SINGAPORE - City Harvest Church's former fund manager on Monday told the court that if any funds had been misused as alleged, the blame lay with other church leaders who had discretion over how the money was spent.
Referring to several exhibits including e-mails and mobile text messages, Chew Eng Han, in his first day on the stand, sought to show that church founding pastor Kong Hee, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, and former finance manager Serina Wee were the key decision makers of the allocation of money.
As the trial entered its 89th day, the 54-year-old Chew, who is conducting his own defence, claimed he had been responsible for the structuring of the financial instrument, and not the usage of the proceeds.
"A bond cannot be a sham... a bond is a bond…(and) only becomes a sham if the proceeds of the bond have been misused," he told the court.
Chew faces six counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and four of falsifying accounts. He is one of six people, including Kong, Tan and Wee, who are accused of misusing $50 million of church funds to boost the music career of Kong's wife, Ms Ho Yeow Sun, and covering up the misuse.
The prosecution believes that five of the accused, including Chew, channelled money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Xtron - Ms Ho's management company - and glass manufacturer Firna.
Four of them, including Chew, then allegedly devised transactions to take the sham bonds off City Harvest Church's accounts so as to throw the auditors off.
A member of the church since 1995, Chew held various positions on the CHC Board until his resignation in 2007 when his company, Amac Capital Partners, was appointed as the church's fund manager.
He left the church completely in 2013, later telling the court that one reason for his departure was because Kong "deceived the people closest to (him)".
Throughout his cross-examinations of the other defendants who have testified, Chew had painted Kong as a liar and tried to distance himself from any schemes he claimed had been hatched before he got involved.
The megachurch filed court papers against Amac in October last year, and is suing Chew for almost $21 million in unreturned investments, including $4.6 million in interest. Chew had rejected the claims in his written defence filed on Nov 18.