6 accused in City Harvest trial back in court today

City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee and his five deputies will return to court today, as the highly watched criminal trial against them resumes.

The six accused from the mega church – which celebrates its 25th anniversary next weekend – are expected to finally testify under oath.

They are likely to take the witness stand in the following order: former board member John Lam Leng Hung, 46; Kong, 49; finance manager Sharon Tan Shao Yuen, 38; former treasurer Chew Eng Han, 54; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 41; and former finance manager Serina Wee Gek Yin, 37.

The Straits Times understands that Lam will call one witness – a church board member – while Chew has a list of 10 witnesses, including church staff and Kong’s secular pop music singer wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun.

The protracted trial started in May 15 last year and, over 42 days of hearings, has heard evidence from 14 prosecution witnesses.

The trial is now expected to last until next April, instead of this September as previously indicated. It will run from today until Friday, and then from Aug 4 to 29. Sept 8 to 30 have also been set aside for hearings.

The six are accused of various counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts by misappropriating $24 million in sham bond investments, and “round- tripping” another $26.6 million to cover it up. The funds are said to have been used to bankroll Ms Ho’s pop music career.

Defence lawyers had earlier failed to convince Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon to throw out the case on the basis of insufficient evidence built up by the prosecution, for each of the charges against their clients.

The main thrust of the defence case thus far is that the accused have never acted with any dishonest intent, nor harboured any intention to mislead or conceal any information. They have also argued that the church has not suffered any monetary losses from the investments, with the bonds having been repaid with interest.

One person to watch would be Chew who discharged his lawyer, Senior Counsel Michael Khoo, in May and will be defending himself for the rest of the trial. Chew also quit the church abruptly in June last year, prompted by what he said was “a collision of primarily spiritual and moral principles”.