City Harvest Trial: Prosecution's case lacks sufficient evidence, says lawyers

City Harvest Trial: Prosecution's case lacks sufficient evidence, says lawyers

Defence lawyers in the City Harvest Church case sought to prove that prosecutors had not done enough to even merit a defence as the trial resumed yesterday.

They questioned why no executive members of the church had been called to substantiate claims that they had been misled about the use of funds.

City Harvest auditors, trustees and directors of companies allegedly involved in sham deals were among the prosecution witnesses to give evidence.

But their lawyers said the prosecution had failed to show sufficient evidence for each of the charges against their clients.

Church founder Kong Hee and five others are accused of misusing about $50 million of church funds in total to finance Kong's pop singer wife Ho Yeow Sun's career and to cover this up.

Lawyer Michael Khoo, representing ex-church investment manager Chew Eng Han, said several of the accused did not have the power to decide on use of church funds by themselves, contrary to prosecution claims.

If statements had been recorded from the other board members but were not offered to the defence, and the members were not called to court, "the adverse inference must be drawn that if they had been called, their testimony would have debunked the prosecution's case", he said.

Mr Edwin Tong, representing Kong, said the prosecution had not called any church executive members to substantiate its claims.

"These (executive members) are not accused persons," he said. "The prosecution has chosen not to call any (executive members) to make good their point that they have been misled."

While Mr Khoo called on the prosecution to disclose whether it or the Commercial Affairs Department had taken statements from people other than those called as witnesses, Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh said he had "no legal basis" to make such a request.

The prosecution is expected to address the defence lawyers' arguments today after Mr Andre Maniam, representing former finance manager Serina Wee, wraps up the defence's arguments.

The lawyers also sought to show yesterday that the prosecution had misinterpreted e-mails and text messages between the accused or taken the communications out of context.

Mr Tong disagreed with the prosecution that sham investments were used to funnel the funds illegally.

Referring to one allegedly suspicious transaction, he said auditors were aware of "all the salient features" of the investment and two large law firms in Singapore had advised on it.

While the money from the transaction had gone to Ms Ho's music career, this was in line with the church's "widely embraced" mission of using it to evangelise, he said. "The truth is... no one misappropriated the money for their own use. No one has complained," he said. The trial continues.

zengkun@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 9 in The Straits Times.

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