Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014
Trial of City Harvest Church leaders resumes


Profiles of the six people

Name: Kong Hee

Who he is: Founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church

Background: Pastor Kong founded the church with his wife Ho Yeow Sun in 1989. He is currently the senior pastor of the congregation, which numbers at over 23,000. Two years ago, the way he ran his church and used the funds raised came into question when the CAD launched a probe on the alleged misuse of church funds and financial transactions which involved 'several individuals and companies, related or connected' to the church.

Name: Chew Eng Han

Who he is: Church board member

Background: Mr Chew is a shareholder in the Business Breakthrough Group, which City Harvest started in 2003 as an 'outreach to the marketplace', according to the church website. In 2005, he was the key person behind City Harvest's move to Suntec Singapore.

Name: Sharon Tan Shao Yuen

Who she is: Finance manager with City Harvest Church

Background: Very little is known about her as she is usually not in the limelight.

Name: Tan Ye Peng

Who he is: Founding member and senior pastor of City Harvest Church

Background: Mr Tan has long been involved in community service. He is also the founder of City Care, a social enterprise related to the church.

Name: John Lam Leng Hung

Who he is: Former secretary of the church's management board

Background: Mr Lam had been involved with City Harvest church since the 1990s when he managed the church's renovation at its old premises at the former Hollywood cinema at Tanjong Katong Road in 1995. The project cost the church more than $1 million. He was quoted as saying then the church leaders believed that it was a good investment at the time.

Name: Serina Wee Gek Yin

Who she is: Former finance manager with City Harvest Church

Background: Ms Wee used to manage the church’s funds before starting her own business. It is uncertain if she still attends service at City Harvest Church but she was an active member for more than 10 years.

Defence counsels for the City Harvest Six, on trial for various counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts, on Thursday said their clients were simply acting on the instructions of audit firm Baker Tilly managing partner Sim Guan Seng.
Defence counsel Edwin Tong on Wednesday alluded that the prosecution's method of questioning Baker Tilly managing partner Sim Guan Seng amounted to a "piecemeal" approach.
City Harvest Church's $46.3 million eight-year rental lease agreement with music production firm Xtron puzzled the church's auditor, who on Tuesday said it "didn't make sense".
The auditor who repeatedly sounded alarm bells about church monies going to beleaguered music production firm Xtron explained his concerns on the witness stand Monday.
City Harvest Church trustee Tan Yew Meng was convinced by a good sales pitch that bond investments in beleaguered music production firm Xtron would be a sound move.
It was a reversal of roles in court on Thursday as defence lawyer Kannan Ramesh sought to show that an auditor had been "significantly troubled" by City Harvest Church's investment in bonds.
Auditors of City Harvest Church had been kept in the loop about the use of church funds, defence lawyers said on Tuesday.
City Harvest Church funds were already used as early as 2001 to fund the secular pop music career of founder Kong Hee's wife Ho Yeow Sun, court documents showed on Tuesday.
Information about allegedly sham bonds at the centre of the City Harvest Church trial had been kept from the auditor in charge of the firm issuing the bonds, a court heard on Monday at the start of the third leg of the trial.
The third leg of the high-profile City Harvest trial starts today as the prosecution continues to build its case against the church's founder, Kong Hee, and five of his deputies accused of misappropriating church funds.
The lines started noticeably later this time around as City Harvest Church members started streaming in after 6am for the third tranche of the ongoing trial involving six of their leaders on Monday morning.
Not every investment made by charities such as churches need to yield profit. Sometimes these investments may be to further social objectives. Defence lawyers for the six accused City Harvest leaders said this in court on Friday during an on-going trial.
City Harvest Church leaders had done nothing wrong in being discreet about funding Ms Ho Yeow Sun's career and auditors had found nothing amiss as well, a court heard on Thursday.
The Ren Ci scandal sparked an internal panic within the City Harvest Church, with church leaders frantically trying to ensure that their own investments in church-linked companies were above-board, a court heard on Wednesday.
City Harvest founder Kong Hee was once so concerned about possibly bringing harm to the church that he offered to step down from its management board, said defence lawyers on Tuesday during an ongoing criminal trial into him and five of his deputies.
Sparks flew in court yesterday as the defence team for City Harvest Church leaders sought to prove auditor Foong Daw Ching was an unreliable and untruthful witness.
A testy exchange took place in court on Monday morning between defence lawyer Edwin Tong and auditor Foong Daw Ching, as the latter was being cross-examined during the ongoing City Harvest trial.
An auditor testifying in the City Harvest Church trial said on Friday that certain practices described in emails written by accused Serina Wee were "improper", and mischaracterised advice he gave to the church. These include downplaying the close relationship the church had with related companies, for example by leaving out information in minutes of church meetings.
Auditor Foong Daw Ching said City Harvest Church members had approached him over the years for advice on the church buying properties, investing in bonds and financial transactions which may require disclosure of any prior relationship between the two transacting parties.


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The woman at the centre of the investigation

Name: Ho Yeow Sun, also known as Sun Ho

Who she is: Co-founder of City Harvest Church, and the wife of founder Kong Hee.

Background: Ho has been married to Kong Hee for 20 years. The couple told The New Paper in a report in 2010 that they 'got married first and then did the courting and romancing later'.

Ms Ho was a constant presence beside her husband when their church took off, and counselled troubled teens at City Harvest Community Services Association, a group she founded. She later resigned from her duties in the church in 2003 to become a singer, but continued to be involved in fund-raising activities for the church.

Ms Ho does charity work and was named Ambassador Of Love by the China Children's Foundation after donating 600,000 yuan (S$123,000) to help build schools in Beijing and Chongqing. The Chinese government designed a series of stamps featuring her to thank her for her donation, making her reportedly the first foreigner to be accorded the honour. In 2005, she opened a street wear boutique, SKIN Couture, at Marina Square. She later opened two more shops at The Heeren Shops and Great World City.

Ms Ho has been based largely in the United States since 2003 to pursue her music career. Since then, she has released several singles in the US including chart-topping dance numbers such as One With You, Without Love and Fancy Free, and living in a Los Angeles US$20,000-a-month property for at least a year.

Five of Ms Ho's English singles have made it into the top 10 of Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs, with four of them going on to clinch the top spot and the fifth making it to second place. Each single stayed on the charts for between 13 and 16 weeks.