He 'didn't know number of Mandarin albums sold'

He 'didn't know number of Mandarin albums sold'
Ms Ho Yeow Sun and her husband Kong Hee outside court on 19 May 2015. Ms Ho, better known by her stage name Sun Ho, was taking the stand for the first time in the trial involving the alleged misuse of funds belonging to City Harvest Church.

She claimed to have inspired stars such as Jay Chou and thousands of others to embrace Christianity through her concerts around the region.

But Ms Ho Yeow Sun yesterday also admitted that she did not know exactly how many of her Mandarin albums were sold, or how the project to break into the American pop music scene was being bankrolled.

Ms Ho was taking the stand for the first time in the long-running trial involving the alleged misuse of funds belonging to City Harvest Church, which she founded with her husband Kong Hee.

He and five others are accused of funnelling more than $20 million from the church's building fund to pay for the Crossover Project, which aimed to use Ms Ho's secular music to spread the Gospel.

Ms Ho was called to the stand by Chew Eng Han, the church's former investment manager and one of the accused, who is conducting his own defence. He asked Ms Ho, better known by her stage name Sun Ho, if the Crossover was about her.

Telling the court and a packed gallery that the project was only about the church, she said that for 71/2 months starting in 2003, she performed before 140,000 people at 80 concerts in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.

During the concerts, she said she shared her experience of how her religion helped her through depression. Half of the audience at the concerts would later raise their hands to embrace Christianity when asked if they would do so, said Ms Ho.

Among those who were "impacted" were Taiwanese singers Jay Chou, Will Liu Genghong and Rachel Liang Wen Yin, as well as two members of the band F.I.R, she added.

Referring to a blog post by Kong, which stated that Ms Ho's five Mandarin albums sold four million copies, Chew asked how the singer could believe such a figure since documents, including those from her managing company Xtron Productions, showed far fewer numbers.

Ms Ho denied being aware of the blog post or any of the documents.

She was, however, confident of the success of her first American album because "I believe this is what God wants me to do and I was working very hard at it".

Ms Ho said she was working towards "one million to two million" for the United States album.

Asked whether she knew how the US Crossover Project was being funded, Ms Ho said that between 2007 and March 2010, she did not. Its financing and budgeting were carried out by others, including Kong, she explained.

The launch of the album was planned for August 2010. But in May that year, criminal investigations into the alleged misuse of church funds began. The album was never released, despite her recording 50 songs for it.

But she said: "In my mind, it was never a closed deal. If everything is settled and God willing, it would be a privilege to complete the Crossover."

Chew also called former church member Sun Yuen Peng to the stand yesterday. The businesswoman told the court how she and her husband invested $350,000 in Xtron bonds in 2007 after being promised a 4 per cent return after 1½ years.

They never got a cent back, and were instead told not to doubt the church leaders. The couple left the church in 2012.

Madam Sun said: "We had only negative news about Sun Ho that she was living in a big bungalow and her expenses, et cetera."

amirh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 20, 2015.
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