Woman in Yang Yin case has $1m legal bill cut by half

This article is more than 12 months old

She took law firm to court over 'too high' fees

For three years, Madam Hedy Mok fought a court battle against a former tour guide from China who had swindled her widowed aunt of her wealth.

The guide Yang Yin is now in jail, but the 64-year-old tour agency owner Madam Mok was back in the High Court again on Tuesday, this time to fight her former lawyers over legal fees.

After the hearing, her legal fees were cut to $450,500, down from the $1.025 million law firm Selvam wanted to bill her.

The fees were for legal services Selvam rendered to Madam Mok and her aunt, Madam Chung Khin Chun, 90, between August 2014 and December 2016 against Yang.

Selvam gave Madam Mok four bills totalling $1.025 million for services such as appointing Madam Mok as guardian to her aunt, who has dementia, revoking Yang's legal powers to manage Madam Chung's affairs and suing him for manipulating her to siphon off her wealth.

It then gave Madam Mok a 30 per cent discount, cutting the fees to $717,500, after she complained about the amount.

"The fees were too high," Madam Mok told The Straits Times on Wednesday.


In September, a Family Justice Courts judge ordered the fees to be cut by $42,000. On Tuesday, during a High Court hearing held in chambers, Justice Valerie Thean reduced the fees by another $225,000.

Both hearings were triggered by a rule that requires legal fees in property recovery cases under the Mental Capacity Act to undergo taxation, or scrutiny, by the courts.

In Madam Mok's case, both the Family Justice Courts and High Court each examined two of the four bills.

Madam Mok was represented by Mr Simon Tan of Attorneys Inc at both hearings.

Her previous lawyer, Mr Peter Doraisamy, left Selvam earlier this year to set up his own practice. Selvam was represented by a three-man legal team headed by its managing director, Mr Sarbjit Singh Chopra.

Madam Mok said that while she was still not completely satisfied, she will not appeal against the decision. She had asked the courts to cut the fees to $215,500.Mr Chopra refuted Madam Mok's allegation that there was overcharging. He said that if Madam Mok had felt she was being overcharged, she would not have stuck with Mr Doraisamy and the firm for more than two years.

She was "clearly happy" with Mr Doraisamy's work and charges because she continued to appoint him in the lawsuit against Yang after he had left the firm.

"There was also no allegation by either Ms Mok or her solicitors of any overcharging at the taxation hearings," he said.

"The taxing judges' decision with regard to the reduction of bills is not unusual and cannot strictly be translated to mean 'overcharging'."

Meanwhile, Yang, 43, remains in jail.

He had met Madam Chung, a retired physiotherapist, in 2008 when he acted as her private tour guide during a China trip.

Yang pleaded guilty in August last year to misappropriating $500,000 in February 2010 and $600,000 in January 2012 from Madam Chung.

He also pleaded guilty to 120 charges, including falsifying receipts for a sham company to stay here and obtain permanent residency.

He was sentenced to a total of 11 years and two months in jail.