$500,000 to buy Sun Ho's unsold albums

SINGAPORE - She was supposed to become a global superstar and then use her popularity to spread the church's message.

But the reality was that Ms Ho Yeow Sun, who uses the stage name Sun Ho, had many unsold albums.

So much so that City Harvest Church (CHC) spent close to half-a-million dollars to buy back 32,500 of her Mandarin albums languishing on shelves in Taiwan, Indonesia and the US in 2004.

The prosecution yesterday revealed these details, which were in an e-mail by former CHC finance manager Serina Wee, as the trial against six of the megachurch's leaders resumed after a two-week break.

Wee, CHC founder Kong Hee, and four others, are accused of misusing more than $50 million of church money through sham bonds. (See report above.)

Some of this money was allegedly used to fund the music career of Ms Ho, who is married to Kong, 49.

Former board member John Lam, 46, is the first accused to take the stand for the defence.

Yesterday, when Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh showed the unsold-album figures to Lam during the cross-examination, he claimed he did not realise at the time that Ms Ho's album sales were doing badly.

He said he was merely asked to find a way for CHC to avoid paying the 5 per cent GST while buying back Ms Ho's unsold albums and he had not "connected" the facts.

Ms Chionh rebutted: "Your last few answers are incredible lies and you are lying because you are desperate to maintain that Sun Ho's albums were doing well."

She also pointed out that Lam had earlier admitted that Ms Ho's artist management company, Xtron, was not profitable.

Yet he was involved in purchasing $13 million of Xtron bonds, which were rated as "junk bonds", because he believed Ms Ho's albums would do well, she said.

Xtron is one of two companies accused of helping the megachurch's leaders to funnel church funds illegally to bankroll the pastor-singer's music career. It managed Ms Ho from 2003 to 2008.

Said Ms Chionh: "The truth is that you knew that the bonds were not meant as an investment at all. They were a sham device that you and your co-accused came up with to find a way of moving money from the (church's) Building Fund to pay for Sun Ho's music career," she said.

Lam said he disagreed.

The prosecution also continued its argument that Xtron was not an independent entity and was linked to the church.

As an example, Ms Chionh pointed out that Lam and other church members would donate their tithes - or monthly offerings - to Xtron instead of CHC.


When asked if Lam considered his donations to the company as "fulfilment" to the church, he said: "Yes, I would say so."

Said Ms Chionh: "For that treatment to be possible, it necessarily implies a very close relationship between the church and Xtron, right? So close in fact that money going to one is treated the same as money going to the other."

Lam said that it was his choice to donate to Xtron as it was managing the church's Crossover Project - fronted by Ms Ho - to evangelise to non-converts through secular pop music. Ms Chionh also questioned Lam on the need to omit Xtron's name from the minutes of a CHC board meeting.

"(It) was really so that you could hide anything that might lead your auditors then to say: 'But how is the Crossover being funded? Is the church funding the Crossover through Xtron?'," she said.

Again, Lam said he disagreed.

Yesterday's hearing was also characterised by Ms Chionh asking Lam to answer her questions on at least four occasions.

"If we are to finish your cross-examination sometime this week, you must answer the question and not go off on a tangent talking about other audits and other people," she said at one point.

The trial continues today.

This article was first published on August 5, 2014.
Get The New Paper for more stories.