Shi Ming Yi's personal aide tells court that most purchases on his supplementary credit cards were made on behalf of his friends
By Vivien Chan
July 29, 2009
THEY co-owned a luxurious penthouse apartment in Melbourne.
SPEND THRIFT: Raymond Yeung exceeded the credit limits on two of Shi Ming Yi's cards. PICTURE: THE STRAITS TIMES
An advertisement to sell the home described it as such: 'Beautifully designed whole floor penthouse apartment. Huge open plan living and dining room overlooking large outdoor entertaining terrace.
'Fabulous kitchen and separate casual meals area. Excellent sized master bedroom with dressing room and suite with spa opening to outdoor terrace.'
It also boasted lift access from the garage which could park at least three cars, ample storage, full security, and two more bedrooms.
These details came tumbling out yesterday, as Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) David Chew read out the ad on day 10 of the 14-day trial of former Ren Ci Hospital chief Shi Ming Yi and his ex-personal aide, Raymond Yeung, an Australian citizen who's a Singapore permanent resident.
The home in Melbourne was valued at $1.4 million.
Mr Chew reminded Yeung: 'There is a tramway in front of the building, it leads down into the pub area, the Yarra river.'
A choice location, said the DPP.
Talk of this home made many in the courtroom sit up.
Earlier, some had started to nod off as Yeung's lawyer, Mr Ng Lip Chih, went through almost four years of Yeung's credit card statements line by line.
It was a tedious process.
Even Ming Yi, 47, whose real name is Goh Kah Heng, kept his head bowed and closed his eyes during yesterday's proceedings.
Yeung, 34, had three supplementary cards given to him by Ming Yi, but he told the court yesterday that the majority of expenses on those cards were not his.
His frequent answer when his lawyer went through the statements for more than an hour?
'Not mine,' the soft-spoken and boyish-looking former air steward with Cathay Pacific would say in Cantonese through an interpreter.
Yeung, 34, said that many of the signings, ranging from airline bookings, hotel stays to restaurant meals, were made 'on behalf of friends', Foo Hai Ch'an Monastery, Shi Ming Yi, and as 'official expenses'.
When asked about a few signings at a local sports shop, he said: 'Venerable would usually buy some sports equipment.'
'When you talk about buying clothes, et cetera, those are mine,' he added.
Other personal expenses revealed his much-talked-about penchant for designer goods.
He visited Gucci in Tokyo and Bangkok, Omega and Ermenegildo Zegna in Bangkok, and Hugo Boss in Melbourne. He also made purchases at Prada.
Each time, he spent more than $1,000, going up to almost $5,000 sometimes.
His monthly salary at Ren Ci was $4,700.
He even exceeded the credit limits on two of Shi's cards, which were limited to $33,000 and $43,800.
Mr Chew asked: 'Does the Venerable know that you're spending so much money on branded items, like Burberry, Prada, Gucci, Hugo Boss?'
Yeung replied yes and said that Ming Yi told him to 'spend less, not to be so spendthrift'.
But Yeung admitted that he did not heed the advice.
For the items he bought on behalf of friends, he said that he would keep a record of the expenses, and his friends would repay him immediately.
Mr Chew asked Yeung in his cross-examination: 'So you're incurring credit for your friends on Venerable Shi's card.
'Did the Venerable know about this, that you were extending credit to your friends?'
'No, I did not tell him,' replied Yeung.
Mr Chew later asked him how he could have kept track of so many payments but could forget to record the $50,000 loan by Ren Ci to Mandala Buddhist Cultural Centre, a shop that sells Buddhist artefacts, which Yeung ran.
Mr Chew said: 'You could remember all these minute transactions over the years but you forgot the $50,000 payment until Ernst and Young came into the picture.'
Yeung replied: 'I did not forget. I did not have the intention not to pay back. I admitted during the CAD (Commercial Affairs Department) interview that it's my fault not to pay back the $50,000 progressively.
'I've always wanted to pay back in a lump sum.'
Earlier yesterday, Yeung admitted: 'When Ernst and Young discovered that the $50,000 was not recorded in Mandala's book, I just wanted to quickly pay back and hope that nothing happens.'
But after he made full repayment in early 2007, he became fearful when the auditors continued asking him about it.
'I could not have handled it on my own,' he said repeatedly.
That was why he told Ming Yi to repeat the same story - that the money was used to purchase wood - if anyone asked.
'I hoped Venerable would help me,' he said.
He added: 'Frankly, if I really wanted to steal or cheat Ren Ci's money, there are many ways, such as the charity show which commenced in 2003.
'During the annual charity show, the finance department would always hand me the money for the foreign artistes' red packets.
'After we give the red packets to the artistes, they'd re-donate to Ren Ci hospital.'
Yeung said that he was the one who would prepare the red packets.
'I've never taken a single cent,' he said.
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 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.
Yeung has been charged with conspiring to forge a Ren Ci document and giving false information to the Commissioner of Charities.