'Everything I did was for God... and Kong Hee'

'Everything I did was for God... and Kong Hee'
Chew Eng Han said his personal troubles from 2007 to 2009 left him depressed and that his faith helped to bring him around.

Accused says his faith saved him and he dedicated himself to serving pastor.

The years during which fund manager Chew Eng Han allegedly helped to set up sham investments on behalf of City Harvest Church were the lowest point of his life, a court heard yesterday.

Not because the 54-year-old was knowingly embroiled in any conspiracies, but because he faced a slew of personal "trials" - including almost losing his sight in one eye, financial difficulties and his wife almost dying.

Chew faces six counts of criminal breach of trust and four of falsifying accounts as one of six people from the megachurch - including founder Kong Hee - accused of misusing some $50 million worth of church funds.

This money, prosecutors believe, was channelled to boost the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, through the megachurch's Crossover evangelism project - then covering up the misuse.

Chew, in his four days on the stand, repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, insisting that he could not possibly have committed criminal breach of trust as he had structured the financial transactions so as not to cause losses to the church.

He claimed his longstanding relationship with the church and unwavering trust in his senior pastors were developed over 18 years as a member, and gave him no motivation to do anything sinister.

Wrapping up his evidence in court yesterday, Chew said the tribulations he faced in the years from 2007 to 2009 - which he documented in a "spiritual journal", copies of which were handed out in court - left him depressed.

He needed surgery to repair a detached retina in his left eye, and watched helplessly as his personal fund management business faltered during the global financial crisis.

He also injured his back caring for his wife whom he said temporarily lost the use of her legs due to deep-vein thrombosis.

It was his faith that helped to bring him around, and he threw himself into "doing whatever projects that pastor (Kong) required".

These included the Crossover project, which Chew said gave him "a sense of purpose".

Chew also cited his generous financial contributions to the church as examples of how devoted he was to its people and missions.

From the time he joined in 1996 to his departure from the church in 2013, he said he gave more than $600,000 in tithes and contributions to its Building Fund - the source of some of the misused funds.

When Kong told him that the Crossover project constituted a lot of flying for Ms Ho, and that a "tight budget" allowed her to fly only economy class which was "very tiring", Chew and another church board member donated a total of $40,000 for the singer's expenses.

"I never had bad intentions to cause loss to the church," said Chew. "Everything I did, I did it for God, and for Kong Hee, whom I thought was the man of God."

The trial continues today, with Chew expected to be cross-examined by the defence counsel of the other accused.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 30, 2015.
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