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Here’s how Deputy Public Prosecutor G Kannan tore TRS co-founder Yang Kaiheng a new one in cross-examination

His cross-examination was so damning he ended up admitting outright that he was lying.

Jeanette Tan | April 8, 2016 @ 08:19 am

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On his second day taking the stand, now-defunct site The Real Singapore‘s co-founder Yang Kaiheng faced one heck of a painful afternoon at the hands of Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) G Kannan.

During the first phase of the prosecutor’s cross-examination of Yang on Thursday (April 7), the 27-year-old found himself exposed in one place after another as Kannan systematically and mercilessly took him down, until at one point he finally said, “I admit that I am lying.”

This after his own lawyer Choo Zheng Xi concluded his examination-in-chief (where he makes Yang’s case by asking him questions to extract evidence from him on the witness stand) earlier that day.

We’ll reproduce the exchanges they had to the best of our ability — ellipses “…” demarcate omitted portions, and we did not correct the text for grammar:

1. Where Kannan (GK) shows that Yang (YK) didn’t say he was involved in setting up TRS in earlier police statements.

GK: Now, you described TRS in a different context with pride as your most successful business venture. Remember saying that in the video?

YK: Yes, Your Honour.

GK: So I’m not asking you who you had breakfast with two years ago on a Thursday. I am asking you why you didn’t say that you were involved in setting up a website that is your pride and joy?

YK: How do you determine “set up the website”? I wasn’t told by the police to elaborate on setting up of the website. So if you want me to be clear on the setting up of the website, you have to ask the police back then — don’t ask me, what do you mean by the “setting up of the website”.

GK: Who? You said Ai Takagi. Not the details, just the identity of the people who started the site. I am going to ask you again… you did not mention that you were involved in starting the site. I’m using the word “starting”, I’m not using the word “set-up”. Do you agree?

YK: Sorry I need some time to read… Yes I did not mention in the question posted by the police that I was involved in starting The Real Singapore website.

GK: I’d like to move on now to your third statement… dated 12 March 2015. I’ll just read (one question from it): Ai has previously told us that she, Damien and you started the website. And… your answer: “Damien, Ai and I designed the website”. Right or not?

YK: Yes, Your Honour.

GK: That’s fine. Now, in this question you were specifically informed that Ms Takagi had previously told the police about the involvement of three persons: herself, Damien and you. And when you were told that Ai had (told them of) this, you agreed and said “yes, Damien, Ms Takagi and I designed the website”.

Your answer in this third statement in question 90, answer 90, is materially different from what you said in paragraph 1.3 earlier. would you like me to read you that paragraph again?

YK: There’s no need, Your Honour.

GK: You agree it is materially different?

YK: Yes, Your Honour. But the difference is just slight.

GK: Two different meanings… In paragraph 1.3 of your first statement you said Ms Takagi started the site. And here you mention that there were three persons involved in the site.

YK: Like I said, back in (paragraph 1.3), the question doesn’t ask me about my involvement in the website in detail but back here the base question seems more detailed in asking my involvement in the website, which I did say that Damien, Ai and I designed the website.

GK: Mr Yang, I agree with you that question 1 didn’t ask you for the particulars of your involvement in the first statement. BUT you said, it was you who offered up the detail by starting that statement with the words “let me tell you everything from the beginning”. Now would you agree that you did not reveal your own involvement in starting the website in the statement that we are looking at right now until you realised that Ms Takagi had already told the police that you were involved?

YK: I disagree, Your Honour.

2. On whether Yang ever planned to admit he used TRS to make money

GK: Up to the beginning of the trial, the story you intended to tell the court was that TRS was a platform for Singaporeans to voice their complaints, you never intended to admit that it was a business venture. Do you agree?

YK: I disagree because there are evidences, of a lot of forensic evidence that shows TRS is making money.

GK: Precisely. … I put it to you there is no mention of TRS being a business venture, and I’ll tell you why… Let’s look at your statements instead. Let’s look at the first statement and your very first answer that you gave.

GK: “Did you at some point realise that TRS could potentially become a revenue generator for you and Ai?” The answer was “No I never thought of it.” I put it to you, Mr Yang, that this answer was an intentional denial on your part of what you now freely admit in court. You intentionally sought to tell the police that you had never thought of it. You did that on purpose, do you agree?

YK: I disagree. I should’ve just said “No it’s not relevant” and my apologies for not, there’s over 100 questions posed to me, and I can’t explain every question, it would …

GK: You agree with me, Mr Yang, that when a person says “I never thought of it” it means “it never crossed my mind”. You agree with me, Mr Yang?

YK: Yes, Your Honour.

GK: And that, you agree, is very different from saying “not relevant”, do you agree with me Mr Yang?

YK: Yes, and I apologise for not being clear on it.

GK: I put this to you that the reason you intentionally told the police that you had not even thought of revenue at that point in time was because you did not want them to realise or find out that TRS was a money-making business.

YK: I disagree, Your Honour. I was given the charges of sedition so I didn’t think spelling all of it out how is making money off a business becomes an illegal thing.

GK: I put it to you … you were basically denying that TRS was a business venture.

YK: I disagree. I just did not elaborate that it actually makes money. I just said it involved, that you can start a business … that I did not include that in my statement does not mean that I was… hiding it.

GK: That was information in your possession that you were withholding from the police. That’s basically what you were saying, isn’t it? Yes or no?

YK: No, Your Honour.

 

3. Where Yang really wishes he had Choo with him during police questioning.

GK: Question 33 (from a police statement): “Does more site traffic equate to higher advertising revenue?” Answer 33: “I don’t know.”

YK: Yes, Your Honour, I did say that.

GK: So just to be sure, what you meant to say was “not relevant”. Is that right?

YK: Yes, Your Honour. I just did not want to say anything without… actually I haven’t even get my lawyer, consulted my lawyer, I did not want to say anything that would get me in trouble… as in, I’m not a lawyer.

GK: This statement was recorded on 13 March (2015). So you already had a lawyer at this point in time when you gave these answers. Agree?

YK: Yes, I believe you.

GK: Your earlier answer where you said you answered the question in this inaccurate manner because you did not even have the chance to get a lawyer is a lie.

YK: I would like to elaborate on that.

GK: Please answer first? I’m saying that your earlier answer where you try to explain away the answer that you gave in the statement on the basis that you had not consulted your lawyer is a lie.

YK: I disagree, because my lawyer was not sitting beside me and he was not the one who …. like the lawyer says my client cannot answer that. I was not given the chance to do that.

GK: That is television. This is real life… I’m putting it to you that in those questions in this statement where you said you never thought of TRS as being revenue generating or where you said you don’t know whether it was revenue generating because you … in 2012, those were all lies to persuade the police that TRS was not a money-making venture. Do you agree?

YK: I agree but … it’s just not giving… I’m not sure what information I should give. If not I give too much I will get into trouble.
… whatever I said is the truth.

GK: So you just gave the limited truth; what you felt you should give?

YK: Like I said, I don’t remember every single thing that I did, and like you said, even the Sudesh thing I don’t even remember until you showed me the video. I can’t remember every single involvement that I have done.

GK: … You say that on 13 March 2015 you gave this answer that you “don’t know” whether TRS was a money-making venture. Are you saying that on 13 March 2015 you forgot that TRS was a money-making venture?

YK: All I’m saying is I do not want to give information that might get me into trouble without actually asking, getting more information because I have no legal background. I do not want to say things that will get me into trouble.

GK: You were hiding information from the police?

YK: I disagree. If my lawyer tells me that I can say something I would most likely say it.

GK: Now in relation to your answer about advertising and website traffic… The more site traffic… the higher a site’s revenue. Your answer was “I don’t know”. I put it to you that (in claiming) you did not know something so basic as the fact that (higher traffic = higher revenue) you did not portray yourself as having any knowledge about online businesses.

YK: I disagree.

4. “All I am trying to do is to be more defensive and make sure I don’t get into trouble”. Also, “I don’t know” and “not relevant” were the same to him.

GK: I’d like to turn you to the fourth statement you made. (Two questions) and the two answers you gave. The same statement… from 13 march 2015…

(Question) 97. “What is elance?”. Answer: “I do not know.” (Question) 98. “Am I right to say that elance is a site where you can engage freelancers to do work?” Answer 98: “I do not know.”

YK: Yes, Your Honour.

GK: Would you agree that this is completely different from the detailed information that you have given in court about elance?

YK: Yes I agree, Your Honour.

GK: Now this is a material contradiction — in simple language this is a 180-degree … the complete opposite of what you said before. Agree?

YK: Yes, Your Honour.

GK: I put it to you that you lied to the police when you said you didn’t know what elance was.

YK: I disagree, Your Honour. All I am trying to do is to be more defensive and make sure I don’t get into trouble. Like I said, like for me I’m not that good in English, “I don’t know” and “not relevant” back then might appear to be the same kind of response to me.

GK: You said you were trying to be defensive in not telling the police anything that could get you into trouble. Isn’t that the same thing as a lie?

YK: I disagree, Your Honour.

GK: Now.. if you were never involved in using elance to get freelancers to work on TRS, would that mean, you…?

YK: Because I do not know how the law works, how they can… charge me for sedition, like, even though… I didn’t write articles I am still being charged for sedition and this is exactly the same thing: I do not know why am I charged with sedition?

GK: So therefore, lie to the police.

YK: Like I said, I’m not lying to the police. I do not want to say anything that might get me into trouble until I can ask. I wasn’t even given a chance to show my lawyer these questions — like this question, ok, can I respond to this question? Can I respond to this? I wasn’t even given the chance to do that.

GK: I put it to you, Mr Yang, that you lied because you wanted to disassociate yourself from any involvement that you were running TRS. Do you agree or disagree?

YK: I agree to a certain extent. Yes, I recall when the police arrested me I do want to disassociate myself from TRS because if I am charged for sedition and I didn’t publish article, I’m not going to admit to something that I didn’t do. For me my interpretation of sedition is publishing this articles, writing uploading and… keeping the site alive, so if I am not involved in that I do not see that I should tell them more information.

 

And here’s where it gets good — 

5. Where Kannan shows Yang claimed he and Takagi started the anti-Tin Pei Ling Facebook page, months before they actually met.

GK: … Were you in a relationship with Ms Ai Takagi since 1 September 2011?

YK: Yes, I think so.

GK: … I’m trying to establish when you met and when you got together. You said it’s accurate that you became a couple in September 2011. I’m asking whether you met her shortly before that…?

YK: I do know her through a friend.

GK: Right so did you become a couple shortly after you met?

YK: Yes, Your Honour.

GK: Within a month or two?

YK: We started living together after we …

GK: Were you a couple in September? Just think back. Did you know her six months before she became your girlfriend?

YK: No, no, Your Honour.

(At this point, Kannan re-reads what Yang said on Wednesday about him and Takagi following the GE2011 together and setting up the anti-Tin Pei Ling Facebook page together. He then produces evidence from the Elections Department website that confirms the date of GE2011’s polling day was May 7, 2011.)

GK: This Facebook page is still active and the first ever post on this Facebook page is dated 7 may 2011.

YK: Yes, Your Honour.

GK: Do you agree that it would have been impossible for you and Ms Takagi to be following the General Election 2011, which was in May 2011, if you did not even meet her until one to two months before September?

YK: I disagree, I would have known her by then.

GK: By “then”, what do you mean?

YK: When this page started, Your Honour.

GK: You said you are certain you knew her in 2011. Are you certain that your earlier evidence is accurate? It’s a fairly specific memory.

YK: From my memory I am certain I set up a Facebook page with her.

GK: And you are certain that you were following GE2011 together with her.

YK: Yes but what I am not certain because you said that your… the time frame doesn’t match the Facebook shot that you got.

GK: Let’s leave aside Facebook. Let’s focus on the date of the election, that’s indisputable.

YK: Yes, Your Honour.

GK: Are you now saying that you met her..?

YK: I have to be very careful with what I say because (Kannan) seems to take things from what I say and these kinds of small things can come back. I do not know exactly when I knew her. I can’t recall.

GK: I actually put it to you, Mr Yang, that you were lying in your evidence that you knew her during GE2011. Do you agree or disagree?

YK: I disagree your honour.

GK: On what basis do you disagree?

YK: I disagree because I do know her and I do remember setting up the Facebook page with her. And since the prosecutor is trying to find this kind of discrepancy to make my statement uncredible I have to take back my word on when exactly I knew her because this type of small mistakes that I made might make me an “incredible” person.

(Dum dum dum…)

GK: I was hoping not to have to bring this up and it’s still not my intention to bring this up but i have WhatsApp messages from “Robin’s iPhone” — … retrieved from the MacBook you surrendered for investigation… which make it very clear that you met Ms Takagi shortly before 1 September 2011. These messages are of a very personal and very embarrassing in nature. I do not want to (reveal them in order) to prove you are lying.

YK: Yes, Your Honour — I believe him.

GK: Would you like to look at these messages and admit that you lied? Or would you care to simply admit that you lied here when you said that you set up the Tin Pei Ling page together with Ms Takagi because that is your story? That was integral to you saying that’s how she became interested in Singapore politics. Do you agree or disagree?

YK: No, Your Honour. My family has already been…

GK: I’m not saying that by seeing it I will expose it to court.

YK: I don’t (need to see it). I admit that I am lying.

GK: Mr Yang, I’m putting it to you that you alone set up the Tin Pei Ling Facebook page?

YK: I do not recall exactly, but that’s a possibility, your Honour.

GK: I’m putting it to you that based on the objective evidence you had not even met Ms Takagi at this point in time and she could not have been setting up the Tin Pei Ling Facebook page with you?

YK: Yes, your Honour.

GK: I’m putting it to you that you lied about Ms Takagi setting up the Facebook page together with you, the Tin Pei Ling Facebook page together with you.

YK: I really do not recall what is going on in 2011, but if there’s evidence that shows that I have not known her since then, then yes, that might be the case that I was the one who started it alone, but I am certain that she did took over the page eventually.

And there you have it. New one obtained.

Related articles:

The genesis of TheRealSingapore.com, as told by co-founder Yang Kaiheng

Online chats reveal how ex-TRS operator Yang Kaiheng dealt with ex-business partner

TRS editor paid off almost all of 30-year mortgage in 11 months

The Real Singapore site operator Ai Takagi gets 10 months’ jail for sedition, to start April 22

The Real Singapore made AU$474,000 in Google ad revenue in 17 months from Dec. 2013 to April 2015

Here’s how TRS editor Ai Takagi ran one of S’pore’s most visited websites

 

Top photo by Jeanette Tan.

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About Jeanette Tan

Jeanette takes pride in her ability to sing the complete lyrics to "Hakuna Matata" and a host of other Disney songs. She is also enslaved to Katherine, George and Heidi, her three cats.

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