City Harvest Church (CHC) finance manager Sharon Tan broke down on the stand again yesterday, as she conceded that her altering of meeting minutes may have deceived auditors.
But when the prosecution pressed her on whether she did it on purpose to throw off auditors, Tan firmly insisted no.
She is one of six people, including CHC founder Kong Hee, accused of misusing $50 million of church funds to boost the music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun and covering up the misuse.
The prosecution believes that the accused, except for Tan, channelled money from the church's building fund into Xtron, Ms Ho's management company, under the guise of purchasing the firm's bonds. Four of them, including Tan, then devised ways to clear the bonds off the church's books to throw auditors off the scent.
The prosecution alleges that one of these methods involved paying Xtron advance rental for premises the church could use for its services.
According to Tan's record of a Sept 12, 2009 meeting, the church board had purportedly approved paying this advance rental - to the tune of $7 million annually for eight years. But Tan also admitted that the actual approval was given only at a subsequent meeting.
Cracking under intense cross-examination, Tan, 39, choked up, saying: "Your Honour, it might be seen like they (the auditors) are being deceived, but... it wasn't my intention."
Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon gave Tan, who had cried on two other occasions during her 11 days on the stand, time to compose herself. During a break that lasted nearly an hour, she was seen outside the courtroom dabbing her eyes and being comforted by friends.
When Tan returned, Deputy Public Prosecutor Mavis Chionh continued to press the point, asking if she had inserted the extra lines into the minutes to give a "false and misleading impression". Tan replied: "I disagree, Your Honour."
Before the break, DPP Chionh had asked Tan to explain why it had been necessary for her to insert into the minutes things which happened later: "Why did you have to go back in time?"
Tan replied that at the Sept 12 meeting, board members agreed to approve whatever the advance rental amount would have worked out to be.
This article was first published on Sept 27, 2014.
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