City Harvest church leaders' trial: Inadmissable report a problem for defence

SINGAPORE - Defence lawyers in the City Harvest Church case spent most of Wednesday trying to get information from a report that was brought up in court on Tuesday.

The catch: The report was legally not admissible.

And the frustration was obvious in the courtroom as they questioned Mr Kevin Han (inset) from the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD). He was the lead investigation officer who had overseen the investigation into the case since April 2010.

Founder Kong Hee and five deputies are on trial for allegedly misusing more than $50 million of church money through sham bond investments. This includes $24 million to fund Kong's pop singer-wife Sun Ho's music career and another $26.6 million to cover up the first amount.

They face varying charges for criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts.

Lawyer Michael Khoo, representing former investment manager Chew Eng Han, wanted to know when Mr Han first received information relating to the charges.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Mavis Chionh called Mr Khoo's questioning "an exercise in futility". On Tuesday, she had called the defence's questioning a fishing expedition, done in the hope of coming up with something.

Mr Khoo said: "I wasn't fishing, as my learned friend repeatedly said, that I was fishing. In fact, I was trawling the ocean bed to get to the bottom of the FIR."

The FIR, or first information report, is the first instance when the police receive information about a possible crime.

During DPP Chionh's re-examination, Mr Han said the CAD seized about 800,000 e-mail messages in the case and he forwarded "the relevant e-mails for the prosecutor to consider as part of their legal assessment".

Defence v Prosecution

Part 1: Lawyer N. Sreenivasan (representing deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng) v Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Mavis Chionh. The defence lawyer had referred to a police report stating that the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) had received information that the accounts of a certain registered society had been falsified.

Mr Sreenivasan (to CAD's lead investigation officer Kevin Han): Is there any reason why you don't name the registered society in your report?

DPP Chionh: Your Honour, I'm going to object that this is irrelevant and I'm sure my learned friend knows it. We are not here to satisfy his curiosity on all manner of things.

Mr Sreenivasan: My learned friend can put on a painful face. I find it very strange...

DPP: Not painful, sorry. Pained.

Mr Sreenivasan: Painful for me.

Part 2: Mr Sreenivasan v DPP Chionh, when the former asked about who had dominion over the church building fund.

DPP Chionh: These are all matters that he should be raising in submission, if he should choose to make a submission of no case at the end of the day. If he's just saying all this to get this in as a sound bite, your Honour, I think it is highly objectionable and vexatious...

Mr Sreenivasan: My learned friend knows quite well it is not for a sound bite and I leave it at that.

kohht@sph.com.sg


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