City Harvest trial: 'Auditors should have been aware'

City Harvest trial: 'Auditors should have been aware'

DEFENCE lawyers on Wednesday argued that audit firm Baker Tilly should have been fully aware of the transactions of City Harvest Church.

They noted that the firm's managing partner Sim Guan Seng had established that there was no fraud or illegalities when he signed off on church audits for financial years 2008 and 2009.

He did so too for music production firm Xtron in 2008.

In the long-running case, City Harvest founder Kong Hee and five others are accused of various counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts to misappropriate $24 million in bogus bond investments and another $26.6 million.

Defence lawyers on Wednesday tried to refute the prosecution's argument that church auditors did not have the whole picture.

Mr Edwin Tong, representing Kong, said the prosecution had tried to prove this point in a "piecemeal" way.

Just because Mr Sim had not seen certain documents did not mean that the information was not provided to the audit firm, he argued.

He noted that some of this information that was "new" to Mr Sim, such as Kong discussing projected Xtron cash flows with deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, had existed in the firm's archives.

Mr Tong also produced Baker Tilly work papers from December 2006, which stated that Kong had volunteered to liaise with American producers for the launch of his wife Sun Ho's English album there.

This was in response to Mr Sim's comments on Monday that it was unusual for church leaders to be involved in evaluating Xtron's music project.

Meanwhile, the lawyer of the church's finance manager Sharon Tan suggested that the alleged "round-tripping" - involving money being funnelled among various entities to disguise alleged misappropriation - was approved by the church's board.

Mr Kannan Ramesh also cited an e-mail suggesting that Baker Tilly's then managing partner Foong Daw Ching was informed of the arrangement.

Mr Sim said it was "unusual" that Mr Foong had not told him of this. He added that the church's board members could have colluded in approving the transactions.

The trial continued on Thursday.

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