'Sham bonds continue earlier misuse of funds'

'Sham bonds continue earlier misuse of funds'
Chew Eng Han denies disguising money for Ms Ho Yeow Sun’s singing career as advance rental.

EVEN before alleged sham bonds were part of the picture, City Harvest Church's former fund manager had helped to fuel Ms Ho Yeow Sun's music career by making money that was earmarked for the church's building fund look like it was going elsewhere.

Chew Eng Han, who rejected this suggestion by the prosecution yesterday, is one of six people accused of misusing $50 million of church funds to boost the music career of Ms Ho, who is the wife of founding pastor Kong Hee, and covering up the misuse.

The alleged wrongdoing involving the sham bonds was a continuation of the earlier practice, the prosecution argued.

It cited, as an example, a 2006 e-mail to Kong and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng regarding the payment of "advance rental" to production firm Xtron to hire premises at Singapore Expo.

Chew had effectively proposed that this payment should be made twice, and that the rent would only be settled with the second payment. Xtron, which was Ms Ho's manager, would use the first payment for her career.

In the same e-mail, Chew wrote of the need for this and other transactions to "look (like) real and legitimate and arm's-length commercial transactions".

"It's the appearance, not the substance, that you are concerned about, isn't it?" Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said.

Chew retorted: "Your honour, 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."

DPP Ong then accused Chew of being "disingenuous" and lying by ignoring the "obvious meaning" of what he had written. "The proposal that you make in this e-mail is all about ensuring that the form disguises the real substance of the plan."

The real substance of Chew's proposal, the prosecutor continued, was to channel building fund money to Ms Ho's music career, disguised as advance rental. But Chew disagreed.

Since he began testifying last Monday, Chew has insisted that what he did for the church as its fund manager was above board and according to "common" market practices.

At one point yesterday, he sounded a note of frustration: "I'm being held to move along the lines, very narrow line, of what the prosecution believes are proper and not proper investments. I think perhaps the prosecution needs to - no, I will just - I will refrain from saying that, your honour."

Chew is the fourth defendant in the long-running case to testify. The trial continues.

This article was first published on Feb 05, 2015.
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