Abbot 'pressed' me into casino deal: Businessman

SINGAPORE - A 48-year-old businessman has taken an abbot of a temple to court over a casino deal involving about $1.4 million.

Mr Chua Kwee Sin alleges he had handed the money to Venerable Meow Di, 45, to start a casino in Cambodia, the High Court heard on Tuesday. But the venture did not materialise and he wants his money back.

Ven Meow Di, however, claims in court papers that his role was to introduce investors like Mr Chua to business consultant William Tan Kheng Tiong, whom he alleges is the brains behind the idea.

On Tuesday, when the hearing began, Mr Chua testified that Ven Meow Di had persuaded him to hand over $1,394,860 after he approached the abbot between August and October 2009 for investment advice.

He wanted advice on entering the oil industry but the abbot, who heads a temple in Geylang, allegedly told him and three other men that investing in a casino business would be the "far safer option".

Mr Chua said Ven Meow Di "pressed" him to join the venture, assuring him his "men" would run the casino, while he would manage the money.

The businessman was eventually persuaded, but brought proceedings after the casino was not opened as promised.

"My understanding of the casino agreement was that as long as I left it to the monk to have things done, he will be responsible as promised," Mr Chua told the court.

But Ven Meow Di has claimed in court documents that the money Mr Chua seeks had been handed to Mr Tan, who had sought new investors here, while consulting the monk for advice on fengshui.

Ven Meow Di maintains he has "no interest in business" and his only role had been to introduce investors to Mr Tan.

He is also counter-suing for damages over an allegedly defamatory letter sent to his temple in 2010 that demanded the money be returned.

Mr Tan, former chief executive of a company engaged in live online casino and gaming operations in Cambodia and Vietnam, is also named in the suit as a third party by Ven Meow Di, who wants him to bear the liability for any damages ordered.

The 43-year-old, however, claims he did not receive the money.

He had only helped to prepare relevant documents and acted as a manager because he believed the monk trusted him "wholeheartedly".

Mr Tan is also said to have been introduced to the monk in 2009 and to have known Mr Chua from before.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

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