SINGAPORE - A former property agent has denied allegations that he misappropriated cheques worth more than half a million dollars that were handed to him by an elderly client who was blind in one eye.
Mr Chan Kee Kok, 89, had hired Terence Yan Khek Yong, 29, in mid-2010 to help him sell his apartment at The Modena in Simei Street and help him buy a smaller one nearby.
Between Sept 25 and Oct 7 that year, Mr Chan handed him five cheques totalling $559,200 - none of them meant for Yan's benefit, prosecutors argued.
Yan, now a businessman, is also accused of instigating Mr Chan's Indonesian maid, Ms Sarina, then 25, to give false evidence to the police to the effect that her employer had told Yan to spend a $200,000 cheque issued to him.
Mr Chan was a wheelchair user and retiree who was blind in one eye and had poor vision in the other. He died a year ago, aged 91.
His condo unit - where he lived with his intellectually impaired daughter Chan See Liu, in her 60s - was sold for $1.05 million in November 2010 and he paid 2 per cent of the sale price as commission to Yan three months before the sale was completed.
Yan, who worked for HSR International Realtors at the time, arranged the purchase of a smaller flat at Eastpoint Green in Simei Street 3. Mr Chan paid $740,000 in cash for it and registered it in his daughter's name. He paid Yan 7 per cent of the purchase price in commission plus GST amounting to $55,426 for Yan's services.
Deputy public prosecutors Leong Wing Tuck and Nicholas Tan said in their opening statement on Tuesday that evidence will show Yan received five further cheques from Mr Chan after he had received his commissions in full. "None of these was intended for the personal benefit of the accused," they said.
Prosecutors said they will cite evidence to prove the cheques - ranging from $59,200 to $150,000 - were entrusted to Yan by Mr Chan, who was led to believe they were required for buying the Eastpoint property.
Mr Chan's maid wrote Yan's name as the payee on the first OCBC cheque for $59,200 while the other four - two sums each of $100,000 and $150,000 - were written by Yan himself.
Mr Simon Quek, 39, a former vice-president of DBS Bank, testified that the manager of DBS' White Sands branch highlighted irregularity in signatures on a $200,000 cheque issued by Mr Chan to Yan on Oct 12 that year.
The former cop, who is managing director of his own corporate risk advisory firm, said he and his colleague reviewed the accounts of Mr Chan and Yan and discovered an earlier $150,000 cheque payment from Mr Chan to Yan.
"When my colleague and I were reviewing Terence Yan's account, we noticed several huge payments going in," he said. "Payments were then withdrawn from his account and there were many withdrawals made from RWS (Resorts World Sentosa) ATMs."
On Oct 14, 2010, Mr Quek and two of his colleagues visited Mr Chan, who showed them sheets of foolscap paper with handwritten scribblings of amounts paid to Yan for the property transaction.
Mr Chan later gave Mr Quek the go-ahead to call the police. Mr Quek told them Mr Chan might have been cheated but could not go down to the station to make a report as he was immobilised.
Yan, defended by Mr Looi Teck Kheong, faces up to 20 years in jail and a fine if convicted of criminal breach of trust as an agent.
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