Most donors trust that funds raised for Vietnamese tourist are put to right causes

SINGAPORE - While a few people have questioned the use of funds in a crowdfunding campaign to help a Vietnamese tourist overcharged for a phone, most donors said they trusted that the money will be used properly.

More than 15 donors who responded to queries from The Straits Times (ST) said they did not mind that the starter of the campaign, entrepreneur Gabriel Kang, 37, had used the money to help other people, though a few raised concerns.

Director Terrence Tee, 31, who gave US$10, said: "I trust that he will not even try to misuse the fund as it is such a high profile incident." Manager Melvin Lee, 35, who gave US$20, said: "I believe his heart is in the right place."

Last November, about 1,650 netizens had donated on crowdfunding site Indiegogo to help Mr Pham Van Thoai, after he was allegedly conned into paying a lot more for an iPhone 6. The incident at Sim Lim Square left Mr Thoai in tears.

About $15,500 was raised, with $1,538 used to buy an iPhone 6 for Mr Thoai. But he declined the gift, accepting only about $200 worth of food items from Singapore.

Mr Kang later used the money from auctioning off the iPhone to buy an air ticket for a woman who was allegedly trafficked out of Vietnam, as well as medical supplies, sweets and toys for Thien Binh Orphanage in Dong Nai, east of Ho Chi Minh City.

Mr Kang said he has received at least one negative comment on the way he spent the funds and has addressed the netizen's concern. An earlier ST story had also quoted two donors who wished that Mr Kang had consulted them first and a few other donors have also voiced concerns since.

But most of those who responded to ST queries said they had no issue.

A donor, who wanted to be known only as Mr Goh, said "if (Mr Kang) had to ask permission here and there, nothing will be done in the end".

"Once I donated the money, it is up to him to put it into a good cause or use," added the operations executive who gave US$100.

Another donor, accounting advisor Karyn Lee, 25, said: "I am more than happy about the usage of funds - as long as the donation is routed to a good cause, I have no objections in how they are used."

Mr Kang told ST: "I've updated donors on the usage of the funds on the (Indiegogo) site. Everyone gets notified when I post (these updates)".

He added that he had used his own money to pay first for the iPhone 6 Plus and food gifts for Mr Thoai, including chilli crab sauce, kaya and barbecued pork slices. He received the donations only afterwards.

After deductions by Indiegogo and Paypal for administrative charges and the gifts to the woman and orphanage, there is about $9,000 left in the kitty.

Mr Kang has been trying to help others who have fallen prey to similar scams as Mr Thoai since last November.

While refunding the donations has been suggested by at least one donor, Mr Kang said: "The reason why I am holding on to the funds is because I'm trying to do justice to the donors by not using them frivolously. I'm finding the best option to help other scam victims."