The trial of the most well-known and well-liked Buddhist monk in Singapore concluded yesterday. The judges will deliver their verdict on the 7th of October. Venerable Ming Yi and an assistant, Raymond Yeung, were charged with fraud and making false declarations. The problem began several years ago when the discovery of financial irregularities in the National Kidney Foundation, Singapore’s largest and richest charity, led to a more careful scrutiny of other well-endower charities. Soon problems were found in one of several charities run by Ven. Ming Ye, namely the Ren Ci Hospital. The Venerable’s fundraising efforts for this hospital had previously won him a high profile, friendships with celebrities, much praise and many admirers. It had also helped dispel the impression that Buddhism is a passive, out-of-touch religion with no social conscience and nothing relevant to say to the modern world. Ven. Ming Yi had also been elected Secretary General of the Singapore Buddhist Federation. But when his books and management style was more carefully examined problems emerged and eventually he and his assistant were charged with falsifying accounts and misappropriating funds to the amount of $50,000. During the first week of the trial it looked like Ming Yi was guilty of nothing more than sloppy bookkeeping, slapdash management and irregular although not improper use of funds, i.e. that he was running Ren Ci the way most Buddhist undertakings in Asia are run. There was a feeling of sympathy for him among the general public. But as the trial has proceeded and more details have come to light, this sympathy has dissolved. Apart from the charges against him, it has also emerged that Ming Yi had been living an extravagant lifestyle. The Public Prosecutor submitted evidence that he had a A$27,900 membership to an exclusive golf club in Australia, three BMWs, one valued at A$163,500, a race horse with a monthly upkeep of A$1000, and expensive properties in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. Records also showed that he had numerous credit cards which were used to pay for stays in up-market resorts, and visits to tanning clinics and even casinos. Long before the trial reached its sad end it had become painfully clear that a basically good monk who had began with good intentions had been seduced by wealth and adulation. All this has been profoundly disappointing to many people and a major embarrassment for Buddhism in Singapore. Continued Tomorrow.