Pastor: I'm not an accounts-trained person

Pastor: I'm not an accounts-trained person
Tan Ye Peng told the court that church leaders had the frame of mind to “try to keep this Crossover Project as discreet as possible”.

BEING no expert in accounting, Tan Ye Peng insisted he could not have been involved in any conspiracy to fake City Harvest Church (CHC) accounts.

He also claimed that as a dedicated servant, he would never do anything to harm the church - pointing out that he gave $400,000 from the sale of his house to CHC.

Into his third day on the stand, the church's deputy senior pastor denied charges by the prosecution that he had been part of a plan to defraud auditors by falsifying accounts, in a bid to cover up misuse of church funds.

"I'm not an accounts- trained person. In fact, when I was in university year one, I failed my accounts," said the 42-year-old yesterday, to chuckles from the courtroom.

He, along with founding pastor Kong Hee and four others, have been accused of misusing $50 million of the church's money to boost the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun.

Five, including Tan, are charged with channelling money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments issued by Xtron, the firm which managed Ms Ho's career, and glass manufacturer Firna. Tan, along with three others, then allegedly devised transactions to clear the sham bonds from the church's accounts to mislead auditors.

Tan, the fifth defendant to take the stand, has continually denied any wrongdoing, stressing how church leaders had constantly sought expert advice from lawyers and auditors in matters related to the funding of the Crossover project.

The Crossover was the church's plan to evangelise through Ms Ho's secular music.

Tan yesterday acknowledged that handwritten meeting notes by church finance manager Sharon Tan, another of the accused, had referred to the need to "clear bonds" off CHC's books.

But he said there had been nothing illegal about these plans, and that it was the church's auditors who preferred having "the bonds off CHC books to keep the accounts simple".

The use of the church's building fund to finance the Crossover was not an unauthorised act as charged by the prosecution, added Tan.

"In every aspect, we've never felt that we've done anything unauthorised," he said.

"Till today, church members come to me and say, pastor, hang in there. No one says pastor, we've been deceived."

He told the court that CHC never suffered any financial loss, as all of the church money used for the transactions "has been accounted for".

The money "has all come back", he said.

He also claimed that as a devoted church leader, he would never intend to cause any loss to CHC.

To illustrate his commitment, Tan highlighted how he even sold his house and gave $400,000 of the proceeds towards repaying the church's money.

This, on top of donating a separate $100,000 to Xtron in relation to the Crossover.

"I'm an ordinary man, I'm just a pastor, I just want to do the will of God, I just want to be faithful to the vision that God has given to us," said Tan.

"In all honesty, I would never do anything that would cause loss to the church... This is the church that I grew up in. This is my spiritual family."

The trial enters its 107th day today.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Mar26, 2015.
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