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CHC trial: Auditors knew about bond investments, say defence lawyers

The defence representing the six leaders of the City Harvest Church on Thursday said that the auditors from Baker Tilly hired to go through the church's books were kept informed of its bond investments.

SINGAPORE: The defence representing the six leaders of the City Harvest Church on Thursday said that the auditors from Baker Tilly hired to go through the church's books were kept informed of its bond investments.

The lawyer of accused Sharon Tan, Mr Kannan Ramesh, took the lead in the cross-examination of audit manager Mdm Foong Ai Fang.

Through various email exchanges between the church leaders and the auditors, Mr Ramesh sought to show that the entire auditing team had access to information about the bond investments made by the church, from as early as March 2008.

The church had subscribed to bonds in Xtron, the former management firm of singer Sun Ho, for S$13 million.

The agreement was dated August 17, 2007. In particular, the defence brought up a document where a member of the audit team received a copy of the agreement five days later, on August 22, 2007.

On Wednesday, Mdm Foong had testified she had not been privy to details of the bond subscription agreement.

Another point made by the defence -- that auditor Mr Foong Daw Ching, who is also Mdm Foong's brother, had been the overall in-charge when it came to matters relating to the church and Xtron.

In statements and emails raised by the defence, the court heard that Mr Foong had described himself as the consultant partner to the whole of the church's group of companies. But when asked, Mdm Foong denied having any knowledge of this.

She added that Mr Foong was not involved in the audits of the church or Xtron.

The defence's case is that the six leaders had sought professional advice from Mr Foong on the various matters, including the bond investments and that they were approved by the auditors.

It is also arguing that Mdm Foong and her team knew that Xtron had raised funds by selling bonds to the church and that this money went into the production of Ms Ho's album.

Church founder Kong Hee and five deputies are accused of misusing millions of the church's building fund to boost the career of Ms Ho, through the use of "sham bond investments".

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