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City Harvest trial: Chew says he deferred to Kong on Crossover Project funding

If the church was seen to be financing Sun Ho's career, those outside the church would perceive her popularity and success to be "not real", Kong says.

SINGAPORE: City Harvest Church's former Investment Manager Chew Eng Han has been singled out at various points over the course of the hearing as the man who decided to invest in the bonds at the centre of the criminal charges.

But Chew denied this in court on Friday (Aug 15), saying his advice had been sought by his co-accused on the possibility of using building fund monies to finance the church's Crossover Project. He pointed to Senior Pastor Tan Ye Peng as the one who first mooted the idea.

Chew is one of the six church leaders standing trial for allegedly misusing millions of church dollars to fund the secular pop music career of Sun Ho, who is the wife of church founder Kong Hee.

Chew, who is defending himself, pointed out that co-accused and former church board member John Lam had also been in favour of the church funding the project directly. In an email in May 2003, Lam suggested the church openly finance the Crossover Project, so there would be no need for the transfer of funds and other withdrawals. This was a stance Chew said he agreed with, but was not "100 per cent enthusiastic" because he knew it was not Kong's position.

Chew charged that as a senior pastor and "Man of God", Kong should have taken responsibility as a key decision maker for the financing of the Crossover Project. The project was a way for the church to evangelise through Ms Ho's secular pop music.

Over the past week, Kong has described himself as a novice when it came to bond transactions and that he was not skilled in financial instruments. Kong said he wished he could be a "superman" but was busy with overseas church mission projects. He said he was aware of his strengths and weaknesses, and that is why he focused on budgeting, and left financing matters to the experts in his management team which included Chew, and the church's lawyers and auditors.

Chew said this was false - pointing out that while Kong claimed financing matters were difficult to grasp, he appeared to be able to understand how to draw down money and apply it to the Crossover Project."

The court got an insight into the close relationship that Chew and Kong used to have. For example, Chew said he was one of Kong's greatest defenders during the Roland Poon incident and that he had encouraged Ms Ho during that time. Roland Poon was a former church member who alleged in 2003 that church monies were being used for Ms Ho's music career.

Following that, it was Kong's preference to keep the church's financing of the Crossover Project discreet. Kong said if the church was seen to be financing Ms Ho's career, those outside the church would perceive her popularity and success to be "not real", and if she could not be seen as a bona fide secular singer, the Crossover Project would then fail.

Chew claimed he had deferred to Kong's "wisdom and decision" as Senior Pastor, even though he believed the church should fund the project "openly and directly".

The trial resumes on Monday (Aug 18).