'She hit double platinum figures'

'She hit double platinum figures'

SINGAPORE - She had many unsold albums and City Harvest Church (CHC) had to spend nearly half a million dollars to buy them off the shelves.

But that did not mean that Ms Sun Ho's album sales were unsuccessful, former CHC board member John Lam maintained during his defence's re-examination yesterday.

Lam, CHC founder Kong Hee, who is married to Ms Ho, and four others are on trial for allegedly misusing more than $50 million of church money through sham bonds.

Some of this money was allegedly used to fund the music career of Ms Ho through two companies: Music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna.

On Monday, the court heard that CHC had spent about $447,000 in 2004 to buy back 32,500 of Ms Ho's Mandarin albums that were languishing on shelves in Taiwan, Indonesia and the US.

This was revealed in an e-mail chain and presented by the prosecution during Lam's cross-examination.

Yesterday, Lam, 46, the first to take the stand for the defence, said CHC had planned to distribute the purchased CDs to visiting ministries and overseas churches.

And that would propagate the "awareness of the success" of the Crossover Project, which is the church's mission to reach out to non-churchgoers and fronted by Ms Ho.

Lam also said that Kong had announced at an extraordinary general meeting in 2002 that one of Ms Ho's albums had hit "double platinum", which he clarified to mean 150,000 copies sold.

"When you hear (the word) 'platinum', (it) means you (have) hit a certain amount of sales and it's a measure of being successful. Double platinum means it's twice as successful," he said.

Lam added that he was in control of Xtron's decisions when he served as a director of the firm from June to August 2003.

Previously, during the course of proceedings, Lam had also claimed that Xtron, which was Ms Ho's artist manager from 2003 to 2008, was independent from the megachurch.

Yesterday, Lam claimed that he was in control even if Kong, who he said was the driving force for the Crossover Project, had asked him to sign documents that he did not believe in.

"I wouldn't sign. I would ask questions," Lam claimed.

This was despite the prosecution presenting an e-mail on Monday which revealed that Lam had allowed rubber stamps of his signature to be made.


The e-mail, dated 2003 from the church's human resource (HR) and administrative manager, had sought approval from Lam so that the stamps could be used on Xtron invoices "instead of running to get you (Lam) to sign".

Said Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh: "The reality is you were quite happy to rubber stamp decisions for Xtron because you knew they were made by Pastor Kong Hee and the church."

But Lam said yesterday that key management such as the chief executive officer and chief financial officer are not usually the ones who are best placed to verify the details of these invoices.

He said: "Operation staff would verify operation invoices. Admin matters may be authorised by... the HR department.

"After that, then only when the payments are made, the bank signatories, who are the senior management, would rely that someone has verified it and ... signed."

Lam's lawyer, Mr Kenneth Tan, wrapped up the re-examination yesterday. CHC founder Kong is expected to take the stand on Monday, when the trial resumes.


This article was first published on Aug 9, 2014.
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