City Harvest trial: Accused weeps while quizzed by own lawyer

City Harvest finance manager Sharon Tan yesterday broke down and cried when asked by her lawyer if she had been consistent in her testimony.

"Your honour, I believe I remain consistent," said Tan as she addressed the judge, before starting to weep at the end of her fourth day on the stand.

Even as the 38-year-old struggled to compose herself, Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon adjourned the hearing for the day.

Tan is one of six, including church founder Kong Hee, currently on trial for misusing $50 million in church funds. The money was allegedly spent on boosting the music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun, and then to cover this up.

Except for Tan, the rest allegedly used the church's building funds to buy sham bonds in Xtron, which managed Ms Ho's career. This was how they supposedly first transferred money from the church to Xtron.

But when questions started being asked, Tan and three others allegedly devised a series of transactions that pushed more of the church's money to Xtron, allowing it to redeem the bonds and make it seem that the church suffered no losses.

Yesterday, Tan's lawyer took her through minutes of church board meetings, in which she had discussed at length how money was channelled from the church to Xtron, for the firm to redeem its bonds and pay the church interest.

Tan told the court that Xtron's bond redemption was just a book entry, without any actual cash transaction, and that the board members were made aware of this.

During a meeting in July 2009, board members were also told that the church would forward an "advance rental" of $65 million to Xtron, to secure Suntec convention centre as a venue for its congregation.

Xtron would use the advance rental to redeem $21.5 million of bonds and use part of the remaining funds to invest in glass company Firna, which was owned by church supporter and Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi.

Firna would use the money to redeem the bonds it also sold to the church, said Tan.

The plan to use advance rental monies to redeem Xtron and Firna bonds was again presented to board members at a meeting in September that year, and they had no issue with it, said Tan.

This article was first published on September 18, 2014.
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