JOHOR, MALAYSIA: Over 50 people from both Malaysia and Singapore have fallen victim to a medium at a place of worship located in the Mount Austin area of Johor Bahru, resulting in losses exceeding RM 100,000.
The medium allegedly deceived worshippers by claiming to “bless” their possessions, which included gold jewellery and cash, and requested them to leave these items at his temple for a duration of 108 days.
Some victims had even placed gold chains valued as high as RM 24,000 (approximately US$5,091) in the temple.
When the worshippers arrived to reclaim their belongings on the 30th of last month, they were met with a completely closed temple, and both the temple mediums and the person in charge were nowhere to be found.
These victims come from diverse backgrounds, including residents and business owners in the Mount Austin area and individuals working in Singapore.
Gold chains and cash entrusted to the temple were held hostage for years
As reported by Malaysian Chinese media the China Press, the victims had entrusted their gold chains, jewellery, and cash to the temple with the intent of retrieving them after 108 days.
However, when they attempted to retrieve their items, the temple treasurer allegedly employed various excuses to delay the return, causing some worshippers to be unable to recover their possessions for up to two to three years.
One victim, Mr Su, a 29-year-old hotpot restaurant owner, in his Facebook post, shared that he chanced upon the temple in the Mount Austin Garden area in July 2022.
Under the guidance of the temple’s medium, he had his gold chain blessed for 108 days.
However, when the specified deadline passed, the temple treasurer, known as Livia, repeatedly offered excuses, preventing him from retrieving his gold chain.
Each time he attempted to retrieve it, they would employ various excuses to postpone the return of his belongings.
Excuses for withholding victim’s belongings: “Blessings at a mountain, illness, accidents, and auspicious date
These excuses included taking the gold chain to a mountain for “blessings,” the temple’s medium falling ill, the treasurer falling ill, the person in charge being involved in a car accident, or needing to calculate an auspicious date, making the recovery of the gold chain impossible.
The worshippers had formed a communication group, and on September 23, they started inquiring about when they could retrieve their items. However, Livia closed the group and blocked everyone.
Mr Su learned about the situation when other believers who were also trying to retrieve their items expressed dissatisfaction.
It turns out that at least 50 people had left valuable items in the temple for blessings, with some gold chains valued at up to RM 24,000.
On September 30, a crowd of worshippers had gathered at the temple’s entrance, anticipating the retrieval of their belongings.
Mysterious disappearance of mediums and temple treasurer
Nonetheless, the temple remained closed, and both the temple mediums and Livia had vanished.
Upon contacting the temple’s chairman, he claimed not to have any knowledge of the situation.
Worshippers gradually made their way to the Iskandar Puteri Police Station to file reports, and Mr. Su reported his case on October 1.
Some victims had entrusted their items to the temple for over two years, including family heirlooms, causing them profound distress.
Mr Su revealed that he had inquired with the temple about the safety of leaving their valuable items there.
They had assured him that the items would be returned to the main temple for safekeeping after weekly blessings.
The central temple, situated in a different district, has verified that a comparable issue took place years ago involving the temple’s medium, which ultimately resulted in the expulsion of that medium from the temple.
Mr Su has reported the incident to the police and shared his ordeal on social media in an effort to caution the public about these scams.
Currently, the Johor police have received 18 reports pertaining to this case and have commenced an investigation under Section 420 of the Penal Code, which deals with fraud. As of now, no arrests have been made.
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