An e-mail received by senior members of City Harvest Church (CHC) was cited by the prosecution yesterday in an ongoing trial as evidence that church leaders were in control of a company they claimed operated independently.
Church leaders say Xtron, the management firm handling the music career of church founder Kong Hee's wife, pop singer Ho Yeow Sun, made its own decisions.
But Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Mavis Chionh disagreed in her ongoing cross-examination of deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, on his ninth day on the stand.
In an e-mail sent by former church finance manager Serina Wee in August 2008, Tan, the church's former fund manager Chew Eng Han and church board member John Lam are asked to comment on issues raised by the church's auditors about Xtron.
Wee, Chew and Lam are also among the accused.
In the e-mail, Wee specified matters relating to Xtron bonds bought by the church and the use of its building fund.
She asked them to read through her comments and "let me know do you have any additional thoughts or actions you think we should take".
Tan said he did not open the attachment, which contained her comments on the auditing issues. He said: "It didn't register in my mind that I need to look into this because this is an Xtron audit matter."
Ms Chionh replied: "You see, that's even odder then, isn't it, Mr Tan? That you, Eng Han and John Lam, two CHC board members and the CHC fund manager, are being sent the list of Xtron audit issues by Serina."
She added: "(This) shows the clear understanding is that it is not the Xtron directors who are in charge of Xtron, and therefore, not the Xtron directors who are responsible for responding to audit issues; it is the Crossover team, of which yourself, Serina, Eng Han and John are members."
The Crossover project was a church vehicle to spread the Gospel through Ms Ho's music.
Senior pastor Kong Hee and finance manager Sharon Tan are the rest of the six church leaders charged with misusing $50 million of church funds to boost Ms Ho's music career, and covering up the misuse. All but Wee have taken the stand.
The prosecution believes that five of the accused channelled money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna. Four of them, including Tan, then allegedly devised transactions to clear the sham bonds from CHC's accounts to mislead auditors.
Ms Chionh also said that at a general meeting in July 2007, Kong told executive members about the search for new premises and the church's plan to invest in the building fund but said nothing about using the fund to buy Xtron bonds to support the Crossover project.
Tan said it was not the church's practice to give executive members a detailed breakdown of investments, but Ms Chionh argued it was an incomplete picture.
This article was first published on April 7, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.