Wednesday 16 January 2019
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Man took 2 jobs to pay women who claimed money was for ‘Lee Kuan Yew’, niece says

SINGAPORE — He was so afraid of the two women who allegedly asked him for money to pay “Lee Kuan Yew”, he took two jobs to meet the demands and even asked to borrow money from his niece and relatives. His niece, suspecting that something was amiss, decided to dig deeper and discovered where his money really went. Ms Pamela Lim, the niece, gave these details and more in court on Friday (Jan 11), the third day of a hearing for a cheating case. Tan Hwee Ngo, 69, is accused of cheating Mr Tan Soy Kiang, 74, a petrol station pump attendant, of at least S$130,000 from June 1999 to December 2013. She allegedly used former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s name to trick Mr Tan to part with all his Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings, and he also gave her about S$500 a month from his salary. Mr Tan’s good friend Boo Sok Hiang — who used to work as a cleaner with him and who died of heart disease in 2016 — is said to have acted as a middleman to hand over the money to Tan. In her testimony, Ms Lim, a real estate agent, said that she grew worried about what her uncle was doing with his earnings when she moved back in 2012 to Singapore from Australia, where she had lived with her husband, Mr Andy Ong, and their children. Ms Lim said that Mr Tan would sometimes try to borrow money from her, Mr Ong, her aunt, or her mother. Mr Tan used to live alone in a Toa Payoh flat, but began living with Ms Lim’s family in 2013. The niece said that she was closest to him out of all her cousins, and he was a “kind and simple” man who never got angry. Ms Lim said her uncle asked her for S$100 or S$200 about four to five times, before she started to find out more. Her mother recalled that an unknown woman took Mr Tan to the CPF building in Bishan, where he allegedly withdrew his entire CPF savings of S$53,000. Ms Lim said: “It was peculiar for a single guy who was not married, with no vices. He doesn’t drink or smoke or gamble. All his meals and utility bills were paid for… That prompted me to investigate further.” When Ms Lim asked her uncle why he was borrowing money from them, he replied that he owed the Government money because of a “failed business”. Earlier when the trial opened on Wednesday, the court heard that Tan allegedly told Mr Tan’s friend Boo that there were profits to be made by giving money to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and other prominent figures. FEAR OF PAYING MORE Ms Lim testified on Friday: “(My uncle) told me that if he didn’t return the money to the Government, ‘Lao Li’ (‘Old Lee’, referring to Lee Kuan Yew) would demand double with interest. He said that we cannot talk too loud in the house, that there were cameras watching. He said that one time, a big car came with some of his bodyguards as well. I knew that was not true.” Ms Lim also said that she spoke to her uncle’s supervisor at the petrol station, who recounted a conversation she overheard between Mr Tan and Boo. Boo allegedly threatened Mr Tan then: “If you don’t give money, I will kill you. You will die.” Mr Tan’s cleaning supervisor and another sweeper who worked with Mr Tan told her that they had advised him not to hand over his salary, but he continued doing so. On Feb 3, 2014, Ms Lim took her uncle to the police station to make a police report. GETTING EVIDENCE Deciding to confront the unknown woman, Ms Lim and her husband accompanied Mr Tan to meet her on Feb 4, 2014, after he received his salary in cash from his supervisor at the petrol station. Ms Lim recorded about 15 minutes of the meeting among the four of them on her mobile phone. The video clips were played in court. During their conversation, which was in a mix of Teochew and Mandarin, Boo said that she had returned the money to the Government. She also alleged that she and Tan had a “failed business” with Yeo Hiap Seng, a prominent Singaporean beverage company, which meant they owed money to the Government. The next day, five of them — Ms Lim, her husband, Mr Tan, Boo and Tan — met at a fast-food outlet in Toa Payoh to discuss the matter. Ms Lim also recorded parts of the meeting, which were played in court. During the chat, the two older women allegedly admitted to borrowing money from Mr Tan. Ms Lim came up with a written agreement for them to repay her uncle S$500 every month. However, the repayments stopped after five months, she said. Moreover, her uncle began asking to borrow money again, and asking his boss for advance salary payment. “He started passing (Boo and Tan) money again,” Ms Lim testified. “I told myself, I can’t be kind anymore.” She then took her uncle to the police to make another police report, and gave the video recordings to her friend, who was a reporter. The trial continues on April 15, with Ms Lim’s husband, Mr Ong, expected to take the stand.

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