SINGAPORE - Former China tour guide Yang Yin, who is facing two charges of misappropriating $1.1 million belonging to a widow, took the witness stand on the seventh day of his trial on Tuesday morning (Aug 2) to deny his charges.
Yang, 42, maintained that the money was a gift from 89-year-old Madam Chung Khin Chun, who is childless and was diagnosed with dementia in 2014.
He also told the court he lied to police about using the cash to buy paintings, because she did not want anyone to find out she had passed him money to avoid jealousy and gossip.
But Yang told the court he was telling the truth now. "I've already been in jail for two years. I just want to go home."
Yang is accused of committing criminal breach of trust involving $500,000 on Feb 19, 2010, and involving $600,000 on Jan 18, 2012.
During the 2½ hours that he testified through a Mandarin interpreter on Tuesday, Yang said he first came to Singapore in 2006 for a travel fair, where he met Madam Chung and her husband, who later died in July 2007.
Madam Chung and her friend Madam Chang Phie Chin, 86, met Yang when they went to Beijing in late 2008. Madam Chung asked Yang to call her every day after she returned to Singapore and he did.
Later, she asked him to "accompany" her at home in Singapore, telling him she would provide for his living expenses.
Yang came to Singapore in 2009, after Chinese New Year, and was given a hongbao of $5,000.
"I felt she wasn't joking... she wanted me to come over," said Yang.
"So I told my parents and wife and they replied: you have such a wonderful grandmother in Singapore, she seems to be treating you as her own grandson.
"You should treat her well and you shouldn't let her down. Not everyone can meet such a wonderful grandmother in life," Yang added.
In 2010, Madam Chung made a will in which Yang stood to inherit everything.
In 2011, Madam Chang asked for half of Madam Chung's money, Yang said. "I rejected. I said that this money can be shared among us. But it is to be used on our living expenses.
"Madam Chang upon hearing this was very displeased. About three to four days after having the conversation she left the home and never returned to see Madam Chung."
Yang also told the court Madam Chung had confided in him that Madam Chang was her late husband's mistress. "After I heard that I was a little taken aback," he said.
Yang lived in Madam Chung's Gerald Crescent bungalow from 2009 until 2014.
Every morning, after she had her breakfast and read the newspaper, Madam Chung would invite him to her room to talk to her, Yang said. She would also ask him to watch television with her in her room every evening after dinner. And they would shop for groceries together at Ang Mo Kio Hub every Friday.
Madam Chung's friends would visit her about once a month, while her niece, Madam Hedy Mok, would visit her once every few months, Yang said. Madam Chung told Yang to avoid the visitors to her home, he said, because she "did not want other to know about our relationship".
In 2013, after Chinese New Year, she told him to bring his wife and two children over to Singapore. They arrived in August 2013, on tickets that Yang bought.
"Madam Chung was very happy because she had the children to play with. She felt that the home was livelier. It did not seem as boring as when the two of us were alone together," Yang said.
In April last year, the courts recognised a new statutory will that Madam Mok made on Madam Chung's behalf, that would leave most of her assets to charity.
Madam Mok took out a series of civil actions in 2014, saying her aunt had been unduly influenced by Yang. She also sued him for manipulating the widow to control her assets, worth an estimated $40 million.
Yang was arrested in Sept 2014 and charged a month later with a slew of crimes - mostly related to falsifying receipts made to his company, Young Dance and Music Studio, so he could stay in Singapore.
Yang, who has been in remand since October 2014, was also charged with cheating, immigration crimes and breaking Companies Act laws.
On May 31, he pleaded guilty to 120 out of 347 charges. The rest will be taken into account when he is sentenced, after the ongoing trial for his most serious charges is over.
The trial is scheduled to resume on Wednesday (Aug 3) with Yang's cross-examination.