At yesterday’s court hearing (19 Aug), former CHC treasurer Chew Eng Han alleged that Kong and his wife took about $450,000 to $500,000 each year between 2007 and 2009 as Ms Ho’s music artist salary, bonuses and royalties.
Chew tried to show that Kong was a liar and was more deeply involved than he let on about the alleged misuse of around $50 million of the church’s money, and was someone more interested in personal gain than in CHC’s interests.
While cross-examining Kong, Chew told the court about a church account into which donors, including himself, had contributed. The account was set up in 2006 to support Kong and his wife Sun Ho. It was also used to pay for expenses in the church’s Crossover Project.
Chew claimed that Kong never revealed to donors that hundreds and thousands of dollars were going to pay his wife. He asked Kong why.
Kong, looking emotionally drained, replied, “I didn’t have the chance to check with my wife if she wants to reveal her salaries and royalties, and we have a culture in City Harvest Church, as in many companies, of keeping our income as confidential as possible.”
Chew told Kong, “I realised that you deceived the people closest to you.”
Chew also claimed that attendance figures for CHC services had been “falsified” and “grossly exaggerated”. He suggested the actual attendance was around 12,000 a week, not 28,000 as Kong had claimed.
Kong denied this, saying the 12,000 figure referred to the tally of cell group church members and not the total attendance. “Cell group figures are usually about 60 per cent or even less of the church’s final attendance, if you include walk-ins and visitors,” said Kong.
Chew then hit back, “Are you saying that every week about 40 per cent of the attendees are new walk-ins that are not related to the cell group members?”
Prosecution sought to show Kong was hands-on in all aspects of Crossover Project
In court today (20 Aug) when the trial resumed, prosecution charged that Kong was being evasive so as not to implicate himself in the bond transactions. Kong has maintained he was only involved in the budgeting of the Crossover Project, and left the financing of the project to his co-accused Tan Ye Peng and Chew Eng Han.
Deputy Public Prosecutor asked Kong if that meant he would not be responsible if the bonds then turned out to be an illegal mechanism.
Calling it a “difficult question to answer”, Kong said, “Because I’m a pastor, and as a shepherd, I want to take responsibility for a whole host of things. They – Ye Peng and Eng Han – have assured me that they have sought out advice from the professionals, so would the professionals be responsible?”
The prosecution sought to show that Kong was more hands-on in all aspects of the Crossover Project that he let on.
To show that Kong closely supervised the other co-defendants, the prosecution produced a 2007 e-mail in which Kong had berated Tan Ye Peng for failing to ensure that his wife’s China concerts were a success.
“The Beijing and Shanghai events cost us so much money… but at the end, who came? It was a joke!” said Kong in the e-mail. “Time wasted. Efforts wasted. Objectives not met. Money thrown away unnecessarily. I don’t get it. How have we become good stewards of money? We tried to save a few thousands on hotels and (threw) hundreds and thousands on result-less concerts.”
Kong added, “How I wish I can run the whole show the way I run our church (in) the last 18 years! But I can’t… (My wife and I) are putting our lives and destiny at the hands of our disciples, our spiritual children. We hope you guys don’t let us down.”
Prosecution also alleged that Kong made decisions about “what money to spend, how much and where it would come from”. The prosecution produced statements made by Kong’s co-defendants to the CAD to show this.
The 6 CHC leaders, including Kong, have been charged with conspiring to misuse $50.6 million of the church’s funds to bankroll his wife’s music career – $24 million to fund her singing career and another $26.6 million to cover the tracks of the first amount spent.
Prosecutors said that the 6 devised sham bond investments to embezzle money meant for a new church building and used most of it to finance Sun Ho’s pop singing career. Sun Ho isn’t charged with any offense.
She had been touted by the church as a big commercial success.
The trial continues.