'Church- Xtron link concealed to hide fund use'

'Church- Xtron link concealed to hide fund use'
Chew Eng Han, former fund manager of City Harvest Church (CHC), exits the State Courts during lunch time on 3 February, 2015.

CITY HARVEST TRIAL

DPP: Aim was not to protect evangelical mission but hide use of fund for Ho's career

The close ties between City Harvest Church (CHC) and production firm Xtron were concealed to hide the use of church money in funding Ms Ho Yeow Sun's music career - not, as claimed by founding pastor Kong Hee, because the ties would jeopardise her "undercover" mission to evangelise in China.

This was one of the prosecution's arguments yesterday as it continued to shine the spotlight on the megachurch's former fund manager Chew Eng Han. He is one of six accused of misusing $50 million of church funds to boost Ms Ho's music career, and covering up the misuse.

The 54-year-old Chew testified that "concerns" over the church's China missions was one of the "real reasons" Kong gave him for wanting to conceal the close relationship between CHC and Xtron. Kong did not want the Chinese to dismiss Ms Ho, his wife, as "nothing more than a gospel singer".

"I knew that Kong didn't want it to be known that the church had purchased bonds in Xtron. From that angle, yes, that was what actually happened," Chew conceded when challenged.

Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong rejected the suggestion that there was a need to be discreet about Ms Ho's gospel links to prevent the Chinese from discovering that the church's Crossover Project had a "hidden agenda" to evangelise.

This was because her background was public knowledge.

To make his point, DPP Ong referred to several documents, such as the transcript of an extraordinary general meeting of the church in 2002. It records how Kong told of his hope to "publicly" deliver Christian messages in mainland China.

At an annual general meeting the next year, Kong also highlighted a Taiwanese newspaper headline that Ms Ho "shares her faith" during a concert.

When pressed by DPP Ong that he and other accused had wanted the secrecy to prevent the bonds being exposed as shams, Chew disagreed.

"I never thought the bonds were shams, right from the beginning," he insisted.

Chew has insisted that Kong and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng were the ones who called the shots for Xtron.

But the prosecution yesterday pointed out a 2008 e-mail to Tan and fellow accused Serina Wee, in which Chew wrote about the need to "find a balance" between what to tell church members, who wanted to hear that the church fully controlled Xtron, and auditors, who were not supposed to think that.

Chew, while admitting that he was involved in coming up with a "compromise statement" to an annual general meeting on the control issue, retorted that it was not he who wanted to keep things hush-hush.

He said: "No, your Honour, I don't believe in distancing myself. I'm involved in this. All I'm saying is that it's not my desire to achieve this object... in a discreet manner."

He claimed yesterday that he had merely followed Kong and Tan's preference for secrecy, believing then that their intentions were "pure".

DPP Ong later said: "Once again, you are trying to distance yourself from your involvement in trying to conceal the nature of the bonds, by saying it was actually Ye Peng's preference."

Chew, who is representing himself, disagreed.


This article was first published on February 04, 2015.
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