Yang Yin trial: Ex-tour guide changes mind again, decides not to plead guilty

The long-running Yang Yin saga took yet another twist on Wednesday (July 27), when the former tour guide "changed his mind" and decided not to plead guilty to misappropriating $1.1 million from an elderly widow.

The about-turn came less than three weeks after Yang had abruptly decided to plead guilty to two criminal breach of trust charges on the fifth day of the trial.

But in court on Wednesday morning, lawyer Irving Choh confirmed that Yang had once again changed his mind and decided to continue with the trial.

According to Lianhe Wanbao, he confirmed his decision not to plead guilty, saying: "There are still many pieces of evidence that we have yet to show."

Yang is accused of misappropriating $500,000 and $600,000 from 89-year-old Madam Ching Khin Chun on two separate occasions.

He had at first told police that he used the $500,000 to buy a painting of a horse by renowned Chinese artist Xu Beihong. He later claimed that the half-a-million sum had been a "gift" to him from the elderly widow.

But earlier in the trial, the prosecution had presented an art expert as a witness, who testfied that the painting was a fake worth a paltry $200.

Meanwhile, he claimed that the second sum of $600,000 was purportedly to be used to open an art gallery in Hong Kong.

On Wednesday, the prosecution's final witness, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Jane Lim took the stand.

According to Lianhe Wanbao, she told the court that Yang had given two differing accounts over how he had spent the $600,000 when he was interviewed by police in 2014.

He at first claimed that after taking out the $600,000, he had passed the cash to Madam Chung. But he later changed tune, saying that he had used the money to buy paintings.

DSP Lim also revealed that before the alleged misappropriations, Madam Chung had assets of about $2.74 million, comprising $950,000 in her bank account and $1.78 million in unit trusts in 2009.

However by August 2014, she was left with only $9,212 in her bank account, Wanbao reported.

Yang had been Madam Chung's tour guide in Beijing in 2008. A year later, he moved in to stay with her in her Gerald Crescent bungalow.

By 2012, the childless widow had granted full control of her assets to Yang via a Lasting Power of Attorney. However, when she was diagnosed with dementia in 2014, her niece, Madam Hedy Mok, begun court proceedings against Yang.

He was charged with 349 criminal offences and pleaded guilty to 120 of these in May this year, including offences involving his permanent residency and falsification of receipts.

seanyap@sph.com.sg