CHC trial: Major milestones

The New Paper, Singapore/October 8, 2014

By Ronald Loh

About the case

City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five others are on trial, on charges of misusing church funds through sham bonds.

First, $24 million was allegedly used to fund the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, whose stage name is Sun Ho. Then another $26.6 million was used 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 have sought to show how Xtron and Firna directors simply did the accused's bidding.

The defence has argued that the transactions were legitimate, with the accused acting "in good faith" on the advice of lawyers and auditors. The trial will resume on Jan 26 next year.

It is already turning into one of the longest-running trials here. After 88 days, only three of the six accused in the City Harvest Church leaders' trial have wrapped up their defence.

Sharon Tan, 39

Background: Joined the accounts department of CHC in 2000 and worked her way up, eventually succeeding co-accused Serina Wee as finance manager in 2008. Had first attended service at CHC when she was 18.

Charged with: Three counts of CBT and four of falsifying accounts

Days on stand: 14

Key defence points:

Accused of omitting important details at meetings, she responded by saying this was how she had been taught to takes minutes by Wee.

She was assured five times there was no need to show the investment from the church in its fund manager, AMAC Capital Partners, to auditors because, by the time the audit started, the investment in AMAC would have been redeemed.

She was under the impression that the previous audit partners had blessed the CHC-Xtron bonds.

Prosecution's case:

Her role was not merely administrative, nor was she merely a listener who took instructions. She was an active and willing participant to round-trip church funds.

As the church's finance manager, she had a duty to ensure the church's accounts reflected the true nature of the round-tripping transactions, but instead, she instructed her staff to falsely record these transactions as investments.

Case highlight:

Tan cried three times in court.

The third time was when she was pressed by Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh on whether the allegedly falsified board meeting minutes would have deceived the auditors.

Tan struggled to answer, even prompting the judge to intervene.

She eventually replied: "Your Honour, it might be seen like they are being deceived. But, Your Honour, it wasn't my intention."

She then broke down and proceedings were adjourned for 40 minutes.

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