Kong Hee: I assumed all was strong

Kong Hee: I assumed all was strong

But former CHC board president Kong Hee, 49, said he was always busy with overseas commitments and left the day-to-day running of the megachurch to his board members.

Kong and five other church leaders are on trial for allegedly misusing more than $50 million of its money.

Some of these were allegedly funnelled into sham bond investments to fund the pop music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, better known as Sun Ho, through two companies - music production company Xtron and glassware firm Firna. (See report, below.)

Yesterday, Kong took the stand for the first time in front of a courtroom packed with about 70 members of the public, reporters and lawyers.

He is the second accused to take the stand for the defence after former board member John Lam.

Kong told the court that he started the church in 1989, a year after he graduated from the National University of Singapore, where he read computer science and information systems.

Until the early 1990s, he said, his role was that of a senior pastor who preached at weekend services, conducted leadership training and participated in inter-church networking activities.

But as the church grew, he began going overseas frequently. Between 2008 and 2009, he spent only a quarter of his time in Singapore, he said.

He also conjured and spearheaded CHC's Crossover Project, part of which sought to evangelise "unchurched" youths through secular pop music fronted by Ms Ho.

"Although I was not around as much, I generally had a sense that everything was functioning well... If they don't flag (issues) to me, then I just assume that everything is generally moving strong," he said.

For example, after former church-goer Roland Poon flagged concerns about the misuse of church funds among other allegations in January 2003, the board met to discuss their next move.

Kong said there was a lot of hate mail sent to the church and there was unrest among its members then.

But as he needed to preach during the weekend services, he left it to the board to contact church member and Indonesian tycoon Wahju Hanafi, who had pledged to fund the Crossover Project, to ask if he would pay for Ms Ho's first two albums.

NOT AROUND

He was also in Taiwan when the board sent the press a letter on the incident and in response to the allegations.

Kong said the scripts of his presentations for annual general meetings and extraordinary general meetings were prepared by the senior management and vetted by lawyers and auditors.

He added that he hosted the meetings because it was required by the church's constitution and he often flew back to Singapore for it.

Kong also said CHC had engaged professionals like Mr Jimmy Yim, a senior counsel from Drew and Napier, and auditor Foong Daw Ching to vet its processes.

Kong spoke highly of the meticulous and conservative "brother Foong", who he said was always there when advice was required on accounting matters.

The trial resumes today.

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 Ho Yeow Sun, and another $26.6 million to cover up the first amount. They are said to have done this through 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, former investment manager Chew Eng Han, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager Serina Wee, face varying 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.

Meanwhile, the defence has argued that the transactions were legitimate, with the accused acting "in good faith" on the advice of lawyers and auditors.


This article was first published on August 12, 2014.
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