Yang Yin saga: Sale will close sad chapter of widow's life, says niece

Two of Singapore’s most storied houses are now on the auction block. One is a small single-storey terraced house off Upper Thomson Road where two sets of skeletal remains were found, the other is a bungalow on a sprawling piece of land off Yio Chu Kang Road that was almost swindled from a rich widow. Senior correspondent Toh Yong Chuan tells the stories behind these two houses.

The sale of the bungalow that was almost swindled from a wealthy widow by a former tour guide from China will close a sad chapter of her life, said the woman's niece.

The 31,882 sq ft property at 2F, Gerald Crescent, off Yio Chu Kang Road, belongs to retired physiotherapist Chung Khin Chun, 91.

On Thursday, estate agency Savills Singapore put up the property for sale by tender, or closed auction, at a minimum price of $35 million.

The land, about the size of half a football field, has a 999-year lease that started in 1879.

"The bulk of the sale (proceeds) will go to charity," Madam Chung's niece Hedy Mok, 64, told The Sunday Times yesterday. "With the sale, we want to put what happened behind us," she added.

The property nearly slipped out of Madam Chung's hands when former tour guide Yang Yin, 43, tried to swindle her of it.

She met Yang in 2008 on a trip to China, when he was her tour guide.

A year later, Yang moved into her bungalow and brought his family here. He coaxed the widow to grant him Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to manage her financial affairs. He also got her to make a will where he stood to inherit everything, including the house.

Yang's ruse was exposed by Madam Mok in 2014.

She spirited her aunt away from the house when Yang was overseas.

Madam Mok also started a series of legal actions, including evicting Yang from the bungalow and revoking the LPA and the will.

The will has since been thrown out by the courts.

Under Madam Chung's new will, her sister Doris - who is Madam Mok's mother - and family friend Chang Phie Chin will receive $250,000 each, and the rest of her estate will go to charity. They have not decided which charities will be the beneficiaries.

Madam Chung, whose husband, Dr Chou Sip King, died in 2007, is childless and was diagnosed with dementia in 2014.

Madam Mok has been appointed her aunt's deputy, or guardian.

Yang pleaded guilty in August 2016 to misappropriating $1.1 million from Madam Chung and to 120 other charges, including falsifying receipts for a sham company to live here and obtain permanent residency.

He was sentenced to a total of 11 years and two months in jail.

Madam Mok said she had put the house up for sale because it was too expensive to upkeep.

"Only a maid and two dogs live there now," she said.

Madam Chung has been living with Madam Mok at her semi-detached house off Upper East Coast Road since 2014.

Her house in Gerald Crescent used to be bigger, at about 71,000 sq ft, which the couple bought for $40,000 in 1961.

In 2004, the couple sold their 39,000 sq ft garden for $7.6 million to a developer, who built 25 terraced houses in a gated community.

Savills Singapore's senior director for investment sales Suzie Mok said the latest tender is rare because land of such a size is seldom made available for sale.

The land parcel can be broken up to build 11 landed houses, comprising two detached houses, a pair of semi-detached houses and seven terraced houses.

On the price tag, Ms Mok said it is about the price of a good-class bungalow (GCB), the most prestigious segment of landed property in Singapore.

But the property has an advantage over GCBs in that it can be subdivided into smaller plots for sale in the future, she added.

The tender for the sale closes on March 22. Ms Mok said there have been about 10 inquiries so far.

Madam Chung told The Sunday Times yesterday that given what had happened, she is indifferent to the sale of the house that was her home from 1961 to 2014.

"I feel nothing now," she said. "So many things have happened. If we have to sell (the house), so be it."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 25, 2018, with the headline Yang Yin saga: Sale will close sad chapter of widow's life, says niece. Subscribe