City Harvest case: Trial to last till 2nd half of 2014

Third and last leg of trial will start on Jan 13 and be spread over seven months

The high-profile City Harvest trial will now go on till the second half of next year, in order to accommodate the schedules of the various defence lawyers and prosecutors as well as the trial court itself.

Originally slated for Jan 13 to March 7, the third and last leg of the trial will now be spread out over seven months, lasting as short as two days, and as long as 20 days at a stretch.

It will still start on Jan 13, and go on till Feb 10; the longest will be between Aug 4 and 29.

So far, the prosecution has been building its case in the first two tranches of the trial which started in May, questioning close to 10 witnesses, including directors of church-linked companies and church accountants.

It is accusing City Harvest Church's founder Kong Hee and five deputies of criminal breach of trust. They are alleged to have funnelled $24 million meant for the church's new building into sham bond investments in church-linked firms Firna and Xtron Productions. Church accounts were then falsified to the tune of $26.6 million so the bond appeared to have been "redeemed", said prosecutors. This was allegedly done to finance the pop music career of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun.

This trial is one of the largest in recent history here - involving six accused, six defence lawyers and six deputy public prosecutors. The Attorney-General's Chambers told The Straits Times that the trial dates were adjusted by the court after "ascertaining the availability" of those involved.

The prosecution team will continue to line up its witnesses on the stand. They are from the church's external auditor, Baker Tilly, including Mr Sim Guan Seng, who had raised repeated concerns about the money that was channelled to Xtron.

The Straits Times understands that the defence counsel have not decided on their witnesses.

dawntan@sph.com.sg