City Harvest trial: 'Incredible' there were no minutes

The New Paper, Singapore/September 27, 2014

By Ronald Loh

Meeting minutes are meant to record important decisions.

But it was not the practice of City Harvest Church (CHC) to take down some crucial details, even though they involved a deal of up to $24.5 million, said CHC finance manager Sharon Tan yesterday.

For that, Tan, 39, was grilled by the prosecution during cross-examination yesterday.

For example, she said that church auditor Sim Guan Seng had instructed her to "clear the Xtron bonds off the CHC books" during an April 2009 meeting.

But Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh pointed out that the meeting minutes had no record of Mr Sim giving such a critical instruction.

Tan claimed that Mr Sim had told her that only after two of her co-accused, Tan Ye Peng and John Lam, had left.

'Why tell you?'

Said Ms Chionh: "You (earlier) claimed that Mr Sim did not like to deal with you and preferred to deal with senior management. "So if he was going to say something as critical... why would he say it to you?"

Ms Chionh asserted that Tan did not convey the alleged instructions to her co-accused in subsequent e-mails, even though Tan claimed she had done so verbally.

"You are indulging in creative misinterpretation... even (in) your own e-mails... to escape the lies that you have told about what Mr Sim supposedly said."

Tan maintained she had not lied.

Earlier yesterday, Tan also told the court that the CHC board had met, discussed and approved the church's $24.5 million investment into Firna bonds sometime between August and September 2008.

Ms Chionh said it was "incredible" there had been no minutes of such a crucial board meeting.

Tan said she had understood that CHC's former fund manager Chew Eng Han was given the "discretion to invest" and hence there was "no need to minute down the investment being made".

Ms Chionh also pointed out that the board did not have access to any report detailing the valuation of Firna bonds.

Said Tan: "From the short two to three years that I worked with the board, this is how the board works.

"They place their trust in Eng Han for any investment presentation.

"And especially when this investment has to do with (Indonesian tycoon and CHC member) Wahju (Hanafi)... it gave them confidence."

Ms Chionh told her: "You are trying to cover up the fact that you are lying when you say that the board was told about, discussed and approved the Firna bonds in August or September."

Tan said she disagreed.

Throughout the cross-examination, Tan repeatedly claimed that her understanding of how the church worked came from her predecessor Serina Wee and the other co-accused.

It prompted Ms Chionh to say at one point yesterday: "I'm not asking you what Serina told you because you are the finance manager, so you should be able to tell us your own understanding."

The trial continues today.

About the case

City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five others are on trial for allegedly misusing church funds through sham bonds.

This includes $24 million to allegedly fund the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, whose stage name is Sun Ho, and another $26.6 million to allegedly cover up the first amount.

They are said to have done this through music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna, run by long-time supporters of the church.

Kong, former board member John Lam, finance manager Sharon Tan, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager Serina Wee face charges of criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts.

Prosecutors had sought to show how Xtron and Firna directors simply did the accused's bidding.

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