Deputy senior pastor grilled by prosecution

Deputy senior pastor grilled by prosecution
Tan Ye Peng has maintained that the accused relied on experts, but the DPP said any advice would depend on what the experts were told

DEPUTY senior pastor Tan Ye Peng cannot hide behind the excuse that he and his team relied on professional advice when carrying out "sham" deals involving the alleged misuse of City Harvest Church's (CHC) money.

That is because any advice would depend very much on what Tan and the other five accused chose to reveal to auditors and legal experts, charged Deputy Public Prosecutor Mavis Chionh as she began her cross- examination of the 42-year-old yesterday.

At one point in her grilling of Tan, she even accused him of lying on the stand.

Things were more relaxed for him earlier in the day - the 107th in the long-running CHC trial - when he was cross-examined by lawyers for several of the other accused, including the lawyer for founding pastor Kong Hee.

The lawyer for CHC finance manager Sharon Tan, for instance, spent much of his time verifying that his client was simply carrying out instructions, and was not someone who had a hand in making key decisions.

Six of the church's leaders are charged with misusing $50 million of church funds to boost the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, and covering up the misuse.

The prosecution believes that five of the accused channelled money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Xtron, Ms Ho's management company, and glass manufacturer Firna.

Four of them, including Tan, then allegedly devised transactions to clear the sham bonds from CHC's accounts to mislead auditors.

Tan has repeatedly told the court that church leaders only acted on the advice of lawyers and auditors in structuring the funding of the Crossover project - the church's plan to evangelise through Ms Ho's secular music.

They had relied on these experts to approve the transactions and ensure that they were legal.

But DPP Chionh objected to Tan's logic: "...that statement that you relied on the advice of the lawyers and the auditors is meaningless in itself, unless we also know exactly what information you provided to the auditors and the lawyers. Agree?"

Tan agreed, but not before his lawyer, Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, raised objections on the manner of questioning.

DPP Chionh then hit back, saying that the defence lawyer was interrupting her in "an attempt to save the witness from answering".

Presiding Judge See Kee Oon allowed DPP Chionh to continue.

She went on to tackle the relationship between Xtron and CHC.

Tan had insisted that Xtron was a separate entity capable of making its own decisions, despite its directors being chosen and appointed by the church board.

DPP Chionh charged that Tan had lied on the stand when he claimed that it was auditor Foong Daw Ching who had instructed him to keep the church's actual extent of control over Xtron under wraps.

Tan disagreed.

The trial resumes on Monday with the prosecution continuing its cross-examination of Tan.

This article was first published on March 27, 2015.
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