A series of lies and deceptions.
That was how the prosecution summed up City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee's evidence as it wrapped up the cross-examination yesterday.
Here are the main points of the prosecution's case over the course of the cross-examination, as outlined by Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong, and Kong's response to them:
Mr Ong: You were, in fact, in the financing of the Crossover Project including the bonds. You had been lying to this court when you say that you were not involved because you want to distance yourself from the bond transactions which you approved.
Kong: I disagree. The documentary evidence is clear that I approved it, and I don't deny it, but subjected to lawyers and auditors okaying it.
Ultimately, the relevant board and directors have to approve.
Mr Ong: When you told the church members that other fund managers had been considered, you were deliberately lying to cover up the fact that fund manager AMAC had been chosen to ensure that the bond transaction went through.
Kong: I disagree.
Mr Ong: You are lying when you say that the Xtron and Firna bonds were for dual purposes, that is, to maximise returns as well as to serve some other purpose.
Kong: I disagree, because the returns did come back to the church, and it was clear in my correspondence with the team, and in the discussions with the professionals that the dual purpose was very evident.
Mr Ong: There was never any intention for this sham transaction to create legally-enforceable obligations. Despite all this, you lied to CHC's auditors, lawyers, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) and this court that the sham transactions were genuine investments.
Kong: I disagree. We have professionals like auditors and lawyers so that they could advise us and tell us if a transaction is legal or it's a sham.
I can't fool the auditors or the lawyers, especially when they have visibility on both sides.
Mr Ong: You consistently lied to the CAD and this court when you claimed that Mr Wahju Hanafi had given a personal guarantee to underwrite the Crossover Project's expenses in 2002. The personal guarantee signed by Mr Hanafi in 2010 was just a sham to justify the inflow of funds (back to the church).
Kong: I'm not a financial person, and until the relevant time I don't know the significance of the formalised, documented personal guarantee.
But what I do know is Mr Hanafi gave a pledge and it was not a sham, because when the time came when we needed him to make good his promise, he tried.We also tried to help him. And at the end, he did make good.
Mr Ong: You engaged in a series of lies and deceptions over the years to conceal and facilitate the misuse of the church's building fund by you and your co-accused.
Kong: I disagree. And if it's true, then (accounting firm) Baker Tilly must be my accomplice, because they knew that the building fund had been used for this and they didn't say it was unauthorised.
Kong's lawyer, Mr Edwin Tong, will continue with the re-examination today.
About the case
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five others are on trial for allegedly misusing church funds through sham bonds. This includes $24 million to allegedly fund the music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, whose stage name is Sun Ho, and another $26.6 million to allegedly cover up the first amount.
They are said to have done this through music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna, run by long-time supporters of the church.
Kong, former board member John Lam, finance manager Sharon Tan, ex-fund manager Chew Eng Han, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager Serina Wee face charges of criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts.
Prosecutors had sought to show how Xtron and Firna directors simply did the accused's bidding.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 published on Sept 10 in The New Paper.
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