Why did you hide from City Harvest Church board members the fact that the bonds you helped the church invest in were not going to be repaid in time?
This was the pointed question that the prosecution fired at the church's former fund manager, Chew Eng Han, yesterday. The reason for the silence, accused Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong, was that the bonds were nothing more than a sham.
But Chew retorted that there was never any intention to hide anything about what he has maintained are "genuine" investments.
The board did not need to be told, Chew claimed, because it trusted founding pastor Kong Hee and the team in charge of the church's Crossover Project, which aimed to evangelise through the music of Kong's wife.
The matter did not strike Chew as being particularly important and, in any case, there was no point in sharing until the team came up with a way to solve the repayment problem.
DPP Ong described those reasons as "absurd" and "disingenuous".
Chew, 54, is one of six people on trial for misusing $50 million in church funds to boost the music career of Ms Ho Yeow Sun, and covering up the misuse.
The prosecution alleges that money from the megachurch's building fund was illegally channelled into production firm Xtron, which managed Ms Ho. This was done through the church's investment in Xtron bonds.
Much of yesterday's hearing centred on Chew's role in this alleged scam. He also allegedly had a hand in sham bond investments in glass maker Firna and finding ways to throw auditors off.
The initial $13 million Xtron bond agreement, which was signed in August 2007, was due to be repaid two years later. But in 2008, the repayment was pushed back to 2017.
DPP Ong said yesterday: "What you (and fellow defendants) Kong, Tan Ye Peng, Serina Wee and John Lam did was to intentionally hide the fact that the $13 million misappropriated from the building fund to fund Sun Ho's music career was in danger of not being returned."
Chew disagreed, again.
In an intense 30-minute spell of cross-examination, DPP Ong also charged that it had always been their intention to push back the due date for the first Xtron bond repayment for as long as it was necessary for Ms Ho's music career to start returning profits.
Mr Ong said: "You never treated the legal obligation as genuinely... binding; you merely entered into the bond as a sham to cover taking the building fund money to fund Sun Ho's music career."
But Chew pointed out that regardless of how Xtron was funded, there was a legal agreement and transactions were all recorded in the church's accounts.
The trial resumes on March 16.
This article was first published on February 7, 2015.
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