CHC leaders accused of doctoring paperwork to back investments
SINGAPORE — The leaders of City Harvest Church (CHC) had planned to falsify paperwork and deceive auditors that the church had assessed Xtron’s bonds to be a good investment, charged the prosecution as the high-profile trial resumed yesterday.
Church founder Kong Hee and his five deputies are being accused of using millions in church funds to buy sham bonds from Xtron and Firna in order to bankroll the secular music career of Kong’s wife, Ms Sun Ho.
Yesterday, the prosecution said the leaders doctored documents so auditors would think the church had considered in July 2008 whether the Xtron bonds could be recovered before the auditors raised the issue on Aug 1, 2008.
For example, the minutes of a church board meeting dated Aug 3, 2008, reflected that CHC’s investment committee had already reviewed and approved the Xtron bonds. But the investment committee only met two days later, on Aug 5.
Similarly, the minutes from that investment committee meeting were backdated to July 29.
A spreadsheet reflecting Xtron’s ability to redeem the bonds, which had allegedly been presented at the Aug 5 meeting, was only created a few days later on Aug 8.
When these anomalies were highlighted to one of the accused, former church board member John Lam, who had seen both sets of minutes and signed off on the church board minutes, he said they were simply “a mistake”.
Lead prosecutor Mavis Chionh disputed that and called it a “deliberate act” to present a certain picture to the church’s auditors — that CHC had considered the recoverability of the bonds before the issue was raised.
Lam had been fully aware of the falsification and deception, argued the prosecution.
She also asserted that the church leaders had not always painted a full picture to its executive members and had sometimes given them misleading impressions.
That was because they did not want members to discover that money that had been meant for church-related matters had, instead, been spent on the Crossover Project. Fronted by Ms Ho, the project was the church’s way of evangelising through pop music.
The court also heard that the leaders had not told the church board that proceeds from the Firna bonds would be used to fund the project, leading them to believe that the bonds were genuine investments that were made purely to gain financial returns.
It was clear Firna, like Xtron, was merely a “conduit” to channel funds to the Crossover Project, charged Ms Chionh. CHANNEL NEWSASIA