SINGAPORE - City Harvest Church leaders accused of misusing the church's funds told auditors one thing and their parishioners another.
On Tuesday, the State tried to prove this by producing a series of e-mail messages to show that three of the accused - Serina Wee, who was Xtron's accountant, Chew Eng Han and Tan Ye Peng - were in cahoots to hide details and deflect questions about the church's connection with Xtron, even from the church's own members.
One set in 2008 had to do with the church paying exorbitant rent for a Riverwalk property from the company. "I feel it's hard to justify to the members why CHC (City Harvest Church) needs to lose $480,000 a year from the arrangement," said Wee.
This amount was meant to help Xtron pay off a bank loan instalment which members did not know about, Wee said in her e-mail.
Wee, Chew and Tan were also worried about how to present the two entities' close connection to the church's auditors and members.
"If anyone asks about the profits made (by Xtron from the Riverwalk rental during the City Harvest Church board meeting), then we should address it and say that Xtron is under CHC control and therefore any profits will be well managed by us for future works," wrote Chew.
Tan then replied: "Are we allowed to say that Xtron is under CHC control?"
To which Chew replied: "Not in such bold terms, but we should let our members have assurance that Xtron's gains will be channelled into projects in line with the CHC vision."
He added: "The only problem of using the word 'control' is that if it gets to the auditors, they may get ultra-conservative and say we own Xtron, and therefore we need to consolidate (the two). So we need to find a balance between what we tell our AGM - annual general meeting - (they want full control) and what we tell auditors (we don't want them to think we control Xtron)."
In another set of e-mail messages in 2008, Wee also told church founder Kong Hee, Tan and Chew that she had received advice from a fellow church member: "We can talk about Xtron to the members in the (extraordinary general meeting) but don't minute down everything. Just minute down necessary portions so as to not show too close a relationship or control over Xtron."