Tussle over Singaporean widow's wealth sparks outrage

SINGAPORE - Allegations that a Chinese man has manipulated a 87-year-old Singaporean widow to give him control over her fortune have sparked outrage in the city-state.

The Straits Times newspaper reported Friday that a niece of Chung Khin Chun, a retired physiotherapist suffering from dementia, has asked the High Court to strip Yang Yin, 40, of a power-of-attorney from the widow.

Yang was a tourist guide when he first met Chung in China in 2008 and later developed a relationship with the woman, who eventually allowed him to live in her Singaporean home. Yang's wife and two young children also moved in last year.

Local websites were swamped Friday with attacks against Chinese nationals in reaction to the report, with some comparing the saga to the tussle over the late Hong Kong multi-billionaire Nina Wang's fortune.

While Chung's assets are relatively more modest, they include a sprawling suburban bungalow worth an estimated S$30 million, a rare property on an island where most people live in high-rise apartment blocks.

The Straits Times said Chung's niece Hedy Mok, 60, had asked the court to freeze all of the elderly woman's assets amid proceedings to revoke Yang's power-of-attorney, which he obtained in 2012.

"The defendant now has sole authority and control over my aunt's assets and personal welfare, leaving my aunt in a vulnerable situation," Mok said in a court filing, according to the Straits Times.

"I deeply fear for my aunt's safety and well-being as the defendant has shown that he has neglected her welfare and is merely manipulating her for his own benefit." The newspaper said Yang is now a permanent resident in Singapore. Nearly 40 per cent of the city-state's population aren't citizens.

Mok alleged that Yang got Chung to send money to his bank account in the Chinese city of Hangzhou on numerous occasions, with amounts ranging from S$4,000 to S$40,000, the report said.

Yang, who is currently overseas, has asked for a court adjournment to respond to the allegations. His wife was caught in a standoff at the widow's home with Mok on Tuesday.

Some Singaporeans commented that the case was reminiscent of the tussle between the estate of the late Nina Wang and a geomancy master, Tony Chan, who claimed to be the sole beneficiary of her S$13 billion (S416.3 billion) fortune after her death at 69 in 2007.

Chan was convicted of forging a will and sentenced to 12 years in jail.