Asia One reports,
City Harvest trial: ‘Xtron is like CHC’s GIC’
SINGAPORE – Xtron Productions is like City Harvest Church’s (CHC) own GIC, its founder Kong Hee had told church members in a speech.
GIC is a Government-run sovereign wealth fund.
Just like the GIC, Xtron was meant to protect the interest of CHC, he had said in August 2008.
His words were the topic of yesterday’s hearing, with CHC finance manager Sharon Tan taking the stand to answer questions from her lawyer, Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh.
Kong’s speech, delivered to CHC members in an extraordinary general meeting, was made a day before Xtron purchased the Riverwalk property for $17.55 million.
He said in 2008: “You know, in Singapore, we have GIC? Every time you ask the Government what is a GIC, they say ‘national security, we cannot make it known to everybody.'”
Likewise, he asked members to keep the nature of Xtron’s relationship to the church “within the four walls of the building”.
“You got to keep this among us, because the last thing we want is for the whole world to be talking about this.”
Xtron’s venture would fail if word got out that it was linked to CHC, Kong explained in the speech.
When Tan was asked what she understood of Kong’s words, she said: “It’s the mentality of don’t ask, don’t tell.”
She claimed that the church had been facing difficulties procuring a suitable venue for worship purposes. Banks and developers shun CHC as it is a religious organisation, she said.
Said Tan: “The church has been in search of property for the longest time, ever since I started to attend church. When we had a theatre at Paya Lebar, we soon began looking for another building. The same when we got (the church at) Jurong West.”
This was because the church has been growing and there were not many places large enough to host the entire congregation, she added.
“Xtron became an important vehicle to help the church get commercial properties.”
To do this, the plan was for Xtron to be independent of the church and for transactions to be “at arm’s length” from the church, she said.
It also had to build up a reputation in the secular market because it needs to be credible and commercially viable, said Tan.
In his 2008 speech, Kong also asked its members to give business to Xtron, a production firm.
Said Kong: “If your company has a function and you want Xtron to run it, I promise you Xtron will do a good job. Please give Xtron as much business as possible and help it build credibility in the country.”
‘I DID NOT KNOW’
Tan claimed that she was not privy to the initial facts and discussions about Xtron as she was not involved in the original $13 million Xtron bond in 2007.
Mr Ramesh said that several e-mails were sent to its former finance manager Serina Wee instead of Tan, even after the former had stepped down from the church board.
“I did not know of these messages,” Tan said repeatedly during the hearing.
She told the court that it was because Wee was more familiar with the plans: “She (Wee) took it upon herself to follow through to ensure that the bond will go smoothly.”
Tan claimed that Wee had told her not to record minutes at board meetings that pertained to Xtron’s decisions because the church “was not supposed to be aware” of them.
“It is so as to keep the separation between CHC and Xtron,” she said.
The trial resumes today at the State Courts.
Source: By Ng Jun Sen, Asia One, City Harvest trial: ‘Xtron is like CHC’s GIC’, Page 1: http://news.asiaone.com/news/crime/city-harvest-trial-xtron-chcs-gic; Page 2: http://news.asiaone.com/news/crime/city-harvest-trial-xtron-chcs-gic?page=0%2C1; Page 3: , Published 18/09/2014. (Accessed 22/09/2014.)