Tussle over $40m assets: Widow has little money 'so bungalow must go'

Her niece says 87-year-old's bank savings not enough to cover even a month's expenses

The sprawling single-storey bungalow at Gerald Crescent has been Madam Chung Khin Chun's home for more than half a century.

Now, it seems that the 87-year-old widow, whose entanglement with China tour guide Yang Yin has led to a series of criminal and civil cases, can no longer afford to hang on to the house she and her husband bought in 1961.

Her niece, Madam Hedy Mok, has told the authorities that the elderly woman, who is suffering from dementia, has less than $10,000 left in the bank. That cannot cover Madam Chung's estimated monthly expenses of $9,600 - which include the hiring of two maids and a driver.

The bungalow, believed to be worth $30 million, needs around $500,000 to fix up, having fallen into some disrepair over the last few years, she added.

When The Sunday Times visited the house, located near Yio Chu Kang Road, last month, roof tiles were discoloured, and a section of the ceiling at the rear porch had become stained with brown marks, signs that rainwater was seeping in. A light at the main porch was also broken.

Parts of the exterior walls were coated with algae, while the wooden decking around the 12m-long swimming pool where Madam Chung used to swim daily was rotting.

Inside, the granite floor tiles were coated with grime and dirt. Rosewood dining chairs were broken and the three bedrooms smelled of mothballs. In one of the bedrooms, there were doodle marks on the walls made with blue marker pens.

According to Madam Chung's OCBC Bank statement dated Nov 14, which The Sunday Times has seen, she only had $8,506. The same statement showed that the account had nearly $1 million in January 2010.

"With the sale, she can buy a smaller house for $5 million, have money to spend and still leave enough for charity," the 61-year-old Madam Mok, who runs a tour agency, told The Sunday Times.

Having been appointed her aunt's guardian by the courts, she has told the Office of the Public Guardian of the plans to sell the bungalow, where currently only a maid is staying along with Lily, Madam Chung's pet dog.

The money could be used to set up a trust fund to support her aunt financially and support charitable causes.

Since August, the widow has been living with her niece at her semi-detached house off Upper East Coast Road.

Madam Mok has alleged that Yang, whom Madam Chung met in 2008 when he acted as her personal tour guide during a China trip, had manipulated her aunt for his own gain. But Yang says that the childless widow, whose husband Dr Chou Sip King died in 2007, had adopted him as a "grandson".

In 2009, he moved into her bungalow. Three years later, he was given a lasting power of attorney (LPA) by the widow to manage her welfare and financial affairs.

His wife and two young children joined him in Singapore in 2013. But last September, they were evicted from the bungalow by Madam Mok.

Yang, a permanent resident, has since been charged with misappropriating $1.1 million of the widow's money.

The 40-year-old also faces more than 300 charges of cheating, breaking Companies Act rules, lying to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and faking receipts issued by his music and dance studio.

The courts have also allowed Madam Chung to revoke the 2012 LPA.

Madam Mok, on behalf of her aunt, is suing Yang for damages.Earlier this month, he said in court documents that the $1.13 million in his four OCBC Bank accounts was a gift from Madam Chung.

Last December, Madam Chung also made a will which leaves most of her fortune to charity. Madam Mok filed the new will in the Family Court on her aunt's behalf earlier this month. This is supposed to replace a 2010 will in which Madam Chung left everything to Yang.

"Thankfully, I have some means to fight the court cases and to look after my aunt for now," said Madam Mok. "But I still need to make long-term plans for her."

Madam Mok set up her first travel agency when she was 18, after her O levels. She now has 15 staff working at her agency in Singapore Shopping Centre.

She also owns investment properties in Singapore, Turkey and Indonesia.

She said that the court cases have taken her away from her business. She missed a travel show in Brazil last October and cut short one in India the month before, when Yang was arrested.

She harbours some regret about not having seen her aunt more often in the past. "But my aunt is a private person," she said. "But it is all right, I get to spend more time with her now."

tohyc@sph.com.sg

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg