CITY HARVEST TRIAL

She 'needed advice on Xtron matters'

Sharon Tan checked with Serina Wee and co-accused Chew Eng Han before backdating the minutes of a meeting.
Sharon Tan checked with Serina Wee and co-accused Chew Eng Han before backdating the minutes of a meeting.

Finance head Tan says she had to consult her predecessor Wee

EVEN though she was the finance manager of City Harvest Church (CHC), Sharon Tan consulted her predecessor, Serina Wee, for matters relating to the church's investment in Xtron Productions, the court heard yesterday.

Tan and Wee are among six people accused of misusing $50 million in church funds to boost the music career of Ms Ho Yeow Sun, the wife of founding pastor Kong Hee, and covering up the misuse. When Wee resigned as finance manager in August 2007, Tan took over as senior accountant and was promoted to finance manager in January 2008.

One of her duties was to take minutes at meetings of the church's board and investment and audit committees.

Yesterday, the court heard that in August 2008, she checked with Wee and co-accused Chew Eng Han, the church's fund manager, before backdating the minutes of a meeting.

Tan's lawyer, Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh, referred her to the minutes of an investment committee meeting that was dated July 29, 2008, even though it was held on Aug 5. It emerged that the backdating arose because among those present at the meeting was Mr Koh Siow Ngea, a church board member who was also a director of Xtron.

The prosecution has alleged that five of the accused - except Tan - funnelled $13 million from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Xtron, which manages Ms Ho's career.

At this meeting, details were discussed about the acquisition of a Riverwalk property by Xtron using bonds issued to the church. Tan, who said she did not know then that Mr Koh was already an Xtron director, said a conflict of interest could arise if he was wearing two hats.

In her e-mail to Wee and Chew, Tan asked if there was a need to ensure that Mr Koh would be made an Xtron director only after he resigned from his church post.

Tan said Wee told her Mr Koh had already been appointed on July 29. Hence, Tan had to change the meeting date on her end.

In another example, Tan had e-mailed Wee on July 29, 2008, asking her how much rent Xtron would charge CHC for the Riverwalk property.

Mr Ramesh asked why she had to turn to Wee, who was no longer an employee, for church matters.

Tan replied that apart from knowing that the church would pay rent to Xtron for the property, she did not know the details and the amount that had to be paid.

Tan testified that the church was constantly searching for property to house its growing congregation but faced difficulties in negotiations as it was a religious organisation. Although Xtron was the "vehicle" to hold property for church use, she said that for the sake of its credibility, it had to be seen as an independent entity doing secular business as well.

selinal@sph.com.sg