Prosecution: Church accountant had to "work backwards" to make figures tally

On the second day of the City Harvest trial, the prosecution team tried to show that the church's finance manager Sharon Tan and its fund manager Chew Eng Han were actively involved in the alleged sham investments of the church.

It sought to prove the interest amount was unilaterally decided upon by the two accused, for the purpose of justifying the supposed attractiveness of the purported investments.

The court heard how Ms Lai Baoting, the prosecution's first witness, had to "work backwards" to get the interest rate for a bond investment made by the church with AMAC Capital Partners from Oct 2 to Nov 30, 2009. Ms Lai was a former assistant accountant at the church.

Sometime in October 2009, Tan had told Ms Lai that the interest for a $11.4 million special opportunity fund to be received on Nov 25, 2009, would be $76,625. The amount did not tally with the earlier interest rate agreed at 2 per cent per annum, Ms Lai told the court. She said that Tan had asked her to check with Chew, who then told her to work out a new interest rate. Chew is the director of AMAC, the investment manager of the church. He was previously also the church board's vice-president and treasurer.

Ms Lai derived at an interest rate of 5.05 per cent per annum, which was as close as possible to $76,625, as she was instructed to do.

The prosecution also sought to show that the church's external auditor Sim Guan Seng had raised repeated concerns about the monies channelled to church-linked companies, Xtron and AMAC.

But under cross examination by defence counsels on Thursday, Ms Lai conceded that Mr Sim "was not concerned about the authenticity of the transactions". She agreed with the suggestion that Mr Sim had been concerned about "how the church would protect itself" if those companies ran into financial difficulties instead.

Six church leaders are on trial for allegedly funnelling $24 million into sham bond investments, then misappropriating another $26.6 million to cover up the first sum.