Kong Hee 'lacked full faith in wife's music'

Kong Hee 'lacked full faith in wife's music'
Chew Eng Han, former fund manager of City Harvest Church (CHC). He and five other church leaders are on trial for allegedly misusing church funds through sham bonds.

Former City Harvest Church fund manager Chew Eng Han yesterday accused founder Kong Hee and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng of tricking him into believing that Ms Ho Yeow Sun's pop music foray was a hit.

Instead, her career was based on trumped-up album sales and publicity claims, Chew alleged.

He also claimed that Kong himself may not have had complete faith that his wife, Ms Ho, would make it as a secular singer. Why else would he get others to invest in her, but not use his own money, Chew mused.

"If you really had faith that Sun (Ho) was going to be a big hit, you should have put in your own money.

Your money shouldn't have gone into your apartment at Sentosa, or Newton One (condominium), or to the KL (Kuala Lumpur) apartment... the man with the vision himself should have put his own money into the Crossover," he told the court.

The Crossover project is the church's attempt to evangelise through Ms Ho's pop music, which included the release of an album in America - one which never materialised.

The project lies at the heart of a long-running criminal case involving six of the megachurch's leaders.

They have been accused of misusing some $50 million of church funds to boost Ms Ho's music career, and then orchestrating "sham" financial transactions to mask the alleged wrongdoing.

The 54-year-old Chew, who quit the church in 2013 after 18 years of service, has been conducting his own defence since the trial kicked off in May that year.

He insisted that it was fellow co-accused Kong and Tan who controlled how the church's money was used, and also were in on the plan to manufacture Ms Ho's "success".

In court yesterday, Chew pointed to e-mail between Kong and other church leaders, including Tan, outlining a "plan for the church itself to gather all the members... to buy up 20,000 (of Ho's) CDs and, therefore, hit platinum status".

In one of the e-mail, Kong wrote: "Anything less than 13k (13,000) shows that our members don't get it! But I guess that is the rock bottom line... see if we could do 20k or more."

Chew said: "I never suspected that the majority of the sales... was self-purchased. I don't know if 50, 65, 70 per cent of the sales was actually self-purchased... and I didn't pay attention to it because I trusted Kong. I trusted Tan and Sun (Ms Ho)."

Former church finance manager Serina Wee also had a hand in Ms Ho's "manipulated success", Chew alleged, as he referred to an e-mail in which she listed how $21,000 had been spent on iTunes cards.

Chew had previously alleged that the cards were used to purchase Ms Ho's music online to boost its popularity.

Referring to another e-mail, Chew pointed out that Ms Ho's assistant wrote to Kong about how "sales of (Ms Ho's) single are slowly dropping" and asked if they should "push it up a little".

During the trial last year, Chew also alleged that a series of stamps produced by China's Children's Charity and Trust Foundation to honour Ms Ho was nothing more than a scam.

Yesterday, he told the court that he had got in touch with the foundation, which he claimed told him through an e-mail reply that it had never done such a thing for Ms Ho.

He questioned Kong's desire to keep the church's funding of the Crossover project blanketed in secrecy.

He insisted he would have been open about how Ms Ho's music career was being bankrolled "because after all it was people's money".

But he kept quiet on the instructions of Kong and Tan, who sat in the dock as Chew conducted his defence yesterday.

"If I had a choice, I would have disclosed (the funding). But for the sake of privacy, and for the sake of preserving the project... I went along with it," said Chew, who saw Kong's instructions "as spiritual wisdom".

hpeishan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 28, 2015.
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