CHC Trial: Kong Hee Takes The Stand; Reasons For And Sequence Of Crossover Project Established
The court heard the story of CHC’s beginnings, how the Crossover happened and that Xtron’s logo appeared on the back of Sun Ho’s later albums.
The City Harvest trial resumed today with Kong Hee taking the stand. Kong is the founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church. The court was filled nearly to capacity this morning with media, church members and curious members of the public.
Kong faces three charges arising from the contention that he had allegedly misappropriated monies from CHC’s building fund, disguised as investments into two companies, Xtron and Firna, to fund his wife, Sun Ho’s music career.
In his opening statement, Edwin Tong, the defense lawyer for Kong, highlighted four points: first, the Crossover Project was a legitimate church purpose. Second, there was no wrongful gain by any individual, and every cent which came out from the church was used for the Crossover. Tong’s third point was that the church suffered no financial loss—Xtron and Firna bonds had been redeemed, with interest, by 2009, before investigations started.
His final point was that despite the prosecution’s allegation of “loss”, the church has not complained, neither have the members. “In fact, there is no complainant at all (it is not even clear what, if any, the first information report is),” said Tong. He added that despite the investigations and negative media, CHC’s members did not waver or change course; they voted for the use of the church’s building fund to subscribe to Xtron and Firna bonds to support the Crossover.
The counsel’s opening statement also made note of the prosecution’s allegations of non-disclosure by the accused. Tong emphasized that non-disclosure is not an offence in itself, and that the church did not want to want to make public more than what was necessary.
Tong’s second point related to the evidence from Kong and how such evidence should be construed when considering if allegations of a dishonest intention could be made out beyond a reasonable doubt.
Kong Takes The Stand
Kong was sworn in and gave a rundown of CHC’s history from 1989. Kong had accepted Christ at the age of 11 and grew up in an Anglican Church where he served as a cell group leader in 1984. The cell group known as Ekklesia grew and Kong was overseeing about 160 members by the year 1989. That same year, Ekklesia became an independent congregation and was registered with the Registrar of Societies as City Harvest Church in 1992.
Kong told the court that in the early years, from 1989 to 1996, CHC was focused on building the church on Biblical principles of prayer, worship, relationship, discipleship, ministry and evangelism, essentially the “DNA of City Harvest.”
In 1997 to 2001, the church launched into community outreach, birthed out of a vision Kong received from God to build a “church without walls.” In February 1997, Ho founded City Harvest Community Services Association, which services the poor and needy in society to this day. Kong said that it was at that time, CHC began to focus on global missions and engaging the marketplace.
How Far The Crossover Project’s Reached
The court saw that Kong’s travel schedule increased along with the church’s growth and expansion of outreach–from doing missions in southeast Asia, to doing missions in India, Australia and the US. From traveling a total of seven to eight days per month between 1992 to 2000, Kong was overseas a third of the year between 2001 to 2005. By 2006 to 2007, Kong had relocated to Taiwan for a year, China for some months and finally the US. By 2008 to 2009, Kong was out of Singapore three-quarters of a year. He was preaching in countries as far as Russia, Sweden, Europe, Canada and Fiji.
In 1995, there were no CHC affiliate churches. In 2001 to 2002, there were 13 affiliate churches. By 2009, CHC had 47 affiliate churches and 30 associate churches in China. The Crossover was a catalyst for the missions work of the church, the fruits of which was the growing number of affiliate churches. This result of the Crossover was made known to the members.
Kong’s Relationship To Foong Daw Ching
The court also heard this morning that Kong met Foong Daw Ching, then the managing partner of Teo Foong Wong LLC, when they were both involved in committee for the Festival Of Praise, between the years 1997 to 2010. FOP is an annual inter-church event started in the mid 1980s. Kong attended the FOP as a youth even before CHC was started, and later served as its executive director from 1997 to 2010. Through FOP, Kong met Foong and knew him to be a reputable auditor in the industry, sitting on many committees in Christian organizations and having audited the accounts of more than one-third of the churches in Singapore.
Kong told the court that Foong was a “dear friend” to him and a “mentor” in financial matters. According to Kong, Foong had taught him how to be a better steward of the church’s finances and his own personal finances. The pair was close to the point that Kong would be invited to preach in Foong’s church and even conducted Foong’s daughter’s pre-marital counseling and solemnized her wedding.
Kong revealed that in 1999, Foong conducted a special audit of the accounts between CHC and Kong, as well as between CHC and Ho. Foong became Kong’s personal tax consultant and guided Kong on how to manage the accounts of his salary, honorarium, love gifts and royalties. It was Foong who advised Kong to set up International Harvest Pte Ltd to handle the above.
When Kong took himself off the payroll of the church, Foong advised him on to how to release that news to the church.
The court heard that during the times Kong was not in Singapore, he would entrust his board, management and subcommittees to handle details. They would flag areas of concern to him. He added that he felt assured that things were going smoothly because the church had good auditors (TFWLLC) and lawyers like Jimmy Yim from Drew & Napier to draw advice from.
Sun Ho’s Different Labels And Producers
Kong gave evidence this morning that the Crossover began when, at an international pastors’ conference in June 2000, Ho performed secular songs with lyrics tweaked to reflect worship. The success of that sparked off the idea to record a Chinese contemporary Christian music (CCM) album to be marketed in and outside of Singapore.
In September that year, Kong sought the advice of a music producer, who advised that Ho should record a pop album instead. Although it was meant to be a CCM album, Sun With Love received positive response from the record label and was released as a secular pop album under Decca Records in 2002. Kong said that the church members were excited and supportive, and that in February 2002, a service was held to send Sun out into this mission. He told the court that the first two albums were financed by CHC as it was a mission of the church.
In earlier proceedings it had been suggested that the accused had hidden from church members the fact that Xtron was Ho’s manager, but the court heard today that it was no secret. Not only did the board and the executive members of the church know this, this information was publicly promoted. Tong produced a video transcript of the Hit Award 2003 held on Sep 6 in the transcript, Ho thanked Universal Music (her record label) and Xtron (her artist management company).
Kong also told the court that besides the album promotion activities scheduled by the record label, Ho also did outreach concerts where she will perform and share her testimony and then Kong would give an altar call. He said that over 280,000 people came for the outreach concerts held after the third album, Lonely Travel, was launched, and more than 100,000 decisions for Christ were made.
Source: The City News Team, CHC Trial: Kong Hee Takes The Stand; Reasons For And Sequence Of Crossover Project Established, CityNews, http://www.citynews.sg/2014/08/chc-trial-kong-hee-takes-the-stand-reasons-for-and-sequence-of-crossover-project-established/, Updated 4:28 pm August 11/08/2014. (Accessed 15/08/2014.)