- POSTED: 16 Sep 2013 15:16
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As the City Harvest Church trial resumed on Monday, testy exchanges took place between auditor Foong Daw Ching and one of the defence lawyers over whether Mr Foong was trying to distance himself from advice he gave to the six church leaders.
SINGAPORE: As the City Harvest Church trial resumed on Monday, testy exchanges took place between auditor Foong Daw Ching and one of the defence lawyers over whether Mr Foong was trying to distance himself from advice he gave to the six church leaders.
Mr Foong, of accounting firm Baker Tilly, maintained on the stand that he never provided advice on the church's audit report or bond transactions to any of the accused.
He insisted he gave only an "opinion" or "general advice" on whatever he was consulted on.
He was being cross-examined by Mr Edwin Tong - the lawyer acting for church founder Kong Hee - who tried to prove that Mr Foong had a close relationship with the church leaders.
Six church leaders are on trial for allegedly misusing S$24 million of the church's building fund to boost the music career of Ms Sun Ho, Kong's wife.
Mr Tong pressed Mr Foong several times about an article in The Straits Times last month in which the paper said it understood Mr Foong had given advice to the church in his personal capacity.
Mr Foong had said he was "most upset" about some points in the article, and clarified that he had given advice to the church staff both as a friend and as a professional, but he emphasised that he was not the auditor in charge of the church's account at the time.
Email chains brought up last week by the prosecution during the trial showed that the church leaders claimed they had consulted Mr Foong on certain matters. However, when that was put to him, he said that it was not true and that he had not been kept in the loop.
Mr Tong charged that Mr Foong was not just trying to distance himself from advice he had given to the church, but that in fact, he oversaw the church's audit and would even override the views of the auditor in charge of the church's accounts.
"From 1993 up to as recently as 2010, you have held yourself out, through letters and email advice, to be the go-to person," said Mr Tong.
He also suggested that some evidence that Mr Foong had given - namely that he did not interfere or have control over the audit partners - was untruthful.
Mr Foong denied this, and at one point during cross-examination, even told Mr Tong not to put words in his mouth.
The exchange resulted from an email thread between October and November 2007 between auditors and three church leaders - Serina Wee, Tan Ye Peng and John Lam - over whether transactions regarding the church's building fund monies ought to be disclosed in a management letter for an audit that was to be conducted by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports at that time.
Mr Tong also charged that Mr Foong took a view of the matter that was contrary to the auditor who was handling the church's account, and tried to show that in this instance, Mr Foong's view took precedence.
Later, Mr Tong brought up several previous court cases in which Mr Foong had been called in as an expert witness in areas relating to valuation, accounting, and auditing - which he said contradicted Mr Foong's testimony during the trial that he was not skilled in many areas.
This included having a weak knowledge of financial instruments, not being familiar with technical standards, and that he did not like to read agreements.
"You've been an expert witness in court for the 10 to 15 years... Why would you spend the last four days telling us that you are not skilled in many areas? Let me suggest that you are doing this only because you are keen to distance yourself from advice you gave to City Harvest Church," he said, also pointing to Mr Foong's "fairly sterling CV" and "many appointments and accolades".
Mr Foong continues on the stand on Tuesday.