Singapore celebrity monk sentenced to 10 months in jail for fraud

DPA, Nov 21, 2009

Singapore -- A Singapore court on Saturday sentenced a celebrity Buddhist monk who ran one of the city-state's most popular charities to 10 months in jail for fraud, a media report said.

Shi Ming Yi, 47, and his former personal assistant Raymond Yeung, 34, were convicted in October of conspiring to take an unauthorised loan of 50,000 Singapore dollars (36,000 US dollars) from the Ren Ci charity in May 2004.

Yeung was sentenced to 9 months in jail, the online edition of Straits Times newspaper reported Saturday.

He used the money to pay for renovations at a friend's home in Hong Kong.

Both Ming Yi and Yeung had testified that the money was loaned to a Buddhist shop selling religious artefacts which was affiliated with the charity, the report said.

However, external auditors found that to be untrue, as the loan was not mentioned in the shop's accounts.

The high-living Ming Yi, founder of charity Ren Ci Hospital which provides medical care for the elderly, had been described by local media as "the monk with the five C's" - cash, credit card, car, condominium units and country club membership.

"Buddhist monks, we are no longer living in the mountains, we are not living in the forest. We are in the city now," the Straits Times newspaper quoted Ming Yi as saying.

The scandal, which came to light in 2007, was a blow to Singapore's charity sector and dismayed thousands of donors as the city-state's society is predominantly Buddhist.