I was just an adviser, why is the onus placed on me, former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han said in court yesterday.
Chew, 54, who continued on the stand, said he was merely tasked to structure the church's investments, which were not initiated by him.
The prosecution's case is that Chew, CHC founder Kong Hee and four others misused millions of church money.
First, $24 million was allegedly misused through "shell companies" Xtron Productions and Firna to fund the music career of singer-pastor Ho Yeow Sun. Then, $26.6 million was used to cover up the initial amount.
Yesterday, Chew told the court that the substance of the investments into Xtron Productions originated from Kong and his deputy Tan Ye Peng.
Chew said Tan had approached him when there was a need to pump money into Xtron, which would then fund Ms Ho's album.
He added: "What I did then was to package it as a bond.
"It's not as if I went to the board and said: 'Hey I've got a good investment idea.' It never happened like this."
Chew was also grilled by Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong on why he did not report to the board that Xtron Productions would not be able to pay back the $13 million to the church.
Chew said: "I assumed the board knew about the Xtron bonds. There was no conspiracy to hide from the board."
He added that his assumption was based on his working experience with key board members such as Kong and Tan.
"A fund manager normally doesn't go around to the client's office, or attends a board meeting and asks every board member: 'Hey, do you know what's the purpose of this?'"
Mr Ong also questioned Chew on why details of the Xtron bond proceeds were not shared with church members during CHC's extraordinary general meetings.
Chew said he had deferred to the "wisdom" of Kong and Tan as both senior pastors wanted to keep the church's dealings discreet.
"I was placed in a position where I had to defer to authority, to my spiritual pastors. I did what the board wanted."
Chew also told the court that the idea of investing into Firna - a glass factory owned by CHC member Wahju Hanafi - originated from Kong.
Chew, however, admitted he had a part to play in the execution of the Firna bond.
"If Kong Hee...and Tan Ye Peng say yes, the chances of the board saying no are almost zero."
Mr Ong charged that Chew and his co-accused wanted to avoid disclosure of the Xtron bond because it was allegedly a sham to misuse money from the church's building fund to finance Ms Ho's music career.
Said Mr Ong: "You are being disingenuous and merely seeking to evade responsibility for your culpability when you try to portray yourself as just an innocent fund manager taking instructions."
He quit the church in 2013, reportedly citing "a collision of primarily spiritual and moral principles".
The trial continues today.
The City Harvest Church leaders trial started on a new tranche yesterday, with former fund manager Chew Eng Han (right) telling the prosecution he was merely doing as he was told
ABOUT THE CASE
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five others are on trial for allegedly misusing millions of church money. First, $24 million was allegedly used to fund the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, whose stage name is Sun Ho. Another $26.6 million was then allegedly used to cover up the first amount.
They are said to have done so through "sham bonds" invested in two "shell companies" - music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna. Both companies were run by long-time supporters of the church.
Kong, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former board member John Lam, finance manager Sharon Tan, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager Serina Wee face charges of criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts.
The prosecution has sought to show that Xtron and Firna directors simply did the bidding of the accused. The defence has argued that the transactions were legitimate, with the accused acting "in good faith" on the advice of lawyers and auditors
This article was first published on Mar 17, 2015.
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