City Harvest Trial: Accused believed investments 'in good hands'

City Harvest Trial: Accused believed investments 'in good hands'
Sharon Tan.

The finance manager for City Harvest Church (CHC) took the stand yesterday, saying she believed the church's investments were "in good hands" and that there were safeguards in place.

Sharon Tan is one of six accused - including church founder and senior pastor Kong Hee - on trial for misusing $50 million in church funds to boost the music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun and falsifying accounts to cover up the misuse.

She is the third accused to take the stand in the trial, which began in May last year.

Questioned by her own lawyer, Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh, the 38-year-old admitted she was not much of an investor herself and had only made investments using her CPF funds.

Tan said Kong had appointed co-accused Chew Eng Han as the church's fund manager as he was an expert in investments. The pastor also trusted him and saw him as someone who could maintain confidentiality.

"Pastor Kong says there is always risk in investments... to minimise risk, the church has to engage a trustworthy fund manager. At the end of the day, we are not experts," she said, adding that Chew fitted that role.

When asked about the security of the money, she replied it "should be secure" because investments were overseen by a committee and managed by the trustworthy Chew.

She said she was given the impression that the church's investments in Xtron Productions, the firm managing the pastor's wife's career, were getting good returns. "In my mind, this is a very good investment," she said.

The prosecution has alleged that five of the accused - Kong, Chew, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, former finance manager Serina Wee and former investment committee chairman John Lam - channelled $13 million from the church's building fund into sham bond investments with Xtron.

Tan, who took over the post from Wee, is not charged with involvement in the sham bonds.

But she said she believed the investment was in the good hands of Kong, Tan, Chew and Wee.

Mr Ramesh noted she was one of three signatories to instructions to the bank on the drawdown of Xtron bonds. Tan said it was Wee, her superior, who told her they were approved by the church board and told her to sign. She said she felt assured that these were approved transactions as they were already signed by the church's pastors.

This article was first published on September 13, 2014.
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