Yang Yin trial: Prosecution disputes photos shown in court

Yang trimming the toenails of Madam Chung in a photo taken on Aug 20, 2014.
Yang trimming the toenails of Madam Chung in a photo taken on Aug 20, 2014. PHOTO: WENG YANDAN
Among the photographs submitted by Yang's lawyer to make the point that the former tour guide took care of Madam Chung and took her to places where she wanted to go, is one of the two of them with a trolley of groceries at a supermarket.
Among the photographs submitted by Yang's lawyer to make the point that the former tour guide took care of Madam Chung and took her to places where she wanted to go, is one of the two of them with a trolley of groceries at a supermarket.PHOTO: COURTESY OF WENG YANDAN

Yang's lawyer says they show he treated widow well; DPP says they were taken on same day after he was sued

To support his case that former tour guide Yang Yin had treated elderly widow Chung Kin Chun well, his lawyer submitted several photographs in court yesterday.

One shows Yang with Madam Chung and a trolley full of groceries at a supermarket.

Another shows the 42-year-old in T-shirt and shorts, trimming the toenails of the childless widow he said he called "grandma".

Other photos show them eating char siew (barbecued pork) rice and him in the driver's seat of a car with her next to him.

Yang, who pleaded guilty to misappropriating $1.1 million from the 89-year-old Madam Chung, maintained that he was her companion, and wanted to "fill a void in her life" when he moved in to live with her from 2009 to 2014.

The photographs were submitted to underscore the point that he took care of her and took her to places where she wanted to go.

The prosecution did not buy this.

Instead, it pointed to the time- stamp on the photos: All of them were taken on Aug 20, 2014 - after Madam Chung's niece Hedy Mok sued him for unduly influencing her aunt into handing over her assets.

Among the photographs submitted by Yang's lawyer to make the point that the former tour guide took care of Madam Chung and took her to places where she wanted to go, is one of the two of them with a trolley of groceries at a supermarket.
Among the photographs submitted by Yang's lawyer to make the point that the former tour guide took care of Madam Chung and took her to places where she wanted to go, is one of the two of them with a trolley of groceries at a supermarket. PHOTO: COURTESY OF WENG YANDAN

  • $500k Amount Yang Yin siphoned from Madam Chung Kin Chun in 2010

    $600k Amount he siphoned in 2012

    $1.1m Total amount he took, which is still unaccounted for

"I think the inference is quite clear," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani, who questioned the purpose of the pictures.

The prosecution asked that the Chinese national be sentenced to 10 to 12 years' imprisonment for misappropriating a total of $1.1 million belonging to the elderly and "vulnerable" victim over two separate occasions- offences which call for a deterrent sentence.

Yang's lawyer, Mr Irving Choh, however, asked for a sentence not exceeding three years. His client, he argued, was a first-time offender and the sole breadwinner of his family.

Moreover, Yang shared a "warm relationship" with the widow who was diagnosed with dementia in 2014. She was lonely and her relatives rarely visited her, the lawyer said.

The $1.1 million Yang took was to pay off his grandmother's medical bills, said Mr Choh. "He does not want to deny that he did indeed take the $1.1 million... His actions were not for personal gain, but a misguided attempt to lift a financial burden which was taking a toll on his family."

According to bank statements, Yang had around $1.1 million in his bank accounts - which was not part of the charges - but he did not abscond even though he had the chance to, said Mr Choh.

DPP Vaswani, however, pointed out that the accused did try to withdraw the money, but was unable to do so as it had been frozen under a court order.

He also highlighted that the $500,000 and $600,000 which Yang had misappropriated from the widow in 2010 and 2012 remained unaccounted for.

The accused had "intentionally fostered an environment of unquestioning trust with Madam Chung", said the DPP. He capitalised on her age and lack of immediate familial support such that his actions were "free from the scrutiny of the eyes of outsiders".

"We urge the court to impose sentences reflecting both the harm and culpability involved in the offences," said DPP Vaswani.

"The lies and cover-ups pursued by the accused at length, years after the actual act of misappropriation was executed, demonstrate the depth of his commitment to deceit and fraud."

Yang's guilty plea should also be "given no weight". He did so only after undergoing 21/2 days of cross- examination, during which he showed numerous inconsistencies.

By this stage, the accused was well aware of the evidence against him, said DPP Vaswani.

Mr Choh said his client changed his mind about pleading guilty due to pressure from his family.

In the dock yesterday, Yang looked solemn as the prosecution and defence gave their submissions. He shook his head at times and turned to look in Madam Chung's direction when he was being led away by the police. Madam Mok, her aunt and other friends were present at the hearing.

Apart from criminal breach of trust charges, Yang had in May pleaded guilty to 120 other charges, mostly related to the falsification of receipts to make it appear that a business he set up was real.

The hearing for his criminal breach of trust charges will resume on Sept 21 for further submissions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'Prosecution disputes photos shown in court'. Print Edition | Subscribe