Former tour guide Yang Yin, 42-year-old, changed his mind about pleading guilty for the charges of misappropriating as much as $1.1 million from an elderly widow, Madam Chung Khin Chun, 89-years-old, who suffered dementia in her late age.
Although Yang Yin had said that he would plead guilty to the charges on 8 July, but he showed up in court on Wednesday to indicate that he had changed his mind.
Yang stated that he wanted to continue to fight the charges because “we have much evidence that we have yet to show”, without explaining the matter any longer.
Yang is accused of cheating Madam Chung Khin Chun, a total of S$1.1 million. A total of S$500,000 was transferred into his father's account in China in 2010. Yang claimed that he bought a painting of a horse drinking water by a famous Chinese artist Xu Beihong on Mdm Chung's behalf.
The other S$600,000 was withdrawn in cash in January 2012. He claimed that he needed the money to register an art gallery business in Hong Kong. But in a separate civil suit against him, he said that he used the money to buy another five paintings.
Yang has always been inconsistent in giving the fact to the investigator. At one time, he said that the S$600,000 was used to register an art gallery. Then he said that he bought five paintings using the money. But then he changed the story again and said that the money was passed to Mdm Chung.
“I do not know why my grandmother (his term for Mdm Chung) wanted me to take out the monies. I have been keeping this matter from you as I wanted to protect my grandmother. At that time, I did ask my grandmother how I should account for this sum of monies should her friends or relatives ask about it. She told me to tell them that the monies had been spent on paintings,” he said in his statement in Mandarin.
Not long after, he changed his tune again and said, “I regretted what I said just now. After thinking about it, I realised I did buy the five paintings and I do not know why I told you otherwise just now. I was too frightened,” he said.
When Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Tan was asked whether Yang seemed to be frightened at that time, he said that Yang was “just thinking of excuses to cover up what he just told me”.
But Yang's lawyer, Irving Choh, declined the statement and said that he was only trying to keep his promise made between the two of them and said, “Mdm Chung knew the transfers of these sums would cause jealousy and gossip that both Yang and her wanted to avoid.”
Mdm Chung was questioned, but due to her dementia, she could not remember anything. When the picture of Yang was shown to her, all that she could remember was that Yang was her tour guide during her trip.
During the five days of hearing, the prosecution called an art expert, Madam Lim Sew Yong, who is chairman of Raffles Fine Art Auctioneers, to look into the paintings Yang bought.
The first one that he bought was Yin Ma Tu. A painting by famous Chinese artist, Xu Beihong. Yang said that the painting worths S$500,000. While Ms. Lim declined and stated that it was a fake painting and worth only S$200. This painting was found in Yang's luggage and he folded it several times.
The next one was bought using a part of S$600,000 than Mdm Chung gave him. Lady in a Snowscape was said to worth only S$200 without the frame or around S$500 to S$600 with frame.
Red Hydrangea was valued S$200 without frame and S$400 with the frame. Ms Lim said that the painting is too lithograph.
The next one, Red Leaves with Three Horses, is a real painting though it valued only around S$600 to S$800 according to Ms Lim's judgement.
Ms Lim said that she knew the painter of the next painting personally, Peng Xian Cheng. She said that the painting, horse and human figures, is a very good piece, although the valuation, around S$800 to S$1,000 was much lower than the sum that Yang mentioned.
The last one was drawn on silk. The painting of flowers only valued S$200 since it was not a high quality of work, according to Ms Lim.
Ms Lim said that the pieces that Yang bought was “the category of commonplace artwork which is neither coveted by high-paying collectors nor are they document masterpieces”.
But Mr Choh rebutted and said, “The value of art is not a science. If one were to like this painting, how much one wants to pay, regardless of market value, is really at the buyer’s own discretion.”
Yang met Mdm Chun back in 2006 at a travel fair in china. He was also her tour guide during her tour to Beijing in 2008. They kept being in contact for years until in 2009, Yang moved into her bungalow on Gerald Crescent near Buangkok in February 2009 after the death of her husband. Only a month after his stay at her place, Young Music and Dance Studio was established in order for Yang to gain permanent residency here.
A senior investigation officer at the Commercial Affairs Department, DSP Jane Lim, stated that before February 2010, Mdm Chung had S$2,74 million in assets. She had S$950,000 in her bank account and S$1,78 million in unit trusts. But in August 2014, when her niece and guardian Ms Heidy Mok lodged a report, only S$9,212 was left in her current account.
Mdm Chung, a widow with no child, had granted Yang a full control of her assets via a Lasting Power of Attorney in 2012. She was also transferred her unit trusts to him in 2010.
Apart from this charges, Yang has also being charged for the falsification of receipts belonging to his music and dance school, amounted to S$186,900.
He received a total charges of 349 criminal offences and pleaded guilty to 120 of these in May this year, including offences involving his permanent residency and falsification of receipts. The trial will proceed next Tuesday (2 August) and Yang is expected to take the stand.