SINGAPORE - City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee took the stand for the first time on Monday during the ongoing City Harvest trial, and insisted that he did his part to make sure the use of church funds was above board.
He had made sure that auditors and lawyers, including a senior counsel, looked into the church's transactions, and put his faith into advice given by his "confidante" and respected auditor Foong Daw Ching.
Even though Mr Foong testified last September that he could not recall what advice he had given, Kong said the auditor "took it upon himself to keep an eye on all our accounts". "In fact, he made me a promise that if something was wrong, he would contact me," said Kong.
Kong and five of his deputies face various charges for their part in allegedly misusing some $50 million in church funds to boost Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun's pop music career, and to cover this up. The defence has consistently said her music was part of a church-approved project to evangelise.
Kong said the church board retained law firm Drew and Napier to improve its corporate governance after a church member, Mr Roland Poon, accused it in 2003 of misusing the church's Building Fund to finance Ms Ho's career, among other misdeeds. Mr Poon eventually retracted his allegations.
Kong said as the church grew, he started travelling more but relied on trusted board members to handle any problems.
"When there are major issues or problems, they usually will flag it up to me, but if they don't, then I just assume everything is moving strong and well. We have trusted, very good auditors... a senior counsel from Drew and Napier, a top firm in Singapore, to advise our team. I trust my guys and I trust the professionals that everything was done well," he said.