Channel News Asia reports,
Five City Harvest Church leaders on trial met to discuss their defence
SINGAPORE: Five of the six City Harvest Church leaders had met at least once in 2013 to discuss their defence, according to an email chain highlighted by the prosecution in court on Thursday (Aug 7). The court heard that church founder Kong Hee was not present at the meeting. The leaders are accused of using monies from the church’s building fund to buy sham bonds in Xtron and Firna to fund the secular music career of Sun Ho – the wife of church founder Kong Hee.In an email, the church’s former investment manager and co-accused Chew Eng Han says he is “convinced” that they are not on the same page regarding the substance of their defence and some of them had shifted their position on what the bonds were actually for.
He adds that he is “disturbed” by this, and that these differences should be discussed when they next meet. Chew was also the one who brought the email chain to the court’s attention. It was admitted after a closed-door hearing on Tuesday.
Another email also revealed that his co-accused – John Lam, Serina Wee, and Sharon Tan had also raised concerns about whether they were all on the same page about the round-tripping charges.
In an email to Chew dated Feb 3, 2013, John Lam wrote: “The 2 girls have a concern. If on the bond issue there seem to be a “different page”, how about the round trip? Are we having the different view as well. Obviously we rather not.” He then suggests a meet-up to discuss this. When initially questioned by the prosecution, he had denied talking to the other accused persons about what should be said at trial.
The prosecution then questioned Lam about why – if he was truly honest – would he be worried about his co-accused taking a different view of the charges.
Lead Prosecutor Mavis Chionh asked: “Do you agree that if you are an honest accused person who is going to go to court and tell the truth… you would not be trying to meet up with your co-accused persons and worrying about their taking a different view from yours on the charges?”
In wrapping up her cross-examination on Lam, Ms Chionh also said that Lam had placed the interests of the Crossover Project over and above his duty as a church board member to ensure proper stewardship of the church’s Building Fund. She also pointed out that Lam knew using the Building Fund monies to finance Ms Ho’s career was an unauthorised use of the funds, and that his keen awareness of this was why he had desperately tried to claim ignorance during the trial.
“It is also because of this guilty knowledge that you are now trying to disassociate yourself from the transactions and instead to push the blame to some of your co-accused, from blaming Sharon Tan, for example, for wrongly recording minutes, to blaming Chew Eng Han, whom you say was responsible for feeding you information,” she said.
Ms Chionh also gave a scathing assessment of Lam’s defence saying that it has essentially been one of “I don’t know, nobody told me, and if they did tell me, they didn’t ask me for advice”. She said given his status within the church, financial expertise, and documentary evidence, his defence is not only “untenable” but “deeply cynical”.
Source: ByFive City Harvest Church leaders on trial met to discuss their defence, 07/08/2014 22:25. Updated: 07/08/2014 22:26. (Accessed 08/08/2014.)
(EDIT – 16/08/2014 – Insert of CityNews article.)
CHC Trial: Defense Objects To “Unfounded” Insinuation Of Fresh Exhibit
DPP Mavis Chionh throws curveball suggestions at defendant late into the day based on new evidence submitted by church’s former fund manager Chew Eng Han, prompting rigorous objections from the defense team.
Late this afternoon in court, senior counsel N Sreenivasan for Tan Ye Peng objected strongly when deputy public prosecutor Mavis Chionh made an attempt to “inject unknown suppositions” in her questioning of John Lam.
In a new email exhibit submitted by accused party Chew Eng Han, the court saw that a discussion had allegedly taken place among the defendants in Feb 2013, over half a year after criminal charges had been pressed against the six.
The email showed Lam informing Chew that co-defendants Sharon Tan and Serina Wee wanted to meet up to talk about the round-tripping charges, and that it was preferable for them not to have differing views from one another.
Wouldn’t an accused person who is honest just go to court and tell the truth instead of trying to meet up with his co-accused persons, worrying about their taking a different view from him on the charges? asked Chionh.
At that, Sreenivasan stood up and objected to Chionh’s question because it suggested that consulting one’s co-accused was a dishonest act. “Even an honest person in a joint trial will be concerned about all the evidence, including the evidence of the co-accused,” he reminded the court.
“I’m objecting to the fact that the entry of this document is being used to make insinuations that are unfounded,” he said.
The judge allowed the question, however, leading Lam to testify that he disagreed with the DPP’s suggestion.
In the last piece of evidence in the prosecution’s cross-examination, Chionh presented to the court a spreadsheet sent to Chew by Lam, which contained information about external loans that had been taken in order to provide funds to Xtron to fulfil its liability to City Harvest Church.
When asked why Wahju Hanafi was listed in the list of creditors who had extended the external loans, when he was the guarantor of the Crossover Project, Lam replied that he did not know.
Earlier, Chionh also sought to establish the depth of Lam’s involvement in the restructuring and redemption of the Xtron and Firna bonds, and questioned his lack of objection when a particular proposal, which seemed not protective of CHC’s interest, was made by Chew.
Lam explained that he could not see how the proposal could work, but did not offer his view because at that stage, plans and scenarios were at an exploratory stage.
Chionh labelled his explanations “absurd” and “unreasonable.” She asked Lam, hypothetically, if somebody had proposed to him a plan to steal his company’s money, would he also have kept silent? Lam replied that it was not the same—one was simply a plan he felt was unworkable, while the other was an outright crime.
In winding up the prosecution’s cross-examination today, Chionh put forward her case against Lam as follows.
“You knew that the Building Fund could not be used to fund the Crossover directly, and that was why this use of the Building Fund had to be disguised as a legitimate investment.
“You were a board member at the time, Mr Lam, is it not the case that you placed the interests of the Crossover over and above your duty as a CHC board member to ensure proper stewardship of the Building Fund?
“You may have had your own motives for why you chose to misuse the church funds in this way, but the bottom line, I’m putting to you, is that you were aware that using the Building Fund to finance Sun Ho’s music career in the Crossover was an unauthorised use of the Building Fund.”
Lam disagreed with all her points. His lawyer, Kenneth Tan, will be conducting re-examination tomorrow.
Court resumes at 10am tomorrow.
Source: The City News Team, CHC Trial: Defense Objects To “Unfounded” Insinuation Of Fresh Exhibit, CityNews, http://www.citynews.sg/2014/08/chc-trial-defense-objects-to-unfounded-insinuation-of-fresh-exhibit/, Updated 11:36 pm 07/08/2014. (Accessed 15/08/2014.)