Album launch delayed by illness and probe: City Harvest founder

Ho Yeow Sun, also known as Sun Ho, wife of Kong Hee, founder of City Harvest Church.There were big plans for the launch of Sun Ho's first album in America - from talk show appearances to spots on popular TV shows such as Gossip Girl, CSI and Dancing
Ho Yeow Sun, also known as Sun Ho, wife of Kong Hee, founder of City Harvest Church.There were big plans for the launch of Sun Ho's first album in America - from talk show appearances to spots on popular TV shows such as Gossip Girl, CSI and Dancing With The Stars. -- PHOTO: ST

There were big plans for the launch of Sun Ho's first album in America - from talk show appearances to spots on popular TV shows such as Gossip Girl, CSI and Dancing With The Stars.

Yet, "all the work we had put in, the money we had put in all these years, just went down the drain", said City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee yesterday.

His wife's album, which was supposed to extend the church's reach internationally and attract people to the Gospel through her secular pop music, is still to be launched almost a decade after work began on it.

Ms Ho Yeow Sun, whose stage name is Sun Ho, was hospitalised in March 2009 and had to undergo two operations for abdominal adhesion, said Kong on his fourth day on the stand.

"She was in critical condition and the whole schedule (for her album) was thrown off," said the 49-year-old, who is facing three charges of criminal breach of trust in relation to allegedly misusing the church's money to fund his wife's career.

She eventually recovered and a new launch date was set for August 2010, with a major marketing campaign to begin in June in the same year, Kong said. But investigations for the ongoing trial started in May that year.

Ms Ho had to return to Singapore to assist in investigations.

City Harvest had financed the United States foray by buying bonds issued by Xtron Productions, the firm managing Ms Ho's career at the time. But the prosecution believes Xtron is a shell company controlled by the defendants through puppet directors.

Kong admitted yesterday that there was a close, symbiotic relationship between the church and Xtron, which had church members as its directors. This includes Xtron offering the church "better than market rates" for various services.

But despite this, the two were independent of each other, he said. "Xtron directors... apply their independent thinking to see how they can best serve the needs of the church while existing as a separate company."

Kong also pressed the point that while he was aware of the various transactions which the prosecution has labelled as shams, he was in America most of the time to keep tabs on the budget for his wife's album.

So he left the details of transactions to others in the church, such as former church investment manager Chew Eng Han and deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, two of the six accused in this case.

Kong, who also told the court that he relied on lawyers and auditors to vet the deals, said: "I would have asked Chew and Tan half a dozen times whether (the Xtron bonds) were legal."

zengkun@sph.com.sg