Prosecution accuses CHC finance manager of "creative misinterpretation" of emails

Investment decisions that were not documented in meeting minutes and alleged false entries in the church's accounts were also the subject of the trial on Wednesday.

Channel News Asia/September 24, 2014

By Alice Chia

Singapoere -- The City Harvest Church trial continued on Wednesday (Sep 24), with the prosecution accusing the finance manager Sharon Tan of "lying" and "creative misinterpretation" of her own emails.

Tan and five other church leaders are charged with using the church's building funds to buy sham bonds in two companies, glassware firm Firna and production house Xtron. On her third day of being cross-examined by the prosecution, Tan was questioned about certain investment decisions, which were not documented in the meeting minutes.

In one instance in 2008, Tan said the church board discussed and approved an investment of S$24.5 million in bonds by Firna, following a verbal presentation by co-accused Chew Eng Han, but their decision was not recorded in any board minutes.

Lead prosecutor for the case Ms Mavis Chionh put it that Tan was lying and that the board had not approved the decision. Ms Chionh asked: "Isn't it incredible that the City Harvest Church board can review, discuss and decide to approve an investment of a huge sum of up to S$24.5 million into Firna bonds, apparently without having seen any detailed reports, and apparently without bothering to minute any of this?"

Tan replied that this was "how the board works", and that it places its trust in fund manager Chew for any investment presentation.

The prosecution also contended that Tan conspired with three of the accused to make false entries in the church's accounts and transfer money to various companies to create the impression that the sham bonds had been redeemed.

But Tan maintained there was a legitimate reason for the redemption of the bonds. She said the church's auditor, Mr Sim Guan Seng from Baker Tilly, had said in a meeting in April 2009 that he wanted the church to "clear" the bonds off the church's books.

But this was also not recorded in the minutes of the meeting. The prosecution further pointed out that in a subsequent follow-up email Tan sent to co-accused Tan Ye Peng and John Lam, there was also no mention of this comment made by Mr Sim.

The prosecution said that Tan was lying and that Mr Sim had not made such a statement. But Tan pointed out that she had written that Mr Sim hoped to see the issue being resolved by the end of the year, which carried the same meaning as having the Xtron bonds cleared off the books.

The prosecution said that Tan was again indulging in "creative misinterpretation" of the plain words of her own emails to escape the lies she told about what Mr Sim supposedly said.

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