An Indonesian maid who works for a wealthy widow alleged that she was promised "a lot of money" by former China tour guide Yang Yin if she would say good things about him and his family.
She said no to the bribe, and instead described to a court how he treated her employer, 88-year-old Madam Chung Khin Chun, when he lived with her.
This was one of the more startling revelations that emerged from the decision grounds of District Judge Shobha G. Nair released last Thursday. In it, she explained why she threw out a will which left Madam Chung's $35 million fortune to Yang.
The judge replaced it with one in which he gets nothing, with most of the money going to charity. Yang, who is 41, is contesting the decision.
The Family Court hearing in May, held behind closed doors, involved documentary evidence from Madam Chung's neighbours, friends, a former driver and her maid against Yang, which described how he allegedly took control of the woman's life and money, and drove away those close to her.
The close friend
One of the key witnesses was an unmarried 84-year-old retired teacher who was invited to live with Madam Chung and her husband at their Gerald Crescent bungalow in 2004.
She said that at the time, Madam Chung's husband, Dr Chou Sip King, was in poor health and wanted someone to look after his wife, who had begun to show signs of forgetfulness and mental deterioration.
She met Yang in 2005, when he was her tour guide on trip to China.
He kept in touch after that, even meeting her during his trips here.
In 2008, a year after Dr Chou's death, she and Madam Chung planned a trip to China. She asked Yang to be their guide.
But after the trip, she said that she found it strange that he continued to contact Madam Chung and have long conversations with her - given that he was a recently married man.
In 2009, Yang moved in with Madam Chung, set up a company with her, and went on to receive permanent residency. According to the close friend, he asked Madam Chung to sponsor his stay in Singapore on the pretext of wanting to learn English here.
His course fees of $4,000 were paid for by the widow, she said.
That same year, she said that she put in $200,000 into a new OCBC Bank joint account with Madam Chung. The money was to be used by either one should anything happen to the other. Sometime later, when the friend wanted to use the funds, she was told there was nothing left.
The friend said that when Madam Chung tried to put in money from another account with DBS, the cheque bounced. Yang was told to take the women to OCBC. There, she said that Yang carried out a transfer to return the money to her.
That was when she realised Yang had control over Madam Chung's money, without the widow's knowledge, the friend alleged. She considered going to the police, but moved out in 2011 instead.
Another close friend of Madam Chung and her husband said she was puzzled by the distance Yang kept from the widow's acquaintances.
For instance, he would drop the widow off at her house, but never came in or spoke to the friend.
She said that in 2012, she observed Madam Chung becoming less talkative and cheerful, and linked it to Yang's influence. The judge, however, said this could be due to the widow's deteriorating health.
A neighbour, who would often drop by to speak to the retired teacher living with Madam Chung, gave evidence as to the discomfort Yang's presence was causing.
She said the retired teacher told her how Yang would ask for sums of money, ranging from $4,000 to $40,000. She was also told that Yang asked for money to buy university qualification papers from China so that he could apply for permanent residency.
In 2004, a lawyer described in the grounds of judgment as Mr C, was approached to act for Dr Chou in a real-estate matter. But the relationship turned into a personal one - with Mr C often visiting the couple.
After Dr Chou's death, he continued to visit Madam Chung. In 2008, she asked for his help in updating a will she made in 1989.
In that will, she left much of her assets to a trust fund to benefit various charities, including the Community Chest, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Nursing Foundation of Singapore, the Singapore Zoo and the Cultural Foundation of Singapore.
She wanted to add provisions that would provide her close friend, her driver and her maid with food and medical expenses. She also wanted to let her close friend live at her house for as long as she wanted.
In addition, she asked for a charitable trust fund to be set up in her husband's name.
Mr C, who not familiar with probate practice, roped in a colleague, Mr D, to help make the new will. In June 2009, they presented her with a draft at her home. Not wanting to rush her, the will was not signed.
In March 2010, Madam Chung, in a departure from the norm, arranged to meet the lawyers at their office. Yang, who went with her, was introduced as her nephew.
According to Mr D, Yang claimed that he was a Chinese Embassy staff member. He declined to exchange name cards saying it was not appropriate for embassy staff to do so.
In subsequent meetings, Mr C observed that Yang "became her mouthpiece" even though Madam Chung had no problems communicating. He did not probe further as "it was not my place to do so".
In their last meeting in December 2010, Madam Chung was asked if she wanted sign the draft will. According to Mr D, Yang said Madam Chung did not, and that she no longer needed their services.
A 79-year-old man, who had been working as a driver for Madam Chung and her husband since 1979 before being fired in 2009, also gave evidence in the case.
He described the couple as kind, and said they gave him groceries every week to take home. He claimed that this was an arrangement which Yang was not happy with.
He said Yang often asked Madam Chung for money and luxury items. He said he warned his employer that Yang was a "gold digger" and that she would one day be cast aside. He also told her he wanted to quit as he did not like how Yang would "boss" and intimidate him.
Sometime in 2009, he argued with Yang over why the latter fixed "blind spot mirrors" onto Madam Chung's car. The driver said the mirrors made it difficult for him to drive. Yang gave evidence that the driver was rude and attacked him.
That very day, Madam Chung handed the driver a letter of termination and a $50,000 cheque. According to the driver, she told him to accept the gift as he would get nothing on her death.
Before Yang entered Madam Chung's life, she had two Indonesian maids working for her. They, too, gave their versions of events.
The one who had worked at the bungalow earlier described her employer's generosity. She said the widow paid for her medical expenses and gave bonuses to her helpers during the festive seasons.
She also described how Madam Chung's daily routine involved meeting friends, adding that the gate to her house was "never locked". But everything changed with Yang's arrival. In 2012, she was fired for no apparent reason, she added.
The maid who was kept on said she was ordered not to allow Madam Chung's friends to come by. When Yang's wife and children moved in, she was told to serve them.
She said that when Yang's family went out in the car, Madam Chung was always left alone in the house.
She claimed that the family also went travelling nearly every month.
She described how before leaving, Yang would lock Madam Chung's art galleries and keep the key with him.
She also said Yang was disrespectful to the widow and recalled an incident when he shouted at his benefactor in the gallery. She claimed that paintings and items in the house started to disappear.
Before his family joined him in Singapore, she claimed that Yang would smoke in the house, and drink red wine. She described Yang as "lazy", only waking up at 11.30am.
She said he would talk to Madam Chung only during meal times. He would kiss and hug her - acts the maid described as insincere, and which were meant to make Madam Chung think that he cared for her.
The maid who was fired added that Yang even entertained female visitors at night.
The maid who was allowed to continue working also testified how Yang stopped Madam Chung from visiting her regular doctor and changed her medication. She said she observed the widow's health getting worse.
When the widow's niece Hedy Mok started legal proceedings against Yang, the maid said in her affidavit how Yang accused her of leaking information about the goings-on in the house. He then "tried to bribe me into helping his case", she said.
"He told me that he would not hurt me and would give me a lot of money if I say good things about him and his family.
"I did not accept his offer. I wish to say that during that interrogation, Madam was translating everything. She had a look of fear on her face."
Judge's scathing remarks
The district judge said the evidence showed Yang had put together a "carefully knitted plan to have Madam Chung believe that he cared for her and that the quickly formed relationship could be trusted.
"The plan was in fact a web of deceit and (Madam Chung) was caught in it. The unfortunate reality is that (Madam Chung's) money and assets were (Yang's) sole interest and he pursued it with unconscionable drive," said the judge.
She highlighted how Yang declined to question the witnesses who gave evidence against him. She criticised Yang for raising the suggestion that the friend who lived with Madam Chung had an improper relationship with her husband, without providing any evidence.
Yang's main defence was the fact that before Madam Chung executed her new wills of 2009 and 2010, she was seen by a doctor who gave the opinion she had the mental capacity to do so. But the judge said the issue was whether she was under the undue influence of Yang at the time - an influence which was stronger than her true will.
She questioned Yang's motivation given that the wills were surreptitiously and hurriedly made soon after he came to live with Madam Chung, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2014, and without any independent advice.
She said his price for caring for Madam Chung was holidays with his family, money and expensive purchases, including a private property which was subsequently sold for a significant profit that found its way into Yang's personal bank account.
She also asked why, if the only motivation was to care for a woman he saw as his grandmother, Yang continues to insist he should benefit from the estate. She called this an unjust request, considering that a "tidy sum" of Madam Chung's money had already been given to him.
The judge hoped that by replacing the will which gave everything to Yang with one that restores Madam Chung's original intentions to give most of her money to charity, would bring back some balance in the widow's life. "Rather ironically," the judge added, "the yin and the yang".
Mr Ramachandran Doraisamy Raghunath served as Madam Mok's lawyer at the hearing, while Yang was represented by lawyer Joseph Liow. Madam Chung's lawyer is Mr Eugene Thuraisingam.
This article was first published on August 30, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.