Is he mitigating now?’

Mr Yeap then cross-examined three of Ren Ci’s current and former board members who were defence witnesses.

Mr Harry Lim Kim Hua, 52, a former treasurer, had told the CAD last March that if Yeung was not a Ren Ci employee, he should not be given the loan.

But yesterday, he contradicted himself.

When Mr Yeap asked him if he would have approved the $50,000 loan to Yeung if Ming Yi had asked him to, Mr Lim said he would.

Mr Singh later reminded Mr Lim about the statement he gave to the CAD but Mr Lim said he had told the CAD he would approve the loan.

Mr Singh accused him of lying and showed him the statement, forcing Mr Lim to admit it was incorrect for him to say Yeung was entitled to the loan.

Yeung will take the stand today.


Ming Yi faces 10 charges of fraud, forgery and misappropriating $350,000.

He is accused of providing false or misleading information to the Commissioner of Charities, conspiracy to falsify a payment voucher and the misappropriation of Ren Ci funds.

One charge is that he gave Yeung an unauthorised $50,000 loan on 17 May 2004 to pay for the renovation of Yeung’s Hong Kong flat.

He and Yeung are being jointly tried in the Subordinate Courts.



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