City Harvest Trial

Crossover Project a sham, says former investment manager

Chew Eng Han says bonds to fund project were transferred to Kong Hee.
Chew Eng Han says bonds to fund project were transferred to Kong Hee.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The Crossover Project and music career of pop singer Ho Yeow Sun were the real shams, not the bond investments he had designed to support them.

This was how City Harvest Church's former investment manager Chew Eng Han defended himself yesterday in court during his final oral submissions in the long-running trial.

The Crossover Project was the church's plan to use Ms Ho's secular music to spread the Gospel.

The prosecution alleges that $50 million from the church building fund was channelled into sham bond investments, with its misuse covered up. But Chew, 54, who is conducting his own defence, claimed that founding pastor Kong Hee, who is Ms Ho's husband and one of the accused, had "personally gained" from the bond transactions intended to fund the Crossover. Chew highlighted one instance in 2008, where $200,000 from the bonds were transferred to Kong.

He also claimed that the $24 million that CHC invested in bonds from music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna, were strategised by Kong as a way to fund the Crossover discreetly. This was a response to concerns about the misuse of church funds raised by former churchgoer Roland Poon in 2003. Mr Poon had accused the church of using members' donations to fund Ms Ho's music career.

Chew, who left the church in 2013, had devised the bonds as a means to fund Ms Ho's career through an external party.

"I had a pure frame of mind," he said, adding that what he had done was legal, authorised and in line with market practices.

He pointed out that Xtron, which managed Ms Ho, was legally obliged to repay its debts to the church. The bonds needed to be repaid, otherwise it would constitute misappropriation of funds and a wrongful loss, said Chew.

But Xtron was relying on the proceeds from Ms Ho's English album in order to raise funds.

When the album's release was delayed a few years later, Chew extended the bond maturity to 10 years, from two years previously.

"That's what the prosecution has been doing, taking events which happened one, two, three years later, and saying, 'There you are, you knew the bonds couldn't be repaid. You knew it was a sham," he said.

Citing his three decade-long experience in finance, he said: "In this whole trial, I've said nothing but the truth, Your Honour."

Danson Cheong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2015, with the headline 'Crossover Project a sham, says former investment manager'. Print Edition | Subscribe