CITY HARVEST CHURCH TRIAL

City Harvest Trial: Three accused 'were willing to raise deficit to help Xtron'

The prosecution made the allegation during the cross- examination of Serina Wee.
The prosecution made the allegation during the cross- examination of Serina Wee.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

TO ENSURE that pop singer Ho Yeow Sun's music career could continue to be financed by her management company, Xtron Productions, former City Harvest Church (CHC) finance manager Serina Wee Gek Yin - along with pastors Kong Hee and Tan Yee Peng - were willing to manipulate the transactions between the church and the company, and even raise the church's budget deficit to $1.8 million in 2007.

The three - Wee, 38, Kong, 50, and Tan, 42 - planned to move the church's editorial and graphics department to Xtron, and to outsource the work done by the department to the company in order to address Xtron's cash-flow problems.

The transfer of the department was calculated to cost the church $630,000 a year.

The prosecution alleged this yesterday in its cross-examination of Wee, on the stand for the seventh day in the trial against a group of six accused of misusing the church's money to bankroll Ms Ho's career.

The six individuals are alleged to have misappropriated $24 million in church building funds through sham bond investments in the music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna, and another $26.6 million to cover it up.

Questioning Wee yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Christopher Ong pointed to messages she e-mailed to Kong and Tan in October 2006 and in July 2008 relating to deficits at Xtron, which totalled $454,000 at the end of 2007.

Wee agreed that the proposal was to have the in-house design services moved and be provided by Xtron. She added: "I also stated that there would be benefit in the sense that this staff, they would be able to provide services for commercial entities, and then they can improve in their skills, which will benefit the church as well."

DPP Ong asked later: "Are you telling us... that the additional benefits that the church would gain from the staff moving over to Xtron and potentially improving their skills was worth $630,000?"

Wee replied: "I don't think I'm in a position to quantify the benefits. It is something that is intangible, and it's up to the church board to assess whether they find that it is beneficial for the church to enter into this increased retainer."

The DPP said: "Essentially, you were prepared to increase the church's expenses by $630,000, causing the church deficit to rise to $1.8 million for 2007, to ensure that you were able to continue financing Sun Ho's music career. Correct?" Wee agreed, adding it would be subject to the church board's approval.

amirh@sph.com.sg