City Harvest trial: Manager plays down her 'round-trip' role

City Harvest trial: Manager plays down her 'round-trip' role
Sharon Tan repeated earlier claims that she had been consistently "concerned" and focused on the "audit issue" the church was facing.

SINGAPORE - City Harvest Church (CHC) finance manager Sharon Tan repeatedly downplayed her role in alleged plans to "round-trip" church funds and throw auditors off.

For instance, it was co-accused Chew Eng Han who had made various suggestions and come up with the eventual proposal on how to purge the bonds held by the church in two firms, Tan told the court at least six times on Tuesday.

While being questioned by her lawyer, Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh, the 39-year-old also repeated earlier claims that she had been consistently "concerned" and focused on the "audit issue" the church was facing.

Tan is one of six people, including founding pastor Kong Hee, accused of misusing $50 million of church funds to boost the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, and covering up the misuse.

The prosecution believes that all of the accused, except Tan, channelled money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Xtron, which is Ms Ho's management company, and glass manufacturer Firna.

Four of them, including Tan and Chew, the church's former fund manager, then allegedly devised transactions to clear the sham bonds from CHC's accounts to mislead auditors.

Tan also made various claims about her state of mind at the time, including how she had felt assured that the plans were in the church's interest, in part because co-accused and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng was in the loop.

Chew had also assured her that he had made both Tan Ye Peng and Kong aware of the plans, she said, adding: "That's why I was comforted and assured that we can go ahead with the plan."

Tan, who was taking the stand for the 13th day, also rejected the prosecution's allegation that "advance rental" of $15 million transferred from the church to Xtron had been a "cover story".

The aim, said the prosecution, was to help Xtron pay back its "debt" to the church held in the bonds, in turn allowing the sham bonds to be cleared from CHC's books.

Instead, the payment would help to fill a "real need" to help Xtron secure premises the church needed for its services, she said.

Tan also disagreed with the prosecution's earlier suggestion that she had wanted to hide from auditors what the church's money had been invested in, maintaining that she had been troubled by the "audit issue".

The trial resumes tomorrow, with Mr Ramesh expected to finish re-examining her.

This article was first published on October 1, 2014.
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