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Ex-City Harvest Church board member distances himself from co-accused

Former City Harvest Church board member John Lam, took the stand for a second day and continued to distance himself from decisions made by other church leaders on trial. 

SINGAPORE: Former City Harvest Church (CHC) board member John Lam, who took the stand for a second day, continued to distance himself from the decisions made by his co-accused concerning the church's bond investments.

The Court heard that his expertise as a trained accountant, was usually tapped by the others on an ad-hoc basis. However, Mr Lam told the Court he was often not kept in the loop about plans concerning the church's bond investments nor was he involved in plans on how church co-founder Sun Ho's music career would be funded.

Ms Ho, wife of CHC founder Kong Hee, fronted the church's Crossover Project as a way of evangelising through pop music.

Mr Lam is one of six church leaders accused of misusing millions of church funds to buy sham bonds from two church-linked firms, Xtron and Firna, to fund Ms Ho's music career. Xtron was managing her at the time.

Throughout the hearing on Tuesday (July 15), Mr Lam's lawyer, Senior Counsel Kenneth Tan pointed to various email and message chains that involved only the other accused persons, bringing to attention how much discussion and planning had been going on, and how little his client actually knew.

One example showed that even though Mr Lam had been asked by the others to attend a meeting with auditor Foong Daw Ching, on plans regarding the church's bond investments, he had not been copied in follow-up emails about the matter.

Another CHC member on trial, Serina Wee, the church's former finance manager who had informed Mr Kong of Mr Foong's comments after the meeting, only copied founding member and senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former investment manager of the church Chew Eng Han in the emails.

Mr Lam also pointed out that in the case of the church investing in an Xtron bond, it was Mr Chew who proposed the church invest in a Firna bond. Firna, or PT The First National Glassware, is owned by one of the church's long-time members - Wahju Hanafi.

Mr Lam gave evidence that he disagreed with some decisions made by his fellow accused. He said there was a need to justify Xtron's projected sales for Ms Ho's then-delayed US album, through factors like how many copies needed to be sold and the income per copy.

Xtron had projected album sales of S$16 million in 2011 and S$23 million in 2012. Instead, Mr Lam was told by Ms Wee that Mr Kong would have "some figures", that discussions were still ongoing, and that no distribution contract had yet been entered into.

Mr Lam also pointed out that he had voted against purchasing a Riverwalk property for church activities, as he had not seen its indicative valuation and felt no need to rush into the decision.

The trial continues for the rest of the week.

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