Witness: Xtron footed bill

"Ultimately the directors and shareholders of Xtron had to approve my directorship, but Xtron and City Harvest were working very closely at the time to pursue a piece of land, so I assumed it was quite normal for them to discuss these matters," Choong said.

SINGAPORE - Who picked up the tab for Sun Ho's music career?

Xtron Productions, the former management company for the singer, said it did. Through loans and the issuing of bonds.

But before the case was adjourned in May, the prosecution argued they were sham bonds and that the accused had actually moved money meant for the church's building fund into buying those investments to finance Ms Ho's secular music career.

The prosecution also argued that Xtron was closely linked with the church, so close that it could be controlled by the church.

Independent

On Tuesday, Xtron director Choong Kar Weng disagreed, insisting the company was independent.

He has been a director since 2005, after City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee asked him to take on the position.

Mr Choong, 41, a permanent resident, was quizzed about his ties with the accused and his role in Xtron. It emerged that the Malaysian had let former church manager Serina Wee, one of the accused and Xtron's accountant, make bond drawdown decisions for Xtron.

That was because his "management philosophy" revolved around whether he trusted the person.

He had also said that he believed she would not do anything detrimental to the company.

The prosecution sought to show that despite Mr Choong trusting church staff, they did not keep him in e-mail correspondences when discussing Xtron.

The purchase of Riverwalk, a commercial property near Boat Quay, was partly funded by Xtron issuing $8.5 million worth of bonds.

But church executive members were told that $18.2 million worth of bonds were issued by Xtron and Mr Choong did not know why.

While he said Xtron was independent, it emerged that Mr Choong was kept out of the e-mail loop when church members like Wee and former member Chew Eng Han discussed the relationship between CHC and Xtron.

Chew had explained why the rental yield differed from market rates and suggested that Xtron was under CHC control .

When the prosecution asked why Chew had said that "Xtron is under CHC control", Mr Choong said: "I don't know why he said that, but as a director I don't regard that statement to be correct."

Mr Choong described the relationship between Xtron and CHC as both sides working closely together for the Crossover Project. Xtron provided services to CHC by working out "a model for CHC to have a place of worship and to market the place when CHC is not using (it)".

About the case

Five City Harvest Church leaders and one former member are on trial for allegedly misusing more than $50 million of church funds, including $24 million to fund singer Sun Ho's career and another $26.6 million to cover the tracks of the first amount.

They face varying charges for criminal breach of trust (CBT) and/or falsifying accounts.

Those convicted of committing CBT can be jailed for life or up to 20 years and fined on each charge.

Those convicted of falsification of accounts can be jailed up to 10 years and fined on each charge.

 


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