City Harvest Church money was never used to fund its Crossover evangelism project, contrary to prosecutors' claims, the mega-church's former fund manager told a court yesterday.
Instead, Chew Eng Han said the church simply lent money - via bonds - to Xtron, the production company set up by church leaders.
Xtron, which managed the music career of founding pastor Kong Hee's wife Ho Yeow Sun, did put money into the Crossover project, as per the decision of Kong to have a third party "take the financial risk" in place of the church.
But as Xtron was a "separate accounting entity", the use of its money could not be equated with the use of church money, Chew maintained.
Chew, 54, faces six counts of criminal breach of trust and four counts of falsifying accounts as one of six leaders from City Harvest Church - including founder Kong Hee - accused of misusing $50 million of church funds.
This money, prosecutors believe, was channelled to boost the music career of Ms Ho through the Crossover project - which aimed to evangelise through her secular music.
The accused are also alleged to have covered up the misuse of the funds.
In his fifth day on the stand, Chew was cross-examined by the defence counsel representing three of his co-accused: Kong, church finance manager Sharon Tan, and senior pastor Tan Ye Peng.
The lawyers took turns to pick through the evidence that Chew had presented in court earlier in the week, during which he had spent a significant amount of time accusing Tan Ye Peng and Kong of manipulating informa-
tion and mismanaging the Crossover project's expenditures.
Kong's lawyer, Mr Edwin Tong, sought to show that his client had been making decisions based on input from legal, auditing and music industry experts, with Kong "very anxious" to make sure that the experts vetted the transaction plans.
Senior counsel Kannan Ramesh then tried to show that his client Sharon Tan had not been a mastermind, but merely someone whose role, as Chew himself put it, "was just to execute" plans.
When Tan Ye Peng's defence lawyer N. Sreenivasan asked if church money had been used to fund the Crossover project, as per the prosecution's charges, Chew was quick to say "no".
"People have different interpretations of the use of the word 'use'," he said.
"Xtron is a separate entity, legal entity, and separate accounting entity from City Harvest Church.
"If City Harvest Church lends money to Xtron, Xtron has a financial obligation, a legal obligation, to pay back to CHC. And whatever Xtron does with the money, whether it's for property or for Crossover or for other things, it has to pay it back to City Harvest Church."
The $13 million in bonds issued to the church was just "an investment by the church into Xtron", Chew insisted, noting that he had verified this with the church auditor and accountant Foong Daw Ching.
The long-running trial will enter its 94th day on Monday.
This article was first published on January 31, 2015.
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