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Five City Harvest Church leaders on trial met to discuss their defence

An email chain highlighted by the prosecution in court shows five of six church leaders on trial had met to discuss their defence and later raised concerns on whether they were on the same page about round-tripping charges.

SINGAPORE: Five of the six City Harvest Church leaders had met at least once in 2013 to discuss their defence, according to an email chain highlighted by the prosecution in court on Thursday (Aug 7). The court heard that church founder Kong Hee was not present at the meeting. The leaders are accused of using monies from the church's building fund to buy sham bonds in Xtron and Firna to fund the secular music career of Sun Ho - the wife of church founder Kong Hee.

In an email, the church's former investment manager and co-accused Chew Eng Han says he is "convinced" that they are not on the same page regarding the substance of their defence and some of them had shifted their position on what the bonds were actually for.

He adds that he is "disturbed" by this, and that these differences should be discussed when they next meet. Chew was also the one who brought the email chain to the court's attention. It was admitted after a closed-door hearing on Tuesday.

Another email also revealed that his co-accused - John Lam, Serina Wee, and Sharon Tan had also raised concerns about whether they were all on the same page about the round-tripping charges.

In an email to Chew dated Feb 3, 2013, John Lam wrote: "The 2 girls have a concern. If on the bond issue there seem to be a "different page", how about the round trip? Are we having the different view as well. Obviously we rather not." He then suggests a meet-up to discuss this. When initially questioned by the prosecution, he had denied talking to the other accused persons about what should be said at trial.

The prosecution then questioned Lam about why - if he was truly honest - would he be worried about his co-accused taking a different view of the charges.

Lead Prosecutor Mavis Chionh asked: "Do you agree that if you are an honest accused person who is going to go to court and tell the truth... you would not be trying to meet up with your co-accused persons and worrying about their taking a different view from yours on the charges?"

In wrapping up her cross-examination on Lam, Ms Chionh also said that Lam had placed the interests of the Crossover Project over and above his duty as a church board member to ensure proper stewardship of the church's Building Fund. She also pointed out that Lam knew using the Building Fund monies to finance Ms Ho's career was an unauthorised use of the funds, and that his keen awareness of this was why he had desperately tried to claim ignorance during the trial.

"It is also because of this guilty knowledge that you are now trying to disassociate yourself from the transactions and instead to push the blame to some of your co-accused, from blaming Sharon Tan, for example, for wrongly recording minutes, to blaming Chew Eng Han, whom you say was responsible for feeding you information," she said.

Ms Chionh also gave a scathing assessment of Lam's defence saying that it has essentially been one of "I don't know, nobody told me, and if they did tell me, they didn't ask me for advice". She said given his status within the church, financial expertise, and documentary evidence, his defence is not only "untenable" but "deeply cynical". 

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