City Harvest Church trial began officially Wednesday with sharp disagreement between the prosecution and the defense on whether theology falls within the parameter of the defined scope of the case.
The prosecution alleges that six CHC leaders have misappropriated more than S$50 million of church funds and have committed criminal breach of trust.
The accused were allegedly engaged in “sham bond investments” in two companies Xtron Productions and PT the First National Glassware (Firna) to further the music career of Kong’s wife Sun Ho, the Channel News Asia reported. This was said to take place between January 2007 and October 2008.
Masiv Chionh, deputy public prosecutor, said, the issue lies with whether the building fund was used in an “authorized” manner or not, according to City News. Whether the accused thought Ho’s music career would further the broader objective of the church is immaterial, he said. And whether Sun’s crossing over into the entertainment circle is “theologically legitimate” is inconsequential.
The defense, on the other hand, disagreed, and sought clarification from the prosecution on whether they equate the Crossover Project with Sun’s music career. The lawyers emphasized that since the case involves a church, theological legitimacy has to be considered.
Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan told City News two key elements: one is that the prosecution wants to maintain that the used of the building fund for the Crossover Project was unauthorized, but “as my learned friend Edwin Tong said in the open court, the use was not unauthorized. But I won’t comment as it’s an issue before the court.”
The second element is fourfold: “The accused had no wrongful gain; there was no unlawful loss; the Church made good and there has been no dishonesty.”
The six are president of the church’s management board Kong Hee, Vice-President Tan Ye Peng, board member John Lam Leng Hung, the church’s investment manager Chew Eng Han and finance managers Sharon Tan Shao Yuen and Serina Wee Gek Yin.
While the accused have agreed to be jointly tried for all the charges brought against them, the court was filled with around 50 people, who are mostly from City Harvest Church.
Senior District Judge See Kee Oon hears the case. The trial continues on Thursday with a former accountant of the church Ms. Lai Baoting, prosecution’s first witness, giving evidence.
Two days ago, Sun will resume her role as Executive Director of the church after two suspension orders against her were lifted on Monday with immediate effect by the Commissioner of Charities (COC) as there were insufficient evidence that she contributed to mismanagement there.
COC has also extended the deadline for eight City Harvest Church members to submit objections to COC's proposal to remove them from their positions in the church.
They were originally given a one-month deadline, which ends on 13 May, to make representations. As a "goodwill gesture", the COC has given them another two months.