City Harvest trial: Xtron independent of church, says defence lawyer

Mr Choong Kar Weng, a former City Harvest Church (CHC) board member and a director of Xtron Productions – which managed Sun Ho’s music career – outside the Subordinate Courts on Aug 27, 2013. Xtron, accused of helping CHC misuse church funds, w
Mr Choong Kar Weng, a former City Harvest Church (CHC) board member and a director of Xtron Productions – which managed Sun Ho’s music career – outside the Subordinate Courts on Aug 27, 2013. Xtron, accused of helping CHC misuse church funds, was an independent entity, a defence lawyer said on Wednesday. -- ST FILE PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A firm accused of helping City Harvest Church to misuse church funds was an independent entity, and church leaders did not have final say over its decisions, a defence lawyer said on Wednesday. The church funds was allegedly funnelled through two companies, music firm Xtron and glassware manufacturer Firna, and the state has been making the case that Xtron was nothing more than a puppet for the accused church leaders.

Mr Kenneth Tan, lawyer for John Lam Leng Hung, one of the accused, however said that Xtron was never listed on the church's financial reports. "When the church wants to control a company... they openly put in their accounts," he said, referring to Attributes, a church-linked company which was listed in the reports.

Mr Tan added that even though there were emails between the accused church leaders discussing various Xtron plans, these proposals would have to be approved by Xtron directors who were not legally bound to follow the church's wishes. The state, however, has produced emails between the accused suggesting that at least one Xtron director would follow their wishes.

In an email in July 2008, Chew Eng Han wrote to Xtron accountant Serina Wee and Tan Ye Peng - all of whom are accused of the misuse of church funds - that they could tell the church's members that "through the placing of (Koh) Siow Ngea on the board of Xtron, CHC (City Harvest Church) has assurance that Xtron's activities and running will very much be in line with the vision of what CHC wants to achieve in the marketplace".

City Harvest founder Kong Hee and five of his deputies were charged last year with misusing church funds to bankroll the music career of Kong's pop-singer wife Ho Yeow Sun. They allegedly took $24 million at first, and then purportedly used another $26 million to cover up the first amount.