City Harvest trial: Purchase of CDs 'doesn't mean they weren't doing well'

SINGAPORE - City Harvest Church may have spent about half a million dollars buying at least 32,000 copies of Ms Ho Yeow Sun's unsold CDs, but this did not necessarily mean they were not successful.

"The success of the CDs actually should be based on how well they're selling," said former church board member John Lam Leng Hung yesterday.

He gave the example that if a company had 120,000 CDs, sold 100,000 and had 20,000 left, "that doesn't mean it's not doing well. On the contrary, the sales can still be doing very, very well".

Lam and five others, including Ms Ho's husband and City Harvest founder Kong Hee, are on trial for allegedly misusing some $50 million of church funds.

The prosecution believes the money was illegally used to boost Ms Ho's pop music career and to cover this up.

The defence has consistently said her music was part of a church-approved Crossover Project to evangelise.

Earlier this week, Lam had cited Ms Ho's success as a reason the church had invested in bonds issued by her artist management company, Xtron Productions.

But the prosecution - who believes the bonds were shams made to enable the misuse of church funds - had pointed to the church's purchase of her unsold CDs.

Yesterday, Lam stuck to his guns, saying that he believed Ms Ho was successful because Kong had said in a 2002 church meeting that her album had sold 150,000 copies.

Lam added that the church had purchased the CDs to give them to visiting ministries and overseas churches, "so that other people will be aware of the success of (Ms Ho's) albums".

"In that way, they will understand that the Crossover Project is actually doing very well and successful," he said.

He also repeated that the church board had been aware of and supported the Crossover Project since 2002, and had furthermore agreed with the need to be discreet. "I think the board was aware that for Sun's music career to be successful, she must be recognised as a real success, meaning it is a success that has to happen without... direct support from the church," he said.

The prosecution had charged that he knew the church's Building Fund could not be used to fund the Crossover Project directly, hence its use "had to be disguised as a legitimate investment", said Chief Prosecutor Mavis Chionh.

Lam disagreed with this, saying that the investment was genuine because the project was expected to be profitable.

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