Trustee: I can't recall details about funds

SINGAPORE - SHE claimed to take her role as City Harvest Church's trustee seriously, yet could not recall if a firm that received church funds had been bleeding money for years.

The trustee, Madam Susan Ong, also claimed City Harvest's executive members had been told about specific church investments totalling millions of dollars before official investigations into the deals started.

But she could not recall when and where, after minutes of general meetings suggested the members had been told only after the authorities stepped in.

On Monday, prosecutors tried to show that even the trustees, custodians of the church's assets, did not know what was happening.

Church founder Kong Hee and five of his deputies were charged last year with misusing about $50 million of church funds. The State believes the accused used church funds to invest in sham bonds issued by two companies to funnel the money to the pop music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun.

The companies were glassware manufacturer Firna and production company Xtron Productions, which managed Ms Ho's career between 2003 and 2008.

On Monday, Madam Ong sang the praises of Xtron, calling it a "quality company, made up of top-notch... people" and said its business was derailed only after investigations into the church leaders became news in 2010.

She also agreed with defence lawyers that as a financial services administrator, she had "some knowledge" to determine whether investments made by the church were proper and had found nothing amiss with the Xtron bonds while "wearing the hat of a trustee and the hat of an executive member" of the church.

Questioned by the prosecution later in the afternoon, however, she admitted that she "did not think" she looked at any financial statements or cash flows regarding Xtron before she signed off on documents about the church's investments in its bonds.

Shown an e-mail between Serina Wee and Chew Eng Han, two of the accused, in which Wee said "Susan mentioned to me that most of the time (the trustees) are signing blindly and trust us," Madam Ong denied this.

"I do not recall saying anything like that to her. Maybe I mentioned some things I don't understand in the document and said I should not be signing blindly," she said.

Asked whether it was her job as trustee to act as a check on the church management board's decisions and to make sure these were right, Madam Ong said no.

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