City Harvest trial: Ren Ci scandal sparked panic among church leaders

Auditor Foong Daw Ching arriving in court on Sept 18, 2013. 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
Auditor Foong Daw Ching arriving in court on Sept 18, 2013. 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. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW 

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.

This happened in 2008, about a year after the church had invested $13 million in Xtron Productions, a music production firm that was managing City Harvest co-founder Ho Yeow Sun's singing career at the time. Several of the six church leaders accused of misusing church funds had in fact reached out to auditor Foong Daw Ching and prepared documents about the church's transactions for him to review.

This was shown through telephone logs and text messages produced by the church leaders' defence team on Wednesday. The defence also strongly suggested that Mr Foong had in fact read and discussed one particular document with the accused. This set out the church's relationship to Xtron and other companies, as well as the legal risks that the financial transactions could entail.

Mr Foong, who had earlier insisted that he did not recall seeing this document, admitted: "I would have read it and there must have been some discussion." Defence lawyers have been trying to prove that Mr Foong gave the accused detailed advice about various allegedly suspect transactions, and that church leaders had followed his advice. City Harvest founder Kong Hee, who is Ms Ho's husband, and five of his deputies are on trial for alleged misuse of $50 million in church funds.