Former City Harvest Church finance manager Serina Wee Gek Yin took the witness stand today to answer questions from her lawyer, Senior Counsel Andre Maniam. She is the last of the witnesses to take the stand in this longstanding trial. Wee, along with 5 other senior church members, face charges of criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts.
They are accused of misusing $24 million of church building funds on the music career of Ms Ho Yeow Sun, senior pastor of CHC and senior pastor Kong Hee’s wife, by routing the money through sham bond investments. They are also accused of using $26.6 million dollars from church funds to cover up the first amount.
Serina Wee told the courts on Thursday that she created the budget figures for City Harvest Church co-founder Ho Yeow Sun’s pop album project based on instructions from the mega-church’s senior pastor Kong Hee, Ho’s husband, and the church’s second-in-command Tan Ye Peng.
She denied conspiring with her fellow accused to commit criminal breach of trust, saying that she was merely discussing with co-accused Tan in Jan 2007 the funds needed for Ms Ho’s album. The English album, which was never released, was part of the church’s Crossover Project to evangelise via pop music. Sales projections given to her in early 2007 showed that Ms Ho’s album would be profitable, and that her management company Xtron Productions would be able to pay back its loans by Dec 2008, said Wee.
Wee is facing 10 charges of criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts.
Wee was solemn on the witness stand and only cracked a faint smile when asked by Mr Maniam if people called her “Na Wee”, seen in many emails produced in court.
Wee, who has an accountancy degree from Nanyang Technological University as well as a diploma in theology, said she first attended City Harvest in 1995 after completing her A Levels. She joined the church as an assistant accountant in 1999 and left in 2007 to set up her own company called Advante Consulting. She served as back-up vocalist and musician in the church, and was a back-up singer for two of Ms Ho’s Mandarin albums.
She was the Crossover Project’s administrator and said she did its accounts and budgeting, using figures obtained from Kong and Tan.
The two pastors made Xtron’s day-to-day decisions as they were involved in the Crossover Project, she said. Kong oversaw Ms Ho’s album project in the United States while Tan was in charge of the Crossover in Asia. Xtron’s directors — made up of church members with business or financial experience — would sign cheques and be informed when it came to taking loans and making bond investments, said Wee.
Wee said she saw nothing wrong with several issues that prosecutors have taken issue with in the trial – such as the backdating of Xtron’s board meeting minutes, Tan thinking of ways to solve Xtron’s cashflow deficit when he did not hold any official position in the company, as well as her proposal to transfer the church’s editorial and graphics department to Xtron to justify an extra S$50,000 paid by the church to Xtron. In the last instance, payments were for real services provided and the department could then generate income for Xtron, she said.
Wee continues on the witness stand on Friday.
Besides Kong, Tan and Wee, the other accused are former board member John Lam, former finance manager Sharon Tan and former fund manager Chew Eng Han, who has since left the church. They each face three to 10 criminal charges.