Ming Yi on Trial: Why all the different versions?

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Ming Yi on TrialMonk’s former personal assistant gives differing explanations for $50,000 loan

Why all the different versions?

By Ho Lian-Yi

July 26, 2009 Print Ready Email Article

AS FORMER Ren Ci Hospital CEO Shi Ming Yi emerged from a car yesterday, a photographer snapping away tripped and nearly fell. Seeing this, the saffron-robed Buddhist monk reached out with a flicker of a smile and said: ‘Xiao xing, xiao xing.’

Click to see larger image
KEPT APART: Ming Yi (right) and Raymond Yeong (left) did not speak to each other in court. –TNP PICTURE: GAVIN FOO

Be careful, be careful, in Mandarin.

But Raymond Yeung, Ming Yi’s former personal assistant, who had stepped out of the same white SUV, strode towards the Subordinate Court building, expressionless.

It was Yeung’s second day on the witness stand for the trial in which he and Ming Yi, 47, are accused of misappropriation.

Yeung, 34, an Australian citizen and Singapore permanent resident, did not show any emotion on the stand.

As he told the court how and why he changed his story again and again when quizzed over what happened to $50,000 that was missing from Ren Ci’s books, Ming Yi sat with his eyes closed.

Yeung was interviewed by auditors from Ernst and Young four times between 2006 and 2007. He gave three different answers for the vanished cash.

First, the reason was rent. Then it turned into merchandise for sale. Finally, it became wood for statues.

The subdued Yeung, who rarely even turned to face his lawyer, Mr Ng Lip Chih, who was conducting the questioning, spoke softly in Cantonese to his translator.

Ming Yi is accused of having made an unauthorised $50,000 loan on 17 May 2004 to Yeung.

The money was supposedly lent by Ren Ci to the Mandala Buddhist Cultural Centre, which Yeung ran.

Throughout, the two men kept clear of each other.

When waiting outside the court room for the trial to start, they sat two seats apart.

Inside, Yeung sat in front and Ming Yi behind.

At one point, Ming Yi gestured to the witness stand with his thumb. But Yeung didn’t say a word, or even look at him.

And unlike Ming Yi, who broke into smiles while chatting with lawyers during an interlude, Yeung was withdrawn throughout.

Yeung repeated his statement made the day before that he had borrowed the $50,000 after a friend in Hong Kong told him a renovation contractor was after him for payment on his house, and had threatened to stop work.

But why all the versions when interviewed by investigators?

First interview, Sep 2006:

He claimed he wasn’t shown anything but was asked about a loan of ‘tens of thousands of dollars’.

He answered that Mandala used to be located at Fu Lu Shou. He said rent was free but in 2003 and 2004 the landlord wanted money.

‘But Mandala didn’t have enough so we had to borrow from Ren Ci,’ he said.

This sum was in the tens of thousands of dollars, he said.

Why he said it: He said it was because he was not aware of anything but he could remember that Mandala had to pay rent in 2003-2004.

‘I could only think of the rental at that point in time,’ he said.

Second interview, Mar 2007:

His reason this time was that he had to travel overseas frequently to buy goods for Mandala to sell.

Prior to this, he said he repaid Ren Ci, using $10,000 from his own pocket, and with a $40,000 loan from a ‘Mr Wee’.

He said he had realised the missing $50,000 was his loan that he had failed to enter in the books after a report by Ernst and Young in December 2006.

But he had told Ming Yi he would pay first as it was his responsibility.

Why didn’t he tell him the truth?

‘I was very worried and scared at that point in time,’ he said.

He referred to the National Kidney Foundation scandal, and was worried about what people would say about him.

He added: ‘I had wanted to repay the money as soon as possible, and everything would be all right once full payment would be made.’

Why he said it: ‘I had already made full payment for the $50,000, and I thought to myself, why not just say it was used to buy goods?’

Third interview, Jul 2007:

This time, he told the investigators the money was used to buy wood from a company in China.

But when asked to supply relevant documents, he said he would look for them.

At this point, he was no longer a Ren Ci employee, having quit on 30 Jun 2007.

Why he said it: ‘I was aware that in March 2006, Fu Hai Ch’an Monastery (where Ming Yi is abbot) had ordered two Bodhisattva statues and they would be coming in in a few months,’ he said.

‘As I was asked to provide information I thought I could use (the) two Bodhisattvas as an explanation.’

Fourth interview, Nov 2007:

The interview was held in Hong Kong, where he had returned to be with his mother.

Again, he told the interviewers that the money was for wood.

Yeung said that when he admitted to the Commercial Affairs Department in March 2008 about the $50,000 cover-up, he was scared.

He said his answer – that he approached Ming Yi for a cover up at end 2006 or early 2007 – was wrong.

He claimed that was when he realised the $50,000 was his personal loan. He said he approached Ming Yi only in January 2008.


ABOUT THE CASE

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 tofalsify a payment voucher and misappropriation of Ren Ci funds.

One charge is that he gave then personal assistant Raymond 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 tried jointly in the Subordinate Courts.

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