DR TAN IT KOON: MY OLD FRIEND KATHLEEN CHOU CHEATED OF HER POSSESSIONS BY YANG YIN, A MALE TOURIST GUIDE FROM CHINA

[Note: The Chinese press has contacted Dr Tan and confirmed the authenticity of this letter. Dr Tan said he wrote the letter for private circulation among his personal friends. He wanted to let his friends know the whole story of how Yang cheated his good friend Mdm Kathleen Chung. He told the media that he did not intent his letter to go public. He did not know who posted it online.]

Kathleen and her deceased husband Dr Chou Sip King lived in a single-storey bungalow house with a huge garden at Gerald Crescent off Yio Chu Kang Rod. They used to own other propertied and had a variety of investments. I first came to know them in the late 1970s when they applied to join a professional visit to China I organised for the Singapore Professional Centre. They also joined two subsequent visits to different parts of China which I organised and led.

We were healthcare professionals and shared same interest in visual and performing arts. Kathleen loved beautiful jewellery and often had rings, earrings, necklace, bracelets specially designed for her. She often visited jewellery stores and exhibitions with her female friends. Her jade pieces were much admired by friends and acquaintances. Kathleen also had a keen interest in paintings and other beautiful works of art. We used to visit art exhibitions, art galleries and museums, and purchased art works together. She had a good collection of water-colour, Chinese ink/colour, acrylic and oil paintings by well-known artists from Singapore, Indonesia, China, Korea, Europe and Russia. She also bought ceramic works of art; sculptures made of wood, bronze, precious stone and semi-precious stones; antique furniture and a variety of artistic craft works. The cost of the acquired artworks ranged from several hundred to tens of thousands dollars. These were displayed on all the available wall spaces and nooks and corners of her house. Over the years, her collection of art works grew so large that she had to build two separate building to serve as galleries for their display. She and her husband would enjoy listening to music and viewing the art works in their private galleries during their leisure and after evening meals. Friends were often invited to view their collections. Besides an enthusiastic art collector, Kathleen was also a regular member of the audience for music, drama and dance performances by local and foreign artistes or companies at the concert halls and theatres.

Kathleen and her husband were nature and animal lovers. They used to keep up to 10 dogs of various breeds. They had special shelters made for them but were allowed to roam free in the compound most of the time. As keen gardeners, they took great care in planning their garden which contained many exotic plants and good variety of fruit trees such as durian, chiku, mangosteen, rambutan, and jackfruit. There was a natural spring which provided underground water for a lily and koi fish pond. Dr Chou was very good with his hands and devoted several parts of the garden to his creation of mini-scenery of mountains, gorges, waterfalls, rivers and villages. Artificial and miniature bonsai plants served as trees. Tiny ceramic, houses, pagodas, pavilions, human figurines, animals and birds were added to liven up the mini-landscape. The garden was beautiful and unique. It was featured in one or more publications on Gardens of Singapore. Local and foreign garden enthusiasts used to request for visits to the house to view and take photos.

From the early 1990s, due to my heavy work commitments, increasing professional involvements with national, regional and international professional health-care organisations such as the WHO, as well as requirement for frequent travels to participate in meetings and organise large-scale congresses, opportunities for leisure activities decreased significantly. I was only able to visit Kathleen and her husband occasionally.

When Dr Chou’s health deteriorated, an unmarried retired school teacher Madam Chang was requested to help looking after him. Eventually, she was invited to stay at the house. Sometime after the demise of Dr Chou, I was shocked to learn that a young man from China was staying with Kathleen. This stay turned out to be an extended one and a nightmare. He started his evil agenda of taking over all her possessions and sinking permanent roots in Singapore.

Workers of the Ridpest Company employed for inspection and treatment of termites and other pests told me what they witnessed in Kathleen’s house when they came to my place for regular checks. A mutual old friend, Ah Siew, who used to do house repairs and renovation work at Kathleen’s house also told me he saw the man several times. I decided to find out the background of this man and asked Kathleen to introduce him when I paid her a visit. He told me his name was Yang Yin (杨寅). He was from Hangzhou and worked as a tour guide. He was hired by Madam Chang and Kathleen for their private sight-seeing tour in China. He attended courses on cultural management before his employment as a tour guide. He was unable to get regular employment in Singapore as he did not have the required qualification, skills and experience. He volunteered his services to help organise activities of Chinese immigrant groups and societies concerned with promoting Chinese culture. He would occasionally get small payments for expenses incurred. He had to return to China frequently (almost monthly) to renew his visa. His initial application for PR was not approved but he would try again. He said his strategy was to be involved in local grass-root organisation such as community centre so that he would get to know “important” people who could help his application for PR and citizenship. He wanted to settle in Singapore.

As Yang was unemployed, he was totally dependent on Kathleen’s generosity for his living expenses and cost of frequent return-trips to China. In Chinese custom, he is someone who “ate soft rice” or 吃软饭。In other words, he was a useless man “kept” by a woman. One day, he phoned and told me he was given tickets to a song and dance performance by a cultural group from China as he had volunteered to help the Chinese Embassy in the staging of the performance. I accepted his invitation as it was an excellent opportunity to find out more about his character. On that evening, he told me that Kathleen had bought him a car in Hangzhou. He learnt from Kathleen that my own paintings had been shown in local and overseas art exhibitions and I was her adviser for the acquisition of many valuable paintings in her collection. He asked me to arrange for meetings with famous artists who sold paintings to Kathleen as he wanted them to add prominent signatures on their paintings so that these would have a higher price when he sold them. He also requested me to give my paintings to him as gifts. I felt odd that he could make such a request when we were mere acquaintances. This behaviour revealed his bold and greedy character. Such person would be unashamed to do whatever he needs to take things from others, including strangers, for free. Subsequently, he called my hand-phone several times, but I did not answer them.

His scheme to cheat money was discovered by the schoolteacher staying with Kathleen. One day I had a surprised visit from Ah Siew who informed me that the school teacher lost all her life-long savings kept in the bank. She was extremely stressed and unhappy and complained that Yang Yin had taken her money. When she went to the bank to withdraw her savings for urgent personal use, she was told that she could not do so. She asked about Kathleen’s funds at the bank and was told that they were gone too. Ah Siew asked me for suggestions to help her. I advised him that it was a good opportunity to make a police report. The report would lead to investigations that would expose Yang of his evil plan to cheat both old women. Unfortunately just before the police report was lodged, the “lost” money was returned to Madam Chang from a bank in China. It is obvious that Yang had transferred Madam Chang’s money to his own account in China. If not for the fear of his crime being discovered by police, Chang would have lost everything. It was a pity that we lost the opportunity for making a police report. Madam Chang decided to avoid being further cheated or bullied and moved out of the house to stay at a HDB flat she bought.

Through those who stayed or worked in Kathleen’s house, I learnt about the increasing control Yang Yin had over Kathleen’s life. Yang systematically isolated Kathleen from people close to her so that she would be increasing dependent on and controlled by him. He persuaded Kathleen to let him to manage the day-today running of the house. Soon after, he started dismissing long-time staff loyal to Kathleen: her trusted driver, one of the two maids, and the gardener. He became the paymaster of the house and took over all cheques signing and cash payments. The maid complained that he was mean to her. He cut her salary and removed the benefit of home-leave, cash or other gifts for occasions such as New Year, Christmas, Hari Raya which Kathleen used to give her. He stopped using her old friend Ah Siew for house repair jobs and major renovation work, replacing him with his own contacts.

He tried to discourage or stop Katherine from seeing relatives and friends and other visitors to the house. He did not want others to know Kathleen’s situation. Whenever a visitor came to the house, Yang would hide himself to give the impression that he was not there. It appeared that he asked Katherine to give the standard answer that she was “all right” to all enquiries by relatives and friends. He began to behave as if he was the boss and owner of the house. He was seen sitting on Katherine’s lap and patting her on her back. She also hugged and kissed Kathleen in the presence of her house staff and other workers at the house for odd jobs. Whenever he returned to China, he would order the remaining maid to report to him her daily movements: whether she met anyone and his/her identity, whether she was out of the house and the duration of her absence. It was obvious that Kathleen was scared but still obeyed his command, possibly because of his threats. Each time I visited Kathleen during Yang’s trip back to China, I told her that Yang was a wolf in a sheep skin and was taking advantage of her good nature and generosity. I advised her to stop allowing the man to stay with her. However, she appeared to behave a bit strange. I had the impression that she might have been given small doses of hypnotic drugs or toxic substances which would impair her mental capacity and make her weak and ill over time. It would cause her to become totally dependent on Yang and accepted his complete control.

With the multi-million ill-gotten money from Kathleen, he could easily get advisers and other partners-in-crime if he paid them sufficiently. True enough, he sought medical and legal assistance to obtain a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) so that he could have complete control of Kathleen’s estate and assets. How could a Chinese national unrelated to Kathleen managed to obtain the LPA without the knowledge and consent of any of her true relatives in Singapore? There must be a flaw or loophole in the rules governing the application of LPA. Using the LPA, he took over all the financial matters. He managed to get his PR status even though he had no proper qualifications, special skills and work experience. Using Kathleen’s money, he brought his family and extended family members to Singapore for holiday and shopping. The maid witnessed that they prepared expensive meals and bought expensive-looking things. On the contrary, Kathleen was given instant noodles. Yang offered to take over the cooking and fed Kathleen with food so salty that even the maid could not tolerate and preferred to prepare her own meals. Eventually his wife and two children came to live with him.

Art works and antique furniture disappeared from the house. According to the maid, Yang had the intention to sell the house and brought prospective buyers to look around the premises. It would be horrific to think what he would further do to Kathleen to gain the right to own the current house.

To people who do not know his character, he may appear to be a nice young guy from China, willing to offer voluntary services. Of course, he has already become a wealthy guy. He needs to create a false impression of an being an upright guy with good character to justify his PR status and climb up the ladder in government organisations. Do we need such a person to be a PR or Singapore citizen?

As Kathleen does not have children of her own, she could have given donations to health-care institutions, institutions of higher learning, charitable organisations, Singapore Botanic Gardens, and Singapore Zoological Garden. Her large collection of paintings and other exquisite art pieces could be given to the Singapore Art Museum and the yet-to-be opened National Art Gallery. It is such a shame and great pity that a talentless crook from China has been granted PR status and robbed this pioneer generation citizen of all her possessions.

This raises the question: (1) how our law could allow a foreign national to obtain a LPA so easily, without the knowledge and consent of any relative? (2) Why did our medical and legal professionals help Yang Yin apply for a LPA without contacting her relatives and friends in Singapore? Would they do anything, including harming a fellow Singaporean if they were sufficiently well paid. It also makes a mockery of our government’s expressed wish to attract Foreign Talents. How could such a selfish and scheming Chinese national be treated by our government as a Foreign Talent and granted him his PR status? The criteria for PR appear to be very lax. I fear that there is insufficient investigations of the PR applicant’s background. If this kind of person is permitted to remain in Singapore, he is likely to target other senior citizens by offering himself as their adopted son or grandson to rob them of their CPF and life savings.

It is clear that volunteer service at a community centre or other grass-roots organisations and posing for photos with ministers and MPs are merely used as a cover and a ploy to hide their ulterior evil motives! How many PRs like Yang Yin have been granted PR status and citizenship? I shudder to think that if their proportion in our population grows, our society will be full of selfish and unscrupulous people who would adversely affect Singapore’s quality of life, competitiveness and even survival. Our grass-roots organisations should be very careful when they accept foreigners who appear too eager and enthusiastic in offering their services for free.

I sincerely hope that the con-man be brought to justice, prosecuted for his crime, stripped off his PR status, and barred from ever entering Singapore to harm other senior citizens.

Dr Tan It Koon
8 September 2014

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