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City Harvest trial: Church 'invested $13m though album unlikely to succeed'

Kong and other accused knew money would not be recouped in time: DPP

Published on Aug 27, 2014 7:15 AM
 
City Harvest founder Kong Hee insisted that he was not told of the discussions about the "200,000" sales projection for his wife's American album, and that he was working on an estimated sale of 1.5 million copies. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

City Harvest founder Kong Hee knew that his wife's American album was not going to amount to enough - with a projected sale of just 200,000 copies.

But that did not stop him and several of the other accused from "investing" $13 million of the church's money into the project, the prosecution alleged yesterday.

They went ahead and bought bonds in Xtron, which managed Ms Ho Yeow Sun's pop career, despite knowing that too few albums would be sold for the church to recoup its money in time, the court was told.

"You knew... there was no reasonable prospect of success... Nevertheless, you and (several other defendants) went ahead with this (purchase of bonds)," Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong put to Kong.

"By entering into this transaction... you entered into a sham."

If just 200,000 albums were sold, Xtron would take 10 years to repay the money, instead of the two years as required by the bond agreement, he added.

The pastor, however, insisted that he was not told of the discussions about the "200,000" projection and was working on an estimated sale of 1.5 million copies of his wife's album.

Since the prosecution began its cross-examination of Kong on Tuesday last week, DPP Ong has tried to establish several key points.

One was that Kong oversaw the production of Ms Ho's album in the United States and how much was being spent on it.

Another was that the 50-year-old, along with his deputies, controlled the strings at church-linked companies such as Xtron, which was set up to disguise the church's financing of Ms Ho's music career.

Yesterday, DPP Ong got Kong to concede that there was no record of the church's management board approving the purchase of the Xtron bonds. He also pointed to statements given by deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng and former church investment manager Chew Eng Han to the Commercial Affairs Department.

In these statements, both said that Kong knew of the 200,000 figure, which Xtron accountant Serina Wee had put forward.

Chew went so far as to say that the estimate had "probably" come from Kong himself.

DPP Ong suggested to Kong that Chew was right on this. "We have heard many times... that you were the one liaising with (American music producer) Justin Herz on the budget projections.

"So the source of information about budget projections, including expense and album sales, would be you, correct?"

Kong agreed that he was the "main liaison", but insisted that he knew nothing of the 200,000 figure. He pointed out that he was not included in an e-mail where Chew, Tan and Wee - who were all in the courtroom yesterday - discussed the projected album sales before Xtron issued its bonds in 2007.

He said he was also not a party to other e-mail in which the trio discussed how Xtron could take a 10-year loan to pay the church back, or in which Chew suggested issuing more bonds.

Kong also claimed that, as far as he knew, his wife's album was projected to sell at least 1.5 million copies. This also did not take into account revenue from tours and licensing, he said.

He added that he did not know how Wee came up with the 200,000 estimate. "My guess is that she was doing an ultra-conservative projection."

zengkun@sph.com.sg

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