Singapore - City Harvest Church leaders did nothing wrong when they discreetly funded co-founder Ho Yeow Sun's pop music career through a series of companies, a court heard on Thursday.
The move was said to have been necessary so that the church could use Ms Ho, 41, to evangelise with a "secular face" in countries that do not welcome open gospel preaching.
"You need to be discreet in accessing these countries and spreading the gospel," Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh put it to church auditor Foong Daw Ching. "You need to be somewhat creative and think a little bit out of the box in terms of how it should be achieved."
Mr Foong agreed.
City Harvest founder Kong Hee, 49, and five of his deputies were charged last year with misusing about $50 million in church funds to finance Ms Ho's career and to cover this up.
Mr Ramesh, acting for church finance manager Sharon Tan, pointed out yesterday, however, that Mr Foong's accounting firm Baker Tilly TFW had vetted the church's financial statements and approved of them.
He added that the firm would have been "particularly sensitive" at the time to any possible wrongdoing as it had been recently sued for negligence by another client.
Even so, it signed off on the church's financial statements for July 2007 to October 2008 when the accused allegedly invested in sham bonds to finance Ms Ho's career, Mr Ramesh said.
He added if the Baker Tilly auditors had felt any of the deals were "unusual, wrong or inappropriate", they could have put a note about the church's accounts in its reports or notified the Commissioner of Charities - but they never did so.