CHC hired professionals to ensure sound governance, says Kong
SINGAPORE — After City Harvest Church embarked on its Crossover Project to evangelise through secular pop music in late 2001, church co-founder and pastor Kong Hee began spending more time away from Singapore.
From spending most of his time preaching and teaching here during the early years of the church, he transitioned to the role of the church’s “chief missionary”, travelling to many countries to speak and even relocating to Taiwan, China and the United States for a spell, Kong told the court yesterday as he took the stand for the first time in the protracted trial.
The pop career of his wife and the face of the Crossover, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, was taking off, with successful albums launched from 2002 and many converts won, said Kong, the second defence witness in the criminal trial involving him and five other church leaders.
Kong, 49, faces three charges of criminal breach of trust. He was cheerful and took the stand without fanfare after his lawyer Edwin Tong told the court in an opening statement that his client, despite not being involved in the day-to-day management of the transactions in question and relying on various people including his co-accused, would not seek to distance himself from the transactions.
The six accused allegedly misused S$24 million of church building funds on sham bonds between 2007 and 2009, mainly for Ms Ho’s career, then allegedly misused another S$26.6 million to cover up the first amount.
Mr Tong argued that there was no wrongful gain by the accused and no financial loss to the church.
Kong said the church hired professionals to ensure sound corporate governance. Auditor Foong Daw Ching was “the boss” of the church’s audit firm and Kong’s long-time “confidant and mentor” in financial matters, while Senior Counsel Jimmy Yim from law firm Drew and Napier gave advice from 2003 — after allegations of misuse of funds were made against City Harvest by a church member, Mr Roland Poon, who later apologised publicly — until 2010.
Kong added that Mr Foong promised on numerous occasions that he would contact Kong if anything was wrong with the church’s accounts.
Mr Foong, who was a prosecution witness, had heated exchanges with Mr Tong in court last year, when the lawyer charged that he was dishonest and trying to distance himself from advice given to the church and its staff.
Kong said the 2003 Roland Poon incident created a sense of unrest among church members, and woke leaders up to the reality that the public may perceive the church’s actions differently. It faced intense public scrutiny as a big charity and Kong said he wanted Mr Yim to strengthen the church’s corporate structure.
Earlier yesterday, Kong also shared details on how the Crossover was conceived. He learnt through a trip to Taiwan in 1999 that Christianity had lost its appeal among youth, and experimental performances by Ms Ho of pop songs incorporating gospel messages garnered an overwhelming response.
In September 2000, Kong approached producer and songwriter Eric Ng of Funkie Monkies Productions to do a contemporary Christian music album. Mr Ng suggested a contemporary pop album and said Ms Ho had the potential to be a pop artiste, said Kong.
Her first album began production in April 2001 and an excited Kong told the church in September that year: “We’re going to engage the world of MTV and through it, we’re going to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Kong also told the court that the church funded Ms Ho’s first two music albums. In the wake of Mr Poon’s allegations, church leaders got supporter Wahju Hanafi, an Indonesian businessman, and his family to fulfil an earlier pledge and pay for the albums.
Church leaders and Mr Foong also declared in 2003 that church funds had not been used to promote the singer’s career.
The trial continues.
Source: By Neo Chain Chin, CHC hired professionals to ensure sound governance, says Kong, TodayOnline, http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/chc-hired-professionals-ensure-sound-governance-says-kong?singlepage=true, Published 4:02 AM, 12/08/2014. (Accessed 15/08/2014.)