Prosecution: City Harvest church leaders had "deliberately planned" scheme to move money
Prosecutors for the City Harvest trial said they had evidence of a "deliberately planned" scheme by church leaders aimed at moving millions of dollars.
In their opening statement, prosecutors said that the offences committed by church pastor Kong Hee and five other church staff were not "isolated technical breaches or inadvertent occasional missteps".
Rather, they were part of a "deliberately planned, meticulously coordinated, and carefully executed scheme which stretched over a prolonged period of time and involved the movement of millions of dollars".
The prosecution said they would prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused are guilty of all charges. Kong Hee, and five senior members - Tan Ye Peng, Sharon Tan, Chew Eng Han, Serina Wee and John Lam Leng Hung - were arrested and charged last year for allegedly funnelling $24 million into sham bond investments to further the career of Kong's wife, pop-singer Ho Yeow Sun between 2007 and 2008.
The money used was from the church's Building Fund which was earmarked to build a new church.
Another $26.6 million is said to have been misappropriated to cover up the sham investments in a procedure known as "round-tripping". This was supposedly done to throw the church's auditors' off "the scent of the bogus bonds", said the prosecution.
These were not the genuine commercial transactions the accused persons made them out to be.
It is immaterial whether the accused thought the promotion of Ms Ho's music career would further the broader objectives of the church. Rather, the question is whether diverting money from the Building Fund under the guise of purported bond investments to fund her career was an authorised use of the money, said the prosecution.
The six face varying counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying accounts. The first offence is punishable with a life sentence, or up to 20 years in prison and a fine. The second carries a maximum of 10 years in jail, a fine or both.
The six accused have agreed to be jointly tried on all the charges against them.