City Harvest trial: Heated exchange in court over auditor's relationship to church

Auditor Foong Daw Ching, a partner at accounting firm Baker Tilly TFW. 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 Cit
Auditor Foong Daw Ching, a partner at accounting firm Baker Tilly TFW. 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. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW 

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.

Mr Tong, who represents the church's founder Kong Hee, tried to show in a series of e-mails that contrary to Mr Foong's earlier claims, he in fact maintained a close relationship with church leaders. He also gave them advice on the use of the church's building funds and how to disclose such transactions to church members, said the lawyer.

Mr Tong also argued that Mr Foong, who used to be the managing partner of the audit firm for City Harvest, had given instructions to the auditor tasked with handling the church's accounts on the disclosure of City Harvest's investments.

"You were trying to distance yourself...to cover up that you personally oversee the church audit and... would override your partner's views," he said.

Mr Foong, looking visibly angry, retorted several times: "I don't agree." At one point, he raised his voice and said, "Hello hello hello... don't put words in my mouth."

He said Mr Tong's assertions were not true and that the emails Mr Tong produced painted "an incomplete picture". Mr Foong maintained that he only gave general advice to City Harvest church leaders, and only the auditor in charge of a client's accounts would have the final say in decisions regarding an audit.