CHC trial: New evidence of text conversation among accused

The Strait Times/September 22, 2014

By Jalelah Abdul Baker

In a text saved as a memo in her Blackberry mobile phone, Tan wrote: "There may be a prob...The same Mr Sim is doing the XPL(Xtron Productions Limited) accounts. So he will know where the money is going to." She was talking to former church fund manager Chew Eng Han.

More than two years after being charged, City Harvest Church finance manager Sharon Tan said yesterday she still does not know how she landed in court.

Tan, who turned 39 yesterday, was on the stand the whole day under questioning by defence lawyer N. Sreenivasan - who is representing founding member and senior pastor Tan Ye Peng - and former church fund manager Chew Eng Han before him.

Tan, Chew and four others, including church founder Kong Hee, face charges for their part in allegedly misusing about $50 million of church funds for the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, and covering it up.

Chew, who is representing himself, yesterday asked Tan repeatedly about control processes that were in place to ensure that funds were not transferred without board members' approval.

It is the prosecution's case that the church made sham investments in two companies when the funds were actually being used to finance Ms Ho's career, and then engaged in what the accounting industry calls "round-tripping" to hide the irregularities from auditors.

Tan, at times emotional during her three days on the stand, was calm yesterday and said any movement of funds needed signatures from three people - not all of them from the board and not all of them accused today.

She also agreed with Chewthat the rental advances paid to Xtron Productions, one of the two companies, were not part of the round-tripping as described by the prosecution.

Instead, they were a way to get money into Xtron to finance the purchase of commercial property as worship premises.

The church would then "lease" the premises from Xtron.

Tan said board members also approved the decision to invest in Xtron and Firna, a glassware company owned by Indonesian businessman and long-time church member Wahju Hanafi.

She also said withdrawals from church funds were made "pursuant to decisions of the board".

Responding to a question from the lawyer of another church official who is also on trial, she laughed a little as she said: "With all the understanding that I had all this while, your honour, honestly I don't know why I have been charged."

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