City Harvest Church (CHC) is suing its former fund manager and his firm for almost $21 million in unreturned investments, including $4.6 million in interest.
But Chew Eng Han, sole director of Amac Capital Partners, insists that the church had used his firm as a vehicle to lend out money. He also claims that a personal guarantee he had signed for the investments was just to "comfort" the CHC board, and he was promised that it would not be enforced.
Chew, who left CHC in June last year after 17 years, is one of the six people who have been accused in a separate criminal case of misusing church funds and/or falsifying accounts.
They include the church's founder Kong Hee and former finance manager Serina Wee. Chew, who is defending himself in the long-running criminal trial, will take the stand when it resumes on Jan 26.
On Oct 10, the megachurch filed court papers claiming that Amac, its investment manager, had "solicited" it to participate in its special opportunities fund on Mar 17, 2009.
But Amac requested more time to return the money, given in four tranches between November 2009 and May 2010, along with the promised interest, the church added. The church agreed, but also increased the interest rates.
It said that even though Amac returned some of the money, it was still owed $20.99 million.
Chew rejected the claims in his written defence filed on Nov 18.
According to him, the church had set up the special opportunities fund in 2009 so it could lend "surplus funds" to Akihiko Matsumura of biotech firm Transcu Group, which has since changed its name to OLS Enterprise.
Chew also claimed that $350,000 was loaned to former CHC investment committee member Charlie Lay on the instructions of the church's deputy senior pastor, Tan Ye Peng, who is also one of those facing criminal charges.
Documents provided by Amac, stating the firm's debt to CHC, were merely "letters of comfort" to appease the church, Chew claimed.
The church's written reply to his defence, filed on Dec 9, states that it was never in the business of moneylending. Instead, the investments were commercial transactions with guaranteed returns.
CHC also denied having any contact with Mr Matsumura and said it was not aware that money would be loaned to him.
Nichol Yeo Lai Hock of JLC Advisors, who is representing the church, declined to comment.
Chew is represented by A. Rajandran for the civil suit, while Amac does not have a lawyer.
A pre-trial conference has been fixed for next Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Melody Zaccheus
Get MyPaper for more stories.