CHC trial: Pre-signed bond certs were ‘blank cheques’

CHC trial: Pre-signed bond certs were ‘blank cheques’
Choo Chwee Hua

When Commercial Affairs Department officers raided Serina Wee's accounting firm in 2010, they found a file labelled "Xtron bond documents".

Suspiciously, the amounts and dates of these bond certificates had yet to be filled in, even though they were already signed by the Xtron directors.

To top it off, a purple Post-it note with the words "Don't use unless emergency" was pasted on top of the documents.

Yesterday, the prosecution presented these documents to the court as it sought to prove that music production firm Xtron Productions was nothing more than a "shell company" used by six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders to fund singer-pastor Ho Yeow Sun's music career.

Former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, who has been on the stand for 10 days, was then cross-examined by Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong on the documents.

Chew, 54, who left the church in 2013, is the fourth accused to take the stand.

Mr Ong pointed out that Mr Wahju Hanafi, one of the Xtron directors who signed the bond documents, had previously said in his testimony that these were "blank cheques".

SIGNATURES

Said Mr Ong: "(Mr Hanafi)... actually referred to these as blank cheques because if someone had these, they could basically... drawdown (the $13 million Xtron bond) without having to go and seek the signatures of the directors."

Chew, who is representing himself after discharging his lawyer last May, said he could not remember if he was aware of their existence.

He also said that they could have been pre-signed "for convenience and speed" as Mr Hanafi travelled frequently.

Mr Ong also charged that Chew and his co-accused were in control of how much church money went in and out of Xtron.

He presented an e-mail showing Wee's objection to co-accused Tan Ye Peng's suggestion to reduce the amount paid by CHC to Xtron for the rental of the Singapore Expo Hall as "she needs it to repay the bond interest".

Said Mr Ong: "I put it to you that when it came to Xtron's liability to pay interest to the church, you, Tan Ye Peng, Kong Hee, Serina Wee and John Lam were quite willing to manipulate the earnings of Xtron from the church."

Chew disagreed, claiming that was merely a "scenario-planning exercise".

He was also grilled on why he failed to update the CHC board in several board meetings between February and August 2008, despite knowing that Xtron had difficulty repaying the $13 million it owed to the church.

The original $13 million Xtron bond subscription agreement was signed in July 2007 and stated that the money was to be repaid to CHC after two years.

It was revised in August 2008 and amended for a total of up to $25 million, with a new maturity date of 10 years.

Chew said that he had not brought the repayment issue up to the board because he was uncertain when the profits from Ms Ho's English album would come in.

He said: "As of July 9, 2008, I (was) told that the album has been delayed and so we (were) trying to solve a problem that was not anticipated at the inception of the bonds.

"I'm saying there's nothing for me to tell (the board), unless there's a definite plan."

Said Mr Ong: "I put it to you that you never informed the board of this because you knew that if you revealed this it would have led to the exposure of the sham that you had entered into."

Chew disagreed.

The trial will continue on March 16.

Dates lasting up to June 12 have been fixed for the hearing, which began in May 2013 and has gone on for 98 days.


This article was first published on February 07, 2015.
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