City Harvest trial: Auditor was 'fed' statement for video

City Harvest trial: Auditor was 'fed' statement for video
Mr Foong (above) was said by former church investment manager Chew Eng Han in an e-mail to have "cleared" a decision to leave out key investment information at AGMs. In a video, Mr Foong said it was his "professional opinion" that no church funds were used to promote Ms Ho Yeow Sun's singing career.

SINGAPORE - CITY Harvest Church leaders were in a hurry to refute allegations that they were misusing church funds for Ms Ho Yeow Sun's singing career, it was revealed in court on Thursday.

Shortly after churchgoer Roland Poon made public his worries in January 2003 about how funds were being used, the church commissioned a special audit of its accounts by auditor Foong Daw Ching.

But that was not all.

At a church annual general meeting (AGM) in April that year, it played a video in which Mr Foong declared: "It is my professional opinion that no church funds were ever used in the promotion of Ms Ho's secular singing career."

But on Thursday, the 63-year-old auditor admitted that the video was planned by the church itself and he was merely reading from a script he hardly had time to vet.

"It definitely wasn't me who drafted this statement," he told the court, during the ongoing trial of City Harvest founder Kong Hee and five of his deputies.

They are accused of funnelling millions of dollars of church money to Ms Ho's career and hiding the matter via a series of sham transactions beginning in 2007. The defence argues that the transactions were all above board.

The church also maintains that before 2007, Ms Ho's career was funded by direct donations to the Crossover Project, which was started in 2002 with the aim of using secular music to evangelise.

When repeatedly pressed by the prosecution as to who asked asked him to make the 2003 video statement and who wrote the script, Mr Foong insisted he could not remember, but said it "must be somebody quite senior".

The partner at accounting firm Baker Tilly TFW recalled how he was first asked to appear at the AGM, but he told the church he was not free that day.

City Harvest then dispatched a video crew, armed with a script, to meet Mr Foong at the Church of Singapore, which he attends. The video, he said, was recorded in a "very, very rushed" manner due to his busy schedule.

That was why he made the error of claiming that he was the lead auditor in charge of City Harvest's accounts when it was actually someone else at Baker Tilly.

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