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City Harvest trial: Kong did not care about church, Chew says

If Kong Hee was concerned about the church suffering losses, he would have tried to salvage the songs that Ms Sun Ho had already recorded, co-accused Chew Eng Han said.

SINGAPORE: City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee did not love the church and its members, and was not that concerned about it suffering losses, charged its former investment manager Chew Eng Han. Chew made these accusations against Kong in a bid to show he'd been deceived by his "spiritual mentor".

The pair are among six leaders in the dock for allegedly misusing church funds to bankroll the secular pop music career of Kong's wife, Sun Ho.

Wrapping up his cross-examination on Tuesday (Aug 19), Chew said that if Kong truly cared about the church getting back every dollar, he would have tried to salvage the songs that Ms Ho had already recorded for her US debut album. Kong could also have tried to sell the songs’ copyrights, or have Ms Ho return to the US to finish and launch the album, Chew said.

The album was part of the Crossover Project – the church’s way of evangelising through secular pop music. It was shelved after the Commercial Affairs Department launched an investigation into financial irregularities at the church in 2010.

MONEY COULD HAVE BEEN SPENT ON CROSSOVER

Chew also charged that Kong could have put his own money into the project, instead of buying personal properties for himself. "During the years of the bonds being issued for the Crossover, from 2007 and 2010, you could have put your own money into the Crossover, instead of buying personal properties for yourself," Chew charged.

Kong said he had "a lot on his plate at the time" - such as performing his spiritual duties - while coping with the investigations and legal proceedings. He admitted that perhaps he could have done more, but did not agree that what Chew put to him was evidence he did not love the church.

Kong also claimed he did not send Ms Ho back because the church needed her. "We had a crisis, we needed the co-founder to be back to calm the people," he added.

Kong said that while the spiritual returns achieved of the Crossover Project were worth the price, he acknowledged that it had put the church and his co-accused persons through painful times. He called the investigations and current trial the "most traumatic event" in the church's history."

"A VERY INTELLIGENT MAN": KONG ON CHEW

The prosecution began its cross-examination of Kong, asking about his relationship with all the accused, including Chew. Calling him a "very intelligent man", Kong said that Chew was his "go-to man" for financial matters concerning the church.

And while he was not as close to Chew as he was to other church leaders, Kong said he did love and appreciate him, as he had been a "very good member of the church".

"I don't think I've been on vacation with him and his family, but his family has joined me for some mission trips. I had dinners in his home on several occasions, but it would not be anywhere ... like my relationship with some of the other leaders in the church that I'm closer to. But I love Eng Han. I appreciated him. He's a very good member of the church - he was", said Kong.

Earlier, Chew also produced documents accusing Kong of inflating church attendance numbers. Kong said it was best for Chew to check with the department in the church that kept track of such numbers.