- POSTED: 21 Sep 2013 21:58
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After 20 days and six witnesses, the second tranche of the trial involving six City Harvest Church leaders ended on September 20. The trial will resume in January with at least five prosecution witnesses slated to take the stand.
SINGAPORE: After 20 days and six witnesses, the second tranche of the trial involving six City Harvest Church leaders ended on September 20.
The trial will resume in January with at least five prosecution witnesses slated to take the stand.
Church founder Kong Hee and five others are accused of misusing S$24 million of the church's building fund to boost singer Sun Ho's music career.
Her music is part of the Crossover Project which aims to evangelise.
It is said another S$26 million were used to cover up the misuse.
The defence had referred to an email dated 28 July 2008 sent by Kong to co-accused Serina Wee and Tan Ye Peng to show that he had been careful in budgeting for his wife Sun Ho’s foray into the United States music scene.
In it, Kong had asked about worst-case scenarios.
He asked Wee and Tan to work out the estimates if only a third of the profit came from Ms Ho's English album.
The prosecution argued that this was not the case.
In a February 2005 email, Kong told American music producer, Justin Herz to "plan as if 'the sky is the limit'".
He added they would then work out how they to get funds for the project.
During the trial, the court heard for the first time how Ms Ho's music career in the US was launched.
She was said to have huge potential and the net profit from her first English album was estimated to surpass US$25 million over seven years from 2007 to 2012, with expected sales of two million copies.
The singer's publicity budget was set at between that of superstars Beyonce (US$17 million) and Shakira (US$12 million).
Concealing of investments?
Another issue was the hiding of information from stakeholders.
The prosecution sought to show this through a chain of emails dated 12 October 2007, between three of the six accused - Chew Eng Han, Serina Wee and John Lam.
In the emails, the three discussed how they could withhold information from the church's investment committee, as well as its (church) board members.
Chew also wanted to keep the close links between Xtron Productions, Ms Ho and Kong to a small circle.
The defence argued that the accused were just being discreet as this is a sensitive issue.
Control over Xtron
In another email raised, the prosecution tried to show that the accused controlled Xtron Productions, which used to manage Ms Ho.
Dated 1 August 2008, Wee told Kong, Tan and Chew that the church's auditor Foong Daw Ching advised them to "just minute down the necessary portions so as not to show too close a relationship or control over XPL (Xtron)".
She added they would have to paint the picture that the church has only "some control over Xtron".
Mr Foong denied providing this advice but the defence charged that Mr Foong was trying to distance himself from the accused.
It added that Mr Foong was the one who had overriding authority over the others in the firm.
Mr Foong disagreed and at one point, he snapped, telling the defence not to put words in his mouth.
Besides Xtron, glassware firm Firna or PT The First National Glassware was also said to be controlled by the church.
The prosecution's point was that the two firms were used by the accused to commit "round-tripping" via "sham bond investments".
It sought to show Xtron directors Choong Kar Weng and Wahju Hanafi as rubber stamps.
The court heard how the church instructed the two on draw down amounts and dates and how church trustees were left out of the loop.
The defence said that Mr Choong and Mr Hanafi are the ones giving the ultimate approval to matters.
Both witnesses agreed.
On the various financial transactions, the defence said auditors and lawyers had gone through them and there was nothing sinister about it.
For example, in 2008, Firna had issued bonds to the church to raise capital.
Defence counsel Kannan Ramesh, who represents Sharon Tan, pointed out to Mr Hanafi that it was only logical to restructure the debts if the church wanted Firna to redeem the bonds before the stipulated three years.
Mr Hanafi agreed.
On the last day of the second tranche, the court also heard Mr Foong testified that the use of the church's building fund to pay for Crossover Project's expenses were "not right".
The witness was re-examined by prosecutor Mavis Chionh, who sought clarification on his earlier answers to defence lawyer Andre Maniam.
Mr Foong had agreed then that concerts and overseas travel expenses of singer Sun Ho should be charged to the church - because she was part of the church's Crossover Project.
But when given the scenario that the church's building fund is meant for the purchase of church property, Mr Foong said monies from the building fund cannot be used to pay for the Crossover Project.