I am a man of substance, not appearance, former City Harvest Church (CHC) fund manager Chew Eng Han told the court yesterday.
He said this after the prosecution put it to him that he had been worried that the church's "sham transactions" would not appear legitimate to the auditors.
In a 2006 e-mail presented to the court, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong pointed out that Chew had written: "For all these (transactions) to look real and legitimate, I feel we really need to really physically separate... Xtron from CHC's office."
Said Mr Ong: "The proposal that you make in this e-mail is all about ensuring that the form disguises the real substance of the plan... that building fund money would be channelled to Sun Ho's (music career) disguised as advance rental."
Chew, 54, disagreed and claimed he was merely trying to pre-empt and avoid questioning from the church's auditors.
He also said he did not want a repeat of the 2003 incident where a former church-goer flagged concerns about the alleged misuse of church funds to the press.
"I'm a man of substance. I don't believe in appearance. But I do believe as well that if you project the wrong appearance, it just invites false accusations. Simple as that," he said.
Mr Ong then accused him of lying to the court. "I put it to you that you are being disingenuous and lying because you are ignoring the obvious meaning of the words in your e-mail."
The issue of "substance over form" surfaced again later in the day when Mr Ong questioned Chew on a series of meeting minutes that were backdated by finance manager Sharon Tan.
Mr Ong pointed out that the minutes for the investment committee meeting that took place on Aug 5, 2008, were backdated to a week earlier.
Doing so made it seem that the investment committee did an assessment of the Xtron bonds before the auditors' queries came in on Aug 1, Mr Ong said. Said Chew: "Even though it's inaccurate because of the date, I don't think it was very material... for the auditor to assess the recoverability (of the bond money).
Whether the investment committee did it on July 29 or Aug 5 is not going to affect the assessment at all.
"Maybe that's how Sharon... felt. But I don't see how it helps, even if it was just a form. As I said, I really go for substance."
Chew, CHC founder Kong Hee and four other CHC leaders are accused of allegedly misusing millions of church money to further the singing career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun. (See report, above.)
Chew, who is representing himself after discharging his lawyer last May, is the fourth accused to testify.
He left the church in 2013, reportedly citing "a collision of primarily spiritual and moral principles".
The trial continues today.
About the case
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five others are on trial for allegedly misusing millions of church money.
First, $24 million was allegedly used to fund the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, whose stage name is Sun Ho. Another $26.6 million was then allegedly used to cover up the first amount.
They are said to have done so through "sham bonds" invested in two "shell companies" - music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna. Both companies were run by long-time supporters of the church.
Kong, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former board member John Lam, finance manager Sharon Tan, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager Serina Wee face charges of criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts.
The prosecution has sought to show that Xtron and Firna directors simply did the bidding of the accused. 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 Feb 05, 2015.
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