Former church member who alleged funds misuse 'vindicated', says daughter

SINGAPORE - The businessman who charged in 2003 that City Harvest Church (CHC) was paying for Ms Ho Yeow Sun's music career is now vindicated, said his daughter.

Back then, businessman Roland Poon alleged that church funds were being misused to finance the music career of Ms Ho, the wife of CHC founder Kong Hee.

Mr Poon, 66, eventually retracted his statement and apologised, but his comments would set off a chain of events leading to the criminal charges, according to the prosecution.

On Wednesday, the six accused in the long-running CHC trial were found guilty of all charges.

Mr Poon's daughter, Ms Sharon Poon, told The Straits Times after the verdict: "I feel happy for my father that he is now vindicated, and that after 10 years, we now know that what he did was right."

She said Mr Poon had been concerned about the outcome of the case and was "waiting for this day to happen", adding: "Now, he can sleep in peace."

"He was brave enough to come out about it. Now, I hope that they can apologise to him, if they still have the heart," she said.

Mr Poon declined to comment when contacted.

During the trial, much of the spotlight was cast on the Crossover Project - a plan started in 2002 to evangelise to the "unchurched" and woo non-converts, in particular youth - through Ms Ho's secular pop music.

The project started on a high, and Ms Ho later went on to produce five albums and perform in 80 concerts as part of a worldwide outreach tour between October 2003 and May 2004 that drew some 140,000 supporters.

However, controversy surrounding the project had begun to brew since January 2003, when Mr Poon flagged the possible misuse of funds.

The project's costs increased dramatically when the decision was made to break into the United States market. Songwriter and producer Wyclef Jean was hired in 2006 to help Ms Ho.

Criticism surged again in 2007, after the release of Ms Ho's English single China Wine. In the risque music video, marketed for its "Asian-Reggae" fusion sounds, she is seen dancing in a skimpy outfit.

"If Sun made it in the US, it would open a big door for our missions," Kong had said during the trial.

However, the court also heard that church members were supposedly encouraged to divert their tithes and donations to music production company Xtron to fund the mounting expenses of Ms Ho's US album. Kong was also accused by former CHC fund manager Chew Eng Han, one of the defendants, of spending church money to buy Ms Ho's earlier Mandarin albums, thereby inflating sales figures.

This article was first published on October 22, 2015.
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