Not guilty, says monk

by Zul Othman, Today Online, Apr 3, 2009

Monk allegedly disguised $50,000 paid to aide asloan to cultural centre
-- NINE months after his arrest made headlines, Singapore’s most famous abbot, Shi Ming Yi (picture), walked into the Subordinate Courts yesterday for his long awaited trial.

Flanked by black-suited lawyers and dressed in his usual saffron robes, the former Ren Ci chief executive strode into Court 19, perhaps eager that his day in court had come at last.

Sitting in the dock with co-accused Raymond Yeung as the charges were read, Ming Yi — whose real name is Goh Kah Heng — looked pensive.

But he replied with confidence: “I would like to claim trial”.

The prosecution — led by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Jaswant Singh — presented details of the case, saying it will show that the monk gave $50,000 of Ren Ci’s money to his former personal executive Yeung on May 17, 2004.

The money was supposedly a loan for the renovation of Yeung’s friend’s flat in Hong Kong. To hide this loan, Ming Yi supposedly conspired with Yeung to categorise the payout as a loan to Mandala Buddhist Cultural Centre, a company selling Buddhist artifacts which the monk had a share in.

The loan was repaid in 2007.

The prosecution said it had evidence to prove that at the time of the offence, Yeung — a 34-year-old Australian national holding Singapore permanent residency — had not been able to obtain an employment pass and thus could not have been legally employed by Ren Ci.

When he was arrested last July, the 48-year-old Ming Yi — the founder of Ren Ci Hospital and Medicare Centre — was slapped with 10 counts of defrauding the charity, forgery and helping to falsify its accounts, among others.

He was suspended from his duties at the hospital as well as five other Buddhist temples and charities.

But yesterday, the prosecution said it will proceed with four charges — providing false or misleading information to the Commissioner of Charities, plotting to falsify a payment voucher and embezzling of Ren Ci funds — while the others will be stood down.

Yeung faces two charges, including one of helping Ming Yi forge a Ren Ci document.

Taking the stand, Ms Lynda Soong, a director with the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) community partnership and development unit, said her ministry began looking into the affairs of the charity sometime in July 2006, finding lapses in Ren Ci’s corporate governance and internal controls.

“Generally, weaknesses were alsospotted in other charities, but the ones spotted in Ren Ci gave MOH particular concern,” she said.

As a result, the ministry appointed auditors Ernst and Young to do an “in depth review” in October 2006.

Ren Ci was the second largest charity under the purview of the ministry.

Mr Ngan Wan-Sing, an Ernst and Young partner who led the inquiry, also testified yesterday.

Senior Counsel Andre Yeap, defending Ming Yi, argued that the auditors might not have done a thorough job when checking Ren Ci and Mandala’s books. He said the $50,000 was a loan from Ren Ci to Mandala and was reflected in the debtor’s confirmation letters that Mandala had given to Ren Ci.

But Mr Ngan said there were reasons why they did not ask for the verification letters: The amounts in both books tallied and that Mandala’s accounts were already audited and verified.

“Since both parties are related, the reliability (of the debtor confirmation) would not be as reliable as third parties,” he added. “Shi Min Yi was involved in Mandala and he is also CEO of Ren Ci”.

The answer did not sit well with the Senior Counsel.

“Life, liberty and freedom are at stake here,” said Mr Yeap. “Shouldn’t the level of diligence be the same or higher as the case of normal audits?”

The trial comes after the monk tried unsuccessfully last month to have the case transferred to a higher court for fear of an unfair trial. Mr Yeap had then argued that Mr Tan Siong Thye, the former head of the Commercial Affairs Department who had investigated Ming Yi, was now the Subordinate Courts’ top judge. This would prejudice the case against his client, added the lawyer.

The trial continues.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: