Ex-City Harvest fund manager puts blame on pastors

City Harvest Church's former fund manager yesterday claimed that even if church funds had been misused as alleged, the blame should lie with those deciding how to spend the money.

Conducting his own defence in a trial that entered its 89th day, Chew Eng Han sought to show that church founder Kong Hee, 50, and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 42, in particular, had been key in deciding how to allocate the proceeds from alleged sham bonds.

Chew, Kong and Tan are among six people accused of misusing $50 million of church funds to boost the music career of Kong's wife, Ho Yeow Sun, 44, and covering up the misuse.

The 54-year-old referred to correspondence such as e-mail and text messages to make his point.

For instance, Chew said the two pastors had discussed "discretionary items" such as a $300,000 wardrobe for Ms Ho and two music videos that cost $1 million.

They also oversaw and made revisions to Ms Ho's albums' sales projections and the project's budget.

"In the end, $24.5 million has been spent on the Crossover," said Chew, 54, referring to the megachurch's project to use Ms Ho's pop music to evangelise.

"Whether it was spent correctly or not...I think the right people have to account for it. And it's the people who had discretion and knowledge of their detailed spending items."

The prosecution believes that five of the accused, including Chew, channelled money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Xtron, Ms Ho's management company, and glass manufacturer Firna.

Four of them, including Chew, then allegedly devised transactions to remove the sham bonds from the church's accounts to throw auditors off the scent.

Chew told the court yesterday: "A bond cannot be sham...a bond is a bond…(and) only becomes a sham if the proceeds of the bond have been misused."

He added: "If Ferrari manufactures a good sports car and the owner abuses it and gets into an accident, he can't blame the manufacturer because he used it and he abused it."

Chew also insisted yesterday that he never had any reason to hide information from the auditors.

He repeatedly pointed out that he could not - as a fund manager - "single-handedly hold the Crossover vision", and decide for Xtron and Firna to issue bonds to the church.

The trial resumes today.



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