City Harvest trial: Xtron and church allegedly conspired to cover up misuse of church funds

Music firm Xtron Productions and City Harvest Church conspired to cover up the misuse of church funds, the State sought to show on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013, as it continued to question Xtron director Choong Kar Weng (above) for a second day. -- ST PHOTO
Music firm Xtron Productions and City Harvest Church conspired to cover up the misuse of church funds, the State sought to show on Tuesday, Aug 27, 2013, as it continued to question Xtron director Choong Kar Weng (above) for a second day. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

Music firm Xtron Productions and City Harvest Church conspired to cover up the misuse of church funds, the State sought to show on Tuesday as it continued to question Xtron director Choong Kar Weng for a second day.

The firm is one of two companies accused of helping the megachurch's leaders to funnel church funds illegally to bankroll pastor-singer Ho Yeow Sun's music career. Xtron managed Ms Ho from 2003 to 2008.

The State questioned Mr Choong on a series of Xtron financial transactions in 2009 that they believe was part of the cover-up. Then, the church had given Xtron about $15 million as part of an eight-year rental agreement. Less than a month later, Xtron invested about $11.5 million in bonds issued by Firna, the other company accused of helping with the cover-up.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong pointed out to Mr Choong that several months after the church gave Xtron the rental fee, it bought a stake in Suntec City which made the rental agreement redundant. Xtron also should have used the rental fee to fulfil its side of the agreement instead of investing in Firna's bonds, Mr Ong said.

When asked, Mr Choong said he was not aware of City Harvest's impending purchase of the Suntec property, and added that the Firna bond purchase was a good investment as it would have reaped interest. "If I needed to show proof of funds (for other deals), I could have mortgaged the bonds, for example," he said.

He admitted under questioning, however, that the suggestion to invest in the Firna bonds had come from Chew Eng Han, one of the accused.

Mr Choong is expected to continue testifying on Wednesday. The next witness is slated to be Indonesian businessman Wahju Hanafi, a former Xtron director.

City Harvest founder Kong Hee, who is Ms Ho's husband, and five of his deputies were charged last year with conspiring to cheat the church of millions of dollars. They allegedly misused $24 million of church funds to finance Ms Ho's singing ambitions and then purportedly took another $26 million to cover up the first amount.