CHC trial: Auditor 'shouldn't shoulder all the blame'

CHC trial: Auditor 'shouldn't shoulder all the blame'

SINGAPORE - After 20 days of hearings, the second part of the City Harvest trial drew to a close last Friday.

Auditor Foong Daw Ching, who had spent eight days on the witness stand, gave his testimony for the last time last week.

During re-examination by the prosecution, he agreed that the auditor should not shoulder all the blame if senior people in an organisation conspire to commit fraud and hide the traces.

Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh had read out part of a judgment of a case involving one of Mr Foong's auditing firms, TeoFoongWongLCLoong (Tfwlcl), where they were sued for being negligent in their audits of US multinational firm JSI Shipping.

The firm had failed to spot that a former director was siphoning company funds into his pay package. The case later went up to the Court of Appeal, where Tfwlcl was made to pay JSI Shipping $273,386 in damages.

Mr Foong said that in fraud cases where senior people conspire, it would be "very highly unlikely" that auditors could uncover the fraud no matter what tests they used.

But earlier in the day, former church accountant Serina Wee's lawyer sought to prove that Mr Foong knew of the alleged fraudulent transactions and had in fact given them advice.

Mr Andre Maniam produced an e-mail exchange showing the City Harvest group's reluctance to deal with Baker Tilly engagement partner Sim Guan Seng, preferring to go to Mr Foong instead.

In a missive between Wee and her fellow accused Tan Ye Peng in June 2009, Wee said it will be difficult to talk to Mr Sim about Xtron Production's accounts because they were concerned about showing overly close links between the company and City Harvest Church.

Tan then asked Wee to meet Mr Foong for an "off the record" meeting so he could advise her on what to tell Mr Sim at a separate meeting, to ensure he would not ask too many questions.

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