City Harvest trial: Auditor advised church to buy property under its own name

Auditor Foong Daw Ching (above) 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 betwee
Auditor Foong Daw Ching (above) 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. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW 

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.

For example, when City Harvest was considering buying a property through a nominee company, he told the church it could do so under its own name as the New Creation Church had set a precedent for this.

Accused Serina Wee said in an email that he gave her advice, including how City Harvest should "not paint the picture that (the church) has full control but only some control over Xtron", which is a church-linked firm that allegedly helped the accused church members to misuse funds.

However, Mr Foong, a partner at accounting firm Baker Tilly which audits the church, said his advice was usually very general as he was not the church's "engagement partner" or point person at the firm. He was only the church's engagement partner for one year in 1993 before other Baker Tilly auditors took over the role. Shown an email he had sent in 2006 describing himself as City Harvest's "consultant partner", he said it was not an official title and he had made it up to give City Harvest members "comfort" that they could approach him at any time.