Deputy Prosecutor Ms Mavis Chionh slammed the 6 senior leaders of City Harvest Church (CHC) involved in the long-running CHC court case yesterday as she gave her concluding oral submissions to the court.
Tearing apart the defense given by each of the leaders, Ms Chionh exposed each of the 6 co-accused of trying their best to distance themselves from the alleged crime while trying to pin blame on church accountants and church investment manager Chew Eng Han, also one of the co-accused on trial.
DPP Chionh also took issue with contradictions in the defense testimonies of pastors Kong Hee and Tan Ye Peng. She recommended that the court reject Kong Hee and Tan’s testimony.
DPP Chionh said that far from being a mere figurehead, Kong Hee was a meticulous and details-oriented leader whose express approval was needed before the bonds could go ahead. She labelled Kong a “well-practised liar” with an “utter lack of credibility”.
50 year-old Kong Hee and 42 year-old Tan Ye Peng and four others are accused of misappropriating $24 million in building funds from CHC through sham bond investments in music production firm Xtron and glass maker Firna. They later tried to make use of a further $26 million to cover it up.
Former finance managers Serina Wee, 38, and former investment committee members Chew Eng Han, 54, and John Lam, 47. The funds were used to pay for the expenses of pop singer Ho Yeow Sun’s music career in the United States.
According to the co-accused, CHC wanted to use Ms Ho’s music to spread the Gospel through what they called the Crossover Project. Ms Ho is Kong Hee’s wife.
Kong Hee has maintained that he had been acting on the advice of auditors and lawyers as far as the sham bonds were concerned.
Kong’s deputy, Tan, also told the court that he relied on “advice and blessing” given by auditors and fellow co-accused Chew.
Ms Chionh rubbished the claim that Tan was a naive man dependent on others to make decisions and was incapable of exercising his own judgment.
“But what this claim entirely neglects is the reality that, at the relevant time, Tan Ye Peng’s authority was second only to Kong Hee’s in the management of the Crossover,” she added.
On Sharon Tan’s assertions that she too was a “naive church employee”, DPP Chionh noted that Sharon Tan had helped to deceive auditors by altering minutes of church board meetings.
DPP Chionh smashed the defence’s claim that this was a mere failure of corporate governance arising from ignorance: “CHC was not some struggling new voluntary outfit run by bumbling amateurs with no experience of the financial world,” she said .
She noted too that Lam was the group’s “inside man in the church’s governance and oversight bodies, preventing these bodies from discovering the sham nature of the bonds”. Lam was on the church board and investment committee where he was in a position to influence these committees.
The prosecution also crippled Wee’s defence, calling it superficial and a bare denial in the face of the evidence. Wee’s lawyer had said last week that his client acted with “no dishonest intent” and believed the bonds were not a sham.
Ms Chionh, however, said: “(Wee) was arguably the most inextricably involved in all the sham bond and the round-tripping transactions because of the nature of her role as the Crossover administrator.”
She also accused Chew of being inconsistent in his defence, adding that his argument in his written submissions that the bonds were investments in Ms Ho’s album project was indicative that they were a sham – because they were not investments in the two companies.