SINGAPORE - City Harvest Church (CHC) members had overwhelmingly supported co-founder Ho Yeow Sun's music career as a way to evangelise, and external lawyers had found nothing wrong with various allegedly suspect financial transactions.
That was the defence put up by lawyers yesterday for six church leaders accused of the misuse of church funds.
The state believes the money was channelled into Ms Ho's career in 2007 and 2008 through sham bonds issued by two companies run by church members, glassware manufacturer Firna and music firm Xtron Productions, which managed her career from 2003 to 2008.
But defence lawyers said that church members had long supported Ms Ho's music ambitions as a way to evangelise and voted to approve it in board meetings.
In 2010, several years after the church invested in the bonds and months after the authorities raided the church's offices, church members had "overwhelmingly" voted to retroactively approve the bond purchases, Xtron director and church member Choong Kar Weng said when questioned by defence lawyers.
Mr N. Sreenivasan, lawyer for accused church leader Tan Ye Peng, noted that external lawyers for Xtron had found nothing wrong with these and other allegedly suspect transactions at the time they were carried out.
He asked Mr Choong: "Did the lawyers warn you that (the bond investments) were an improper use of the CHC fund?"
Mr Choong replied: "Not that I know of."
City Harvest founding pastor Kong Hee and five of his deputies were charged last year with misappropriating about $24 million to finance the music career of Ms Ho, who is Kong's wife, and purportedly taking another $26 million to cover up the first amount.
The money was allegedly taken from the church's building funds meant for land purchases, rental, furniture and construction.
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