City Harvest trial: Why did she cry?

City Harvest trial: Why did she cry?

A outburst of tears led to an adjournment of yesterday's City Harvest Church (CHC) trial.

CHC finance manager Sharon Tan, who was on the stand on her fourth day of testimony suddenly turned away from the public gallery when her lawyer, Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh, asked if she had any corrections in her earlier statement to the Commercial Affairs Department.

That led to Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon to ask if she wanted a break. She said: "I'm so sorry, Your Honour."

The session was adjourned for the day while she tried to compose herself, around 15 minutes before the day's hearing was scheduled to end.

Earlier that day, she had been jovial and smiling, answering questions about her involvement in the alleged misuse of CHC funds in the redemption of sham bonds.

It is not known why she cried.

Her lawyer, Mr Ramesh, told reporters outside the courtroom that they were sorting out a minor detail at that point and it was "nothing sensitive".

Just before she broke down, she had made a correction in the amount of advance rental paid by CHC to Xtron, amending her statement from $56 million to $46 million.

The advance rental transactions were one of the reasons that four of the accused, including Tan, face charges of criminal breach of trust.

Prosecutors had argued that these were "round-tripping" transactions - they were allegedly meant to hide that church funds were used in the redemption of sham bonds.

Throughout yesterday's hearing, Mr Ramesh had questioned Tan about how these transactions came about.

It started because CHC's independent auditor, Mr Sim Guan Seng, was "uncomfortable" with the church board's original plan to finance Xtron's efforts to buy property through bonds as they were "too complex to valuate".

That property was meant to be Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, said Tan.

Because of Mr Sim's objections, the board decided to "reclassify the bonds as a prepayment of lease", she added.

Tan claimed that the idea of advance rental payments came from co-accused Chew Eng Han.

The plan was for CHC to pay Xtron $46 million for eight years of advance rental of Suntec for worshipping purposes, she claimed.

Part of the $46 million would also be used to redeem $21.5 million of bonds from Xtron and $11 million from Firna, another company run by a CHC member.

CHARTS

She had photographed charts depicting early versions of this plan on a white board, which she claimed were drawn by Chew.

When asked if she thought the plan was legitimate, Tan said: "I'd always seen Eng Han as one of the most trusted members around Pastor Kong (Hee) and he has been a board member for a long time.

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