Money spent on Sun Ho's American album 'went down the drain', says church founder

City Harvest founder Kong Hee leaving the court on Aug 14, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
City Harvest founder Kong Hee leaving the court on Aug 14, 2014. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Ms Ho Yeow Sun's debut American album was delayed first by critical illness and then by the investigations into financial irregularities within City Harvest Church.

City Harvest founder Kong Hee, one of six defendants facing charges for misuse of church funds, told the court on Thursday how Ms Ho, his wife, had been hospitalised in March 2009 and had to undergo two operations for abdominal adhesions. "She was in critical condition and the whole schedule (for her album) was thrown off," he said.

She eventually recovered, and a new album launch date was set for August 2010, with a major marketing campaign to begin in June that year, Kong said. Her US team had planned to book her for talk show appearances, television shows like Gossip Girl, CSI and Dancing With The Stars, and magazines including Vogue, Glamour and Marie Claire.

But the investigations into the financial irregularities started in May that year, and Ms Ho was recalled to Singapore to help with them. "All the work we had put in, the money we had put in all these years just went down the drain," said Kong.

The prosecution believes some $50 million of church funds were misused to boost Ms Ho's pop music career and then to cover up it up. The defence has said her secular career was part of a church-approved project to attract non-Christians and spread the gospel among them.

Kong denied on Thursday the prosecution's charge that music production firm Xtron Productions, which managed Ms Ho's career at one time, was simply a shell company meant to enable the misuse of church funds. While the firm and City Harvest shared a "symbiotic" relationship because they both wanted to further the church's goals, they were "independent entities that operated at arm's length", he said. "Xtron directors... apply their independent thinking to see how they can best service the church's needs while existing as a separate company," he said.