BUDDHIST monk Ming Yi, the flamboyant chief of the Ren Ci Hospital and Medicare Centre, was accused yesterday of several offences concerning its financial affairs.
The 46-year-old, whose real name is Goh Kah Heng, was charged with defrauding the charity, forgery and helping to falsify its accounts, all offences under the Penal Code.
He was also accused of forging documents to cheat auditors and giving false information to the Commissioner of Charities, both before and after a probe was initiated last November by the Ministry of Health (MOH), which is in charge of medical charities. These are breaches of the Charities Act and Penal Code.
The sums involved totalled about $300,000. Ming Yi faces up to a year's jail for providing false information to the Commissioner, and up to seven years' jail for forgery.
Accompanied by a few friends and a team of three lawyers headed by Senior Counsel Andre Yeap, the saffron-robed monk had the 10 charges read to him in English in a district court.
Ren Ci is the second large charity involved in court proceedings following the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) scandal that ended with its former chief T.T. Durai going to jail.
Like the NKF, Ren Ci ran big annual fund-raising shows which reaped millions of dollars in donations, and the highlight every year was a stunt performed by Ming Yi.
In the wake of the probe, Ren Ci, which runs a hospital for the chronically ill, lost its right to promise its donors tax exemptions.
Yesterday, a solemn Ming Yi found himself accused of fiddling with the charity's accounts by re-classifying personal loans he took from it.
He is said to have moved those loans to the Mandala Buddhist Cultural Centre, a business he had a share in, or categorised them as part of advances given to him to invest on behalf of Ren Ci.
He is also accused of trying to cover his tracks by showing investigators fake documents to back his claims.
He is said to have conspired with two others to produce the false documents to mislead the Commissioner of Charities.
Raymond Yeung Chi Hang, 33, Ming Yi's former personal executive, and David Phua Seow Hwa, 47, a manager at Ren Ci, were named as his co-conspirators and charged yesterday too.
Other charges relate to a $50,000 loan Ming Yi allegedly made to Yeung while he was Ren Ci's chief executive, and a $300,000 donation. Court documents accuse him of dishonestly misappropriating these sums.
The MOH said in a statement yesterday that the Commissioner of Charities had suspended Ming Yi from his office as the charity's chief executive officer and executive positions in five other charities including Foo Hai Ch'an Monastery where he was abbot.
But Ren Ci said Ming Yi had resigned voluntarily.
He was freed on bail of $200,000 and is due back in court on Aug 4.
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