City Harvest trial: Senior church leaders had control over Xtron, says DPP

City Harvest deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
City Harvest deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng. -- ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The senior leaders of City Harvest Church had control and considerable influence over Xtron, the management firm handling the music career of church founder Kong Hee's wife, though they maintained that the firm acted independently.

This was what the prosecution argued in Court yesterday, noting that in 2002, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng wrote in an e-mail to fellow co-accused Chew Eng Han that Kong wanted Chew to be on the company's board of directors.

"Clearly, right from the inception of Xtron, Kong Hee and you were making decisions about who should be Xtron directors," Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Mavis Chionh put to Tan, who was on the stand for the seventh day yesterday.

She also said it was Kong and not the firm's other director Wahju Hanafi who asked Xtron director Choong Kar Weng to take up the directorship.

Tan disagreed and said he recalled consulting Mr Wahju in an e-mail. But DPP Chionh said this e-mail has not been seen.

Later in the day, she referred to another e-mail that showed Kong had committed $1.8 million of Xtron's funds over a seven-month period in 2006, to pay for the expenses of the US album of Kong's wife Ho Yeow Sun.

"I put it to you that what this e-mail clearly shows... is that Kong Hee was able to commit Xtron to unanticipated payments," said Ms Chionh. It was "only after the payments were made that the directors were asked to sign board resolutions to approve these payments", she added. Tan disagreed.

He and five others are charged with misusing $50 million of church funds to boost Ms Ho's music career, and of covering up the misuse.

The prosecution believes that five of the accused channelled money from the church's building fund into sham bond investments in Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna. Four, including Tan, then allegedly devised transactions to clear the sham bonds from the church's accounts to mislead auditors.

Tan has repeatedly told the court that church leaders acted only on the advice of lawyers and auditors in structuring the funding of the Crossover Project, which aimed to spread the Gospel through Ms Ho's music.

Yesterday, Tan reiterated that church leaders acted on advice of their auditor Foong Daw Ching. But DPP Chionh rejected this claim, saying Tan seemed to think Mr Foong was "some magical shield" to hide behind.

The trial continues in its 111th day today.

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