The Real Singapore trial

Yang 'ran TRS website for at least a year after launch'

Mr Durai, a former business partner of Yang (above), said in court yesterday that Yang asked him for help with the website more than a year after its launch, such as recommending a developer for a TRS mobile app. Yang claims that he was involved in TRS fo
Mr Durai, a former business partner of Yang (above), said in court yesterday that Yang asked him for help with the website more than a year after its launch, such as recommending a developer for a TRS mobile app. Yang claims that he was involved in TRS for only a month. ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW
Mr Durai (above), a former business partner of Yang (far left), said in court yesterday that Yang asked him for help with the website more than a year after its launch, such as recommending a developer for a TRS mobile app. Yang claims that he was involve
Mr Durai (above), a former business partner of Yang, said in court yesterday that Yang asked him for help with the website more than a year after its launch, such as recommending a developer for a TRS mobile app. Yang claims that he was involved in TRS for only a month. ST PHOTOS: WONG KWAI CHOW

The co-founder of The Real Singapore, Yang Kaiheng, 27, continued to run the now-defunct socio-political website for at least a year after its launch in January 2012, his former partner in an online business said yesterday.

Undergraduate K. Sudesh Durai, 26, told a district court that Yang had said in an application to enter a start-up competition that he and Ai Takagi "started and continue to run an online media news site at www.therealsingapore.com, from which advertising revenue is gained".

Yang had also described the site as "the most successful" business he has started to date, and "one of the top 100 sites traffic-wise in Singapore".

That was in January 2013.

Two months later, Yang asked him to recommend a developer to produce a TRS mobile app, like that of The Straits Times, said Mr Durai, whose testimony runs counter to Yang's claim that his involvement in TRS was "fleeting".

 Yang, who faces seven counts of sedition, denies the charges, claiming his involvement was for only a month in 2012. He also told the police that his involvement in TRS was only in the advertising aspects.

Mr Durai was Yang's former Yishun Junior College schoolmate and a floorball teammate.

The court heard yesterday, the sixth day of the trial, that the two men reconnected in January 2012 over Facebook.

Mr Durai said he noticed Yang "always spoke about entrepreneurial ventures, and he used technical terms when describing online businesses".

In late 2012, he and Yang, along with another friend and Takagi, who is now Yang's wife, started Acreet, a website that partnered with companies to give away vouchers and gifts.

Amid discussions about Acreet conducted over WhatsApp and Facebook, Yang asked Mr Durai for help with the TRS website several times.

In one instance, he asked Mr Durai to think of merchandise he could sell on the TRS Facebook page, offering up to 20 per cent of the profits to Mr Durai if the idea took off.

That was because Yang had tried to sell T-shirts with such slogans as "I want to be a millionaire so that I can buy my HDB" and "That moment you realised COE costs more than your entire education".

But sales were disappointing as only 5,000 people bought the T-shirts, each bringing him a $2 profit.

"If you can think of something simple that 500,000 people will buy and go viral, then we can earn our first pot of gold from my website," Yang had written to Mr Durai.

He also told Mr Durai he earned about $4,000 to $5,000 a month from TRS advertising revenue.

When Mr Durai said it was a "very decent amount", Yang replied in a Facebook message in broken English: "i wan earn more. i wan buy car bungalow. $4-5k where got enuff?"

Both men parted company in April 2013 over disagreements on how Acreet should be run.

During cross-examination, Yang's lawyer, Mr Choo Zheng Xi, asked Mr Durai whether it was he who suggested to Yang what to highlight in his application.

Mr Durai said he could not remember.

During the cross-examination, Deputy Public Prosecutor G. Kannan took issue with Yang using his mobile phone to communicate with Takagi, a material witness, while in the dock.

Yang said his pregnant wife was bleeding and seeing a gynaecologist at Singapore General Hospital.

Takagi was sentenced earlier to 10 months' jail after pleading guilty to four counts of sedition.

The hearing continues.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Yang 'ran TRS website for at least a year after launch''. Print Edition | Subscribe