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Asia One reports,
Kong Hee says nothing was hidden from auditors, lawyers
SINGAPORE- The auditors were “alive” to our concerns and dealings.
That was City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee’s assertion during his re-examination yesterday.
Previously during the trial, the prosecution had charged that Kong and his co-accused concealed information from auditors and lawyers to cover up their misuse of church funds.
Kong and five others are accused of channelling church money through sham bonds of two companies – music production firm Xtron Productions and glass manufacturer Firna – to fund the music career of singer Sun Ho.
Yesterday, Kong, 50, reiterated that he and his team had kept all of their transactions “proper and above board” by constantly checking their transactions with auditors.
His lawyer, Mr Edwin Tong, conducted the re-examination by referring to past transcripts and e-mails.
For example, in an e-mail chain dated July 2008, Mr Tong pointed out that Kong had written to CHC adviser, auditor Foong Daw Ching, about concerns regarding the church’s corporate governance.
Kong said he was concerned then that Xtron would not be able to repay the bond money to CHC and was afraid it would “get into any kind of trouble”.
He also said yesterday that Mr Foong and auditors from Baker Tilly were kept in the loop about other Xtron issues.
These included Xtron losing money every year, its earning income from CHC for providing audio, video and lighting and rental services, and its closeness with the church.
“I didn’t just give Brother Foong a few dots here and there and hope that he could somehow string them together. I thought… he will have a lot of dots, enough for him to draw the line.
“We really went to him to seek counsel. We are not professionals. I’m just a pastor,” said Kong.
Mr Tong also asked Kong about the prosecution’s assertion that Mr Foong was merely a “test” to check if the accused could “get past the other auditors”.
Said Kong: “There was never any intention or a sinister plot to use Brother Foong as a testing ground.”
Kong also said yesterday that he had no intention to withhold information from church members, such as the bank loan that the church took to fund the purchase of a Riverwalk property.
He only did so, he claimed, when he knew whatever he shared at the annual and extraordinary general meetings would be leaked to the public, he said.
“We are always concerned about information getting into the public domain that can cause unnecessary issues that would distract… our church from our mission.”
But when it came to the auditors and lawyers, there were “no secrets”, he said.
“They are our protection. They guide us, they advise us on how to do things legally and legitimately.
“We want to give them relevant information that will help them to do their job so that they could advise us how to do our job,” he said.
Kong also said that CHC would not make investments purely for financial gain as it would have to meet its objectives of being a charity.
The trial continues today, with CHC finance manager Sharon Tan expected to take the stand after Mr Tong wraps up his re-examination with Kong.
ABOUT THE CASE
City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and five others are on trial for allegedly misusing church funds through sham bonds.
This includes $24 million to allegedly fund the music career of Kong’s wife Ho Yeow Sun, whose stage name is Sun Ho, and another $26.6 million to allegedly cover up the first amount.
They are said to have done this through music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna, run by long-time supporters of the church.
Kong, former board member John Lam, finance manager Sharon Tan, ex-fund manager Chew Eng Han, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former finance manager Serina Wee (above) face charges of criminal breach of trust and/or falsifying accounts.
Prosecutors had sought to show how Xtron and Firna directors simply did the accused’s bidding.
The defence has argued that the transactions were legitimate, with the accused acting “in good faith” on the advice of lawyers and auditors.
Source: By Ronald Loh, Kong Hee says nothing was hidden from auditors, lawyers, Asia One, Page 1: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/kong-hee-says-nothing-was-hidden-auditors-lawyers#sthash.szpvbRFT.dpuf; Page 2: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/kong-hee-says-nothing-was-hidden-auditors-lawyers?page=0%2C1#sthash.3VC6ujc7.dpuf; Page 3: http://news.asiaone.com/news/singapore/kong-hee-says-nothing-was-hidden-auditors-lawyers?page=0%2C2#sthash.p1JM51JK.dpuf, Published 13/09/2014. (Accessed 16/09/2014.)