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City Harvest trial: Hearing adjourned to Tuesday, CAD investigator expected to testify

Published on Jan 24, 2014 5:53 PM
 
In Friday's hearing, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong re-examined Baker Tilly managing partner Sim Guan Seng (pictured) on key issues raised by the defence during cross-examination. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The trial against six City Harvest Church figures for various counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts was barely a two-hour affair on Friday.

This, after parties sought an adjournment to iron out an agreed list of exhibits to be tendered as evidence through the next prosecution witness. The Straits Times understands that the exhibits under discussion are largely e-mail communications involving the accused.

The lead Commercial Affairs Department investigation officer for this case is expected to take the stand when the trial resumes next Tuesday.

In Friday's hearing, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong re-examined Baker Tilly managing partner Sim Guan Seng on key issues raised by the defence during cross-examination. Mr Sim had presided over the church's audit in financial years 2008 and 2009, and for music production firm Xtron in 2008.

He reinforced his position that as an auditor, his key role was not to detect fraud, and that he had determined that the accounts were intact when he signed off on them.

Defence counsel N. Sreenivasan and Michael Khoo - acting for deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and director of church investment manager AMAC Capital Partners Chew Eng Han respectively - had asked Mr Sim to confirm if several entries in the church books, recorded as "investments", were accurate and not misleading or false.

Although Mr Sim agreed at the time, he added a caveat on Friday that he based his answers on what he knew at the time he signed off on his audit.

If he had been privy to other information, such as documents and e-mails cited by Mr Ong in suggesting that church transactions were "actually not real investments", he would not have agreed to the classification as an "investment" on the books.

He said: "The way it is recorded is actually the client's responsibility...If it's supposed to be a transaction done to hide something, obviously they will not record it properly."

Earlier, Mr Khoo had raised the point that the monies taken from the church were eventually repaid - with interest. In relation to this point, Mr Ong asked: "If the return on investment is, in fact, paid with the investors' own money, would that be considered a genuine return on investment?"

Mr Sim replied: "No."