SINGAPORE - City Harvest founder Kong Hee was the key decision-maker behind plans to sink church funds into his wife's Ho Yeow Sun's music career in the United States, the prosecution said in court on Wednesday.
They also sought to show that Kong closely supervised the other co-defendants. Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong produced a 2007 e-mail in which Kong had berated Tan Ye Peng for failing to ensure that his wife's China concerts were a success.
"The Beijing and Shanghai events cost us so much money... but at the end, who came? It was a joke!" said Kong in the e-mail. "Time wasted. Efforts wasted. Objectives not met. Money thrown away unnecessarily. I don't get it. How have we become good stewards of money? We tried to save a few thousands on hotels and (threw) hundreds and thousands on result-less concerts."
Kong added: "How I wish I can run the whole show the way I run our church (in) the last 18 years! But I can't... (My wife and I) are putting our lives and destiny at the hands of our disciples, our spiritual children. We hope you guys don't let us down."
While Kong has maintained that he was involved only in the budgeting for the US foray and left the fundraising to others, the prosecution alleged that Kong made decisions about "what money to spend, how much and where it would come from". The prosecution produced statements made by Kong's co-defendants to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) to bolster the point.
Kong and five others face various charges for their part in the alleged misuse of some $50 million of church funds to boost Ms Ho's music career, and then to cover up the deed. Several of them allegedly got the funds out of City Harvest coffers by investing the money in sham bonds issued by two companies, Xtron Productions and Firna, which were run by church members. Xtron was Ms Ho's artist manager at one time.
While Kong maintained that Xtron directors had to give approval for company transactions to finance her career, statements made by Kong's co-defendants Serina Wee, Chew Eng Han and Tan to the CAD contradicted this, said the prosecution.
According to the three defendants, Xtron directors were "updated" only after Tan, Wee and Kong had made the decisions. "Xtron directors were not actively involved," said Chew in his statement. "Technically they can challenge (the decisions), but they would not because they are doing the right thing by giving their full support," he said.
Kong disagreed. He said that Xtron directors being "updated" meant their approval for the transactions were sought, and in the end it was the directors who had final say over whether the deals were made.