City Harvest defence tries to show church-linked company was "viable business"

Defence lawyers for the accused in the City Harvest trial tried to show on Wednesday morning that church-linked company Xtron Productions was a viable business.

They also tried to show that its recent director, Mr Koh Siow Ngea, who stepped down a few months ago, was appointed for his management expertise and experience in the property business.

During the defence's cross-examination of Mr Koh by Mr Edwin Tong, who represents church pastor Kong Hee, it was revealed that Mr Koh has a master's in management science, and was director of several profitable property companies including Odeon Development, which Mr Koh estimated can achieve yearly profits as high as $30million.

While City Harvest was the biggest client for Xtron, the company had "a broad breadth of businesses" and also done work for events such as the Asian Youth Games, events for BMW and DBS, concerts for Mandopop stars Sandy Lam, Emil Chao and JJ Lin, and People's Association anniversary dinners.

Mr Tong also produced a series of emails showing that Mr Koh, together with his fellow director Choong Kar Weng, had been consulted for an equipment purchase and letter of demand issued to a recalcitrant client.

He then showed minutes of investment committee and church board meetings in 2008, which recorded that discussions were made about Xtron's ability to redeem bonds that the church had purchased. Mr Tong asked Mr Koh: "If City Harvest controlled everything and made all decisions for Xtron, then it doesn't have to have an investment committee meeting to assess the redemption or viability. It can go straight to Xtron and work it out, am I right?" Mr Koh agreed.

The defence's line of questioning was aimed at addressing the prosecution's case on Tuesday, which sought to prove that Xtron was not a viable business beyond serving City Harvest, and was controlled by the church. On Tuesday, Mr Koh had said in court that the church was behind many decisions that Xtron had made, and that he was not aware of several of the goings-on in the company.

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