Sun Ho's albums lost almost $1 million

Sun Ho's albums lost almost $1 million
Former CHC finance manager Serina Wee was the last of the six accused to testify.

Her secular music was supposed to reach out to and evangelise the unchurched.

But behind the scenes, City Harvest Church (CHC) singer-pastor Ho Yeow Sun's albums were bleeding money.

Yesterday, former CHC finance manager Serina Wee told the court that two of Ms Ho's Mandarin albums - Sun With Love and Sun Day - suffered losses of almost $1 million.

But Wee maintained that she had always believed that the Crossover Project - which was fronted by Ms Ho's secular pop music - would be a profitable success.

Wee, CHC founder Kong Hee and four others are on trial for misusing millions of church money.

First, $24 million was allegedly misused from the church's building fund to finance Ms Ho's singing career, and another $26.6 million to cover up the initial amount.

Wee, 38, who took the stand yesterday, is the last of the six accused to testify in the long-running trial that began in May 2013.

Turning up in court in a black-and-white patterned dress and a black blazer, she appeared calm and spoke slowly while on the stand.

Her lawyer, Senior Counsel Andre Maniam, asked her why she had suggested in a 2003 e-mail that CHC member Wahju Hanafi withdrew $1.3 million that he had donated to the church's building fund.

Wee said it was because two of Ms Ho's Mandarin albums had made losses of about $964,000 and required his "sponsorship".

'NO ISSUE'

She claimed the auditors had no issue with Mr Hanafi's actions as long as he submitted a letter to the board with his intention to do so.

She added that the auditors allowed these refunds and adjustments to the books as long as they were carried out before the auditing process was completed.

Wee told the court that she joined the church and accepted Christianity after attending her first service in 1995.

Then 18, she had just completed her GCE A-level examinations. She went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Accountancy from Nanyang Technological University and joined the church as an assistant accountant in 1999.

She was also a backup vocalist and musician of the church's creative ministry, and even featured in two of Ms Ho's Christian music albums as a back-up singer.

Wee eventually took over as CHC's finance manager in 2005 and held the post for two years before stepping down to set up her own accounting firm, Advante Consulting.

Wee's husband, Mr Kenny Low, was also involved in affairs of the church. He was Ms Ho's first dance instructor and travelled with her as one of her dancers, Wee said.

She told the court that she always believed in the Crossover Project - more so after attending one of Ms Ho's concerts in Taiwan in 2003. She said she witnessed how Ms Ho touched many hearts with her testimony after her concert and left many in tears.

"A lot of people came forward to receive Christ. It impacted me a lot, being there personally," she said.

Mr Maniam also pointed out in an Xtron cashflow spreadsheet that Wee and her accused had projected to sell 1.5 million copies of Ms Ho's English album and earn $10.5 million.

When he asked Wee whether the church would embark on a project that loses money, she said no.

The trial continues today.

RECAP OF THE CASE

City Harvest Church (CHC) deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng said on March 23 that he could not have been involved in any conspiracy to fake the church's accounts because he was no accounting expert.

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

The church's deputy senior pastor also 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 the misuse of church funds.

SHAM BONDS

But lead prosecutor Mavis Chionh said Tan had knowingly conspired with his co-accused to enter into "sham bonds" invested into music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna.

First, $24 million from CHC's building fund was channelled into singer-pastor Ho Yeow Sun's music career via the two "shell companies".

Another $26.6 million was then supposedly misused to cover up the first amount.

Ms Chionh also said Tan consistently lied to auditors, lawyers and the court that the agreements were independent commercial-arm's length investment transactions.

She described his testimony as "incoherent and evasive", adding that Tan and his co-accused had redeemed the bonds early so that their sham nature would not be found out.

Tan, CHC founder Kong Hee, former fund manager Chew Eng Han, former board member John Lam, finance manager Sharon Tan 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 April 17, 2015.
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