City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee admitted in court yesterday that he had presented inaccurate information to his church members.
Kong said he told his followers at an extraordinary general meeting in 2008 that music production firm Xtron was set up to own and manage future buildings for the church’s use.
But Xtron was really to manage singer Sun Ho separately and away from the church, he told the court yesterday.
“Unfortunately, it was in the script and I missed it. It’s imprecise,” he said.
Kong and five other CHC leaders are accused of misusing more than $50 million of church funds.
The money was allegedly taken from the church’s building fund, which was meant for the land purchases, rental, furniture and construction.
Some of this money was also allegedly used to finance the music career of Ho, who is married to Kong, through “sham bonds”issued by Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna.
Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong pointed out that CHC’s adviser, auditor Foong Daw Ching, was also told of the same inaccurate statement in an e-mail.
Said Kong: “I do agree that the e-mail to Brother Foong and the (EGM) address... was inaccurate, but... maybe we have done it in a hurry and we are not careful.”
Mr Ong then asserted that the real reason Xtron was set up was so Ho could be moved under Xtron’s management and to distance the financing of her music career from the church.
Kong said he disagreed as Ho’s music career was not financed by the church.
He also told the court that he preferred not to disclose that CHC was investing in Xtron — as long as it was legal — because it would affect the Crossover Project’s success.
The prosecution asserted that there was no genuine intention by CHC to “maximise gains” when it invested its building fund into the Xtron and Firna bonds.
But Kong said all of CHC’s investments were calculated “to come back and with interest”.
Mr Ong also pointed out that the money was only supposed to be used in accordance with CHC’s investment policy, which was printed at the back of the building fund’s fund-raising pledge cards.
But Kong said the investments into the two companies were authorised and cleared by CHC lawyers and auditors.
“If it was a legal and legitimate investment, then the church was authorised to invest,” he said.
During the prosecution’s cross-examination over the past few days, Mr Ong repeatedly said Kong was being evasive, and frequently told him to “answer my questions”.
He told Kong at one point: “You are being evasive because you know that if you were to answer truthfully, you would have to implicate yourself.”
Kong said he disagreed.
The trial continues today.
This article was first published on August 22, 2014.
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ABOUT THE CASE
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five others are on trial for allegedly misusing church funds through sham bonds.
This includes $24 million to fund the music career of Kong’s wife Sun Ho and another $26.6 million to cover up the first amount.
They are said to have done this through music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna, which are run by long-time supporters of the megachurch.
Kong, former board member John Lam, finance manager Sharon Tan, ex-investment manager Chew Eng Han, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager Serina Wee face charges of criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts.
Prosecutors had sought to show how Xtron and Firna directors had simply done the bidding of the accused.
The defence has argued that the transactions were legitimate, with the accused acting “in good faith” on the advice of lawyers and auditors.