Buddhist Nun Arrested in Hong Kong Amid Allegations of Fraud, Marriage Scam
The chief nun of Hong Kong’s Ting Wai Monastery was arrested by immigration officers on Wednesday afternoon along with three other people amid allegations that she had married two monks from mainland China to help them obtain residency in Hong Kong. The Home Affairs Bureau is also investigating claims that the nun, Sik Chi Ding, mismanaged donations to the monastery in Hong Kong’s Tai Po District.
The allegations have been brought forward by solicitor Mary Jean Reimer, who serves on the monastery’s board of directors. At a press conference on Tuesday accompanied by seven monastery volunteers, Reimer alleged that Chi Ding had transferred part of more than HK$5 million in donations to a bank account under her control. She also linked a senior police officer to the missing funds, without disclosing his identity. Reimer said she has filed a petition to freeze all three of the monastery’s bank accounts.
Chi Ding issued a written statement on Tuesday that said she had reported the matter to the police, saying “I will not speculate on the motives behind Ms. Reimer’s recent acts. The matter has been passed to my lawyer and I will not comment further.” (South China Morning Post)
Reimer launched a fund-raising campaign for the monastery in March after learning that it was in poor condition and could not afford maintenance, and more than HK$5 million (US$645,000) was raised in six months. She has accused Chi Ding of bypassing a bank account designated for maintenance funds and transferring funds to an account under her control. Reimer said she came across the mismanagement of funds while working as a volunteer. Other volunteers working for the monastery have also reported anomalies with Chi Ding’s lifestyle and raised questions about spending by the institution.
“After we confronted her, she paid back more than HK$400,000 and she said it was the maximum she could repay,” Reimer said, adding that she did not know how much money was missing. Reimer has applied for a court order for the monastery to disclose its full financial records. (South China Morning Post)
Excerpts from recorded conversations between Reimer and Chi Ding, in which the nun apparently admits to marrying the two mainland monks, have been published in local media. “I did get into illegal marriage, you can call the police if you like,” says a voice believed to be Chi Ding's in the recording. (The Standard) Chi Ding is said to have married Sik Chi Keung in 2006 and Sik Chi Kwong in 2012. Both monks are affiliated with Po Lin Monastery on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island.
According to reports, Chi Ding became chairman of Ting Wai Monastery’s board in 2005, when the temple had HK$6.74 million in assets and bank savings. Financial statements submitted to the board of directors are reported to show that after three years the assets and savings had dwindled to HK$2.2 million, despite donations of between HK$2 million and HK$4 million during the period. The reserves stood at just HK$700,000 in 2014. Meanwhile, annual expenditure rose to HK$2.83 million from HK$450,000 between 2007 and 2014. The reports said that the monastery spent HK$1.2 million and HK$1.43 million for maintenance in 2006 and 2009, respectively, but even so had fallen into disrepair, turning to crowdfunding to raise additional funds.
A monastery volunteer surnamed Chan alleged that Chi Ding would rush to beat him to the temple’s mailbox each morning to collect donations to the monastery that she would then deposit into her own bank account. Chan said Chi Ding had changed the lock on the mailbox in September, giving her sole access to donations received by post.
Tai Po monastery nun accused of marriage scam and embezzlement arrested with 3 others in Hong Kong immigration probe (South China Morning Post)
Bad faith: director accuses chief nun of 'sham marriage, embezzlement' in Hong Kong monastery (South China Morning Post)
Ting Wai Monastery scandal: HK$500,000 missing, says solicitor (ejinsight)
‘High-living’ nun accused of stealing from monastery (ejinsight)
Buddhist nun probed for suspected fraud (The Standard)