Ai Takagi and Yang Kaiheng, the couple behind now-defunct sociopolitical blog The Real Singapore (TRS), used their earnings from the site to pay off a A$195,000 (S$201,154) mortgage in just one year, a District Court heard Monday (Mar 28), the first day of Yang’s trial.
The 27-year-old Yang faces seven counts under the Sedition Act for using TRS to “maliciously exploit racial and xenophobic faultlines” via seven seditious posts which targeted foreigners from the Philippines, India and China.
The anti-foreigner posts aimed to stir controversy and secure a larger internet following, which translated to higher advertising revenue for the couple, the prosecution said.
The mortgage was on an apartment in Queensland, Australia, where the couple lived before they were arrested in Singapore while on holiday. The court heard that Takagi and Yang took on the loan in January 2014, but by the end of the year they had just S$5,000 outstanding.
The prosecution produced financial documents, such as bank statements, showing advertising revenue earned from Google via the TRS website, which Takagi then used for mortgage payments.
Takagi, 23, was sentenced to 10 months’ jail last Wednesday after pleading guilty to four counts of sedition. She admitted to authoring, uploading and editing the posts, while Yang denies his involvement in TRS.
But the prosecution’s first witness, Deputy Superintendent and investigating officer Roy Lim, said Yang had admitted to “some involvement” in setting up TRS, including handling advertising on the website.
The prosecution is alleging that Yang’s involvement in TRS was far from “fleeting and ad-hoc” and will lead evidence to show his role was “continued, sustained and intimate”, Deputy Public Prosecutor G Kannan said.
DPP Kannan has accused Yang of being “patently motivated by commercial greed”, pointing to financial documents showing TRS’ earnings of A$474,594 (S$492,000) between December 2013 and April 2015.
The prosecution is expected to call at least five more witnesses to the stand, and Takagi is expected to testify in her husband’s defence.
If found guilty, Yang could be jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to S$5,000. An eighth charge for failing to provide the police with financial documents has been stood down.