Chew to Kong Hee: You didn't give to church

Chew to Kong Hee: You didn't give to church
Chew Eng Han.

You've never loved your church members and you never cared if the church lost money.

Yesterday, former City Harvest Church (CHC) investment manager Chew Eng Han continued to assert that the megachurch's founder, Kong Hee, had deceived those close to him.

He accused Kong of falsifying information - such as the church's attendance figures - and for choosing not to recoup the money sunk into singer Sun Ho's American album.

Chew, Kong and four others are accused of misusing more than $50 million of church money to finance pop singer Ho Yeow Sun's music career and covering up their tracks. (See report below.)

Yesterday, Chew continued his cross-examination of Kong, who is the second accused to take the stand after former board member John Lam.

Chew, a former CHC fund manager, told the court that Kong had urged churchgoers to donate to the building fund despite not doing so himself.

"During the years of the bonds being issued for the Crossover, from 2007 to 2010, you could have put your own money into the Crossover instead of buying personal properties for yourself."

The Crossover Project was the church's attempt to evangelise internationally through Ho's secular music.

Chew added later: "You withheld yourself from giving ... tithes to your own church despite being the founder and senior pastor and... the one on stage who challenged thousands to sacrifice for the building fund."

GAVE MONEY

Kong replied that he did contribute to the building fund during the church's fund raising campaigns as well as pledging to the Crossover Project.

Chew also asserted that Kong did not care about losses suffered by the church.

For example, he said that Kong pushed for a deal with Suntec in 2009 even though it would cost more than the alternatives, such as the land along North Bridge Road where the Capitol Theatre stood.

Kong disagreed and said that the building along North Bridge Road still had to be constructed.

He added the construction costs would add to the megachurch's already "escalating costs" then.

"Suntec was already a ready building and we don't have to build from scratch. The infrastructure was good, the carpark... all the facilities were there.

"So that was my personal preference, but I didn't ride roughshod over the decision-making.

"I left it to the team and the board and the building committee to do their own study and come up with the best proposal," he said. On Monday, Chew had questioned Kong about Ho's unreleased English album. Kong had said then that he did not know of the copyright details or legal status of the songs in the album as he had left it to the lawyers.

Yesterday, Chew told the court that he had asked Kong if the copyright could have been liquidated and the proceeds be used to return whoever had borne the brunt of the losses from the album.

Chew said Kong's reply to him then was: "Well, if the Xtron directors tell me to do it, then I will do it."

Kong then said that he had helped to pay off what was needed for the album even though there was still a possibility of the album being released.

Chew also said yesterday that Kong had "grossly exaggerated" the attendance figures of the church.

He referred to a statement made by Kong last week that the Crossover Project had "caused our church to have doubled and, at one time, triple in our congregation size" to about 28,000 in 2009.

Chew contended that there were only about 11,800 attendees each week then, based on a BlackBerry message sent to the pastors. But Kong said those figures only represented about 60 per cent of churchgoers. "It will be those people that are under the cell groups... but they will not be able to forecast how many from the public would be able to come," he said.

OVERSEAS

He added that he was overseas then and asked Chew to check with the church's office that kept the statistics.

Said Chew: "You are a man given to accuracy and details. You should not be pushing this responsibility to some other staff." Chew wrapped up his cross-examination of Kong yesterday, along with the defence lawyers for Tan Ye Peng and Serina Wee.

The prosecution will continue its cross-examination of Kong when the trial resumes today.

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 fund the music career of Kong's wife Sun Ho and another $26.6 million to cover up the first amount. They are said to have done this through music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna.

Both companies are run by long-time supporters of the megachurch.

Kong, former board member John Lam, finance manager Sharon Tan, ex-investment manager Chew Eng Han, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager Serina Wee face varying charges of criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts.

Prosecutors have sought to show how Xtron and Firna directors had simply done the bidding of the accused.

The defence, on the other hand, has argued that the transactions were legitimate, with the accused acting "in good faith" on the advice of lawyers and auditors.

Kong Hee on his co-accused

The prosecution began its cross-examination of City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee yesterday afternoon. Here's what Kong Hee (right) said of his co-accused when asked.

Chew Eng Han

One of the key leaders in the church. He ran the businessmen ministry, the marketplace ministry in City Harvest Church.

I'm close to him, but as a pastor to a member. When it comes to investment, he's the expert.

I love Eng Han. I appreciated him. He's a very good member of the church. He was.

Tan Ye Peng

He was the No. 2 person in the church - the deputy senior pastor.

He would be my No. 2 person for the Crossover Project only to the extent of the secular music production, promotion in Asia and then in the US.

But he wouldn't be my No. 2 person when it comes to the missionary aspect.

He's a very reliable and honest man.

Serina Wee

I knew Serina as one of the fervent members in the church who came as a rather young girl during her teenage years.

I would see her on Sundays as a musician or a singer on stage.

Serina did the accounting for the Crossover Project team, helped me scrutinise the budgets and check for errors for the budget while helping out the Xtron directors with the firm's overall budgeting.

John Lam

He is a pillar in the church, in the sense that he's a very faithful member for many, many years.

John was an ex-staff that I was close to and then when he went out to have a secular job, I would see him in board meetings and weekend services.

He (was) a respected member of the board, especially on financial matters.

Sharon Tan

(My) relationship with her was more of employee of the church. I'm her pastor as well. (There was) no reason to be unhappy with her work as the finance manager.

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 fund the music career of Kong's wife sun ho and another $26.6 million to cover up the first amount. They are said to have done this through music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna.

Both companies are run by long-time supporters of the megachurch.

Kong, former board member John Lam, finance manager sharon Tan, ex investment manager Chew Eng han, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager serina Wee face varying charges of criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts.

Prosecutors have sought to show how Xtron and Firna directors had simply done the bidding of the accused.

The defence, on the other hand, 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 August 20, 2014.
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