City Harvest Trial: Auditors would've known of links to Xtron, says Kong Hee

In his third day on the stand this week, church founder Kong Hee maintained there was never any attempt by them to obfuscate the close connections with Xtron Productions. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
In his third day on the stand this week, church founder Kong Hee maintained there was never any attempt by them to obfuscate the close connections with Xtron Productions. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

No attempt by church to obfuscate close ties to music firm, says Kong Hee

This article was first published on Sept 11, 2014

The auditors of City Harvest Church would have been fully aware of all its links to the music production company that church officials are accused of using as a vehicle to misuse church funds.

In his third day on the stand this week, church founder Kong Hee maintained there was never any attempt by them to obfuscate the close connections with Xtron Productions.

He said those who had oversight of the accounts of both the church and Xtron would have seen it was managing his wife Ho Yeow Sun's music career.

Together with five others, Kong is accused of misusing some $50 million of church funds to boost Ms Ho's music career and covering up the misuse by falsifying church accounts.

One of the accusations is that they purchased sham bonds in Xtron and another company, Firna, when the money was actually being used to bankroll Ms Ho's album launch.

Under re-examination by his lawyer Edwin Tong, Kong, 50, told the court that the church's auditor Baker Tilly TFW "would be very aware of the expenses incurred by Xtron in connection with the album production".

He said: "They would be aware of the management fees paid to Sun's manager. They would be aware of the travelling expenses. They would be aware of the advertising and promotional expenses. They would be aware of payment to the United States as well as payment to Asia."

They would also know that "Xtron at this point in time was making losses because the album was yet to be launched", added Kong.

Under questioning by Mr Tong, Kong said Xtron was incorporated in June 2003 and the minutes of a board meeting said Ms Ho "would no longer be managed by Attributes but by another artiste management company, to the best of my recollection".

Kong said auditors going through the minutes wanted to know who the new company managing Ms Ho was and were told by the church's former finance manager Serina Wee that it was Xtron.

Mr Tong asked if Ms Ho had an agreement with Xtron. Yes, Kong replied.

Mr Tong also took the senior pastor through his evidence given in previous court sessions, combing through e-mail and court transcripts, so he could furnish more details.

One transcript had Kong saying that a special audit in 2003 by the church's auditor confirmed church funds were never used to finance Ms Ho's music career.

"And I asked Brother Foong (Daw Ching) again, "Were church funds used? After all these years, are we still correct... in what we have said to our members?" Kong had said.

"And Brother Foong said openly to us. He said 'no church funds were used because church funds were invested.'"

Kong told the court the special audit was done after a complaint by a church member, so he wanted a thorough investigation into how the Crossover album had been funded in the previous year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong interrupted the questioning at one point to note that the auditors themselves should be asked if they were aware of all these details and not the witness.

joycel@sph.com.sg