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City Harvest Trial: Church Not To Directly Fund Crossover

Discretion had to be shown when it came to the financing of the Crossover, hence a separate business entity had to be set up.

This morning in court, Chew Eng Han continued his cross-examination of Kong Hee by spelling out the four allegations made by Roland Poon in Jan 2003. Poon had alleged that

  • The church’s building fund was used for the publicity and promotional campaign for Sun Ho’s album
  • Church members were forced to buy Ho’s CDs
  • Church members were forced to vote for Ho during the MTV Asia Awards
  • Ho had become the center of worship in CHC above God

At that time, the church was in its final campaign to pay for the Jurong West building and Kong was concerned that members would be confused and distracted by the allegations. Senior pastoral staff and board members, including Chew, were busy counseling members and answering queries in the wake of the Roland Poon incident. The board members met informally to talk about how to move forward from the incident.When asked by Chew, Kong told the court that he had been most affected by two allegations: that the building fund had been used and that Ho was being put before God.

The court heard that Chew was for the idea of directly funding the Crossover through the church because the Crossover was part of the church’s missions objectives. Kong agreed that he had felt that the Crossover should not be seen as being funded directly by the church, as there was the risk of misconception that Ho’s popularity and success were not genuine. If the church was financing Ho, she would be seen as a gospel singer and the purpose of the Crossover—to reach the unchurched—would fail. Therefore, Sun had to be clearly seen as a secular singer with secular success in order for the Crossover Project to work.

The Church Funds For Album Debacle

Earlier on in the trial proceedings, the court had heard that the church’s general funds were used for Ho’s first music album and a music video. Kong had gone through the expenditure with the executive members in an Annual General Meeting held in April 2002 and no objections were raised.

The court had heard repeatedly how Poon’s allegation that the church building fund was used caused such an unrest and uproar within the church and among the public.

When the board was deciding on the best way to handle the situation, someone recalled that CHC member and Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi had offered to underwrite the expenses of the Crossover Project. A call was made to Hanafi who confirmed that he would do so, but by that time, he had already given a sum of $1.27 million to the church’s building fund which he meant for the Crossover. Arrangements were then made to refund Hanafi’s money from the building fund to cover the expenses of the Crossover Project.

Subsequently in April 2003, a special audit was conducted by Foong Daw Ching from Teo Foong Wong LCL (now Baker Tilly TFW) and Foong appeared in a video reading a statement that no church funds were used. This statement was drafted by Drew & Napier and vetted by Foong himself.

Further to this topic, the court heard that between 2003 and 2006, members were giving donations to Xtron to support the Crossover. Kong said that Foong was also consulted as to whether members could directly support the Crossover with their tithes and donations. Foong replied that as long as it was done out of their free will and they were not coerced, this could be done, providing that the board gave its approval.

Roland Poon: Allegations, Press, Apology

Chew revealed to the court that together with three others, he had met up with Poon after the allegations. According to Chew, Poon “wanted to come clean”. At the meeting, Chew told the court Poon said he was grossly mistaken about the church using funds to finance the Crossover, and that in Poon’s own words, he had “almost sold the church to the devil.” Poon regretted that the papers published his allegations and did not expect them to do that when he first went to them. Poon told Chew that the press had asked to speak to one or two other similarly disgruntled members, but Poon did not know of any.

Chew put forth that Kong wanted Poon to make a public apology because it was “very important to you”. Kong told the court that Poon wanted to make restitution, and that Kong suggested an public apology. But he added that he and the church would have moved on from the incident with or without the public apology.

The Setting Up Of Xtron: Whose Idea?

The court saw that when the Commercial Affairs Department had questioned Kong and John Lam as to whose idea it was to start Xtron, both had replied that Xtron was an idea mooted by Chew.

Chew took pains to show that from the beginning, he was of the idea that there was no issue in having the church finance the Crossover. However, it was Kong who felt that the Crossover should not be seen as being financed by the church. In his statement to the CAD, Kong explained that the Crossover’s ultimate purpose was to create inroads into countries that were not open to the Gospel. Chew said that he deferred to Kong’s decision and it was logical then to start a separate business entity to finance the Crossover.

Chew questioned Kong on the directorship of Xtron and being the front man with regards to the Crossover budget. In Kong’s answer to the CAD, he said that he was the front man to negotiate with the Americans on the budget, and the budget would then be presented to the Xtron directors for their approval.

Before the lunch break, Chew asked Kong if it was important to him that he distance himself from Xtron, to which Kong replied that he disagreed.

Court resumed at 2.30pm this afternoon.

Source: The City News Team, City Harvest Trial: Church Not To Directly Fund Crossover, CityNews, http://www.citynews.sg/2014/08/city-harvest-trial-church-not-to-directly-fund-crossover/, Updated on August 15, 2014 at 5:20 pm. (Accessed 16/08/2014.)

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