City Harvest trial: 'Suntec tender was rigged'

City Harvest trial: 'Suntec tender was rigged'
Chew Eng Han, City Harvest Church's former fund manager.

We were sure we had won it but we were played out.

Former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han was referring to the church's bid for a stake in Suntec Convention Centre in mid 2009.

Despite supposedly submitting a higher bid, it lost the tender to its only competitor.

When Chew was cross-examined by co-accused Sharon Tan's lawyer, Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh, on the church's property search, he said there was foul play in the bidding process.

"We got played out by the owners of Suntec. And the whole tender was rigged," he told the court.

On Thursday, Chew testified during his examination-in-chief that the competitor had called him right after the closing of the tender and they revealed their bids to each other.

"We put in $230 million and (they) put in $225 million. And the owners (of Suntec)... told us we were not the highest bid. The highest was $235 million," Chew told the court on Thursday.

He also presented an e-mail to the court quoting one of his associates, who was then on the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) board, as saying that "CHC was under URA's radar and (it was) most likely difficult to get an approval for church purposes for a land downtown".

DELAYED

This meant that the church's search for a new venue for worship services had been continually delayed since 2005, despite CHC arming it with $46 million of advance rental to secure a new worship venue, Chew said. As Xtron now had spare cash, it used some of the unused advance rental to redeem the bond that the church had earlier bought from it, he said.

The prosecution has however alleged this to be a falsification of accounts to defraud auditors, even though Chew claimed that it was merely "one loan offsetting another loan".

He also said that the move to redeem the Xtron bond using the advance rental was cleared with auditors and lawyers.

The prosecution is alleging that the Xtron-CHC bond is one of two sham bonds that the church invested in to fund singer Ho Yeow Sun's music career.

Chew, 54, who quit the church in June 2013, is the fourth accused to take the stand. He is representing himself after discharging his lawyer last May.

Yesterday, he was cross-examined by three of his co-accused's defence lawyers.

He told the court that he first attended a CHC service in December 1995.

He converted to Christianity that day and grew close to Kong after his brother-in-law was killed in the SilkAir MI185 crash in 1997, he said.

He said he was then invited to join the CHC board and take on management and financial leadership roles as Kong, CHC's founder and Chew's co-accused, was impressed with his appointment as the head of State Street Bank.

Senior Counsel Edwin Tong, who is representing Kong, also challenged Chew on his testimony that Ms Ho's singing success was not real.

Mr Tong presented to the court various music charts that Ms Ho's albums had topped, and pointed out that these charts were published before the e-mails with plans to buy back her albums had been sent by Chew's co-accused.

Chew admitted there was no correlation between the charts and the e-mails.

The trial continues on Monday.


This article was first published on January 31, 2015.
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