City Harvest trial: Hearing adjourned to September after final witness testifies

Former CHC executive member Jean-Jacques Lavigne said he was delighted with Ms Ho's Crossover work in the United States.
Former CHC executive member Jean-Jacques Lavigne said he was delighted with Ms Ho's Crossover work in the United States.

Crossover Project is No. 1 calling of church: Ex-executive member

After a gruelling 137 days, the trial over the alleged misuse of City Harvest Church (CHC) funds wound down yesterday after the final witness took the stand.

The hearing, which began in May 2013, was adjourned by Presiding Judge of the State Courts See Kee Oon to September, when the court will hear closing submissions.

In all, the prosecution has called 14 witnesses and produced more than 1,400 documents - including 1,010 e-mails - to make its case.

The six church leaders are alleged to have misused CHC's money to bankroll pop singer Ho Yeow Sun's secular music career, which they wanted to use to spread the Gospel via the Crossover Project.

The accused are CHC pastors Kong Hee, 50, and Tan Yee Peng, 42; former finance managers Serina Wee, 38, and Sharon Tan, 39; and former investment committee members Chew Eng Han, 54, and John Lam, 47.

They allegedly misappropriated $24 million in CHC's building funds through sham bond investments in music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna, and allegedly misused another $26 million to cover it up.

Ms Ho is church founder Kong Hee's wife.

Yesterday, former church executive member Jean-Jacques Lavigne was called to the stand by Chew, who has been conducting his own defence since last May.

Mr Lavigne said he joined the church in late 1998 and stopped attending services in June 2013, a month after Chew left.

Mr Lavigne was a leader in CHC's Business Breakthrough Group - a business network group started in 2003 - and became an executive member, eligible to hold office, in 2008.

Asked by Chew how he felt about church money being put into bonds to fund the Crossover, Mr Lavigne said that from a church member's point of view, it was "probably the best thing to happen in years".

On how important the project was, Mr Lavigne said it was the "No. 1 calling of the church".

"There is no other vision (in the church) but the Crossover," he said.

Mr Lavigne said he bought a number of Ms Ho's Mandarin albums. He added that he was "delighted" with her Crossover work in the United States, and described it as "top-notch and world class".

Earlier in his testimony, Mr Lavigne told the court how CHC was keen on a joint venture with his former employer SUTL, which owns the One Degree 15 Marina club.

He became the business development manager of SUTL's lifestyle division in 2005.

In 2006, SUTL wanted to bid for the Formula One Pit Building and was in discussions with CHC on commercial plans to jointly develop the proposed building, which would include a concert hall.

"CHC was very committed to (the project)", Mr Lavigne said.

Mr Lavigne also said Chew approached him in 2007 to be the general manager of Xtron, and wanted him to run it as a "purely commercial entity", with CHC being a major client. While he did not take up the offer, Mr Lavigne did arrange an audio-visual services project for Xtron in 2008.

amirh@sph.com.sg