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Nearly S$5m of City Harvest Church funds used for Sun Ho's album-related expenses

The prosecution said City Harvest Church leaders had tried to hide this, and pointed out that there was no basis for the huge projected sales of Ms Ho's then-delayed US album.  

SINGAPORE: Church monies to the tune of S$4.79 million were used to meet expenses related to Sun Ho's music albums, and this was something the church leaders had tried to hide, said the prosecution in the trial of City Harvest Church leaders on Tuesday (Aug 5).

Ms Ho is the wife of City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee - one of six church leaders accused of using church money to buy sham bonds in order to fund her secular pop music career. One of the companies the church invested in was Xtron, Ms Ho's artiste management firm.

The prosecution said the church leaders wanted to use the Xtron bond proceeds to cover up the fact that they had already used up the church's advance rental monies to pay for Ms Ho's album-related expenses. This was not in the bond subscription agreement.

An email showed the church's former finance manager Serina Wee suggesting that the cost of paying back the rental monies be hidden under a travelling and salary cost in the use of proceeds clause in the agreement.

The prosecution has charged that payments between the church and Xtron was essentially moving money from one pocket to another. Its case is that the bonds were merely a device to funnel money from the church's building fund into Xtron to be used for the church's Crossover Project. Fronted by Ms Ho, the project was the church's way of evangelising through pop music.

"The idea of using Xtron bonds was so it could be presented as an investment, and hide the fact that you were using building fund monies to fund Sun's career," said Lead Prosecutor Mavis Chionh, adding that there were telling signs that the bond investments were not genuine. For example, the church did not carry out due diligence on Xtron before subscribing to the bonds.

Money that went to Xtron was largely used to fund the church's Crossover Project. In cross-examining former church board member John Lam, the prosecution pointed out that there was no basis for Xtron's huge projected sales of Ms Ho's then-delayed US album.

Xtron had projected album sales of S$16 million in 2011, and S$23 million in 2012. Ms Chionh pointed out that given there was neither a distribution contract nor an album contract, the figures were either "false, or at very best, purely speculative".

Lam said it was his belief in Kong Hee's ability to make the Crossover Project a success which led to him supporting the church's investment into the Xtron bonds, despite knowing that Xtron was not a profitable company, and that Sun Ho's music albums were losing money. This led the prosecutor to call his story an "incredible invention."

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