We are trying to catalogue what is said on various media outlets to discover what is revealed in the Singapore courts. Different news groups focus on different information emerging from court procedures. Therefore, it is our hope that we can provide readers with:
1. as much detail of the case as possible;
2. articles that news groups may remove over time;
3. act as a resource for curious readers; and
4. a tool full of Christian and secular articles on this case that outreach to Christian brothers and sisters to leave these controlling mega-cults.
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Asia One / Straits Times reports,
Probe was traumatic for my son: Kong Hee
SINGAPORE – City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee became emotional on the stand yesterday as he told the court how investigations into financial irregularities at the church had affected his young son.
The pastor and five others are on trial for allegedly misusing $50 million in church funds to boost the music career of his wife Ho Yeow Sun and falsifying church accounts to cover up the misuse.
“The whole investigation was shocking and traumatic for my little boy,” he said of his son Dayan, who was 5½ years old when the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) started probing the church’s financial affairs in 2010.
Choking up several times, he said the boy began to have panic attacks and would be “hyperventilating on most days”, so much so that he and his wife had to take him to see a psychiatrist.
Kong, 50, recounted this after being asked by his lawyer, Mr Edwin Tong, why Ms Ho had not returned to the United States to complete her album once investigations started. This was in response to criticism raised earlier in the trial by Kong’s co-accused and former CHC fund manager, Chew Eng Han, that Kong did not even launch the album to recover the church’s money.
Yesterday, Kong said their son and the church needed her to be around. He said his son’s classmates at a “very good Christian school” would innocently ask him: “Is your Dad in jail already?”
Dayan also asked him: “Dad, why are all the teachers and adults at school constantly talking about you?”
As for himself, Kong told the court his “life was never the same” after he was first questioned by the CAD for 15 hours on May 31, 2010.
“It was traumatic. I was devastated. I was in a state of shock. I was worried for my family and even more for the church,” he said.
The court heard that three days after that interview, Kong typed out a 12-page letter setting out the history of the church and detailing the events surrounding the financing of Ms Ho’s US music career. In the letter, Kong wrote: “I am willing to shoulder the blame of my failure as the senior pastor of CHC.”
Yesterday, he said the letter was his way of coming clean and taking responsibility, as advised to do so by the church’s then lawyer, Senior Counsel Jimmy Yim. He gave the letter to Mr Yim to be given to any authority he felt was necessary. It was later handed over to Mr Tong’s firm.
The morning ended with a wrap-up of Mr Tong’s re-examination of Kong, but a surprise emerged just before the lunch break when the prosecution asked to cross-examine Kong on the letter, which it was seeing for the first time. Chew, who is defending himself, made the same request, saying he received it only near the end of his cross-examination of Kong on Aug 19.
Granted the request, Chew challenged Kong on the authenticity of the letter, wondering how he had such exact dates and figures when numerous documents and the laptops of those called up for questioning had been seized by the CAD.
Kong said he would have relied on former CHC finance manager Serina Wee, who is also on trial, for the information.
Pressed on how she had the figures, Kong paused a long while and replied she could have backed up her files.
Chew also noted that Kong’s memory was clear when he wrote the letter but became fuzzy five days later, when questioned again by the CAD. He put it to Kong that either the letter had been fabricated or he had lied to the investigators. Kong said he had tried to answer the CAD as best as he could.
Chew contended that the letter did not amount to taking responsibility, as Kong maintained in his CAD statements he was misguided because he had relied on others’ advice, including Chew’s.
Chew put it to Kong that he continued to portray himself as “heroic” and “a responsible pastor”, when he was not.
Kong denied being heroic and said he really had wanted to take the rap.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong, in questioning Kong about the letter, noted that there were a few facts missing despite his claim that it was an attempt to come clean.
“Your Honour, with the benefit of hindsight, I could have come even cleaner. I tried to come clean but perhaps not squeaky clean enough for the DPP,” Kong replied.
Kong finally stepped down from the stand yesterday after testifying for 19 days.
Sharon Tan, who took over from Wee as finance manager, is expected to take the stand when the trial continues today.
SINGAPORE – It was a surprise plea that read like a personal confession.
I will shoulder the blame. I admit I have erred. Please forgive me.
City Harvest Church (CHC) founder Kong Hee wrote: “I pray that the authorities will be merciful to me, in view of my years of service to my church, our society and to lives in need locally as well as internationally.”
Kong’s admission of his “mistakes” in the letter was presented to the court yesterday. It took many, including the prosecution, by surprise. The letter was allegedly penned in June 2010.
Kong, who took the stand on Aug 11, was expected to step down yesterday following the conclusion of re-examination by his lawyer, Mr Edwin Tong.
But the unexpected reference of the 12-page “confession letter” by Mr Tong prompted the prosecution and co-accused Chew Eng Han to ask to cross-examine Kong again.
Kong, Chew and four other CHC leaders are on trial for misusing more than $50 million of church funds.
Some of the money was allegedly used to fund the music career of singer Sun Ho, who is married to Kong, through “sham bonds” invested into two companies – Xtron Productions and Firna.
Kong and his accused were arrested on May 31, 2010.
Four days later, Kong allegedly wrote the “confession letter” after the first round of questioning by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).
He claimed he did so because he was urged by CHC’s lawyer, Mr Jimmy Yim, to “come clean”.
So he said he decided to write his thoughts while in Mr Yim’s office.
In the letter, Kong outlined the background of CHC and its mission to evangelise the unchurched through the Crossover Project.
He also included details of his wife and singer Sun Ho’s music career and figures of the church’s transactions.
He concluded by pleading for leniency as he had recognised his failures and mistakes.
“The fallout from my negligence and mistakes is already tragic enough for my family,” he wrote.
Kong said he then passed the letter to Mr Yim, and had left it to him to decide whether to submit it to the authorities.
But former CHC fund manager Chew, who left the church last year, questioned the authenticity of the letter and asked to see the source and date of creation of the letter.
“It doesn’t look like a letter to me. It looks like a well-prepared statement,” he said.
Chew, who is representing himself after discharging his lawyer in May, also questioned Kong on how he was able to recount and produce 12 pages of details in a short space of “six to eight hours”, given that Kong “was in a state of shock” then.
Kong said he had relied on his church staff and the other co-accused, including Serina Wee, Tan Ye Peng and Sharon Tan, to provide the details.
“I wrote this on my own, but, for example, when it came to the figures of information concerning the City Harvest community services, I would give a call to make sure that I get all the facts correct.
“We have a lot of records, a lot of documentation that we keep in the office. Six to eight hours, we should be able to gather all the information,” Kong said.
Chew also pointed out that Kong had wrote that he had known about the Xtron and Firna bonds right from the beginning.
“Then how was it that on subsequent CAD sessions… you told the CAD you only knew about Xtron bonds during the EGM (extraordinary general meeting) and you had no strong impression of the Firna bonds?
“It seems like (on) June 3… you had such clear memory. Five days later…this thing about Xtron and Firna bonds suddenly became fuzzy again,” Chew said.
Said Kong: “I was very open to tell (CAD) I have knowledge of the CHC-Firna bonds. But subsequently, there were a lot of confusion, could be on my part or could be on the CAD IO (investigating officer).
“Sometimes when the questions was being asked, I get confused myself.”
Chew then told him: “It’s either… this confession letter was fabricated or you lied during the CAD statement.”
Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong also probed Kong on the accuracy of the letter, and said there were “a few facts missing from the document”.
For example, in the letter, Kong wrote that Xtron was incorporated because Indonesian tycoon Wahju Hanafi and his family needed a company to manage Ho.
But Mr Ong stressed that Kong did not mention this at any point during trial.
Instead, Kong had said Xtron was meant to distance Ho from the church.
Said Mr Ong: “I suggest to you that this letter is just a further development of the cover story that you and some of your co-accused were trying to prepare to give to the authorities, and that it wasn’t really a true ‘coming clean’.”
Kong said he disagreed, and added that he had worked on the letter till late that night and had no intention to mislead or lie.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I could have come even cleaner. I think I tried to come clean, but perhaps not squeaky clean enough for the DPP.”
Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon also asked Kong whether he accepted that there were gaps or imprecisions in the letter.
Said Kong: “Your Honour, I learnt one thing going through this trial: That precision is such an important thing in life, so with the benefit of hindsight, I should have been more precise.”
The trial continues today, with CHC finance manager Sharon Tan expected to take the stand.