City Harvest Church leaders 'falsified minutes'

City Harvest Church leaders 'falsified minutes'

They lied to the auditors, the authorities and even their own fellow church members.

That was the picture the prosecution sought to paint yesterday of City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five of his deputies, who are accused of misusing church funds.

They allegedly misused $50 million to boost the pop music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun and to cover this up.

The defence says her music was part of a church-approved Crossover Project to evangelise.

Yesterday, Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh pointed to a raft of e-mails and documents to assert that the defendants conspired to falsify the minutes of board meetings to throw auditors off the scent.

For example, the minutes of a meeting said the church's investment committee had reviewed and approved City Harvest's investment into bonds issued by music production firm Xtron Productions, which managed Ms Ho's career at one time.

The prosecution believes these bonds were sham investments made to enable the misuse of church funds. Although the minutes of the board meeting were dated Aug 3, 2008, the investment committee meeting only took place two days later on Aug 5. The minutes of that meeting were backdated to July 29.

Ms Chionh put it to church board member John Lam Leng Hung, one of the defendants, that the dates had been changed after auditors raised questions about the bonds on Aug 1.

"You and your co-accused were planning to falsify paper work to show the auditors that the church had assessed (the bonds) to be a good investment... that was why the investment committee meeting minutes are dated before the auditors' query.

You were fully aware of all this falsification and deception," she said.

Lam said the wrong dates were simply mistakes.

Ms Chionh also charged that Kong had misled the church's executive members about the purpose of a set of bond investments worth $18.2 million.

While Kong had given members the impression that the money would be used to buy a property, $13 million had already been spent on the Crossover Project, she said.

"That the $18.2 million was all fresh bonds and all of it would be used to purchase the Riverwalk, this was a misleading impression (Kong) was giving to the executive members, right?" Ms Chionh asked Lam, who said yes.

Earlier, the prosecution sought to sink his claim that he believed Ms Ho's career was successful.

He cited this as a reason why the church should invest in Xtron bonds. But in fact, the church spent about half a million dollars to buy her unsold CDs.

This article was published on Aug 7 in The Straits Times.

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